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The Poisoned Pawn Variation

Chapter Text

Normally, Sherlock avoided anything stronger than nicotine and caffeine when on the case. Compared to the moment all the pieces fit themselves together and a solution became apparent, drugs were a cheap distraction, a tawdry high.

But this time was different, he hadn’t expected there to be a case. Mycroft’s assignment wasn’t a case. Whatever Mycroft had told everyone else, he had no doubts about what it truly was. 

He taken the first doses long before they hit the tarmac, it was nothing to take several more once he was in the air – no one to see, no one to stop him, his hands noting the type and quantity on a piece paper more from habit than from any conscious decision, Mycroft wouldn’t be there to read it.

Then his phone had rang and the plane had turned around – Moriarty was back.  

Sherlock eyes shot open and he sat upright, his movement arrested by the line in his forearm.

“Welcome back, Brother Mine.”

Sherlock's eyes shot to Mycroft seated at his side. “I said I needed to go to Baker St. Why am I here?” Sherlock began to pull the line from arm as well as the other tubes and wires connected to his person.

“You had a brief cardiac arrest. Common occurrence with overdoses. You’re quite fortunate your best friend and his wife are both well-versed in CPR and that the aeroplane was equipped with a defibrillator. You will notice some bruising later, however, Mrs. Watson was quite vigorous.”

“How long?”

“Did your heart stop? 6 minutes. You’ve been out for hours, though.”

“No. How long did the video play?”

“Sherlock.” Mycroft sighed.

“You’re the one who called me back for this. How long?”

“37 minutes.”

Sherlock blinked. “One minute for every month Moriarty has been dead.”

“Yes, I can count too. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Not on its own, perhaps. One of your people had it recorded, yes?”

 “Yes, of course. Sherlock, you really ought to stay in bed.”

“Bring me the footage and I promise to stay for another 37 minutes.”

Mycroft looked down at the black bag near his feet and pulled out the laptop inside. Sherlock snatched it from his hands and flipped the screen open, pressing play on the video display. The manipulated voice sounding strange against the background beeps of the hospital room.

“Do you know how it got it broadcast?” Sherlock asked without removing his eyes from the scene.

“We’re looking into the BBC. It could have been an inside job. Or it could have been hacked it from outside.”

“So you don’t know anything then.”

“Not as of yet.”

“Then what have you been doing for the past several hours?”

“Something more important.”

“What’s more important than the Work? Surely the pastries in the cafeteria can’t have been that good.”

“Sherlock, have you stopped to consider that the video appeared at the precise moment your plane plane lifted off of England’s soil?” Mycroft continued cautiously, “If he truly is back, you’ll be a target, you’ll need protection.”

“Moriarty is dead, Mycroft. I saw it with my own eyes. Gun in mouth. Boom. Blood. Dead. I saw it.”

Mycroft’s voice brooked the tiniest bit of sympathy. “And your senses have never deceived you before, Brother Mine?”

Sherlock’s eyes narrowed at his brother. “It’s impossible.”

“Not impossible, Brother. You of all people should know that.”

“Get your people to find out how it was broadcast. Leave the rest of this to me.”

“For a matter of this importance, you have the full backing of the British Government. I suggest you avail yourself of it. If not for yourself, perhaps you will consider the citizenry.” Mycroft gave a pointed look to the off-duty doctor pacing anxiously outside of the doorway.

Sherlock’s hand grabbed Mycroft’s arm before he could walk away. “He couldn’t be safer, he’s married to a highly skilled assassin.”

“A very pregnant one.”

“Even pregnant women can shoot, Mycroft.”

“Yes, Sherlock. They can.”

“What do you know, Mycroft?” Sherlock eyes widened before tightening into slits.

“A great many things, Brother Mine. But love is such a curious thing.  It changes people so, but it can be such a difficult thing to tell if it’s for the better or the worse.” Mycroft’s eyes scanned his brother, quickly filing away his results, before he gently removed Sherlock’s hand from him arm. “I did warn you about getting involved, Sherlock. You’re not a lone wolf anymore. Perhaps it’s time you stopped acting like one.”

Mycroft’s shadow had barely left the doorway, when John Watson raced his way over to his former spot beside Sherlock’s bed, his wife Mary keeping a respectful distance.

 “How are you feeling?” John asked.

“I’m fine. What do we know?”

“Sherlock, you’re not fine. I restarted your heart on an airport tarmac.”

“And you did an excellent job. Kudos to your medical training. I am fine. Now, I hope you’ve been more productive than my brother. What do we know?”

“Nothing… I. Sherlock.”

“I suppose I must do everything myself, then.” Sherlock turned his gaze back to the laptop screen, where the footage continued on its loop.

 John sighed. “It can’t actually be Moriarty, can it? You said he was dead. That you saw it.”

“No question. I told you I just proved it.”

“No, you ‘proved’ that some pissed-off Victorian woman actually pulled it off. If it could be, if it is…”

“It isn’t.” This was it, Sherlock thought, this is thing that will lose John to him. Not even a real thing, just the illogical threat of something impossible. Sherlock glanced at Mary in the doorway, her bright red coat emphasizing the swollen belly that covered the child of John’s that she carried, a blazing sign of the other allegiances his friend had sworn fealty too. 

“Because if there’s even the chance it’s the man’s who wrapped me in semtex and made you jump off a roof --”

“It isn’t.” He could hear it now, he’d become too much of a danger, a liability and John would be gone.

“Then he’s going to wish he had died three years ago when we’re through.”

Sherlock blinked and really looked at John for the first time since he stepped off the plane and realized he’d made the same mistake far too many others had – thinking John Watson was ordinary, when in fact, he was the most extraordinary human being.

“Oh, John,” Sherlock’s eyes glimmered as turned the laptop screen toward his companion, “The game is on.”

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock walked up the stairs, plastic bag in hand, to see John sitting comfortably in his armchair. “Ah good, you’re here. You got my text then.”

“Yes, though I thought you’d be here when I came in – Progress on Moriarty footage. Come to Baker Street ASAP, bring neckties and longest plain jumper. I’ve been waiting for 15 minutes.”

“Yes, well I had to gather a few things. Did you bring them?”

“Yes,” John pointed to pile of clothing on the table, “But what on earth do you need my ties and biggest jumper for?”

“We’re going to do a bit of undercover work.”

"Are you sure you're in good enough condition for that?"

"I'm fine, and what we're going to be doing is hardly rigorous." 

Sherlock removed his coat to reveal a button-up looser and much more plaid than anything John had ever seen him wear. Sherlock began to pull ties from the pile to see which would best match.  

John blinked to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him, but yes, the shirt was blue, and yellow, and a bit pink? And definitely had stripes running in both directions. And were those jeans?

“You’re wearing plaid.”

“It seemed the most appropriate.” Sherlock grabbed a narrow navy blue tie from the bottom of the pile. “Yes, this one will do nicely.”  He placed the tie under the back of his shirt collar and began to tie a four-in-hand knot.

We’re going undercover.”

“Yes.”

“We.”

Sherlock pulled John’s light grey v-neck over his head, his hair slightly mussed as it popped through the neck hole. “Yes, I thought I made that clear.”

“But you didn’t ask me to bring anything for myself.”

Sherlock threw a cursory glance at John. “Take off the jacket and you’ll be fine.”

“Sherlock, what are we going undercover as?”

Sherlock tossed John a key card attached to retractable cord then clipped a matching one to his own belt.  “IT professionals.” Sherlock put on a pair of thick-rimmed black glasses and turned to look at himself in the mirror over the mantle.

“And you thought I looked nerdy enough –“

“Corporate casual.”

“Nerdy enough, to pass? You didn’t even know what I was wearing today!”

“It was a minimal risk.” Sherlock frowned at himself momentarily in the mirror before unbuttoning his cuffs and rolling up his sleeves over the jumper.

“Don’t they just all wear t-shirts nowadays?”

“Not where we’re going.” Sherlock grabbed a paper bag of fast-food takeaway and a paper cup from his plastic bag and headed out the door and down the stairs.

John sighed and hesitated for only a moment before standing up and following. “And where are we going?”

“Triton Square – Atos.”

*****

John sat in the back of the cab in silence for five full minutes before finally breaking in, “Are you going to tell me what we’ll be doing at Atos?”

“Impersonating IT professionals to gain information, obviously.”

John tried not to roll his eyes. “How’s about a why then?”

“What do you know about the BBC, John?”

“We pay a fee to the government and they give us telly.”

“Yes, but how do they get you that telly?”

“I haven’t given it much thought, they broadcast it through the air, I suppose. But why aren’t we going to the BBC? Surely they’d be in control of their own transmissions.”

 “Any riff-raff at the BBC was cleared out pretty well following the whole Richard Brook, Storyteller incident. The probability is low that it would be an inside job there again. No. Since 2012 the BBC signals have all been transmitted digitally, which means IT, which means Atos. We find the man, most likely a man, anyway, that inserted the Moriarty footage, we may learn where the footage came from.”

“You don’t think it was hacked from the outside?”

“If Moriarty taught me anything, it’s that while a complicated plan is clever, an inside job is much more reliable. We’re here.”

Sherlock jumped out of the cab, paper bag and cup in hand, leaving John to play the fare.

“Don’t I at least get to wear glasses or something?”

“You look fine.” Sherlock sighed.  “It’s lunch time, so employees will be coming and going, walk with purpose and no one will notice you.” He shoved the paper cup and straw into John’s hands. “Pretend to drink this as we go in.”

