John stood in his bedroom and stared at the Vortex Manipulator he held. He had found it in his pocket after the Doctor had left five days ago. He was fairly certain no one knew he had it.
“John!” Sherlock called from their sitting room.
“Coming!” John replied, putting the leather arm band in his bedside table drawer.
Later that night, after an exhilarating chase across Blackfriars Bridge pursuing a serial killer, Sherlock had gone to his own room to sleep (he’d been up for three days). John went to his room and pulled out the Vortex Manipulator to study it.
It’s so small, John thought. He’d watched River use it, how she put in coordinates and dates. He tentatively pressed a button and found himself back at the Salt Flats.
“Well, shit,” he said to the air around him. Hoping his assumption was right, he pushed the same button again and ended up back in his bedroom.
He breathed a sigh of relief and put the Manipulator back in the drawer. He listened to see if Sherlock had heard anything and was coming to investigate. When he didn’t hear any movement, he decided it was time for bed.
Over the next few weeks, whenever John had a spare moment (which wasn’t very often), he did more experiments with the Vortex Manipulator. He eventually figured out how to change the coordinates. He was very good with maps, and years in the military had taught him how to use coordinates. Once he figured out a pattern behind how the coordinates put him in different places, he started being more deliberate about his destinations. He made a lot of mistakes, particularly in the beginning. On one memorable occasion he found himself in the middle of an absolutely freezing body of salt water. He quickly pushed the button to take him back home, but had to dash upstairs and into the shower before Sherlock caught him dripping seawater on the floor.
He toyed with the idea of telling Sherlock that he still had the thing. Sometimes he wondered if Sherlock knew, but John couldn’t see how he would know. But then again, it was Sherlock. He could probably tell by the dust caught in John’s hair or the vegetation stuck to the soles of his shoes. He kept promising himself he’d tell Sherlock, but he really wanted to figure out the time travelling part first.
The first time he took himself back in time, it was only for five minutes. He checked the time on his analogue watch against the time on his mobile phone.
He had to hide from Sherlock as he thundered down the stairs and out of the front door. John huddled on the floor of the kitchen, listening to the sounds of his own footsteps upstairs. When there were about thirty seconds left, he crept back up the stairs to wait for his other self to disappear.
Time travel, as it turned out, was hard. He’d seen the movies and could guess from the Doctor’s cryptic warnings what would happen if he met himself.
He tried to time these experiments around when Sherlock was out of the flat, or he himself was well away from the flat. There were several times in the beginning he almost ran into himself, or some past version of Sherlock. The most he ever risked going back was an hour.
And then Moriarty came back.
The Bank of England, the Tower of London, and Pentonville Prison, all broken into at the exact same time. John wondered if Moriarty had gotten hold of another Vortex Manipulator, but there wasn’t one when he and Sherlock reviewed the tape of Moriarty stealing (well, sort of) the crown jewels.
The day Moriarty’s verdict came back, which was the same day that the man himself came to Baker Street to have tea with Sherlock, John started carrying the Vortex Manipulator with him everywhere. He didn’t wear it on his wrist because Sherlock would definitely notice and comment, but it was always in his pocket or up his sleeve. Just in case, he thought to himself. In case of what, though, he never let himself imagine.
In hindsight, though, he should have known better. It was Sherlock, after all, and Moriarty, two of the most brilliant and insane men in England. Probably in the world. John’s little contingency plan, no matter how out in left field, was no match for those two and their damn game.
John had received the news that Sherlock had passed away as he sat in the waiting room at Bart’s. He went to the morgue with Lestrade and Mycroft to identify Sherlock’s body and then returned to Baker Street. Greg went with him. He let Lestrade tell Mrs. Hudson what had happened. He heard her burst into tears as he shut and locked the door to 221B.
There were a million thoughts racing through his head, things that needed be done. Funeral arrangements, making tea, getting milk. He leaned against the door for a moment and exhaled slowly. He wondered if Sherlock had a will. Pushing himself off the door, he went to his chair and sat, taking off his shoes.
The funeral was short but crowded. Mycroft had arranged it all. John had wondered morbidly if Mycroft had already had the headstone made and was just waiting for the date to put after the dash. Mycroft’s and Lestrade’s people kept the press back with a minimum of fuss. Mycroft spoke, and then Mrs. Hudson, but John had declined. He knew that speaking at a person’s funeral was meant to honour the dead, but it was also to comfort the living, but he had no words for the people around him. How could he? What words could describe Sherlock? Most of the people there were most likely convinced that he was a fraud anyway. So he kept his back straight, head high, heels together.
The headstone was already in the ground.
Turned out it had no date on it.
John and Mrs. Hudson were the last ones left. Even Mycroft had realised that John needed time alone. Bloody coward, John thought viciously. Mrs. Hudson talked and talked until John finally convinced her that he wanted to be alone. He heard her turn and walk away and waited until he was sure she was out of earshot to say his piece.
And then he’d begged, foolishly—childishly perhaps—for one more miracle. In a life of miracles, what was one more? A miracle that he hadn’t died in Afghanistan, that he’d survived this long, that he had met the Doctor, that he had met Sherlock Holmes...what was one more miracle? It was Sherlock, after all, impossible, improbable Sherlock.
He squared his shoulders, falling back into the soldier persona that he’d grown out of, donning it like armour against the world, turned on his heel, and walked away, away from the grave, away from Mrs. Hudson, as he pulled the Vortex Manipulator out of his back pocket.
The worn, soft leather was warm under his hands. The snaps opened easily, and he programmed it almost without thinking. He’d discovered weeks before that half the trick of using the thing was having your destination in mind when you programmed it. It was a marvellous piece of technology, it really was.
His phone rang, startling him out of his daze. The Vortex Manipulator was programmed. All he had to do was push the button.
“John? Are you okay?” Greg said when John answered.
“Yeah,” John replied. It was far from the truth, he was very much not okay, but a lie was easier. At least his voice was steady, credit to his training, to the soldier that he’d wrapped around himself like an invisible cloak.
“You know you call me if you need anything, yeah?”
“I will,” John promised, looking at the Vortex Manipulator in his hands. “I have to go.” He hung up.
His thumb hovered over the button. It would be so easy, just a push of the button and he’d be back to before it started, before Sherlock jumped. He could prevent that from happening.
Damn the consequences.
He pushed the button.
He had timed it so it would be just a few minutes after he’d received the (fake) phone call about Mrs. Hudson. He watched himself climbing into a cab and dashed into the building and up the nearest staircase.
The roof. He had to get to the roof.
He raced up the stairs, his footfalls reverberating off of the stone walls, becoming a deafening thunder as he sprinted. He stumbled and nearly fell when Sherlock’s phone (given to him by Lestrade after the officers had searched the roof) went off in his pocket.
“Oh, God,” John groaned and started running again.
