"Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock," James Jr. had always said in a smooth tone of voice. He was better known to Sherlock, though, as Jim. By the age of seven, he'd had the entire house manipulated to his favor, except for their terrifying father. But Jim didn't flinch for Daddy anymore. He fueled himself with what Daddy dished out. He stored up his hatred and only let Sherlock see it.
He'd always tried to be a good brother, in his own way. He worried about Sherlock all the time, believing his interest in other people was going to be his downfall. He wouldn't let that happen. He did his best to draw people away from his poor brother with the heart they both wished he didn't have. He was defective, but Jim would do his best to make sure he survived the cruel world. Daddy was cruel and everyone else was just the same, so Jim thought.
Jim had Sherlock help him figure out how to kill Carl Powers. Together, they came up with their plan. Jim grew quite angry when he saw the concern in Sherlock's eyes as they met after the grand spectacle.
"Brother dear," Sherlock said. "You're quite young. Perhaps you could turn yourself in."
The smack across his face was hard, and he glared at Jim, cupping his cheek. "You think you're so much better than father," Sherlock said, wrapping his arms around himself.
"I'll hit you again if you keep ceasing to see reason, dear. No, I had to kill Carl. He won't be missed. Remember all the nasty things he said to me, the things he did to me and to anyone else he pleased. No, the Carls of the world belong underground, pet." He reached out and Sherlock let him brush his fingers over the cheek he'd hit.
"It's still wrong," Sherlock said simply.
"Says you. But only when you're doing that stupid thing you do."
"What stupid — "
"Feeling. Honestly, Sherlock. It's going to get you in trouble someday, and I might not always be around to save you. We got lucky with Daddy, but I had to take out Carl myself. We're the masters of this world, don't you see? The geniuses. The elite." He smiled warmly, stroking Sherlock's soft, young cheek. "I'll teach you to survive, and what's more, I'll teach you to rule. You're extraordinary."
Sherlock smiled softly, despite the slight pain in his cheek. "So are you, Jim."
Sherlock met John when he was looking for a flatmate. They'd hit it off rather easily. No one but Jim had ever praised Sherlock's abilities so fully without ulterior motives before. It was heady and exciting.
And what's more, rebellious Sherlock liked the new world order that was attached to John Watson, one of friends instead of archenemies, one of relationships with people at tables with candles, one of feelings. He didn't think he wanted it at first, but John saved him, when Jim was nowhere to be seen.
Jim did kidnap John and ask him to spy on Sherlock, but John hadn't accepted. Loyal to a fault, he was. Jim must have thought John very stupid. But Sherlock wasn't so sure, not when John was so funny and so honest with his praise.
John had killed a man, and it was to protect Sherlock. Sherlock felt rather better about the death of the man than about little Carl's death. Carl had been a bully, but not a serial killer. There was something about the latter that was wronger than the former, but Jim didn't see it that way. He kept trying to teach Sherlock not to see it that way. But when Sherlock saw it as the world saw it, which he was inclined to do, John was proud of him.
Before the dying man had breathed his last, Sherlock had forced the name of his employer out of him. "Moriarty!" he'd said, and then died soon after. Sherlock had been intrigued.
John and Sherlock became a unit during their case with the Chinese smugglers. Jim commented on the development in their relationship with disgust and with questions about the relationship's specifics, and Sherlock had rolled his eyes.
Old Mycroft The British Government had poked around with another case, so Sherlock had sent John in because, even though the man was nice, he was lazy and dull and not worth much of Sherlock's time. The case had connected with other cases that had been thrust upon Sherlock after the bomb to the flat, and that had actually been interesting. After the painting, he'd found "Moriarty" was the man behind it all.
The idea of a real archenemy tickled Sherlock. He recalled the days of Jim's scavenger hunts and praises, of his challenges and social experiments and the high-pitched laughter he'd issue when Sherlock looked afraid, until Sherlock had to give up and just laugh right along with him. It felt like an adventure, like he was a pirate or something equally as rare and interesting. He'd felt free.
Then he'd taken the plans to the pool, and there was John.
There was a moment where he thought it was John, where the world stopped spinning and he'd become a victim of Jim's view of the world. Where things had proven Daddy right and he felt four years old and like he desperately wanted to remember how to cry.
Then John parted his coat to reveal the explosives.
Alright, so it was someone else. Someone out to get Jim, to play with the fact Jim could get in trouble if the facts of the case were revealed. Out of worry, he'd actually texted Jim to be careful.
And then Jim revealed himself to be the voice speaking to John H. Watson. "Told you it was stupid," Jim said, "getting involved with friends, this sort of thing. Caring is not an advantage."
Sherlock swallowed, holding out the USB and stepping forward. "Jim," he pleaded. "Jim, no."