John looked at the cup in his hand while he increased his pace to keep up with the detective’s longer stride. “Did you actually go to a McDonald’s?” John asked, putting the straw in his mouth.

“Of course not. I pulled these from the rubbish.”

John spit out the straw, “That’s disgusting!”

“That’s why I said pretend to drink.” Sherlock fell in line behind a trio of workers heading toward the entrance and raised up his greasy paper bag to the receptionist in greeting as he slipped in through the key-carded door behind the other workers and let the door close behind John.

Sherlock discarded his bag into the nearest bin, with John’s cup quickly following suit.  Sherlock’s eyes scanned the room, and after a moment he began walking toward the back left corner of the room, grabbing a clipboard and a pen off of desks as he passed by, handing them to John “Take notes.” Sherlock finally stopped at the desk of a brown-haired man in his late 30s.

“Joel?”

Joel looked up from his dual monitors into the face of Sherlock Holmes, or more truthfully, the friendly face Sherlock put on when he was trying to charm information out of someone.

“Yeah.”

“You’re new right, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Basil. This is Peter.”

Joel looked over at John and nodded at their matching pale blue button downs. “Hi. Nice shirt.”

John ignored the knowing look he was certain Sherlock was sending his way. “Hi.”

Sherlock continued his friendly offensive. ‘Look, my boss is making me review the business continuity and disaster recovery plan, which, ugh, I know, right? But he said I should check with you to see if everything is up to date for the Broadcast Engineering department.”

“I’m not sure I’d be much help. I’ve only been here a month.”

“No, that’s why you’re perfect, because if you don’t know this stuff then we’re not doing our job right, right? So why don’t you tell me what you do if there’s a business interruption, power outage or whatever, Pete will take notes and we’ll make sure it matches the docs.”

Joel shifted uncomfortably, “Is this about that weird video thing last week? I wasn’t even on shift then.”

“No. I mean yes, that’s why corporate is so up in arms about the disaster plan, but this is just departmental, doesn’t have to do anything with you.”

“Alright. Well, I monitor the VDCP here, which controls the remote servers and pulls all the footage….” Joel continued to babble on about Louth Automation and video servers and codecs to a furiously scribbling John, while Sherlock scanned the desk. Few personal items– a small Jade plant and a photograph of two blond children, a pair of mobiles, but otherwise it was littered in papers, and packages of junk food, except for small spot in front of the monitor that had been cleared to make way for the keyboard and mouse.   

“Cute kids,” Sherlock interrupted. “Yours?”

“No, I share the desk with Mike. Which is a pain. He leaves his crap everywhere, I can never find anything.” Joel gestured to the stacks of paper scattered on the desk. “Probably not good for your continuity plan.”

“Mike comes in at 8 right?”

“No Steve has nights. Mike’s here Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. He’s been begging me to switch so he can go to his kid’s football practice, but until he cleans up some of his crap, I’m not feeling overly generous.”

 “I wouldn’t either.” Sherlock ran his fingers alongside the edge of one of the towering stacks, accidentally sending it sliding across the desk. “Sorry.” Sherlock apologized as he pushed the stack back together.

“It’s fine. Doesn’t really make much difference.”

“Well, I’ve think we’ve got what we need for now. Pete?”

John stammered, “Yeah, this is great. Really helpful information.”

Sherlock grabbed the clipboard from John and stood up. “We’ll send over a copy of the doc so you can see any changes and I’ll see if I can get someone to talk to Mike about his filing system.”

“That would be great.”

“No problem.  See you around.”

Sherlock headed back toward the entrance and deposited the pen and clipboard back on the desks, from whence they came, John trotting along behind.

When they were well clear of the building, John blurted. “I took copious notes and you just left them? I hope you remember what he said because I certainly won’t”

“What he said was largely irrelevant.”

“Then why did you have me take notes?”

“Because you’re a terrible actor, your face is practically an open book, so I gave you something to do so you wouldn’t give us away.”

 “Why did you even have me come then?” John sighed.

“Because you provide a good distraction and it’s more fun than doing it alone. And in any case we did gain some very valuable information.” Sherlock pulled a mobile from his pocket and flipped it in the air.

“Did you just nick that guy’s phone? He going to notice.”

“He won’t, but Mike probably will.”

“How do you know it belongs to Mike? It’s not unusual for someone to have two phones.”

“No it’s not unusual, but it’s not Mike’s either.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s Joel’s and Mike’s and Steve’s too probably. I think it goes with the position. Joel won’t notice it’s missing because he’ll just assume it’s under all of Mike’s junk. But Mike will know because Mike is the one to have had used it recently. Because I think Mike got a text last Tuesday, because this is how our friend behind the video told Mike to play it.”

“How do you know?”

“One, the phone’s charger was on the desk, meaning it gets charged at the office, not home, so probably not a personal phone. Two, the phone is old, at least 3 years. What self-respecting IT professional doesn’t upgrade their mobile in three years? Three, the phone was kept in an accessible location, right next to the mouse.”

“But if you’re getting secret messages on your phone, wouldn’t you want to keep it hidden in a drawer or something?”

“These are the kind of messages you couldn’t afford to miss or delay in responding to. If it was your own phone, yes, you’d probably keep it in a pocket and wait for the buzz, but if it’s shared you wouldn’t want to risk accidentally walking out of the office with it or missing the ding in a drawer. So you’d keep it on the desk. After all, it’s not unusual for someone to have two phones.”

“Brilliant.”

Sherlock smiled, even after all this time, John’s words of praise delighted him.

Then John continued, “But won’t Mike panic when he finds it’s gone?”

“It doesn’t matter, because we’re going to talk to Mike first.”

Sherlock pocketed the Atos phone and pulled out his own mobile. Sherlock did a quick search before typing up a text.

Get me everything you can on Michael Taylor, a broadcast engineer at Atos, esp. address – SH

“I’m going to make Mycroft do a little work for me for once.” Sherlock smiled. “Are you hungry? We could get something to eat in the meantime. There’s a Vietnamese place just down the street from here.”

“As long as we’re not picking it out of the rubbish, fine.”

*****

John was just about to take the second bite of his Pho Bo Tai, when Sherlock’s phone buzzed with an incoming text from Mycroft.

Michael Andrew Taylor. Broadcast Engineer.  Siemens 2009-2011. Atos 2011-present. Married with two children. Pronounced dead on scene at 10 AM this morning following a hit and run. – MH

“An accident.” Sherlock scoffed.

“What was that?” John asked.

“It appears that our Mike was involved in a fatal hit and run this morning. Hardly a coincidence, I think.”

“What now?”

“First we call Mycroft. I imagine our IT friends Joel and Steve may also be in some danger. After that, we still have the phone.”

The Atos phone in Sherlock’s pocket dinged.

A text preview appeared on the screen.

Pity you were too late. Accidents happen. :(

A second message came in.

Here’s a bit of consolation. 5625.

Sherlock typed in the passcode and the phone unlocked. Sherlock opened the inbox and began scrolling, then he handed the phone over to John.

“It’s as I suspected, whoever this is, he’s been blackmailing these men for years.”

John continued to scroll until he reached the earliest message. John’s eyes widened and his stomach tightened into a knot.

“Sherlock. The first message that was sent.” John handed the phone back to Sherlock.

Children are so precious aren’t they? Keep this on hand. Further instructions to come. There were two attachments. A photo of Michael Taylor’s children, three years younger and a video file – the Moriarty animation.

“Look at the date.”

Sherlock looked at the timestamp. 11:17 AM. June 14, 2011.

“It was the day before you died.”

Sherlock’s fingers gripped the phone, his pale knuckles turning pure white.

Chapter Text

“James Moriarty shows up on every video screen in London and then for three weeks, nothing happens!” Greg Lestrade hurled his coffee cup into the bin next to his desk.

“Really, Greg.” replied Sergeant Donovan, wiping the splashes of coffee off her blouse. “Would you rather he be doing something?”

“But he is doing something. When I said nothing is happening, I meant nothing is happening.”

“I don’t follow.”

“How many calls have we gotten from Dispatch this week?”

“I dunno. It’s a quiet week.”

“Too quiet. I called up Metcall to see if something was offline. It’s not. They’re nearly silent. Domestic disputes and heart attacks. That’s it.”

“So we’re low on crime, that’s a good thing.”

“Sally, this is a city of over 8 million people. We have over 60,000 crimes reported a month. And now for three weeks, nothing? Suddenly nobody wants to rob anything? Murder someone?”

“You think everyone’s too scared to commit crimes?”

 “Not all. I think it’s much worse than that, I think he’s stopping it.”

“You can’t really think Moriarty, or whoever, is controlling every criminal in greater London area? We don’t even know if he’s still alive.”

“I know it sounds insane, but I do.”

“That’s impossible!”

“Not impossible.” A low voice carried across the room, followed shortly thereafter by a lean black-coated figure.

“Sherlock.” Lestrade sighed, relaxing slightly. 

“Hullo, Freak.” Donovan said, her tone more kind than cruel.

“Sergeant Donovan.” Sherlock replied with the bare minimum of acknowledgement before turning to Lestrade. “It’s true then. Almost all crime has stopped?”

“Anything organized, yeah. There’s been a few hit and runs, disturbances of the peace, but nothing major.”