He found the door to the roof unlocked. He paused just before he opened it, and then realised that there was tape on the latch to keep it from locking behind whoever went up there
“You know, this really isn’t the best plan, Dr. Watson,” a voice said behind him. John cursed and whirled around to face the Doctor.
“Sherlock is going to kill himself,” John said desperately.
“And you’re here to stop him?” the Doctor said. “How’d you get here anyway?”
“I don’t see how that’s any of your concern,” John said, keeping an ear cocked to the door.
“Actually, it is,” the Doctor said, his hand deftly sliding into John’s left front pocket and pulling out the Vortex Manipulator. John grabbed for it, but the Doctor snatched it away. “This has to happen, John.”
“Why?” John demanded. “Why does Sherlock have to die?”
The Doctor gave him a pitying look and opened his mouth to say something. A gunshot rang out.
“No!” the Doctor yelped as he hauled John back from the door. “John, stop! Stop!”
“I swear to God, Doctor, if you don’t let me go, I will hurt you,” John said. He pulled back to punch the Doctor, but the Doctor blocked his punch and used John’s forward momentum to pin him to the wall.
“John,” the Doctor snapped, finally catching his attention. “You have to trust me, all right? Trust me that this will be okay. He’s doing this for you, for Mrs. Hudson, for Lestrade, and for all of the people in London.”
“They think he’s a fraud!” John said, trying to wrench away from the Doctor.
“He doesn’t care,” the Doctor said as he used his superior height and leverage to keep John pinned.
“I know,” John snapped. “But I do! It’s not right!”
“John, if this doesn’t happen, history will change,” the Doctor said.
“Your history. My present, my future.”
“No. This is your history, John, even if it’s happening again right in front of you. Listen,” the Doctor said. “Stay right there, I want you to hear something.”
John stopped struggling and the Doctor warily released him. When John didn’t try to run away, the Doctor drew Sherlock’s phone out of John’s hand and pointed the sonic screwdriver at it.
“The papers were right all along.”
John’s knees buckled at the sound of Sherlock’s voice, the voice that cut through his carefully constructed armour so easily it was almost laughable. He slid to the floor, his legs suddenly unable to hold his weight.
“I want you to tell Lestrade, I want you tell Mrs. Hudson, and Molly...In fact, tell anyone who will listen to you...”
“Stop it,” John said. “Stop, turn it off.” It had been hard enough to hear the first time.
“You need to listen,” the Doctor said quietly.
“Nobody could be that clever.”
“You could,” John heard himself say, his other self, the one on the pavement outside.
“Doctor, I can’t listen this,” John said.
“John,” the Doctor said, crouching down. “I wouldn’t make you listen if it wasn’t important.”
“I researched you,” Sherlock said. “Before we met, I discovered everything that I could to impress you.” John wanted to press his hands to his ears, to block out the lies. “It’s a trick. It’s just a magic trick.”
Time seemed to stop and John’s head snapped up as he inhaled sharply. “There,” he breathed. “He was telling me the truth, it is just a magic trick.” He looked up at the Doctor, trying to figure it out. “Where?” he asked over his own protestations coming through the phone. “Where is Sherlock?”
The Doctor grinned. “Exactly where he needs to be,” the Doctor replied. “Come on, come with me.”
John got up, but hesitated.
“This phone call, it’s...it’s my note. That’s what people do, don’t they? Leave a note?” Sherlock was saying.
“I can still stop him from doing this,” John said over the past version of himself asking, “Leave a note when?”
“John,” the Doctor said. “Come with me.”
“No. Don’t...” There’s a clatter of what John guessed was the phone hitting the roof. His heart was in his throat as he heard himself yell Sherlock’s name both through the phone and the door.
“John,” the Doctor said more firmly. “Come on. We need to get to the TARDIS.” John just nodded, numbly following the Doctor down the stairs.
“Is this why you didn’t let us go in that museum?” John demanded, leaning heavily on the railing as they made their way down the stairs.
“One of the many reasons,” the Doctor replied. “Ah, just here.”
“This is the morgue,” John said, balking at the door.
The Doctor, exasperated, grabbed John’s right arm and towed him through the doors. “Get in the TARDIS before we’re seen.”
John stared in amazement as the Doctor opened the door of the TARDIS out of seemingly empty air. The Doctor propelled John through the door and slammed it shut.
“Sherlock!” John exclaimed when he saw Sherlock laying prone just inside of the door. “How? Why? How?”
“He’s fine,” the Doctor said. “He’s drugged.”
“Drugged with what?” John asked, snapping into doctor mode. “I can’t find a pulse.” The cold stillness in the wrist beneath his fingers made the bottom drop out of his stomach.
“He’s fine,” the Doctor said again. John opened his mouth to protest when a dull thump happened once under his fingers at Sherlock’s wrist. He thought he’d imagined it, but then it came again almost thirty seconds later. A pulse. A very, very slow one, and very faint, but it was there.
“We need to get him to the morgue quickly,” the Doctor said.
“Molly’s going to notice,” John said, his voice weak with relief. His knees had nearly given out again. He was still holding Sherlock’s wrist, feeling a thrill of triumph every time that small knock of pulse thumped against his fingers.
“He told me she knows,” the Doctor said.
“Of course she does,” John said, giving in and sitting down next to Sherlock, pushing down the pang of jealousy. “Did you know this was going to happen?”
“Something like this,” the Doctor said. “Sherlock called me this morning. Well, last night? Difficult to say, all timey-wimey and stuff.”
John listened to the Doctor prattle as he yanked levers and pushed buttons, but didn’t really pay much attention. Sherlock was alive.
Sherlock was alive.
John might actually kill Sherlock for real when he woke up, the bastard.
He helped the Doctor and Molly to lay Sherlock out on a table. Molly didn’t ask questions about the Doctor. They quickly stripped Sherlock and covered him with a sheet. John carefully folded Sherlock’s clothes and coat, already wondering how to get the blood out of them.
As they work, Molly tells John the plan she and Sherlock and the Doctor had come up with.
“He came here last night, scared me as I was walking out for the night,” she said quietly, looking at Sherlock’s prone form. “Asked me to help him. I nearly had a heart attack, hearing him actually ask for help instead of order it.” She smiled, but there was no humour in it. “He asked if I’d be willing to help even if was he wasn’t all I thought he was.” She started to smooth a hand over his hair but stopped just before she touched him. “I said yes. What else could I say?
“He told me about Jim—I mean Moriarty—and what he’d done. What they’d both done. What he thought was going to happen. We—we made a plan. He knew people, got a lorry filled with bags of foam to park where he could jump into it. He dosed himself with something on the roof, I don’t—he didn’t tell me what. He told me it would be safe for him.
