“Fuck,” Sherlock pants as Jim thrusts into him, his head thrown back and eyes clenched shut. The consulting criminal’s hair falls into his face and his breath ghosts Sherlock’s lips, tight inhalations and slow exhale. His cologne tastes hard and bitter on Sherlock’s tongue as he mouths the curve of Jim’s neck, and Jim eases out slow, sliding Sherlock off him and back down flat on the rug with the flat of his palms. Sherlock growls at the lack of stimulation, cock pulsing listlessly into the empty air, Sherlock pushes his chest earnestly back into the cold fingers; Jim’s hands lift back away to thwart him. Nothing.
Jim slams back into Sherlock the next second, pressing him hard into the thick fibres. Sherlock gasps with the shock, hisses and clenches Jim’s hair, holds against him, keeping Jim in. It pulls taught against Jim’s scalp with his fast movement, the criminal’s nails clawing his throat and, caressing, squeezing Sherlock still by his shoulders.
It’s so much pressure, the hard force of Jim on top and inside of him, the careful slip of Jim back so his head just skirts Sherlock’s entrance, nearly out, fuck, Sherlock tears at him, and Jim his shoves back long and deep. “Stop toying with me,” Sherlock demands, hands suddenly shaking with mixed adrenaline and desire, and he rips Jim’s head back by the black strands in reinforcement.
Jim smirks, tipping his chin forward against the strain and he moves somehow even closer, tilting his forehead down to Sherlock until it hits his own, and Sherlock sees 168 long, curved eyelashes in a sharp burst of awareness.
“Then look at me, baby doll,” Jim warbles, and he’s been base deep in Sherlock, still and hard for so many seconds now, if only he’d move, Sherlock begins to squirm and moans back on the jolt of Jim slamming and pinning him. “Look,” Jim repeats, low.
No, he can’t, not now, damn if only Jim would just ride him again. Sherlock bites blood into his lip and then kisses Jim hard, eyes shutting into the wet warmth. Iron metallic and Jim doubles down on the fresh tear and Sherlock whines and doubles back.
“I said look at me,” Jim growls. Sherlock crushes his eyes shut harder and forces Jim’s head down to his jaw, his nipple. He doesn’t suck. Jim crashes his jaw back and knocks the breath harsh out his chest. Sherlock gulps and his wet cock slides against Jim’s thigh. Jim pulls back up to Sherlock’s face, braces steady on the arm of the lounge. Sherlock’s lids have parted and Jim folds them back, leans forward to lick the top lip of Sherlock’s mouth.
There’s nowhere else to look. Sherlock meets the deep stare of Jim’s eyes in a snap and fuck. They’re wide set, absolute black and they fucking dig into him, want his mind and his cock, look to own. “No one else,” Sherlock whispers, cock hardening.
“That’s better.” Jim smiles. He smooths Sherlock’s hair back and braces him back there, wraps Sherlock’s legs around his calves. Precome smears Sherlock’s balls as Jim guides over him and bears back down into him, falling harder, gliding stronger. Jim’s breath hitches as Sherlock moans with the stroke of his prostate, and Jim scrambles his hands quicker, throws sharper.
Jim does not break his gaze from Sherlock’s eyes, doesn’t slip. He looks almost reverent as Sherlock arches back into him, expression fierce and serious. Fuck fuck fuck fuck Sherlock thinks into it, and sweat drips down his hips, and Jim, fucking him furiously, leans in and licks away the stripe of blood dribbling down Sherlock’s chin. Sherlock’s lip pangs and his throat clenches and Jim drives his cock deep into him as he seizes.
The world blasts white, bright hot film superimposed over Jim’s dark irises, and Sherlock shrieks ecstasy, a burst of pure noise with his gasp of breath.
“Oh yes,” Jim says, head curving in on his bliss, nails piercing to break slick skin. “Look, Sherlock Holmes. See in me.”
Sherlock can’t tear his gaze away. Jim mouths a silent fuck in mirror to him, sinking slow into a sudden thrust. His eyes flutter between a half shut as he tenses around Sherlock, and comes.
Sherlock relaxes into it, fascinated by the relax of the jaw and the slump of his hip, Jim’s poise momentarily shattered. Sherlock tries to slip Jim out of him and Jim snarls, and bites down. Sherlock swallows back his whimper.
“Get the fuck out of me,” Sherlock says, cold, shoving with monumental effort. His arms are still weak, though, and Jim clings harder.
“I don’t think I will,” Jim laughs.
Sherlock feels his hate rise back up in him, a furious disgust with himself for sleeping with this monster as he smacks Jim across the face. Jim pouts, his limp cock jerking around Sherlock’s oversensitive hole as he readjusts, settling.
“You’re going to have to try harder than that,” Jim pronounces. “To get rid of me.”
With a feral cry Sherlock launches himself at the criminal, smashing at his crisp white neck and throwing them over the edge of the couch. Jim’s head shocks against the coffee table and he grins back at Sherlock, dazed and exhilarated. “Lovely refractory period,” says Jim.
“I am going to kill you,” Sherlock replies, digging his own nails in. He shakes Jim once, teeth grating, and Jim, completely at ease, reaches up to run damp fingers through Sherlock’s curls. “I’ll take John’s browning and shoot you in the face, shove my riding crop through the bullet hole, wrangle that back loose and harpoon the corpse into atoms.”
“Kinky,” Jim whispers, eyes searching. His voice pitches absurdly high. “Oh, Jim, no one else! Only you, my star crossed love, fuck me harder.”
Sherlock shoves off him, trembling, making for the door. Jim moans obscenely, stretching back out, and Sherlock roars at the jammed lock. He bangs at it, furiously, before he shuts his eyes and reigns control over himself.
“No, don’t do that,” Jim coos, rolling onto his stomach. “Dear Sherlock, that’s no fun. Come on, be fun. Don’t you want to feel us dance?”
“I don’t dance. For you, or for anyone.”
Sherlock seizes his coat strides to the window and Jim folds back behind him, winding his hands into Sherlock’s collarbones. “What a shame,” Jim murmurs, resting his chin on Sherlock’s shoulder. His cheek brushing Sherlock’s jaw. “I do so like the way you move against me.”
Sherlock opens the window, completely disregarding. Jim mouths a new bruise in Sherlock’s neckline and Sherlock elbows him off.
“Only me,” Jim repeats to his back. Sherlock freezes. “That’s right, fair maiden. I took you, Sherlock. Nothing about that changes. You’re mine now, no one else will have that moment.”
“Ridiculous,” Sherlock asserts with more confidence than he feels, and his eyes meet Jims’ as he climbs out onto the piping. The criminal looks amused, but the heavy leer doesn’t let him go. Sherlock glowers for a short moment and feels it follow his back down the building.
Find any evidence? John’s words on his phone blip in a pocket.
He closes his eyes hard and tightens the coat around his bare skin. It’s cold out, he’ll have to stop in at Lestrade’s for some spare clothing. Not 221B like this. I’m sorry, Sherlock thinks. I’ve been rash.
Nothing conclusive. SH.
The detective sends the message away with one sigh and grimace. Semen drips slow down his legs. Uncomfortable. Sherlock thinks about Jim licking it up, that pink tongue swiping and hollowing. Cherishing, with derision. A genius of stimulation. A machine. James Moriarty, spider.
St Bart’s roof, tonight. Just like old times.
It arrives exactly noon, as Sherlock opens his laptop for a case. There are no coincidences.
He doesn’t tell John. He won’t worry him. Sherlock has no choice but naturally, to comply. It’s a clue in a grander scheme. One that he won’t deny. Moriarty has hostages. He has him.
Sherlock arrives at seven, after a long day of pacing and drawing plans and ignoring experiments. Hazarding theories. John feels asleep on the couch as soon as he arrived home and Sherlock left him there. Worry churns violently. Sherlock’s fingers itch for his violin, or a cigarette. Something to take the edge off the retention this location instils.
It settles heavier and quieter at night.
He’s not alone for long. Moriarty strolls up and across, grin loud, footsteps muffled soft under his recently polished dress shoes. “Sherlock, my dear,” he croons, smoothing the collar of Sherlock’s dress shirt flat. It’s cold without his coat, but Sherlock, tonight, is not to be controlled. “It’s been too long.”
“Entirely too soon,” Sherlock says.
“Oh, but I missed you,” Moriarty replies, raising his fingers to Sherlock’s cheek, blinking up to catch Sherlock’s eye. “Was it good for you too? We should do it again, soon sometime.”
Sherlock doesn’t retreat from the touch. Give him nothing. He pulls Jim’s hands away and lets them go—the wind stirs and he wipes his palms on his shirt disgustedly.
Jim’s eyes darken, smile broadening. He curls his arms around Sherlock’s waist and tips his head into the crook of Sherlock’s shoulder. “Denial doesn’t suit you.”
Sherlock, in answer, pushes Jim down on his knees. “I agree,” he adds. Jim laughs up at him.
“So arrogant,” Jim supplies, unzipping the fly of Sherlock’s trousers. “Naïve.”
“You think you have me, you don’t,” Sherlock hisses, and Jim’s eyes open wide as he take’s Sherlock’s cock in his mouth. Sherlock shoves it long down Jim’s throat and rips it out so he chokes; Jim doesn’t contest. Playing dangerous, don’t move an inch, a warning whispers in Sherlock’s mind. He ignores it. Clasps his fingers around Jim’s throat. “You don’t own me.”
Jim looks at him, mocking, condescending. “Such pride,” he marvels. Doesn’t say otherwise. Breathes deep around the fingers Sherlock has wrapped around him, moves his own to pull Sherlock’s briefs back. Sucks his cock, hot and wet. He smooths his indexes along Sherlock’s thighs, strokes his base and his rakes nails through Sherlock’s public hair, lets his fingers cup the underside of his cock, run over the tense skin behind.
Still unconvinced, watching waiting for the right moment. Sherlock can barely focus on anything other than his lips, which slide around him, under and over, and his eyes, still dark, seething. Sherlock keeps his face straight, doesn’t react to the scrape of teeth or a smirk around his skin. Jim can’t make him do anything. He’s hard, but nothing else. He knows it’s only sex.
The dry finger which fondles his undersack reaches back to press his hole, and Sherlock can’t help but hiss and flinch. “Too soon?” Jim taunts, and he laughs, the sound raw, thick and wild.
“Hurry up,” Sherlock says with his best condescending smile. “I’m getting so bored of waiting for you. Really, you are slow.”
Jim’s eyes flash in a glimmer of streetlight. A split second ankle hook and Sherlock lies on the roof beneath him. “Does he know you’re out here tonight? Getting fucked? What would dearest Johnny think if he knew you were with the criminal that nearly exploded him up right now? He’d never believe it.” Jim stamps the heel of his hand down on Sherlock’s chest. Slips Sherlock’s phone from the breast pocket. “Say, why don’t we tell him?”
Sherlock makes a frantic grab for the phone but Jim holds it past him, scolds “ah ah ah,” in his ear. Sherlock’s arms are longer, he can potentially flip Jim and snatch the device from his hands. Jim smiles, pre-emptively, and tucks the phone beneath the waistband of his pants. Obviously if Sherlock wants his mobile, he has to touch Jim’s cock to get it.
Momentary silence—Sherlock exhales roughly. “Not so untouchable now, are you,” Jim says. “Where’s that fearless sociopath when you need him?”
“I’m certain you present enough mania for the both of us,” Sherlock answers, voice frosty.
Jim hums, a sad note. D flat. “If only. Holmes honey, for once, don’t be predictable.” He stands in a turn, back exposed, inviting, and Sherlock tenses. Here is a chance, if he ever had one. Jim has come unarmed (by the fall of his suit jacket over his stomach kneeling down; open, unwrinkled) and he hasn’t recently shaved. Preoccupied, no. Deliberately unkept. Or perhaps it’s the statement of the burn against skin, a dangerous prickle of warning coaxing Sherlock in deeper like elusive murder.
Jim sprawls against the ledge of the building, head tilted back, and Sherlock feels another thrum of want. His cock feels uncomfortably exposed in the open air, bereft of friction as is and he kneads his lower lip between his teeth, scowling across for threatening instead of vulnerable.
His mind clicks. Unpredictable. Sherlock is consciously, painfully aware of how close Jim is to the edge and how much he is offering over as he shifts towards the other man (if Jim pushes him now he is gone, gone, and John will never forget twice) and he knows what’ll surprise a criminal.
He leans in and straddles Jim’s lap bent on knees – if Jim tries to take him over the edge like this they’ll both go down together – and lightly, softly, slowly, kisses Jim on the forehead. A declaration of innocence. Of exoneration. Like a child. Jim’s eyes darken. He’s angry. Jim is none of those things.
“Look at me,” he snaps, and smacks Sherlock through the cheek. “The great good detective, brain like a watermelon, and he can’t even see what’s in front of him. Do you have any idea what I have on you? How thoroughly I can destroy your life? The image is nothing compared to this, baby. The fake suicide might have not been real at all for the terror I could inflict in that pleading heart. They’ll never forgive you, and I know you better even than anyone. You think you even have the slightest one over me, after last night? You should be kissing my shoes.”
“Or? What will you do about it?” Sherlock whispers hotly. “Make me into them?” Game breaker. Pause, long sigh. “Maybe it hasn’t occurred to you that I simply don’t care.”
Jim’s expression twists. He strikes Sherlock bodily into the ledge and grips the front of his dress shirt. Shoves a vicious hand to Sherlock’s crotch and twists his erection around the grip of his hand. Sherlock’s eyes widen in shocked alarm; he grunts in admitting pain. Jim’s smile freezes cold.
“Let’s stop dancing then, if you don’t care.” Jim’s grin is vicious, humourless. “If it means nothing, then why not? It’s not like I was actually enjoying it anyway. A cold fish like you. Come on, Sherlock, let’s not play games now.”
Sherlock winces around the aching pressure, he closes his eyes hard and slips the mask back on.
Jim flings him off the roof.
For one moment he tumbles sprawling, limbs in disbelieving free-fall, before his arm shoots out to stick the corner of the ledge.
Sherlock clings with all his might, can feel the ring of his ears with blood in the strain of hauling himself back to the upside of the ledge. His grip falters when he reaches a second hand out for leverage and he finds himself scrambling, clawing, only fingertips holding him from the several flights downwards.
Jim looms down over him, expression giddy. “Do you care now?” asks Jim.
Sherlock’s fingers spasm. He stares up in desperate appeal to whatever humanity this man might have (no, lie, what respect his life might garter) and Jim draws Sherlock’s phone out of his suit pants. Sherlock hears the small click of its camera’s mock-shutter.
“Please,” Sherlock manages.
Jim covers the back of Sherlock’s hand with his own. Sherlock’s shoulders scream for surrender. Sweat drips down his brow, to his throat. Jim takes Sherlock’s hand and holds him there.
“I own you,” he says. “Do you see? This is your life in my palms. You’re mine now.”
Sherlock thinks this is what it must be like to be a hangman, with all the blood draining from their head.
“I care,” Sherlock grits. It’s not enough. Sherlock stares up at Jim and realizes the massive mistake he’s made. Only a fool underestimates James Moriarty. And now, Sherlock has to submit to him. He hates every inch of it. Wishes Jim would burn in hell rather than to ask more than Sherlock will let go. This is who he is. He’s going to have to give it up.
Sherlock suddenly and acutely wants to die.
Jim’s eyes are still locked on his and decisively, he hauls Sherlock up over the edge by his wrists and back onto solid ground again. It’s enormous effort for the underweight and muscle-starved consultant, but Jim is stronger than he seems.
Sherlock lies there, staring up at the clouds which swirl and pulse around the spots in his vision. He pants hard, like he’s run a triathlon. Life is evidently slightly more than his body can bear as he tries and fails to sit up. His eyes drift up to Jim, who leans down on him and carefully tucks his phone back from where he took it.
“Until next time,” Jim says. His eyes linger. Then stop.
When his wits re-emerge, Sherlock opens the photograph. His own clear-shot eyes lock wide with the camera, cock stiffened against his thigh, he looks afraid. Reverently so.
He hopes beyond all Jim will not have sent the picture to John. He recalls the doctor’s protestations of Sherlock destroying Jim’s support network via Moran; you might have died and I would have never known. Sherlock contemplates whether he should return to 221B.
Then he doesn’t.
Sherlock returns and John is mercifully and ominously oblivious of his liaisons with Jim. Their situation remains at their version of normal, aside from Sherlock’s relentless pacing and maddened preoccupation, which even John has noticed. “What’s got your head?” John asks, and Sherlock refuses to inform him of what, being Moriarty’s renewed threat in their lives.
Perhaps that creates some interpersonal dissonance. John appears more concerned than offended by his lack of trust, if anything. Sherlock feels a warm surge of affection for John’s blind faith when he merely states, “I have my reasons.” Reichenbach, rather than prove Sherlock less than trustworthy, has cemented the friendship between them into something permanent. Secure, safe. Boring.
John understands Sherlock’s occasional need for him in the dark, even if he doesn’t want to be left out again. But even if John didn’t understand, Sherlock is more than intelligent enough to mislead him into attributing other causes.
Sherlock has concocted endless theories to Jim’s current involvement with him, but the most prominent motivations he has found are of:
Distraction. Jim interests him in something new and unforseen to take his mind from matters developing (cases? Personal deception?) growing elsewhere. But is it his distraction, or Sherlock’s? Who will the anvil fall on? “All my life I’ve been looking for distraction.” Mocking Sherlock’s relationship with John, perhaps, or his dependence on the Met, on others. Surely not jealously. Jim sees sentiment as a disadvantage. Evidently uses false affection as an ironic display. Goading Sherlock into further self-sabotage. Perhaps trying to sway Sherlock to his side as a tool. But James Moriarty has no need of tools. As an example? Breaking the opposition like solving a mystery as much as he’d like to pick and tease at it all day. Jim has threatened him; he will deliver.
Destruction. Much like Jim intended to destroy Sherlock’s (now rebuilt) reputation with the fall, Jim intends to destroy Sherlock’s personal life. To any extent appropriate. Burning the heart out of him. Or trying to reclaim and corrupt it. Impossible to know.
Dominance. As Jim’s only intellectual rival, Sherlock presents a challenge to be surmounted. The sexual games are merely a proponent to this.
Frustratingly, Sherlock cannot fully concede submission, so much as his position demands because when Sherlock is broken and heartless he will present no further contest, and as something ordinary Jim will grow bored with him, and most probably kill him. Jim has flirted with doing so in the past, supplying the bomb, the lasers, Reichenbach. But he also has said; “kill you? Don’t be obvious,” in the middle of a game and now they are locked in another.
Jim is incomprenensible.
Sherlock constantly revises their situations, and throws himself in his work. There are no clues to be found anywhere. Mortification, pride and earnest confusion assault Sherlock as he relays their time together. They overshadow everything of his analysis. The guilt is overwhelming, much like the slow thrust of Jim into his body. He can’t stop dreaming about sex. Sherlock wishes he had something else to compare his experience to.
John’s watching the football at the pub when their television blips out. He’s left theirs on the match. Sherlock’s deleted its details, and attempts to drown the salient noise out with the racing thoughts in his head, too riveted to stand from his fixed position and switch it off.
It’s the UEFA Champion’s League final, hosted at London’s own Wembley stadium. Seats almost filled to total capacity of ninety thousand. There’s no point in going to the station for a new case; Lestrade will be out too. Sherlock has run through all the cold cases on offer and experiments in the household and now his mind defaults back to Jim, restless, guileless. He’s almost to the point of texting Mycroft for a boring political scandal his fixation feels so unworkable.
The image on the screen flickers to something else mid-kick. Sherlock watches in horrified fascination as two planes fly towards the stadium, mentally calculating trajectory. It’s September Eleven replayed on home turf. The side of the stadium pitches and topples. Sherlock imagines the thousands of sets of stands falling in on one another. Al Queda front, Moriarty? His brother must be having a heart failure right now. Thousands dead already. Emergency services will be in soon.
Lestrade is at the game. Statistically he is alive, as the planes did not catch all four sides of the ring, but only the opposite ones. Mass pandemonium in the stands, at a sight like that. It’ll be lucky if isn’t trampled to death.
It can’t be Jim. But it has to be. Too simple. Obvious, loud, unsubtle, lacking finesse. Gutsy. Jim has balls, doesn’t he? He could. He might have.
Sherlock stands and paces. This is going to be a social nightmare. England will never shut up about it. Sherlock doesn’t want to hear.
John returns home in minutes. Drunk, crushed, Sherlock thinks, staggering, shaking. Recently clung to someone crying.
“Sherlock,” he says, and grabs him. John never does that, he has respect for Sherlock’s privacy. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Sherlock replies, and feels the urge to put in—“I hate football, you know that.”
“Just making sure you hadn’t done something stupid.”
More casual than he feels. John collapses on the couch and puts his head in his hands. Sherlock remains standing, impassive. He wonders if John is going to give him the actual human lives speech again, and Sherlock decides it’s too uncannily reminiscent of a situation caused by Moriarty. “Lestrade was there. At the game.”
The doctor looks up, bewildered. Horrified. “No—no, he was in at the office, he told me.”
“He told you that so you didn’t have to invite him to the pub,” Sherlock says, and clears his throat. “Also because you hadn’t bought tickets.”
“He wasn’t there,” John maintains. Sherlock isn’t sure why John’s sure enough to refute him. “Have you called him?”
“There would be nothing to say,” Sherlock explains.
John’s face crumples into something like bewilderment, resignation, or disappointment. His mouth is winced and open and his eyes are shot. It’s distressed. He looks about ten years older. Or younger, thinks Sherlock, remembering the war.
Sherlock freezes. The war. Jim wouldn’t. He can’t.
John attempts to contact Lestrade on his phone while Sherlock worries. He hurls a lamp at the wall and it shatters insubstantially. Then Sherlock stomps into John’s room and grabs his gun. Next time he sees Moriarty he’ll shoot him. No matter the consequences. He won’t be the passive victim. He won’t play this game anymore.
John doesn’t come up to check on him. Sherlock strides downstairs and out onto the street. Mrs Hudson doesn’t know yet. “Are you feeling alright, Sherlock?” she worries, and he waves her away. She won’t care soon. She’ll give up on him too, when she realizes. Everyone always has. He’s going to be damagingly, deathly, alone.
Mummy is buried in a graveyard near their home estate, but Sherlock makes to pretend she lies in this cemetery. He supposes it doesn’t matter how close one is to their responder, if that physical comfort can never be reached again. The disbelief required to suspend the notion of active communication always seemed ridiculous. Sherlock has never been particularly faithful. Why is he here?
Bored, his mind supplies. Lost. Death is the only inevitability they all share. Sherlock kicks at the headstone of Mike Downings absently. As usual, it fails to fall. “Current regards for the pancreas,” Sherlock mutters and starts back to the flat. A mourner has stopped crying and stares at him with wide eyes.
Lestrade’s funeral is tedious. They don’t let him speak, although Sherlock only wants to say Lestrade was a commendable detective. It’s much more worthy than any talk of spirituality or innate friendliness. The divorced wife makes a rambling speech and Sherlock snaps at her to get to the point if she’s at all capable of expressing one. Everyone glares false, decent reprimand at him and they throw him out into the snow.
Sherlock wants to see the family attend a service in the middle of summer in skimpy black clothing so they look as idiotic as they’re actually acting. All repressed obscenity, this is the price Sherlock pays for truthfulness. Anderson punches Sherlock once it’s over.
Three months later, a bill for conscription has passed senate. John will be going back to Afghanistan.
Sherlock yells at Mycroft ceaselessly to get him out of it. John’s wounded, for Christ’s sake. He’s psychologically damaged. “Sentiment is a chemical--”
“I know what sentiment is!” Sherlock roars. “If you tell me ‘caring is not an advantage’ one more time, I’ll gouge out my ears with a dessert spoon and feed them to the homeless network you constantly use against me!”
That uncharacteristic accredit settles between them.
Mycroft’s voice drops cold. “And what I have found through those penniless scabs. I’ll tell you why I won’t help you. You slept with the major discordant of our anti-terrorism campaign, and the number one on the FBI’s most wanted list, the most lethally intelligent criminal in the world. Excuse me if I am disinclined to work your favour at present.”
The line drops dead. Sherlock’s throat runs dry.
On the last day, he begs John not to go.
“I have to,” John says. They’re standing on the staircase landing to their flat and Sherlock yearns to draw John’s service pistol from his coat and make him stay. “For Greg.”
He limps down the staircase and out the door. Mrs Hudson hugs him goodbye. Sherlock swallows and turns away.
Sherlock lies on the carpet for three days straight and passes out because he forgets to eat.
Jim Moriarty wakes him up.
“Rise and shine sweetheart,” Jim sings, smoothing a hand down Sherlock’s cheek. Sherlock blinks at him blearily, momentarily disoriented. Aligns the unlikelihood of Jim standing in his flat with the whole of Great Britain looking for him beside the familiarity of his touch. Rests a disbelieving hand where Jim is touching him.
Something in Jim’s expression shatters and rebuilds itself in a split second. “And they told me you were an insomniac,” he jibes, reaching for John’s gun. Sherlock has an awful flashback to Jim shooting himself on the roof, holding his hand. He stops touching Jim immediately.
Jim passes the service pistol over. “Go on, shoot me.”
“How…” Sherlock’s gazes sharpens, reassesses. This man is a genius. It’s a matter of why.
He’s feeling too highly wrought for a game like this. Too vulnerable and exposed, with the same clothes he’s been lying in this whole time and prickling stubble and drool on his chin. His hair is even knotted, by the weight of it against his scalp. Mrs Hudson must have left him to himself. Considerate.
Sherlock sticks the gun in his mouth instead, and shuts his eyes.
Jim snatches it from his hand with nails that rip. “Don’t you dare,” he intones, head tilting forward. Jim’s eyes are very large and dark, framed by those long, neat eyelashes. His hair is even slicked back, he’s in Moriarty mode. Another disguise of himself. “Don’t. We’re not done, yet.”
Sherlock raises his eyebrows at him. “What can you possibly have to offer me that won’t just make my life worse?”
“That’s your problem, Sherlock. You like problems,” Jim’s gaze slices. “Don’t you?”
Sherlock says nothing. He doesn’t even say ‘you’re more of an idiot than Anderson.’ Jim doesn’t know Anderson, probably. Sherlock likes murders. Sherlock likes John.
He misses John.
“If you play this game with me,” Jim says quietly. “The pet won’t die. I might even bring him back. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? A happy ending to your story.”
“Only fairy tales have happy endings. Why should I trust you?” There, that sounds assertive.
Jim spreads his arms. Punch line. “Because you already have.”
Sherlock freezes into the awful truth, that Sherlock gave Jim his body and his time and his mind and now John is gone, and so is Lestrade. They’ll all go, except Jim. And now John is being shot at without him, for the rest of his short life. It’s his fault, in the end. And it’s worse this way, because John will die convinced Sherlock is a hero. Sherlock will never get to apologize, or earn his forgiveness. John will die with false bond, when really he should hate Sherlock for all his worth, for doing this to him.
Sherlock thinks he might actually punch Jim in that second, but he’s holding a gun in his dominant hand, it’d knock Jim out or miss. His hand clenches tight instead. “The rules to your game?”
Jim smiles. It softens his whole face. Another lie. “First, quit sulking. How am I supposed to have fun with you brooding about like a useless dingbat? Second, shower.”
“And the rest?” Sherlock growls.
A devious glint, Jim tilts his head and presses his eyes for a moment, a small audible huff to his smirk. Foreboding. Satisfied? “Hey sexy, calm down. I’ll tell you once you come back out.”
Jim tilts the gun back at him. “Run along, now.”
The suicidal desire tips out to his renewed angriness with Jim and a desire to show him over. And, Sherlock is loathe to admit, curiosity. Jim has broken the rules before. When the hostage spoke of him. How long will these last, and will he actually let Sherlock know them before they’re infringed?
That’s what Sherlock has against Jim, the detective thinks as he stumbles to the shower. Affection. Jim places himself past mere emotions. He sees himself as beyond them. If Sherlock can make him uncomfortable with false regard while maintaining his poise control, Sherlock can place Jim as an anomaly, an inferior.
He cleans up, and washes his hair, and brushes his teeth. Sherlock’s showers never surpass the three-minute time mark. He is normally far too busy to waste time on such petty indulgences. The hot water drips down his neck and runs down his spine but now Sherlock thinks he might like to procrastinate, if only to give himself time to catch up with the reality of Jim inside his flat with no explanation.
Sherlock steps outside the bathroom wrapped in a towel and Jim sprawls on the lounge, another apple in hand. Gun gone. He pitches it lazily at Sherlock’s waist and Sherlock fumbles with the towel to catch it.
SOS reads the message carved into its flesh with canine teeth.
“I hate you,” Sherlock chokes out. His fingers dig into the red skin mechanically. “You should have been wrong.”
Juice seeps out like puss and spills onto the floor.
Jim strides up and over and takes the apple out of Sherlock’s fist. He drags the pads of his hands over the taught muscles in Sherlock’s back and smooths down the goose bumps and raised hairs on his forearms that the shower has incited.
“Someone’s afraid,” Jim accuses, flipping Sherlock’s wrist to take his pulse. Steady beat. “Lying again? Always so disciplined.”
Sherlock snatches his wrist back. Disciplined said like that is an insult, he knows. He’s not Mycroft for god’s sake, the implication that Sherlock refuses to join Jim’s side only the basis of social conditioning is thick slander. “I control myself. Not anyone else.” Not you.
Jim breathes out and leans up to breathe in Sherlock’s ear, “Don’t you ever want to lose control? Do something wild?”
Sherlock holds in his breath and stares fixedly at the unbroken skull near the mantle, but all he can think is organized chaos.
“Don’t you ever want to cheat the game?” Jim persists. “Don’t you want to be free?”
“No,” Sherlock says. His voice comes out hoarse.
“Stop punishing yourself!” Jim shouts, slamming his eyes shut. He doubles over, as if nauseated by the notion. Jim’s eyes snap back open and he hurls the fresh red apple at the window. “Just let me do it. Idiot!”
“Ooh mummy stop it!” Sherlock mimics in a high-pitched tone. “Stop hitting me mummy! I’m not a freak, mummy!”
Jim stares. He grins, a slow smile stretched across his face. Recomposed, he prowls back towards Sherlock, incredulous laughter pitching in his throat. “There’s something not quite right with you, isn’t there?” Jim asks, black gaze meeting Sherlock head on. “No, there’s something quite not right with you at all.”
He’s looking past Sherlock again, fascinatedly like he can see straight through him, and it’s annoying, because he shouldn’t be able to, and Sherlock wants his entire attention.
“SOS,” Sherlock enunciates, and begins to stroke his cock.
Jim jumps back by accident, the way Sherlock did when he saw Jim shoot himself, and his jaw drops and his eyes stretch wide. Sherlock’s eyes flutter closed, and he doesn’t see any more of Jim, just the way he’d like to see Jim, whimpering and moaning and kissing for his touch. Pleading. Come on Sherlock, harder in me, you.
A hand settles still on Sherlock’s chest and he opens his eyes into the touch, his own fingers pressing at his tip. Pre-come stirs around the intrusion and he struggles not to bite his lip in eager protest.
Jim’s voice drops low. “You have no idea how entrancing you are. Come with me, beautiful.”
Jim takes Sherlock by the wrist and onto the stairway and into another room. He kisses Sherlock on the mouth and Sherlock doesn’t know what to do with his tongue. Jim mouths the unshaven edge of Sherlock’s jawline and licks Sherlock’s lips for him as he touches Sherlock’s hips. Sherlock whines in his throat as they press deeper, cutting circulation.
“I swear I’ll be good to you, dear,” Jim promises in a near-whisper. Sherlock’s eyes dart forward to catch his in incredulity – more ridicule, fuck this man, this stupid criminal – and catch sight of the bed instead.
John’s bed, tight-ironed surface and neat, empty space, no, no, no, Sherlock thinks. He reaches for the door and his cock wilts and his stomach hurts and feels like it’s burning.
“It’s part of the game,” Jim says carefully.
Sherlock freezes. Hearts aflame. “I thought you wanted me to break the rules,” he replies.
“Sherlock, Sherlock,” Jim murmurs. “With you, there are no rules.”
Sentiment. Sherlock exhales tight into the air, shuts his eyes hard and when Jim snorts, reopens them. The room sways around him. He can’t bear to look at it, but he can’t stop. He needs to eat. He’s suddenly ravenously hungry.
“Here, put this on.” Jim pushes a bundle of clothes into Sherlock’s arms. Army fatigues. John’s army fatigues, Sherlock recognises, from his last deployment. Sherlock’s fingers shake in cold exposure and to cease that he has to pull them on. His hands are aligning the top buttons before he has half a mind to stop it. The shirt is too wide for him, and the trouser legs too short.
Jim clips the necklace around the back of Sherlock’s neck. Dog tags. A collar. The symbol of ownership. Somewhere in the vicious desert, John is fighting a war without them.
“I own you,” Moriarty declares.
Sherlock’s legs give out on him and he clutches the side of John’s bedside, head throbbing. His heart must be pounding by the waver of molecules in his vision. He can’t feel anything for a few seconds, not Jim’s hands on his waist when he pulls Sherlock onto the bed. The pillows smells like John. Sherlock can see evidence of John everywhere; the slack of the curtain where he tugs on it at night, the stick of dry fingerprints on his bedside, an indent on the floor where he leaves his laptop. His phone charger must be all neatly curled up in a ball by his wallet like he’s used to.
Jim pulls the pistol from John’s bedside drawer. He’d put it away, right where it belonged. Sherlock takes in Jim’s gel slicked black hair and his resigned eyes and his frowned expression. Jim presses the pistol into Sherlock’s palm and curls his fingers around the grip for him.
Then Jim pulls out Sherlock’s cock, he coaxes the foreskin back and forth with one hand while the other strokes Sherlock’s tussled curls back into his head. “Shh,” he whispers, rocking them back and forth. “Call me John.”
Sherlock whimpers, clinging to Jim’s suit. Jim sighs into him, nuzzling Sherlock’s collarbone, hand twisting as he smiles. It’s pretty. Fuck you, Sherlock thinks, and Jim caresses Sherlock’s head. A burst of hysterical laughter escapes him.
“Bit not good, Sherlock,” Jim mimics in perfect emulation.
“Stop it,” Sherlock hisses, and groans around Moriarty’s long drag of his cock. “Fuck— Jim.”
“Sherlock,” he echoes.
Jim’s playing with the head of Sherlock’s cock, and now he’s tucking a whisp of Sherlock’s hair behind his ear with the other, tracing down to follow Sherlock’s ribs. Jim’s nails bite Sherlock’s cock, sudden, and twist at one nipple, and Sherlock tightens his grip on the pistol and lunges at Jim for a frantic kiss.
“Fuck you,” Sherlock corrects as the black eyes overwhelm him. He remembers; “I love you.”
The world crashes white, blissful, perfect. Solved. Exhausted, Sherlock collapses into the criminal’s arms.
Jim strikes him in the mouth.
“That was Sebastian’s combat uniform,” he states, devoid of feeling. “You imbecile.”
Sherlock killed Moran, or someone like him. “Whoops,” Sherlock replies flippantly. He can’t bring himself to worry over it.
Jim’s still half-hard. His breathing is erratic. He turns away his face. He doesn’t say goodbye and Sherlock doesn’t watch him leave.
Sherlock hears the footsteps, harsh.
I’m sorry you’re angry because you’re an unfeeling psychopath and you can’t get attached the way you want to, Sherlock thinks.
He knows it’s a sick thing to lie to beat someone. To use emotion against them. Maybe it doesn’t matter when that person is the worst monster alive.
Besides, people did it to him, didn't they?
Jim doesn’t contact him at all in the ensuing weeks. No elaborate crimes, no crumbs at the door, not even a text. He deserves it, Sherlock thinks. For complicating the two of them. Jim abhors sentiment, but Sherlock can’t let it go ignored, not when he could use it against him.
Sherlock finds himself pacing the flat, re-checking his scorched tie experiment, brutalizing his violin, doing more pacing. It’s not enough distraction and he needs a case immeadiately or his mind is liable to eat itself from the inside until nothing is left.
There are no texts on his phone regarding any cases (of course not, only Lestrade would send him notifications) and Sherlock stomps down to the station, straightening his coat over his shoulders.
“You’re back,” Sally says, like an accusation, and Sherlock scoffs.
“Crimes never cease. Concurrently, you’ve decided to quit informing me of them. Not the brightest idea for a police division that can barely detain a common criminal without consulting rudimentary record books.” Sherlock flips open the diary full of changed legislation tucked under her computer.
Sally slams it shut.
“What are you implying about our archives? Alright freak, I’ve had it with you coming in here and insulting our competence. We are professionals, and you’re just some shithead who’s had the privilege of being assigned to cases we don’t have the time or care to pursue. So fuck off.”
Her hair is pulled tight into a messy bun, the cuticles beside her nails have been chewed through, she’s put concealer over the bags under her eyes a shade too light for her skin tone. “Feeling your boss’s death hard, then? I would’ve thought you’d be happy for the promotion.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Sally demands. “He was your friend, you sociopath. You could at least pretend to feel something!"
Oh. Memories of psychiatrists and schoolyard declarations snap behind his eyes. The teachers never liked his pragmatism. Sherlock bristles. “Well, what good would that do if I can’t help his decided cause? I need a case, Donovan.”
“Well you can go fuck you and your arrogant self, because I don’t have one to give. We’re busy, trying to stop goddamn riots on the streets due to January 29th attack. Forgive me if that doesn’t accommodate to your bloody will.”
Sherlock blinks, and turns around the near-empty station. “Oh, so that’s where everyone is,” he says.
Sally puts her head in her hands, looking for a second consternated, like Mycroft used to. “Some genius you are. God, you just don’t get it. Lestrade is dead, nobody likes you. None of us want to put up with you anymore. You should have stopped the terrorist attack, you know. You should’ve bloody helped us with Moriarty. Where were you then? When you could have saved him?”
Fucking James Moriarty himself isn’t a great answer. Sherlock swallows. “Sally, I need a case right now, I don’t care what it is, revenge, cold case, child murder. Just please listen to me.”
Brief silence. “Even if that prospect didn’t make me want to hurl dried vomit in disgust, I can’t. You need permission from the sergeant to allow that to happen, and there’s no way DI Dimmock is letting you on the team. Go home.”
Sherlock stares her down, daring her to defy his whim.
“Back off or I’ll arrest you,” she adds decisively. “I am a cop for a reason. Go crawl home to your stupid science den. Go on.”
“No,” spits Sherlock. His hands are clenched down on the desk.
“Holmes, get fucking lost this second or I will go to your house and burn your lab equipment.”
Fine. “You’ll regret it,” Sherlock promises. “I won’t relent when you ask for my help again. You'll only blame yourself.”
“And don’t come back!” Sally calls over his shoulder.
Sherlock spends most of the cab ride back seething. How could they accuse him of being heartless when they’re evidently not even doing anything about Lestrade’s death? Oh, increased patrolling, there’s a wonderful preservation of justice. Fucking police. First they steal his job, then they corrupt John with their stupid daytime ethics. Now John’s gone, all because of them.
He’s not a machine. Maybe if he was he’d be able to approach this situation with Jim objectively.
Sherlock gets back to the flat and chain-smokes cigarettes until the air hazes and his stomach hurts. He goes to John’s room and marks each of Moriarty’s influences. Rumpled top sheet, readjusted pillow, prints on the bedside, uncleaned ejaculate, smeared cologne, scuff marks on the floor by dusted dress shoes size eight mens, fallen fibres from readjusted suit, slight opening of draw Jim failed to shut on replacement of the gun, army fatigues no name, no tags, military.
Sherlock rips off the dog tags he’d forgotten to remove with the fatigues last night and throws them on the ground. “You don’t own me,” he sneers, grinding the metal against his toe. And he hates that Jim still has that control over him that makes him hesitate, what if it is John’s, John wouldn’t want it wrecked.
Fuck John. John left him. John went away when Sherlock asked him not to and Sherlock won’t forgive him. He thought John would never go away. He thought they were friends.
That was a lie too. Colleagues, that’s all they are.
The flat is so unclean now. The filth itches his at skin, makes him want to scratch it. Sherlock throws off his coat on the couch and grabs his violin again. Vivaldi’s Winter is blessedly simple in its composition and the notes twirl into all the places he has forgotten, they cry and stride with his mind’s silent accompaniment. Sherlock can see he and John waltzing through the corridors of his mind palace and throwing open the front doors of his mind palace to the grounds which are flush with frost, the air crisp instead of stale and flat, like the impressions of frost on his window. The notes soar and he replays the first solo, gliding off the heights of the fourth string and onto the churning low G, a fast leap into churning depths.
His fingertips dance along the length of the bridge and his strokes are searching, caressing, coaxing, small advancements into the octave jump. Sherlock can see he and John in his mind, with the teasing, experimental falls into the blossoming roses beneath the clouded sun. Long strides and blurred, sharp movements as they run through woodland streets without shoes. The sure stroke of mezza forte growing into pitch in a stable whole note, small trills into conclusive nothing before the next sway.
Then Sherlock feels like he’s dying, frigid and cold in the depth of his obsession, still and lifeless as Jim sashays into his life like a dart of pure, blissful logic. His endearment is overshadowed by a fragile veil of innocence that’s so much like snowflakes, not hesitant but refined, succinct. Jim’s masterful expressions, sudden and reaching through and past his violin, past himself, until Sherlock lies at the conclusion of the piece thinking about him and his ballet steps affront the crown jewels, his gathering and encompassing sweep of arms. Powerful and refined, as sophisticated as a sonnet sung in the core of miasma, reverent appreciations and renewed solicitations.
I do love you, Sherlock thinks. You’re your genius. Your lost wanderings for entertainment, the small admission of inadequacy, godlike. You keep me alive.
He’d be dead without the work, and Jim is even better than that, mystery which resists being solved, he’s the thoughts that create the murder and make it more than just a body lying on the ground. Personified motivation in the form of please fix it Jim because of course you have to ask it why.
But you don’t own me, Sherlock thinks. His practiced bowgrip shatters into a desperate clutch. I am my own person. Really, I am.
Sherlock is bored. No clues on Jim. He solves all the crimes in the newspapers and when that doesn’t work enough he uses Mycroft’s name to hack into the police records and attack their open cases. He informs the police department of the murders via anonymous tips until Anderson starts answering the phone. After that Sherlock just puts it on his website, when he can be bothered. He doesn’t know why he should accommodate to their misbehaviour when they still won’t let him to crime scenes, knowing he could provide the conclusions so much easier.
Sherlock starts sneaking into them, and Donovan and Dimmock shout until he’s forced out by elbow.
Mrs Hudson has Parkinson’s disease. Sherlock observed it in her rigidity and congenital deficit before the official diagnosis. He begins to clean up the flat after himself so she’s not obliged to do it, and researches a cure in his time off. If he’s invested a sizeable amount of his inheritance in donations to the UK charity it’s probably a reporting error.
All my friends are dead, Sherlock texts Jim to say.
He expects no reply, but then comes the; yes, well I’m burning your heart out.
Sherlock is going to have to kill him, for murdering his friends. He will find out how Moriarty did it. And he’ll destroy him.