“John and I have been scanning the papers and local reports and found the same, but we thought it might just be another media control play. But even if its as you say, I can assure you that not all crime has actually stopped. Just nothing rising to the level of being reportable. There has to be sufficient money and drugs flowing to keep the ne’er-do-wells and addicts from doing anything desperate.”

“So it’s Moriarty then, right?”

“We have no proof. We found the source of the video footage, but it was three years old. Moriarty could have planted it before he died. Left behind instructions to a second-in-command.”

“I thought you dismantled his network.” Greg asked warily.

“I thought I did too, but it looks like there might have been a second one, or a new one built up in my absence.”

Sally raised an eyebrow, “You’re saying someone has been planning this for three years? To do what? Bother the BBC and stop crime? But how?”

“How is a waste of time. How is a less important question than why.”

Donovan cast a look at Lestrade. “I’ll bite. Why then?”

“To show us that he can.”

Donovan sighed. “Well, what are we supposed to do about it?”

“He’s stopping crime, and he’s much better at it than you are, what do you want to do about it?”

Lestrade interjected before Donovan could complain, “We can’t do nothing.”

“I never suggested that we do. I saw Moriarty die. I can’t believe it’s him, but whoever this is, clearly they share his penchant for playing games. The video interruption was merely his opening salvo, his pawn to e4. He took first move advantage and claimed dominance of the board, but the game is not won or lost in the opening move. We found the film source. Our move. He’s shown us he controls the criminal element of London, countermove. We’ve been reacting, what we need to do is determine what it is he wants, anticipate his plan – is it money? power? He’s clearly got the ability to take control of England’s media and criminal underground, so he must have sufficient access to both those things. I think this is far more dangerous. It’s personal. It will come down to him and me.”

Donovan laughed, “Whoever this is you think they spent three years building a network large enough to be on every telly in the country and stop all crime in London just to get at you? And I thought you had an ego before!”

“He started with England the second I left its soil, and has now concentrated to London. He’s wrapping in tighter and tighter. You’ll see.”

Sherlock’s pocket chimed with a text alert.

“That sounds like Moriarty, mate.” Greg said gently.

“I saw him die, Lestrade.”

“And John saw you die. All of us thought you were dead, except Anderson and we thought he was off his rocker, but he was right. Mostly. What’s that thing you say about the improbable one that’s left? Just because you don’t want to believe it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true…”

Sherlock’s pocket dinged again.

“Ýou gonna get that?”

“That’s not my phone.”

“Well the sound is coming from your pocket.”

It took Sherlock a moment to recognize the sound and then he pulled the Atos phone from the coat pocket where he’d been carrying it around since his visit to the Broadcast Engineering department.

Nice move. My turn.

Sherlock head snapped toward Lestrade. “Your office is bugged.”

“Christ! Donovan find it!” Lestrade and Donovan turned to the corners of Lestrade’s office looking for hiding places. But Sherlock’s other phone began to ring with an incoming call.

Sherlock looked at the screen, his eyes wide. ”John, what is it?” A hint of fear crept into his voice, the net was pulling tighter, but surely it was too soon for this, not him, not yet.

John’s familiar tenor was bemused, but calm. “A courier just came by my flat and delivered a blank envelope. I thought you’d want to know.”

Sherlock didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath. “Yes, that’s good. Notify me of anything unusual happening.”

“That list gets a lot shorter when I’m not with you. Should I open it?”

“Yes. Carefully. Use gloves if you have them.”

“Yeah, hold on a sec.”

Sherlock held his breath as he heard John rustling for gloves and opening the envelope.

“It’s just a piece of paper. All it says is ‘tick,’ T-I-C-K.”

Sherlock’s mind scanned for possibilities. Tick, a blood-sucking parasite, carrier of disease. Likely not. Tick-tock? A countdown?

A knock came at the door and a junior officer looked a bit bemused at the mess Donovan and Lestrade were making of the office. “Inspector, Sir? This fax just came through for you, the cover sheet was marked urgent.”

Lestrade grabbed the paper and only glanced at it before holding it up to Sherlock. Sherlock blinked and looked at it - blank except for a single word – "tick".

The word clicked in Sherlock’s mind and he yelled to the room and phone at once. “Get down!”

*****

A  loud "pop" rang out through the office as Sherlock, Donovan and Lestrade all hit the floor.

Thick white smoke filled the air, making the air unbreathable. Lestrade pulled himself up from the floor and yanked up Donovan with one hand, opening his office door with the other. “Come on – get out.”

Sally ran into the main office, smoke continuing to billow into the room behind her. “Come on folks – move –everyone OUTSIDE!”

Lestrade looked behind him to see Sherlock hadn’t exited yet. Running back into the fog of smoke, Lestrade nearly fell over Sherlock, who was scrambling on his hands and knees on the floor. He grabbed him by the collar and pulled him out the door. “Sherlock, out now!”

“My phone!”

“You can get it later” Lestrade coughed as he continued to pull Sherlock toward the outer exit. “Now we need to get out.”

“John got the same message, on the other end of the line. I need to know he’s all right.”

Lestrade pushed Sherlock outside and took a deep breath, taking in the coughing crowd around him before looking back at Sherlock and seeing a blaze of panic on the detective’s face. “Here, use mine. But if it’s the same as here, it just smoke.”

Sherlock took the phone from Lestrade’s hand, his long fingers shaking slightly. He stilled them as he found John in Lestrade's contacts. Sherlock’s heart stilled with each ring, then eased as the line picked up.

“John? Are you all right?”

20 feet away, a yellow and blue striped Ford Focus burst loudly into flames. Lestrade threw Sherlock into the side of building, trying to cover the consulting detective’s lanky frame with his own. But Sherlock was too focused on the mirrored explosion he heard on the other end of the line.

“John?!”

"JOHN!!!"

Chapter Text

Sherlock had watched as John slammed the cab door shut and knew it would only take him 13 seconds to make his way up the stairs if he was angry. He kept his back to the door, counting to ten and feeling the rage radiating off John as he burst through the door three seconds later.

“Someone put a bomb in my house, Sherlock!”

Sherlock didn’t move. “A smoke bomb.”

“A bomb. In my house. The house I share with my very pregnant wife!”

“She was out.”

“And they exploded a car across the street!”

“I know.”

“Someone could have been killed. I could have been killed.”

“I know!” Sherlock’s voice blazed, but his eyes focused pass the glass, locked on the spot where a black cab had exploded earlier in the day.

John’s anger quieted in shock at Sherlock’s outburst.

 “It’s just -- someone was in my home.”

“And here. And Scotland Yard. The Diogenes Club. St. Bart’s.”

“Everyone?” The question was quiet. John hadn’t known.

“Everyone.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry, Sherlock.”

Sherlock couldn’t bring himself to turn to John, to see pity in those eyes, instead speaking to the indistinct refection in the glass before him.  “I was certain Moriarty was dead. I saw him put the gun in his mouth, John. I heard the bang. I jumped from a roof, pretended I was dead, spent two years dismantling his network – for nothing. I thought it was safe to come back.”

“We don’t know for certain –“

“It has to be, who else could it be? Two years risking my life to break down a criminal enterprise while he built another behind my back, right under my nose. If I had thought for one second that my return would put you, everyone, in danger again, I would have never come back. It would have been better for you if I had stayed away, if I had died. Then you’d be safe with your wife and your daughter on the way -- ”

John grabbed Sherlock by the forearm and turned him around forcefully.

“Don’t you dare say that, don’t you even think it. Those years you were dead were the worst of my life. I would take a hundred Moriartys to not extend it one second.  Me, Molly, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, even Mycroft, we didn’t sign up for this because we thought it was safe. We do it because want to, because we’re your friends and that’s what friends do. There’s always been a risk and you undervalue your friends if you think we didn’t take that into calculation and forge on anyway.”

“But if something were to happen, it’d be all my fault.”

Sherlock’s eyes met with John’s, the detective’s pupils were wide and his eyes red. His normally pale skin seem wan and yellow and his brow was rimmed with tiny beads of sweat.

John looked down at the arm he held in his hand, and could feel Sherlock’s pulse racing beneath his fingers. He lifted his thumb to see one of several nicotine patches.

“Christ, Sherlock, “John gasped, pushing up Sherlock’s sleeve. “How many of these did you put on?”

“5 or 6. I needed to think. We have to stop him.”

“You know you can overdose on these! You can't do this again.” John began to rip the patches off of Sherlock’s arm.

“He’s just taunting us now, I have to stop him before he can really hurt someone. Before he comes for you. I have to figure it out.”   Sherlock tried to pull his arm away from John’s grip, but the movement was too much, throwing him off balance and causing the room to whirl. Sherlock’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as he fainted, saved from crashing to floor by John’s steady grip.

“Sherlock. Sherlock” John placed his hand behind his friend’s head to keep it from lolling off his arm.“Mrs. Hudson! Call an ambulance!”

*****

Sherlock heard the beeps and soft wooshing sounds characteristic of only a hospital room, informing him of his location before even opened his eyes. His eyes gently focused as they drifted across the room, from the fluorescents overhead to the drip bag at his side, to the polished brass buttons on the waistcoat of a three-piece suit.

“Mycroft.”   Sherlock croaked, his eyes closed. Not the first person one hoped to see upon waking in a hospital bed.

“Good morning, Brother Dear, or shall I say afternoon? You’ve been sleeping quite the while.”