“The blood was tricky. He had some of his homeless people do that bit, and keep you away long enough for them to set the stage. It only took a moment. I watched it all. He said you had to believe it, John, that he couldn’t tell you because you had to actually believe it. He knew that Jim—that Moriarty would pull something to get at you.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m not going to kill him when he wakes up,” John said as they pulled a sheet over Sherlock’s body.
Molly seemed to realise that he wasn’t serious and continued, “He told me he had another favour to call in, someone I wouldn’t believe. That he could make it so that the drugs would still be in effect when you came to see his body. I helped get him into the phone box and waited,” Molly continued, adjusting the sheet so it wasn’t pressing on Sherlock’s nose. “The weight of the sheet can mash down a deceased person’s nose,” she said. “It’s a detail that Mycroft would notice. Speaking of, you and he should be here soon. You’d better hide.”
John and the Doctor went back to the TARDIS and stepped inside. Molly busied herself in the other room as they waited. She’d said more to him over the past ten minutes than she had over the months they’d known each other.
John sank down next to the door, trying to listen. He heard voices: his own, Mycroft’s, Lestrade’s, Molly’s. He couldn’t make out the words. He looked at Sherlock’s phone to see the time. The Doctor was watching the monitor.
“You could come and see what’s going on,” the Doctor said, breaking John’s reverie.
“I don’t have to,” John replied. “I lived it, remember?”
“I told Sherlock there were other ways,” the Doctor said. “Nestene duplicates, a ganger, the Tesselector, they still owe me a favour.”
“Mycroft would have noticed,” John said. “Or Moriarty would.” He leaned his head back against the TARDIS wall. “Nothing could compare with the real Sherlock, Doctor.”
“That’s what he told me,” the Doctor said. “Everyone’s gone now.”
They went back out. Molly was hurriedly wiping tears out of her eyes. John went over and awkwardly put an arm around her shoulders. Now that the adrenaline and the anger had worn off, he was beginning to feel the sleepless nights he’d had as well as the remaining ache from where the biker had knocked him over days before.
“You were so sad,” she said quietly. “Mycroft, too. He just shut down.”
“He does that,” John replied, squeezing her shoulders.
The three of them dressed Sherlock in clean clothes that the Doctor pulled from somewhere in the TARDIS. They weren’t clothes that John had ever seen before. He and the Doctor hauled Sherlock back into the TARDIS and into a bedroom.
“I’ll stay with him,” John said to Molly when he went back to say good-bye. “I’ll be in touch.”
She just nodded.
“Thank you,” John said, and she looked up, surprised. “For this, for everything. I mean it, Molly.”
“You’re—you’re welcome,” she stuttered. “He should wake up soon.”
John nodded. “We’ll see you soon, I think. I’m not sure.”
“Will—will you tell me? When it’s all over? I’d like to know,” she said.
“Of course,” John replied, surprised.
Molly nodded again and gave him a smile before he shut the door.
“Where to?” the Doctor asked.
“Someplace quiet,” John replied, leaning against the door way to the hallway that led to Sherlock’s room. “I’ll be with Sherlock if you need me.”
“Take good care of him, Dr. Watson,” the Doctor said as John turned and walked away.
They had put Sherlock in a bedroom that had an adjoining bathroom. The room was small, but the bed had been made and Sherlock was now lying, as if in state, on top of the duvet. John sat in the chair next to the bed and grabbed Sherlock’s wrist. His heart sank at the stillness at the pulse point.
And then the thump.
The relief was so complete, so staggeringly sublime, that John almost fell out of his chair. The next pulse came again, much sooner than it had last time. And again. And again. Sherlock’s chest rose and fell with each slight breath.
“You mad bastard,” John said. “You complete, utter tit. I ought to kill you myself. I haven’t ruled it out, you know. I’m still considering it, actually. How could you do that? And make me watch? God, Sherlock. I—I can’t wait to hear your explanation for this one, I really can’t. Nothing was worth that, do you hear me, you idiot? Nothing is ever worth that. Not for you.
“Moriarty’s dead, you know? Shot himself in the head, brain all over the roof of Bart’s. At least, it looks like he shot himself. No one knows for sure, except for you, I suppose. There’s no CCTV on the roof. I don’t know why you felt you had to throw yourself off of the roof after he died. Life not worth living after your biggest opponent offs himself?” John took a deep shaky breath, wiping tears from his eyes with the hand that wasn’t holding Sherlock’s wrist, holding onto that steady beating pulse. The pulses were faster now, closer to normal.
Alive. Alive. Alive. Alive. Alive.
“When Lestrade saw you in the morgue...God. I swear I saw what he’s going to look like when he’s seventy, if he lives that long. Mycroft, too. Mycroft just shut down, shut off. Is that something that’s taught to all the Holmes family as you grow up, how to not get attached, how to not let anything touch you?” John paused again, took another deep breath.
Sherlock moaned, turned his head. John stood up so quickly his chair toppled over. Sherlock’s pulse was steady now, his breathing even. Back to normal.
God, what did normal even mean anymore?
“Sherlock?” John asked tentatively. “Can you hear me?” He leaned over Sherlock, trying to get a good look at Sherlock’s eyes and face. “Are you all right?”
“I jumped from a roof, I’m far from all right,” Sherlock snapped, finally opening his eyes fully.
“Yeah, we’re going to have a talk about that,” John said, threading his fingers through Sherlock’s hair, searching for bumps or bruises. There was a knot on the left side of Sherlock’s head just above his ear, but it wasn’t bleeding. Sherlock winced as John’s fingers grazed it.
“What, not good?” Sherlock asked. John recognised the attempt at humour.
“Sherlock, this is so far from ‘not good’ it’s not even on the same bloody continent,” John replied, not amused, but secretly relieved that Sherlock felt well enough to joke. “Any aches? Bruises? Hurt anywhere?”
“Left side is sore where I landed,” Sherlock replied. He sat up, wincing, and John helped him upright. “Head’s a bit...umm... unfocused.”
“That’ll be the drugs, I imagine,” John said briskly. “Quite possibly the fall. Or both.”
“You’re angry,” Sherlock said, looking up at John.
“Brilliant deduction. You jumped from a roof,” John snapped, pointing an accusing finger at Sherlock. “In front of me. Moriarty was already dead! What possible motivation could you have had, you idiot?!”
“I was trying to save your life,” Sherlock replied calmly.
“Save my life?” John repeated incredulously.
“And Mrs. Hudson’s and Lestrade’s,” Sherlock continued. “Moriarty had killers in place to take all three of you out. Lestrade might have been able to handle himself. You and Mrs. Hudson were in the open.”
John’s angry retort died on his tongue. He could yell at Sherlock for being an arse about trying to save him. He couldn’t be angry about Sherlock trying to save anyone else.