John is as good as gone, Sherlock thinks, but then the next morning at 4:30 there’s an inbox from his AKO.
Subject: Hi Sherlock
The tour is going well at the moment. I’ve been reading your blog in my spare time, you should tell me how you learnt the kaleidoscope killer used whistles to make his victims delirious. I can’t believe he filtered drugs through the air con. Sounds a bit like Hounds, that was a long time ago.
Not harassing the yard too much without me are you? Give my love to Mrs Hudson, and tell Molly and Mycroft I said hello.
Sherlock’s heart pounds. John’s off active duty. He might survive, and not get shot again.
It was simple to discern, as the speakers the killer left in the victim’s ears created irritation evidenced in the excess of fingerprints by the ear, gesture of arm near victims’ head at death, frequent tilt of the head down creating wrinkle folds around the throat, and the flaked consistency of skin from excess scratching. The pitch frequency was a subconscious irritant more audible to some victims than others; curiously used in this case as a sort of dog whistle by the murderer discouraging unhelpful behaviour and freezing them still in their kidnap. Frivolous but effective.
Scotland yard won’t take me. Why you’d feel the urge to acknowledge my infernal brother is beyond my meagre genius but I shall be sure to pass the messages along.
On your return, please resume purchase of milk.
No reply arrives in the few minutes Sherlock repeatedly refreshes the page, and Sherlock sighs and closes the browser. He raids the remote control and submerges the sole of a foot in battery acid. He recreates the footprints on their kitchen counter and studies the application of force of a fleeing man. Guilty. Confessional suicide. Boring.
God, boring, boring, boring. Sherlock catches the end of Daybreak which has to be the most nauseating television ever invented and John still hasn’t replied. Probably dead, then.
“Not to fear, I won’t mention your bursts of anger at your funeral,” Sherlock says to the toaster. He’s been told a lot about funeral etiquette lately. The toaster still has the eyeballs inside, but they were only for research, not a case study. Sherlock wants a reason to perform a case study. He craves to learn something apart from the fact a human eyeball scorches quadruple the coil diameter under conductive heat pressure at approximately 800 watts.
Sherlock goes for a stroll. London is still, the first friend he ever knew as his own before John. Her streets are bare. Drains, hollow. Empty and gutted.
He’s in the morgue, smoking Marlabo milds. Sherlock often favours menthol cigarettes because they fuel his nicotine addiction but this morning the substitute simply isn’t strong enough. The packet has a graphic image of a hand with gangrene and Sherlock hums as he aligns the picture with the corpse’s yellowed, wrinkly fingers.
“You can’t smoke in here,” murmurs Molly.
Sherlock raises an eyebrow at her, and a moment later she drops her head to her chest. Sherlock taps the butt of his fag against the chest of the specimen, but primary research on the 243 types of tobacco ash is sadly not a factor in this case.
“My father died of lung cancer,” Molly persists. She has a folder in her hand, and was previously intending to write up a report. Sherlock doesn’t reply. She tries another tact. “I thought you were off them.”
“Patches proved inadequate,” Sherlock says. He has his magnifying glass out, and is examining hair fibres.
“Maybe you should try more,” Molly suggests. She’s biting down on what she’s actually trying to ask, which is why have you started smoking again where is John are you alright.
“I have no desire to turn into a human collage,” says Sherlock. “My tolerance level has increased by eight percent.”
Molly rests a hand on his arm. “I’m sure no one would mind.”
Her expression is earnest, she’s biting her bottom lip. Sherlock hears what she’s not saying: I don’t mind if you’re feeling upset right now. You don’t have to pretend with me, it’s unconditional. I helped you with the fall, didn’t I? I just want to see you happy. Why won’t you trust me?
“It’s not that simple.” Sherlock’s voice breaks. “I did something unalterable.”
She throws an arm around his shoulder and pulls him to her chest. Somehow it’s worse. The words won’t come out.
“What happened, Sherlock, tell me,” Molly says quietly. “It’s okay. You can say it.”
“I just—“ Sherlock regulates his breathing. “I’m sorry.”
Molly pulls away, looks him directly in the eyes. “What’s wrong? I won’t blame you.”
“Jim and I had sex. I told him I loved him. But he hates it because he can’t, I wish I hadn’t said anything because I don’t know how to talk to people, I don’t understand why they feel things I don’t. And now Lestrade is dead, and John’s in Afghanistan, and Mrs Hudson is sick and I don’t know what to do anymore,” Sherlock says in a rush. “He’s killing all my friends but there’s nothing I can do to stop him because if I attack him he’ll suicide. He’ll break me.”
Molly stares at him for a small time and her mouth twists horribly. “You slept with him?” she says. “Why?”
“Molly listen to me, you have to be very careful, you can’t let him get to you again, you have to go to the police and protect yourself so he won’t take you away.”
Her brows are furrowed and her eyes are all sad. Molly winces them shut and her head is bowed again.
“Look at me, Mol—“.
“Don’t,” Molly interrupts. She opens her eyes but keeps looking down. “He was meant to be dead.”
“Please,” Sherlock repeats.
“How could you?” Molly asks tearily. Sherlock looks away. Jim was her boyfriend, he knew what he was like. She never did get over him. She dumped him, but it was his fault.
She steadies herself. “If he is back, there’s nowhere I can hide from him. He’s a genius. So don’t say that.”
“No, you don’t understand, you need to get away. Witness protection, Mycroft’s plane, Jim’s in the country, anywhere you go now you’re not safe.”
“I’m not afraid of him,” Molly declares.
“I’m not losing another of my friends to Jim!” Sherlock shouts. “I’m not. I won’t lose you.”
“Sherlock,” Molly says. “I’m your friend. I’m not going to leave you.”
Sherlock stares, cigarette burnt to ash searing his fingers, and he wonders how he had the basic grasp of friendship so totally wrong, and he swallows and she outstretches her arms and they hug each other and cry. “John left,” he says. “They’re both gone.”
Molly hugs him tighter. “I’m so sorry,” she says, and her forehead leans against his chest.
Sherlock swallows the rest of his tears and clears his throat.
Molly releases him, but gazes at him steadily. Her eyelashes are wet. “He did it because he loves you,” she tells him. “Are you going to be okay?”
It’s cold in the lab, and Sherlock feels too hot beneath his skin. Sherlock lets out a deep breath, and gives Molly a small smile. “Yes,” he says. “I think I will.”
Sherlock passes Mike Stamford on the way out but doesn’t say hello, he wraps his coat around himself tighter. He doesn’t catch a cab because he doesn’t want to see anyone else today but he walks to the cemetery which takes twenty minutes of getting his breath back.
He feels less choked when he sees Lestrade’s grave. Hello, Sherlock thinks, and wonders how many swear words Lestrade would throw at him for this mess up.
“I really shouldn’t have gone to Molly, should I?” Sherlock mulls. Considering their history. He hears John’s voice in his head saying that wasn’t kind, Sherlock and that was cruel.
“You missed an exemplary case,” Sherlock says. “It involved a fireman and a butcher. I would tell you of it, but you think I lack John’s prowess in the reiteration according to the comments on my blog.” Sherlock stops there, because thinking about John is too painful. “They solved the Jack Binson murders. Finally. I was afraid their minute intelligences would dwindle into nothing before I gave an explanation.”
“I wonder if I’m enabling myself, pretending like you’re alive. Mrs Hudson said it was better to get it all out.”
Sherlock straightens his coat. “If you expected flowers, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. I’m not going back for any and they’d be superfluous anyway. I don’t need a literal gesture to convey your absence, especially not in an institution as scarcely attended as this.”
There’s not anything to say after that, and Sherlock imagines if there was an air between them that second it would be awkward. Maybe Lestrade would laugh. Sherlock never paid him that much attention. He apologised, after Reichenbach. One of the few who meant it, that it wasn’t just obligation to. Lestrade felt genuinely sorry for arresting him and suspecting him of committing serial homicide even as he was being investigated.
“You were a good man,” Sherlock whispers. Just like John.
John shouldn’t have survived through Reichenbach, Sherlock only knew what would happen to him if he saw John fall. He’d start up on cocaine again. He’d blow strangers on the streets.
It was no wonder John left, when that had happened to them not soon before. Sherlock had been too hard on him. John was still his best friend, and Sherlock had left him all alone when he was hunting down Moriarty’s network. It’s unfair of him to blame John for leaving when Sherlock did the same thing to him. Sherlock doesn’t deserve a friend like John.
Sherlock hails a cab back to 221B because he doesn’t feel like walking by himself anymore.
Molly texts him keep in touch, mol on his way home which means she’ll be keeping tabs on him for the rest of this week at least. Sherlock arrives home and purposefully avoids John’s room and makes a beeline for his bed. He collapses on the doona and cocoons himself in it. Exhaustion (physical, psychological) sends him to sleep. Sherlock belatedly remembers the nightmare he had yesterday as his eyes drift shut.
His phone beeps again too early the next morning. I didn’t know you were gay. Oh, shut up, Molly.
He hasn’t eaten in four days and is considerably parched. Sherlock makes beans on toast for himself and discovers the peas are actually a collection of belly button lint balls which have faded to curious colours in all these years. Unfortunately, Sherlock eats half the jar before he realizes.
Sherlock finally knows how John feels.
Twenty-eight days and the self-bought milk has long gone sour and is stinking up the flat. Sherlock doesn’t want to toss it though, he thinks the flat would be too empty without its reliable presence in the fridge. Which is a stupid thought, because a single glance says there isn’t an under-abundance of junk clogging up all the breathing space but Sherlock keeps it full because it seems empty without John in some corner or taking up the spare room. Rationally, Sherlock knows Mrs Hudson isn’t going to kick him out just because he isn’t paying the full flatshare (and if he can’t afford rent every week because the yard hasn’t been paying him it’s not anyone’s business but his own) yet he feels the urge to make like he’s using the entire space regardless.
Sherlock pours the reeking liquid down the sink when he can’t concentrate on the music. The creamy lumps stick obstinately to the steel drain strainer. The ejaculate won’t rub properly out of John’s sheets either. Sherlock feels a fleeting sense of shame.
It’s replaced with something deeper. Regret, maybe. Guilt. Sorrow. If he hadn’t slept with Jim… if he’d just listened to John for once, John might be not about to die. He might be here sitting with Sherlock letting him repent for all his other mistakes. Jim wouldn’t have tried to keep his attention. Mycroft would have let John stay.
Lestrade would still be alive.
He puts on all of his emergency stack of nicotine patches and smokes every packet of cigarettes at once. Sherlock immediately thinksoh, it’s going to be one of those days because he can’t stop thinking about John’s smile at him when Sherlock showed him the ashtray after they visited the palace.
Sherlock drops the accursed glass dish in the bin. He checks his email and website desperately for John. Nothing. Sherlock climbs on top of the bookcase and perches precariously to scrawl out STRESS LESS in ashen smears. It’s beside the Don’t Worry used for eye pencil consistencies as well as set beside the smiley face and Sherlock can think up several excuses for this one too.
Sherlock leaps off the top of the book case and lands with a thud on the scratched floorboards hard enough to sting the nerves at the end of his metatarsals. He can hear Mrs Hudson scream in shock downstairs and perhaps the light rain of loosened debris.
His phone goes off.
Let’s catch up.
Sherlock can feel his heart beating madly through his ribs, blood searing through his fingertips as his shaky hands tap out when and where. He can’t reject Jim again. Sherlock needs him.
When is six minutes past exactly this second and “you better be punctual, late is so very rude.” Sherlock frantically dresses but puts his shirt on inside out the first time and forgoes his coat as he hails down a cab.
“Docklands,” Sherlock demands, nails dug against the seatbelt. Moriarty’s territory he knows, which sets a ball of deadly ice rolling around his stomach (he’s losing all the advantageous he had, what if Jim makes a public claim to own him).
“Which street exactly?” asks the cabbie.
“Hurry up!” Sherlock snaps. It should take 5.9 minutes via the A13 but the morning commute bumps it up to 10. “Marsh Wall.”
Sherlock ditches the cab to break into a run at the last set of traffic lights and it honks at him because he doesn’t pay the fare, which is ridiculously overpriced because of the toll and he doesn’t have any loose change these days he’s given all of it to his homeless network.
A black suit leads him into the car park beneath 225 London Service Tower Apartments, London Self-Catering, ANGEL HOUSE, and down more and more levels with a gun pressed against the side of his neck. The air feels heavy against his skin on the lowest floors and tastes like fuel exhaust. It’s empty, all for a few black cars parked on the bottom last floor.
“It’s not as pretty as the docks,” Jim murmurs, the sound loud, reverberating. “Oh, dear, so glad you could join us. Take a seat.”
There’s no seat on offer, and Jim smirks at Sherlock’s condescending stare, breaking the distance between them and pulling Sherlock down to the ground by his collar, inch by inch. He holds until they kneel, and Jim sits cross legged. Us. Another trick? Sherlock’s eyes sweep the wide space, and eventually catch sight of the familiar figure looming behind Jim and a parking pillar.
The gargoyle. Jim wants Sherlock to see him. Proving a point.
“You have nothing on me anymore,” Sherlock states in a reasonable voice, refusing to be cowed by the vulnerable position, or the vast echo. “Only us, and you refuse yourself even that. You should kill me and save yourself the trouble.”
“Should I?” Jim says.
But would Jim rather it? Does the boredom Sherlock stops outweigh the irritation of his attachment? Sherlock certainly has nothing to live for, now John and Mrs Hudson and Lestrade have left him. Except Jim. And if Jim won’t keep him entertained, and nothing else can, then what’s the point in being alive?
Death would be a welcome relief from the insufferableness of daily life. But Jim’s experience would only grow more stale without him, tedious. He’d die. At this rate, they both will. No one will let them together, not even themselves. But Jim won’t let anyone else have him. It’s not fair.
“You’ve never had a friend, have you?” asks Sherlock. Not like Molly, forgiving him for no reason, compromising. Looking out for him.
“I’m not here to be your friend,” Jim scoffs. “I’m the villain. What does it look like it?”
“What will it take for you to stay with me?” Sherlock says. With the insinuation of infatuation. Ugly, imprecise. Malleable.
He needs Jim to concede it. He needs Jim to keep rigging games at least, Sherlock just can’t sit in the same place with the same people every day in, out, up, down, round and round the garden until his brain is swarmed with meaningless minute which screams delete. Until he’s empty with nothing there in his head and he may as well lie dead anyway. He is wasted on normality. He could be as dumb as a fox for all the use it serves him. At least being stupid would be less painful. He wouldn’t have to know what genius was like. How beautiful it looked.
Sherlock needs Jim to come back to him. To do something.
“Oh, so you want me again?” says Jim loftily. “Not worried about upsetting your precious pet?”
“Answer the question!” Sherlock shouts. His hand smack against the concrete, and the sound bounces off the walls through his ears. Fear ripples through him. He’s never shouted at Jim, incited him so harshly.
Jim slowly smiles, satisfied. “Finally listening. I told you to let go, Sherlock. Take off the mask. Give in. Can’t you feel what potential that has now? How dangerous you can be?” Sherlock says nothing. Jim tilts his head to the side. “You don’t have to lie to me, to get my attention.”
Jim’s hand runs up the side of Sherlock’s cheek, slow and reverent, lamentful and wistful. “I’m sorry you think so,” Jim whispers. The small sound settles between them to disappear.
Footsteps slam from the higher level. Jim draws himself up. Away. Their moment is gone as quickly as it came. Sherlock’s chest aches. He feels like he’s run a marathon.
Mycroft appears at his feet, the familiar click of the umbrella amplified into something sharp and deadly. Sherlock looks at him and stands.
“Welcome. The party’s just getting started,” Jim says, and rubs his cheek with one hand. “I know we’re going have such a great time.” Smug. Jim stares Mycroft down in his sleek suit with a wink. Mycroft’s face doesn’t change. Typical. They’re both as unfoundedly arrogant as each other.
“Stay away from my brother,” Mycroft says, glancing down at Sherlock’s knees in conclusion. A second look to his face, assessing expression, drawing relation.
“I have been, silly. Haven’t you been watching carefully?” Jim pulls a shocked face. “I can keep my word, you realize.”
Mycroft raises his eyebrows.
“What are you doing here?” Sherlock demands him. “Go away. I was doing perfectly fine without you.”
“I was invited,” Mycroft responds snidely.
Sherlock sneers to Jim in rebuke, but Jim isn’t looking at him. Jim’s smirking, as he hails the gargoyle out of his hiding place. Ahh. Mycroft’s hand tightens on his umbrella but that’s the only outward sign of his alarm.
“I saw how your department was having awful trouble with that horrible plane scare and I thought ‘oh, why shouldn’t I help a minor government official out?’ Because you know everyone would just blame Al Queda, except it doesn’t help very much that Bin Laden is dead, does it? Oops, didn’t think about that. But it makes the public scared. Worried! How is your job doing, by the way?”
“Don’t answer,” Sherlock warns.
“Fine,” Mycroft clips out. “The Queen doesn’t check in with terrorists, if you’re looking to pay a trade-off.”
“Better idea: I solve that tedious hassle of an antihero for your campaign to turn against, except if you agree, I get dear Sherlock here.”
“You kill him,” says Mycroft flatly.
“I’m already the number one on the big bad guy list. You know people are going to believe it, if my organisation is the one reported to have bombed London. Cut ties with Ireland and no harm done. So, why haven’t you done it sooner? You can’t tell them because you don’t want to scare them. Someone that powerful. You know you’d never catch me, and that would make you look crap, it’d be bad business. But I could make it worth your while.”
“You’ll hand yourself in,” Sherlock says. “Only to escape when the time is right. Just like last time, an obvious lose.”
“Except, now I might have something to make me stay,” Jim supplies. Sherlock thinks furiously as he stares at Jim, trying to work out the puzzle, while Jim and Mycroft gaze at each other in mutual understanding.
“What is it?” Sherlock says frustratedly. “What’ll keep you there?”
Mycroft does not move his eyes from Jim’s. Sherlock waits for him to reject the offer. You can’t trust Jim that easily, and Mycroft knows it. Jim knows it. So why did Jim suggest the deal? And why does Mycroft look like he’s seriously considering it?
“You’re going to kill me,” Sherlock repeats to Jim.
“I did promise to.”
“You can’t cow me into quiet submission,” Sherlock says. What makes Jim think he can do it so easily? He failed at Reichenbach. “It’s not like that.”
Jim snaps his glance to Sherlock. “What is it like, doll?”
“I’ll mainline liquid cyanide first. Or kill you. Mycroft, you can’t be seriously considering this. Come on, it’s preposterous!”
“It’d be easy,” Jim breathes. Teasing. It should be a threat to Mycroft, but Jim is staring Sherlock straight down. Sherlock gets the shivers.
Mycroft stays quiet. He won’t look at Sherlock.
“You’re not going to give my life away to a mass murderer with a professional interest. Not when you could kidnap him now.” Sherlock clears his throat in an attempt to catch Mycroft’s gaze pointedly; Mycroft continues gazing at Jim.
Sherlock gets the point. Mycroft could kidnap Jim, but it would thwart Jim’s plan and thus ruin his leverage with Jim’s escape. His voice rises. “Whatever stranglehold you have, it’s only temporary. You’ll accompany my murder and get him for it, but whatever it is can’t keep his attention, not like I do. It’s a fool’s investment.”
“Not,” Mycroft pronounces carefully, “if he dies while under my captivity.”
There’s no way Jim is consenting to that; Sherlock’s gaze flicks over, but Jim is relaxed, impassive. Sherlock’s breath drops out of him. Suicidal. He’s making a proper Reichenbach. Just because he can’t care about anyone.
“Stop that. I'm not going to let either of you.” says Sherlock furiously. Their eyes both dart to his. “I won't let you. I won’t be your ultimatum and pretend blackmail. This ‘I’ll help you on one condition,’ it’s complete bullshit. You think I’m just going to roll over and die for you both? I can ruin Moriarty and bring back Richard Brook. I can walk out right now and kill myself to make it look like a confession. Then you can’t brand Jim a criminal, and won’t have any use for staging his murder. The agreement is void.”
“Why Sherlock, I didn’t know you felt that way,” Jim says in Molly’s voice. “You should have said.” A smile catches his face. “But really, this is too good. Gargoyle.”
The assassin steps forward.
Sherlock flinches: he has to get out. He looks to Mycroft for help, nothing. Sherlock spins on his heel and makes for the nearest car ramp at a sprint. The small square of light it implies looks as real and wonderful as something normal. Something rational. None of them try to chase or stop him. Sherlock’s throat drops to his chest. He has a terrible sinking feeling as to why.
The car lift rises from its place in the ground before Sherlock’s foot hits its slope. Trying to cut him off. Sherlock makes the jump. He can see the gap between the ceiling and the crest of the ramp grow smaller as he races lightning speed towards it. The lift is rising too quickly beneath him. His fingers claw for the small space as the angle grows more steep. His dress shoe slips on the concrete and he manages one hand as he falls. Too late; the gap is too narrow to squeeze through. Sherlock snaps his arm back before the concrete pressure manages to amputate him.
Beneath the lift long pillars block the exit. He’s completely closed in.
Jim claps long and loud, the sound bouncing off the walls. “Well done, Sherlock. Well done.”
Sherlock glares, determined not to give up, and his gaze searches the room for another escape route. The black cars. If he can smash the window of one with his shoe he can jumpstart the engine and possibly run over the gargoyle… unlikely Jim or Mycroft would attempt to kill him himself. Assuming neither has back up here. Immediate objectives: immobilize back up, defeat assassin, escape prison.
He’s panting now as he resumes his sprint, feinting towards a hidden stairwell; emergency exits, undergrounds always have them—Mycroft looks somewhere between embarrassed and admiring like usual. Natural disapproval. You’re just jealous because you’re fat, Sherlock thinks snidely to himself, trying the handle. Thanks for the help. The windows are dark tinted invisible but no government or criminal employee bursts from its insides as Sherlock rounds a spinning kick at the driver window. His ankle howls in torment. Keys of course not in engine. No time or materials to hotwire properly; Sherlock stabs the heel of his magnifying glass at an acute angle to catch the edge of the engine’s lock. Ideally he’d have a drill or at least a screwdriver to manage effectively.
An automatic, thank god. But frustratingly he can’t build up the force to break through the side of the plastic and not nearly knock the lock off its mount. Sherlock scans the vehicle again for potential utensils; there’s a map and fake registration paper in the glove box and some Bee Gees CD’s in the door slots. Mycroft, Jim and the gargoyle are talking in the same spot. Not paying attention. Come on, Sherlock thinks. Then; damn this car lock. He grabs a plane of black glass and wedges it as hard as he can in between the keyhole, because fuck it. He doesn’t know what he expected. Sherlock’s hand bleeds. The glass sticks and he sighs and tries to shake it back out. To his bewilderment it turns.
The engine starts to a purr. Sherlock takes his grip on his handle and slams his foot on the accelerator.
Neither Mycroft or Jim see it coming. Sherlock cherishes the unrestrained looks of shock on their faces and decides to lock it in a trophy room in a room in his mind palace to watch over and over forever after.
The steering wheel rebels against him; he’s never driven a car before. Where Sherlock means to take down the gargoyle by pillar nine the car slides and careens. Oh hell. There’s no time even to brace himself. Sherlock smashes into the wall side on and the air bag bursts to life, smothering him. Glass threads through his hair and blood drips down his cheek. He hyperventilates. No seatbelt, thrown against the steering wheel he feels winded, impaled. His heart races. Cracked rib most likely. Potential punctured lung, definite heavy bruising. He wants to die.
Sherlock coughs and chokes for however long he sits there. Eventually he crawls over the gearstick into the passenger seat, arms trembling. Mycroft, Jim, and the Gargoyle stare at him with their hollow eyes. Sherlock’s ears are boiling and his vision melts at the sides. He laughs flatly.
“You’re so good at making everything complicated,” Jim says. “I have to admit, I’m impressed.”
“I’m an ever better parker,” Sherlock gasps out.
“Well, this has been fun,” continues Jim.
Sherlock grimaces as he looks between them and hears what that implies. Hands carefully folded over the umbrella, knuckles forward, defensive. Furrowed brows, tense upright posture. Jim utterly relaxed and stonily blank. Nothing’s changed. If anything, Mycroft only seems firmer, and Jim more dangerous and hateful.
The gargoyle approaches. Nowhere to run: Sherlock struggles to hold himself up through the searing pain in his forehead. His feet give under him but Sherlock catches himself on the door in time. If he dies now, he dies with dignity.
The gargoyle’s large hands wrap around his neck, crushing his windpipe, squeezing his throat. Sherlock’s already screaming lungs begin to seize as they fail to suck in air.
Sherlock struggles against the gargoyle, attempting to gut him in the ribs, but the gargoyle presses his body against Sherlock to freeze him. Sherlock feels suddenly ill.
How does he constantly manage to get in these situations?
His eyes lock on to Jim’s for a moment then leap to Mycroft’s. His brother’s face is the worst, a blank mask, nothing to respond to. “Mycroft,” he wheezes, and there’s no air in his mouth for a second cry. His mouth forms the words anyway, the please Mycroft’s eyes flick to for a moment before he bodily turns away.
No. Oh Christ. Sherlock tries to stop the watering in his eyes but the pressure on his throat all but warrants it. Jim is staring at him, just looking, and hot blood drips from Sherlock’s hairline down his cheek. Hypoxia begun. Shift for tighter grip. Triangle stranglehold clearly trained. Hyoid remains unbroken, larynx tearing. The gargoyle throttles him, the creases between his eyes puckered with some sort of manic hate. Sherlock begins to hyperventilate through his traumatized lungs and the pain is devastating and he lashes out. His struggling solves nothing.
Come back. Mycroft isn’t paying attention. Jim is. Finally getting what he wanted. Bloodflow restricted. Four minutes to choke at a constant pressure; brain dramage three. Help, Sherlock mouths, his fingers clawing and pulling. He’s staring at Mycroft. He’s talking on his phone. How could he be talking on his phone?
Jim steps close. Hyperventilation. Sherlock’s tongue is lolling and he must be turning blue. Head hurts. Unconciousness or death in twenty to forty seconds factoring his injury.
“Do you get it now, Sherlock?” Jim asks. “Everyone you love will leave you. Don’t you see? There are no angels. There are no rules. The rules are all lies. You’re on the side of the angels, but there are none. And it’s all gone to shit, and you don’t know what to do about it anymore. They want you to think it’s my fault, because they don’t understand, they deny how corrupt they are. But I’m only here to help, my love. I help the people no one else will. And I can fix it for you. All you have to do is join me. To be mine again. You join me, or we die.”
Jim removes John’s gun from his pocket, clicks the safety off and presses it against his left temple. “Shall we?”
Sherlock shakes his head the little he can; Jim signals fast and the gargoyle lets him go.
Sherlock collapses to the floor, coughing and breaths choking and drooling. He presses his forehead against the dirty cement and the air is too thick with exhaust and he hacks up blood from his chest. Everything’s disgusting and he’s never felt more afraid in his life. He vomits rancid milk and keeps at it until there’s nothing left in his stomach and he dry heaves and clutches his head. He gags.
Tears stream down his face but Sherlock doesn’t realize until he tries to wipe the blood out of his eyes and fluid comes back.
Jim settles next to him and picks the glass out of his scalp with his fingernails, careful. He wipes the vomit from Sherlock’s chin with his sharp tie and smooths Sherlock’s hair back out of his face. “You’re okay,” he whispers. “I’ve got you.”
“Go away,” Sherlock sobs, knees to his chest.
Jim strokes small circle’s on Sherlock’s back, kneeling, and he kisses Sherlock on the shoulder.
“I couldn’t bear to,” says Jim. He takes the gun he’s dropped and places it in Sherlock’s lap. “Choose.”
Sherlock stares at the weapon for a moment, incredulous. He can’t believe it. Jim is honestly turning this into another head game right now. Sherlock considers shooting him straight blank and his stomach churns again. He lifts it to his head and he can’t do it. Mycroft is watching now, and something on his face has slipped. His eyes have closed soft and his mouth holds just open in a frown. His shoulders are hunched together and his head has dropped. He looks like he might die.
Oh, so you care now. How dare you. Fury boils through Sherlock’s veins and he raises the gun and stumbles to his feet and his arm lurches and he spins towards the gargoyle and he shoots him in the throat.
Kill shot; the gargoyle slumps to the floor, blood pooling everywhere. A headache pounds behind Sherlock’s eyes and his clear vision is swaying although he stands shoot still.
“You’re wrong,” Sherlock says to Jim. “You are so wrong. Angels exist. Molly.”
Another cough rakes up his windpipe and out his lips. Sherlock stops. He drops the gun and stumbles towards the ramp. Raised closed still. “Open it,” Sherlock rasps. It doesn’t carry. He can’t speak properly, it hurts. Sherlock fires a warning shot and it rebounds off the stone walls.
The ramp drops obediently. Some small miracle but he won’t look back to check. Sherlock stumbles upwards as fast as his feet can carry him. He breathes, long and deep and the pain is crystal seeping. He commands his strides, straight and smooth. He stops clutching his lung. His hands go in his pockets. Sherlock raises his head. The light outside is positively exaltant. He never wants to see this place again.
Several of Mycroft’s cars wait outside. Sherlock considers throwing a bin at each of them but he feels too weak and exhausted to manage it.
The infuriating tap of an umbrella sounds on the pavement beside him.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft says.
Sherlock turns around. Mycroft is just standing still looking at him like nothing has happened. All that sentiment. He’s felt this sting of betrayal before, but he never expected to feel it from Mycroft.
Sherlock can’t speak loudly so he has to whisper. “How could you.”
“This wasn’t about you,” Mycroft says. “It was all Jim’s set up. You have to trust me when I say I knew he was going to let you live.”
Trust him? Sherlock has to laugh. Sherlock would cripple him if he could. He would stab him right between his double-crossing steely cold eyes. He struggles to keep the coughs down to speak. “I trusted you, even after Reichenbach, when you sold me out,” Sherlock breathes. His voice dies at the end. “Why.” How could you do that to me again?
“Jim Moriarty cares about you. No one else slakes his intellectual curiosity quite the same. He would never kill you if he felt he didn’t have to, and only you would keep him in prison under wraps. The proposition was obvious. I retreated, and he kept you alive. Though naturally, his. I believe his exact wording was, ‘take this as a friendly warning. Back off.’”
There are no words. “This isn’t alive,” Sherlock mouths.
Mycroft left him to die. Mycroft.
“I saved your life. If I hadn’t consented, his assassin would have attempted my own murder, and in the ensuing bloodbath, you would die. The given hostage choice.”
“You never apologised,” Sherlock accuses. A sudden cough doubles him over. Unexpected.
Mycroft moves forward to support him; uncharacteristic. Sherlock slaps him away.
“You’re dead to me,” Sherlock spits. “What happened? You’re not my brother anymore.”
There’s a glint in Mycroft’s eyes. “I’m losing you,” he says to Sherlock. “Don’t go.”
Everyone’s dead. It’s not even Jim’s fault. It’s his.
He should have been less honest. More sensitive and less callous. Less indulgent all the time. Sherlock covers his eyes. He should have thought about others first.
“This is your own fault,” says Sherlock. “Don’t play victim. You’ve been taskmaster for far too long. Playing politics.” He sneers the word.
“What was I supposed to do? Watch you live wild and run yourself to death? I have a responsibility to the people as much as I do to you. I have to look for your welfare, Sherlock, even if you hate me for it. I thought I could keep him away from you, but now… Near-death experiences don’t change the fact I would do anything for anyone to keep you alive. Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t change that. You’re my baby brother.”
Typical Mycroft, spinning gross betrayal into some allusion of consideration. How he could even begin to regard what he did in the carpark as something noble. Sherlock is floored.
To keep you alive. No. To keep Sherlock dead. That was what it was about. The fact Sherlock switched sides on Mycroft. Sherlock was a risk to Mycroft’s precious running order. To be eliminated. Mycroft is not his friend. Liar, liar. He stumbles away from Mycroft, smiling benignly, shaking his head.
Liars, everywhere. Jim in the background, his gaze outstretched.
Tears spew in Mycroft’s eyes. He smothers his mouth with one hand. Sherlock turns and runs.
The world blurs and his lungs agonize him but he can’t stop. Breath rips through him and Sherlock sprints as fast as he can away and he trips over his feet and falls all over the place and keeps going with his head pounding and his heart aching and his fingers shaking and not forming fists. Sherlock runs through the traffic with his coat billowing behind all the way to Baker Street. Kilometres of the wind howling and his damaged heel rolling. He crumples against the front door and keens long painful sounds because he feels like he can’t live like this and nothing will ever be pleasurable again and the suffering is never over.
Mrs Hudson opens the front door. “Oh, dearie, are you alright?” she demands, warbling. Sherlock wobbly smiles back. “Who are you?” she asks.
Sherlock’s smile slips away. Dementia, right. Advanced Parkinson’s. Only to be expected.
“No one,” Sherlock coughs. “I must have the wrong flat, sorry.”
“I think you should get yourself to a hospital!” Mrs Hudson calls worriedly after him.
Sherlock makes the painful climb to his second story window. His arms give out twice and he hauls himself through the white frame in final resignation.
Sherlock isn’t Jim’s. He doesn’t think he could be anyone’s anymore, even if he tried. Not even his own. He’s been possessed by something new and disgusting and he doesn’t recognise himself as anyone. No one is right. He's stripped himself of everything important to him, everyone, and now he's this shell of a being, with no morals, nothing but empty words. Sherlock told Jim he was his. But how can he be? How can he ever give himself up to Jim if hope and fear holds him back? Jim will get tired of waiting, and Sherlock can't have both. But he can't have neither, either. He can't live forever with no one to ever love or care about him and he can't push Jim away.
Sherlock takes a shower and several Nurofen when he feels up to standing (he isn’t, but he won’t lie there in pain). The adrenaline is dying down and everywhere stings and chafes and burns. There’s a throbbing whiplash in his neck but it would be worse if he was belted up in the crash.
He’s alone now and his head his empty and he can cry but the tears won’t come. Sherlock drifts over to the wall and traces the pitiful reassurances with his fingertips. Nothing feels like it will ever be the same again. Sherlock strains his injuries and doesn’t particularly care. That’s definitely regular. John would laugh to hear it.
Sherlock's lungs seize, he flops back down on the couch. He’s in for a rough night, even without the death exposure. He coughs blood. He shouldn’t have smoked all those cigarettes this morning. Sherlock peels off the damned nicotine patches and lays them out on the coffee table. No ash tray.
Sherlock needs Jim. Jim has him. And somewhere, out nowhere, John has to be surviving-- Sherlock is counting on it.
It’s 10pm and sweat drips down his face. Sherlock is coated in it, and shaking and tossing and turning and the world is too bright and sharp and painful at once. He wish it’d just shut up so he could concentrate on distractions, but the traffic noise is as incessant as ever, and his head throbs and his chest sears liquid fire. Thankfully, righteously both Mycroft and Jim have left him blessedly alone but it’s getting harder to breathe and his throat is raw, possibly inflamed from grunting accidentally.
Every breath hurts. It’s as if someone has poured scalding lava down his throat and followed it with ground habanero chilli. Even his head is turning on fire, stinging and sharp in an echo of the relentless pain he feels in his lung. Sherlock’s eyes water with the hurt. He feels like he should deserve it but he doesn’t actually want to, and can’t help but think you did worse than this to him, death is pain unimaginable, and runs to the toilet and vomits blood and makes his throat convulse and he digs his nails into his feet and clings at them desperately for nothing.
He would have killed you, he would have killed you repeats an endless mantra in Sherlock’s head and he knows he should be worrying about Jim but he replays the unfairity of the moment, gargoyle undefended and ready to scream and he pulls at his hair. He can still feel the ghostly fingers when he stands in a rush of air against his exposed skin. Sherlock has never shot someone before. He never wants to ever again.
No emails. Sherlock isn’t completely sure why he hauls himself the laptop from its chair to check but he feels a blinding surge of rage when he finds John has emptied his case of syringes. He is constantly surrounded by self-righteous hellions and Sherlock is so sick of it.
A knock raps at the flat door, downstairs. Sherlock doesn’t move. He stares at the grimy tiles (John cleaned them a month and a half ago) and regulates his breathing. He wants to scream, but his mouth won’t get it out. He carefully lets go of his hair and his teeth start worrying his lip. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Molly lets herself up. “Sherlock?” she calls cautiously from the lounge area. Sherlock tangibly relaxes. Of course Jim would never knock.
Molly hesitantly pokes through looking for him. “Oh no sorry, I didn’t mean to—“ she says as she opens the bathroom door and catches his eye sitting inside. Charming as ever, Molly Sherlock thinks to say, but a strange little gasp comes out instead. “What are you doing in here?”
Contemplating death. Starting my own bush band. Tile watching. “Go away,” he rasps.
“Sherlock,” Molly tries. Sherlock moans; not another blasted lecture. “Sherlock, you look horrible. You look worse than that, like a walking corpse or something. Oh god, not like—never mind, what I mean is you’re not okay, and you need professional help right now.”
Yes, people have been saying that to me all my life but funnily enough, no one’s ever truly aided me at all. So why don’t you take your good intentions and immigrate away to China with them. Sherlock groans, clutching the sudden spasm his throat sends through and devolving into a fit of coughs he smothers with his mouth. His fingertips are blue—cyanosis. “God,” Molly says, and crouches down to his level, one delicate hand lifting his jaw. “Look, I know you really don’t want to go anywhere, but if you stay here like this, you could die, alright?”
It’s easier to agree right now. Molly looks on the verge of yelling or tears. Sherlock nods, biting down on the shame and the cough. He can just take some Clexane and go home when they’re not looking. “Okay,” says Molly, fingers trembling as she kneels down. “Okay, good.”
That declaration means to be followed by her helping him up onto the toilet by his armpits (which she flushes and puts the seat down on first, thank god) and Sherlock bends double once he sits to numb the protest his lung cries out. He groans as his vision swims with the change in position. “Oh my god, are you okay?” Molly demands, and whips her phone out. There is blood running down his chin. Ahh.
“Don’t,” Sherlock clips out. Her eyes catch the forming of the words even if she doesn’t hear them. Sherlock takes her arm. “Just drive me to the—to the ER.”
“Okay,” Molly warbles, putting her phone back in her bag. “Just calm down. It’s going to be alright, I’m telling you. You’re probably okay, you just overtaxed yourself a bit now. My brother used to be the same, he’d go out all day and come back and collapse down on his bed with all his clothes on. I used to have a brother before I had a cat, did you know? His name was Toby too.”
Of course I knew, you’re babbling, shut up. Molly catches the thought in his gaze and clamps her teeth together with a click but there’s still that nervous giggling bleeding through her façade. Distract her, she’s going into hysterics. “Mycroft sent you.”
Too cowardly to come himself, relying on the one person he martyrized as emotional manipulation. Disgusting.
“That doesn’t matter! You told me you’d be okay!” she says. Worried he won’t go with her now, Sherlock almost feels bad except his head is hurting too much for him to completely focus on anyone else’s upset. “I asked you if you’d be okay and you said that you would.”
Stop looking at me, Sherlock thinks angrily. He says nothing. About how out of control life has been lately.
“I told you to keep in touch, and all this time you’ve been seriously hurt you didn’t even text me to say so. You had hours. Then in the end, your brother had to tell me that something horrible had happened. I thought we were friends, Sherlock!”
She’s getting teary now. Wrong tact.
“I didn’t want to talk about it,” Sherlock says, mustering all his strength to pronounce it audible. “Stop—stop looking at me.”
“I’m not looking at you,” Molly says, averting her eyes.
“Yes you are, you have been all this time, looking at my neck and thinking how you wish it was you, because sometimes you just hate me and you don’t know why and I can tell you it’s because you are sexually attracted to me and I will never care for you the way you do to me.”
“Sherlock,” Molly says in a strangled way. Coughing hurts.
“Is it the way I put you down that makes you want to dominate me, see me blush and swoon, to control me like everyone else I have met in my life? But of course you can’t because you’re so reserved and insecure, and because you are more afraid of me than anyone else you have ever met. But then sometimes you think about how ‘fantastical’ I am when in reality I am as much the scum of the earth as the bodies you drag your clean-edge scalpel through.”
Molly’s head drops. She doesn’t look like anything and Sherlock instantly regrets it. He won’t apologize.
“I was thinking about work,” she says quietly, controlled. “Your mind is running away with you. Why are you so suspicious all the time?”
“I am observant, that is all. My judgement is not impaired by fickle things such as emotions.”
“You are always lying to everyone you meet. And you do it to yourself, don’t you? You can’t bear to let someone in on the off chance they’ll leave you because you don’t know shit about human beings. You won’t face your feelings because you’re just as much as coward as I am. And sometimes you look at me like you don’t know if I’m worth the investment Sherlock, because I might have feelings too, but if you weren’t like this, if you weren’t so distant and agressive, I would have been always there for you.”
She slaps him in the face and flees the bathroom. His Molly leaves him to die.
Sherlock sobs into his knees and smashes the bathroom mirror with his hand and grinds the left over shards into pieces with the toe of his dress shoe. His shoes feels stifling and he tries to break the bathroom window but the glass is too thick and he collapses to his feet and he knows he’s being hopelessly melodramatic but he can’t stop any of it and he wishes it all would end. That she would just kill him. Why does he exist, such a wretched human being, a sore on humanity like the killers he squishes into pulp sugar, he has always been a murderer, a murderer of the law, and he and Jim are exactly the same. If only he were someone else, anything except this.
He feels tied, and stumbles on his feet to the lounge and crawls the last half metre and hyperventilates and can’t breathe because mucus is choking his lungs and overworking them he feels like he is slowly burning with a million cigarettes ground into his body and he finds his way to the bin and deliriously looks for his ash tray and clings to its splattered glass pores until he feels grounded enough with his cling on the earth’s unstable surface, that he might sink into a false present of sensation and never feel the detached hopelessness melancholy reels.
Sherlock thinks up horrible things to say to defend himself and mutters them on the inside of his mind until he is nearly sure he believes them. Well I’m sorry I’ve been worrying about the state of my psyche considering the fact my brother and my arch-rival have just made me a murderer, he imagines himself spitting, false condescion and morality dripping from the cracks in his dried lips and he feels disgusted with himself.
She was going to call 119 for him. Sherlock isn’t sure what he’ll do now. He wishes he’d just black out. Or die, already. Pain is nothing, it is a natural physical response which doesn’t affect his reality in any way. His hand is throbbing and smearing, little bursts of red running through the glass tray. Translucent and see through, just like him. How could he have been so obvious? Why can’t he just get a good grip?
Footsteps on the stairs. Lots of visitors today, Mrs Hudson. Sherlock doesn’t want to be seen like this, wheezing and spluttering. Shivering, repulsive.
“Heard your little domestic,” Jim murmurs. Jim knows loud sounds won’t help right now. Thank god for Jim. “Here, I got you what you wanted.”
What Sherlock wanted is a flat, round white pill with no film, all chalky and the size of a hangnail. Sherlock swallows it dry and Jim fetches him a glass of water, ignores his shaking hands and feeds it to his lips, watches the liquid pour into his mouth and dribble down his chin, sets it down delicately and keeps his eyes on the television. Clicks it on, watches the oversaturated newscaster speak without a voice on mute. Inadequate distraction but full preoccupation. Perfect Jim.