Sherlock licked his lips, his throat ached and his mouth felt inexorably dry. He tried to form a sentence, but all that came out was one word, as a question “-- John?”

“He’s fine. In the cafeteria getting some tea. It’s the first he’s left your side since he brought you in last night. I know you consider your body nothing more than transport, but you do no one any favours by abusing it this way, least of all yourself. Don’t bother to reply. You’ll find yourself quite groggy still from the benzodiazepine. Aside from that there should be no lingering ill effects from your irresponsibility, once again thanks to the presence of your good doctor.”

Sherlock’s eyes drifted toward the door, as if John would arrive there on cue.

“He’ll be back momentarily, I imagine. In the interim, it would behoove you to know that we have arranged safe houses for all those recently threatened. Dr. Hooper and Mrs. Hudson should be installed in theirs within the hour. Inspector Lestrade was loathe to step away from the case, and would only agree after I submitted that he could stay with me and continue to monitor the situation. We’ve found a lovely spot in Cardiff for the Watsons, but your John was equally opposed to going into hiding. But perhaps with a baby due in less than a month you could summon up some strength to convince him otherwise? As for yourself?”

“No.” Sherlock had strength enough for that.

“Ah, well. I thought not.”

John entered in the door, two Styrofoam cups in hand.

“Well, I’ll leave it up to you to see if you can make him less stubborn.” Mycroft said to none and both of them as he left, umbrella in hand.

John slid a tray over the side of Sherlock’s bed and placed the cups of tea on top, then pulled a napkin with several biscuits wrapped in it out his pocket and laid them alongside. “I nicked these from the nurse’s station, it looks like someone had a birthday.”

Sherlock smiled.

John smiled back at him. “I thought you’d like that. Look. I’m sorry about the yelling last night. I just hate being in situations where I don’t have any control, and a bomb in your house? Well, that feels as about as little in control as possible.”

Sherlock took a sip of the tea, the warm fluid was sweet, just the way he liked it, and it gently coated his dry tongue and throat. He looked at John, “You should go to Mycroft’s safe house.”

“Are you?”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so. Anyway that’s even less control.”

“But Mary. The baby.”

“I’ve spoken with Mary and she agrees with me. We don’t want to bring our daughter home to some strange house and spend her first days living in fear under lock and key. I told Mycroft he can surveil us all he wants, but that I don’t doubt that if Moriarty or whoever wants to find us, he could find us, even in Cardiff. I’d much rather keep working with you on this case and make sure that my daughter doesn’t have to live in a world of fear. Besides,” John smiled again, “I’m married to a world-class assassin, and pregnant or no, I imagine she can take better care of herself and our child than the British Government.”

“She is an exacting shot.” Sherlock said, looking down at his chest then nodding at his familiar surroundings.

John leaned forward, his face deadly serious, “Sherlock, I’ve seen you in a hospital bed far too many times for my liking. I know you’re worried, we all are, but you can’t do this to yourself. I meant what I said last night – you are not alone. You have to let us help you. In whatever way we can.”

Sherlock was equally serious, “You have always helped John, always.”

John grabbed his cup and sat back in his chair, “Good. Then eat your biscuits. Don’t make me a thief for nothing.”

Sherlock reached an arm up and grabbed a chocolate-dipped shortbread and put it in his mouth, smiling.

Chapter Text

Following his release from hospital, Sherlock threw out the remainder of his nicotine patches as well as the small bottle of cocaine he kept hidden where even Mycroft couldn’t find it. The benzodiazepine they’ve given him had made his mind cloudy for days and he could afford no more distractions or accidents.

Unfortunately there was nothing he would have been distracted from. After the bombings, the cesspool of London began to churn once more and petty crimes and robberies and murders solvable by even a junior detective at Scotland Yard were plentiful again.

Sherlock carried the Atos mobile with him everywhere awaiting for another message from the man he was sure in his heart, if not his head, was Moriarty, but none came. No more messages appeared on the BBC, none of his marker rats made a stray move, Wiggins and the homeless network reported nothing unusual. London was the picture of normalcy, minus a landlady, a specialist registrar and a detective inspector.

Was Moriarty waiting for Sherlock to take his turn? Surely the removal of his friends from the game would count? Try as he might, Sherlock could not anticipate Moriarty’s next move, though he feared in his heart it would be against John, and he knew that John would brook no thought of taking protection beyond his Sig and the silenced firearms of his wife. 

A week passed, then another, and another.

Rosamund Mary Watson was born at 1:15 PM on a cold and bright day. Mycroft insisted they not go to the hospital for security reasons and had obtained an experienced midwife to attend to the birth at the Watson’s home. Mary had kindly asked Sherlock to be present, primarily to keep John from crawling up the walls.

The birth took 6 hours and 32 minutes, but was largely uneventful as such things go. There had been a great deal of groaning and changes of positions and Sherlock had been ushered from the room when he commented on the amount of bodily fluids expunged as part of the process. When he was allowed to return Mary held a tiny human in her arms, with its blond hair matted against its head, and eyes and a nose that looked decidedly like John’s.

Sherlock had never seen such a look of pure unadulterated love as the one he saw on John’s face as he brushed his fingers over the fine wisps of hair on Rosie’s brow. It made his own heart ache to see it and he distracted himself by examining the placenta – a remarkably large thing, which Mary said he could take with him if he really wanted to and John said in no uncertain terms that he most definitely could not.

It felt strange to return to the quiet of Baker Street that evening after the fullness of the Watson home. It had been somewhat empty in Mrs. Hudson’s absence, but now it felt positively hollow. He picked up his violin to play, but found his mind drifting back to the tryptic of familial warmth he had witnessed earlier in the day.

We’d like you to be her godfather, John had said. I know nothing about children, he had replied. A godparent is a child’s protector, and we can think of no one more qualified to protect our daughter than Sherlock Holmes, John countered, placing the child in his arms.

Sherlock took it as a positive sign that the child did not begin immediately wailing when placed in his care, and studied the small creature in his arms. Never had he seen a human being so new, so full of possibilities and lacking in prejudice. He ran a finger alongside the clipped stump of the umbilical cord that had once attached this child physically to another human being, replaced by stronger, less visible bonds now.

Will you do it? John asked. Yes. Sherlock had replied, not removing his eyes from the child he held, knowing that it was an honour and a responsibility to which he would give his life.

Sherlock arms held nothing more than a violin now as he looked out at the fog descending upon the swirling mass of London, in which somewhere Moriarty was still alive and waiting, a spectre against which Sherlock must protect his family at all costs.

 

*****

Eight days after Rosie’s birth, Mary sat in the rocker nursing her daughter at an ungodly hour, when her mobile lit up.

Congratulations Mother Mary. Time to bring him in.

Her fingers scrambled at the keys, trying not to disturb the now sleeping babe.

Please not yet. It’s still so soon, she’s still so new.

You know how patient I can be, but even my patience is wearing thin.  You have two weeks from Tuesday. NCP Car Park. Welbeck Street, 8 PM, second to top floor.

Mary knew no more messages would come and pressed Rosie close to her chest, needing this anchor as she felt her world start to fall away like sand through a clenched fist.

Chapter Text

At 7:53 PM on a Tuesday, Sherlock Holmes finally received a text on his Atos phone. A single web address: http://www.ncp.co.uk/find-a-car-park/car-parks/

Sherlock rushed to open his laptop and typed in the address. Clearly, the site had been hacked, with the page displaying only a blank video box between the NCP header and footer. It took two minutes of refreshing the page before the video feed went live.

The image was grainy and dim and black and white, appearing to be from some kind of security camera. The camera was capturing what was clearly the bay of car park. A mostly empty one with only 2 cars visible, but the drab utilitarianisms was unmistakable, even if the web address hadn’t given it away.

Seeing nothing of interest on the feed yet, Sherlock opened a second browser window. Which car park was it? How to tell one car park from another? He opened the “find a car park” page. Surely NCP must manage hundreds. The search bar read “name a city” in faint grey text. He typed in “London” (as good a start as any) and hit search. 42 results popped up.

Sherlock admitted to himself that he’d never given much consideration to car parks in his mental map of London, having never owned a car in his life.  He had pulled the videofeed back to full screen to see if there were any telling details, pressing his nose up to nearly touch the screen and squinting at what looked like triangles on the far left side, when some movement in the bottom right corner caught his eye.

A familiar bleached blonde bob walked into view, wrapped in a coat that would have been red in color footage, but here merely looked black.

Sherlock scrambled to turn up the volume on his laptop, and thank god, there was sound. Muffled and dim like the footage, but better than nothing.

Sherlock watched as Mary pulled a gun from her pocket and staked out the floor, checking the parked cars and seemingly finding nothing. Then she crossed to the far wall and placed her back against the solid concrete, aiming her gun at the stairs.

Sherlock knew he should continue trying to identify the site, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the screen. What was Mary up to? He thought to text John – “Where’s Mary?” but wasn’t sure John would know, or was supposed to know.

Sherlock heard the footsteps a moment after Mary did, the former (current?) assassin flicking off her safety.

“Mary?” John’s voice rattled dimly off the concrete and Sherlock Holmes’ stomach dropped.

 

*****

  

The barrel of Mary’s gun lowered as she stepped away from the wall. “John? What are you doing here?” Her voice was filled with panic.

“I could ask you the same question.”

“Where’s Rosie?”

“Asleep at home. Kate’s watching her. You just left the house without saying anything, which was odd, so I followed. Is that a gun?”