“I thought I had him, John,” Sherlock said, clenching the duvet in his fists and staring at the ceiling. “I had him. I had the code, I knew what it was and where he’d hidden it. I had it all figured out.” Sherlock looked down at his knees.
“And what went wrong?” John asked, righting his chair and sitting down.
“The code was a fake.”
“The key was nothing. He made me think, made everyone think that there were a few lines of code that could open any door when all it was in actuality were people doing his dirty work for him. I said it at his trial: Moriarty is a spider in the center of a web. He has people everywhere.
“He told me the key was fake, told me that he had people coming after you, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson, and that nothing I did could stop them unless they saw me jump.”
“Saw you kill yourself.”
“It would have been the perfect ending to undermining me,” Sherlock said, finally look up again. “I told him that as long as I had him that the killers could be called off. And then he cut out my only viable means of saving everyone.”
“He shot himself.”
“Yes. And then I saw you.”
“And we both know what happened after that,” John said.
“Do you have my phone?” Sherlock asked. John pulled it out of his pocket and handed it over. Sherlock traced the scuff marks from where it had hit the rooftop, and then unlocked it. “I recorded the whole thing to send to Lestrade.”
“Lestrade thinks you’re dead,” John pointed out as Sherlock typed away on his phone.
“Which is why I’m sending this email from you,” Sherlock said. “I need to lay low for a while.” He sent the email and locked the phone. “Where are we?”
“Other than in the TARDIS with the Doctor, I haven’t the slightest clue,” John replied.
“Good,” Sherlock said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He stood, wavering a little as he got to his feet. “We need to get moving.”
“No,” John said, catching Sherlock as he stumbled. “No. You, Sherlock, need to stop. You need to rest at the very least.”
“We haven’t got the time—”
“We are in a bloody time machine, Sherlock,” John snarled. Sherlock jerked back, shocked. The slight movement unbalanced him and he fell, rather ungracefully, to sit on the bed again. “We have nothing but time right now, and unless you plan on dying again within the next five minutes, you are going to rest.”
Sherlock blinked at John once, twice, before speaking again. “I couldn’t tell you my plan. I didn’t have the time.”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t have texted me or anything,” John snapped.
“It had to be real,” Sherlock replied. “You had to believe I’d actually done it.”
“I really ought to punch you,” John said. “But I won’t if you actually rest for a while, because you look awful and I feel worse.”
“You’ve travelled in time,” Sherlock said. “Did the Doctor come for you?”
“He came after I used the Vortex Manipulator to take me back before you...fell.”
Sherlock’s shock was almost comical. “You had the Vortex Manipulator?”
“Yes. I picked it up while you were fighting with Moriarty and ended up keeping it,” John said. Sherlock blinked in surprise. “Now, I say we both get some rest. You seem to be fine, except for bumps and bruises.” John stood. “I’ll see if there’s a room just down the hall.” Sherlock nodded, and John left the room.
“How is he?” the Doctor asked when John went back to the console room.
“Awake. Tired, sore, but that’s to be expected. I think I’ve convinced him to rest for now,” John replied, seating himself in one of the chairs with a groan.
“Sounds like you could use a good rest yourself,” the Doctor said.
“I plan on it, but I wanted to ask why Sherlock called you,” John said.
The Doctor looked up at John, surprised. “He needed help making sure he was in the right place at the right time. The drugs would have worn off before you and Mycroft got there to identify his body, which would have ruined the whole thing,” the Doctor said, ducking his head on his last sentence to fiddle with something.
“And?” John prodded. He knew that tell, the ducked head. Sherlock used it.
The Doctor looked up again. “And he wanted me to come for you, in case it didn’t go as he planned.”
“In case he died accidentally, in case one of the million and three things that could have gone wrong with his plan actually went wrong,” John said.
“Exactly,” the Doctor replied. “I did say I would be back for you some day, John Watson.”
John rubbed his forehead with his right hand. “I’m going to sleep,” he announced.
“The door that’s across from Sherlock’s room should be open,” the Doctor said.
John stood. “Thank you,” he said. The Doctor waved a hand, dismissing the sentiment. “No, Doctor, I mean it. Thank you for saving him.”
“You’re welcome, Dr. Watson,” the Doctor replied after a moment. “Now, go and get some rest, Doctor’s orders.”
John gave the Doctor a small smile and turned to go to his room.
He was asleep only seconds after his head hit the pillow.
He woke, some interminable time later, to the sound of his own voice echoing back at him off of the walls.
“You haven’t had a nightmare in weeks,” Sherlock’s voice said, cutting through the blind panic.
John couldn’t come up with a reply that wasn’t either “it’s all your fault” or “fuck off” and knew that neither of those would have any effect on Sherlock at all, so he stayed silent and concentrated on getting his breathing somewhere approaching “normal” and away from “hyperventilating.” He had drawn his knees up and put his head down on them, wrapping his arms around his legs.
“How are you?” Sherlock asked. He still hadn’t moved from the doorway.
“I’m exhausted,” John said finally. “What about you? Do you need anything?”
“I wanted to see if you were all right,” Sherlock confessed, his voice very quiet. “I heard yelling.”
“You know I have nightmares,” John said into the space between his knees. “You’ve never checked on me before.”
Sherlock stayed quiet. John hadn’t heard him move from the door. “I’m not going to tell you what they were about, Sherlock.”
“I can make a deduction,” Sherlock said.
“A guess, you mean,” John snapped, finally looking up.
“I never guess,” Sherlock replied automatically.
“You can’t read minds either,” John said.
“I don’t need to,” Sherlock said, his voice softening again. “Not when you’re yelling it to the heavens.”
“Yelling what?” John asked, impatient. He was tired and sore and really just wanted a shower and then maybe another nap. And then some tea. Not necessarily in that order.
“My name,” Sherlock replied, and John went totally, completely still.
“I’m going to take a shower,” John said finally, turning so his back was to Sherlock and climbing stiffly out of the bed. He was in just his shorts and a t-shirt. He pulled his jeans back on, wincing as his bad shoulder protested the movement.
“You were dreaming about me jumping,” Sherlock said. John closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” John said firmly, turning around to face Sherlock.
“Sherlock,” John snapped. “No. Just—no. I don’t want to talk about it. I want to forget it ever happened. Every time I close my eyes, every time I blink I see you falling from that rooftop.” He moved around the bed and stood, back straight, hands at his sides, and stared at Sherlock. “So, no, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to shower, and then I’m going to see if the Doctor needs me for anything.”
“What would you have me do, John?” Sherlock asked, his eyes searching John’s face for any sign of a clue.
“Make the last four days not have happened,” John said. “Make that phone call that took me away from you not happen.”
“I can’t do that,” Sherlock said, sounding oddly defeated.
“I know,” John said levelly, and then turned on his heel to go shower.