I wanted to die, Sherlock thinks, but he trusts Jim.
The pill puts him in a mild state of unawares. He feels himself travelling and knows he can’t do anything about it. There are paramedics beside them and Sherlock doesn’t want any more attention to be on him. Sherlock awakens at Mycroft’s private hospital. It has a name, deleted; it’s Mycroft’s hospital all the same by the sheen of the fake pot plant and the strategic light direction of the building.
His hand is messily bandaged, and a medic is wrapping his ankle. They have him on a moving stretcher, and have already completed X-ray scans of his chest on request. It took half an hour of standing on his feet ready to topple over and he dissects them all as they do him and hates it. He can only move in extremely small steps. They tell him he’s in shock.
He’s about to go under for surgery. Sherlock’s surgeon is a sleepless, overqualified child abuser, nevertheless not particularly malignant to adults. Mycroft knows. Sherlock saw his sheet on the way in. His right lung is punctured, partially collapsed, he has scraped the lining off his lungs with tar. Lung disease possible; the terms pneumothorax and barotrauma repeated ad nauseum. The pain is already less excruciating but it will get worse. They have to hold him down to stop him coughing.
His heart monitor blips on the metal operating table. The process is explained and Sherlock doesn’t consent. “No,” he tries to say, but Mycroft is there and his decision overrules Sherlock’s. Fuck you, Sherlock thinks, staring into the hard eyes of his brother, who should be waiting outside. He is family, and family sits in the waiting room. Family doesn’t wear three piece suits and kill off their own brother for the greater good of the nation. The fact that Mycroft would while worrying about Sherlock’s lungs is faintly ridiculous.
They slide a tracheal tube down his throat. Sherlock cries. Mycroft’s hair is a bit greasy because he hasn’t washed it because he had to meet with the prime minister for a conference, no, press release advice by the excess crease of the leather of wallet poking out his trousers, recently opened for the transmission of a business card. Mycroft has to change his number every week and now his hand is flicking to his watch because he feels as if he has an obligation to recorrect the thirty first on the date sign to the literal first. They’re small negligence which convey a sort of intellectual distress besides a timely one. There’s a pinched look around his mouth from forced self-quiet, and weariness in his gunmetal grey eyes. Too close.
Sherlock hisses and makes a small sound as they strip off his dress shirt and cut its arms away. “We’ll wrap you with bandages after your surgery, but that’s all we can do for a broken rib,” the female doctor says. It’s like the echo of a drum in his head, hollow with some sort of sickness.
Something Mycroft said to him when he was young is caught in Sherlock’s head and won’t come out. You are the most destructive person I have ever met. Dry inflexion, scorn, but a bit of a resigned slur to it. These doctors won’t be in all their disapproving. Sherlock can’t handle rehab again, but they won’t suspect with any luck despite the glaring track scars on the inside of his elbow. He needs to put his patches back on and cover them.
“Open Pneumothorax obvious, pleural effusion in right lung from internal bleeding. Pulmonary haemorrhage, IV fluids necessitated, blood transfusions, get his blood type. Nurse, we’ll need an oxygen tank. Attatch the tube to the flutter valve, you don’t want him seizing back on us. Gas mask.”
“O plus, he has anemia,” Mycroft puts in above his sweltering head. Sherlock’s attatched to a ventilator, which sounds like darth vader constantly breathing out. It’s nothing on morphine, but he needs oxygen. The strap catches in Sherlock’s fiddly hair and he has the odd urge to cry. They’re chattering too much. He feels hyperconscious, like all the shapes are shifting into each other, blurring and laughing and sighing.
Suction starts on his tracheal tube to vacuum out the blood and fluid collected in his lungs. They cauterize the broken edge of his lung and it's the most painful and least interesting thing he's ever felt.
Vitals down to normal. The dig of the blood transfusion he doesn't feel because an excess of oxygen has sent him into a natural high. Basic chemistry, Sherlock likes chemistry. It goes for a long time, then it stops. He wonders whose blood it is, and whether Mycroft is just looking pale because he’s upset or not.
Time passes, and whatever they expect (cardiac arrest, a stroke?) doesn't happen. For a while, nothing does.
Then the child abuser paints the side of his chest with licodine to prepare him for the puncture and chest tube that will slide through him and suck out the air and fluid spilled out of the hole in his lung to where it doesn’t belong. At the pierce of the needle, Sherlock screams.
He has been asleep for four days. His mouth tastes gritty.
“Congratulations,” Mycroft says, sitting at his bedside with hands folded. “You've once again overcome slim odds and survived. Twelve percent, they said. I am at loss whether to be impressed by your stubborn luck or enraged at your irresponsibility.”
There is a note pen and paper thrust in front of him, and Sherlock struggles with his weakness and sleepiness to scrawl out the word hypocrite.
Mycroft leaves after that.
The nurses let him get away with not eating for the first day after his food drip comes off but after that they threaten him with the anorexia clinic no matter how many times Sherlock says their children are social prostitutes. They say that if Sherlock smokes again he might not live past his fourties. Sherlock never cared about living past his fourties before (a criminal would get to him sooner, he suspected) but now he has more and less to live for. John, and Jim, and Lestrade. Their betrayals, the boredom; the lack of crime and the loss of his fixes.
He goes through nicotine withdrawal after the sudden spike in his usage and fails to escape the white prison thrice. Every moment is cravings hell. His life is.
I hate this over clean place, I hate it, Sherlock scrawls out on his notepad because his glands are still swollen and Molly sends him flowers and a get well card. I’m sorry, it reads, and she says how she was never made to be a doctor. Sherlock decides he will forgive her even if there’s still some lingering resentment. Mycroft delivers him clothes which Sherlock doesn’t wear no matter how much he hates the hospital nightgowns. He flings them about the room instead in some unhealthy forced messiness. Good.
Sherlock needs to ‘rest easy’ past surgery to avoid lung complications of pneumonia and bronchitis. He antagonizes the doctors with demands for anaesthetic until one takes false sick leave and until they let him home early.
He gives Mrs Hudson a long hug when he sees her, and she doesn’t seem to mind that he’s a stranger crying for no reason.
Jim has left a human heart in his bedroom.
It’s washed and cleaned, but still red and grisly in a way that will never wash out and Sherlock plans to throws his sheets in the bin after he calls the police.
He sits there, and analyses it, before they arrive. It’s been squeezed out by a human hand, large, with jagged fingernails (tiny, gauze-like insinuations he has never seen on a human heart before). Not Jim. One of Jim’s people. Hasn’t been drained but still carried a decent amount of blood, which didn’t drip elsewhere in the flat. Large splatter pattern, wide radius, not long. Carried in some sort of container then, large, to contain that amount of blood. Perhaps a briefcase. Fresh and not dried out yet, committed in the last few days, so the suspect would have visited here in that time. Sherlock swiftly stands and checks all points of entry for signs of forced intrusion.
Nothing. Sherlock dusts down the doorhandles and walls but finds no fingerprints that could have belonged to the killer.
The police arrive with their shiny sirens, and lovely, Anderson’s on the case. “Freak,” he spits, eyeing Sherlock’s hospital hair.
“Idiot,” Sherlock rasps, flicking his scarf behind his back. Anderson’s been reassigned to officer duty, evidently, too much trouble for forensics.
“Boys, boys,” says Sally reproachfully, guiding them out of the bedroom. “This is a crime scene.”
“Yes, and this smart-aleck obviously committed the murder. Who else is messed up enough to leave a bloody heart on someone’s pillow?”
“I don’t know, perhaps Jim Moriarty?” Sherlock returns, pulling a shocked face.
“This is really for the best,” Sally says. “We needed to interview you about your suspected assault anyway. It’s standard practice, whenever anyone runs through ER with those sorts of injuries.”
“Mycroft was keeping you out of the hospital,” Sherlock infers with a smug smile, resisting the urge to tug at his scarf to further hide the blue bruises. “Always thinks he’s too good for the blue collars. Or pants, I should say. Fine, ask your damned questions.”
“Not here,” Sally says, glancing at the other officers. “You’re also a prime suspect in this case, so don’t think you’re getting away this time without giving a statement.”
“Of course not, Sally,” Sherlock replies, just to rile her. Sally out of everyone on the task force takes professionalism the most seriously and Sherlock knows it pisses her off he calls the other officers by their surnames.
“Oh shove off it, freak,” says Sally. “I personally hope after this investigation we’ve seen the end of you. All you ever do is bring bad luck.”
“Don’t get too impatient,” Andserson says dryly. “He’s incorrigible, this one.”
“Do you actually know what that word means?” Sherlock asks curiously.
“Right,” Sally snaps, as she pulls them into 221C off the hallway. “Down to business. Not that I haven’t had to resist the urge a million and one times, but who strangled you and why? ”
Sherlock sighs. “The gargoyle,” he whispers. “Hired and trained assassin, name unknown, in an apartment car park around inter-city London, Docklands. Part of a peace negotiation between James Moriarty and my brother, Mycroft Holmes. Grew somewhat out of hand with my own interference, I would specify, but I’m sure it’s all very classified. Essentially he attacked me and I found a way to escape alone. For this reason I couldn’t tell you the gargoyle or our terrorist’s current whereabouts. But don’t worry your pretty little heads on it, MI6 will be on his tracks.”
“Holy shit,” Sally says. “Moriarty? We need to get you on witness protection.”
“Pointless. You can’t hide from Moriarty so easily.”
“On goddamned sentiment,” Sally says. “You’re a national treasure now. If news of him getting to you spread there’d be city-wide panic.”
“Great, we’ll have to get Dimmock to contact the secret service about this, then. That’ll be a nightmare and a half,” Anderson says. No need, Mycroft already knows, but go ahead if you feel like it Sherlock thinks giddily. “So why don’t you tell us what you were actually doing while this heart conveniently relocated itself from your refrigerator to your bedspread. Since you seem to be avoiding that and all.”
“Not avoiding, merely prioritizing. On the day of the crime, which must have been recently, I would have been resting ill at the hospital, recovering from given complications of strangulation.”
“Your records say you made several escape attempts. How do we know you just didn’t kill a person and return then?” Anderson accuses.
“And how do we know the sky is blue? Because that’s an idiot hypothesis, Anderson!” Sherlock says frustratedly.
“Sounds like a confession to me,” says Anderson in a low voice.
“Oh, because a weak, overmedicated detective wearing a hospital gown watched by security cameras is just going to pick the most self-incriminating time frame to undertake a strenuous murder without any foresight and leave the victim’s heart in his own bedroom so he can be present for a crime he won’t be permitted to solve anyway? How thrillingly plausible.”
“Yeah, maybe you were trying for the element of surprise.”
“Inspector Anderson, let it go,” Sally says. “Innocent until proven guilty, for however much that’s worth. Come on, let’s get back to the evidence. Freak, you stay out of this.”
Sherlock is certainly not staying out of it as much as he is definitely not going to get any bed rest any time soon. He sighs as they exit the room. First he has something to do.
The phone rings eight times before she picks up. “Umm, morgue attendant Molly Hooper?”
“Molly why are you answering like that, you’re not a receptionist or frequently on call.” The answer is self-dictating, but nevertheless blockheaded.
“Oh, Sherlock!” she says, forgetting to speak quietly. “Sorry, my boss is in the room right now. How are you feeling? Did you get my card?”
“No time for small talk right now, Molly, there’s case work to be done. And no, I won’t call you back, that’s not a viable option in this situation. You requested me to fill you in if something came up and I’m simply appeasing the potential for conflict in refraction given the risk potential you have previously exerted.”
“You’re still sounding a bit gruff,” she notices, phone clacking as she most probably readjusts the phone against her ear. Apologetic, guilty, willing to risk her job with the scope of it. Cautious. “Do you want me to send you some soothers?”
“Just— trust it that Mrs Hudson has enough of a supply to hold. Look, Molly, there’s been a murder, and someone’s left a human heart in my room.”
“Oh god,” Molly says. “I swear I haven’t left St Barts all day.”
“Well, obviously, you haven’t the temerity,” Sherlock states. “The police are here right now, and I’ve just been interrogated. All in a day’s work, naturally. However inadvertently, our prime suspect is Jim.”
“Why would he do that?” asks Molly despondently, and Sherlock opts to remain silent. “The police—they’re not arresting you again--”
“No, no,” Sherlock interrupts. “Not after Reichenbach, they won’t be so forward as to assume. They should be thankful I’m not an actual murderer for that.” Sherlock cuts himself off, suddenly self-aware and horrified. He hasn’t told Molly.
“Yes.” Molly giggles nervously, unbeknownst. “What do you think he’s doing?”
“I think it’s a warning,” Sherlock says, and swallows. “And a reminder.”
“A reminder?” She sounds completely mystified. “Of what?”
Of what he can do, of what I promised him, of who we are. Sherlock doesn’t know how he could let himself forget. He’s slipping. “Nothing. Leave it.”
Sherlock doesn’t reply.
“Sherlock, you have to talk about it with someone. I understand if that’s not to me, but there’s always your brother, or a help line, or John—“
“Not John,” Sherlock says. “Don’t talk about him, please.”
“Okay. But Sherlock, where is he? Why hasn’t he come back yet?”
Sherlock considers saying nothing. It will worry her more. He’ll feel better for it, but he will be punishing her all over again.
“He’s in Afghanistan,” says Sherlock. “I think he’s dead. He’s dead and they’re afraid to tell me about it. Because they think I’ll snap and hurt someone. He hasn’t replied to my emails in a long time.”
“Oh Sherlock,” Molly says morosely. “Sherlock, I’m so sorry. Not just for this, I’m sorry about leaving you, I didn’t mean to it’s just you scared me and I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t think you were actually going to die, you’re too good at hiding it and I was so afraid for you anyway. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I really thought you were going to—just, I’m so sorry about everything that’s happened to you all your life because I think you’re a good man and people don’t understand you is all. Because you’re a bit different. But you’re so much stronger than anyone I know.”
Sherlock doesn’t know what to say to that. Sherlock doesn’t feel strong. He thinks he should thank her but his hand is already shaking and his lungs are crying from holding his breath and if he tries to acknowledge that speech head on he is going to break down and rip the walls from the roofs.
“You thought I was going to kill myself,” Sherlock says. “I’m sorry too. I’m sorry I did that to you.”
“Don’t be,” Molly says. She is crying but trying not to let him hear it. “You should be very, very proud, Sherlock.”
He hangs up the phone after that and puts his head against the wall. Molly is proud of him. Molly is proud. Conversations with her lately seem to do nothing but whip up thick emotions, of his shame after Reichenbach, and his sorrow for placing duty over John and the days he took her for granted. He took them all for granted.
He feels like he has been waiting for their validification all his life and again, but it’s so much different to receive it and know it’s not true.
Sherlock’s phone beeps with a text and he starts. He opens his inbox and puts his phone down.
Have you ever cried with happiness? Jim asks.
Undisclosed number. Sherlock types out an unselfconscious Is that a threat?
Never, writes Jim. Sherlock snorts.
A second later:
The heart belongs to The Woman. You can tell the police to find the rest of her strung from the London Eye. Sherlock: You. Are. MINE.
“Sally!” Sherlock bellows, taking the stairs by three. All the officers in the flat turn to look at him. “We’ve found the victim’s identity. And her corpse.”
“Where,” Sally says immediately.
“The London Eye. It’s him.”
“Alright just, calm down and tell us how you kn—“
“Text. Read it.” Sherlock shoves his phone at her hands. “Allusion to her amorous nature, but so much grander than that. What did The Woman do? She won. She beat me and for those first few seconds before I regained control of the phone I was hers. Of course, Moriarty wanted her to fail so he could be assured I was a competent intellectual rival. But why wait so long to kill her? Lulling me into a false sense of security, and no, refraining from speaking of himself indirectly. But why would he set her against me armed with information on my sex life knowing she was the way she was if he wanted her to refrain? Had he wanted me impervious against her seductions or to steal me off of her? Were Irene’s come ons a manifestation of his inappropriate repressed urges?” Sherlock stops; in his command he is blatantly theorizing.
There is dead silence. “What the hell is he talking about?” Anderson asks.
“What are you still doing here? A woman is lying dead!” Sherlock shouts.
“Freak, just settle down a moment. I think you need to explain the nature of your relationship with this… monster.”
Sally looks over to her commanding officer as if to request privacy. “Right!” the sergeant booms. “You heard the man, everyone out.”
Sherlock attempts to shove past Sally. “Oi!” she yelps. “You want a taste of my taser?”
“Don’t kid yourself, this is an important crime, as in could prevent another global terrorist attack which you seemed quite keen on me investigating last time Donovan, so unless you want the whole of London blown up due to your wrong thinking, let, me, through.”
“Freak,” she says. “You’re in no fit state to go around poking into other people’s business. Emotionally or physically. Don’t think I can’t see your fingertips trembling or hear that bloody rasp in your voice. The last time you chased Moriarty you were nearly strangled to death, or do you think I can’t remember?”
“All the more reason to go after him now,” Sherlock says darkly.
“All the less! There’s a reason we don’t let cops work on cases that involve them and that reason is they’re vulnerable to manipulation by their enemies. They don’t make objective decisions and they’re a risk to everyone else on the team. You can’t work alone on this, freak, and I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”
“I always make objective decisions,” Sherlock growls. “My reasoning is utterly sound. It has never been less than.”
“Then what about Moriarty, huh? You think he’s going to be unaffected by the fact it’s you that’s working to undo him? When apparently, you’re ‘his’. I don’t know how many levels of sick fucked up that is, what the hell is going with you two?”
“That’s between us.”
“Well it stopped being between you the minute he killed someone. Now he’s even more deadly, tell me, why the fuck would you do something so stupid?”
No. If there’s anything Sherlock is, it’s not stupid. He has to get to Irene. He never said goodbye.
Sherlock kicks Sally’s legs out from under her feet and uses her momentary instability to rip the taser from her hands. Sally shrieks as fifty thousand volts surge through her body through her extended arm. She drops to a curled ball on the ground and Sherlock is on his feet flying down the stairs past Mrs Hudson who nervously peeks out into the hallway for officers.
His phone trills and Sherlock stops. It’s a trap, Mycroft sends him immediately. Sherlock sneers and considers throwing the phone against the pavement.
A cab pulls over just as he looks up. “Jubilee Gardens,” Sherlock demands, slamming the passenger door behind him.
“Watch it!” yells the cabbie. Sherlock levels a glare at him.
It’s only three miles to the crime scene from Baker Street and the cabbie gripes about how Sherlock could catch a bus if he wanted there’s the 243 every half an hour and the extent Sherlock can’t concentrate on his theories he’s considering homicide himself.
“Fare,” the cabbie demands as Sherlock makes to leave and Sherlock snarls at his empty wallet, throwing Mycroft’s card and dashing out the car.
“Oi!” Sherlock hears in rebuke distantly but he’s already tearing across the park to make way to the Eye, still spinning, which has been marked off in yellow police tape. A thin crowd of riders huddle aside the Thames, horrified and speechless.
Sherlock almost doesn’t see the body suspended seventy metres in the air at the centre of the hundred and thirty five foot wonder, dangled by the centre spoke at her chest, slumped forward limp and lifeless. Dead. Sherlock vaguely hears the official state car pull up beside them and Kate keening as she spots her lover.
He’s bowled over by an onslaught of forgotten childhood memories.
He was five, and father was on a business trip. Mummy hadn’t wanted them to come but she’d desired to see an acquaintance and their sitter hadn’t been available. They were supposed to be readying for a fancy dinner, and Mummy dressed Sherlock up in an uncomfortable fake bowtie and a miniature suit. She told Mycroft to watch over Sherlock and wait outside, while she booked lunch at County Hall. They were nursing their violins for a duet later.
Sherlock used to dread public duets with Mycroft. Mycroft was so bossy and he took all the best parts. Sherlock dearly wanted to get by himself and have an adventure but they weren’t meant to be here for fun.
Mycroft wasn’t watching Sherlock that moment, he was leaning to tie his shoelace that Sherlock had knotted and frayed that morning with a fine tooth comb. A heavy gust of wind blew knocking them out of his fingertips and Sherlock took his chance to escape, and he ran down the riverside, sweeping his hands across the murky river wall. Mycroft darted after him but he’d lost his sight while he was looking down and Sherlock laughed at him through the wind, roaring loud in his ears telling to hurry up about face and Sherlock said okay.
Sherlock ran until his dress shoes pinched his toes and then he shucked them off and giggled to himself as he watched Mycroft running entirely the wrong direction. He hadn’t seen Sherlock turn. The grass was fresh and green and Sherlock threw down his violin and rolled in it, admiring the soft, damp whisper of it against his cheek. No one was looking, and the sky was white clouds and rolling together like drifting country hills. Sherlock was so happy. Now he could do whatever he wanted.
Sherlock climbed a really big tree, an oak one, and jumped on top of a park bench clinging with his bare feet. He tightrope walked its edge and chased across the grass with and swung around a flag pole like he wasn’t allowed until he got dizzy and fell over with giddiness.
Sherlock took his violin out and started playing the way he liked, fast and free with all the glittery high notes sifting together and bouncing up and down.
People started watching him, but they weren’t eyeing him meanly as usual. They were smiling at him and cheering him on and calling him wonderful. A big girl, probably teenager came up and put twenty dollars in Sherlock’s hat and they threw coins at his feet like he was a pretty wishing well. It wasn’t like normal when they were repulsed by him. They were telling him he was a prodigy, and gifted and smart like it wasn’t a responsibility, like it was wonderful. Two kids by the river gasped and started clapping along and someone was dancing and Sherlock was spinning in circles again and experimenting with his bow technique. The children’s mother came over when Sherlock finished, and he showed her how to glide the E string, then she laughed and ruffled his hair when all she could manage was a squawk. Sherlock waved them goodbye.
Then Sherlock had gasped. Now he had money he could go on the London Eye. Sherlock remembers that exact phrasing, the way he built it up, as if it were a monument to bow down to.
He bought ice cream from the cafe nearby and the lady gave him an extra scoop and told him he had a lovely smile. Sherlock had never been on an amusement ride before and he was shivering with excitement. He sneaked into an empty carriage by himself because the worker wouldn’t let him on otherwise and gasped as the carriage guided them up over the Thames to see the London Bridge and all the houses lit soft at twilight. Sherlock laughed as the long, wide notes of Tchaikovsky sang through his violin and echoed through the stifling carriage, blasting melody in a sweet breath over the darkness like a swan on the river. Swan Lake was his absolute favourite, and they told him he could never play it, but now he was.
It was the first and only time Sherlock ever cried with happiness.
Sherlock stares over the long, flat, river, motionless.
Trill. Like the flutter of one note on another, like feathery swan wings. You still need to talk to someone, Molly writes.
The London Eye, weeping blood red.
Warnings for a lot of Holmescest and explicit dub-con/non-con declarations in this chapter.
Also the fact it's a trainwreck.
Meet me, Sherlock demands, head swaying with thought, I have to see you right now.
Do you? Jim replies, and Sherlock frowns, finger hovering over the touch screen. He sees Irene impaled on sharp white spike, the whisper of her skin tight evening dress struck by the breeze, her mouth stretched agape and eyes bulged as the wind strips her naked. Still watches her. The trickle of blood between the ruptured weave of her stomach would feel simultaneously sensuous and revolting, the way she slumps at vulnerable contrast with her confident good posture in life.
Sherlock can’t help but feel struck, at the loss of her intelligence and warranted pride, her extraordinary beauty that women paint amok in the glossy photo shopped magazines and their cheap canvas faces, her cruelty of pretence shouted in the names of allegiance and the class ambition. He can remember the way he saved her life and how she smiled in gracious liberation. It all feels so pointless, that she was born and will never live again, to prove a point and reset a tenuous equilibrium between jests and merciless naysayers. A waste. That a million more people live on in her wake, that she dies in a front of debased shame rather than that of warranted recognition. She is a human who could reshape a universe, who will be remembered for her scandal instead of her marvel.
Sherlock reaches back, he tries to remember the last thing she said to him, and he to her, that night in Karachi. “When I say run, run.” She never said anything. Only the prior text of goodbye, and that was the last he ever heard of The Woman.
No. Sherlock thinks again, there has to be something else gone between them, he would have remembered parting on such short terms. Beyond the conversation in text, that day with Mycroft, she’d looked into his eyes and begged him to save her. I wouldn’t last six months, that gasping, disbelieving, lilt, as if she herself was as sure she’d succeed and surprised by it as him. And what had he said? I’m sorry about dinner. Always so mocking, snaring her in, even as she genuinely entreated him. He never even said goodbye to her, never thought to. Never thought he would allow this to pass by him. Sherlock is somewhat baffled by the hard shape of her body so high up. He always supposed she would have escaped on her own accord given time, and wonders that someone so larger than life might have eluded it.
Her distended, unfocused eyes are lowered, as if she can’t bear to look at him either. He can imagine them staring accusingly forward the moment before she passed. She would have been able to deduce that it was he who the crime was committed for and what her fatal mistake had been. Wondered why he didn’t save her.
He should have said goodbye. He should have hung on.
Sherlock swallows and covers his eyes. He doesn’t want to think about having to identify her corpse again. How did Jim know? How did he know this would get to him. He feels selfish for it, he wishes he wouldn’t make this about himself, and how he feels, as if he could think her hard enough back into being.
You meant something, Sherlock promises her, brow furrowed. I swear it.
Jim can’t abide his silence and Sherlock clicks the message space before it actually appears. Look up.
Sherlock doesn’t want to tear his eyes back up there for all the image is locked in his head. But that’s not what Jim means, or at least primarily.
Jim is standing in front of him in a threadbare hoodie, over washed, early 90’s style cut, but not worn frequently enough during that time to be ruined or unravelled-- even the back tag washed blank, drained soft and colourless; from childhood, initially an overfit, for cold days, a safety blanket or art shirt, something Jim avoided. No undershirt. He has his hands in his pockets (shorts, like a boy, too cold for today’s weather, obviously a nod to Sherlock’s early memories here), and his hair is recently washed and combed, left unparted, he’s stood barefoot in the grass. Water must be dripping down his neck, it must be cold.
“Here,” Sherlock murmurs, unwinding his scarf to wrap it around Jim’s neck. “You’ll get sick.”
“Thanks, doll,” Jim says, a laugh in his voice, and his gaze flicks to Sherlock’s bare bruises. “Coming along nicely.”
“Certainly you already supposed.” You could probably pre-visualise their exact colourations if you wanted.
“Yeah, well. Let’s pretend I didn’t for a bit.” Jim grins, and with the mischievous flick of his eyes does a double take. “Whatever the hell happened? My god, my dear.”
Sherlock is shocked into laughing. “I didn’t text to meet to play fake with you.”
“We don’t have much time,” Jim returns seriously.
“What?” Sherlock breathes.
“There are police all around. They may not recognize me, but your brother ought to when he arrives in three quarter minutes.”
Oh. Sherlock doesn’t want to admit how much that scared them though doubtless Jim has already inferred it. Sherlock still feels that anxious itching around his heart at Jim’s intended double meaning. We don’t have much time.
“How did you know about the Eye?” Sherlock demands, taking Jim’s hand, examining it finger by finger. Jim lets him.
“Mycroft never told. I did some research of my own, after you found out about little Carl Powers. About a boy that never left his manor house and spent every day in the garden, baiting birds to analyse with his microscope. He hated everyone else almost as much as he loathed the fact they weren’t dead. Come on, don’t flinch now Sherlock. I had to do something to tick away the years.”
Sherlock isn’t sure how to say he’s honoured as well as sad for it, that Jim was as bored as him. He wishes he’d known that Jim wasn’t far away, that he wasn’t so alone for so long with no one to appreciate him.
“I’m going to kill Moran,” Sherlock says, folding his arms around his chest. “For what he did to her. You do realize.”
“Sherlock…” says Jim, smoothing the curls out of his eyes. “I can’t let you. I put you in this situation, but you don’t want to hurt people and enjoy it. You know that isn’t what I meant to say.”
“She’s dead,” Sherlock says. He wishes he hadn’t been so stupid. If he just acted like he was Jim’s Jim wouldn’t have felt the urge to use Irene as an example. It’s my fault as much as yours. If I’d never flirted with her, bragged of how impassive I could be…
“Don’t think about it. Tell me how you knew it was Sebastian who made the assassination.”
Sherlock takes a deep breath out. The thoughts come to him. “You wouldn’t have used any machinery because it would be loud, indiscreet. He must have been quite fit to haul that dead weight up to the centre spoke. No sane person would willingly assist with a murder where the body is hidden in plain sight—a professional, then. A good professional, considering who the target is. Where does a would-be assassin go for intensive physical training? The Army. Interesting location, the London eye, especially considering the RAMF doesn’t take on the colourblind, a common defect in young men. But if they didn’t take him on he wouldn’t be trained, so he did apply, but kept his defect secret. So, this man was involuntarily discharged from the armed forces because of an escalation involving substandard vision, and you, dear Jim, took him on. You arranged this particular murder partially to remind him of his place, and Irene to show him of your power, because lately your organisation has been yielding to shut down procedures from activists who believe you behind the London plane bombing, and rightly so.”
“Oh, do they?” asks Jim, perfectly innocent.
“Essentially Blind Minion is getting uncomfortable with daddy gone away, there’s a whisper here and there in the ranks, of Jim sleeping with the enemy, attempting suicide, of madness entirely unmethodical. This ex-soldier is worth the reprimand message rather than just a death sentence, therefore, they are highly competent and ranked, therefore, inner circle. Except, not known long enough to second-guess usurping you. Trawl the Army archives for a crack soldier recently left for reasons witheld, 2010, Sebastian Moran. A friend?”
“You called me dear,” Jim says.
“Yes, well,” echoes Sherlock.
Jim smiles. “Why else did I choose the eye?”
“The eye; a symbol for the all-seeing. You’re watching me, and you’re watching Mycroft, as the government, because Adler was one of his responsibilities, sleeping with the princess holding the safety of the crown. So you’re watching London, but you wouldn’t watch it for no reason. You’re waiting for it to attack you.”
Sherlock stares down Jim, waiting for his expression to give. It doesn’t.
Jim rolls his shoulders. “Oh, so I am. Have fun working on that,” he says.
Sherlock could scream in frustration. He verbalizes a rough growl which hurts his throat instead. “I’ve risked so much for you, but you have given me nothing.”
Jim’s face darkens, and he flicks his watch so Sherlock can catch the time. Three minutes gone. Jim locks his eyes to Sherlock. “It’s the game. But you need to be careful around your big brother, honey pie. He’s going to try to turn you against me.”
At that, Jim carefully pries his beautiful hand from Sherlock’s, eyes downcast. Sirens scream as Jim turns towards the Eye, the officers. As the black car pulls against the curb and professional eyes latch on Jim, who strides more carefully, more resolutely. They’re going to shoot.
Jim stops at the edge of the river, and Sherlock sees what he’s about to do as he steps up onto the stone ledge.
Jim falls forward into the Thames, arms outstretched. Bullets fly across from behind them. Anthea steps from the car and a black suit tackles Sherlock to the ground. Sherlock’s lungs cry out and he scrambles from out from under the weight of the man and his vision blurs with pain and he gasps into the grass which is the colour of avocados. He feels the click of handcuffs behind his back.
“No!” Sherlock shouts. He doesn’t know anything. Mycroft is still in the car, staring at the spot where Jim just fell. The suit man lugs Sherlock into the car even as he dislocates his shoulder to get the cuffs in front of him.
Sherlock glares as fiercly as Mycroft as he is able, taking in the umbrella between his legs and his lack of noticeable weight gain or loss. Anthea takes the driver’s place, her pointed heel sliding behind the clutch. “Just in time for my late death,” Sherlock spits. “Just like last time.”
Anthea scowls at him through the rear view mirror and Sherlock offers her a sickly smile until she looks away.
“I’d always wondered,” Mycroft says, and swivels right to look at him. They turn off the road that leads them away from Sherlock’s flat and likewise the police station.
“We’re not going to your home office,” Sherlock sneers.
“This morning alone, you have assaulted a police officer and negotiated with a known terrorist. You’re not exactly in the position to make demands, Sherlock.”
Sherlock says nothing, weighing up his ability to manoeuvre his door open with his feet and throw himself out into the traffic. Anthea tuts and clicks on child lock.
“Whatever are we going to do with you?” asks Mycroft.
“Take me to your flat and stuff me with tea and reprimands, I assume.”
Mycroft stays quiet, tiny movements revealing his silent conversation with Anthea in the front. The ensuing silence is stifling, uncomfortable. Mycroft steamrolls right over it.
“Did Jim give you any time to deduce the location of Miss Adler’s body, Sherlock?” Mycroft isn’t looking at him, but Anthea is readjusting his schedule on her phone.
“If you’re going to say something about how I shouldn’t let him distract me you should know I was working with minimum evidence and dealing with suspect procedures which--”
“No,” interrupts Mycroft. “He didn’t give you any time. He was watching you, and decided to intervene just at the moment you began to seriously undertake the case. Now why would Jim do that, Sherlock?”
“To circumvent me,” Sherlock grits. “Obviously.”
“Think less simple, if you please. Jim loves to hear your methods, or he did. If I recall correctly he requested you to explain about the computer code. So why did he refrain when given another opportunity?”
“No I’m not a criminal homicidal manic overlord and I don’t reason as one, why do you ask?” Sherlock could mention Jim’s actual question, but that would give Mycroft something to work with.
“James Moriarty has seen an awful vulnerable side of you recently, sick and crying and making love. You failed the death ultimatum he offered you and fled from two out of four encounters. He bested you on the rooftop and on January the 29th. It doesn’t take a genius to see he’s losing all respect for you.”
Mycroft pauses, readjusting his cufflink, as if nervous. Concerned. It’s disgusting. “He also saw you cry,” says Sherlock fliply.
Mycroft speaks over him. “He calls you his. He kills one of your only friends. And not three weeks ago, you consented to his ownership. There’s no challenge left for him. You’re not a problem to Jim anymore.”
“By that logic, then neither are you.”
“You don’t understand, Sherlock. You need to be a challenge to him. England needs someone who can stand up to Jim Moriarty, and won’t allow him to grow bored. Do you know what happens when Jim gets bored, my brother? He kills people. He kills people and he tries to kill himself, and this was Jim being bored today, and if you don’t gain some scope in his eyes soon, he’ll kill more of the people you care about, until he gets tired of just playing.”
“Well what am I supposed to do about that?” says Sherlock frustratedly. “What do you expect me to do? Stand up and recite a thousand digits of pi? Genius takes time.”
“It seems simple enough to me. He thinks you are his, so all you have to do is show him you aren’t.”
Sherlock swallows. He’s keenly aware Mycroft and his call girl are staring at him. “I’m not—I won’t upset Jim, and you can’t make me hurt him.”
“Naturally. But as Jim no longer cares for you, what I am suggesting shouldn’t bother him at all personally.” Mycroft pauses. “Sleep with me.”
Sherlock feels his stomach churning. “No,” he says.
Mycroft’s eyes darken. “Do you not care about Irene, then? Jim did kill her, and here you are frolicking away with her devil hand in hand.”
“Moran killed her. You’re being ridiculous. Stop it,” Sherlock demands.
“Jim ordered her death and I am being realistic. I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe, and if it means dispelling you of these stupid romanticist notions than I shall see to that as well.”
“What would mummy say?” Sherlock mocks. “We’re family, this is—“
“Family sleeps with family. Wives sleep with husbands.”
Sherlock’s gaze flicks to Anthea. Humiliation roars in Sherlock’s stomach, but she might as well not even be in the car for all her protest. “Are you even hearing him?”
“Jim is not as wonderful as you make him out to be. Jim is a killer, he isn’t human the way you are. He watched Miss Adler die and laughed, did you know?”
Sherlock says, “he said you’d try to do this. Turn me against him.”
“He could have stopped me,” Mycroft says. “But he didn’t. Now tell me, what does that say about his soul?”
Sherlock feels ill. He considers saying stop the car but he knows Anthea wouldn’t listen anyway. His eyes catch the pavement and he realizes they have arrived at the flat. They roll to a smooth stop and Mycroft steps outside the car door and Sherlock lays back against the plush leather and closes his eyes.
Mycroft is right. Jim never cared about him, that was the whole problem. Jim only ever wanted it to be a game, a joke between intellectuals about the baser instincts of a societal flock of sheep but Sherlock twisted it into something else. And Jim laughed and he played along and said no one else can ever have you and you are mine, which never meant what Sherlock wanted them to mean. Jim only wants him as a game, as some ground mark to beat and impress, he doesn’t love Sherlock. Jim doesn’t love anyone. Sherlock may not be a high-functioning sociopath but Jim is definitely a psychopath.
Sherlock tries not to think about Jim’s soft hand with his small, light fingernails, and his precious pudgy fingers, the curve of his palm. The way Jim smiled at him in surprise.
Sherlock struggles back as the car door opens and Mycroft reaches for him, laying a hand against Sherlock’s neck as they stumble out of the car. Sherlock opens his mouth to scream for help and Mycroft presses the heel of his hand against Sherlock’s throat, antagonising his bruises and sending Sherlock through a world of pain. Anthea takes his other shoulder and Sherlock can’t run.
There is no one in the lobby, or in the minimalist glass elevator, and Sherlock knows Mycroft owns every floor of the building. Anthea leaves them at the door. They go to the penthouse, of course, made of polished limestone and towering steel panels. The ceiling is high in the lounge area and low-set by the windows, creating a modern sort of jerkiness which emphasizes the city panorama. Fashionable.
“Mummy would hate this so much,” Sherlock says.
Mycroft rolls his shoulders and flicks a remote, locking the doors. He tucks it in his jacket, effectively removing it from Sherlock’s grasp. “Mummy has a Caspar Friedrich original painted mural on her bedroom ceiling. I think some traditionalism stops applying sooner or later.”
“Says the man who walks around in a three piece suit.” Mycroft glares.
“You don’t want to do this,” says Sherlock, settling beside the window. He raises his fingertips to the glass, leaving fine prints on the clean slate surface. London whizzes about below him, a great cloud of fog and hardship. Sherlock can approximate his flat.
“What I want and what I do are completely separate entities. I believe I’ve always thought much longer-term than you. At least be assured you are breaking no hearts in this physical consummation, I haven’t slept with anyone to speak of in years.”
Noticeable. “Regardless, I do not consent. You can’t force me, and you would prefer not to. But nothing you can say will make me have sex with you against my will. To trump Jim there are other ways, other people. You don’t have to do this.”
“Actually, I do,” says Mycroft. “Will you go out and fuck someone else if I ask you to now? Some anonymous, faceless disease bag? Andserson, Molly? No. You’ll ignore your duty in favour of your personal whims, that’s the way you’ve always been. Especially to spite me. It’ll be easier this way, Sherlock. You can blame me, you can curse me. You don’t have to hate yourself. You won’t need to deal with any romantic complications or the notion of using someone for their body.”
“True,” Sherlock says. “But that doesn’t change the fact I am not attracted to you.”
“Don’t you won’t to be your own person?”
“Stop turning this into some psycho-analytical circus!” Sherlock roars. “No, I will not fuck you, yes I will deal with Jim, and god, that is as much as you’re getting. You toy with me just as much as he does.”
“Sherlock,” Mycroft sighs. He steps close, lays a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, and forces him around. “I am not trying to hurt you. I love and care about you very much. I only mean well.”
“If you just want the best for me, then why did you let John go away? Why didn’t you tell me about Jim when you could have? Why were you never there for me?”
“I’ll tell you,” Mycroft says. “I was worried Jim was going to attack John after the failed plane incident. Jim told me a day previously that he was planning John’s kidnap, but I readjusted John’s financial situation to keep him home that Monday morning, for you. That may have provoked Jim. We knew something was going to happen, but not what, and stationed undercovers on city watch. But we couldn’t have known. Jim was too subtle. I suppose… I always knew Jim was bad news for you, Sherlock. I tried to keep him away from you but you looked so happy to be around him. You never seem to be happy anymore. As for the last, you never seemed to appreciate my company. Or interference, I should say.”
“That’s misdirection,” Sherlock says, but he can feel that underlying uncertainty swimming in his stomach. This is why he hates Mycroft. He somehow has this way of making Sherlock question everything he has ever believed. Ever the politician.
“Jim has promised to return John to you, no doubt?” Sherlock looks away before he thinks better, acquiescing. Damnit. “You know Jim will never take John back from Afghanistan for all his words. It would create a chance of Jim having to compete for you, who he believes he is entitled to. All Jim’s promises are a lie especially crafted to keep you interested in him, his obsession and his distance a façade so he will never truly work for your attention.
“But if you do this, if you truly think you can keep up with Jim, I will bring John back for you. You’d do it for John, won’t you?”
“I think it’s fairly obvious you’ll never catch Moran with Jim hiding him, but if you do manage to defeat Jim in this… And the further you stay away from him, and the less he pays attention to you the better. The consideration of a psychopath is never a good thing. How many times has he made to kill you? What would John think of your relationship? What if John dies out there because you don’t agree to this now, and you could have brought him home, could have saved him? Could have saved him and Molly?”
“Fuck you,” Sherlock whispers. “Fuck you for using them against me. This is rape.”
“This is justice.”
“It’s revenge!” bellows Sherlock. “You’re using me against him because he saw my promise before you did. You always acted too good for me, and now here you are all surprised because I’m not your loyal puppet anymore.”
“You never were. You never let me get that close,” Mycroft says calmly. Sherlock could scoff. He did nothing but follow Mycroft around blindly when he was four and six and Mycroft never gave one damn sign of appreciating it. Mycroft was too embarrassed to be seen with Sherlock the runt. The reject. And Mycroft has the nerve to wonder why Sherlock can’t stand him.
“It’s the only way toy will show him you’re not his, as you have far too many feelings about him to attempt to physically hurt him. Do you think he actually cares about you? He’s a criminal, Sherlock, nothing more. You’re useful to him, like a doll, because you keep him intellectually entertained. He’s playing with you; you and your emotions. But if you keep going the way you are, submissive and contained, he’ll get sick of you, and you’ll be just as boring as anyone else. Then he’ll kill you. That, Sherlock, is rape.”
Sherlock says nothing. He imagines he could burn Mycroft’s face off with the force of his glower, that Mycroft’s face might crumple from it’s arrogant harness into something more real. That actually acknowledges the scope of the situation.
“You must decide,” Mycroft says. “John or Jim. Jim can take care of himself, he’ll be able to deal with the fact you betray him. But John… what if John found out that you could have saved him and didn’t? He mightn’t cope. Tell me, why not? Surely you’re not worried for your own virtue. You did sleep with a dirty, common criminal, after all.”
Sherlock has decided to start ignoring Mycroft. Mycroft isn’t worthy of Sherlock’s attention. Sherlock pushes out of Mycroft’s way and moves towards the white baby grand piano in the dining, trailing his fingers through its dust. Mycroft follows him, of course.
“If you don’t do something about this, I’ll have to tell John that you’ve been sleeping with Jim.”
Mycroft tries again. “Do you trust me, your own brother? Or some strange volatile, alien creature?” Mycroft asks.
“Neither,” Sherlock says merrily, inspecting the instrument’s surface polish.