"You know what kind of jobs I do. You know who I am. I can't allow this man to taint your perfect mind, Sherlock. I really can't. You're beginning to sicken me."
"No, Jim!" Sherlock said with a heavy plea. "Don't harm him. Harm me, if you must, even kill me."
"Kill you!" Jim made a pained expression. "Oh, Sherlock, you're wounding me. You think I would do that to my own brother?"
John gasped. "Your brother?"
"John, meet Jim Holmes, otherwise known as Jim Moriarty."
"I thought it was rather cute," said Jim.
"Quite. Now, back to all of this. Take me, if you must. Reprogram me. Tie me down. Torture me. But he's innocent."
"It's a cruel world, Sherlock." But Jim snapped his fingers and the horrid red dot disappeared. "I won't take you instead, but I also won't harm your doctor."
With another snap and a hand signal, the snipers were aiming at Sherlock's heart. And Jim was taking John away.
Sherlock was alone at the pool where he'd realized what his brother was capable of. He'd thought he'd understood, back when they were very young, but he'd just reached a new level of understanding.
Sherlock teamed up with Mycroft, who owed him, and Lestrade, who liked him for some reason, and they tried to find John. Jim had always been very good at hiding, and also at predicting his brother's actions, so they had a hard time of it.
Finally, though, after three years of boredom interspersed with wild goose chases and threats that made Sherlock more nostalgic for his brother's more innocent games than anything else, he received an invitation.
It was an invitation to meet up with Jim and with John. Sherlock was told he could bring a friend, but he only had one friend, and that friend would already be there.
He went alone, dressing well because that's what his brother liked, and trying to recount everything he'd ever learned about the incredible Dr. John Watson.
Sherlock sat through the meal quietly deducing and strategizing. John greeted him as if he hadn't left. He looked well fed, well kept. Sherlock had never seen him look so presentable before. He was glad his brother had at least kept his word not to harm him. They all exchanged pleasantries, and John asked what Sherlock had been up to.
Sherlock decided there was no point in explaining what the two of them already knew, so he talked about police cases rather than his frantic search for his only friend, captive to his only brother.
As they were finishing dessert, he finally said, "Is there a way to do this nicely, brother? It would be in keeping with the pleasant evening, don't you think?"
"Do what nicely?" John asked.
"Tell him why you're here, Sherlock," Jim said with a wide grin.
Sherlock stared hard at his old friend, willing him to understand. "John, I'm here because I've spent the past three years trying to find you. Jim kept moving you around."
"We moved around together, actually." John scratched at the back of his head, ducking down a bit. "Er, I know it was short notice. Jim kept asking for places I'd like to visit, though, and we had the means."
Sherlock suddenly started to realize that things had changed. "John, do you work for him?"
"Number one sniper!" said John with a beautiful smile.
"You never told me that," Sherlock said carefully, trying not to give into the urge to throw a dessert plate. "In fact, you never contacted me."
"You gave me a letter, didn't you?"
"What letter?" Sherlock slumped in his chair. "What's this?"
"I'll fetch it." John got up from the table and headed to the bedroom. Jim smiled at Sherlock in the ensuing silence.
"He's a rather fun fellow, Sherlock. An incredible shot, and oh-so-touchingly loyal. As you remember, I'm sure."
"I do," Sherlock confirmed.
John walked back in and handed the letter to Sherlock. "I tried to contact you, text you, anything, and this is what I got back. It's in your handwriting."
It was in Sherlock's handwriting.
My brother and I arranged the fight at the pool so it would seem more exciting when we explained that I have some urgent business to attend to with the real Moriarty. You must not contact me again, but please stick with my brother, especially if you find him interesting. I don't, but he's protected me all my life. He'll have your combined interests at heart always, and I believe you once said that counts for something, the whole caring lark.
I will see you again someday, hopefully very soon. Sorry about our terrible manners. I assume you're being whisked away across the globe. Who knows; we may see each other by chance in Bucharest or something like that.
Actually, that sounds a bit dull.
- Your friend
(and I really mean that),
John looked from Jim to Sherlock. "It's real, isn't it, the letter?"
"Well of course it's real," Sherlock bit out.
John rolled his eyes. "Alright, then, I'll rephrase. Did you write it?"
Sherlock looked at the light in John's face, the shine of his shoes, the loving way he looked at Jim.
"Yes, John," he said hollowly, caressing the fine paper with his thumb. "I hope you've found what you were looking for in my brother — no, I see that you have."
Sherlock waved John and Jim off as he began to cry real tears for the first time in much too long. He made his way to the washroom because the washroom would be more discrete, and there he began to sob until it was time to go back home because he'd found John Watson at last.