“You need to go now, John. Go!”

A lilting Irish voice drifted out from the shadows. “I’ve been so patient so far, no need to rush things now.”

Mary and John’s eyes both shot wide in horror.

“You made me wait, Mary. Bad idea #1. You were supposed to bring John Watson to me, but you left home without him. Bad idea #2. So I had to go get something of my own.” James Moriarty stepped into the light, the infant car-seat dangling from his hand incongruous with his tailored black suit and tie.

 It took less than a second for Mary to aim her gun at the centre of Moriarty’s forehead.

John growled “You.

“I wouldn’t move I were you,” said Moriarty, tapping his forehead. “Wouldn’t talk either.”

Though she could not see or feel them, Mary knew the red dots danced on her face as surely as they now danced on John’s.

“Step back.” John and Mary took a step apart from each other. “Further. Further.” They continued to back away. “Further!” The spouses stood several metres away from each other. “Good. Now look at each other. Take a good look at her.”

Moriarty placed the carrier on the floor gently, not waking the sleeping child and walked across the concrete floor of the garage slowly.

“Mary, Mary quite contrary, I thought you were so clever. How did you let you yourself get here?” Moriarty waved a finger at Mary, her face resolute, her gun never wavering from his face.

“Tsk, tsk. You let yourself get attached.” His lips pushed out in a pout. “Shouldn’t have done that, Mary. Makes this so much harder.”

He crossed to John, “What is it about this man?!”  Moriarty’s eyes stayed trained on Mary while his fingers danced along the lapels of John’s jacket and button-up, caressing, then flicking them back at John’s face. “He’s so terribly ordinary. Not particularly handsome, not particularly clever, perhaps a bit duller than most, considering his choice of companions.”

He whispered, his lips pressed against John’s ear. “Really, John. Sherlock I can see, cheekbones and all. But this one? Even after you knew she had a past?”

John twitched his head away.

“Oh, but you didn’t really know did you? That she was mine first? Did you ever stop to consider why a ‘former’ assassin would chose to be a nurse in a dingy local surgery? Ever really think about what kind of woman you married? What kind of woman would say yes to a marriage proposal six months in? Woman in her late-thirties, goes ‘oopsie’ on the birth control? Desperate or devious, and I think we know which one she is now, don’t we?”

“Or was the baby truly a surprise?” His eyes flitted back and forth between the couple. “I’ll admit that I didn’t expect that. Above and beyond the call of duty there, Mary.” He clapped slowly then crossed to the carrier, picked it up and swung it gently side to side, as he sauntered closer and closer to edge of the garage. “I could have so much fun with a baby.”

Instinctively, John and Mary started to move toward the child. “Ah, ah, ah Doctor and Mrs. Watson. I said don’t MOVE. You wouldn’t want to wake the baby. They’re so cute when they’re sleeping. You know, I could raise it as my own. Make her hate you, or even better -  never even know you existed. Then again, babies can be sooooooo boring!” He lifted the carrier out through the concrete uprights for a moment, John and Mary fighting every instinct to stay in place. Moriarty eyed them, then placed the carrier back on the ground, far away from the parents’ reach.

Moriarty walked up close to Mary. “You want to kill me don’t you? You’d just love to pull that trigger and peeeeeeeewwwww!” He traced a finger in the air from Mary’s gun towards his head, stopping with the tip of his index finger right between his eyes, “Boom!” His fingers splayed wide.

He walked behind her slowly, placing his hand on her extended right arm, “You could do it with your eyes closed, we all know how good you are. But what if you had to kill someone with everyone’s eyes wide open?” He shifted the aim toward her new target: John Watson. “Could you do it then?”

“Could you kill your husband for your child?”  One of the red lights shifted from John’s face to the carrier.

John’s gaze looked briefly at Mary and then darted about the garage.

“Don’t bother looking for Sherlock, Johnny Boy. He won’t be here to save you. Not this time. He’s a bit distracted at the moment. But don’t worry, he’ll be able to see and hear everything. So, Doctor Watson, any famous last words?”

Mary’s eyes fixed on John’s, begging to be forgiven, welling with tears.

“Mary,” John’s voiced waivered, but he steeled himself and carried on, “I am a simple doctor, but you are much more than a simple doctor. You are a mother. And my wife. I have every reason not to trust you, but I do. I trust you.”

A silence hung in the air.

Moriarty wrinkled his nose. “That’s it’s? No grand last minute confessions? Nothing for poor old Sherlock? He is going to be so disappointed. But ah well. That’s its then.”

Moriarty walked up to the camera that was feeding back to Sherlock. “What was it that I said all those years ago at the pool, Sherlock? Ah yes, that I would burn the heart out of you.  I was surprised to see how much you’ve spread it around these days, but even still, it’s always been concentrated in one spot.” He crossed back to John, and pulled a permanent marker from his pocket and pulled open John’s jacket, drawing the outline of a black heart on his shirt just above the real one that was beating furiously in John’s chest. “Right here.” He capped the pen with a click. “This was just supposed to be a handoff, you know. Betrayal #1. The woman who took John away from you turns around and gives him to me. That’s got to hurt right? That he replaced you with someone who didn’t even love him enough to save him? That it was all for nothing? And I had such big plans for John here after that, but I suppose this works just as well, perhaps even better, that you practically pushed him into the arms of his murderer. Kinda poetic dontcha think?”

Moriarty sighed dreamily, then turned to Mary, his eyes cold. “Now Mary.”

Mary closed her eyes for a moment, tears pushing out of the outer edges, and steadied her breath. “I’m so sorry, John.”

“NOW!”

Her eyes flashed opened.

The bullet ripped through John Watson’s body, blood pouring down his chest. This was a burn he had felt before, had dreamt about on countless occasions, but even in his worst nightmares he hadn’t remembered how much it hurt, that it had hurt this much. He stumbled backwards and fell to the hard concrete, his head hitting hard, his vision fading and his breath growing weak.

The sound of the bullet woke Rosie and her cries reverberated off the unforgiving surroundings.

Moriarty crossed to John’s body, taking care to side-step the small pool of blood that that dribbled out of the hole in John’s chest and had begun to collect on the floor.  He leaned over John’s stilling body for a moment, examining him before reaching down and pulling the mobile from his pocket.

Seemingly content with what he saw, he placed the carrier on the floor and slid it toward Mary with his foot. He reached over to Mary, taking the gun from her shaking hand and pulling her mobile from her coat pocket.  “I’ll be watching you Miss Mary.” He placed a kiss on her forehead and made a signal, all the red dots flickering out. “One step out of line, and what’s left of yours will be mine.”

Moriarty strolled back to the stairwell, and the feed to Sherlock’s laptop went black.

Chapter Text

Sherlock had never felt a greater panic than when the feed cut to black in front of him. He refreshed the page twice without luck and then returned to the “find a car park” tab.

He closed his eyes. What had he seen? Sherlock’s mind raced through the scene he had just witnessed, but his mind’s eye kept shunting him back to the image of John, black blood pooling around his compact frame on the concrete. No. Think. What had he seen? What was unique in the car park? It had to be in London. John wouldn’t have been able to follow Mary out of the city easily. There had been a roof, so they weren’t on a top floor. But only two cars in the bay, so likely high up in the structure, but in an area where there wasn’t much need for night parking, probably near office buildings or daytime shops. What else? What else what else what else?

An image of Moriarty swinging Rosie’s carrier through the concrete support beams outside the structure flashed in Sherlock’s mind. Triangles. They looked like triangles. Sherlock’s eyes flashed opened.

He began to open a tab for each of the 42 NCP car parks in London. There was a photo of the building’s exterior on each one. Brewer Street. No. Covent Garden. No. Shaftesbury. No. Carrington Street, Grosvenor Hill, Millennium Hotel. No. No. No. Welbeck Street.

Yes.

Sherlock dialled 999.

“Emergency, how can I assist you?”

“There has been a shooting at the NCP car park, Welbeck and Wigmore. One of the upper floors. There is a victim in critical medical condition. Please hurry.”

“We’re dispatching an ambulance now. Are you with the victim? Please stay on the line.” But Sherlock had already hung up and was out of the door.

Sherlock thanked the god of taxicabs when one appeared nearly as soon as he reached the kerb. He jumped inside.

“Where to?”

The carpark? No. The ambulance would surely come and go by the time he reached there. The hospital. He scanned his mental map of London. Western Eye or University College?

“University College A and E. Euston Rd. Quickly.” Sherlock pulled out a £20 note and flung it at the driver.

It would take him 9 minutes to arrive. The ride for John would be about the same from Welbeck, discounting time for the ambulance speed and adding a bit for loading. Please let them be there in time. Please let him be there in time.

Sherlock’s hands were frantic. Gripping his the seat, his trouser leg, shifting his mobile. 8 more minutes to John. Sherlock dialled Mycroft.

“Mary shot John.” Sherlock blurted before Mycroft had a chance to speak.

“Are you with him?”

“I saw it on a video feed. It was a carpark in Marleybone. I think he may be…” Sherlock couldn’t bring himself to say the word. “I called 999.”

“Good. Where are you?”

“Headed to University College.”

“I’ll send someone trustworthy to Western Eye. Gregory.”

“Lestrade? No! Don’t put anyone else in danger.”

“I’ll send one of my people then.”

A terrifying thought crossed Sherlock’s mind. “What if it wasn’t a live feed?”