“Sherlock, I’m not going to make you sleep with me against your will. I’ve told you everything I needed to securely. You can leave right now.” Mycroft places the door remote on the head of the piano. “But what are you going to do? I’ve been searching for months for Moran, fruitlessly.”
Sherlock puts his head in his hands. “What do you have to gain by testing Jim’s wrath?”
“I’m doing this for you,” Mycroft says.
“No,” Sherlock replies. “Why do you have to do this to me? I hadn’t even entertained the notion of cheating on Jim, but now you’ve suggested it, I can’t rule it out. I could’ve left without any difficulty if you hadn’t told me you could save John.”
It’s for the better, isn’t it? If he slept with anyone else, they wouldn’t be able to protect themselves from Jim.
And John will be alive, and safe. That’s more important than anything else. Sherlock tells himself that, even if he’s not sure he can believe it anymore. John was everything to him, once. Sherlock owes John his life even if he can’t permit him his mind.
But here he is, about to give himself to Mycroft, Mycroft who uses people and never genuinely smiles and doesn’t understand who Sherlock is.
“I’m sorry,” Mycroft says. “I thought it might make you feel better to be able to weigh in all possible outcomes. But I won’t pretend this isn’t what I think is the most practical course of action. Maybe I’ll bring John back to you regardless, I don’t know. I couldn’t say.”
“You should be sorry,” says Sherlock, and his hands have lifted the fallboard but refuse to descend on the clean, pearlescent keys. “No, no. I’ll stay.”
Mycroft kisses him on the head. “You are so noble, Sherlock.”
“No,” says Sherlock, hovering piecing out the beginning of moonlight sonata, silent. “Don’t make this mean something.”
“As you wish.”
Sherlock takes his hands from the keys and stands to meet Mycroft. Mycroft looks uncharacteristically nervous. It doesn’t sit well on him, and Sherlock takes pity. “Where do you want to do this?” Sherlock asks.
Mycroft looks like he wants to be over polite and return the question, but he is much too gracious a host to allow for slight. “My room,” he suggests, smiling carefully. Sherlock looks away from the false apology. He can’t perceive the extent to which Mycroft is attracted him, or even if Mycroft sees him sexually at all. If this is only strategically advantageous to him, to intimidate Jim with his swaying power. This is what Jim meant by Ice Man. “My regrets about your bruises. Is your throat feeling any better? Would you like a drink for it? Water?”
“I’m fine,” Sherlock says slightly stiffly, leading Mycroft out of the dining room by the arm. “Let’s just get this done.”
So both of us can go back to normal pretending nothing ever happened. Mycroft looks sympathising, but speaks anyway. “We need to make it convincing, otherwise Jim won’t buy it.”
“Why does Jim need to buy it?” Sherlock asks. “He’ll see through the power play instantly.”
“If he believes it, then he looks less strategically or romantically desirable. He’ll realize he can’t continue to make love to you and plot to kill you. But he wants all of you, I believe, all or nothing. This forces his hand.”
Sherlock thinks back, pressing his hands together in thought. Certainly Jim doesn’t care about him, but Jim said himself Sherlock came the closest. How close is close? The way Jim looks at him, Sherlock can’t entirely discount the potential for Jim to care. But Jim is such an actor, the way he swings from mask to mask, Jim from IT to joking boyfriend to class criminal. The only thing Sherlock can unquestionably confirm about him is that he’s a mass murderer, something he’s been long ignoring. That coldness about him is true.
“Jim has always worked alone,” Mycroft says, as he softly shuts the bedroom door, phrasing cinching. Binding, lasting superlative.
Sherlock sets to the buttons on Mycroft’s jacket, determined not to be seen as afraid. Mycroft doesn’t look directly at Sherlock but leads him to his bed, midnight blue cotton sheets and silky silver pillows. It’s strange to imagine the powerful figure of Mycroft as he is today asleep and vulnerable, red locks splayed in disarray. Sherlock sits at the nape of the bed and concentrates on unlooping Mycroft’s tie, letting it slide into his palm to hang. It feels blasphemous to throw it on the floor like nothing, even if Sherlock isn’t in the position to act charitable, and he folds the tie in three and places it on the nightstand.
They don’t talk. The only sound is their hard breathing in the loud space of the room. Mycroft looks young, underdressed, stripped bare to some strange sort of insides, unfathomable as the frown tugs the edges of his lips, his grey eyes fall downcast. He looks unsure, as he leans in towards Sherlock, waiting, as if he’s not sure if kissing is too personal or a requirement. Everything is too personal.
Sherlock leans in anyway, opening his mouth against Mycroft’s soft lips, settling his fingers on Mycroft’s shoulders. Mycroft pulls away, and Sherlock swallows, hard, at the quiet intensity in his gaze. His heart has leapt up his throat. He remembers Mycroft looking at him like this when he was eight and he fell into a rosebush and needed stitches, as he pried Sherlock from his waist and told him boys didn’t sob.
He’s not sure if he can do this. Sherlock closes his eyes against the thought, against Mycroft, and traces his long scar at the base of his thumb by rote. Mycroft kisses him again, slow, close mouthed, and unbuttons his shirt and unfastens his belt buckle. His lips are cold. Sherlock’s shirt hangs loosely from his shoulders then, and he pulls it back against himself.
“Calm down,” Mycroft whispers. He takes both of Sherlock’s hands in his and removes them from his chest. Sherlock’s fingers are trembling, and Mycroft squeezes them tight.
Then Mycroft presses Sherlock’s hand against his erection and holds it there and Sherlock starts chanting no no no and Mycroft kisses him, unstoppable and determined, a massive force. Sherlock takes it, and Mycroft throws Sherlock down on the bed and Sherlock rakes his nails against Mycroft’s face and backs against the pillow.
“Breathe,” Mycroft says, raising his palms. Unrumpled as ever and shirtless. Sherlock hates him. Sherlock hates him more than ever and he tackles Mycroft and pins him against the bed and stares into his eyes demandingly.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Sherlock growls, and of course he’s getting hard, because Mycroft’s looking at him like that again, like he knows all the secrets in the world and won’t tell anyone.
Mycroft puts his mouth against Sherlock’s neck, he tongues the darkest bruises and his hand finds Sherlock’s chest and clamps against his heart. Sherlock can feel it racing, and Mycroft laughs then pinches Sherlock’s nipple and sucks Sherlock’s tongue to the feel of the beat.
Sherlock’s fallen on Mycroft and he moans in sudden surprise at the press of heat against his stomach and Mycroft flips them and wedges a leg between Sherlock’s thighs and trails his lips up Sherlock’s face.
Mycroft is so much taller than Jim, he’s all long forms and bones, and he traps Sherlock against the blanket and breathes into his mouth. He smells like cologne and fresh sweat, Clive Christian something, either C or number four Sherlock can’t remember but it reminds him of when Mycroft was just a teenager and about to leave for Eton and Sherlock would climb on Mycroft’s lap and ask him for bedtime stories.
“Too much,” Sherlock gasps, and Mycroft lets him go and lets him sit back to catch his breath. He wheezes slightly, clutching his ribs. His lungs ache from the sudden pressure and fastness of breathing and his cock hurts from his not touching it and it all somehow converts into a good sort of feeling except he wishes he weren’t hard, he’s disgusted he could grow aroused from the touch of his brother. His pants feel too tight. He’s too warm.
Mycroft’s looking at him, Sherlock can feel it, and his cheeks are hot and flushed and his eyes are lidded and dark. Sherlock tries to think of something disgusting, of corpses and maggots, but he just remembers how Jim strapped bombs his victims, the explosion at Baskervilles, grand and beautiful and ferocious.
Mycroft leans closer, until his stare is all consuming and Sherlock has to push him back and Mycroft looks hurt, fuck, and Sherlock kisses the space on his heart. Mycroft’s hand is at his flies and he strokes Sherlock’s cock, light and careful and Sherlock feels like he’s fifteen again, touching himself for the first time, embarrassed and fascinated. “Suck my cock,” he breathes, and Sherlock startles back, knocking Mycroft’s hand away.
“Scared?” Mycroft asks, misreading or taunting and it’s not the apology Sherlock thought he’d react with.
Sherlock bites his lip. He’s never blown anyone before. It would be different if it was Jim. Not personal. It wasn’t about the sex with Jim. But he’s doing this for Molly, and Irene.
“No,” Sherlock says, because he has to, and so Mycroft guides him down by his shoulders. Suck my cock. It feels patronizing, but not as such as it if would have been if Mycroft pushed his head down and Sherlock stares at the swollen head and runs his sweating palms down his pants and cups his cock at the base. No teeth. Clinical, nothing in it. “It’s okay to be scared,” Mycroft says, and Sherlock wraps his lips around Mycroft’s cock and tongues the slit, tastes his sharp, salty pre-come and runs his fingers up and down Mycroft’s thighs. Sherlock takes more of Mycroft in his mouth, swallowing against Mycroft’s cock reflexively, and Mycroft shudders. “Don’t stop,” he says. Sherlock runs up and down his cock, feeling it hit the back of his mouth and curl stiffen against the curl of his tongue. Mycroft hums, stroking Sherlock’s hair.
Sherlock slides off him for breath, but feels suddenly too shy to touch Mycroft’s cock with his own fingers. He’s not sure he wants to, though he’s so hard he’s craving friction, he could wank himself off as he sucked Mycroft’s cock and probably come from the feeling against his lips alone.
Sherlock blows on Mycroft’s cock lightly instead and Mycroft gasps in shock. Sherlock meets his eyes; arousal. Sherlock alternates between licking Mycroft’s cock wet and blowing it dry before he finally gets fed up with how slow Mycroft is being and how fucking erotic he’s looking and Sherlock doesn’t want him to look and Sherlock takes as much of Mycroft’s cock in his mouth as he can and sucks hard.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft gasps, and the tight grip on Sherlock’s hair slips for a second and he fucks Sherlock’s mouth with his cock down his throat and Sherlock can’t breathe his eyes are watering his throat is hurting and for a moment he does feel afraid, that he can’t stop anything or wrench Mycroft out of his mouth and say no.
Then Mycroft regains control and slips out of Sherlock’s mouth, and Sherlock wishes he did take the water. Another cough gurgles up his throat despite himself, and Mycroft strokes his hair like he never did, Mycroft never touched Sherlock like this and it feels wrong, because no one touches him and Sherlock doesn’t touch anyone. He’s too far away from people to be something like touching.
Sherlock’s wilted some, and Mycroft eyes his lips (red, swollen) and meets his eyes. Mycroft looks dangerous and menacing even without the shirt, and for all his fast breathing and warm skin, his eyes are dead.
“I am going to make love to you,” Mycroft says, sitting back on his heels. “Once I return with the lubricant.”
Sherlock curls in on himself once Mycroft goes, and breathes fast and deep through his nose because his mouth is closed because his lungs hurt. He remains entirely still, staring around the room. It’s sparsely furnished and decorated, more like a hotel room than a bedroom. He wants to get out. Sherlock stands and approaches the wall mirror, and catalogues his flyaway hair and tense posture. His eyes are downturned, direct. He needs a haircut. He imagines Mycroft’s share of his own genetics in there, that he might see himself and be looking at Mycroft. Sherlock can’t stand the sight of himself or the thought of his own self-pity and turns from the mirror, pacing. Mycroft will return in mere minutes.
Sherlock flattens his hair into some semblance of order, and against his better thoughts, unlocks his phone to scroll through. There are the short texts from Jim and the long rambles from Molly and the ones he hasn’t deleted from John and Lestrade and Sherlock goes into his pictures, searching for something to align himself with.
There. He’s dangled off the rooftop and he looks frightened and surprised, but alive. Excited, bursting with energy and expectation. So much more open, secure in blatant exposure. Jim makes him happy. Jim isn’t thinking about real things and sad things but being wild together and flirting with death. Having fun. For all his attempts, Sherlock never managed to have much fun as a child. He made his own, but it was always so much more flat and forced compared to the unexpected vibrancy of sharing something else with someone.
Mycroft returns in his underwear, and Sherlock doesn’t pocket his phone in time. “Show me,” Mycroft says, extending a hand and Sherlock winces and deletes the picture. Sherlock hands over instead an innocuous photo of Bluebell the rabbit. Mycroft, of course, is not convinced. “Do you ever stop thinking about him?” he inquires.
“Do you ever not state the obvious?” Sherlock replies. Mycroft pulls a face and Sherlock tries not to smile in smug pleasure, but Mycroft catches it and draws closer near.
“Strip,” he demands, in his coldest, most unfeeling voice.
“John,” Mycroft reminds him. Sherlock glowers, infuriated his brother has such simple control over him. Sherlock scathingly pulls off his short and drops it in a crumpled heap and kicks off his shoes and throws his socks in different directions, one being Mycroft’s face. “Will you just grow up?” Mycroft demands, suddenly thirteen again, and Sherlock smirks and Mycroft pulls his most horrible sneer.
“I do love playing games with you,” Sherlock says as he kicks off his shoes and he freezes because of course he has to mention love right now and Sherlock looks up to Mycroft for help and Mycroft takes him in his arms and tells him it’s going to be okay.
“Shh,” Mycroft says as Sherlock tries not to shake uncontrollably. “I’ve got you. It’s alright, Sherlock.”
Sherlock is torn between clinging to Mycroft in a death grip and pushing him to the other side of the solar system and back, but manages to disentangle himself without incident. “You were going to fuck me,” Sherlock says, taking a deep breath.
Mycroft drops another kiss on Sherlock’s forehead – stop it – and slicks his cock, hand stroking it back up to hardness. He makes an exotic picture and Sherlock slyly readjusts his cock as he slips out of his pants. Sherlock places a hand on Mycroft’s hipbone, feeling the hard just against his wrist and Mycroft mouths kisses down Sherlock’s jaw and pulls down his underwear.
Sherlock looks away, ashamed and repulsed by himself, and Mycroft finds his mouth and kisses him mock-earnestly until Sherlock turns his head away. The air between them is thick and heavy, too much at once to breath in.
Mycroft rolls the foreskin over Sherlock’s cock, torturously, painstakingly slow and Sherlock grabs Mycroft’s head back and kisses him as firm as he can until Mycroft gets the hint and pumps him faster, and Sherlock scrapes the edge of Mycroft’s mouth with his teeth in his frantic thrust back.
Sherlock turns on his back on a pillow and Mycroft straddles him, running his fingers through Sherlock’s hair.
Mycroft smears Sherlock with the gunk then, grinding his knuckles into the knots in Sherlock’s shoulders and skimming his hands up Sherlock’s shoulders to kiss the nape of Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock takes one of his long fingers into his mouth and watches as Mycroft’s eyes flitter closed.
Mycroft eases one slick finger into Sherlock, pressing forward and ignoring Sherlock’s sigh. “How,” Mycroft begins, how does this feel and Sherlock rocks back into him, hissing through the burn. Obviously hasn’t heard the no talking during a circle fuck rule. Sherlock feels full, stretched, and Mycroft’s cock hasn’t even gone in him yet. Mycroft slips his finger in and out in a gentle test of Sherlock’s resistance and then slides in his second finger, scissoring them inside of Sherlock and spreading him out wide. Sherlock’s breath hitches.
“You’re doing so well,” Mycroft murmurs, and he leans forward flat against Sherlock so Sherlock can feel his weight on his back, just the two of them sandwiched together and Sherlock’s lungs are crushed, oww. Mycroft kisses behind Sherlock’s ear and he pecks the tip of each of Sherlock’s shoulders and he draws back and Sherlock can feel the tip of Mycroft’s cock against him. Sherlock moans as Mycroft sinks into him and grinds his teeth into the dark blue sheets and shudders until Mycroft is fully inside him.
The burn is like something else and Sherlock’s nerves feel like they’re on fire and he grasps at the sheet for traction and Mycroft’s hot sweat is dripping onto him and Mycroft painstakingly draws back his cock until he just has his head tipped inside. Mycroft slams back into him and they both moan. Mycroft makes a strangled sort of noise as Sherlock leans back to kiss him on the lips and then he’s fucking him in hard lunges and they’re both making weird noises and Sherlock’s mouth feels so dry he can’t swallow hard enough and Mycroft’s nails rake down his back and he’s still got the fucking marks on his cheek and Sherlock opens his mouth to tell him to do it again and it comes out in a low baritone and Mycroft’s voice is all rough as he tells Sherlock he loves him and bites deep into his shoulder.
“Harder,” Sherlock chokes, and each thrust is blissing his prostate and Mycroft grabs him still by the chest and rolls his cock right into him and Sherlock might be gasping but isn’t sure. Mycroft grabs his hand and holds it tight as he comes into Sherlock and Sherlock squeezes his eyes shut and Mycroft is holding onto him and holding his hand and kissing his throat and Sherlock feels his vision blast white in helpless absolution.
Sherlock lies there, shattered. Mycroft breathes into his neck for those few moments and his breathing slows down, like it would when he nearly fell asleep at home in their double bedroom. Then Mycroft slides out and his breathing regulates and he turns away from Sherlock, collecting his jacket and shirt. He clicks his watch back on from the bedside. Mycroft combs his hair into a careful part.
“I have to get back to work,” Mycroft says, nodding at him, and shutting the door behind.
Sherlock stays lying still on his front, staring at the spot where his brother just left. He feels like he could vomit, or cry, but he doesn’t end up doing either. He sits up on his stomach and takes several deep breaths in and then turns and slides down to the plush carpet. A mantra like what has he done blazes through his mind and it’s Mycroft, Mycroft who has his job and never goes outside or laughs at a joke. Mycroft who plays the cello, who doesn’t let anyone in. Mycroft his brother.
This isn’t the time or place to panic. Mycroft’s house is doubtlessly bugged, and a camera pokes out from behind the armoire as Sherlock stares down the hallway. Sherlock stands shakily on his feet and stumbles to the shower where he sits back down under the water. He feels it run down his back and cool him down, calm his fraying nerves. Sherlock twists the taps off and throws on his rumpled clothes and gets out.
The street air is thin and cool on his skin and Sherlock could laugh but it feels like everyone is staring at him, like all the facts are. His brain, his whole body feels tendered and over processed. Jim and Reichenbach. Irene and Moran. John and Molly.
His hair is wet and he gave away his scarf. Jim was following him earlier, Sherlock wishes he’d pop up behind him again so he could steal it back. The wind is definitely something. His lungs hurt. He’s so alone. Everything hurts. If only he wasn’t so stupid and that he’d never slept with Jim or Mycroft and stayed far away from their stupid shit so he could be warm and at home and bored off his head.
Sherlock thinks better than to take a cab because of the angry letters he’s been receiving from cab companies and he wanders to the tube station lost. Forgets to pickpocket for his ticket. Sherlock almost misses his stop and feels too surrounded by all these people who are looking at him with their shallow deductions and cheating on their husbands and paying their bills and work and sleep and everything banal else. Judging. The city is too dirty, and he feels too clean. Or maybe he’s too dirty.
Sherlock somehow stays upright until he finds his way home and then he collapses on the lounge at 221b and puts a pillow above his head and screams into the leather lining. He screams and he keeps screaming until his throat is searing and he feels like crying and he can’t think anymore.
“I am a killer,” Sherlock says, testing the words on his tongue. They fit.
Sherlock sits, and the strings tremble with the meticulous slide of his bow, and clean, quiet sounds fill the air. They’re small and disentangled, unless you’re looking for the patterns, unassuming melody, repetitious but altered. He pieces through the minor scales and arpeggios, octave to octave, it feels too fast for him, like he’s a leaf being carried away in a breeze with unknown intentions. Numb and helpless. He glides careful, a figure skater on melting ice, with the water cracking through all around him and submerging him cold and sucking him under, a ballet dancer trapped in a music box going round and round and never seeing the end of the circle. Courante.
There is no accompaniment, just the noise of himself adhering to imagined agreement, the rigorous bend of his elbow and the bright, even tone bending with the force of his vibrato. He hurts. Sherlock hurts for Irene and Lestrade, and the notes are whole and stable, but constantly replacing, and he doesn’t know where to go with them but what he remembers. The music is sparse and he can’t hear it like he feels it, everything too sharp and sudden, and maybe he is remembering all the wrong things, and all the worst times, and the crystal clarity of the note formation is lost somewhere around the way he approaches it. Each thought is a string and each sentence is a chord and the bass forms the melody and the high counter is a knot on top of his confusion. He is lost somewhere outside of this room with its damaged walls and forgotten inhabitants, he’s broken and searching for his way back to reality, but he can’t stop his rendition crying now he’s started. Now he’s started it’s all crashing back in layers without words, a mysticism where something that can’t possibly be real is happening, that his friends have died and are dying and will never come back again. His double stop drags two voices, two dead, Lestrade and Irene brought to reanimation. But John is alive. Sherlock plays harder but keeps quieter, the soft dissonance bending high where he knows it’s low, he can’t make his violin smile without those memories there with him so it’s some ugly glamourized sobbing in a beautiful squeal of order, because he needs this.
Sarabande. Exoneration, distanced and measured contemplation of his fault. What he could have done, everything except what he did. He feels like a sunflower blooming in the summer breeze with his hair running through the clouds and there are dark pink posies floating through the air in a standstill of crisp swollen pollen and they were alive, they lived and they touched his life and he won’t exist to rob them that. The counterpoint tears him from joy and remark to the loss of their reality, pure melodies in a tuneless song of interruption, the soul. Broken waves of loss. Complex triads in broken voice-leading crash through the depths and skim past surface again. Gigue.
He could not tell you whether it was morning or night. How long he had cried and how long he’d stayed still. All Sherlock could know would be the hard lights of his living room, and the merciful closure of his window shutters. The bleeding red slice of strings stinging. Tears on his skin. Sweat.
Chaconne. Careful, incessant trill against the high. Appregio, “of broken chords”. The lowest notes are the richest, true as they topple together and blend into an apology of assonant colours, strange speech in a language without vowels and apologies. Sherlock feels the harsh endings of his phrase and the forceful movement of the counter melody straining against his emancipation as if he could play forever and never speak again. Small steps between notes are the wander of them away from him and out of their lives and a brush of horse hair against metal which somehow makes the sky look clearer and his empty heart fuller and he could be drowning if he never learnt how to swim, tender waves of goodbye crashing around his ears and falling through his fingertips like rain.
Bursting through heavy clouds in a swirling monsoon after a humid summer’s day. It churns in a storm against his hot blood and it cools him down and it frees him and Sherlock remembers standing out in the heat in his bare feet with his mouth open, letting the water trickle down his chin. Shrieking and spinning with the exultant crackle of lightning against the boom of thunder in the unending green yard. Laughing. Experiences they will never have again.
The end notes are hollow and incoherent, vanished in the slurred rush of an insinuate crescendo, drowned loud and lost and he feels like he is just the wails inside his head and the sorrow they convey, a careful fall and rise beside a trip and splatter and he is hung from the highest feint on his register, he is blind with the weight of its ruin and the exhilaration of endless runs of individually articulated semiquavers stretched slow into whole notes at constant pitch, the rush of a pause, subtle syncopation, fermata dragged slow enough to sound unto his bowtip, diminuendo, the struggle a cling of memory, release. Sudden silence, ringing.
Finite; end, finish.
Sherlock closes his eyes to the footsteps at the door and the gentle amendments which pry the cold violin from his grasp.
“Johanne Sebastian Bach,” Jim says quietly, not looking at him. He’s lift his downcast eyes since he entered the room, lingering at the doorway, forcing a solemn stillness to reflect the lifelessness of the space where voices should be. Sherlock isn’t ready for noise yet. “Fitting. Are you looking for the code that will bring her back from the grave?”
Them, not her. Them. Sherlock mouths the words and covers his eyes. He thinks so. Jim rests two fingers on his back.
“I would’ve thought you’d be searching for Sebastian by now,” says Jim. “Ritardando, slow. I saw you forming that word the last time you played. Seb is a bit of a retardando actually.”
Ritardando, rit. Too close too RIP, for Sherlock. Everything is too close to death. Life is. A long slow clutch before the ultimate release. He can’t respond. He can hardly keep his body sitting.
“Still in mourning?” Jim asks, and Sherlock hears the patter of his fingers against the chalk message on the wall. “A bit long, for you. There was yesterday.”
Yesterday. A small sound closes Sherlock’s throat like a whimper. Jim bodily turns from the wall to appraise him, and Sherlock can feel the deductions contesting through his blood. He’s in a state and there’s something about Jim that puts Sherlock in survival mode and rips him from his trance, makes him hyper aware of how his crumpled shirt is sticking to him and the fact he isn’t wearing shoes, that he hasn’t eaten or slept and his hair is turning oily, the exposed bite mark on his neck and the cool of streaks on his cheek.
Sherlock can’t take the scrutiny, and Jim’s eyes hurt, they hurt like his fingers hurt and how his heart hurts and Sherlock takes his coat from where he’s draped it on the neck of the couch and curls it around himself, walks from the living room hunched down.
“No,” says Jim, taking his arm. “Come here.”
Sherlock draws to him. Jim holds Sherlock, and puts his head in his chest and holds him up. They stand in the still and the too bright on the cusp of the outside. Jim traces the bags under his eyes and breathes into the side of his chest. They don’t look at each other but Sherlock can feel how tight Jim is trying not to hold him. Sherlock squeezes Jim back instead and their breathing slows down together. Jim is looking away, and his head ducks when he realizes Sherlock is looking at him and gauging the furious expression on his face.
“I won’t--” says Sherlock, letting go.
“Not you,” says Jim. “Him.”
Oh. Sherlock looks for Jim’s hands again, the billions of contour lines that form the prints of his fingers and run together in neat impossibility, a million intricacies that assure Sherlock of his reality.
“What did he threaten you with?” Jim asks.
“Nothing,” Sherlock says, then, “John.”
“Bastard,” says Jim. He touches the scabbing teeth marks on Sherlock’s neck and curls his fingers into a tight fist. It shakes with how hard he clenches it. But he holds Sherlock so gently Sherlock could cry.
Jim deserves to know. “It wasn’t about me. And I didn’t mean for it to happen.” He doesn’t want Jim to go away.
“Oh, it was about you.” Jim laughs. “It was about you.”
“What does that mean?” Sherlock whispers.
“It’s always about you,” Jim spits. He takes Sherlock’s wrists in a stranglehold and doesn’t let go.
“I understand if you want to kill me,” Sherlock says, and doesn’t resist. “Or if you don’t want to see me again.”
“What?” Jim laughs incredulously. “No. Don’t be stupid.”
“But—“ says Sherlock.
He wishes Jim would let go.
“Don’t be stupid,” Jim repeats, looking up at him. He looks of concerned, of course he looks concerned. “I always want to see you.”
“Always?” Sherlock asks, past his fear.
“I don’t want to hurt you unless you want to be, and I won’t let anyone else. You know that. You don’t know that.” Jim’s face clouds. “He didn’t.”
“He said that this way you might regain respect for me.”
Something in Jim’s gaze snaps. Jim lets go of Sherlock’s hand and charges down the stairs, .
“No, Jim,” Sherlock insists. “He didn’t hurt me. He loves me, I’m his brother. Jim!”
Sherlock catches up to Jim and shoves him against the wall. “Jim, I won’t let you kill him. It wasn’t like that, okay? He didn’t rape me. He didn’t hurt me in any way I didn’t want to be.”
Jim breathes slow out, but fury is simmering deep beneath his eyes. “He hurt you in here,” Jim says, touching Sherlock’s heart.
“But so did you.”
Jim collapses into Sherlock, shoulders trembling. “No,” he says, holding the sides of Sherlock’s arms. “Never. Kill me, love. No one has the right to do that to you. Not even me. It was just a game. You are the most amazing. I care about you, so so much. I didn’t mean to make you doubt anything that I ever felt for you. I was afraid.”
“Don’t,” says Sherlock, holding him tight. “Don’t, Jim. Please don’t be sorry.”
“It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have killed Irene, I knew what she meant to you. I was just, so jealous, and I hadn’t been able to see you. And she was taunting me, how you would never love me, a murderer and a criminal. I felt so angry. I swore to myself that you could never find out but then Seb sent an assassin to our flat to get me. I should have known when I asked you if you liked problems and you didn’t say anything that you needed an emotional connection. I thought it would be too mawkish, for you. I should’ve paid more attention. I was such an idiot.”
“It’s not your fault,” says Sherlock. “I know—I know how you feel. I thought you didn’t care about me as a human being—I thought it was about possession. I didn’t think I might actually upset you, I swear it, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, for sleeping with him. I doubted, I had my suspicions from the start. I just wanted to please you so much. I wanted you to stop avoiding me, and I, I wanted things to go back to normal again.”
“Whatever you want,” says Jim, choked.
“Even you can’t raise the dead,” says Sherlock lowly.
They stand there for a moment, and Jim holds Sherlock by his waist. He looks so sad. He wishes he could, Sherlock realizes. “Don’t ever think I will stop respecting you,” Jim says. “Don’t ever. I know, in Reichenbach, that I came off disappointed, because I thought the win had been too easy. But you are so much more than that, more than me. You won, but you also lost graciously. You understood. And I can never, ever repay you for that. I owe you so much and I can’t thank you enough.”
Sherlock feels the tears coming back in his eyes and he drops his coat and he kisses Jim, he kisses Jim and he feels the warmth breath against his skin, his brilliant life and passion and honour. Sherlock smiles. Jim smiles too and he looks in Sherlock’s eyes and into Sherlock’s loneliness and wretchedness and the tears welling, and he threads the coat in his hands and says, “genius.”
Sherlock hugs Jim long and hard, until Jim starts to giggle for some reason and Sherlock kisses him with his lips spread and Jim laughs against his skin and Sherlock shrugs his coat around Jim’s shoulders and picks Jim up and spins him around twice. Jim kisses Sherlock on the forehead and wraps his arms around Sherlock’s neck.
“It wasn’t… so much the actuality of being used against my will so much as the potential of it,” confides Sherlock. “It’s one thing to know the destructive capacity of a person and another to fear it. He used to tie my shoelaces and fold my napkins when I was small, he was some sort of distant gratuitous constant. Mycroft has so much rage inside him now.”
“The curse of the wrathful,” says Jim, singsong. “Destroying the things we love! I would kill him for touching you, my only. For having you. I would watch his lips dry blue and cold if you’d only let me, so I could know that he would never hurt you again, but then I suppose I would have to kill myself twice-over for the same, hurtful for your sentiment in the deed.”
“I’ve forgiven you, the first time would be redundant,” says Sherlock, alluding to the fake show of apathy. He and Jim share a trusting smile. “Whatever crime he commits, he is nevertheless my brother. Judging him for his sadism would be akin to condemning you for your criminality. If you respect me as you say, you’ll respect that.”
“Hmm. Cute as that is, Sherlock, I need retribution for his reprehensible actions. I assume your peacemaker agreement extends to torture and the like, so I can’t even oblige him that. Not that it wouldn’t be warranted, considering. But while Mycroft is alive he has the power to hurt you again. Oh, he talks big. He says all this rot about me owning empires, but we both know how true that is. In reality, I am a wanted criminal who’s lucky to be here on a bluff that you must never reveal, and finding the time to meet you is tricky enough without wondering whether you’re going to be stolen and violated by my second-largest competition by the time I arrive. God Sherlock, I told you this would happen. I knew he would put you against me, but this is so much worse. He’s turning you against you, too. Against everyone.”
“I look into your eyes this second, and I know that you’re being honest with me now, but I can’t keep a hold of you, I can’t sway you that way forever. I can’t guarantee everything I do and have done you will like, or approve of. I can’t let him go. I just can’t.”
“I am not a possession, Jim,” Sherlock says harshly. “I can look after myself.”
“I’m assured you can for common criminals, and creepy strangers, the like. But you don’t know what to do when people you love take advantage of you, because you don’t want them to go away. You care about them that much, so when you feel like you should yell at me or tell me to let go, you refrain.”
He’s right. Sherlock stares at Jim, wondering how he indirectly managed to find something Sherlock never actually saw in himself. It’s blunt, but not as patronizing as Mycroft at the very least. There is something soothing about it. “So what do I do?” Sherlock asks.
“Let me handle it,” Jim says softly. Sherlock shakes his head, and Jim smirks. He’s concerned the gesture is defeating Jim’s expectations of him, his trust to assume Jim knows best, but something about that smile says otherwise. “Alright then. How about a trade. I’ll let you have Sebastian if you let me kill Mycroft.”
Sherlock immediately shakes his head. “No. Even if Mycroft didn’t come into it, that would still be the answer. I will kill Moran in my own stead. Righteously. Otherwise, his death means nothing. I might as well skip off to join Irene for all the good her avengement would do.”
“Pity. I guess I’ll just have to think up something else,” says Jim, looking devious. His smile is so fiendishly delightful Sherlock has to lean in and kiss him again and Jim hums into his mouth, cupping his jaw. Sherlock presses Jim against the wall and rubs the smooth of his jaw against Jim’s and Jim exhales slowly and licks a stripe up the side of Sherlock’s neck.
Sherlock sighs into the feeling.
“Not that I’m not having fun,” says Jim, readjusting himself with a wink. “But are you sure you want to, right now? I don’t want to rush you.”
Right. Yesterday. Sherlock swallows, fighting the urge to run upstairs and hide in his room. “Maybe not. Maybe I do need some… time. But can we, just, this, for awhile?”
“So eloquent,” Jim teases, and raises an eyebrow. “Of course. Let’s get out of this hallway before your landlady comes, though.”
Sherlock scoops Jim up over his shoulder and carries him up the stairs and inside in the kitchen. “I am a criminal mastermind!” Jim shrieks. “Put me down, I have a reputation to uphold.” Sherlock sits him on the counter and fetches himself a glass of water and Jim pokes through his toaster experiment. He seems to take inhuman joy in watching the human eyeball bounce up and down again with the pop of the spring.
“Wait until you see my mould cultures,” Sherlock says, relaxing at the run of cool water down his injured throat. “Positively gleeful.”
Jim wrinkles his nose. “Mouldy flats are gross. You know in Leviticus, ancient Christians were supposed to take their mouldy clothing to a priest for them to confiscate?”
“Why would I ever need to know something so inane?” Sherlock asks.
“The more you know,” says Jim, sliding off the counter. “Why would you make mould cultures if you’re not interested in mould?”
“I am interested in the process of decay which could be relevant in the physical evidences of serious crimes.”
“I think you just like having mildly contraband possessions close at hand,” says Jim, poking through a cabinet. “Riding crops and hunting spears. Someone likes his extra-curricular activities.”
“Tell me, did you actually sleep with other men for your JIM-from-IT disguise?” Sherlock asks loftily. Pointedly. His face is growing a bit warm so he pours himself another glass of water to hide it.
“Why, you jealous?” Jim asks, setting his money vase back on the bookshelf. “You’ve got nothing to be worried about babe, I’m sexy enough for the both of us.”
“You certainly are not,” Sherlock scoffs, and Jim hits him with his coat.
“No need for brutal honesty in everyday situations, or I’ll begin to think you’re getting full of yourself.”
“Are you done snooping yet?” Sherlock returns with a grin, setting his glass on the windowsill to collect condensation.
“Am, actually,” says Jim, spinning and avoiding the vase. “I think I need to pick up another bad habit. You’ll do.”
“I will?” says Sherlock facetiously. “I’m not in the habit of enabling, and I am very high maintenance, you may have to readjust several lifelong traits to subsist in my comp–“
Jim interrupts him with a kiss which Sherlock interrupts to snap, “I was talking,” which makes Jim keel over and laugh, which Sherlock still isn’t used to and finds somewhat endearing and slightly irritating, as he’d be fairly sure Jim is laughing at him except for the fact Jim looks up to him for some reason which is most probably the fact he has an extended intellectually capacity for hypothetical reasoning and analysis which Jim likewise shares. Sherlock is flattered, actually. Jim is the smartest person Sherlock knows. Mycroft doesn’t come close.
Jim looks awfully pretty for all Sherlock’s talk when he’s laughing, he looks so young and Sherlock wants to make him laugh more often. Sherlock wishes he knew Jim earlier, that they shared moments like this more often in their childhoods. Sherlock would have been happier. Sometimes Sherlock wishes Jim was just a bit dumber or that he was just a fraction more intelligent, but then other times Sherlock is so enamoured in Jim’s astounding intelligence and thrilled to know such a brilliant person. Sherlock flops down on the couch and Jim takes a seat on the arm next to him, legs spread out over Sherlock’s lap.
“You know the first time you hit on me?” Jim asks. “At the pool I asked you if your cock was happy to see me and you said it was.”
Sherlock frowns. “You’re making fun of me. You should know I meant that statement in the context of being pleased to procure the identity of an elusive architect of a series of complex murders, a play on words designed to sound bold, and daring.”
“Love, love,” Jim protests, hands up. “I don’t mind. I think it was sexy.”
“You weren’t very considerate,” Sherlock complains. “I was so excited to meet you and you nearly fooled me into thinking you were my best friend.”
“You loved it,” Jim accuses, pride in his voice, and Sherlock offers a small smile and tilts his head in acknowledgement. “Hey, lie back. I want to make out.”
Sherlock settles into the couch as requested and Jim eloquently rolls onto him (unscrupulous ballet), careful to not touch his lungs. Jim slowly leans in and smudges his lips over Sherlock’s and he tastes like chocolate for some reason and Sherlock moans, sucking his spit between his teeth. It tastes so rich and warm and lush melted in Jim’s mouth and Jim’s eyes blow black and he rakes his nails through Sherlock’s curls and Jim licks his lips and smiles.
You are so beautiful and so distracting, Sherlock thinks to say, and how he’d like to catch that tongue between his lips and suck it hard but thankfully all he mumbles is “where did you get the chocolate?”
“It was behind the kettle,” says Jim, looking a bit abashed. “I couldn’t help myself.”
“Neither can I,” Sherlock says, and he pulls Jim back down onto him and he swears he can hear the blink of Jim’s eyelashes as they fold against his cheek and Jim is so warm like a good winter coat and an electric blanket, he plays with the hem of Sherlock’s shirt, squeezing it in between his fingertips as he draws in and sucks on Sherlock’s lower lip, skimming his tongue over the roof of Sherlock’s mouth and humming into Sherlock’s throat, sending vibrations down to his cock. Sherlock pulls Jim against him and kneads Jim’s mouth with his tongue and the aftertaste of chocolate lingers on his tongue and Sherlock swallows thick and lets out a contented sigh. Jim bites hard at Sherlock’s lower lip and Sherlock cries out, and Jim tongues the wound in apology and sets to kissing Sherlock to the back of his mouth, drawing in then out and leaning against him, letting his hands settle around the back of Sherlock’s neck, playing with a curl.
“Where did you put the chocolate?” Sherlock asks, and Jim grins and raises his eyebrows and Sherlock huffs and thinks to deduce it, but he’d rather just think about how fine Jim’s eyebrows are and how sweetly they curve. “I’m sitting under you,” Sherlock reminds Jim and Jim smiles like a cat with the cream.
Wrong answer, Jim reaches under the lounge and breaks out the double block, relishing the loud snap of the sugary particles. “You have to wrestle it off me,” Jim says around a mouth of chocolate, putting the block back where it came from, “with your tongue. Or wait for it to slowly dissolve and swallow it all down.”
“That sounds like a challenge,” says Sherlock, and leans in for the kiss.
Jim immediately pulls the chocolate to the back of his mouth and Sherlock trails his lips across Jim’s teeth, trying to get close enough to bite it. Jim puckers the bow of his lips against him, closing him off, and Sherlock murmurs and kisses the top of his lip gently, stroking him back open. Jim kisses feel of control and power, diving expertly in, then back to catch himself. Sherlock lashes forwards rubbing the heat of their cocks together and Jim flushes and his mouth falls open, his eyes flutter in silent ecstasy. Encouraged by his reaction and a whisper of the smooth, syrupy chocolate Sherlock reaches deep into Jim and Jim scrapes him with his teeth back, darting forward and plunging deep and firm into the back of him. Jim folds the chocolate back under his tongue and Sherlock sucks hard, moaning at the sweet heavy flavour around his taste buds.
Jim breaks the piece in two with his teeth and Sherlock slides his tongue forward and Jim sucks back and Sherlock gasps and goes in again, licking around his tongue and rubbing hard against Jim’s lips. Sherlock is rewarded by the jolt of Jim’s crotch against his thigh and Sherlock kisses faster and firmer, sucking and pleading torment. Jim swallows the pieces back and mouths the inside of Sherlock’s mouth with a moan, and Sherlock is kissing him fast, and pulling the chocolate back down, and it drips down his chin and jaw when they part. Jim presses small, strong kisses against the cave of Sherlock’s mouth and Sherlock determinately kisses out ever last inch of chocolate until they’re both panting and rock hard against each other.
“Sherlock, just fuck me,” Jim says, and Sherlock closes his eyes at the glorious sound of his voice, deep and thready and raw.
Jim freezes unexpectedly tense against Sherlock and Sherlock looks up.
Molly Hooper is standing at the doorway.
Her face is the perpetually intensifying prisms of a shattered mirror. She stands for a moment blasted still, the bags in her hands slacked in horror, mouth slightly agape, eyes puckered in astonished confusion. Sherlock can only imagine how they look to her, spit-slicken and dishevelled and debauched, their crotches pressed together and Jim’s mouth millimetres from his.
Then her gaze swims from Jim to Sherlock, and Sherlock, unable to move, unable to even look away, stares back. They hold like that and Sherlock tries to communicate his contrition but Molly shifts her glance and rests a hand over her mouth to cover her shock.
In small steps Molly backtracks out the door and tightens her hold on her bags. She leaves the door open and the stairs bang with her hard footsteps and Sherlock curses, detangling himself from Jim.
“What the fuck, Jim?” Sherlock bellows. “Why didn’t you tell me she was there?”
Jim says nothing and looks at him without feeling, in that cold, ambiguous way that makes Sherlock doubt if he knew she was there or if he’s plotting something and it was all a lie about Irene and Sherlock scrambles for his coat to throw around him and he can’t match the buttons up right and he growls and throws the thing back down again.
“You’ve worked up into quite a state,” Jim drawls, crossing his legs and taking a large bite of chocolate. “Are you really going to run nipping at her heels dressed like that?”
Well what else is he going to do? Take a shower and make a leisurely detour in his Sunday best then start chasing her down after she’s gone hell knows where? He can’t leave her to herself after an encounter of that magnitude. “Unless you’ve got a better idea, yes.”
“I do. Stay.” Sherlock stops his scramble to pull on shoes to stare at Jim. “You’re not going to pass me up for that, are you?”
That: his leftovers, her ordinariness, her rejection. Sherlock can hardly believe him. Of all Jim’s arrogances and jealousies this feels decidedly infantile. “Look, you are extremely important to me. But you are not the only person in the world who matters. You can’t change that quality of mine. I care for her. And if circumstances were reversed, I know she’d do the same thing for me. But for some reason, I can’t say that about you.”
Jim looks physically struck. Sherlock can hardly bear to see it but he makes himself take it in, the droop in his eyes and the jut of his chin.
Sherlock bounds down the staircase, looking at the wide angle of the front door (unhelpful), the bags she has dropped at the front step. A gift, discarded. She was going to apologise to him but now she is going somewhere where bulky items will get in her way.
“Molly!” Sherlock calls, whipping his head up and down the street. There. “Molly, wait!”