Once he was under the warm spray of water, he sagged into the wall and finally letting the full horror of his dream hit him. He sat down, his right leg unwilling to support him just then. No tears came, though, just the cold dread settling in his stomach at the memory.
Finally, he stood. His leg supported him, although it gave a small twinge as he rested his weight on it. He got out of the shower. There were clothes folded on the counter near the sink, clean ones that definitely weren’t his. He frowned at them for a moment before drying off and putting them on. They fit perfectly.
Sherlock and the Doctor were in the console room when John entered. The Doctor was tapping away at the keyboard attached to the console while staring at the monitor. Sherlock was busily texting on his phone.
“Oh, good, those fit!” the Doctor said when he saw John. “Sherlock pulled them from the TARDIS wardrobe room for you.”
John looked down at his clothes, the button-down shirt and jeans. “Thanks,” he said awkwardly.
“Don’t mention it, there’s a whole room of stuff down there,” the Doctor replied, gesturing vaguely. “Keep them.” He smiled at John, and then turned back to the console.
“Who’re you texting?” John asked Sherlock.
“Molly,” he replied. “Apparently, Moriarty’s gone missing.”
“He shot himself in the head. How is he missing?” John asked.
“No one knows and I can’t exactly go and investigate,” Sherlock replied, frustration in every word.
“That’s your own fault,” John said, looking away when Sherlock looked up at him in shock. “Where are we, Doctor?”
“Nowhere in particular,” the Doctor replied distractedly, typing away. John moved behind him to see what was on the monitor.
“Is that me?” John asked, peering at the screen.
“Yes,” the Doctor replied.
“Just checking for injuries,” the Doctor replied. “Superficial bruises; you can see where you were shot.” He pointed at John’s left shoulder on the screen. “But your leg is fine.” The Doctor sounded confused, looking from the scan down to John’s right leg.
“I know,” John said, shifting his weight. His right leg was still a little tender.
“But you’re limping,” the Doctor said, and Sherlock’s head snapped up.
“Psychosomatic limp,” John replied. “Stress reaction.” He pressed his lips together in a tight line, unwilling to say anymore.
“Ah,” the Doctor said, turning back to the monitor. “Sherlock’s fine as well, in case you were wondering. Well, slight concussion and some bruising, but other than that.”
“I knew about the concussion,” John said. “That’s why I sat with him at the beginning. His pupil response was normal, though, so I knew it wasn’t serious. He wasn’t vomiting, just a little weak, but that could have been the drugs.”
“Ah,” the Doctor said again, looking back and forth between John and Sherlock as if he’d just realised something else.
“What?” Sherlock asked.
“Never mind,” the Doctor said after a moment. “So, Sherlock, where would you like to go?”
“I’d like to find Moriarty,” Sherlock replied. “Since his dead body’s gone missing. If that was even him.”
“What else could it have been?” John asked, still studying the screen.
“The Doctor gave me several options for doppelgangers when I told him my plan. Moriarty’s already proven that he can get his hands on technology that he shouldn’t have, as have you, John. It’s not that much of a stretch to think that he could have got something that would be a stand in for him,” Sherlock said, looking at John, who was still studying the Doctor’s screen.
“So you’re saying, what, the Moriarty on the roof was an android?” John asked.
“Unless he faked shooting out his own brain,” Sherlock replied drily.
“Well, Phineas Gage survived something similar,” John said absently. “But I saw Moriarty. He was in the morgue. He was definitely dead.”
“But so was I, or so you thought,” Sherlock said, and John fought back a wince.
“Yes, but him I actually studied,” John replied shortly. “I was glad he was dead.”
“Oh-kay,” the Doctor said after a few moments of silence. “Well, tracking Moriarty should be easy enough, once we know what sort of duplicate he’s used. There’s so many, it’s a wonder more people don’t have copies of themselves wandering around. Although I’m not sure the universe could handle more than one pair of Sherlock Holmes and John Watsons running around.” John snorted an involuntary laugh, and even Sherlock’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “Now, we know he wasn’t a hologram, because you touched him, right, Sherlock?”
“I shook his hand,” Sherlock said. “And then he shot himself.”
“Right, can’t shake hands with a hologram,” the Doctor said. “So that rules that out. Did his hand feel strange?”
“I had never touched him before,” Sherlock replied. “His hand was cold, but it was windy on the rooftop. Well within the normal range of human temperature, though.” He folded his hands under his nose and stared out at nothing. John watched Sherlock out of the corner of his eye. Sherlock looked strangely dazed, and John wasn’t sure why. The concussion? Maybe Sherlock had hit his head harder than John had thought.
“Nestene duplicate, then?” the Doctor said, almost to himself. “Autons would make sense, sort of.”
Sherlock stood and started pacing the platform, around and around the console. John watched him surreptitiously, but Sherlock seemed steady enough, if a little stiffer than usual. Not the concussion, then.
“How can we find him, then?” John asked.
“My funeral,” Sherlock said, stopping abruptly.
“What?” John and the Doctor said together.
“My funeral,” Sherlock said again. “Don’t you see? There has to be one. The story was too big for there to not be some sort of funeral for me.”
“You want to use your own funeral to catch Moriarty?” John asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock replied. “It’ll be an event he won’t want to miss.”
“He can’t just show up in broad daylight,” John said. “And neither can you. Does Mycroft know?”
“Mycroft?” Sherlock asked.
“That you’re not actually dead,” John clarified.
“If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he should have,” Sherlock replied, and resumed pacing.
“So you’re not actually going to tell him.”
“Because he’s your brother!” John said, whirling to face Sherlock. “Your own brother, Sherlock, and no matter how much you say you hate him, he shouldn’t go around believing you’re dead. I don’t care what he’s done, I’m pissed off at him too, but he doesn’t deserve this.”
The Doctor looked back and forth between John and Sherlock like he was watching a tennis match. “I’m missing something aren’t I?” he said at last. John and Sherlock continued to stare at each other, neither backing down. The Doctor sat down, crossing his legs. “Let me know when you two are ready to continue.”
Sherlock finally blinked and pulled his phone from his pocket. “I’m alive. Don’t look for me. I’m with John. SH,” he said as he typed. He tilted the phone as he pushed send to make sure John could see that he did in fact send the message. John was forcibly reminded of his meeting with Irene.
“Good,” John said shortly.
“What else would you have me do?”
John just shrugged.
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock said finally. John looked up at him, shocked. The Doctor, who was still watching from where he was sitting, smiled. “I am sorry. I apologise. I had not meant to cause you undue distress; that was not my intention.”
Something in John uncurled at Sherlock’s words. The anger which had sat in a rock hard knot under his breast bone finally let go, and he felt like he could breathe properly for the first time in several days.
John nodded. “All right then, let’s get to work.”
“Okay!” the Doctor exclaimed, hopping to his feet. “Now that you two have sorted that out, let’s go to Sherlock’s funeral.” And, with a manic grin, the Doctor pulled a lever. They all stumbled as the TARDIS took flight.