Mycroft’s voice was even. “Do not panic, Sherlock. We will find John.”

“Mycroft. Moriarty was there. It was him. Mary knew him. She had Rosie. What if she’s run? We have to find her.”

“I will do everything in my power.” Mycroft paused for a moment. “I am so sorry, my dear brother.”

“No. Not sorry yet. Mary shot me and I survived, we are not sorry yet.”

“Of course Sherlock.”

Sherlock ended the call, the tapping of an onscreen button feeling as futile and frustrating as the 7 minutes between him and John.

The video screen in the seatback was babbling news at him, but Sherlock saw and heard none of it. His mind was focused on the moment the bullet hit John’s chest, blood dribbling out of the black heart outlined on his shirt, murder playing on infinite loop.

You are a mother. And my wife. I have every reason not to trust you, but I do. I trust you.

John had trusted her. He had trusted her. And Mary shot had shot John. And Moriarty was there, alive and John was –.

The cab stopped in front of the hospital and Sherlock leapt out, running for the emergency loading bay.

He reached the bay just as a gurney was being pushed through the hospital entrance.

He could overhear the paramedic speaking to the triage physician as the doors closed. “Caucasian male. Single bullet wound to the chest. Heavy bleeding –“

The doors closed in front of Sherlock. He had seen the face, only for a second, which was less time than he needed. It was John. If he was here, if they were still rushing, then there was hope. Sherlock watched as the gurney was pushed further from his view.

He rang Mycroft again. “He’s here. They’re still working. It isn’t over. It’s not over yet.”

If Mycroft replied, Sherlock didn’t hear, as he dropped his phone and leant back against a pillar, sliding to the ground as the adrenaline and all his strength ebbed out of his body.

*****

A nurse had found him in that same spot some time later, and after determining he had no injuries, had deposited him a bland waiting room.

Fortunately John had had the foresight to name Sherlock as an emergency contact in his medical files, something, Sherlock had later learned, John had done following their first week of living together and had continued to do so, even when he thought Sherlock was dead, whether out of habit or sentiment he didn’t know. At first, Sherlock tried to occupy his time between all too infrequent updates on John’s condition by attempting the crossword puzzle in a paper someone had left behind, but found himself only further irritated by the inane “pop culture” quality of the clues. The Sudoku was much more logical, but easily solved.

He badgered Mycroft with frequent calls trying to pin down Mary’s position. She hadn’t gone home, too obvious. A systematic search of Sherlock’s own bolt holes, the one’s she had discovered in her own search for him once upon a time proved fruitless as well. The wedding invitation list provided a convenient source of addresses to search, but Sherlock’s pre-wedding intimidation had done its job too well, it seemed, and she was not to be found among her friends either. 

Sherlock knew that Mary had the skill to disappear if she wanted to, and if they didn’t find her tonight, their chances of finding her at all were terribly slim.

But in truth, it wasn’t Mary he wanted to find. He was not a vengeful person. He wanted information, yes - what she knew, for how long, had she truly played John so cruelly? But what he really wanted was Rosie. Somewhere, out in the night was John Watson’s daughter with a woman Sherlock had twice thought he’d understood and had twice been proven so painfully wrong. He had hope yet that he wouldn’t lose John, but the fate of his friend was out his hands now. The fate of John’s daughter, his goddaughter, on the other hand -

And here was his dilemma – did he stay in the hospital and wait for John to come out of surgery? To be in the clear? To wake up? Or did he race from the hospital to find John’s daughter before he had a chance to know she might be gone? What would he want John to do if their situations were reversed?

Just then Sherlock’s phone rang.

“I hope you have something useful to say Mycroft.”

“Distracting you from the latest edition of Hello! magazine, am I?”

"Have you found her?”

“She appears to be at the safe house I had selected for the Watsons in Cardiff. Took her own car and seemingly ran every red light on purpose. Tracking the license plate was laughably easy, it’s almost as if she wants to be found.”

Wants to be found? This was something Sherlock hadn’t counted on. “Does it look like she’s planning on going anywhere?”

“Even if she wanted to, we’d be able to follow her now, but no, she appears to be settled for the time being.” Mycroft answered Sherlock’s next two questions before he had a chance to ash them. “The baby is with her, all looks well. Stay with John, Sherlock. I’ll keep an eye on Mary and alert you to any changes.”

“Thank you, Mycroft.” The combination of words felt strange for Sherlock to say, but he had to admit that he meant them.

“It’s nothing Sherlock. Back to your celebrity magazines.”

Chapter Text

John was under operation for hours. There was the thoracostomy to drain the fluid from his chest, the excision of the bullet and clothing fragments from the wound, the application of wound dressings. Sutures would have to wait for several days to lessen the risk of infection. The damage to John’s left lung was severe, but his heart was unscathed.

In the literal sense, at least.

Sherlock could not help but worry about John’s more metaphorical heart at this second, deeper betrayal of his wife. He had hope now that John’s life would be spared, but the good doctor’s heart had always been more fragile than his body, and even now bore more scars than his physical form. Some of which Sherlock himself had put there. More than he cared to admit.

Sherlock wondered how the heart became named as the seat of emotions, when the knot in his gut indicated that the stomach would be the more logical choice. A knot that eased only slightly when John was declared critical but stable and moved to the critical care unit in a net of respirator and IV drip lines.

According to Mycroft’s frequent reports, Mary and Rosie were still firmly ensconced in Cardiff, with no indication of further flight. He would speak with her soon enough, but for now he remained by John’s bedside, his little finger of his left hand resting against the back of John’s right, waiting for some kind of movement.

It would be several hours yet before the sedation would wear off and John would wake.

The nurses ghosted in and out the room around Sherlock, checking vitals, changing drip bags. Mycroft must have arranged something with the hospital, because they never kicked him out of the room.

John woke up briefly during the night, only long enough to feel a weight on his leg and recognize the curly mop of black hair lying there, before drifting off again.

*****

At 6:10 AM, Sherlock was woken up by the chattering of the broadcasters on Breakfast from the telly in the corner. He hadn’t intended to doze off, and the kink in his neck he felt as he raised it from the arm he had folded over John’s thigh, made it even more regrettable.

He looked at John, his face masked by tubing, but calm. He hadn’t woken yet. Sherlock hadn’t missed anything.

His attention was drawn to the television.

Reports from local authorities confirm the arson of eight separate One Stop shops last night. Eye witness accounts indicate that all eight shops were targeted at the same time and Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are investigating a potential connections between the incidents. NSY would not respond to questions that the fires were somehow linked to January’s video footage featuring deceased criminal James Moriarty or the recent car bombing at several locations in the city, including New Scotland Yard.

The news feed cut to a press conference at NSY, where Sally Donovan was attempting to maintain control of the media, who were pressing her with questions from all sides. 

“Are these fires connected to the bombing at the Yard?”

“We have no reason to – “

“Do you think there will be more fires?”

“Is this racially motivated?”

“We’re exploring the motivations –“

“Is it possible that it’s James Moriarty? That he’s still alive?”

“If it’s Moriarty, where is Sherlock Holmes?”

The feed cut back to the studio.

Sherlock stood up and stared at the photo of himself and Moriarty superimposed over the newsreaders shoulder. He paced the floor of the small room. This didn’t make any sense. What did One Stops have to do with him? The fires had to be Moriarty, yes?  Each move had been drawing closer and more personal to him. England. London. His friend’s work/homes. John. The next step should have been directly against him. Why the shift back to the public arena?

Sherlock kicked a chair and grunted, “He can’t change the game in the middle this way!” The chair skittered across the floor.

“Sherlock?” The voice was faint, dry and barely a whisper, but it caught the consulting detective’s full attention.

“John.” Sherlock raced back to the bedside.

“Mary?” John grimaced, it looked painful to even speak. “Rosie?”

“Rosie is with Mary. Mycroft knows where she is, we’re going to get your daughter back.”

John shook his head weakly. “No, she’s safe there.”

“John. Mary shot you. You nearly died.”

“I know. I asked her to.”

“No you didn’t. There was a video feed, I could hear everything –“

“You hear, but you do not listen." John smiled slightly. "You said once, it was surgery…”

Sherlock raised a hand to quiet John and played back the carpark footage in his mind. “You said she was more than a simple doctor. That you trusted her.” He looked back at John with surprise in his eyes. “You asked her to.”

“It was Rosie or me.” He raised an arm and tapped his finger over the left breast of the Sherlock’s shirt. “We match now.”

Sherlock still couldn’t quite process what he had seen. “But she knew Moriarty.”

John’s eyes cast downward at the name. “Yes.”

“And Moriarty is alive.”

“Yes.” John looked back up at Sherlock, his eyes so very tired, “You said you know where she is. Talk to her.” He looked at Sherlock’s hesitation and tried to smile. “I promise not to die while you’re gone.”

“Not funny.”

“Talk to her. Maybe she’ll know where all this is headed.”

“All right.”

John’s eye began to drift closed again. “Sherlock?”

“Yes John?”

“Find out for me, if, if any of it was real.”

He looked at friend, sleeping once again. Wounded flesh, wounded heart.  They did match. “I will.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock had to admit as he approached the Cardiff safe house in what was really Llancarfan that Mycroft had a knack for real estate, as the property was a charming stone cottage in the countryside. Probably 150 years old, by the look of it, not his sort of thing, really, but he was surprised that John and Mary had so whole-heartedly turned it down. It looked like an ideal place for a family to go on holiday.