She doesn’t stop. Sherlock catches her by pace due to his height and he grabs her arm but Molly prises out of his grasp.
“Molly, I’m so implausibly sorry,” he says. “Please forgive me.”
A laugh bubbles up her throat; not hysterical, but disbelieving. “Forgive you?” she asks.
“Yes,” says Sherlock. “It’s my fault.”
Molly whirls on the spot, staring him ferociously in the eyes. “Too right it’s your fault. You were kissing Jim without a single care for my feelings and you want me to forgive you? You can get fucked, Sherlock.”
“Molly,” says Sherlock reproachfully. He’s never heard her swear like that before. She doesn’t like it. They’re friends; she won’t want to hurt him that deep.
“Don’t Molly me, you ass. You deserve it. You know, everyone always told me you were a dickhead, and I never believed them. ‘No, there must be some good in him!’ I said. ‘He’s just lonesome.’ Well you proved me wrong. Thank you for that.”
Sherlock steps back, staring at Molly, Molly who he calls his friend. He never thought she would ever say something like that about him. It hurts. But of course she would. He’s a terrible person to know. He embarrasses people in front of their friends and tells them they’ve gained weight. And sometimes, he sleeps with their ex-boyfriends.
“I can’t believe you,” Molly says warbily. “I thought you broke up with him. You came to me and apologised. Why would you even think of doing that again?”
“I don’t know,” Sherlock says. It would be impossible, to explain how he knows Jim is a bad decision but he needs him because Jim’s alone and amazing and no one appreciates him. She won’t understand, people never do. He has to say what she wants to hear. “I’m sorry.”
“You apologised, and I thought okay I’ll give you another chance even though you haven’t been very nice to me and I probably shouldn’t. Sherlock, you apologised and then you nearly died on me, and when I asked you why you wouldn’t tell me. You never tell me anything that matters and you know everything about me. How is that being a good friend? You treat me like dirt.”
Sherlock thinks he should agree, but that it might come off as a little high-handed. He says nothing, crossing his arms and staring at the floor. People are staring. He wonders what he should do if she cries. Sherlock hates to see that but if Molly’s hates him there’s nothing he can within reason. Sherlock wishes Molly weren’t upset with him, that they could be happy together. He wishes he was a better friend for her so he could thank her for all she’s helped him with.
“You knew how I felt about you, and about him, but you still were going to have sex with him again. How could you do that? But that's not the worst. Jim's a wanted mass murderer. Now he has more against you than ever before, he's been inside you, and you know how easily, with his all genius and his cunning, he can screw you over? You've given away your most valuable asset. Your power against him and intelligence, your freedom, dropped right into his lap. Why him, of all choices? Jim doesn't care about you. Jim doesn't care about people at all, he ruins them. Jim refuses to treat his victims human beings. He uses them like things. He kills for fun and he guts raw, but he's never, ever sorry. He's a disgusting freak and you just gave him your body and your heart. Why don't you give Jim your mind and your soul while you're at it? He killed your friend Lestrade. He killed the beautiful woman of yours whose body you identified on a cold plate.
"And you slept with him anyway. You knew what would happen. You knew it would put us all in danger, you warned me about him. You knew better and you still fucking did it because you don't give a shit how anybody feels except yourself! Why can't you just think of somebody else for once? For god's sake, he tried to kill John, John who you love. Does that mean nothing to you? Does my life mean nothing to you? I can't believe you would do this to us. You know what, I am sick of your shit. I am so fed up with it. Every day with you is another dilemma, and all I want to do is have something normal after long days of seeing dead bodies but you are such a bloody screw up in every single way. And you know what, I can’t take it. I won’t deal with it anymore. Goodbye. I never want to see you again in the rest of my existence. So stay away from me. This time I mean it, and have a nice life.”
Molly turns and walks away, some place Sherlock can’t follow her.
Sherlock swallows, and his eyes crack inside his skull he feels like because everything’s white, it all is. Like hot pain. He’s bending on his knees staring at the fresh spotted pavement. He breathes shallowly and his lungs hurt. Her betrayal hurts just as much as last time, although the shock has left, the only thing unexpected the fierce truth of her words. He has never been anything except what he has deigned to be.
But everyone leaves him in the end. Everyone he’s ever loved has gone away from him at some point or another, some unknown place he can’t reach. John did it. Mycroft did it. Jim’s done it.
He shouldn’t have been so hard on Jim. Maybe if he didn’t make Molly out to be such a big deal Jim would have taken him back. It would be a pretty hard blow to his pride to overcome. Now Sherlock has no one. He can’t live like that. He can’t be bored and by himself forever. Sherlock wonders why Molly said she wasn’t going to leave him if it was just going to be a lie.
Sherlock stands on his feet and turns away from where he knows she’s gone. He walks back down the street and ignores the stares and breathes out deep, consoling breaths. It was always going to happen. He never cared about her the right way.
There are bigger problems to deal with. Is everything Jim has just said to him a ruse? Does he actually believe he cares about Sherlock, or just think he should to adjust to his role in this new situation? How far will Jim go? Will he lock Sherlock away in a room where he is the only person Sherlock can ever talk to, making up crimes for him to solve? Perhaps he’s just testing the balance, feeling how far he can push before Sherlock snaps. It’s worrying, the extent his hypothetical need for validation and attention will drive him compared to what little he will do to keep Sherlock happy.
What can he even say? Certainly the some reason attack was justified considering Jim had refused to answer his question and meet his morals standards. Sherlock grits his teeth. If Jim sabotages him now, sleeping with Mycroft was all for nothing. Sherlock wants so badly to trust the Jim that called him amazing, but he can hardly believe the sentiment if Jim doesn’t treat him like it.
Jim isn’t inside; the door has closed but there is no wind. Sherlock lets out a deep breath. He slumps on the wall on his way upstairs and Mrs Hudson stops to chat with him about the weather.
“Are you going alright, Sherlock?” she asks, patting his shoulder. “I do worry about you, dearie.”
She heads back into the room to fix the ironing and Sherlock stands on the landing, stunned. For that moment, she remembers him. She isn’t dead to the world. People can care.
“Thank you,” Sherlock says, softly shutting the door to her apartment.
“Any time!” calls Mrs Hudson as he’s heading up stairs. Sherlock collapses on the lounge and hugs the union jack pillow to his chest, fishing his phone from his coat pocket. Two painful texts from Molly. I hope you don’t mind me coming over! Big surprise today, and how are you going? You seem a little distant.
Sherlock wars with calling her phone and leaving her to her silence. She doesn’t want to talk to him, but he refuses to merely give up on her. After everything she’s done. Sherlock doesn’t want to hear her voice after what she said, but he knows he needs her and she’s worth the punishment. Three redirects to an answering machine later Sherlock resigns himself to later, scrolling through to the nameless number he initially meant to contact.
What you said at the carpark. I do love you, and that is never a lie. I often think myself undeserving of your appraisal because I am so cold, and you are so worthy. To have your attention is to have the universe bowing at a simple back and call. Your beautiful masks are beyond what I could ever hope to touch or understand. You are far more than merely important to me. You, Jim, are vital.
Sherlock sighs and leans back against the head of the lounge. His phone trills. I’m at the door.
Sherlock throws his phone down and races across the room and swings the door open. Jim bursts through, wrapping his arms around Sherlock’s chest. Sherlock pretends not to see the tears on his face and he holds him and he buries his face in Jim’s neck and holds him some more.
Jim holds his hand when they get drunk and insult the celebrities on television and Jim holds his hand when they eat nachos with chocolate and when Sherlock wakes up in the morning, Jim holds his hand then too.
“Genius,” Sherlock whispers, and he strokes a stray black hair from Jim’s cheek.
Jim’s face is beautiful, softened in sleep, and Sherlock enjoys everything about him. Sherlock admires the M of his hairline and the flutter of his eyelashes against each other and the gentle curl of his fingers into his palm. He’s so utterly at ease it’s hard to imagine the tormented genius lurking in the deep shadows of his dreams, scraping at the walls until their plaster peels. Sherlock wonders if Jim dreams, or if he’s like Sherlock and just dreams of dreaming.
It’s nearly impossible, watching him like this, to see him as a psychotic killer who has committed nothing but crimes against humanity. To see what Molly sees and what he sometimes glimpses, the infuriate core, brimming with irascibility and hatred. Sherlock was beyond inconsiderate to do this to her or England, he was out of rights. But it would be cruel to let him go, just a day after confessing his underlying love. It hurts even contemplating, it doesn’t bare thinking about. Jim fills some blank space inside of him, not just emptiness but fearlessness. Jim makes him afraid for himself and for the people around him. He makes him the Reichenbach hero, Jim makes him care.
Certainly Sherlock can’t keep with Molly and stay by Jim. Nevertheless, Mycroft was thinking clearly in attempting to force Jim’s hand. Sherlock’s self-sabotage in his confession helped none, but Sherlock can set Jim right again. Although it won’t be easy.
“Morning, gorgeous,” Jim says through a yawn, shifting in position on the couch. “How are you feeling? I think I could do with a shower.”
“Tedious. I don’t suppose you expect me to join?”
“Ever so courteous,” says Jim, curling his finger through the drawstring of the hooded sweatshirt Sherlock is wearing. His sweatshirt. Sherlock is amused to find it barely fits him. “I would like to see those glossy curls dripping down your neck, and feel the flush of your skin melted by hot water, but apparently someone likes to stall by himself.”
“I wouldn’t be adverse,” Sherlock wheedles.
Jim smiles, wrapping his palms around Sherlock’s head. “Come on. I know you couldn’t stop staring at me at the ferris wheel. Picturing me naked?”
“No!” says Sherlock, vexed.
Jim wraps his arms around Sherlock’s neck and strokes his hand and says, “of course not,” in a familiar way. He bounds off Sherlock’s lap and off to the bathroom before Sherlock can make piece of it.
Sherlock grabs two towels as he steps in, and Jim presses a sticky wad a gum from underneath the sink to the middle of the glass, tapping its centre. “Left over from the last tenant,” he says, sucking his finger. “Still damp.”
“That’s disgusting,” Sherlock says, stripping off the hooded shirt as Jim jumps up onto the bathroom counter. John’s old, worn toothbrush stares accusingly back at him.
“You know what is disgusting,” Jim says, squirting shaving cream in Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock dodges. “How naked you are.”
Sherlock stares at him, only half naked, bewildered, and Jim takes the gum and shoves it in Sherlock’s scalp and drags him into the shower. “Oops,” Jim giggles. “Going to have to wash that out.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow. He sweeps the shampoo bottles from Jim’s grasp and pins him against the wall tile. “We’re still wearing our clothes,” he says.
Jim deliberately tips conditioner down Sherlock’s whole front. “Oh, I’m sorry. Now you’re going to have to take that off.”
Sherlock doesn’t get time though, because Jim is jerking on the hot spray and slamming the shower door closed, and his mouth meets Sherlock’s hallway there, Jim’s hands sweeping over his chest and holding around his waistline. Sherlock hisses against the sting of scalding water on his back and the shower is misting so fast he can’t see his own elbows. Jim leans in and the spray deflects, searing down Sherlock’s shoulders and front and Jim digs his fingers in the lines of Sherlock’s abdomen, spreading over the darkening patches of red. Sherlock slams on the cold and sighs into the lukewarm run over the pain and Jim’s shirt is splotched with water and speckled at the nape. Water splashes down his dark hair as Jim stokes Sherlock’s lips with his tongue and smears the conditioner over Sherlock’s chest, scraping his nails through Sherlock’s damp hair in a way that feels impossibly euphoric.
Jim’s teeth are the same white as the tile around them and Sherlock drags his finger between them, feeling the blunt cut of his central incisors and the depthless stare in his black eyes, and Sherlock’s jeans are soiled and soaked and sticking to his skin. Jim leans in again and Sherlock drags his fingers down the damp cotton of Jim’s shirt, individual pores threading like grains of sand woven into the ocean.
“Angel,” Jim breathes against Sherlock’s lips, tracing the hollow of his back and pressing up against his jaw, softly dragging his teeth across the thick of Sherlock’s Adam’s apple. Sherlock tries not to swallow, frozen still with water dripping down over his eyes and Jim mouths the length of Sherlock’s jawline, tongue pressing into the beginnings of stubble around his chin. Jim curves his fingertips around Sherlock’s collarbone and pinches the skin slow there, making Sherlock keen a protest into Jim’s lips as his cock hardens against the water. Jim is fully dressed and completely drenched, and he leans back into the glass and turns his head to the side, undoing his fly to palm his cock beneath his underwear. He looks like a dark mermaid beneath a crystal waterfall and his eyes, half lidded, stare into Sherlock.
Sherlock realizes Jim’s wearing his dress shirt, which now smells like him beneath the clear thin of water and shampoo, and Sherlock sighs and tries not to breath too deep as he leans back, taking his own cock in his hand and kneading it through his palm. Jim smiles and lets go of himself drawing near, massaging his fingers through Sherlock’s hair just in time with Sherlock’s strokes.
Jim kisses him open mouthed, and Sherlock relaxes into the wall, letting Jim’s tongue thrust into him as his wet fingers slide around his cock, feeling the pulse thrum through his fingertips. Jim takes Sherlock’s other wrist in one hand and runs small circles with his thumb, his touch smoothed by the slick of water running against them. Sherlock steadies himself against Jim, overtaking the kiss and curling his arms around Jim. Jim’s back is wet and his cock is taut and he slowly breathes out as he wraps Sherlock’s hands around it. Sherlock flicks his fingers through the thrush of hair at his pubis and drags Jim’s foreskin back as Jim kisses him fierce, Sherlock’s touch excruciatingly slow next to the swift intensity of his mouth.
Sherlock breaks the kiss, fascinated by the slow trickle of water down Jim’s torso, parting and rejoining, sloped up around the dip of his pelvis. Jim takes Sherlock’s hand and guides it towards himself, kissing the tip of his index before slowly taking it in his mouth. His tongue is hot and firm and it massages the underside of Sherlock’s index thoroughly, swirling around the crease to taste between the nail. He sucks and repeats the motion and Sherlock struggles to withhold his gasp, taking his cock between two fingers and stroking, too overcome by sensation to risk any more. His own light, gentle press with Jim’s eyes following his fingers feels helplessly intimate and Sherlock slides his finger from Jim’s mouth and closes his eyes. “Too close.”
“Me, or your orgasm?” Jim asks in a low voice, taking Sherlock’s finger from his mouth and kissing the pad of each of each of his fingers, squeezing his hand into Sherlock.
Sherlock is torn, between the beautiful, insistent press of Jim against him and the memory of Mycroft’s invasion and he swallows deep in his throat, watching the small part of Jim’s lips and the water flooding between them in a rainy sheet, he kisses Jim softly and releases his frustration in the small movements, more a glide of lips back and forth than anything else. Blood pulses through him and Jim tastes like water and soap, and Sherlock breathes through his nose and keeps his eyes shut, trying not to lose control and throw Jim against the wall and snog him senseless and never let go.
“I won’t fuck you,” Jim says, and Sherlock opens his eyes and Jim is piercing him, wonderful responsiveness which makes Sherlock pant into his slender jaw. “If you can’t do it.”
“I can,” Sherlock denies, believing it, a throaty growl into Jim’s ear and he believes it, that Jim could make him do anything, that there is nothing he wouldn’t do to see Jim.
“Show me,” Jim whispers, eyes wide and alive.
“How?” says Sherlock, voice echoing long in the small space.
“Fuck yourself for me.”
Sherlock swallows and nods, and Jim drags his hands across Sherlock’s jeans, cupping shampoo in his palm. He tips it into Sherlocks hands and drops to his knees on the tile, unbuckling Sherlock’s belt and pulling it slow with his teeth. He rips down Sherlork’s jeans and Sherlock isn’t wearing shoes and has to step out of them, and Jim traces his fingers over the bulge of Sherlock’s cock, tight against the scorching mist and he presses his mouth to that spot and wets the whole thing with his mouth. Sherlock moans and his fingers slip around the shampoo and curl in Jim’s hair and Jim growls and squirts more shampoo into Sherlock’s palm with shaking hands, Jim’s eyes struggling not to flutter shut in pleasure as he pulls himself, fast and hard, but Jim is determined just watching him and Sherlock looks away to keep from coming in his pants and he pulls them down to his knees and concentrates on easing his finger into his body.
The tension is hard and too much and not enough at once and Sherlock bears down, pushing against the tip of his finger and hissing as he finds it and his fingernail scrapes agonizingly and Jim is still watching him, eyes held fast on Sherlock’s face, waiting. Sherlock stares at him as he withdraws his finger and thrusts in again, angle just perfect and he presses in another finger and Jim is fisting his cock hard, mouth dropped in an oh as his eyes catch Sherlock, and then Jim is staring at Sherlock’s swollen, trembling cock and he takes it in his mouth. Jim tongues the glands and slips his mouth up longer, fantastic heat and Sherlock breathes out deep and shakily, forgotten all his stall techniques. Jim looks up at him and rakes his nails down Sherlock’s palm, Sherlock’s eyes are fixed on his and mesmerized. Jim carefully sucks.
Sherlock can feel the scream building at the back of his throat and he clamps his jaw shut and spills down Jim’s lips. Jim swallows and licks his lips clean, swiping the leaked ejaculate with his fingertips. He is so beautiful and Sherlock feels so drained, he crouches to his knees to see on Jim’s level.
Jim is still touching himself, teeth sinking in his lip in his effort to retain control. He slides close and settles onto Sherlock’s lap, winding his arms around him. Sherlock can feel his heart beat against his, fast on slow, his pulse flittering in his neck beneath Sherlock’s mouth. Jim has done nothing but touch him and Sherlock wants to make him moan and scream and remember his name on his deathbed.
“I need you so much closer,” Jim says, and Sherlock kisses him with all that he can, putting all the need and desire and love that he’s feeling, the press of their fingertips in mirror of each other. He kisses him hard, and slow, and Jim swallows in his mouth and he tastes like Sherlock. Sherlock traces the roof of his mouth and exhales and scrapes his teeth against Jim’s lips and Jim’s hand holds his cheek and Sherlock puts his hand on Jim’s cock and he can feel their fingers press together as Jim leans forward with the pull of his cock and Sherlock loses it and kisses Jim as hard as he can, and their teeth are in each other’s mouths and Jim threads their fingers together and yanks Sherlock forward. And Sherlock can feel Jim’s cock, hot and swollen and thrumming in his hand as Jim kisses his taste from Sherlock’s mouth and Sherlock bites down into his lip and Jim shivers and pulses in Sherlock’s hand, kissing him. Sherlock can feel Jim trembling against him as he writhes on Sherlock’s lap, resting his forehead against Sherlock’s forehead and letting his fingers press small indents into Sherlock’s arm.
They sit like that under the water gradually turning cold and Jim breathes against his lips in warm, thick mist.
“Kill me,” Sherlock whispers, taking Jim’s hands in his. “Kill me like this.”
“Right now?” Jim asks.
Sherlock nods, overcome. He feels like he and Jim are the one person, that they’re connected in some soulful way in their recklessness. He feels like he could die happy.
Jim takes down Sherlock’s shaving razor, not taking their heads apart, and presses it against the curve of Sherlock’s throat. Sherlock kisses him one last time and curves his head back, waiting.
“You don’t want to die.”
“I would rather die,” Sherlock says, tears dripping down his face. “Then watch you kill me.”
“No,” Jim chokes out, and holds Sherlock by the head and rocks him in his arms. “You don’t get to want that. I love you too much, Sherlock. Don’t ask that of me. Please. Please.”
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock says, throat closing. “I should have fucked you. Properly, I don’t want to leave you, but. But.”
“What happened?” Jim asks miserably. “We were fine yesterday. You told me you loved me and we ate chocolate. Do you remember? Do you remember?”
The slam of the shower water against the tiles is too loud. “We need to break up. This can’t go on, Jim.”
“I can’t stop killing people. It’s not like that. People need to see me as a monster otherwise they will take me out-- no one comes out of organised crime alive. I can’t stop any of it now, I’m in too deep. I’m sorry. I wish I could be perfect for you. I love you so much.”
Jim’s face is shuttered dead. He stands and turns, he slides the shower door closed.
Three letters, wrote misted in the glass with Jim’s fingertip: B Y E.
“Oh god,” Sherlock sobs into the tiles. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The water cuts against his back and Sherlock curls into a ball. He cries, and he cries. He’s cold and shivering and he wishes that neither of them had been born into this situation. He wishes Jim wasn’t a criminal and that he wasn’t a detective and that jim wasn’t a genius and his heart didn’t hurt so much. And once he starts crying he starts coughing, and the sobs are choking up his throat and he stands up and he turns the water off. Jim is gone. Jim’s gone.
Sherlock’s face is red and blotchy in the mirror, and there’s gum in his hair. Sherlock tries to pull it out and it won’t come and he sobs a bit and leaves it in there and settles on the couch and cries. He pulls his favourite blue dressing gown over him and he screams at the top of his lungs and punches the pillow. Sherlock grabs his violin and bow and he slices a song over it, and it’s fucking flat and it doesn’t make sense and Jim has fucking left him.
“You should have stayed!” Sherlock screams at his science experiment. “Why couldn’t you just stay with me.”
Because Sherlock fucking dumped him because Sherlock is an idiot and his lungs hurt from the pressure and Sherlock stomps to the bathroom and takes the razor and snaps it into fucking pieces and drops them in the bin except the blades won’t fucking break and he just bleeds all over them, pools of wretchedness and no one has ever liked him in the history of the universe because he pushes everyone away from him because he was a mistake and his mother never loved him and his father never called from fucking jail and he is a screw up who’d be better off dead but can’t even do that.
“I am such a coward,” Sherlock hisses into the stained, merciless silver. “I am going to destroy myself.”
Even better, he’s going to destroy Jim. He’s going to destroy Sebastian Moran.
Sherlock takes his laptop and puts it up on the counter and goes to the military website and types in the fucking file number. His fingers bleed all over the keyboard and the webpage loads and Sherlock wonders how he could do that to Jim, he thinks he should kill himself for harming the one man who would do anything to make him happy except it’s funny how people need to be alive for Sherlock to feel that inside him and Jim is making him sad to keep him happy and it’s all so fucked up Sherlock can’t stand it. He hates it so much and he hurt Jim and he shouldn’t have done that, he shouldn’t have slept with him and told him his feelings and then done that, he should have fucking thought but Sherlock couldn’t help but think no he was just carried by the moment and he is a freak and a sociopath and they were all right.
Sherlock trawls all over the archives and finds the right userscript and he spends all night learning Perl, rebooting with Ubuntu and writing plans that will get him into the unit directory and then he gets the co-ordinates and writes the program and he marginalizes Mycroft’s security and sends out a DDOS attack and MI6 is fucking down.
Moran has been pig-tailing off their ugly backs for six months now because of his ex-military know-how and that’s how he’s been hiding because he’s been using Jim’s file analysis to track their locations through a loophole link between profile directories and secret service records. Jim essentially backtracked the one-way path from its service location, and that’s why they didn’t realize the site was infiltrated despite all security measures. But how did he get in backwards, how could he get in backwards when hair trigger walls slammed up at the initial entry point, why would he get in sideways only to leave out the front door because it’s one way he would have had to confront the walls. He would have had to.
But the alarms weren’t triggered, of course. How did he get out through the secret service again? He wasn’t locked in, because he got in and out several times. He refreshesed and rechecked the co-ordinates. He got past Mycroft.
Sherlocks fingers shake. The code.
Sherlock types in the stream of digits and the page redirects and refreshes instantly. It exists.
Sherlock scribbles down the location he has learnt and goes back in and learns the next, and through a process of elimination Sherlock can deduce where Moran has been through where he’s avoided, come on, Sherlock steeples his fingers between his chin then slams his fist down on the table.
In the next hour the locations update twelve times, Grand Central to Picadilly, he’s in London, the idiot, and Sherlock flags each spot in his head. There is no pattern or series to the way Moran runs; he’s being off-kilter to keep Mycroft away from him. But if Sherlock scrawls the distances together and averages the total length, if he can predict the next location Mycroft’s people will find him in… No. But he can do this. How can he do this? Where will Moran go?
Sherlock smiles. Too easy.
Sherlock opens up his phone and details the series of blocked numbers Jim has texted him from. Jim uses a different phone every time to keep Mycroft off his track, but he always calls the same number because Sebastian doesn’t replace his phones because how else would Jim contact him, so there are maybe three or models he has used in the entirety of his time under Jim’s command. Jim’s phones will be protected but they won’t be Irene Adler-scale protected and if Sherlock can caller divert them he can contact Moran and GPS track him in real time. Then Sherlock can hunt him down and destroy him.
A phone trills.
Sherlock stops moving, then stands up. He checks his coat pocket and his phone has no new messages. Not his phone.
Jim’s phone. It’s somewhere in the room. Why would Jim do that? Why would Jim help him out in the death of his right hand man?
He’s killing Moran for Sherlock.
Cold revenge. Jim knew Sherlock wanted him dead, wanted it righteous, and now Sherlock can’t do that.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Sherlock settles on the lounge and gnaws his nails to the quick. He flicks on the television and the news blips on. A newscaster, talking about a new fast food franchise spreading to London. Good.
Sherlock zones out and scrolls through the pictures on his phone, of he and John and case memoirs and important clues. What do they all have in common? Motivation. Jim just wouldn’t kill Moran to get back at Sherlock, no matter how much else he would do for him. Moran is Jim’s John. Jim needs Moran. And maybe that factors into the reason Sherlock wants to kill him a bit, for having what he can’t, but Sherlock shouldn’t kill Moran anyway after what he just did to Jim.
Or perhaps he should, for the sole fact Moran is a traitorous bastard who can’t be trusted to keep in his place even after the whole Irene scare. It all depends what Jim’s done to him. Maybe he’s only tortured Moran, kept him in the one place. Fooled Mycroft’s cameras with false footage loops or invented co-ordinates. Is he waiting for Sherlock to kill Moran, or MI6? Is Moran already dead?
There’s only one way to find out. Sherlock trawls the house for Jim’s phone, discovering it eventually slipped under the cover of his bed sheets on max volume (definetly planted, but why? Before or after the break up—the thoughtful tuck suggests earlier, but surely Jim didn’t plot Moran’s death and Sherlock leaving him in advance). Sherlock identifies the number and rewrites his code after some careful tinkering with the mechanics of Jim’s phone, Blackberry thank god, and opens the internet to MePhone to track its co-ordinates.
“The Kew Gardens?” Sherlock repeats, nose crinkling. What, is Moran on the bloody tourist circuit? It seems like a stupid place to hide undercover to him, but then perhaps he isn’t running for his life.
Sherlock memorizes Moran’s number and stalks down the stairs with his phone, pocketing his own for good measure. If there was ever a time to be able to afford a cab…
Sherlock paces the street. Since the keycode is real, he has an ethical responsibility to make Mycroft aware of it, before Jim attempts to blow up London or such like. But he owes Jim, since he just dumped him, it would be cruel to give away Jim’s secrets while Jim’s on a low.
It’ll take half an hour to get to the gardens by cab, And Moran moves a sizeable distance every five minutes (excessive, or is Mycroft hot on his trail? Has Jim given Moran’s movements away?) If Sherlock can sway Mycroft he might be there in minutes…
Sherlock pushes the selfish thought from his mind. If he does this, he does it for the right reasons. Like potentially saving innocent lives.
But he’s already chosen, hasn’t he? He’s already dumped Jim. He already slept with Mycroft. Sherlock is on the side of the angels, now.
Sherlock doesn’t want to give to Mycroft any more than he has to, in the end, but he takes out his phone to contact him.
Jim’s code is a binary sequence corresponding with the notation values of Bach’s Partita No. 1.
Mycroft’s car takes exactly fourty two seconds to pull up at the curb after that. “How pleasant to see your ministrations were actually good for something,” he drawls in greeting.
“You could act a little more thankful,” Sherlock says, stepping in the car. Could go fast enough, if required. “I just potentially saved London. And your job.”
“Yes, after first dooming it,” says Mycroft. “I would be interested to hear you came about that information.”
“Well, you aren’t. Pity, that,” says Sherlock. “I have something much more useful at hand, regardless. Moran’s current location.”
“And you expect me to chauffeur you.”
“No, I expect your driver to chauffeur me,” Sherlock says. “I expect you to shut up and listen to how I drew conclusion. Finding him, the task you thought I would never succeed at? Didn’t even take an afternoon. I managed to find his co-ordinates through his contact details listed in Jim’s archives. I’m tracking Moran’s locations, or his phone’s at least. If you have to check, the previous locations of the number coincide with that on the SIS website.”
“Arrogant,” chides Mycroft, as Anthea presses in the number co ordinates. “How are you feeling, Sherlock?”
“What, since you raped me?” Sherlock sneers, and Mycroft flinches. Anthea looks up from her blackberry.
“You’ve been crying,” Mycroft says.
“Irene Alder just died,” Sherlock deflects.
“You weren’t this upset last time, I recall.”
“She wasn’t actually dead last time, do you recall that?”
‘Fiesty’ mouths Anthea to herself. Mycroft scoffs, his counter-argument self-evident. She was dead to you. Sherlock glares at Mycroft, pulling his feet up on the leather in front of him.
“Perhaps we shouldn’t allow you after Moran in this state,” threatens Mycroft. “You certainly aren’t trained for it.”
“Using the Royal We, are we?” Mycroft grows more domineering by the day.
“Please Sherlock, you sound just like John. I am merely concerned for your health and safety; I, of course, will not be attending. Sherlock, what happened?”
Sherlock exhales through his teeth. He should have never have come to Mycroft, his brother always manages an attempt at manoeuvring him. Sherlock wonders how he ever forgot. His situation with Jim is tenuous enough without Mycroft’s emotional manipulation. “If you must know, Jim and I aren’t seeing each other any longer.”
“I suspected as such. You haven’t been this unruly since last summer.”
The summer before he met John. If you suspected, then why did you ask? Sherlock turns his head away from the harsh blow. He could have had Jim kill this man, but for some reason he never considered it. Despite all reasons to the contrary.
Perhaps it was the way he’d stared at Irene’s dead body and thought never again, or the thought of having to bury his own brother. The hard reality of becoming a murderer, of Moran, once more. He should rot a thousand years rather than make another person’s life wither away in the painful husk of their body.
“I will kill you one day,” Sherlock promises Mycroft, thinking of all the times as a child Mycroft neglected him. Left him standing in the rain, knocking at the front porch until sunset, didn’t explain to him his oddity but laughed with the others, at Sherlock, Sherlock the eccentric, Sherlock the strange. Sherlock looks. His finger has stopped bleeding. “I hope that by that time, you will understand.”
This chapter is a monologue of Sherlock's childhood and Mycroft's reaction, spoken in real time. There is very little direct speech in it and nothing actively happens during the flashback, so this is one you could skip over if you like. The style may not be for everyone.
The next chapter will be back in Sherlock's POV like usual.
Mycroft doesn’t look surprised or alarmed to receive a death threat from Sherlock. Instead, he looks sombre.
“Do you remember when we were children?” Mycroft asks. “And every day seemed majestical? We lived in the manor house by the water together and in summer the sun rose like a great red halo over the gates between the elder pines. The yard would flood with early, sharp light, cutting through the night melancholy into an awakening day.
“Those days were a gift to me. It wasn’t the same before you were born, and the moment of your conception, I knew things were going to be different. You weren’t alive in the days when my parents’ loved strongly; only of their social ruin, but that wasn’t your fault. I suspected you blame yourself. You never met my father in the highlight of his career, although if you had, you might have been disappointed. They divorced long before you were even born and that fiasco warped father, father who demanded only the best, it twisted and mangled who he was into the terrible shadow you met after mummy’s demise.”
“I was never surprise she remarried. My father, despite his respectability, had that tangible blandness about him which infiltrated every aspect of his life. He held no love for family or work; success tarnished his dreams in a skewed ambition which defined his self-worth, and his contentedness. As a matter of fact, Siger distanced himself intellectually from mummy in many cases when he believed she wasted her inherit fortune. Violet spent too many nights cold and alone in bed, pacing the hallways, peeking into my room for reassurance. She was never as bolstered as you think. Lonely is the word. The split was messy. I wanted to stay with her; mummy didn’t care, Siger saw me as his possession. Father was absolutely enraged by my defiance, and his pride was dashed by the concept of her rejection. He informally disowned me as his son, and moved to East Asia and never wrote. We were fairly miserable until you came along. I buried myself in my schoolwork to escape it. Mummy started looking for someone else, and naturally found your father.”
“You made mummy and I so happy. I wasn’t alone anymore and you were discovering the wonders of the world with insatiable curiosity. You were also learning how different you were. I wanted to be there to help you along. But I’d been alone so long I didn’t know how to adjust to not being so, to break from the propriety mould father forced upon me. There was also the age gap, and family expectation—mummy presumed you to be up to my standards at only three when I was ten. You couldn’t, although you knew yourself smarter than me at your age. You resented that, and soon me. Mummy hardly noticed. She was pre-occupationally content with her new husband, your father, but somewhat of the hurt and anger at Siger leaving for the East leaked into her interactions with us.
“How do I explain what your father was like? I know you have faint memories of the times he was home, that you revered him as a god for your blood link before he left you permanently. He wasn’t home very often, he and Violet had an independent relationship. It wasn’t about the money. She’d split the fortune with Siger in the divorce, and chose to keep the house, so as you know it was somewhat depleted regardless. I believe the only reason they married after mummy’s experience was to keep her social status in check and our father figures in rights. Your father was quiet, this libertarian, a restless traveller, and he inspired her. Striking in a very feminine way, but not vain— too concerned with the ways of others to overthink it. I knew you were going to be beautiful. But it was only to be expected that his hacker-activist attitude combined with various political leaks had him extradited from four countries and life imprisoned in America.”
“Mummy, since the day she was born, had been stressed the importance dignity of over notoriety. The public backlash against your father was a massive social pressure for those who knew of her secret wedlock; it was extremely lucky we weren’t forced out of our home and into hiding. The essential loss of your father, a personal hero of hers, sunk Mummy into depression. She saw him in every movement you made, and every sonnet and sonata you composed.
“I remember I woke up for some milk in the early morning one Friday of May and you were in the sun room, sprawled over the lounge. Hard yellow light flittered through the air in sunrise and I could see individual dust particles settled on your jaw, your cheek. You weren’t playing, just imagining, small flicks over open strings with the tip of your bow. But you looked lost inside it, your eyes lidded in affection, and you’d sat there all night, making no sound at all. You weren’t supposed to be down there, but your relaxation said you didn’t question it. You weren’t paying any attention to the searing light blasting through dark splendour; you were entirely gone to the world I knew. I don’t think you even saw me. Your fingers rose in a hover over the bridge. I recognised the movements from my own failed attempts on cello, Pagananni’s first caprice from Opus number one. And you sat there, for the two hours I watched, and silently played the twenty four movements impeccably without ever touching bow to string. I knew then you were the most incredible mind I would ever have the grace to meet. Violet knew it too.
“My little virtuouso, she called you. Everyone had such great respect for you Sherlock, and years passed and she fell further and further into shadow. Mummy craved attention, and intellectual appreciation, then it became something she couldn’t have anymore, with her fading good looks, ruined fortune, vanished partner, and within the space of a few years, son at school. She stopped going to her dinner parties and social lunches. She never went outside anymore. You were six; you couldn’t console her and craved her acceptance more than you catered to hers. You were just as angry about your father having left as she, you wanted to visit him and mummy hated the reminder. You were frustrated by her depression, something you couldn’t fix with an endearing smile or chemical solution.
“She was essentially alone in that large house and you spent all your days outside and investigating murders because you couldn’t stand that she was pushing you away from her. I warned her to stop it, that she was calling your ruin, but she wouldn’t listen. And autmn dried down the drain to winter, and Violet grew ill. She hated being sick even more than she hated being alone, she was trapped inside with her thoughts all day long. She was miserable. She didn’t talk and she didn’t eat, and you didn’t have anyone to talk to either. She never even tutored you anymore, and often forgot to unlock the tall oak doors when you came inside in the afternoons. You were angry, trapped, abandoned, and one day you ran away from home. She scoured through the snow looking for you, she called and called your name. All night she looked for you, and the temperature dropped and it began to pour. I remember watching the droplets melt down the glass on the window in my dormitory. I had little idea, and neither did you. You’d hidden from her, in one of the secret attics high in the manor, and by the time you revealed herself to her she was frantic. Mummy dragged you out, she pulled you downstairs. She shouted at you for a long time. I can’t imagine how it would have felt, to be in your position. To watch that happen… the only person who you truly cared about.
“How long did you wait, holding her hand, waiting against hope for her to awaken? Knowing she never would. Waiting for the police to arrive in the secret hours of the morning listening to the wail of the wind and the thistles of thunder and static rain, the long flashes of lightning interrupting your vision. Silence as the storm abated and you were left staring at her dead body for the rest of the night. Your first true confrontation with death. I’ll never forget the look on your face as they wrapped the shock blanket around your body. You were gone. Every part of you had died except your mind. Your eyes were hollow, and blood shot, although you hadn’t been crying. You wouldn’t tear your eyes from her corpse. You wouldn’t blink, you wouldn’t move. You didn’t let them take you away from her and one of the policemen cried in sorrow for you. Everyone consoled you and I, and I falsely reassured them.
“We both had nightmares. I saw the pools of her blood in the puddles outside the manor and in the water of my tears. But you didn’t dream about that. You dreamt about steel bars and vacant smiles, I heard you talk about them in your sleep. That was the only place you weren’t reserved, and distrustful. You stared at me as if waiting for me to betray you.
“The funeral was held at a cemetery we’d never been to, a village once over. You looked uncomfortable in the suit and top hat. A local priest gave her eulogy. My father flew from the east to attend, and it was the first you’d even seen of him. You were so stoic after Mummy passed; you watched her die and you waited, alone in that vast space for company. But you felt nothing. At her funeral, you stood in front of her open grave and stared in unconcerned silence. Bored. Her death was a mild disappointment; a waste. It irritated you.
“I swore to myself, as the guests left for reception and you stood obstinately at the gravesite analysing the soil, that I would never let anyone hurt you again. I swore that I would always protect you, because you were my brother, and the only person I ever had who understood true intellectual frustration and the boredom of conformity. How everything could be obvious and nothing could be interesting. I wanted to be powerful for you. I wanted to say sorry, that I wasn’t there for you when I could have been. I was so foolish.
“Siger vowed for custody for me, and succeeded—but I insisted that we shouldn’t be torn apart, that living with distant family would isolate and damage you further, that you needed some normality past that treacherous event.
“They ruled you a sociopath, past the funeral, they asked why you weren’t upset your mother had died. All the positive attention you ever received warped into some disgusting critique of anomaly that would follow you the rest of your life. Your psychiatrist treated you alternately as if you were two, and ninety. She diagnosed you high functioning, asked you if you wanted to leave. You always said yes; but always to be by yourself, not with infernal relatives you’d never met. She thought there was something wrong with you mentally. They force medicated you, it didn’t work. Your irritation at mummy’s death flew to spiralling rage.
“Oh, but you loved mummy, and something about her tormented death has perplexed and fascinated you to this day. The fact, that some higher power received her spirit, that she would prostrate and relinquish herself to fates unknown for no reason at all but sadness and hope was phenomenal to you. You revered mummy; and after her death you smiled at women of the same name and looked for her form in each lady you met. Each time you found yourself disappointed, and you mutated like Siger into some jaded, aged phantom, your youth lost to her ultimate tragedy. Irene Adler impressed you; I believe to you she alone bore the wit and spirit you admired in Violet.
“For the few dinners I was home, it was obvious. You never loved father. You invariably called him Siger, and never met his eyes, as if he were an insect, or the scum of a shoe, not at all worth paying attention to. You were trapped for hours alone in his company, his decorum and his practical career focus, and made a point to rebel every small tutoring in any that you could. You lost all captivation with your scholarly pursuits and retreated to those few studies which intrigued you. Chemistry, the forbearer— endless bombs and chemical concoctions assailed my forays into your room, and father’s.
“You hated me, for my ties to him. You hated me for having a father, where you were essentially orphaned. Siger adopted you and took you on for his own, begrudgingly. He loathed you and you despised him. He wished he was in Bangkok with his business and three-year girlfriend. The only reason you acquiesced the adoption was to be rid yourself of the infamy your birth father’s title. How many times did you run away from him, only to be returned by the police? How much state property did you vandalise and repossess? It was only father’s pride that kept you from the social services.
“You were aware, more acutely than ever with his presence, that our relation was biologically weak. I think you felt I was less valuable, that we weren’t true brothers. Father never understood you; he never respected you. You were young, and the bastard child to another man of the woman he prided. He saw your misdemeanour and your bad habits, and he never saw your mourning or your laughter. You wouldn’t let him. Your pride was too strong. Something inside you ruptured, because you saw me with my father, as proper and polite as he, and yourself, as wild and arrogant as your mother. You inferred I did not understand how you felt. You stopped playing the violin, only to violate the strings with provocative screech; you questioned the order of the world around you and read tomes of postmodern theory. That’s when you decided that nothing mattered.
“I remember you wrote a poem; unintellectual, purposeful, and you recited it each morning like a memory verse in the hall where she died. I worried about you. Do you remember the poem? I do, word for word, each utter seared into the tomb of memory, gleeful ferocity, the corruption of your curious spirit. You sang it and you screamed it. Wonder and confusion and insight permeated into everything you lost that night. The poem thus:
“‘Why is the grass green? Why does it grow so tall and lean?
Why is the earth round? Why should it spin without a sound?
Why are the walls and windows flat? Why would a postman wear a hat?
Why is the sky bright and blue? Why does it shine on me and you?
There is no reason, that is why; first you live and then you die.’
“When you were seventeen, father returned to Asia, and you fled to the city. I was in university, and you fell into substance abuse and criminality. I broke my promise to myself, I couldn’t keep you safe. I wasn’t good enough. I should have known. I have failed you so many times. I am resigned to my own misjudgement and egotism: to sleep by your lullaby is an honour I could never atone for.”
Sherlock’s head pulses, like he can feel his brain swimming through bursts beneath his skin. He can’t see Mycroft’s expression in the reverse mirror but he can feel that shit pouring out of him, the nerve of Mycroft to lay them bare, knock him speechless and start talking and never stop until he says the final wrong thing. Control, Sherlock thinks, digging his teeth hard in his lip, feeling the swell against his tongue with the slight of bleed. He wants to take Mycroft by the collar and pull him out onto the pavement and smash his skull into eggshell pieces. Destroy his ease and calm and soak him in hot blood until it cools against the pavement like his cracked head.
You can move, Sherlock tells himself. Don’t sit there so frozen. What are you doing?
Moran’s out there. He’s waiting and fucking hiding like a girl and Sherlock needs that reassertion, that anesthetic of analysis and resolution. He doesn’t need Mycroft. He doesn’t need this right now.
The door handle slips out of Sherlock’s fingers and he can’t slam the door, he leaves it open and turns on a heel, strides long and straight and fast through the park, the high gates and whisps of pale cloud against a backdrop of whipping tree branches, cool wind roaring around the edges of his sleeves. Moran could be anywhere. Sherlock’s come unarmed, not John’s gun, not a kitchen knife. They won’t be neccessary.