John watched Sherlock as the man paced around the room. He moved gracefully, but there was a hitch to his step that hadn’t been there before.
“Sherlock,” John said. Sherlock waved a hand like he was batting away cobwebs, and John sighed. “Sherlock, come here.”
Sherlock wandered over to John, still obviously thinking. John grabbed Sherlock’s sleeve to pull him closer, and then wrapped his hand around Sherlock’s left hip and squeezed. Sherlock flinched back, batting John’s hand away.
“You fell on this,” John said. “You never said.”
“You knew I hurt myself in the fall,” Sherlock replied. “Concussion, bruises.”
“Yes, but you’re limping,” John said. “You should have said something about it.” Sherlock waved his hand again and made a derisive noise. John pulled Sherlock’s waistband down and pushed his shirt up, holding tight to Sherlock’s belt when he tried to step away. “Jesus, Sherlock,” John breathed as he saw the purple and red bruises on Sherlock’s hip that went down past his waistband and up past his shirt. He unbuttoned Sherlock’s left cuff and pushed the sleeve up to see the bruising on his arm. Amazingly, it was just bruising, no scrapes or contusions. “I thought you fell into padding.” Sherlock shrugged and looked away. John’s mouth twitched. “You miscalculated how much you’d need, didn’t you?” Sherlock didn’t answer, but John hadn’t expected him to. He pressed the bruises carefully, feeling for broken bones. Sherlock winced, but he didn’t give any other sign that he was in pain. John’s fingers travelled up his ribs, over his shoulder, and down his arm, but there wasn’t anything broken. “How’s your head?”
“Sore, but no dizziness. Slower than usual,” Sherlock admitted. “I don’t have a headache, it just hurts where I landed.” He let John study his eyes, but batted John’s hand away when he tried to check Sherlock’s head. “I’m fine. The Doctor’s scanner told you that. Nothing’s broken. We need to get to my funeral.”
“I was at your funeral, though, Sherlock,” John said. “I didn’t see Moriarty.”
Sherlock looked disconcerted. “You were at my... You said it had been four days? It’s been twenty-four hours at most.”
“Twenty-four hours for you. Four or five days now for me,” John said. “I used the Vortex Manipulator after your funeral.”
“And then I stopped him from collapsing reality,” the Doctor said from the other side of the console.
“You came back to stop me,” Sherlock said, realising. “You figured out the Manipulator and used it to come back to try to stop me.”
“I thought we’d covered that already,” John said, clearly wanting Sherlock to drop the subject.
“Right,” Sherlock said, a little dazed. It looked like he was mentally slotting the new pieces, the new data, into the chain of events that had led them this far. “So, you were at my funeral, so you can’t go there again, and it’s my own funeral so I obviously can’t show up.”
“We could watch from the trees,” John said. “They’re thick enough around the graveyard for us to hide in and watch.” He paused, thinking. “The press was kept back on the road.”
The TARDIS landed and the Doctor pulled the monitor down to check their surroundings.
“The press?” Sherlock asked.
“Yeah, the press. You were all over the front pages, ‘Suicide of Fake Genius,’” John replied.
A phone rang. John and Sherlock both instinctively looked at their phones, but the sound of the ringer was wrong.
“That’s me!” the Doctor said, leaning around to pick up an ordinary telephone. “Hello?” he paused, listening. “Jack, what are you doing?”
Sherlock’s brow furrowed. “Jack from Torchwood?” he queried. The Doctor raised an eyebrow at Sherlock. “You mentioned him last time,” Sherlock explained. The Doctor flapped a hand at Sherlock for quiet.
“So you came to London to see what all the fuss was?” the Doctor asked. He didn’t sound angry, just perplexed, John thought. “Yes, I know, alien is ours, you’ve told me before. I’m handling it.” He opened his mouth to say something else, but shut it with almost comical swiftness at whatever the person on the other end of the phone said. “Jack...” the Doctor said warningly, but Jack apparently continued talking. The Doctor sighed. “I think there’s a couple of people here you need to speak to,” he said finally, looking over at Sherlock and John. “Can you meet us?” The Doctor gave the name of the cemetery and the date of Sherlock’s funeral. He hung up before looking back at the monitor.
“The funeral’s started,” the Doctor said. “We’re far enough away that we won’t be seen, but make sure you stay out of sight.”
Sherlock and John followed the Doctor out of the TARDIS and up a small hill. They hid behind the screen of trees and watched. Well, the Doctor and Sherlock watched. John watched Sherlock.
“I don’t see Moriarty,” Sherlock said under his breath.
“Told you,” John said. He heard a small whirring noise and looked over at the Doctor, who was scanning the crowd with his sonic screwdriver. He continued to scan as Mycroft spoke (John wasn’t sure if Mycroft knew his brother was alive or not, unsure of when the text message would have gone through) and then Mrs. Hudson spoke as well.
“Nothing,” the Doctor said, looking at the readout. People were trickling away in twos and threes, leaving John and Mrs. Hudson as the last two at the grave. Mrs. Hudson walked away as John sank down to sit behind the tree, knowing what was coming next. He watched Sherlock watch John’s other self (his past self?) beg the grave, the air. John wasn’t ashamed of what he’d said, found he wasn’t ashamed that Sherlock was hearing it.
“That’s why I didn’t speak in front of everyone,” John said quietly, looking away from Sherlock once his past self had turned on his heel and marched away. “What I had to say was for you, not for them.”
Sherlock blinked slowly, and then turned to face John. “Thank you,” he said. John waved a hand, and then swiped at his eyes.
Sherlock cleared his throat, turning away from John and toward the Doctor. “No sign of Moriarty?” he asked.
The Doctor shook his head. “Nothing out of the ordinary. You’ve used the Vortex Manipulator now, Dr. Watson, we can go and look at everything.”
The Doctor was scanning the area with his sonic screwdriver when a man walked up.
“Hello, Jack,” the Doctor said, straightening and putting his sonic screwdriver away.
“Doctor?” Jack asked. “You changed again.”
“What? Oh! Yeah,” the Doctor said, putting a hand to his face. “I did say good bye.”
“American, but RAF. Interesting,” Sherlock said, looking Jack up and down. “Another time traveller, Doctor?”
“Captain Jack Harkness,” Jack said, offering his hand to Sherlock with a grin. “Well spotted.”
“Jack,” the Doctor said warningly.
“I’m saying hello! I’m not trying to encroach on anyone’s territory,” Jack said, looking John over before offering his hand.
“Captain John Watson, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers,” John said, squaring his shoulders and ignoring the territory comment.
“Pleasure,” Jack said with a smile. The Doctor threw up his hands in exasperation. “Wha-at?” Jack asked, stretching the word into two syllables. “I have to talk to people!”