He made no attempt as stealth as he pulled into the gravel drive and entered into the house through the kitchen, his oxfords tapping along the flagstone floor.

“In here, Sherlock.” Mary called from the adjacent room. He made his way round the chimney and found Mary in the lounge, curled up on a leather sofa, paperback book in her right hand and Rosie balanced in the other, her shirt rucked up on the side. Rosie was nursing. “Does this bother you?” she asked, nodding at the child.

“Not at all. Do what you need to.” He grabbed the purple wingback in the corner and turned it to face Mary, sitting at a respectable distance. They looked hard at each other, unspeaking, each professional trying to gauge the other.  

Mary, finally broke the silence. “I expected you yesterday. I made myself very obvious.”

“You did.” Sherlock was the picture of neutrality.

“You took long, why? Does that, is John ---” Her voice quivered a bit at the end, she couldn’t say it either.

“John’s critical, but stable.” A wave of relief passed over Mary’s face. “You caused a great deal of damage to his left lung.”

“But his heart?”

“Unscathed.”

A hint of regret replaced the relief on Mary’s brow. “I knew Moriarty would examine him closely, I had to make it look fatal. The margin for error—“

“You had to be precise.”

“Yes.”

“Surgery.”

“Yes. You were watching then.”

“Yes.”

“And you heard too?”

“Yes.”

“So then you understood.”

“No.”

Mary’s eyes tightened and her grasp around Rosie tensed. “Why are you here, Sherlock? Because I’ll have you know that I won’t give up my daughter without a fight. I hated shooting John, but I did it to save her. I have fewer compunctions about doing the same to anyone else.”

“I’m not here for your baby, Mary. John thinks she is safest with you, and for the time being, I am inclined to honour his wishes. That inclination may change abruptly.”

“Because I shot John.”

“No. He made it clear to me that he asked you to. Even now, John trusts you very much Mary.”

“But you don’t.”

“Not at the moment.”

Mary’s grip relaxed slightly. “I suppose that’s reasonable.”

“I’d say very reasonable under the circumstances. How long have you known James Moriarty?”

“18 months.”

“What did he hire you to do?” Mary was tight-lipped. “This will go much more smoothly if I don’t have to drag all of the answers out of you.”

Mary was not a woman used to giving up her secrets. “He didn’t so much hire me, as require me to perform certain services.” She cast a glance at Sherlock’s unmoving expression and sighed. “You are well aware of the information on my past that Magnussen held, but did you ever stop to consider where he received that information from?”

The realization that he had once again neglected to follow a vital clue hit Sherlock like a rock.

“Starting with your adventures in Eastern Europe, it was clear that you had not died. Moriarty located me in London and informed me of my task and his near-complete knowledge of my past activities.”

“Your task?”

“To make John Watson fall in love with me.”

“Why?”

“Because you weren’t dead and therefore he might come in handy. To draw you out if need be. It was surprisingly easy.  John was so desperate after you left him.”

Sherlock chose to ignore that comment. “Why did Moriarty give the information to Magnussen?”

“He didn’t at first. That happened later, for insurance, after I became… distracted. I don’t think he suspected that Magnussen would utilize it for his own motives, or maybe he did. I don’t know.”

“How did you become ‘distracted’?”

“I fell in love with John.”

“Questionable.”

“True.”

“Am I really to believe that you would be so unprofessional?”

“How can you, of all people, find it so surprising? Is it so hard to imagine someone falling in love with John Watson?  Even against their better judgement? The heart is a mysterious thing Sherlock.”

“One I find difficult to solve,” Sherlock admitted.

“Something I had counted on. I was afraid that your return would render me inconsequential to John, but John had told me you were crap with emotions, and that became apparent the moment I met you. It was my saving grace. For my own safety, I needed you to stay connected to John. Close, but not too close. In truth, I wanted John to have nothing more to do with you, to protect him, to protect myself, but by then Magnussen had my files and I truly had something to lose, so I carried on.”

“So Moriarty blackmailed you into seducing John to gain leverage over me and you were to hand him over when required and he’d go along expecting nothing from his sweet wife?”

“More or less.”

“But then I found out your secret.”

“One of them, yes. And I thought it was all over, but then you pushed us back together. I’ve always wondered why you did that, when you could have had me out of the picture so easily.”

“He loved you, you were married and you were pregnant with his child. I’d made a promise to the three of you.”

“And in some ways, I always be grateful to you for that. But when you shot Magnussen that escalated things.”

“And Moriarty called his chips in.”

“Yes.”

“But you came alone. You didn’t bring him John.”

“I couldn’t. I knew he would come for John himself. He can’t help but get directly involved when it comes to you. I’d go alone and kill Moriarty if I had the chance, but I couldn’t give him John and I wouldn’t risk Rosie.”

“But then John followed you.”

“Yes.”

“And here we are.”

“Here we are.”  Rosie had fallen asleep in Mary’s arms. She pulled down her blouse, covering her recently exposed flesh. “I’ve had some time to think while I’ve been waiting. I think if we work together, we can rid the world of Moriarty once and for all. But you’d have to trust me.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Do you play chess, Sherlock?”

“Of course.”

“Then you are familiar with the Poisoned Pawn variation?”

“Bobby Fischer’s preferred follow-on to the Sicilian Defence. It’s been extensively analysed, but is still considered incredibly risky.”

“The poisoned pawn is desirable to take, but its capture results in a positional disadvantage to the taker.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“What would you be willing to risk to stop Moriarty? To protect John?”

“Everything. My life.”

“But Moriarty doesn’t want your life.”

The truth of that statement struck Sherlock. “No. He doesn’t. He rather burn me, by taking what is most valuable to me.”

“And once he’s burnt you, there nothing to stop him from burning everything else. I’ve been watching the news. He thinks John is dead. He’s starting to burn London already.”

“The One Stops. But what do we bait him with if not me? Before he thought the most valuable thing was my work, my reputation. My death was only a means to seal it.”

“And he realized when you jumped off that roof that he was wrong.”

Sherlock looked into Mary’s eyes, confirming what they both knew. “He wants John.”

“The poisoned pawn. Show him John’s alive. Draw him out by putting John somewhere were we have the advantage. I’ve had the chance to do a bit of reading while I’m here.” Mary picked up the guidebook she had been reading and turned the open page to Sherlock. It showed a topographical map of Pen y Fan. “The Brenton Beacons. Remote. Open.”

Tommy Jones is missing. I’m familiar with it.” Sherlock looked up from the page.

“No place to hide that’s within the range of any sniper I know.”

“But if he can’t hide a shooter within range, how can we?”

“I do it openly.”

“What’s to stop him from hurting John to stop you?”

“Moriarty’s weakness is you. He won’t hurt John if you’re not there to watch.”

“But if I’m not there –“

“You’d have to trust me.”

"But what's to stop Moriarty from just killing you?"

"That's a risk I'm willing to take."

Sherlock looked at Mary and her daughter. She had even more to lose than he did. “We do it. But only if John agrees after we’ve told him everything.”

Chapter Text

In the end, it was two days before Sherlock could speak with John, thanks to John’s follow-up surgery.

In the interim, a dozen Esso stations and several Primark’s has been burned. All low-value, proletarian targets, which Sherlock couldn’t decide was a statement or a build-up. People has started to protest, there were claims of class warfare, and Sherlock imagined it would only take a few more days before the unrest turned to riots, which was probably exactly what Moriarty wanted. Sherlock knew what was happening and who was behind it, but there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Except perhaps, for the poisoned pawn.

The follow-up surgery had gone well, and John had been moved to the CCU to Recovery. He was breathing on his own now, his face wan and hollowed, but free from tubing, allowing Sherlock to see John’s every reaction as he told him about Mary and Moriarty’s arrangement, the arsons, the plan. Or, it should be better said, lack of reaction.

For the entirety of Sherlock’s recapitulation, John listened with his mouth in a fixed thin line and his eyes steady and unmoving. It was strange to see John’ face, normally so very expressive, so neutral.

When Sherlock finished, he looked at John, waiting for a response.

Finally, when John spoke, it was a question. “But was it real?” The neutrality of his face was replaced by something more complex: resignation, sadness, and a hint of anger (always a hint of anger with John these days). His eyes drifted to his hospital bed, the IV lines still secure in his arm. “Despite what you may think, Sherlock. I’m not an idiot. When I saw Mary there with Moriarty, I had some idea of what must have gone on. What I asked you to find out was whether any of it, between Mary and I, if any of it was real, or if I was stupid enough to marry someone who didn’t love me at all.”

“You’re not an idiot.”

“Do you think it was real?”

“You know this isn't my area—“

“You can tell if someone if having an affair within five seconds.”

“This is different…”

“Just deduce one thing for me Sherlock. If I’m going up alone on a mountain with Moriarty and my wife, I’d like to know whether or not you think she loves me.”

“I think so.” Sherlock mumbled, knowing he should stop, but still going on, “It is so surprising that someone could fall in love, even if they didn’t mean to?”

John looked directly at Sherlock then.  “I don’t know.”

“Do you trust her?” John asked.

“I think so.”

John sighed. “I’ve been put in harm’s way on your behalf more times than I care to count, and I can’t say I enjoy being your damsel in distress…”

“You don’t have to do this, we can find another way.”

“Can we?”

“I don’t know.”