Sherlock walks, and walks, co ordinates a dare beneath the fall of his feet. Moran is in the white rose garden. Sherlock is struck by the thick, cloying aroma, the tangle of the thorny bushes in a closing circle around a large monumental fountain. The break between Moran and he. It’s shaped like nothing, abstract architecture, and their alcove rests in the shadow of a gnarled ash tree.
“Taking a stroll through the flowers?” Sherlock sneers, feeling ascendancy whistle through him. “Stay away from them.”
“Painting the roses red,” says the deep, gravelly voice as he steps out. Moran is so young for it, a chain-smoker, with dark tan blushing his fair skin. His hair has been stained blond by an excess of sunlight and obscures the blue of his eyes. “I do what I want. Especially with James.”
Jim. What the hell is he implying? “You know why I’m here. You shouldn’t have killed her.”
“Shouldn’t have? It’s a job, shit.” Moran laughs rough. Moran stands a metre from, his fingers breezing through petals of the pungent plants. Totally secure. Utterly at ease. “And you’re definitely a piece of work. Bet you don’t make rose chains though, even a poncy guy like you. How weird, right? Snapping their spines, gutting their stems, threading through thorns and tying halos. I have a friend who does it.”
Moran strokes the serrated edge of a rose leave with one calloused fingertip. “Did it,” Moran amends.
“You won’t shoot me here. The noise will bring Mycroft directly to you. You would rather die on your own terms than on his. Or mine.”
“Know me so well?” Moran asks. There’s that laugh back. “You think you can make me just up and shoot myself?”
“I know criminals,” Sherlock says harshly. “Money, blackmail, sex, power. I know what Jim has against you. And I know what I can do to make you want it.”
Moran looks over, posture considering, but Sherlock still can’t see his eyes. “I like a bit of skirt myself. But all this for a lay?”
Shameful. “Irene Adler was twice the woman you’ll ever be.”
Moran puts his hand on his forehead, incredulous.
“So, your plan is to kill me to get revenge on your ex-boyfriend that you yourself dumped. Yeah, I know all about that,” Moran says. Sherlock tries not to look as shocked and hurt as he feels. Of course, Jim might have been feeling spiteful or neglected… but Sherlock still finds it hard to wrap his mind around the concept Jim would confide in someone so ordinary. “Nah, even better, your plan is to kill me, Jim’s best friend, to avenge a criminal who worked for him all along? Don’t you see the irony in that? You ever think she might have consented? Did you investigate the consequences at all?”
Sherlock clenches his hands and fists. Mycroft’s dark blood on pavement turns to Moran’s. “I found you-- this is deflection. My moral values aren’t the ones at trial here.” Whatever happened in lieu of Irene’s death is irrelevant.
Moran wraps his fingers around the green and rips a rose out by its stalk. Blood drips down his fingers. “Remind you of someone?” Full, thick droplets pour into the rose, lolling around the bend of the damp bloom and dripping around the edges, pooling at the centre. Moran twirls it between his fingertips, staring into the ruined eye.
Sherlock’s stomach churns. Moran’s casual ferocity pulls his own rage into check, sets the new wound on his lip throbbing with blood. “You’re sick.”
“And you have an ego problem and daddy issues,” Moran says, tucking the rose behind his ear. “The fuck does he see in you? Too damn obnoxious and afraid even to kill a nasty criminal with his own hands. Oh, look what a noble being I am! Such a fucking pussy. And for the chick you apparently care about. Damn, this has been such a boring chat, I was really hoping I might meet a man worth opposing, but I think I might go rile up some real shit heads now. Afternoon.”
Sherlock pulls Moran hard by the forearm as he brushes past, clenching him tight. “Tell me how you know.”
Sherlock’s heart clamors through its beat. His dad. Sherlock had made to keep so quiet about it, resolved to keep away, ignored and blindsided for so long. He was an adult. He didn’t need to think about old dependencies like that. And now it was back from nothing, a reminder of all his mistakes. A cruel shank to his emotions. Unfair.
Moran smirks at him. “Jim wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s always done. That’s why he’s so changeable. He’s bipolar, you know? But no. Jim is a considerate sonovabitch. He wouldn’t hurt me like that, he’s not malicious, not for the people he cares for. It was your brother. Mycroft fucking Holmes. Oh, you don’t like to hear that, do ya? Think I’m all some big fucking liar?”
Moran laughs. Sherlock lets go of him, turning off, ready to move away. Mycroft’s people are probably nearly on them by now. “He begged me, and I told him, and he didn’t give a shit. He didn’t give a rat’s fine arse about anything you’d have to say! If I gave him low down he wanted on Jim, the false trails, the invented livelihoods, he’d tell me anything. He was so angry about it. At you. For the unrequited repressed whatever he has about you. Bit inappropriate, isn’t it? You know all that? He could have got me, he’s that strong but he lay out this stupid bread crumbs and cookies trail for you. So fucking jealous, of Jim! Jim you don’t even give a crap about! Oh, I bet he apologized to you. He gave you a real run of it, didn’t he? Oh, he fucking did. He did alright, just look at you.
“And you know what? If you did kill me like he wanted, you’d be helping him out anyway. You’d call yourself a murderer and of course Jim wouldn’t be there for you and you’d go crawling into Mycroft’s arms just like he wants.”
“Stop it!” Sherlock shouts.
“Oh, but Jim’s such a big bitch, isn’t he? Not worth the full investment. Why don’t you just go and fucking make up with him and tease him to fucking death and reject him, even though I’ve given my entire life to aiding his insanity and every other person on the planet would kill to be even considered by him. Oh, but you’re not afraid. Even Jim Moriarty is too fucking good for you. I’ve been hearing your name non-stop endless, oh, Sherlock Holmes did this, Sherlock Holmes wants that, and he would do any fucking thing he can for you, he’d kill himself for you if you didn’t want him alive, that scares me so much. I can never stop thinking about what I would do if I were you and I hate it, I hate every moment because he will never love me the way he loves you and you will never make him fucking happy because you’re far too selfish.”
Moran breathes out deep on the end of his words and the flower droops from his ear, his long fringe hangs down.
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock whispers.
Moran shakes his head. “No, no. Forget it. Fuck off, you shithead. Just go.”
Sherlock can’t. He stares at Moran, swaying on his feet, swallowing around his throat and doing nothing for the tightness of his chest. He tumbles forward, taking his phone in hand. It can unlock any door in the world but it can do nothing about the way he feels right now. “I am sorry. You deserve him. I can talk, maybe he’ll—”
“Don’t take pity on me, Holmes,” Moran growls, rough. “Don’t you dare. You hate me.”
“No,” Sherlock says, stumbling forward. “Wrong.”
The flower smells metallic and fresh sweet both at once. Sherlock brushes Moran’s fringe from his face with his pinky. Blue eyes stop his breath. John. “You’re not going to—”
“I know how you feel,” Sherlock says, swallowing. “I think I know what he sees in you.”
“Just kill me,” Moran says. “Wrap your hands around my throat. Slice my pipes with the prickle of a green razor. Go on. I don’t care if it helps Mycroft out. I’m sick of living like this. I’m tired of watching him be happy with you and sad with me. Taking out stupid hits to thrall you. He never realizes how I feel, and he’s the only one who I can count on anymore. You don’t know what it’s like.”
Sherlock says nothing, closing his eyes against the storm.
“He wouldn’t mind if it was you. He cares about you, but he’d probably just blame himself. You know, he wishes he wasn’t a criminal, so you could fully commit to him, so you could be together. But he loves it because it was the thing that attracted you, and he loves you more than anything else in the world.”
“Do you want to know what it’s like?” asks Sherlock quietly. “To have him?”
Moran looks up, flushed with despair, vulnerable. Sadness floods his eyes and Sherlock has a blinding white moment of clarity, knowing Moran would give anything for what it’s like, that Sherlock alone can give it to him. But Moran won’t ask. Sherlock leans down and catches Moran’s lips between his, infusing as much heart and passion in the movement as he can, replaying the deft, slow pains of Jim’s lips against his. He tastes Moran and they’re so connected Sherlock can hardly bare to draw apart, to just stay close against Moran, this perfect part of Jim’s world. Sherlock thinks he could love Moran forever, for being dear to Jim and such a glorious surprise, perfect, perfect.
How such a strong person could have such a bright heart for someone else, that past the cold snap of his rifle fingers he kissed like an angel, solemn and as innocent as the white flower tucked behind his ear. He’s pure and slow, patient, he closes the kiss with a slow draw away.
“That’s what he’s like,” Sherlock says.
Moran nods, bowing his head back down. “Never let him go,” Moran says. “I’ve been with him.” Moran takes the rose and tucks it behind Sherlock’s ears with his deep blue eyes. His arm holds there. And Moran draws the gun from his jacket and Sherlock says “no, NO!” and the barrel touches his chin and the shot blasts out.
Sherlock gasps and draws back, fingers clawing at his chest. He stares at the dead form of Moran. No, Sebastian. Sherlock imagines he can see the light dwindling out of Moran’s eyes. Sherlock cries. Tears stream down his face and he turns from the abstract fountain and runs from the garden and the flower falls down from behind his ear. Sherlock runs through the gardens and the happy couples and he doesn’t know where he’s running and he doesn’t think he can stop. Jim’s wide open mouth stretches like a damn in his memory, cavernous and endless, and the small pout of Moran’s lips together, cracked and chapped against the corners of his mouth.
All Moran wanted to do was to know Jim. And he didn’t want to die because that might hurt him and Sherlock said he’d make him kill himself and of course he would because he could never take Sherlock from Jim and he could never have Jim, he could never do anything to Jim that might hurt him. Moran had known Jim as long as Sherlock knew Mycroft, and probably looked up to him from the soles of his shoe shine and cried against his blankets and promised to be the best arms man their was. Sherlock had seen that on him and he kissed Moran anyway, because he wanted to know Jim like Moran did, what it was like to have him domestically and socially and not just physically. Wanted to feel that roar of emotion on his breath, his planned betrayal, the fierce crush of resentment against Mycroft for turning him against Jim. The hatred. All the terrible things he said and felt with Sherlock in his soul.
Gone. Dead like mummy. Dead like the most wonderful people he had ever met, like a thousand pages of history, like being alone by himself with no thoughts to ever think of. Sherlock breathes raw into the thick of a forest and curls onto his knees and snaps the limbs of tree branches. Dead. Dead. Dead.
The anger drips from the bottom of his lungs and gushes out his throat and Sherlock hurls the sticks into the wind, he stumbles out of the park, and he’s cheated on Jim a fucking gain. But Jim’s gone and Sherlock can do whatever he likes and Jim will never have him and Jim will never forgive him. Beautiful Moran. Natural link circles. Who even makes rose chains? Children. Sherlock thinks he sees some young boys looking for a four-leafed clover but no one wrenches the sad daisies from their weedy patch. Sherlock finds back to the corpse and Moran’s body and he pulls the roses carefully from the soil and twists the greenery gently from the bushes’ grasp. Five white roses and no trace of blood, Moran’s golden halo of hair and the press of his eyes shut. Blood loss can’t bleach his skin white, not in the drench of his wood honey tan. Jim’s dark angel.
Sherlock buries Moran under the ash tree. The wind blows, and dirt cakes the inside of Sherlock's fingernails, stains his hands brown, but no one looks at all. No one ever looked at Sebastian Moran.
Sherlock feels alone the way he feels rain on his skin. It’s like his lonliness is a person, telling him he’s not good enough, that nothing he’s done has ever been. That this is the result. An afternoon dripped to dust. Nice to meet you.
Sherlock pulls his coat tight against his lungs, flips his collar to hide himself from the world. He killed Moran. He meant to kill Moran, he made to. He was right, of course he was right. Why didn’t he realize he was right? Did he think he could go around kissing near-strangers and not have them feel something, that just because Sherlock sympathized with Moran for the fact he’d never see Jim again it somehow meant Irene hadn’t gave her life.
He’d never see Jim again. That was true, wasn’t it? Sherlock killed his best friend. Moran killed himself because of Sherlock. Now Moran will never do a job for Jim again. Now Jim will have no one to talk to about how he feels and no one to protect him when the thugs get too close.
Sherlock hopes Jim will be okay. He’d already worried about it before, betrayal within the ranks, and now Jim will have to deal with the anarchy Moran’s death will cause. Bluffs. They weren’t enough, they wouldn’t be, once the idiots suspected Jim of killing off his own. They’d panic.
But then, Jim had the code, and that changed everything. Did that make what Jim said about struggling with Mycroft a lie? How much was just for Sherlock’s intellectual benefit, and how much was just playing?
Surely Jim already knows. Sherlock wants to apologize, he feels that mad urge creeping down his arm to just text him but sympathies and condolences mean nothing from killers. Sherlock has the horrible thought Jim arranged the murder and false confession just to fuck with Sherlock but quashes it down.
Sherlock wonders fruitlessly whether Moran had any family, but statistically, having joined the army and a criminal enterprise, he doubts it. If only he’d deduced it earlier.
Sherlock wants suddenly to know everything about Moran. Where he lived, what his favorite film was, whether he took tea with sugar. And it annoys him, it infuriates him that he hadn’t deduced it and that everything with Jim is always so ambiguous and unfinished.
How is Sherlock ever meant to apologize for aspiring to kill Jim’s best friend? Maybe Jim will understand, but. Sherlock shouldn’t talk to him. He doesn’t have the right to say anything right now.
Sherlock finds himself in front of his flat, awareness lost somewhere in habit and worry and the rusting small numbers glare across at him. Sherlock makes the stairs and shucks off his jacket on the lounge and looks at the room and all he can think is John and I have to get out of here, I can’t do this right now.
His four fingers curl around the neck of the violin but he doesn’t bring the bow and can’t muster the effort to pluck the strings pizzicato. Sherlock strides fast and long and the violin is a comfort, something familiar in his palm but something empty. Sherlock takes out his phone, the six contacts Irene, Jim, John, Lestrade, Molly, Mycroft. He deletes Molly’s number and Irene’s and Lestrade’s and all he has are Jim, John, Mycroft, black pixels blasting upward in demand.
Sherlock doesn’t know how Jim will react, he’s afraid of it. And maybe that’s selfish, maybe Moran’s right about him. Sherlock can’t bring himself to call him, or hit delete contact, and strike Jim from Sherlock’s life despite his resolve. Rain drops, the beginning of a grisly spring storm, splatter on the screen. How old was Moran? Twenty three or twenty four? Nineteen? Young. Young enough to give his life to the armed forces an then to Jim. All that effort of making a person, of birth and learning language and to count and make small talk and laugh thrown to the wind. What is it all for?
Sherlock suddenly has an acute hatred of life, to offer all so short and so strong. To give someone something, hope, and then to take it all away.
And Mycroft, playing god with their lost existences, with Moran’s. Mycroft set Sherlock up.
Why would you do that?, Sherlock sends to Mycroft, a soft flitter of light in evening darkness. You were meant to be my brother.
Whatever Colonel Moran has informed you of my behavior, I assure you it isn’t true. - MH
Of course Mycroft would say that. No apologies from Mycroft, ever. Just deny everything. Why not? Life is all one joke, and Mycroft’s the sort of person who doesn’t let anyone else in on it.
Sherlock wishes he had Jim here to talk him through this, that he wasn’t standing in the darkening dusk with the street lamps flicking on alone. But of course he should be the one there for Jim, even though he probably won’t be allowed to anymore.
Sherlock walks through the dark streets, skin flush with exhilaration. The running high is abominable, a glistening sheen on the pallor of his skin and Sherlock is menaced for feeling so pleased with himself, a wretch for planning the murder in the first place, not approaching Moran as a breathing human but as an opponent to conquest. And to call Mycroft inconsiderate. Sherlock’s grand inhumanity of conscience by his own roiling jealousy against Moran for having more of Jim than he’d been able, is insurmountable.
Sherlock walks and walks. Mycroft doesn’t contact him any further and streetlamps flicker on into the fading twilight. Sherlock makes past the tube station, and the cemetery and finds himself afront St Barts. He hesitates. Sherlock has no idea where Jim is currently situated in London, but if Jim was that close to Moran, if Moran were that vital for Jim’s everyday operations, then might Jim consider giving up on them altogether? It was almost blasphemy to think someone so strong and independent might take rash action in the face of vulnerability, but Sherlock had his doubts. The thought Jim might attempt is crippling.
Sherlock pushes through the tall, white front doors and bypasses reception, striding down the long hallway. The nurses know better than to follow him by now. Sherlock bypasses the morgue and his stride steps up to a run. Jim. Please, please, please Sherlock begs himself. He can’t take Reichenbach again. Seeing Jim still and bloodless.
A frail hand catches him on the stairs, takes his arm. “Sherlock?” Molly asks tentatively. “Are you alright?”
Sherlock rips his arm away. “Fine,” he grounds out.
“What are you doing here?” she asks, animosity rising in her voice. Like he’s broken some mutual agreement of avoidance. Like he’s not respecting her privacy. She’s carrying a coffee, she’s just down from the cafeteria and her lunch break. It threatens to spill on her hands with the way she clenches it. “Couldn’t you just stay away for awhile? Is that so much to ask?”
Sherlock doesn’t have time for this. He keeps walking, hearing her heels clack behind him. “You don’t even have a good excuse or reason to be here! What, do you think I’m just going to buy some dumb accidental apology and help you out with something? Well I’m tired of being used by you!”
She says it in a stiff way that reeks of long preparation and recitation. Heads turn as they pass the lounge and Sherlock pulls his coat collar up to his ears to hide himself. “I know you stopped taking private cases after the publicity boom when you came back, and I know you haven’t been helping the police because they’ve been screening our corpses for us, so you can just man up and admit you’re here to see me, and turn around and look me in the eye and think of what you came here to tell me and say it.”
Sherlock lets out a half scream, half growl of frustration. He whirls on his feet. “Molly,” he pronounces severely, and his vision glazes with rage. “I have nothing to say to you.”
Molly lets out a little eep and covers her mouth. “Oh god. You’re here to—”
“What?” Sherlock asks, and Molly intercepts him and blocks the stairway to the rooftop.
She stands firm, fingernails digging holes into the hardwood frame. “I’m not going to let you do it,” she says, voice teetering on a high note. “You might not have John, but you have me, and you have your brother. And I won’t let you bring about another death in this hospital. You have a great mind, and you are a human man, and I’m not going to allow you to throw that all away.”
“You think—” Sherlock stops, examining the barring beside the staircase door. Locks recently installed to prevent access to the rooftop; safety procedure. “Molly, step aside, please.”
She isn’t going to listen to him. “No,” she spits, and rather than force her, Sherlock puts on a fake sigh. There’s no way he’s getting past the door locks, that’s industrial steel, even if he did manage to get Molly out of the picture.
“Alright,” Sherlock huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “But don’t think I don’t know you’re a morgue attendant because you’re too stupid to be a doctor.”
A beat of silence. “What?” Molly says.
“That’s right. You failed your GSCE’s on first try because you were so enamored with your biology professor, an older man. It was just unfortunate that Toby had to go and conk it right when you’re properly gearing to study up, mm? Oh well, nothing like a fat cat to keep his memory in mind. Oh, and—-”
“As I was saying, if you don’t please, you always carry such guilt, because you don’t harbor enough responsibility to take becoming a nurse seriously, and you don’t pay any respects to the dead, you unzip them out, mark them up, and send them back where they came from with a laugh. I wonder if it was your brother’s death that made for your crippling self doubt in looking after people?”
“Sherlock,” Molly says lowly. She draws a scalpal from the inside of her lab jacket. “I have been very patient with you. I’ve been understanding. But you might maybe think about the things you’re saying. Because sometimes. I can be. Not all that. Much. I want you to think hard whether you want to continue this tangent. And I want you to turn around and walk down that hall to outside and realize that I just spared your life.”
Sherlock stands statue still, struck. He’d meant it as a leaving barb to keep character. To justify his sudden unwillingness to commit suicide; not truly as an attack on Molly, to ignore her feelings.
“Go on,” Molly says, raising the scalpel up to his cheek. “Now.”
Sherlock flinches black, horrified at the blankness in Molly’s eyes, and backtracks down the hallway. He still has to get to Jim. Sherlock has to check the rooftop. But if Molly sees him… Well, Sherlock will just have to make her not see him.
Sherlock walks back out to the front of the morgue, checking the supply cupboards as he goes. Mops, buckets, strange yellow balls they keep in urinals… vaccuum cleaner, couple making love, where is the rope. Sherlock grits his teeth and slams the front doors open as he steps along the side of the building. He’ll just have to climb back down the side of Barts without.
The building is approximately sixteen point four metres tall, Victorian make, and Sherlock will have better luck if he uses the brick ledges as rifling grooves rather than the windows. Sherlock prowls around to the back of the building, out of sight, and settles his fingers in the wedge a half metre above him and hauls himself onto vertical feet. He shucks off his dress shoes because they’re slippery and have absolutely no grip and makes a blind cling for the next groove, lungs and arms screaming with the sudden force of his wake. Luckily Sherlock has always been very thin, and manages up the side of the hospital with not so much as blistered fingers. The wall is slippery with rainwater though, and Sherlock makes a few near falls. Sherlock throws himself over onto the roof and ignores the coughs threatening to break loose and stumbles forward, neck craning for any sign of Jim.
Nothing. Sherlock curses and smacks his fest against the stairway block, knowing he’ll have to get back down. He’s wasted all this time climbing up to look for Jim that he could’ve been using from the flat to hack Mycroft’s system and track his location.
But that’s fairly futile too, because Jim has always been far more evasive than Moran, and Sherlock curses to himself as he shuts his eyes and leans his head against the wall. Jim could be anywhere by now. Lying dead in a ditch.
Sherlock lest out a deep, choked breath, letting his gasps even out. At least he’s not dead here.
Sherlock stills. From behind the locked door, he can hear music. Muffled, somewhat tinny, the quiet sort from an iphone speaker you have to listen for.
Jim had been playing music on this rooftop the day he nearly died. Stayin’ Alive.
Sherlock moves to the door and crouches down, turning his ear against the bottom crack of the door, listening closely.
“If I die young, bury me in satin, lay me down on a bed of roses. Sink me in the river, at dawn. Send me away with the words of a love song.”
The strum of a guitar, a woman’s singing voice. Sherlock winces and stands back up. Moran. Oh god. It can’t be Jim’s phone. Sherlock has it in his pocket. Mycroft had is phone when Sherlock and he were in the car, so it has to be Moran’s. But Moran wouldn’t leave his phone in a room locked from the inside because Sherlock had been tracking Moran’s phone and it didn’t come anywhere close to this hospital.
Jim’s been here.
Sherlock’s hand starts to tremble and he brings the song up on his own phone as he makes back down the side of the building, fingers cut red and bleeding. Sherlock thinks of the last words his mother told him, the threshold of her intelligence reduced to base pathos. Would you that our small successes made a sum of greater things, and happier times. Live on.
And he’s promised her, and he’d protested “I want you to live on instead. Stay with me, please. Please?” But she couldn’t and he didn’t understand that and Moran’s just the same, if he’d been happier, he might have lived, and this is Jim being unhappy right now, scattering his memory like ashes over the places that were supposed to be theirs.
Jim was supposed to be his. Not Moran. And now Jim will always remember Sherlock as what stole Moran from him, he’ll always be that more reluctant to invest in him in case he’s forced to spare something personal, again.
Sherlock trudges back to his flat and it begins to rain again. Sherlock’s mood has never agreed more with the weather in his life. He wasn’t there for Jim when he found out. Sherlock wasn’t there to find out.
Sherlock unlocks the front door and marches up the steps without thought, stumbling into his living room to grab a tissue to cough in. Blood and flem. Disgusting. His lungs must be becoming infected. Sherlock peels off his rain-sodden coat and throws it on the fridge and splashes his face with cold water to calm him down.
He makes tea. Familiar movements, taking down the china, bobbing the tea bags, boiling the water.
Sherlock pours the milk and turns to sit in his lounge chair.
Jim is in front of him. Cross-legged in his seat, dark hair brushed forward, covering his eyes. Head bowed. Cupped in his hands between his legs in his hands, a bright apple.
Sherlock freezes and scalding water tips over the edge of the cup and saucer, splashing the floor.
“Jim,” Sherlock breathes. No response; Jim is so still Sherlock doubts if he is alive.
Sherlock carefully sets the tea down.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” sing songs a gentle voice. Jim lifts his head slowly; his black eyes glitter from behind the shock of hair. “Sheerr-lock? Going out to kill little Moran?”
Sherlock swallows and opens his mouth to speak.
“I thought we had an agreement!” Jim roars. “We were done with him.”
“Jim. I’m so, so, sorry—”
“Not good enough!” shrieks Jim. “That’s not enough to bring him back. Bring him back, genius. Bring Seb back.”
Sherlock swallows. The silence rises between them in his lack of answer.
“Are you happy now? Now my best friend is gone! He’s never coming back and guess what, you can have me all to yourself. That’s what you wanted, right? To convert me into some pile of angelic shit and watch me repent in the strikes on my face.”
No. No, no, no. Jim is crying. “I never wanted—”
“You wanted me to beg for you? Oh Sherlock please, take me back! I’ll change! I’ll stop killing innocent people. I’ll stop eying my lonely soldier. Well fuck you, Sherlock Holmes. I won’t ever let you in.”
Sherlock steps back and Jim tackles him, pinning him against the floor. His face is withered in disappointment.
“Oh no, oh no. You’re not getting away from me, dove. Not now.” Jim laughs hollow, and draws Moran’s phone from Sherlock’s pocket. “Do you want to know how it feels? To watch someone you love more than yourself die? John did it.”
Jim taps the icon on Moran’s phone and the song replays ultra magnified squished against the lobe of his ear. “I was his only friend!” Jim thunders in Sherlock’s face. Sherlock winces back, but stares Jim down. He wants Jim to understand that he acknowledges his responsibility in Sebastian’s demise for all he wants to shy away from Jim’s harsh fury. I’m sorry, Sherlock mouths. It’s all he can say. He doesn’t know what it’s like. He didn’t love his mother more than himself. He was too selfish.
“No you’re not,” says Jim. “You’re not.”
“Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh well,
Life ain't always what you think it ought to be,
Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby”
Sherlock slowly raises a hand to brush Jim’s tears away but Jim shoves him back, slamming Sherlock’s head against the floor. “This is nothing! You hear me? I’ll destroy you. I’ll ruin you. I can make you wish you were aborted as a fetus.”
“Let me show you sorry,” Jim whispers in his ear. He places Sherlock’s scarf over his mouth, cutting off his air supply. “And you can think up all the things that you never ever told me, and you can know what it feels like to lose someone against your own will.”
And Sherlock feels angry, he fills thrilled and betrayed and he yanks his head out of the scarf and he whispers: “if you’re so strong you could have stopped it. So. Why didn’t you?”
Jim cackles in hysteric outrage. And his face puckers again, and he says: “You know, I’m not going to tell you!”
It’s fair enough but Sherlock still wants to understand, he wants to help Jim through it, why Moran couldn’t be saved from himself.
Jim slaps him sharp across the jaw. “None of that,” he says. “I’m prepared to to show you your lesson. Pay attention!”
“ And I'll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom
I'm as green as the ring on my little cold finger.”
And Jim punches Sherlock in the heart and Sherlock seizes with breath, curling in on himself. Jim’s breath comes quick and shortly, like a snarling wolf. His pale hands grope against Sherlock’s collar and pop the buttons open so Jim can press the heels of his palm against the base of Sherlock’s lungs, where the pain hurts the worst. Sherlock struggles back away from him and Jim lifts Sherlock up and throws him against the wall. Sherlock stiffens with fear at the intent in his eyes. Dread pools deep in his stomach.
“I've never known the lovin' of a man-”
Jim holds sherlock back by his neck with the scarf and beats Sherlock in the stomach. He smacks Sherlock in the mouth and Sherlock’s lip splits against his front teeth, bursting with blood down his jaw. Jim pulls Sherlock forward by shoulders and slams him back down, presses close. Jim throttles him, and Sherlock’s head cracks against the wall.
“But it sure felt nice when-”
Jim takes out a knife and slashes down Sherlock’s chest. Stroke cuts deep. Jim’s next is shallow but longer, draws his gasp.
“— he was holding-”
Jim splays his fingers.
Sherlock sucks in a deep breath and doesn’t let go, and his head swims with nerves in agony. The rest of the music swims and blends together in sharp bursts of staccato pain and long wailing and moaning, and Sherlock can’t bite his bleeding lip so he he sinks his teeth into his cheek but it’s not enough to distract him, it hurts so strongly. Right index, snapped at the first joint. No more violin. No texting. Sherlock risks a look down: swollen, misaligned. Digusting.
Jim forces Sherlock’s head back up, expression flat. His tears haven’t dried, but dripped away. “That’s what you get,” Jim murmurs evenly. “I’m a criminal, babe. I can take care of myself.”
Somehow he’d realized that Sherlock thought Jim was going to suicide. The slice marks on his fingers from St Bart’s. “That was for Sebastian,” Jim whispers. “Mycroft. But this is for me.”
Sherlock closes his eyes to it, resigning. Jim prises Sherlock’s eyes back open with his fingertips. They are watering with strain and Sherlock puts all his effort into not breaking down, not to hold his throbbing hand against his chest like a child protecting their stolen doll. He needs to stay strong for Jim. Jim needs to let it out. Sherlock opens his eyes clear again, assessing.
Jim hits him in the nose, the throat.
“Oh your knees.” Jim’s voice smooths low and guttural.
There is little choice but to acquiesce. Through the pain, Sherlock tries to think of reasons Jim could possibly have to withold help for Moran.
Jim’s iphone is still blasting tinny music on the floor.
“There's a boy here in town, says he'll love me forever,
Who would have thought forever could be severed by
"The sharp knife of a short life.”
Jim drops his scarf and picks it up, shutting the music off. “Do you know what this means?” Jim drawls, twirling the knife in one hand. Then he clings to it hard as Sherlock stares at the phone home screen in bemusement. Perhaps Moran and Jim had made some kind of agreement, that in the event of Moran’s attempted suicide Jim couldn’t interfere because Moran hadn’t been able to intervene in Jim’s…
Jim pushes him back and the tip of the knife slices against Sherlock’s jaw. “Think!” Jim demands.
Sherlock’s vision locks on to each aspect, colouring, layout, formatting. He’s seen it before. The dock, with its neat icons for messages, internet, phonebook, the apps-- notepad, custom; Bank of England, Pentonville Prison, Tower of London. And a fifth. Yellow sand graphic, red sky, what does that possibly have to do with anything.
“Tell me, how does it feel,” Jim whispers as his thumb presses against the icon to kill John and blow up a nation and Sherlock’s entire world tilts on its axis.
Because Jim has the key code, and he can blow up NATO in alphabetical order, and Sherlock might have been able to do something, but now the - atomic? Nuclear? - bomb will be flying from two missile jets, two because one might be blown up and Sherlock could have stopped him if he realized the hint Jim had been dropping him, with SOS and the obvious CIA hack, not Molly or Mycroft to protect, but someone that Sherlock couldn’t, that Sherlock had left to fend for himself, to save himself. God, but why is he so stupid? And maybe he’s throttling Jim and shouting no at the top of his lungs and maybe Jim has aleady left or maybe Jim is still laughing at him, as he cracks the glass ash tray against the wall and Sherlock wails into his broken hand.
And somehow Sherlock is snapping on and watching the pictures on television, and he is seeing the breaking news and nuclear devastation and John is gone. John is never coming home and Sherlock couldn’t save him. Everything they ever said, everything they ever shared has been flushed down a filter into the void because Sherlock was not the same person before he met John, and his life couldn’t be the same without.
“I miss you,” Sherlock sobs into his nightgown. Come back. And he imagines Jim mourning Moran and Sherlock moans and he wails and he puts his head over everything, blocks the whole world out behind a blanket. Gone.
John was Sherlock’s best friend and Sherlock doesn’t have friends. He is sad and he is cold and when the papers come, they will call Afghanistan freedom fighter justice.
Big, big trigger warning for this chapter folks. Tread carefully, young hobbits.
He could have saved John. He left John to die. Sherlock has no one to blame but himself. He wonders why he’s even so intelligent why he even calls himself a genius if he’s just going to realize things too late and harm all the wrong people. How many times has John saved his life? John made him feel like a likable human being, as if he were worth something. The rain hasn’t stopped outside and Sherlock thinks he could walk out into the early morning night and drown himself in heavy rain. He has nothing now. Sherlock is nothing to anybody. If he’s so worthless that he can’t even stop his best friend from being bombed, he can’t stop Moran from suiciding or Jim from leaving and Irene getting killed. Every fact is another failure added onto the shoulders of a flawless, impenetrable facade of himself, self-created and self-destroyed.
Sherlock can’t blame John for leaving him and dying, for finding Sherlock not enough. Sherlock had never found John enough, and he’d found Jim too much and himself too little, and all the things in between a strange elusiveness of happy medium, of what ought.
Sherlock wonders if John realized the extent he cared for him, if behind his walls of image and practicality John knew on some primal level Sherlock had a personal investment in his wellbeing, an appreciation for his company and his efforts. A honest thank you for everything John had given him in the work help, and the social conditioning, the ability to tolerate him, to admire him Sherlock had felt swept away for. Sherlock had at times looked up to John: he’d wondered, when John shot Hope, how he could stand so unbothered, without a tremble to his fingers, that he could throw the grand gesture under the table for purposes of empathy, to not tread on Sherlock’s vulnerability and near-self harm but smile as easy as if it had never existed. To see the disgusting, horrible creature that crawled within the insides of his unease with domestic life. To know his ego, to call him a machine and still to abide Sherlock’s push of his limits, his daily degradation of John, for some unspoken greater joy. They’d had that.
It’s not as if his life lacks definition without John. Standing up and folding the sheets feels exactly the same as when John wasn’t there, except now Sherlock has a crushing awareness of the reasons John will never be there again.
It’s not purposeless. Sherlock has limitless potential in the uses of the world; he could do anything, he’s not dependent on a tiny blip in the weight of existence. Sherlock’s found happiness and meaning in his work, and his city, his music. But it too, has faded, somewhere, into a despairing of what his life has become and the reasons all of everything will never properly add up. Sherlock wonders when murder stopped being his escape and started to become his reality, of bodies at home and far away, something which is no longer to appear grand and elusive as a force, but crude and wretched as an end to falsehood and the supposition of his superiority.
The guilt follows him out his bedroom and onto the street. Here, there are people who aren’t John: here, there is London. The unsophisticated shine of the moon in his eyes and the half-wit of a tree who has grown too close to telephone wire. Sherlock could go back to work; he could enjoy the tramping down city as in the days before he saw Irene’s body slew on it, he could play violin with his broken finger and not think about the eulogies. He could smother himself in gladnesses and avoidances, however deserved, gratifying and gratifying himself eternally until he clings to the shreds of his own degradation. No.
Memory is like death; forgetting is an unknown, and Sherlock has never allowed himself to experience the full fear of complete incomprehensibility, of vulnerability and exposure, vastness and emptiness, a hole where truth should be. Of nothing to go on. Sherlock has his thoughts like a lock and key in his palace, and they might die with him, for the size and scope that they could not ever be all recorded but inferred in the wake of life’s facts and truths around anywhere.
Determination past all the should-haves, he can bear groundless troubles and not all-too familiar ones. It should be his fate to suffer through his existence faring the full brunt of what he has lost, but it’s too easy to roil in the self-pity and turmoil, to excuse past crimes for future repentances. And there are some things you can’t atone for, and some losses which haunt you forever and make meagre amends to and not the needed.
And maybe it’s only the possibility of idealism which keeps Sherlock’s integrity in check, because he’s never been one to subscribe to false reassurances, never allowed himself to theorize into the depths of pseudo-spirituality. He is not an atheist or a scientist, he is a detective and death is a larger mystery with only one workable lead.
Life is the simplest avoidance, the merest untruth of incompletion.
Sherlock is tired of dalliances. Of contemplations and minute, of little, little, problems solved barely in the shadow of light of the total measure of his own aged self. Sherlock could demist the seven wonders and unravel the greatest questions ever asked but it would never unburden his mind’s unease, never hold a candle to the innate paradox of meaninglessness, value in the contrite assertion of control of his body and the spin of the earth.
Sherlock says goodbye to Mrs Hudson. She tells him to have fun: she’s talking on the phone, to her grandson. He will be coming over later. Sherlock won’t hesitate, for moral or for mention. It’s like the complete tract of his lifespan has been reduced to circumstance and reaction. Sherlock once said he didn’t believe in coincidence, but he can’t ignore consequence. Conscience.
Despite himself, Sherlock can’t help but want to attempt the most interesting way to go out. He wonders if he should put the fridge crisper on the stove and die of plastic poisoning or stick his head in the oven and die of gas inhalation. He won’t jump off the roof, though.
In the end, the oven doesn’t work, and Sherlock goes for John’s PTSD antipsychotics. Sherlock has his opioid-dependence pills somewhere from when Mycroft tried and failed to send him to a rehabilitation clinic for his heroin addiction, meaning the medicine contains methadone, which combined with John’s drug’s risperidone and quetiapine should in a large dose easily create an impasse between his parasympathetic nervous system and his sympathetic nervous system, and by coadministration, heart failure. Sherlock hums as he aligns his hypothetic intake with the surplus that will make him merely vomit, and divvies three of his to two of John’s. Sherlock takes the opiates first, feels the woozy chemical high of artificial condolence. He is staring at the yellow smiley face on the wall opposite, watching it blur together, somewhat.
Sherlock has at least twenty minutes to take the second batch, and he goes to the sink and pours himself a glass of water because he’s not very good at swallowing dry. Sherlock feels giddy, the weight of finality, stripping off his watch and his shirt and leaning against the counter. Who cares about decency? He won’t need it once he’s a corpse in the ground.
Sherlock smiles. He’s always liked an excuse to be indecent. He used to wonder what he’d do in his last hours had he the choice and Sherlock delights in spending ten minutes lying on the couch, and doing nothing. He’s always tried to do everything, but maybe he can’t be everything, for everyone.
He doesn’t mind dying on a night like this. It’s neither too shaming or too alluring, just a sort of polite neutral with the rain died down and the television turned off. There should be riots on the streets for Afghanistan, and declarations of World War Three. There’s Mrs Hudson on the phone with her grandson making sure he still remembers her and the clock ticking on the wall with batteries that haven’t died out yet. No ash trays. No disappointments. The world is strung in a calm state of suspended disbelief. But maybe that’s just the opiates talking. Sherlock plays with the solid compound on his lips.
A year or a minute passes, though the clock tells three seconds.
“Hi,” says a quiet voice. Jim’s come back. Sherlock turns his head to him, sets the medication bottle down. Jim’s shaved off most of the hair on his head and there is a nick from a shaving razor on his chin. He’s tried to clean himself up. Pull himself together, something different, something new. Changeable.
Jim settles beside Sherlock in an arm chair, John’s, doesn’t touch the pill stuck to the bottom portion of Sherlock’s lip. If he swipes for it Sherlock will swallow.
“You’re not leaving without me,” Jim says. “How rude.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to come anymore,” Sherlock sighs out.
“Course I do,” says Jim, smiling. Sherlock smiles back. They share a little secret together.
“Are you okay?” Sherlock says, and then; “now?”
“There’s time,” says Jim, glance flicking to the clock. Eight minutes until Sherlock’s opiate is defunct; where a redose will be necessitated or he might survive. There will not be a redose.
“Never enough,” Sherlock finishes. He grabs the first pills from the counter, offers them to Jim. Jim makes a lightning-quick calculation of dosage from the weight appearance of the bottle; he’s not familiar with the proportional cuts of chemical to correctly offset enzymes. “Are you alright, though?”
“I’ll live.” Sherlock snorts. It is a stupid question.
They share a brief moment of contented silence; Jim takes the pills, three at once, and looks like he has to physically resist the urge to come sit on Sherlock’s lap and interrogate him. Sherlock knows the sentiment. There is so much of Jim he will never deduce, that Jim will never reveal for pride or for insecurity, and his dark black eyes look like the framing of the dusty winter’s night.
“Only you would kill yourself on a Sunday night at eight,” Jim says, rather than shimmy over and sit in Sherlock’s lap like Sherlock wants him to.
“I do hate Mondays,” Sherlock deadpans.
“Yeah, they are somewhat monotonous,” Jim rejoins. His eyes glimmer with excitement, make something in Sherlock’s heart hurt.
“Why? Why would you kill yourself for him?” John, dead. Something you caused. Sherlock’s voice is strained. Sherlock is all strained, hypertension. Common side effect of stimulants.
“Because,” Jims says levelly. “You’re the most important person who has ever existed in this universe to me.”
Oh. Sherlock swallows and sits up, folding his arms over his knees.
“And,” Jim continues at a whisper. “It’s a dream of mine. Share the honour and ecstasy of finality with your calibre. We meet death alone. But we can walk to it, hand in hand. I would find that, in my final moments, the most consoling thing I have ever heard.”
Finally stop asking. Wanting to know everything about Jim, about Moran, himself.
“You know, I’ve never killed anyone directly before,” Jim says. Sherlock’s eyes snap up. Of course he believes in euthanasia, but. Jim couldn’t lie in their last moments, challenge the indisputable worth of their already shattered relationship. It’s true.
Sherlock realizes. “Not even Carl Powers. Newspapers, fairy tales. You lied to get my attention.”
“Guilty as charged,” Jim murmurs, a smile creeping onto his face.
“You don’t like to get your hands dirty,” Sherlock says. Ahh. So this will be a monument for Jim. A psychological step he might not be able to surpass; taking the life of a human being. Himself, feeling the undeniable press of the white tablet against the back of his throat, feeling it slither down into his stomach. The ultimate loss of control.
Sherlock tries not to cry in sympathy, swallows back his tears and refuses to speak. Jim’s going to be gone. Sherlock doesn’t want Jim to go.
Sherlock crawls over, takes the white tablets from the handkerchief Jim has spit them into. He straddles Jim’s lap and touches their foreheads together, waits until he hears Jim’s eyes flutter shut like his, hears his anxious breath settle. Sherlock takes the first pill and drops it on Jim’s tongue, feels the warmth of his breathing on his lips, hears the slight sizzle. He hears the swallow of his throat pressing together and imagines Jim’s Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, leans in until he can feel the buzz of Jim’s pulse, and feel his eyelashes on Sherlock’s cheek.
Jim won’t open his mouth for the next pill. “Shh,” Sherlock whispers, stroking Jim’s head soft. “It’s just a mint. You like gum.”
Sherlock had seen Jim chew it in the courtroom and now he laughs soft against Sherlock’s head and Sherlock slips the pill in behind his lips.
Jim doesn’t resist for the third pill, and kisses the tip of Sherlock’s finger, sighing down at his other broken index. Sherlock feels perturbed by his dramatic change in heart. Somehow he doesn’t feel like Jim has forgiven him, that this soft kindliness is a front for another greater good, a priority of affection that past the tragedies and betrayal there is nothing wrong with them. That Sherlock doesn’t have to go through anything alone.
But Jim is happy, and that’s all that matters. Jim has had a short, rocky life with extreme goodness and he’ll get the oblivion he craves, death’s answer or its implied one. His time with Sherlock has been a good one.