The Doctor rolled his eyes and pulled his sonic screwdriver back out. “There’s something here, just a trace...” he trailed off, bent almost double as he ran his screwdriver along the grass.
“He really hasn’t changed all that much, actually,” Jack said as the Doctor picked a few blades of grass and then stuck them in his mouth. He spat them out almost immediately.
“What is it?” Sherlock asked curiously. John wondered if Sherlock was going to lick the grass as well.
“Not sure,” the Doctor said. “Definitely alien, though. Autons?”
“Switchable heads,” Jack said, his eyes glazing over.
“Not you too!” the Doctor exclaimed.
John cleared his throat forcibly, and everyone looked at him. “Doctor, what are Autons?”
“Aliens, part of the Nestene consciousness, they can be made to look like anyone,” the Doctor said. “They usually travel in groups, though, and have to be programmed.” He started pacing. “That’s what doesn’t make sense. The Tesselector is some kind of justice departmental thingy, and the gangers require control. Most of the time. But it’s short range...” he trailed off, still pacing.
“Are either of you following this?” John asked Jack and Sherlock.
“Just let him go, he’ll catch us up when he figures it out,” Jack replied. Sherlock’s brow furrowed.
“You’re sure Moriarty shot himself?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock replied.
“I was an arm’s length away when it happened,” Sherlock said coldly.
“This doesn’t make sense!” the Doctor exclaimed, coming to a stop. “People don’t come back from being shot in the head. At least not without a very good reason.”
Jack cleared his throat. “I could show you what I’ve found,” he said, brandishing the folder he was holding under one arm.
“Torchwood,” the Doctor said with undisguised venom.
“Hey, now, don’t knock it,” Jack said, sadness in his voice under the joking tone. “Someone has to keep the Earth safe.”
Sherlock took the file folder and opened it, ignoring Jack’s splutter of indignation. He hummed a bit as he flipped pages. John looked over his shoulder at the photographs that looked like mostly CCTV shots of Moriarty in various places around London. Most of them had timestamps and locations. The rest of the folder was full of papers, all with the the Torchwood logo on the top. He’d looked up Torchwood online after the last time they’d travelled with the Doctor, but he hadn’t been able to find anything but conspiracy theorist websites.
“So Moriarty’s been running around London,” John said, looking up at Jack. “We knew that.” Sherlock’s homeless network had told them that much.
“But it’s not just London,” Jack said. “The papers are reports from Scotland, Whales, France, even America. Moriarty was spotted in Paris two hours after he was spotted in New York, and then half an hour later he was in Cardiff.”
“He had a Vortex Manipulator last time,” Sherlock said, scanning the pages. “Rift spikes,” he muttered. “I know about the Rift.”
“How?” Jack asked.
“My brother Mycroft,” Sherlock replied absently. “He had a file on Torchwood. The Rift over Cardiff. It must keep you busy.”
“It used to,” Jack said. “Not so much anymore, not since the Doctor rebooted the universe and all the cracks in reality mostly closed. We still get some trouble, though. Mycroft is your brother?”
“Unfortunately,” Sherlock said with a small sneer.
“That explains more than it doesn’t, actually,” Jack said, mostly to himself.
“So what came through the Rift that Moriarty got his hands on?” the Doctor asked.
“I’m not really sure,” Jack replied. The Doctor looked at him sceptically. “We’re running on a skeleton crew right now. Sometimes other people get to things before we can and we don’t have the manpower to go after them. All we know is that a few weeks ago there was a Rift spike, and then we spotted Moriarty a day later, but he was gone the next day after that and wasn’t seen in Cardiff again until a couple of days ago. That’s when all of the reports started coming in of him being in all these places at the same time.”
“He doesn’t look like he’s wearing a Vortex Manipulator,” John said, pointing to a picture where Moriarty was holding a map in both hands, his bare wrists exposed. Sherlock was flipping through the pictures, scanning each one in turn. John heard footsteps and turned his head to look. “We need to leave before someone sees Sherlock,” he said.
They made their way back to the TARDIS. Sherlock took the file folder into the library and laid them all out on a table.
“You redecorated,” Jack said, looking around.
“Yeah, the last regeneration did some damage,” the Doctor replied.
John listened to them talk as he watched Sherlock arrange the photographs out on the table. Sherlock seemed to have discovered some sort of pattern and was arranging them accordingly.
“There,” Sherlock declared, looking over the photos spread out before him.
“What is it?” Jack asked, coming to look over Sherlock’s shoulder.
“Moriarty wasn’t actually in three places at once,” Sherlock said. “There were multiple copies or clones of him in multiple places at the same time.” He looked down at the pictures again, considering them. “Sloppy,” he declared finally.
“How can you be sure?” Jack asked.
“There are at least three in London alone,” Sherlock said. “Look at the clothing, the stance, the hair.”
“So there are people disguised as Moriarty?” John asked.
“No,” Sherlock replied. “If it was a disguise, it would be even more obvious. Complete duplication or imitation is difficult. The main difference between these is the hair. Look, the sideburns are just a little longer in this one.”
“How the hell did he manage this?” John asked.
“With whatever he managed to get from the Rift, I’d imagine,” Sherlock said, standing up and looking over at Jack. “What do you normally get?”
“There is no ‘normal’ with the Rift,” Jack replied. “Technology, aliens alive and dead, space junk. A lot of it is either broken or useless, some of it is dangerous.”
“Particularly if it falls into the wrong hands,” Sherlock said, flipping through the papers again.
John expected Jack to get angry at the remark, but Jack just looked defeated.
“So, Moriarty has what? Clones? Robots?” Sherlock said, putting the folder down and folding his hands under his chin as if in prayer.
“This is beginning to sound like a science fiction movie,” John muttered.
“Says the man currently standing in a time machine,” the Doctor said with a grin, rocking on the balls of his feet.
“The question is,” Sherlock muttered, staring at the photographs and the papers strewn across the table, “what is Moriarty doing and how?” His phone chimed and he dug it out of his pocket.
“Who’s that?” John asked.
“Molly. Apparently Mycroft’s gotten my message and pulled her in for interrogation,” Sherlock said, tapping away at his phone.
“Poor Molly,” John replied. “Mycroft probably gave her a heart attack.”
“I’m asking him to keep an eye on Molly, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade for the time being,” Sherlock said.
“That’s actually a really good idea,” John said, surprised that Sherlock had thought of it.
“It makes sense,” Sherlock replied with a shrug. “Although he’s probably already got people watching them, since Molly’s apparently told him that Moriarty’s back out there.”
“He probably already knew,” Jack said. “So, Sherlock, what do you think Moriarty’s doing?”
Sherlock pressed his hands together under his chin again. “It doesn’t look like he’s laying low like I am. He could be planning to do anything. And if he’s got more than one of him...”