“If I go, do you think Moriarty will come?”

Of this Sherlock was more certain. “Yes, I do.”

“I don’t care to be made into your damsel in distress, but I will choose be your bait.”  John looked up at the telly in the corner, which was showing the evening news. “I think I need some more time to recover yet. What do you think he will burn next?”

“Tescos probably.”

“Then we shouldn’t wait too long. I need somewhere to buy my milk and eggs.” John smiled at Sherlock.

The joke sat for a moment, falling flat. John tried again, “If we don’t know where Moriarty is, have you decided how you'll let him know where to find me? Because I have an idea.”

Sherlock raised an eyebrow.

John looked back up at the television. “You see, I just happen to know a man in broadcasting.”

And Sherlock did smile at that.

*****

Joel had been on an enforced leave for weeks, and he couldn’t say that he had minded much. The government had put him up in a nice enough location, no one was pressing any charges, and he didn’t have to worry about the constant threat of blackmail anymore.

It was a bit of slog then, to be given the all clear and head back to work at Atos, as if none if it had happened and he’d just been away on a nice holiday. He’d been three days back in, and while the unrest in the city made him less sure of his “all-clear” status, the lack of an ancient mobile on his desk made him rest easier at night, the permanent knot that had been in stomach relaxed for the first time since he’d taken the job and gotten that first mysterious message.

So it took Joel by surprise when he saw the small white box on his desk with a note that said “Time for an upgrade.” His hands shaking as he removed the shiny new smart phone from its box.

Steve from the next cube over walked by on his way back from lunch. “Long holiday and new mobile? Lucky you.”

Joel gave a weak nod before turning on the phone on and typing in the code he would never forget. LOCK – 5625.

There was one message in the inbox.

New file for you. Play at 6:06 PM tonight – 24 minutes, all screens.

There was a file attached, titled East_Wind.

Joel swallowed down his fear and grabbed the cable to upload the file.

*****

At 6:06 PM that night the face of John H. Watson appeared on every screen in England. He read the following text on repeat, sitting in a chair in a nondescript room.

“This is the portion of a wicked man. Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest steals him away in the night. The east wind shall carry him away and he departs. He will not be spared. Men shall clap their hands at him and hiss him out of his place.”  

Text scrolled beneath John’s face for 24 minutes, as if he was a news reporter. Tommy Jones is missing. A search party to form tomorrow at 9 PM.

There were no fires that night.

Chapter Text

The night was dark and cold, but even near of the peak of Pen y Fan, Moriarty wore a suit under his wool coat and polished black shoes, which made a faint clack against the exposed red stones that circled Tommy Jones’ Obelisk.

Tommy Jones is missing. Not much of a challenge to figure that one out, Sherlock. No fun at all. You’re losing your touch. Though leave it to you to pick the site of a 100-year old mystery: Wee Tommy Jones gets lost in the fog and is found on this very spot a month later. Of course the only real mystery about it is how a 5-year old made his way 400 metres up a mountain in the dark.”  

“I suppose the same could be said of a man with a bullet hole next to his heart.” A pale John Watson slowly moved out from the fog behind the obelisk and made his way down the slight incline shakily. He stopped at the base of the stone and leaned back for support.  

“My dear Doctor Watson. I did hope you would make it. Though I had my doubts, this place being so out of the way, but never underestimate what little John Watson will do for his master Sherlock. And where is our good old Sherlock?”

“Not here.”

Really?  Clearly he must know you’re still alive.”

“He does.”

"And he saw the feed, yes? He knows I'm alive then."

"He does." John paused for a moment. "Can I ask you one question?"

"Sure."

"How did you do it? I mean, he saw you shoot yourself in the head."

"Of course, boring.  Surely you of all people should know about the power of suggestion. I read the post on Baskerville all those years ago. A blood pack and a good sound effect will do wonders on a sufficiently panicked mind."

"That's it?"

"Not everything has to be clever, John, I told Sherlock that too. Everyone gets so tangled up on how when they should be asking why."

"Why then."

"Ah-ah. You got your one question." Moriarty peeked behind the stone. "Well, I'm a little miffed that Sherlock didn't show. Because, no offense, but you didn’t plan this by yourself. The whole thing reeks of Sherlock. Hundred year old mystery, using my boys at Atos. Nice touch that last one.”

“Actually, that was my idea.”

“Well, I’m impressed, John.”

“Don’t sound so shocked.”

“And the text. What was that, Job? God and the devil fighting over one man. How very appropriate. But tell me John, are you a wicked man or a righteous one? When you die, do you know which way you’ll go?”

“There’s no point in threatening me anymore. If you’re going to kill me, you might as well just do it. But I warn you that I won’t go easily.”

“Oh, Johnny Boy. I’m not going to kill you out here. Where would the fun be in that? This is just a pick-up. I’m just here to ask you to come home with me. What do you think, will I get the pull?”

“What makes you think I’d just walk off with you willingly?”

“Because you’re here. Because Sherlock asked you to. Because you always do what he asks.”

“If I go with you, will this stop? Will it all stop?”

“If I said yes, would you believe me?”

“No.”

“Then why are you really here, Doctor Watson?”

“To put an end to all of this.” John pulled out his Sig, but before he could aim it, Moriarty jabbed one hand into's John chest and grabbed his gun with the other, pushing him backward and leaving John gasping for breath.

John’s Sig dangled from Moriarty’s finger. “Did Sherlock really think a man barely out of hospital was going to put an end to me? He really has lost his touch. Once upon a time I thought he was a genius, but clearly he’s an idiot like the rest of you. That was his plan? Hand you a gun and send you up here all alone?”

“He’s not alone. Never alone.”  Mary Watson walked up the hill from the path below, gun in hand and raised.

Moriarty rolled his eyes. “You’re still a part of this? I told you not to get attached, Mary.” Mary heard the safety click off the gun in Moriarty’s hand. “Bad idea #--“

The first bullet landed between Moriarty’s eyes before he could finish his sentence.

Bullets two and three landed before he hit the ground.

Mary raced to her husband and knelt before John, still struggling for breath. “You all right?” John nodded and let himself be pulled up to standing.

Mary pulled out a phone from her pocket, the screen glowing in the darkness as she raised it to her ear. “It’s over. You can send in the copter now.”

There was a distant whooshing sound, the helicopter blades starting up in the valley, John thought. So he did not expect the look of shock on Mary’s face as she reached around her shoulder, her fingers coming back red with blood. The shock registered only for a moment before a second bullet landed more squarely in the back of Mary’s head, leaving vivid colours splashed against her pale blonde bob. The force pushed Mary’s body forward into John’s arms, forcing his weakened body down and back against the base of the obelisk as four more bullets ricocheted off the stone above his head, leaving notches in the granite.

And so it was in this way Sherlock found John, looking down from his perch in Mycroft’s helicopter: back to stone, clinging to the body of his dead wife, with James Moriarty in a pool of his own blood, reddening the already red stones below.

It was over.

So much was over now.

Chapter Text

Sherlock sat bent over his microscope at the kitchen table, examining one of the bullets he had retrieved from beside the obelisk at Pen y Fan. It didn’t make any sense. They were clearly revolver bullets, but the location of the shooter was far beyond the distance of a handgun. And as Mary had said, it was beyond the range of any sniper she knew, unfortunately there appeared to be one very good one she hadn’t known. And John had insisted that there had been no bang.

A silent, long-range gun that fired revolver bullets? Was there such a thing? He recalled reading about an Italian who had invented a silent air rifle, back in the 18th century, but it wasn’t possible that this could be something similar, was it?

Sherlock shook his head as he removed the bullet from the microscope’s stage and placed it in the small plastic bag with the other bullets and the Atos phone, pieces of evidence he’d have to turn over to MI5 now that things were done.

He heard footsteps on the stairs below and sprang to open the door.

Sherlock grabbed the car carrier from John’s hand. “Here John, let me take that, you shouldn’t be carrying anything yet.”

“Mrs. Hudson said the same thing.”

“Well you should have listened to her.”

Both men looked down into the carrier, at the cooing child below. “She hardly weighs a thing. She’s so small, Sherlock.”

“And she’s safe now. You and Mary made certain of that.”

“I don’t know about safe,” John replied. “This place is practically a death-trap for adult human beings, let alone a child. I don’t know how I let you talk me into this.”

“I’ll have you know I have quarantined all body parts in sealed glassware, locked all poisons in the highest cabinet, and removed all pointy things from below four feet off the ground. Hardly a death-trap.”

John shook his head and chuckled. “It’s still a death-trap, but I guess it’ll have to do.”

Sherlock placed Rosie’s carrier on the ground, “Are your bags downstairs? You really shouldn’t be carrying anything.”

“Yeah, the driver put them on the kerb.” John said, leaning down to unbuckle Rosie and lift her to his right side.

“I’ll get them. Everything is upstairs as you left it.” Sherlock said as he went down the stairs to grab things.

John Watson took a look around the flat and sighed, saying to Rosie, “Well little lady, this is 221B Baker Street. I think I’ll show you to your room” and John braced Rosie on his good arm and made his way up the stairs.

For a brief moment then, the living area of the flat was empty, with no one to hear the buzz of an ancient mobile in a plastic bag, the screen lit up with a new message.

I’d say sorry about your blonde one, but I doubt you’re sorry about my brunette. We’ll meet again Mr. Holmes. Until then, S.M.

 

 

 

 fin.