“I love you,” Sherlock says, because the eight minutes are gone. It comes out okay.
“I love you too.”
Sherlock takes the second batch on his tongue and Jim slowly kisses it further into his mouth. It’s chocolate. It’s just chocolate. Sherlock swallows but his throat seizes with tears and he throws his arms around Jim’s neck and cries, sobs into his beautiful shirt and his beautiful shoulder. Jim kisses his cheek and pulls him back up and it’s not like he’s never cried in front of Jim before but it still feels raw, like loss, like Jim has made him lost.
“Come on,” Jim says in his ridiculous voice, swiping the wet from Sherlock’s cheeks. “You don’t want to make us late.”
Come on. Sherlock sits up and does his best to erase any trace of his discomposure, smooths it into resolve. Jim’s breath catches and Sherlock kisses his cheek goodbye, lets his eyes slip shut. It's a lie. He's all a lie.
“No,” Jim says. “No. I don’t want you to go.”
Sherlock takes the pill and Jim cries and cries and cries. And it takes a second and then Sherlock feels wrong and just wrong and he wants to stop feeling like that and he whimpers and Jim pulls him against his chest and clutches him tight.
“You’re safe with me, Sherlock,” Jim says. “Okay? You’re safe with me.”
“Okay,” Sherlock whispers. And Sherlock watches the redness take over Jim’s face and sobs overtake his body and the way he growls with frustration and his shoulders shake.
Jim stops moving and Sherlock gets afraid for him, and Jim’s eyes are locked on that spot. Sherlock turns around to see what he is looking at and Mycroft is there at the doorway. He’s wearing a three piece suit and his face is grey. Mycroft says, “John’s alive.”
“No,” Sherlock says. Sherlock gets to his feet and collapses, and Jim goes down after him. Asking if he’s okay. “No!” Sherlock screams, and throws Mycroft against the wall and punches him, and tears are back and trickling down his cheeks onto the carpet. They’re never going to be happy together. Mycroft has the weight of disappointment in his vision but he says “I’m sorry,” and Sherlock clutches his stomach and doubles over crying because it hurts.
“No, no, no, baby,” Jim says, rushing to him, holding him and Sherlock is trying not to seize and he doesn’t want to die and Jim is saying he should have gone first and Mycroft is shouting at Jim and calling him an irresponsible bastard. And Jim is saying Mycroft took advantage of him and made him want to kill himself and Sherlock clamps his hands over his ears. He can’t tell them to stop it even though he wants to because their rage is an encompassing force that shouts over his breath and his high is grating on a deep deep low why does John have to be alive but John isn’t dead and he’s going to die and John is still alive, he could have died and never have known.
“Look what you’re doing to him! Look!” Jim yells. “You’re sick. He shouldn’t have fucking known. Why the fuck would you even tell him?”
Sherlock feels his heart rate speed up, thumps against his eyes and his chest. “I’m glad I know,” he says, “stop it.”
But Jim doesn’t stop it. Mycroft pushes Jim up against the wall and reloads his gun. “You were going to lie to my brother on his death bed about the only man he cares about!”
“And now Sherlock’s suffering past dying regrets, and it’s all. Your. Fault. I can’t believe a genius as beautiful as Sherlock was born brother to a nasty shit like you, he fucking LOVES you, you! And you fucking spat that right back--”
"Sherlock, didn't I promise you I would take him back? After we had sex I said I'd bring John back, I told you. Sherlock has a moral right to know." Sherlock bows his head down. He sways on his feet. "Whatever lies you spin, Jim, he has a dependency on you for the truth but you chose to abuse that and kill Sherlock knowing full well. Knowing full well John did live. Do you have any idea how despicable that's made you? Now he's going to die!"
"Fuck you, Mycroft. Sherlock wanted to die, and now he doesn't, and he is, and Sherlock's opinions of me are his own choice but I hope he truly stabs you deep in that soulless forked tongue you jealous, putrid, monster. Because I will. Ice coward."
Sherlock stumbles outside, into the corridor, and vomits down his pants and the staircase. But the drug is still in his system and it shouldn’t be enough but it could be a fatal dose and Sherlock is whining deep in his throat and his hands are shaking. He wishes he hadn’t left to puke, he wishes he wasn’t alone. Sherlock curls up in a ball and rocks back and forth as slow as the grave. “Help me. Help.”
Mycroft and Jim seem to come both at once, and Mycroft holds his hand and Jim clutches him safe. “I’m here, baby,” he says tightly, and Sherlock smiles watery. “I’m here.”
Jim’s there. Jim didn't mean it. Sherlock bites deep down on his lip and blood spurts and his chest hurts a lot so he grinds his broken finger into Jim’s back instead, feels the sharpness scream through him, the blackness and he does not want to go. He won’t go. Please, let him live, they’re geniuses, please. Mycroft keeps asking what’s wrong, where it hurts. It hurts everywhere. Sherlock doesn't want Mycroft and Jim to harm each other. But they're not, they're looking at him, they're okay. Sherlock is okay.
Sherlock wishes he'd been nicer to Mycroft, and he hadn't tried to push away Jim. He wishes they just could have been alive and happy together. Oh god. He wishes Molly was here.
“I’m sorry,” Jim says. Jim says he is so sorry. Sherlock hugs him, it’s warm. Jim doesn’t let go and Sherlock doesn’t cry. I forgive you.
Sherlock doesn’t like it getting dark. He can't stand it.
Stop. Kill me.
So much pain. HelpmepleasesomethingIneed you. Sherlock tries to meet Mycroft's eyes. Don't go. Don't go please don't don't go.
"I lo... ve..." you very much.
And it hurts.
To do: re-write film scene.
Sherlock doesn’t wake up in hospital. The location is familiar; jarringly so. Long, fluttering expensive curtains are the most self-indulgent touch in a mostly minimalistic apartment room. The mirror is turned away from the bedside. Sherlock sits up onto his elbows, taking in the throbbing in his head, feeling self-doubt flooding through his veins as he reflects on exactly what brought him here, to Mycroft’s room with the curtains drawn and his head aching in some linger of injury.
John’s alive. The thought flutters through Sherlock’s head and sets his heart alight with joy and he struggles to his feet to the window and throws the curtains open.
Alive. Sherlock feels giddy with the miracle of himself, of his ex-flat mate; but soon the memory of his mistake, his near-fatal error sinks through his skin, the panoramic view past the curtains catches sight of the crowd lingered at Trafalgar Square. Rallied protests, riotous. The empty street pavements and the lock doors and the reason the curtains were drawn shut.
John is alive. The obvious question next is when Sherlock will get to see him again, but Sherlock has an insurmountable joy that somewhere out there John is out there and surviving on his own feet, his own inspirations and he’s not to be stricken from the world like the last page from a disappointing book, or a blotch from a white sheen which overrides his sacrifice, he is not a martyr. He’s fighting and breathing and kicking, he is as sickly and human and and prone as Sherlock, but he’s not passive, he’s a titanic force which has the power to effect something so simple as his life. To give up everything, to have one life saved within the loss of thousand, millions. That not every flawed decision Sherlock has ever made has been for nothing, that it has the power to change too and somewhere in the blackness that their potential has succumb to there is something so irrevocable and unquenchable, there’s a need to survive and a beautiful love affair with the travesty of surviving and existing.
Sherlock leaves the blinds and he downs the stares and slams into the entrance hall. Mycroft is there. Mycroft is there, and John is breathing somewhere and past the manipulation of Mycroft over Sherlock’s death wish, Mycroft wants him to be alive like Sherlock wants John to be alive. Mycroft would do anything to make sure of that for Sherlock, he’s done something incomprehensibly right.
“They had to pump your stomach,” Mycroft says, the picture of desolation. And he won’t look at Sherlock as he picks at him cold omelet and toast because he believes himself the perpetrator of Sherlock’s upset, his suicidal tendency, old misery. “You were on an IV drip for many days, but I didn’t think you’d want to wake up at the hospital, or… well. As Jim wasn’t exactly forthcoming, this was the alternative. I’d ask you not to severely exert yourself; it will only prolong your recovery.
“Jim and I have come to agreement,” Mycroft continues in a bored, cultured tone. “We are not to speak so far as you don’t seek him out: should you dare. Your interactions will be monitored, but not interrupted or accompanied so long as you take in a reasonable approach when it comes to danger-seeking.”
Sherlock waits for Mycroft to finish, and he draws a chair next to Mycroft and stares straight down his forehead. Anthea leaves the room.
“You saved his life. I can’t possibly thank you enough, Mycroft.”
“Jim was correct,” Mycroft pronounces, folding his handkerchief primly. “My interference has critically exacerbated the situation. I should never have attempted. I will make no apologies, but I expect no sympathy.”
“Mycroft,” Sherlock says. “I have nothing but understanding for you and every action you’ve taken. Another person would shout at me, would avoid me. Justify it. But here you sit at your own kitchen table and explain to me objectively my change in circumstance, utterly unapologetic but supremely guilty, considering my feelings despite the impropriety of the accusation I’ve previously expressed. You’re not to blame. If anything, I’m in your debt. You are my brother. You’ve rescued my life and accommodated my lover’s. You have not been known to make command of promises you can’t deliver. I should never have doubted you.”
“I’m so selfish,” Mycroft says. “I thought if something happened beyond my control and I did swear to return him, you would never forgive me. I could have prevented you, but my own ego assured your insecurity and your near-damnation.”
Sherlock frowns. He would console Mycroft, but for the fact that Mycroft wouldn’t believe him, see it as deflection to his on psychological vulnerability. Sherlock did punch him—although he knows it warranted given the circumstance, a slight trace of guilt lances him as Mycroft breathes around his slightly puffy cheek.
“Will you forgive me for my suicide if I forgive you for your exploitation?” Sherlock asks. He doesn’t think of it as rape anymore.
“Of course,” Mycroft says instantly, sounding hurt.
“Then it isn’t a problem.”
Sherlock stands up and makes to return the omelet and order a cream soufflé but Mycroft looks up at him. Sherlock would call it disbelief, and self-deprecation, shame, humility, but it’s more layered than that, it’s hope and idolisation and wonder.
Sherlock kisses Mycroft whole and lasting, a shock sweep of tongue which draws long and tender. It’s not chaste or innocent but that isn’t their relationship anymore. “Thank you,” Sherlock says.
Mycroft nods his assent. The tips of his fingernails are chewed. The tips of Sherlock’s fingernails are yellow.
The tips of Jim’s are torn.
Sherlock walks to the far side of the lounge, trails his fingers across the wide glass of the panoramic window. They make a small whine as he scrapes the corners of the glass. Sherlock’s hand is screaming intensely; it has been set in white bandage and a thin cast. Sherlock blocks the pain from his mind. It irritates him, tells Sherlock there’s something wrong with the clean slide of the aesthetically-pleasing modern furnished apartment.
Mycroft manages his voice. “John will be at your apartment, a day from now. He is currently wrestling through security at Heathrow. I am leaving for work in nine minutes.” Already brushed his teeth, combed his hair. Sherlock imagines his double layer mask of deodorant and cologne as a crime-fighting duo which intimidates Mycroft’s congenital opponents. “You may leave at your own leisure, of course.”
Mycroft leaves. Sherlock maps the travel of cars across the available streets and tries to predict their routes by their destinations. It’s too easy a challenge, and Sherlock stands from the window, adjourns back to the dining. The table has been cleared, and the surface is flawless and smooth and empty. Everything in the room feels a bit heavier, and colder, like all the warmth from Mycroft sitting in it has faded away.
Sherlock finds himself in the music room. The piano entices him forward, and the sear of his hand is nothing compared to the pain of not being able to play it. Sherlock knows, theoretically, how to approach the piano: he doubts his coordination would prove actual in the attempt. There’s no distraction to be found, not in its sleek gloss or the thrill of unrealized compositions. Sherlock pieces through the little sheet music in the cupboards, looking for some sign of Mycroft’s individualisation. His set is mostly classical: simple Beethoven and Schubert and Haydn, with none of the elaborate flourishes of the Baroque. Of course Mycroft has Corelli’s Trio Sonata opus 1 and Mendelhossen’s Violin Concerto, but otherwise there is little to be said for his sentiment but for the fact he preserves memory.
Sherlock closes his eyes and he can here the bold, tenuous harmonies of Vivaldi’s summer, the daring footsteps into the dark abyss of dissension, his gentle sways into high melody and the ferocious slam of quavers, staccato into slurred leads into never ending runs, skips over high perfection like accidental smiles. Sherlock strides out of Mycroft’s music room and slams the door behind him. There is Mycroft’s violin, unplayed, untouched and Sherlock has this song inside him which he can’t let out, which needs hearing but his hands won’t let him.
Sherlock picks up the Strad anyway, reverent at its glorious finish, its unholy existence in the finesse of exalted creation. Sherlock neglects his index and the flinch of his fingers in the shift upwards hurts. Sherlock has only three fingers to play with and his leading is gone, and he is awash with the cavernous neglect of his own performance. The muscle memory is all wrong and the notes won’t come, he bows meticulously but it’s like there’s something brilliant there which he can’t reach for his infidel cascade of memory, like blood from a waterfall or rain in a desert. An impossibility that needs to be discarded.
Sherlock is betrayed by his own emotions, by the intravenous sear in his wrist as he blusters through the inerrant composition of his own true fault. His E hits flat again and again which is not right, all the notes are wrong by his transposition of fingers and the violin is so untouchable and he is so flawed, he is a monster cursed with sight of brilliance but not transmission of it, as if genius is a memory and he is the mourner. He is so stupid. He was always so stupid.
Sherlock isn’t sure why he wanted to say anything in the first place. His bow drags slow to a mid-stop and the note bends into a screech. Sherlock would have rathered the string snap, externalize the frustration and wild shift within him. The song goes away somewhere in his unhappiness, lost. He is disgusting, yellow fingertips on brown skirting, he should wear gloves for the rest of his life. He’ll have yellow teeth and enphacima, a reflection of his aberrant insides, of his own self-annihilation. And Sherlock’s overinflated, defensive pride will be an outward product of devastation, as he can’t run or can’t walk, as his ability lessens and lessens into incompetence and the mere recollection of proficiency. He’ll become a vegetable in a dirty flask and he hates this feeling of being afraid, of knowing he’s going to be more afraid. Sherlock can’t stop. He resolves to quit smoking. Practice the violin more later.
The application of mind to person correlates about as much as TV remotes to hot-air balloons. The genus of your intelligence is internal, not the facades you yearn to prove.
Sherlock imagines that, tumour eating away at his mind, his recall procedures, the severity of his image stripped away to himself. To think of self-definition, of the extent he defines himself by his own self-worth, that the potential to retain dignity in the presence of John was a key motivator for his recovery? Sherlock feels the weight of disappointment in himself even now, and it’s an old weight, but one he has thrown away as frequently as possible.
Sherlock wanders the apartment, delaying, not eager to return to 221B and experience its tremor with the association of his suicide. Sherlock sees Jim’s tear streaked face illuminated in the backdrop of the staircase wall and he shudders, digging his nails into the pads of his thumbs. Jim didn’t deserve that.
Sherlock feels sadder at the thought, that Jim has been inflicted with the brunt of Sherlock’s own turmoil. It’s Sherlock’s fault. He’s not sure whether he should have never gotten involved with Jim or whether he should have just stayed with him, kept the shit out of their interactions with better deductions of emotion.
Mycroft’s personal computer is at the centre of his office (locked), concealed security cameras in the light globe track Sherlock’s entrance inside.
It sits innocuous among precisely sharpened pencils and vanilla folders which Sherlock can almost taste the red confidential stamps of. No murders probably, though. Boring. Sherlock plants himself in Mycroft’s desk chair, shaking the wireless mouse awake.
Blank desktop, closed Microsoft word documents about billing statements. Sherlock always used to tease Mycroft that when he finally owned Microsoft they’d have to call it Mycroftsoft. Sherlock double clicks my computer, and navigates to My Documents. Nothing. Sherlock auto-enables show hidden folders and runs a quick log scan for changes to the default set up, and an assortment of business files show. One, called ‘untitled’, looks especially promising.
Where the other files are all code name case numbers renamed to remastered Gaelic scrambling, untitled has a much larger file size – audio sample, film clip? – compared to the others, which means it’s probably something more incriminating. Sherlock is in a good mood with Mycroft, thinks the footage could make for some mild-natured brotherly taunting, if not protection for if Mycroft tries to assert himself on him. Power plays interest him for a reason.
File’s encrypted, obviously. Sherlock considers trying his hand with a few invented passwords, but Mycroft has never been particularly guessable or stupid and the clip will probably auto-delete if supplied a wrong password. It’s a small wonder he even left his computer unlocked, and not implode on slightest deviance. Perhaps Mycroft feels secure in his high-rise manned with his insufferable secret service agents and twig-legged sidekick.
Sherlock decodes the encryption software, which is a god awful pain because involves wading through seas of log commands and intentionally impermeable random number generators and user scripts, but of course the password has to be stored somewhere on the software for the program to recognise it, and after many recordings and force restarts Sherlock finds it. String of random numbers, letters and symbols, probably devised by an auto generator. Sherlock smirks to decrypt the file and find a RAR file under a second layer of encryption. Excessive. Mycroft certainly wants this file to stay safe: but then again, he wouldn’t have left Sherlock freely to it if he believed it that damaging. Is it a test of Sherlock’s trust, or a display of Mycroft’s own?
Sherlock trails back and decrypts the file, which has a much more foreboding password; get out. Sherlock types in the seven characters, blinking as the file is reached. Or, files. They are each short recordings encoded into the one file. Media files; Sherlock frowns as he recognises Jim in an icon. Day 27. He clicks it, not feeling anything which should be mentioned in explicitness.
The room is dark, but otherwise lit with hard white neon. The camera is angled in a high shot down on Jim, and holds the white click of security footage bottom corner. Jim is seated, bodily restrained; he stares straight ahead with his eyes strung open, mouth expressionless.
Minutes pass, and Jim hardly blinks. When he does, it’s with the slow, smooth poise resign of an alien creature. Jim’s eyes are grey-cast in shadow from sleep deprivation. Jim doesn’t move or speak or make eye contact with the camera. Jim doesn’t attempt to escape.
Mycroft enters. It is indisputably Mycroft; Sherlock can recognise his posture and gait to any imposter due to his long memorization of the man. Mycroft makes a long list of demands to Jim. Jim stares past Mycroft. Mycroft pretends not to be angry.
Mycroft asks Jim his information on the missile plans. The code; this is old footage.
Mycroft hits Jim, the force of it snapping his head sideways. Jim turns back and stares up at Mycroft. Mycroft is hitting Jim undefended. Jim isn’t protecting himself, power play. Warning sign. But in that moment, his pain is real, and he is vulnerable as he appears, and Sherlock doesn’t ever want Jim to look so distant. Unhappiness cuts him from the life he lives; presses him to the sharp red world behind his eyes. He hasn’t changed, he hasn’t eaten, or urinated.
Jim doesn’t react to anything, and Mycroft hits harder.
Sherlock doesn’t have the right to watch Jim like this, this intimacy, and vulnerability, mental and physical. Jim’s self-control is slipping: his rights take a moment longer, his head revolutions a sway looser. Sherlock closes the file.
He’s seen enough.
Sherlock is aware it is eighty-three percent likely a plant. Sherlock knows Mycroft is playing him how he likes. Sherlock realizes Mycroft is attempting to apologise, that his apology contains layers: Sherlock’s ears burn in shameful rage, for his guilt and his apology, his tolerance, his thanks.
Mycroft will beg for Sherlock’s forgiveness.
Excerpts from the private log of J. Moriarty
[January 1, 10:04pm]
Seb got his foot caught in the blender today. Funny.
[June 3, 9:00am]
I always felt an affinity with the dead. Life’s rejects. And for none, but circumstance and coincidence. Genes make me special, not fate, isn’t that disappointing? Intelligence is a bit like that. In a world where everyone makes false genius quarantine is survival of the fittest. People want to be the smartest, but they don’t want to be smart, they don’t want to feel like an extra head on a body or a freak in a cage, an oddity, incapable of heartfully connecting for the stains in the brains of others. For the insistent press of reality in the throes of immersion.
They don’t want to feel pin-trapped and face the enormity of the world, the variances of deviation infinitesimally until you can feel yourself shrieking against your eye sockets. It’s like standing at the edge of a too-high cliff and peering down into the dizzying forever, then seeing your blood-battered corpse splattered by the waves against the rocks. And it’s all too easy, far too simple but there is so much simple it becomes impossible.
No one wants to fully comprehend the utter insignificance and insubstantially of their existence. Everyone want to make their own differences, they don’t want to think about the fact that there might be no difference but just similarities and echoes of the same dead breath choking on vomit. They can’t bear it. But we bear the brunt of experience and wear it like capsules burned monument on our life bloods.
Here in this festering putrid shit spectacle of humanity where a mind is borrowed but not recycled, non-conformity is broken down in to easy-to-swallow pieces; the green monstrous repression of consideration makes monuments of us all. Caricatures of our stupid selves. If only people thought, but they can’t think, they can’t breathe. They can’t breathe with their fucking video games and their iPhones and look at this cute cat video, isn’t it adorraabble. No one knows slow reason, just unreasonably instant gratification. And I hate it, I hate it like the sound of people looking at you when they think you can’t hear, I hate it like people who care about their shitting self more than fucking others, with their snobby eternal friendships and willful ignorance. When someone does something in a way that says they wouldn’t forgive you for their mistake.
And I hate it, and I think about you, because you’ve got your ego and your apathy, but then you’ve got your favourites. And I understand, I see why what’s happened is here.
You are a genius: you see past the crude oversimplifications and generalizations, of good and bad and black and white. You react accordingly. Passionless offense in the face of proper good intention. It’s not about striking divides between killer and detective; parroted claims, the theft and dashing of your dapper dreams with dirty daggers. You don’t like the simple cases, of course you don’t, you thrive on the innate complexity each element of life swarms in. The shades of grey, and I wonder how the infactual discriminations and prejudices alarm you, the sheer ignorance of the sheep flocked in the giant herd. How it must sting to be labeled a sociopath, when your temperament is so much more convoluted, a pastiche of crowd-pleasing facades and repressed tensions, the safeguarding of your heart with a pretty mask all the other masqueraders see only in hard lines and shadows.
The mask never completely fitted, did it? Pretending to be their hero and not my devil, prepared to burn. The detective, taken by the humble, simple life of police crime and not the infinitely more thrilling web of deception. You even fooled yourself. You slept with me. I wonder how you tormented yourself over your shame. I approached you; softened the radar between us and fucked you with my mouth. I struck the tone and you wallowed in its reverberations. You would have told him, otherwise. You’re complex, layered, mystical, a hole in the two-dimensional frame.
It’s one thing to be obliterated by frivolity and another to be completely consumed.
[July 9, time unknown]
[July 10, 11:32pm]
At first, it was about loyalty. I understood him, his tenuous control, but I romanticized him; some perfect shot arrived exactly when I needed him, for precisely what I wanted him for. Help. We grew close, he formed attachments and I began involved with his welfare professionally, reputably. I couldn’t let him date, I had to be the most important. I commanded complete reverence. He was my bodyguard; I was his idol. Simple as that.
And even as I exploded the women he grew close to, and he took bullets up his arm for me, I realized what effect I was having on his psyche. Seb was a lost creature— abandonment issues, he needed that regard, that well done romantically from the fore. He could have been an Olympian, but for his host of bad decisions. Talent hardly came into it. All his life, Seb took shooting classes, trained with his cockney father’s shooting rifle for something to protect. Good virtue, someone else’s. It wasn’t about him, and even as he basked in his improvement and slow success, weighed the balance of a gun in preparation for evils he knew not of, he wondered if shooting actually made him happy or if he just thought it should. Something manly; something he was good at. For once. Seb wasn’t good at making friends, wasn’t good at school. He made an attempt at mathematics and physics to master the finer elements of shooting point distance but they never stuck as well as the physical lineup and readjustments. We had that in common.
He was inspired by a mentor, an ex-veteran to join the service, but he didn’t have the stubbornness or the gullibility to take the patriotic well wishes at face value. He was haunted by his barbarity and his passion. He never wanted to hold a rifle, but the click of the trigger, the false overcome of some ghastly, imperious force empowered him. His service to me wasn’t quite as simple as a mutual love of violence. I fascinated him, the shell of a human being. He wasn’t a bad person, but Seb walked with them, to understand, to stop being so afraid. Seb felt torn between forgiveness and physical repentance of himself, and vengeance, annulment. He was an angel on the side of the devils.
What's the point? What is it?
Death Confession to Sherlock Holmes, August 8 2012
"This is the story of Jim. Jim was different, and better than usual at solving problems. That made people look out for Jim, but not nicely. As he grew Jim was constantly swarmed by problems, more problems than he could ever fix, even if he wanted. Boring ones. So Jim started to make his own exciting problems to cheer himself up. But those weren’t fun because they didn’t feel real enough. They were a forlorn whisper about broken day dreams. Jim was never content. He never had been. Jim had never hoped but now he was starting to get afraid, afraid about something he’d never worried about before. About burning out of problems, and going out of his mind. About everything being dull for eternity. Then Jim found it. Jim found the most beautiful, complex problem of all. The dilemma that even outdid the Final Problem, that made Jim want to stay alive so he could find the solution. But try as he might, he couldn’t find the one thing that held it together. The one thing that made it as average as him. And that made him upset. But Jim realized. He realized the most wonderful problem was the one that could never be solved. Because it was so human, and mysterious, and alien to him, and it never asked to be fixed, even though Jim thought it needed help the most of all. It was so overlooked. And, so, self-sacrificing."
"You can't run away from all your problems."
Sherlock had seen all he needed, but he kept what he wanted. Sherlock attempts to assuage his curiosity, his worry when he recalls Jim’s fast jump to suicide upon Sherlock’s. Sherlock hears Moran’s voice, how scared it made Moran that Jim would risk himself. No, not Moran. Again. Sherlock forcibly presses his eyes shut.
When he opens them, the phone and the other files are there. Sherlock knows it’s intrusive, worries for the stained layers of respect for privacy between he and Jim. How fair is it, that Jim sees into the vulnerable depths of Sherlock’s instability? How does it coincide with their game, to use whatever they have at their disposal against each other?
Sherlock wants to help Jim, but how can Sherlock help Jim if he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with, what he’s curing? If Jim will never tell him because he’s too afraid, because he expects Sherlock to realize and make the leap himself? When Sherlock isn’t good enough to see through Jim, a worthy opponent.
Maybe if Sherlock watches Jim suffer through the pain, open up, he will be able to understand.
Sherlock has plans; to find Kitty Riley in hiding, to publish slander against Mycroft for his daring. Their simple, vengeful relationship. Sherlock had forgotten. Sherlock had turned it into something else, something more complicated because Mycroft made it feel more complicated. But there it is. Childish. You make a friend, I’ll take away your friend. You sleep with someone, you share those emotions with me.
Headlines, “Government lost Most Wanted Terrorist,” the uproar of Mycroft’s failure. Ruin his career, social standing in the clack of a journalist’s keyboard.
But Sherlock worries. He worries he doesn’t have a full comprehension on their doubtlessly complex interactions— he hopes Mycroft may have had an excuse beyond the social, he feels the need to know rising up with the way they excluded him from their conversation at Angel House. Of their supposed conversations and interpretations of each other.
Perhaps he will find nothing, and his fears can be belayed, and Sherlock can find some grasp on the simplicity of life, can apologise to Jim later (for nothing, for watching torture he mostly wasn’t there to feel despite that he felt it).
The worrying is pointless.
Kidnapping footage, Sherlock texts Jim. No response in eight minutes. A go ahead.
Sherlock reopens the file.
Sherlock dreams of rich, red, blood.
In his dreams he is god, and all around him are the sinners he has befallen to. Jim is there, and his eyes are impossibly wide. They are dark and he has the pill on his tongue and Sherlock is tasting the salty sweat of his lips, sliding his tongue out over the puff of their gasp. The acrid metal tang meets his lips when he bites in deep, when Jim widens his eyes just enough to see who he truly is.
I am a fake, Sherlock whispers, relishes over the expression of shock. Do you want to know how I killed Frank Knight, Soo Lin Yao? Bob Frankland? How I forced my favourite to scratch out Rachel in her dying moments? The wide gasp of breath they made as life drained out of them and over their chest and clothes and shoes and shirt?
“I own you. You will submit, and beg for my mercy.” Sherlock’s eyes lock on Jim’s shock, the delight, the fear and frozen cast of wonder through his features. “You will repent to me. I own you; I am you. I am the thoughts that control your movement. You belong to me, and I have never been yours to tie down. I am your ruler and you will bow. You will wash my feet with the salt of your tears.”
Sherlock shows no mercy. He forces the knife into Jim’s broken hand and Jim gazes at him, assessing. Submitting, the delicate pads of his fingertips brushing Sherlock’s jaw, hovering over Sherlock’s temples.
“You are so weak,” Sherlock spits. Emotionless, uninspired, Jim. “You’re ordinary.”
Jim’s breath catches and Sherlock watches the flush creep up his skin, traps Jim’s wrists against the pillow, watches his pale tongue sweep over the cut nervously, the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows and his crimson bleeds into the white slip of the pillow.
Jim’s knife is there, dangling from his fingertips, and Sherlock whispers “ordinary,” again, and Jim’s breath hitches. He’s in indefinite suspension in the tangle of his arousal, the hot balm of his skin smooth and slick against his skin with cold sweat. Jim is afraid, his pupils blown wide, control shattered in the trembling of his fingertips beneath Sherlock’s grasp.
Sherlock forces Jim’s face and eyes to meet him and he weighs the knife into the palm of Jim’s hand. “I’m sorry,” Jim says in his ashamed, wavering Richard Brook voice, the edge of the knife a hard glint over his eyes.
“What are you sorry for?”
“Sins,” mumbles Jim. “Pride. I wanted to be so much greater than you, Sherlock.”
“I am your god,” Sherlock says. “Repent.”
“Shit,” says Jim.
Sherlock draws the flat of the blade over the hard curve of Jim’s stomach, feels the muscles seizing and straining with the press of its tip, blasting through the stridency of his unawareness. Every moment is a freeze frame of excessive stimuli, the slow drop of the collected bead of sweat over the triangle sliver of silver, the shuddering of the musculature and their relax, the magnetism of his sex.
Sherlock wraps Jim’s shaking fingers around the knife, guides it up to his chest by his right nipple. His heart. Sherlock guides his hand and the two strokes on Sherlock’s chest from Jim recreate themself, and it is not the X of a living target but the cross of a faithful. It is the symbol of Sherlock’s possession, of his endured retributions.
Blood pours from the deep slice, and Sherlock smears it across his torso, and up Jim’s neck and jaw. He rakes his nails across Jim’s scalp and his rage leaves the dark mark of pink that is so near to blood Sherlock can taste it. Wants to feel it.
“Oh god,” Jim says. “I am yours and it was conceit, and vanity. Lust.”
I forgive you, Sherlock says, and he kisses Jim, and Jim’s tongue is pliant and reverent beneath him. He arches into Sherlock’s touch and gasps his name, Sherlock, Sherlock until Sherlock wraps his fingers around Jim’s neck and Jim says “god.”
Sherlock doesn’t let go, and Jim’s cock swells thicker against Sherlock’s leg, and Jim grinds out, “you are my god,” and it is the most beautiful thing Sherlock has ever heard.
“I want to see you burn,” Sherlock says, stroking Jim’s hair calmly. “I want to be the one to carve your heart out and wear it as a chain around my neck. I want to own you. You are mine, and you always have and you always will be. Your absolution and oblivion is fallen to the grace of my communication. In death, I am your god, and I will steal your soul and rub it in the juiced flesh of discontentment. Look at me.”
Jim’s vision is rapt and he tries, but he is lost to the power of his orgasm and his eyes slam shut, and he arches and his fingers dig. The corners of his eyes are soft with love and humility and he raises his hand before Sherlock’s face and carefully parts his eyelashes. “You are trinity; you are all. The dark Angel of mercy.”
Sherlock kisses blood into his mouth, grounds his cock against Jim’s oversensitive cock, hears his small whimper of incitation. Sherlock gags Jim quiet with his scarf and he kisses each droplet of gleaming blood from Jim’s torso, mouth earnest in the firm press of Jim’s chest.
You are my god Jim says with his lowered eyes, and Sherlock cuts the scarf from his lips, and eases the blood into Jim’s mouth, chocolate. Jim has the pill in his mouth and Sherlock swallows it down, swallows him down.
Sherlock’s high on dirt and the thick black tar of blood and white powder, the waves of cocaine so much like release, his thrill on power the silence of Jim’s heart as he swallows and he stops bleeding, and it stops beating.
Sherlock wakes up and he is rock hard. He wasn’t aware of falling asleep and he is holding a kitchen knife. He’s in Mycroft’s apartment.
The fallen angel.
Sherlock staggers to the sink and drenches it yellow.
Sherlock locks the door of his flat and shoves the bookshelf in front of the open window. He breaks down on the rug with his fingers scratching at the inside skin of his elbow, his needle a pill and his pill a flow of pebbles down the drain of the bath where his skin cracks open and seeps.
They are gone and they can’t hurt him. Sherlock finds the cheap detergents under the sink and the smell makes him gag when it should make him laugh. He isn’t clean. His whole life he has been either been trying to get clean or dirty, and he is always stained when he’s dirty and always bored when he’s clean.
Jim makes him new and Mycroft makes Sherlock feel extremely old. Sherlock flushes the phones down the toilet. He has the urge to listen and break everything. The TV screen shatters and crashes forward over the mount. Sherlock rips the case files and keepsakes from the wall and tears them into shreds. Sherlock rips away John’s bed sheets and throws them in the fire. Sherlock throws the lounge cushions in the fire, and the skull. The skull is Mycroft’s and not mummy’s. Sherlock remembers how he’d take mummy’s skull to the graveyard sometimes where he used to pretend she was buried. “Look, there’s where I was,” Sherlock said to mummy, pointing at the new, grey headstone. He’d twirl her in circles and then he’d go the river and hold her over the waves.
“This is what you did to me,” Sherlock said. The way she had said live on, the way she actually did. Mummy’s hollow eyes were afraid as she stared deep into the blue water and Sherlock would just hold her there, cradling her in warning.
She let him go. She could never hurt him again, and he had complete control. He killed her and watched her plunge the knife into her own heart and wrench it back out again. She turned it on him but only because he didn’t do it because of her. He held the skull there and he could let it drop into the water, blue like dead blood, and now he watches her burn in the flames.
“Now you are dead,” Sherlock says. “You are dead to me. You really are.”
Certainly, wholly, quite actually. Sherlock laughs and 221b is stripped bare. Sherlock relinquishes his black eye to the mirror and cuts his fringe with the safety scissors until he can see the puss of the sealed lid between it and the angry greens and oranges and blues. Bare purple. Jim did this, Sherlock thinks. Sherlock smashes the mirror with his bare, broken fist.
It erupts in unfathomable agony and pain flitters down his wrist and up his spine. Sherlock stumbles to the living room which is naked like him and Sherlock strips off all his clothes and he drags his fingers against the wallpaper in his last message to the world that no one will ever bother to read.
There’s nothing wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with Sherlock. Sherlock told John that. John is coming back. John will make things better. Sherlock won’t soak his clothes in sweat and rainwater.
Sherlock drags the blood across his face in war paint. He wonders that it would conceal him from the world, if anyone would read the danger in his face and on his lips.
Social downfall is no longer enough. It is hardly an option, compared to what needs to be done.
Kitty Riley will help with Mycroft’s torture.
Jim feels that old sort of sad today.
The type of sad when you couldn’t spell things in kindergarten or no one ever smiled at you, even accidentally. When it kept raining and you tried to do all these fun things in the rain but you just got cold and sick and none of it was very fun, even. Jumping in puddles should be fun but it’s mostly just impulse and the water slicks up your leg and you don’t feel energetic enough to recover from it, you feel a lost and that slows your movements right down. They just yelled at you, when you managed their attention enough for them to see you.
And Jim is in that place where he is frozen, alive but dead, and all his blinks are sighs that won’t come out of his chest. The world keeps going on around without him but Jim is unhappy and alone, he’s always alone. He is more than unhappy, the meagre neutral of not being content—he is as far from happy Jim isn’t sure he remembers what the word means. Jim is desolate, rolling in the agony of loneliness that seems to turn all the people around him invisible when he reaches out to them, so that he’s alone when he is alone and he’s alone in a crowded station. Jim feels alone in his loneliness, like someone else may have once been sad but he’s never been able to feel them be sad with him. The reassurances he should get are empty words, forgotten and poured down the gutter grill like rainwater, constantly absorbing. Jim feels that sadness of when he tried so hard to make a difference and his mother forgot who he was again. Like there’s nothing to remember worth it, and he’s not worth it, and everyone else is lost in themselves and he can’t break through. The little things they have chosen to define as important. Money. Beauty. Charisma.
There is no use in the words that plaster together to make thought-grabbing sentences when no one will listen to the words you speak; there’s nothing in fame when they don’t see you for who you are, only what. Consulting criminal. Everyone is afraid of Jim and Jim thought it might be better that way, to see the sadness in someone else and not himself, to make it better, but no one wants to make Jim better no matter how many things Jim fixes. He is ignorable, because beauty is a subjective concept and more of a comparison to a social construct; Jim isn’t an underwear model, only for Sherlock when he’s working in IT. Jim wonders why anyone would ever want to feel beautiful, admired, when it’s not true and really all they ever are is alone and forgotten. They’ll be forgotten about the people who mean things to them and forgotten by history and forgotten by the universe when it ends. Moving on, there’s always an ending. Jim doesn’t want to hear it stop because he is alone and somehow he can’t stop thinking that one day he might not be, even though he knows, he knows.
There is nearly nothing to live for. Each day Jim’s optimist warps and tears across the held shatter of his apartment bedroom window. Rejection is born from hope. If you’re hopeless, you’re fearless. You’re not afraid of there not being any happy ever again. You are resigned somehow, to sadness, to death; you become despaired with them. When you’re so sad that you look for death’s attention. You’re not afraid of things being worse, because they are already the worst, always, and you know there will never be a happy again. It’s just more of the worst. Death doesn’t help you; only if you have trust in it as something better, something else. The only reason to live for Jim is that there’s no reason to die.
Jim doesn’t trust anything anymore, doesn’t even trust himself. He paces his bedroom and doesn’t empathise with anyone, begins to hate his ability to feel things about himself. Jim doesn’t even care about Jim. He doesn’t know why anyone else would. Jim is vulnerable and splayed to the mercies of misery without end. Even as everything ends and is forgotten, the misery lasts, it stays worn in his soul and his experience like a fibre of sand in his hair when he brushes dirt out.
Jim doesn’t care about Jim, but something hurts in him that he cares about. He doesn’t want the best for himself; he doesn’t want a million dollars or the missile plans or NATO in alphabetical order. But Jim wants the sadness to stop, to be forgotten and end like it does in all the other stories of people. But each memory of when he was little is seared into the misery and the misery won’t let go, it won’t stop and he can’t do anything about it. Jim has given up trying to look for happiness. In the forced smiles he plastered on his face to emulate goodwill and the grand presents he gave on Christmas day and the sobs because he tried to find something good but he was never good, he never felt good about it. He too often blames the world because it is rotten, but the rot has seeped into Jim and maybe he’d think he could have done something about it if he wasn’t so disheartened by himself.
Jim is sad and no one knows it.
Sherlock is so sick of the bullshit. He’s so angry, he feels like poison glowing and ripping through the skins of the disgusting specimens of humanity around him. His anger is like a freight train, and he wants nothing more than to rip these precious, condescending human beings from their ugly heads and watch the life force drain out of them and crow how he’d won and they are nothing, they are only what they force him to be and they’ve always being trying to make him be these shit stupid things, like romantic and sexual and responsible like Mycroft. Mycroft is such a ceaseless bastard, he always lets Sherlock down, he is a headstone in making mouths to elitism, he is manipulation with a capital M. He never lets Sherlock do what he wants. He’s always there, making sure Sherlock can never be happy and Sherlock just wants to see him hurt like he hurts, to lose something wonderful like he has lost, to make him feel empty and wretched like he always is. Sherlock wants to see Mycroft fall because he deserves it, and he wants to catch Mycroft and slit his throat like Mycroft did to him, when he was at his weakest and when he was looking for redemption most of all.
Sherlock feels his guilt in a wretched ball of life, but he has come too far to cease mocking Mycroft in the manner that he has been shamed. And he is angry at Mycroft for making him feel ashamed, and he’s enraged to anyone who has ever made him feel like he doesn’t belong, Molly and Sally and even John. They are always trying to condition him into some level of appropriate like he can’t just be himself, like he has to be average and noxious a weed with concealed flaws rather than observed. And why should they fault him for being honest, for not caring about the small tidings that they stab and pick at obsessively every day, for releasing his distaste in an exhale of true disparagement rather than a simmered pot of oily, stewy resentment. Sherlock hears John saying that isn’t kind and why should it matter if he isn’t, if he isn’t Mary fucking Poppins to every crude Anderson that comes along his way, like he has to be some demure princess that has to speak in pleases and thank you's. Like he’s a fucking dog to sit on command and only speak when spoken to.
He’s going to set them right. They won’t last for challenging who he is, his authority in the shattered shell of his own dictation. Every decision had been taken from him, his own right to die and his right to truth and his pledge to love.
All he ever wanted was an end, and now he’s getting someone else’s. Sherlock thinks he’ll live voyeuristically through their own disintegration and stagnation, not his rejuvenation and self-sorrow. He has power, and he will be heard, voice wavering or flat, he will never be silenced.
“I am sad,” Jim says to Sherlock. He’s not sad in the way he expects Sherlock to be able to help, he doesn’t speak to Sherlock looking for renewal. He is stating a fact; lending one to Sherlock because Sherlock can never figure out the truth by himself even though he tries to. Sherlock wants to be the force to make Jim confide things, to alter his security, to win Jim over with a display of power. Jim is saying he is sad and that the sad has washed away all his ability to see things in a way that’s not him, not sad. That Sherlock won’t be able to tip Jim’s world that much, as much as he’d like to.
Jim doesn’t know if Sherlock hears or not. Jim wishes he could hope so. He doesn’t let himself. Jim is too used to protecting himself from being hurt, from acting fearless and preparing himself for disappointment. Jim supposes it’s a leap of faith that he’s considering his ability to be positive again, even if he doesn’t think Sherlock cares about him as him and not the statement of him. Because Sherlock doesn’t know Jim yet, doesn’t know who he is as a sad person, he can’t care about Jim as a factor of his own recovery, only as an input of Sherlock’s own acceptance.
Danger night. Jim was a child even when he was an adult. Hopeful, naive to the true deadness of everything around him. He hoped about Seb, and he felt with Sherlock. He felt every variation of inspired and nervous, tense, and the boredom, the boredom which is a sadness because you’re stuck in a loop and you stop feeling excited about the sheep’s grain. Life is full of sheep, and their disappointing foodstuffs. Somewhere along, Jim lost Sherlock— on the roof, where every idealism crashed alongside Jim’s ultimate inability to find an enemy worth losing to. Sherlock had thought the code was real, and it was real, but it wasn’t meant to be real because that would be too easy. Sherlock didn’t like problems that were too easy.
Jim didn’t like problems at all, he thought. He had once, found them fascinating in the way they came from nowhere out of nothing and festered into a junk ball then disintegrated back into extraneousness. That innocence was never true innocence because Jim knew how dangerous sadness could be, even though he thought he could fix it. Jim has been as sad for as long as he can remember. Perhaps that makes him normal. Ordinary.
Sherlock disappointed Jim, when Sherlock forgot who Jim was. Not Jim from IT (though Sherlock forgot that too). A criminal, willing to burn. Not a toy. To be revered, to be loved and appreciated not brushed aside as so much dust.
The hopes should have been renewed. The sadness should’ve been distracted from for a while, but once Jim saw that Sherlock could do wrong, could be wrong, it hurt more than he cares to think about. The night’s not dangerous because it is deadly, it is dangerous because it is never ending and tonight is one night when Jim can see in both directs of that infinite run and it leaves him reeling, locked in a ball and trapped in his mind. There is no degree to compare his upset to, because the sadness is always in his chest sinking further and weighing heavier and deeper in him with each step he takes. The night is dangerous because he is dangerous and he could hurt someone he loves, and he thinks he will.
And it will hurt all the more because they’ve betrayed him.
Sherlock’s unhappiness is an interrupted sentence, bottled and sold but thrown and smashed mid-sip.
He is outraged. Out raged. Rage. Outpour of a symphony like a scream in a forest and a snap in a bush where Sherlock will dump and leave Mycroft’s dead body.
The video footage wasn’t blank. Of course it isn’t monotonous, that it didn’t end well, how that he had ever thought—
Sherlock watched Mycroft march Jim into outside, a fenced courtyard, gun held high as usual, unshot. Jim was blindfolded by the own press shut of his eyelids.
And Sherlock saw but Jim didn’t hear the draw of the second gun. Jim had his hands bound and feet tied. Mycroft threw him cold against the cement. Jim kept his eyes shut. No escape, although Mycroft had already dared him to. Mycroft was trying to expose Jim’s desires so he could twist them, and break him. Jim wanted to escape but he wouldn’t, for that. Mycroft pulled back the hammer with his thumb, click.
“Reichenbach Fall,” Mycroft whispered. “Any last words?”
Jim breathed hard. He could feel the solid click of the metal barrel against his skull, of course he could. Jim couldn’t see that there were two guns with his eyes closed. Sherlock thought there might be one bullet for Mycroft and one for Jim, hypothetically, but of course Mycroft couldn’t kill his own captive.
No more words than earlier in the interrogation; ice cold silence, alien, distancing.
Mycroft pulled the trigger.
The second gun, and Jim writhed, he screamed and for a moment his world was lost and torn away from him. Jim heard the shot and he felt the barrel against the back of his head and his eyes shot open and he wailed and clutched his head. Mycroft stared down on Jim in his suit and he laughed, judge and false executioner. Jim took one, two, three seconds. He stared up at Mycroft in fear and horror and maybe something like respect in that fear and horror but Jim was trembling. For those precious moments he thought he’d been killed, heard his own death shot as the last thing Jim had ever known. Jim hadn’t expected the gun to go off either and he was afraid, and staring forward to the flight of the actual bullet, looking across the courtyard. His eyes were wide and as white as Sherlock had ever seen them, and the clip ended. Jim’s trembling fingertips untouched, but his face torn open under the gaze of the camera.
Sherlock was fool, to think he could deduce intent and pain from circumstance and physicals alone. To think he could find facts from theories and explanations from insights.
Sherlock killed Moran. He should have let Jim kill Mycroft, like he wanted. Like Mycroft killed him.
Sherlock dresses shrewdly, with an air of focus reserved for-- special occasions. Not the work this time, as he loops the tie of his V-neck in a practiced y-formation. But still something as equally sinister. He’s newly engaged, a recent ex-bachelor torn from the party life to nine hours a day. Just fresh out of Uni with spit dampening his ears and swear-endearments staining his tongue.
Sherlock tucks his shirt badly and upsets the knot turned at his collar. Perfect.
“Hullo,” says Sherlock in an affected tone, tapping his fingernails on the fibreglass help desk obnoxiously. His eyes instantly flick to his hand in a pretend-nervous gesture, where he is twisting the bright gold ring on his left ring finger. Signet ring— inherited, like Mycroft’s. “This is The Daily Express, isn’t it? Yeah, I got a bit lost.”
The receptionist ceases her clacking to look up scornfully. “Sorry, do you have an appointment?” she asks, thinking of calling security to haul him out (disapproving, doubting lilt, borderline sarcastic. Long day ahead.)
“Umm, I just got to give the car keys to Kit Riley upstairs. My fiancée’s a bit forgetful,” Sherlock shows a bit of teeth, trying not to grimace at the force of his gritty Bristol dialect. It’s the type of bad boy an ex-investigative journalist is too good for.
“Oh! Congratulations,” says the receptionist airily, turning back to her computer. She frowns to herself, because she shares a lunch break with Riley and bemoaning of keys are not on her to-suffer list. “Nice to know she’s reigned herself in. Third floor, second office room. Don’t take too long.”
Sherlock drops character and smirks to himself, snatching a visitor’s badge from the pile beneath her out tray. He smiles a touch broadly and a touch viciously to everyone he sees out of the elevator.
And there Sherlock’s lover girl is, brows furrowed and wrists elevated. Clacking away without a care in the world in a dingy little cubicle with her head down and her hair wrestled back.
How the mighty have fallen.
“I’m sorry, did I scare you?” Sherlock Holmes asks Kitty Riley, as she starts. “Afraid I’m far apter at disguises than Jim Moriarty.”
He spits out disguises like rancid poison scalding his mouth. That she has the daring to return to journalism after her slammed article. Hopeless, greed-mongering bitch. Thinks she can get away with acting the innocent, blending into the crowd. She’s more at fault for the Reichenbach Fall than anyone.
“You,” Kitty Riley says, sharp eyes latching on, not quite able to hold back her surprise. Eyeliner’s been reapplied several times: slight redness to eyelids, scrubbed, but not puffy. Her hair is tied back in a severe ponytail: hard work mode. She’s been cutting it herself, badly, and she’s hiding the cock up.
“I want help,” Sherlock demands, pulling a chair and leaning forward, false smile plastered to his face. “You wanted to help me. And you owe it.”
Kitty Riley smiles right back. She won’t cause a scene in her shared office even if he warrants one— uncanny. “What makes me think I want to help you? Already fucked up Brook’s life, don’t think you need to disturb mine. Deary.”
Caught the charade, then. Good. “Behind on the news? The Sun did publicly announce a court declaration of Jim Moriarty as real. Which makes you a liar. And a con artist, and an accessory to attempted murder, and a wanted woman. Lo and behold Kitty Riley slips through legal cracks yet again. Your story nearly ruined my life.”
“Nearly ended it, from what I heard,” Kitty returns choppily. “Who killed who on that rooftop, might I ask? Concerned citizens are dying to know.”
Sherlock pulls Kitty close for a pretend kiss. “Yes, who did? Lying me. I admit it, I killed Jim. I killed Jim Moriarty. And I can kill you just as easily.”
“What do you want?” Kitty asks. “An apology? Well, my Reichenbach hero, your friend John Watson should’ve been jailed for assaulting a police officer I hear, but as far as I know he attended the funeral with nary a cuff on his wrist. You should’ve been arrested, for faking your own death. Or does police evasion only matter when you have something to prove?”
Sherlock scans her tense profile. Clothes need laundering, hair dyed black. Mourning colour; but there are no bruises beneath her eyes, no frown at the edge of her expression which needs tempering. She’s confident in her undercover position, writing send ups for local football teams. Her loss is physical, fiscal, but not sociological. She never cared about Richard Brook. He’s not real. But for all her talk, Kitty Riley should think that Jim is dead. That should spook her.
Why doesn’t it? Jim’s in hiding, Sherlock knows that for sure. He can’t maintain a high profile with Mycroft breathing down his neck. It would look suspicious.
The buttonholes of Kitty’s old shirt are pursed narrower with disuse near the neck than strictly professional. Computer is tilted downward, inappropriate angle for typing reports. Using inbuilt webcam for self-photography. Spying? Flirting with a blond male, To: Sebas…, she has her email client open in another tab and Sherlock’s brain warps into overdrive. Sebastian Moran wasn’t sleeping with Jim; he wasn’t sleeping with anyone, he would never have had the chance to sleep with anyone which means someone was interrupting their communications - Jim. She thought that she had a hand in Jim’s number two, but Jim is impersonating Sebastian in reply to her emails in order to reassure her because he thought she was one of the ranks that might turn.
That means she’s malleable. Unbidden the phrase every person has their pressure point, wafts into Sherlock’s head.
”I want you to run an article. Anonymously or otherwise, I don’t care. I will forward you a document on a photographic article I wish for you to publish by the word and no less. It’s a political scandal. The T word. Risky. Your editor will not agree to put it in print. I want you to do everything you can to make sure it is. Or death.”
"I’ll lose my job," Riley says flatly. It’s refusal. She’ll flee the country first. (“I killed Jim Moriarty.”)
And Sherlock leans into her ear and whispers: “Sebastian Moran.”
MI6 BEHIND TERRORIST ATTACK? SECRET MEETING WITH JIM MORIARTY
Photos allegate secret serviceman Mycroft Holmes, headsman of the Royal British Secret Service to be behind the January 11 bombing of Wembley Stadium. The brother of the Reichenbach Survivor has recently denied rumours of conference with the unknown terrorist. However, photographic footage has challenged his statement, as pictures of Mycroft Holmes conferring with most-wanted criminal Jim Moriarty have been leaked from a private recording prior to the bombing.
“My brother has been in conference with the terrorist for some time,” claims Sherlock Holmes. “His interference in matters of the highest level has always been apparent. Why he did not learn of the plans or prevent their commencement in his long-time conference is surely a question for our government.”
The photos, which reveal Mycroft Holmes and Jim Moriarty conferring in a dark room, aid public slam of Military in wake of Britain’s unannounced atomic bombing of Afghanistan. Blueprints of missile trajectory were recently released by Afghani government directed from Britain, from which Britain has come onto fire for violating its UNESCO treaty. Government foreknowledge of the Wembley Stadium bombing perpetrators is currently unknown. Civil war proceedings…
Revenge. Is. Saccharin.
Mycroft finds a way to avoid Sherlock, and there are mobs at 221b for twelve days leaving Sherlock to solitary house arrest. Security finally arrives in form of policemen when Sherlock has barricaded the doors and windows and locked himself in the high attic. He hasn’t turned off the television since last week and his electricity is about to be cut. The noise doesn’t stop.
My position has been formally compromised. I hope you’re pleased with yourself.
Sherlock is too enraged to respond to the provocation. Mycroft never texts.
You should know I only ever tortured him because he expressed a personal interest in you. I was worried about you, Sherlock. That’s why we had to break him. That is why he attempted to commit suicide.
We had to kill him for you.
Mycroft sold him out to Jim.
Everything that has ever happened to them is Mycroft’s doing.
Mycroft has betrayed Sherlock at every step, and Sherlock kept forgiving him.
He’s going to end this.
Still he has to wait until the crowds die down to escape his flat, and he awaits it joyously.
Sherlock feels each slap of the pavement against his bare feet, like a personal assault for moving. His anger is such that he feels his clipped nails pulling blood at the heel of his palm, his temple beating up a drum from the grind of his teeth. He’s too hot for his ruined coat, too angry for the controlled movement of the pull of his suede loafers on his socks, too powerful for fabric barrier between the smoking pavement and the soles of his feet. He hears the blood sear in his ears, sees the edges of his vision spot and blur in tunnel vision. Although the day is only overcast, Sherlock envisions humidity and air pressure of an oncoming storm squeezing the life through his veins thicker, whipping his pulse faster.
His gait is tight and rigid. Muscles tense to an aching strain on his neck. Sherlock is a caricature of his own ferocity. The intellectual swayed to stupid protest. He’s no victim.
It is late-afternoon, and the streets are at their thickest – still rather thin - with late-afternoon work commuters. Wide-eyed pedestrians stagger out of Sherlock’s path as he blazes through High Street, stripping them naked with his eyes. Ordinary. The bus stop is empty with the reclusiveness of the afraid. No one loiters at Mrs. Hudson’s shop anymore, Sherlock has waited at the window staring, waiting for someone to seek refuge at the shelter there from the morning rain. No reporters. Nothing. Just whispers, hagglers bartering foods on street corners, and tiny mutters of war. England has bigger things to worry about now than pop media and boffin Sherlock Holmes Resurrected. Genius’s Fake Death!
Thinking of reporters again makes Sherlock feel dirty. Thinking of anyone makes Sherlock disgusted. Everyone Sherlock sees walks as brisk as him, away, directed. They are all cowering pigs. They don’t stand up to their slaughterers. They watch everyone else fall and they rub the skin on their own necks emphatically.
Sherlock hears chanting, and it’s not only his impassioned reverberations. The alley on the side lane drips with evaporated rain, its walls slick, like nervous sweat. Hooded figures, young, exchange notes between the cuffs of their cotton shirt sleeves. “Chav,” one mutters resentfully, flicking through fives. A single drop of held rain drips from the gutter above the closed Chinese store alley side. This is the street Sherlock and John paced through in the Blind Banker case, piecing local ciphers. John is coming back. Why does John have to come back right now? Why did he have to be alive when everything was running so smooth and perfect?
Sherlock doesn’t want John to be a part of this, to sit through this right now. For becoming another obligation Sherlock is supposed to survive for, and pander to. John will hate Sherlock if he kills Mycroft for this. John will ask why Sherlock hasn’t killed Jim. And how can Sherlock explain that, to him? To see his reflection in the muddied puddle of his own desolation, something as ugly and festering, Jim who was there when Sherlock was alone, and hurt. Jim who is as scarred as Sherlock and as scared. Jim who loves Sherlock.
Sherlock almost hates John for making everything so complicated. Sherlock just wants them all to be together and contented easy, without all of time’s ripples and fractures, as the drop hits the mud puddle.
“Move it, faggot,” one of the thugs curses, pushing past.
Sherlock looks up.
Snarled expression, large upper lip of the cockney cured, excess bitten not split, hair dry, wide cheekbones fat filled (major cheek reconstruction) light scar on the hairline, unhidden by close shave haircut, home-done - uneven slice creating misshapen curves – light stubble, nick on the upper jaw from cheap dispensable razor, open mouth heavy breathing exertion no major injuries picked a fight rigged won the bet stole loser’s money goatee thick muscles in julgar pulsing around chin jutted forward obnoxious stubborn undefeated conceited repulsive begging for a punch in his vulgar conceited, overly large—crack.
The gang oohs. Thug, Damian (minor criminal record shoplifting unreported carjack) lurches back, seizing his bloody nose.
Thunder cracks across the sky and down to the oily cobblestone. Damian raises his fist. Poised straight, amateur boxer outside of street side gang. Sherlock waits, the gang crowds him. He has no intention to break their circle. Murmur, exchanging glances debating a gang bash but too much thought for Damian, to avenge his own. They think Damian holds even the slightest chance. They’re wrong.
Sherlock darts his head left at the uppercut, throws low. Damian takes it and smacks Sherlock’s fist back into the wet wall. Graze. Damian holds Sherlock’s gaze, puffs a smirk out. Separates Sherlock’s clenched fingers in his deadlock grip. His index is still healing, smarting, and Damian squeezes.
Sherlock knees him in the stomach (expected) and spins back off the brick back. The circle grab him then, push him forward. Damian is still turning and they are too close together for Sherlock to take advantage of his speed and height. He has to play dirty.
Sherlock pulls in Damian’s clenched fist (boxers open forward, strike diagonal for maximum velocity) and twists right. With Damian’s fist in his left hand, his stance shoulder-forward sideways there is a decreased hit space for Sherlock as a target. Damian’s wrist pulls unnaturally back with the gravitational down force and Sherlock uses the lean to trip him onto the ground, kicking him hard in the back of the thigh.
Sherlock’s ears ring high. He sways.
His vision dances until all he can see are the edges of their faces, and he falls against the wall then strikes hard at their chins. Sherlock misses. His arms are unnaturally weak, like all the fight has left him without his asking.
He’s about to pass out.
Arms clench his and he is too weak to pry them away. They won’t let go of him, they squeeze and don’t stop and there’s nothing he can do. Sherlock opens his mouth to speak to scream but his stomach has dropped with his breath and no sound comes out.
No. Sherlock feels dizzy, as if the blood has rushed out of him and out his pores. He hasn’t eaten enough, he must be sick, he must-- Sherlock doesn’t fall hard backward—he stumbles, clutching his head. His feet won’t hold him. Dysphoria, like he wants to die, like the walls are closing in around him but suddenly he can’t see. The whole world is clear rush white. Sherlock’s arms grope blindly but his legs are collapsing and it’s a struggle not to hit the ground which is rushing towards him and arms are striking him then impact.
Shocked voices sound, ugly, muted and far away. Hypoxia, Sherlock thinks. Again. The stress, and the humidity. Some sort of neural deficit, low blood sugar or underweightedness.
“What the fuck was that?” they echo, laughing to each other. Damian kicks Sherlock’s ribcage hard; Sherlock coughs. He can’t stand, he just has to sit up but his arms won’t hold him. Water, he needs water. He’s dizzy.
Sherlock thinks they are yes, disturbed maybe, but too enraged by his defiance to leave him. Merciless principle.
They beat him; they bruise him and kick the blood out of his gums. Sherlock lurches back away from them and dribbles into his new Belstaff coat. Sherlock remembers: Mycroft. He needs to win this fight so he can kill Mycroft. Mycroft, who has tormented Sherlock incessantly throughout the years, and who has this time gone too far.
Sherlock lunges, and pours all his ferocity into punching the second street thug in his face. He’s only young—young like Jim is young, corrupt like Jim is, lost—no. Mycroft. This boy hadn’t been expecting it and now he takes the punches Sherlock gives him, slick wet nauseating cracking of bone bursting blood. Squelch. Squelch.
Damian hauls Sherlock off his feet. He is enraged now; he has bypassed vengeance directly unto sadism. Annihilation. “You don’t touch him,” Damian growls, eyes skittering wildly. He shakes Sherlock by the collar. “You hear me?”
His voice is too loud, whirling everywhere. Sherlock feels the fight drain out of him. He remembers to reach into Damian’s back pocket discretely before he falls to his knees and sinks to the ground.
Hell hath no fury like teenage boy wounded. Damian steps on Sherlock’s lungs, and they spit in his face. The injured boy just leaves, clutching his cheekbone, howling. Swearing. And they kick him until Sherlock stops trying to get back up again. Sherlock crawls into the fetal position instead, and suffers the kicks and the headache.
Sherlock hears gunshots blare as blissful coldness sweeps over him.
Sherlock awakes to the sound of an engine. Thrumming, tightly, like a bound drum. His head sears. “Easy,” says a voice, pushing Sherlock back as he struggles to sit up. “Don’t want to exacerbate those injuries.”
“Says who?” Sherlock returns instantly, slapping Jim’s hands off of him. “The last time I checked you didn’t fit the bill of harmless and merrily contented.”
“Maybe I would like to see you hurt,” Jim concedes, and he parks the sport car with two wheels on the curb. Sherlock feels as if he might vomit on its tens-of-thousand dollar upholstery, and turns his face away from Jim until his stomach settles.
“Which is the real Jim?” Sherlock finds himself asking as he bounds up on to his feet regardless, slamming the lifted door behind him hard. They’re in the carpark of a golf course with a ball smashed through the Lamborghini window, and Jim is crossing the dark plane of road to Mycroft’s high rise, peeling off latex gloves.
Sherlock continues on heatedly. “Because from the haphazard expression of your inconsistent sentiment I get the distinct impression that I am being used.”
Jim spins into his face. “You have every reason to hate me, and want to vindicate prissy feelings on behalf of your dearest pet. But you should know that every passion you hold against me makes my return a little stronger. I love a game as much as you do.”
“But when did it stop being about winning?” Sherlock asks.
Jim only rolls his eyes. Sherlock is suddenly swarmed by anger, at himself that he’s again failed to impress Jim and that Jim isn’t complying to his interrogation. As if by his departure from sentiment he has regained the foothold on the higher rung that is better than Sherlock, no challenge offered, disappointing.
But he hasn’t won yet. Jim has underestimated Sherlock before.
Sherlock had only wanted to know what made him so much more than an adversary, that had turned the game into their game, that fascinated Jim so keenly that he’d let Sherlock cheat so Jim could watch him play.
Before, Jim gave into sentiment: winning was overshadowed by possession. Is Mycroft right? Has Jim stopped caring about him? It seems ridiculous to propose outside of a monolithic building considering the fact that Jim has just rescued him from a near-fatal bashing. Jim’s hair stirs in the wind as Sherlock follows him around the back of the building, quiet, nondescript.
Sherlock can still beat Jim, if it’s to be about winning again now. But how can Sherlock regain his footing after all this lost face? He has no money or no phone on him. He doesn’t even have his flat to use as a resource.
I don’t want to compete with you, Sherlock feels like saying. Not like this. All the anger at Jim, Mycroft, has rushed out of him, leaving him startlingly bereft. No: think.
To get at Jim without the game. There is no goal; just images, positions, values. Impersonating Jim to replace him is out: entry hazard, too suspicious, susceptible. Redirecting his client conference as equally invalid: Jim worked with microphones, but not always, that’s too expensive.
So obvious, of course, why didn’t he think of it before? Once he kills Mycroft, he can usurp Jim’s network via con. As the new ‘Moran’. Jim cares about little; but he cares about killing Mycroft. The only reason he has avoided it has been out of courtesy to Sherlock. Jim is a genius, he knows Sherlock has been planning to kill Mycroft, he knows everything that’s passed between them.
But even he can’t know if Sherlock kills Mycroft, so Sherlock can use Mycroft’s pretend life as a plea bargain with Jim’s network and Sherlock’s homeless network. Someone is going to say “please fix it for me that Mycroft Holmes dies” and Jim will have to hire an assassin. Once they realize Jim is at fault for the missing body Sherlock can sweep his feet under them by happening to have shot Mycroft. Soliciting crimes, solving personally, that one better. Trust appeal; not a mysterious face in a mysterious place. Throw in some good word from his homeless gang members. Network reallocation. Without his spiders, Moriarty is helpless. Check.
Jim stops affront a back door entrance, and Sherlock snaps back to reality. Is he being led to his murder?
Sherlock has a dawning realization of what Jim is attempting to do as he presses his ear against the door and shoots Sherlock a mock suggestive look, leaning against it with his thighs spread. Playful and teasing, for just one moment. Sherlock smiles.
Jim rattles open the door and presses a gun into Sherlock’s hand. But this time Sherlock has a dreadful feeling it isn’t for a suicide play.
“Just try it, sweetheart,” Jim whispers, and kisses Sherlock on the cheek.
Sherlock is left with blood thudding in his heart and the image of Jim helpless on his knees as he stands outside the door, ready to break in and kill his brother upstairs in the apartment.
The carpet is soft and plush. Sherlock’s hand shake madly. He has the odd urge to thank Jim for letting Sherlock kill Mycroft as his brother although it was Jim’s right to do so. There is something undeniably commanding about his growling voice with its warm Irish lilt.
Security’s tight, Sherlock doesn’t need to have an IQ of 190 to ascern that. But not inpenetrable. Guards man the elevator, and the front door of the lobby. Sherlock counts three concealed CCTV cameras in the lampshades alone.
Sherlock’s first act of command is to barge into the tech room (password locked) and cut the fuse box— the lights cut out and the entire hotel is plunged into darkness. Not dark enough as if it were night, but surprising and disorienting enough that the guards by the elevator tense and look toward reception.
Sherlock, then, cracks the security framework, which is running on emergency power. It takes all of twelve seconds to wipe the cameras and set off the fire alarm on the other side of the delux apartment. The elevator guards exchange a worried glance and storm off towards the ruckus, allowing Sherlock to slip by them into the lift.
Sherlock’s palms are sweaty too he pockets the smartphone he swiped from tech, and he wipes them dry on his coat, cursing at himself for wasting time. Security will return in only minutes, after discovering the false alarm. Sherlock mashes the penthouse floor button and slinks behind its obscured panel.
He’s going to do it. Everything will go fine. He’ll implement his post-hit revival scheme and lose himself in the criminal underworld.
Mycroft’s going to get what’s coming to him. Been coming to him, for years and years.
The lift dings out Sherlock’s arrival. More guards turn in surprise, and suspicion. Weapons not completely raised (awaited possibility of harmless citizen, apartment management) and Sherlock knocks them out of their grips in one easy crosscut. The weapons clatter to the other side of the room harmless.
Sherlock presses a gun against the left guard’s head. “I want you both to enter that elevator and return to the ground floor,” Sherlock commands, low and sure.
The right guard considers forcing Sherlock, but something in Sherlock’s expression (his predicted grip around left guard’s shoulder) stops him short. “Alright,” says the guard - who is only hired security and not secret service, a formality - stepping backwards. He closes a hand around his personal radio, and tugs his coworker into the lift shaft. Sherlock holds his gun on the both of them until the doors close.
Sherlock waits several moments and they don’t spring on him reopening the lift doors. Back up plan, then.
Sighing echoes from the living room room. Mycroft. Sherlock steps through the arch doors and all noise drops dead. Mycroft.
And in the corner of Sherlock’s eye, Anthea. They’ve been having a conversation. Anthea’s eyes flicker to Sherlock’s hidden hands and she easily takes out her blackberry and begins texting.
Sherlock keeps the gun behind his back. He gives himself four minutes until the lift returns from ground level with a back up squad.
“Oh,” says Mycroft, when Sherlock corners him. “What have you done to yourself?”
Sherlock gingerly presses two fingers to his eye, which is bruising. “Nothing,” he says. He doesn’t mean to talk. He wants this over with, and now. But the way Mycroft is looking at him makes Sherlock hesitate, and wonder if he’s actually read the article. If Mycroft doesn’t know Sherlock’s vendetta against him.
No. Mycroft is manipulating him, again. Pretending to care. Sherlock needs to end this. Even if Mycroft hasn’t combed his hair yet.
“He’s suicidal because of you,” Sherlock says. “Because of what you did to him.”
Mycroft catches on; straightens his suit coat and his back. “I did what needed to be done,” Mycroft says merely.
Sherlock takes Jim’s gun from behind his back. “And so am I,” Sherlock says, through the closed throat that threatens to choke his words.
Mycroft strokes the side of Sherlock’s cheek. “You should know,” he manages, smooth as violins. “I am always proud of you, whatever you’ve said of me. It’s my fault, for not being around more often as a child, and leaving you alone with father. When mummy died—”
“No,” says Sherlock tightly. “that’s not yours to talk about.”
Mycroft just stares at Sherlock.
“You knew we would be close. But you couldn’t— you couldn’t bear to let me make my own bad choices. You had to break him. We could have been sane, we could have been together. I don’t always hate you. That’s not what this is about. But it’s because of you that I’m in this situation, and because of you that Jim wants to die and John went back to Afghanistan. You’re going to kill him, or he’s going to kill you. And I can’t stand that. I can’t stand here and watch the both of you kill yourselves. Not anymore.”
“I had no idea,” says Mycroft softly. Then; “very well.”
“Stand back.” Sherlock’s voice hovers.
“You never were going to bring back John, were you?” Sherlock asks Mycroft. Sherlock would never have John back.
“No,” Mycroft says. “Not until Jim made to kill John. I meant to tell you— to apologise for what I did.”
Enough. Sherlock’s stalled far too long. But something about his brother, Mycroft, standing there, awaiting his shot calmly, resigned to his fate. Ice Man. Inhuman, incomprehensibly manipulative. The things he’s done. To Sherlock, and Jim. They shouldn’t happen to anyone. This is Sherlock’s decision.
“We were always close,” Sherlock spits. “And you were always jealous.”
Sherlock puts the gun against Mycroft’s head, but when he tries to pull the trigger he can’t. Sherlock thinks of Mycroft laughing as he picked sunflower seeds out of Sherlock’s hair, and teaching him how to ride a bike with a gentle hand on his back.
“I wish you were dead,” Sherlock spits. He steps forward. “I wish you were sleeping with the maggots.”
Sherlock looks into Mycroft’s eyes and sees Mycroft looking at him the way he used to—
He is two, and Mycroft is patiently sounding out the syllables in his name for him to repeat, Sherlock.
Mycroft is closing his hand around Sherlock’s, helping him tie his shoelaces.
Mycroft is painstakingly explaining to Sherlock why he needs to exert caution running in front of cars across the road, fingers trembling.
Mummy’s dead and Mycroft sits with Sherlock at the police station all morning with his hand slightly outstretched for Sherlock to clasp.
Sherlock’s blood dripping into the white as the door creaks shut, antiseptic and gauze left on Sherlock’s pillow.
Mycroft smiling proudly, sadly, when Sherlock puts his king in checkmate.
Mycroft is helping him sit up when Sherlock runs out of live veins in his forearms and loses count of the threads in the carpet and won’t shut his eyes.
Mycroft is turning away from Sherlock as he exits the house for the last time.
Mycroft weeping after Sherlock disowned him.
Mycroft standing by Sherlock through his lung surgery.
Making love to him.
Sitting there after Sherlock tried to kill himself, miserable.
“You lied to me,” Sherlock says, remembering to die by your hand is an honour I could never atone for. “You’ve been using me.”
Sherlock’s gun wavers. His hand runs thick with tremors, and Sherlock squeezes his eyes shut and leans his head against Mycroft’s chest. “I hate you,” Sherlock sobs, and he has Jim’s gun there against Mycroft’s temple, and Mycroft is looking at him and Anthea is fucking laughing. She’s laughing.
“Nice article,” she says derisively. “Why don’t you put the weapon down?”
Sherlock thinks about how Anthea is always watching from the sidelines, and never actually doing anything, just sitting there and watching them suffer. Now she wants to get involved, when the precious job liability is at stake. Precious Anthea.
Sherlock shoots her.
Mycroft collapses to a kneel shoving past Sherlock as she stares back into Mycroft’s eyes, lost. Searching for words, expression shrivelled as she reaches for Mycroft’s hand.
Sherlock watches Anthea crumple.
Her chest spews open like a red rose. She clutches at Mycroft’s hand. Mycroft says, “Anthea,” then Mycroft says it again. “Anthea,” Mycroft says.
The gun is a leaden weight in Sherlock’s palm. What has he done, he wonders. Mycroft smooths the side of Anthea’s crinkled, sodden face (tears and blood) and he thinks that this can’t be happening. It’s wrong. He shot an innocent person. Because he couldn’t shoot his brother.
Sherlock gags deep in his throat. The scent of the blood is rich and mineral, more potent than corpse rot. He wants to vomit, he wants to cry. He’s frozen stiff, and he doesn’t know what to do.
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock whispers, voice trembling. He steps forward, as if to help, but that’s wrong he doesn’t know her he just shot her in the chest and now she’s dying. All her painstaking years of learning and laughing and suffering are lain bare on the silver tile. She existed for twenty years and now she’s going to disappear and stop doing everything stop breathing and looking and it’s all Sherlock’s fault.
Anthea and Mycroft don’t hear him. Sherlock wants to shout his apology, he wants to tear the bullet out of her torso and back into the barrel but it’s no good and he can’t interrupt them. Mycroft is tucking Anthea’s hair behind her ear and stroking her hair slowly, like she’s small. Their gaze is riveted and they don’t blink though Anthea is weak and her clench on Mycroft is loosening and her uncrack able expression is softening. “Finally,” she says, and Mycroft begins to cry, great tears sloshing down his cheeks and running down his neck and dripping onto her face.
Sherlock is intruding and he turns away, even though he should watch this, watch something beautiful that he has killed die. He can hear Mycroft sobbing and Sherlock imagines Mycroft sliding her eyes shut and Sherlock imagines Mycroft taking off his waistcoat and shucking it around Anthea’s shoulders. Like a saftety blanket. Like a dream.
Sherlock can’t cry. He just stares, unfocusing, at the speckles beneath his feet. Maybe he is shock still or maybe he is swaying but at some point he begins to walk away. Sherlock walks away from the brother he couldn’t because his brother loved him. No more. No more, no more. Security whooshes right past, over his head. He escapes the building, somehow. Sounds are muted in Sherlock’s head.
Mycroft’s right. Sherlock never loved him. Sherlock was lost, and Mycroft was the loser. Anthea’s lost. She’s lost and Mycroft might want to join her, too, except Mycroft interrupted Sherlock when Sherlock wanted to join mum.
Sherlock’s job is too look after his big brother who always pretended he didn’t need any and Sherlock needs to go back and be there and not run. But what comfort can come from a murderer? Does Mycroft want to hit him or does he not want him to be there? Sherlock doesn’t want to be there. He can’t.
But Mycroft pretended to kill Jim. Mycroft hurt Sherlock, and he hurt Jim, and he didn’t let Sherlock join mummy and Sherlock just wanted it to be over and it’s never over and it’s always going on. Mycroft deserved to go for taking that choice away from Sherlock he really did he did Sherlock knows it and Anthea had it coming Mycroft would be happy to die but Anthea would hurt him more. Because Anthea’s saying I don’t care about the cold way you’ve treated me it’s not about you it’s about what you’ve done to me. I don’t care about Mycroft I don’t care about him I don’t. Don’t. This is ridiculous and he is so petty and shallow and he didn’t notice. Why didn’t he notice? The way Mycroft looked at him liked he felt for him.
Sherlock sees Anthea’s corpse again and he thinks no. And he thinks Mycroft probably is kissing Anthea’s head like Mycroft used to kiss Sherlock’s head when he thought Sherlock was asleep.
Sherlock collapses against the wall and tears his fingernails to splinter.
The thing they never tell you is that when you die everyone else dies too. Because you know they’re still there but it’s like they will never exist anymore to you either. If Sherlock had died he would’ve been killing everyone he cared about and Mycroft didn’t want to die really, he didn’t want to go on without Sherlock. Because Mycroft knows like Sherlock knows the only thing more terrifying than dying is living without another person who was always there. And Sherlock has done it so many times, and he’s so tired of fear.
“Why did I do this?” Sherlock asks himself or maybe he only thinks it. “Why have I chosen the things I have?” then he says “no, this isn’t real,” and he’s against a wall made out brick and nothing is real only cement the only thing that is real is cement. But how could he shoot Anthea, snarky Anthea, he’d liked Anthea, she was so young, she was so brave and understatedly vibrant. Before. And everything dies but it’s not just the people who don’t seem like they will ever die or go away, metal dies and castles die and memories die and love dies because you die and you don’t ever want to go.
Not when Sherlock thinks about it, canceling the entirety of the beautiful world. To end his life would be to end the lives of the beautiful people around him; it would be to kill Anthea all over again, and kill John, and Mycroft, and Jim, and Sebastian. Erase their memories forever.
Sherlock tenses and he knows that voice and he turns around and the brows are winced.
“John,” Sherlock says.
John is staring at Sherlock, and Sherlock is staring at John who his vision has forgotten about, but how could he forget about something he knew so well, and memorized so long, like the syllables to his name? John is staring at Sherlock like he doesn’t believe his eyes either. Maybe John doesn’t recognize him. But John isn’t dead even though Anthea is so maybe Anthea isn’t dead maybe none of them are.
Sherlock’s throat locks with fear, and he feels like he should laugh hysterically and maybe never stop but if John has seen him, if John watched him shoot Anthea, if John had built up their reuinion so grandly after an army life of horrors only to be greeted by the sight of him shooting a woman for no reason?
John looks to be struggling with his words, opening his mouth and closing it again. Then he shakes his head, huffs to himself, drops his shopping and throws his arm around Sherlock’s neck. John’s hands are warm in the small of his back. Sherlock is bowled over by the convenient dismissal of the effects of John, of his loss and situation, how he could ever have underestimated John.
“Please let go,” Sherlock says.
John doesn’t. And now the tears come, as Sherlock extracts himself from the affection, and his shoulders shake, because he wanted this so badly. He wanted to be forgiven for not being there for John while he was away and he wanted to be cared about, and he wants so badly to cherish the moment with John back with him again. “What,” says John, as Sherlock pushes away, and his voice is soft and trailing and tinged with insecurity. John just wanted to hold on.
“It’s my fault,” Sherlock says thickly. “I don’t deserve this... I am not the man you once knew me as. I shouldn’t have.”
Explanations fall short. The news is too heavy to break the moment, their moment, with.
And Sherlock is inexplicably angry at Anthea, because it’s supposed to be his but now he has to give up John right now for her memory. Tears drip onto the pavement, where Sherlock keeps his eyes. Sherlock wants to say I’m sorry forever. Because whenever he gets angry at Anthea he gets angry at himself for doing this and provoking and hating her because that’s how he felt. He hadn’t liked Anthea and Anthea maybe she liked Sherlock oh god her name probably wasn’t even Anthea he hadn’t even known her last name. How could Sherlock kill someone he didn’t know the last name of?
Oh god, oh god.
“Are you alright?” And now John sounds afraid, shocked and terrified, because he’s never seen Sherlock like this and Sherlock’s never felt like this before.
“I killed Jim,” Sherlock spits out like ashes. Moriarty John would want him to say Moriarty but fuck John. But that sentiment’s a lot harder to hold to when John is here in front of him looking at his eyes consolingly up close and Sherlock can see where he hasn’t rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and where he’s gotten wrinkles. Like shooting Anthea was so easy in his mind, but so wretched and true, spread over the pavement like a whore, like an envelope of pain. “If I hadn’t said anything he wouldn’t have shot himself. He didn’t die, but. Moran did.”
“Moran?” John repeats dumbly. Sherlock’s heart plummets. John doesn’t know… John doesn’t understand.
“I didn’t stop him, but he meant to kill himself. He put blanks in. He put in blanks, but he didn’t know of them… I kept him alive when he wanted to die. And he wanted to die because Mycroft wanted him to die but he wasn’t allowed—government jurisdiction…” Sherlock can’t imagine how that must have felt, to be hated so fiercely that hatred infected, that Jim hated himself for being hateful.
Sherlock hated Mycroft for letting Sherlock live, but Jim didn’t hate Sherlock for letting Jim live through Reichenbach.
Jim doesn’t hate Sherlock.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” breathes John. “How more than your abilities, your compassion shines when I feel like it’s all gone.”
“Oh,” says Sherlock, and he feels a hand to his mouth, horrified, and feels the tears stopping.
They go home.
Unfortunately, home is manned by teeming crowds of reporters. Fuck off, Sherlock wants to yell at them, I just shot somebody. The humour falls flat in his mind. He’s fucked up, he screwed up so badly. Quiet little obedient Anthea. Mousy face, sleek hair. He took her life away for no reason. Because she looked at him the wrong way, made him angry. Sherlock lets out a shuddering breath. There are people who would condemn him for everthing he’d done, and what he’d planned to do. Not Jim. Jim will help him through this.
Sherlock forces a smile to his face. “We’re going to have to do something unexpected,” he warns John.
And that’s all the warning John gets before they’re vaulting off the fence railing outside their house to the fabric shop cover, which rips and tears beneath the weight of Sherlock’s feet. The reporters are on them, shouting questions and flashing cameras and Sherlock reaches one hand down to help John, who’s struggling with the leg up. Then they’re both sprawling on the red overhang and John gets a flash right in his face. Sherlock stretches his arms up and hauls himself onto the second story balcony, pointedly not looking at the photographers, and rattles the window until it gives.
“I’d forgotten what it was like to be friends with you,” John sighs, stretching his leg as Sherlock busies himself looking for the attic and stealing a fresh bun. Sherlock smirks to himself, taking a deep bite into the dough, and successfully manages to find the roof slide.
Just as Mrs Hudson bursts through the door.
“Oh! Jim!” she gasps, and teeters forward to hug John, spewing her worries all over his jumper, figuratively. “I’m so glad you’re alright! Nasty business now, at the moment.”
Sherlock freezes. “That’s John, Mrs Hudson. Do try to pay attention,” he instantly corrects.
“I’m just hiding away here from all the reporters!” Mrs Hudson exclaims, looking a tad tired, and John sends her a confused but sympathetic look.
“Yes… Sherlock, what’s with the welcoming crowd, anyway?”
Sherlock frowns, and considers lying. The truth will come out eventually, but it’s unlikely brain-addled Mrs Hudson will be up to correct Sherlock just now.
“Oi!” she shouts, pointing a finger to Sherlock’s baked good. “Stop stealing my buns!”
Sherlock snorts, swallowing his food, and he and John begin to laugh. It feels good to laugh again.
“Anyway, no time to chat, Mrs Hudson,” Sherlock interrupts, when his own betrayal stings too fierce. “Work to do. Pleasure, as always.”
“Work and pleasure are the same thing to you!” she shouts over his back, and Sherlock crosses the roof connection between Speedy’s and 221.
As soon as Sherlock arrives into the flat, he checks everything is in order, and nothing has been stolen. Only windows, it looks like, but no one’s passed through. Just rocks. Sherlock picks up a larger one, setting it on the mantel to replace the skull.
John eventually follows after. “Bit of a workaholic?” he emphasizes, when he sees Sherlock sitting there at the lounge, laptop open.
“Yes, yes. Nice to see you again. 221b welcomes your return.” Sherlock catches John’s eye, so John knows for sure Sherlock is joking.
John doesn’t reply. He stands still, staring at Sherlock. Appearing to be waiting for something. “Well?” John says eventually, when Sherlock’s far enough in to find inference on Moriarty’ current whereabouts. He spam bots the site until the server falls down. “Aren’t you going to ask?”
“Can’t ask. Busy,” Sherlock says, and when that ceases to satisfy Sherlock’s infernal friend, turns to him exasperatedly.
“Doing what exactly?”
Sherlock raises an eyebrow. “None of your business.”
Emailing Mycroft. Fuck. Fuck. Jim’ll be pleased— Jim’ll help him out of this mess if Sherlock asks. But Jim has his own messes to clean up. They’re both so fucked up. They’re freaks.
Sherlock wonders if wanting it made any difference, made him evil, if Anthea was a bad person, if they were all bad people. He thinks about how killing the Gargoyle didn’t affect him like this, how something about the murder was stark and distant-- but Anthea’s death is so much more true.
John folds his arms, and Sherlock lets out a bemoaning sigh and turns to John expectantly.
It’s his first real look at John since on the pavement.
War has aged John. His lines are deeper, his eyes are harder, his chain is shorter.
“How was Afghanistan?” says Sherlock. “Why are you back?” Mycroft.
John turns away, eyes shadowed as he speaks to Sherlock. “They’re all dead. I should have died there. I should have died alongside them. I wasn’t finished, and he took me away. They all died for nothing. They all fought for no reason.”
“Ahh,” Sherlock says. Then he does what any British person does when acquainted with such dire news. He stands to his feet and asks; “tea?”
Baskerville taught Sherlock how John likes his tea, if nothing else. John, in another time, would be surprised to find Sherlock being so considerate as to make tea for him. But that was long ago, long before his second deployment, long before Reichenbach, long before they were broken so sharply there was no biscuit left to dunk their remains with.
“Thanks,” John says.