“He’s got to be in contact with them somehow,” John pointed out. Sherlock hummed in agreement.
“He could just be using mobile phones,” Jack said.
“You said that Moriarty had snipers, one each for Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and me, right?” John asked suddenly. Sherlock nodded. “I know who the one was for Mrs. Hudson, I saw him when I went to check on her. So Moriarty has a network, one that we can follow, right? Let’s start there. Maybe we’ll get to Moriarty that way.”
“John, you are brilliant,” Sherlock said, surprising everyone. “Mycroft gave you files on the Russian killer down the street, right? The one that was posing as a repairman and planted the camera on the bookshelf.”
“Yes, but they’re at the flat,” John said. Sherlock looked disapproving. “They’re not something I carry around with me on a daily basis, Sherlock!”
“No time,” Sherlock said, pulling out his phone. “Mycroft can email them to us.”
“We should make Mycroft go after them,” John muttered. Sherlock’s mouth twitched in amusement at John’s dislike of his brother.
A few minutes later, Sherlock’s phone dinged and he checked his email.
“Doctor, let’s go to Baker Street,” Sherlock said.
“I think you should stay in the TARDIS, Sherlock,” Jack said.
“I’ll be perfectly safe in the flat,” Sherlock snapped.
“He’s right,” John said. “We don’t know if there are cameras still there or not, and you’re dead, remember?”
“All right,” Sherlock said. “But you need to take someone with you.”
“Jack can go,” the Doctor said.
John and Jack ended up going to Baker Street, when all was said and done. Mrs. Hudson was out, something John was thankful for.
“Nice place,” Jack commented when John opened the door. He waited for John to quickly close all of the curtains before he stepped into the room. “Not so sure about the bullet holes in the wall, though.”
“Sherlock got bored,” John replied, digging through the piles of paper on the desk. He extracted two folders from under a stack of books. He found two more folders on the kitchen table under some of Sherlock’s notes on the experiment that was in the vegetable drawer.
“Same with the Cluedo board?” Jack inquired, amused.
“He took exception to the rules,” John replied absently, flipping through the folders to make sure he’d gotten everything. On a whim, he also grabbed the laptops, putting them both in a shoulder bag with their chargers.
“Anything you need me to do?” Jack asked.
“Hold this, there’s one more thing I need to get,” John replied, handing Jack the shoulder bag before he turned and went up the stairs to his room. He’d started keeping his gun in the locked drawer of his bedside table. Sherlock could pick the lock, but he hadn’t, at least not that John knew. John took the gun out, checked the safety, chamber, and clip, and grabbed the box of extra ammunition.
“The Doctor doesn’t like guns,” Jack said when he saw the box in John’s hand. The gun was already snug in the back of John’s waistband.
“I found that out last time,” John replied, taking the shoulder bag and settling the ammunition in it. “But Moriarty’s insane.”
“I know,” Jack said. “He wrapped you in a bomb vest.”
“How’d you know that? Only Lestrade and Mycroft knew.”
“Outside the government, remember?” Jack replied. “We looked him up after the break in at the Tower, the bank, and the prison. I figured he was someone we should keep an eye on.”
John snorted. “Let’s get back before Sherlock and the Doctor blow up the TARDIS.”
They found the Doctor and Sherlock arguing over...something.
“And what do you mean by that?” the Doctor asked indignantly as John closed the door behind him.
“You should be able to find him with this over sized box of repair parts,” Sherlock said ruthlessly.
“Find who?” Jack asked, and the Doctor and Sherlock both whirled to face him.
“Anyone!” Sherlock exploded.
“That’s not how it works!” the Doctor snapped.
“Do I need to separate you two?” Jack asked, amused.
“At least they haven’t blown anything up yet,” John said, taking the folders out of the bag and handing them to Sherlock. “I saw that bloke who planted the camera crossing the street and going into the flat across from 221.” He pulled a folder from Sherlock’s hand and opened it. Sherlock scanned the contents, digesting the facts.
“Mycroft could have him killed.”
“No!” the Doctor said.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at the Doctor. “What would you have us do, then?”
“Not kill him!”
“I could get him deported,” Jack said. “He’s here on a work visa, right?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said, looking at the folder.
“Let me make a few calls,” Jack said, pulling out his phone and disappearing up the stairs into a corridor.
“You’d think they’d all clear out since you’re dead,” John said to Sherlock.
“They’re hoping the code’s still in Baker Street,” Sherlock replied absently. He put that folder aside and picked up another. “This one’s dead, I saw him get shot when he saved me from getting hit by a car,” he said after a few seconds.
“Hey, I know that one,” John said when Sherlock opened a third folder. Sherlock looked up at him, one eyebrow quirked in query. “I saw him at Scotland Yard.”
“When we were trying to find those kidnapped kids,” John said. Sherlock looked impressed. “His desk is right outside of Lestrade’s office. He has a direct line of sight.”
“Sherlock and I can go after him,” the Doctor said.
They all determined that the easiest thing would be to split up. Sherlock and the Doctor decided to go after the sniper who had been assigned to Lestrade. In order to do that peacefully, Sherlock had to tell Lestrade that he wasn’t actually dead. John wished he’d been there to see Lestrade’s face and witness the blistering lecture he’d given to Sherlock, but the report he got from the Doctor and then later from Lestrade made him laugh until he couldn’t breathe. The reasons that Sherlock and the Doctor got put on that trail were unspoken: the Doctor wouldn’t like how Jack and John were more than likely going to have to deal with the other sniper and that Sherlock was in pretty bad shape physically. Any running and jumping after the bad guys was going to have to wait.
“That leaves us with the sniper who targeted you,” Jack said to John. John just nodded.
Jack’s access to the CCTV footage had netted them a picture of a man going in about an hour before Sherlock had jumped and another picture of the same man leaving half an hour after his leap. Jack had run it through a facial recognition program he’d accessed on Torchwood’s server through John’s laptop.
“You’ve got real-time access to the CCTV?” John asked, watching Jack flip through the camera feeds of London.
“Yeah. I’m letting Torchwood’s Mainframe try to locate our guy,” Jack replied, leaning back in his chair and stretching.
John and Jack got on surprisingly well. Jack occasionally made passes at John (and, hilariously, Sherlock, who just looked at Jack with an eyebrow raised, which made Jack laugh), but John had learned that Jack would flirt with anyone that stood still long enough. He’d known soldiers like Jack before, and Jack was a soldier after all.
One of the reasons John and Jack got on so well was because they were both soldiers who hadn’t quite adapted completely to civilian life. Jack sometimes got the same haunted look that John felt on his own face when someone mentioned something that brought back memories he’d rather forget. Jack was better at hiding it than John was, which made John wonder how old Jack actually was. Sherlock had mentioned Jack was a time traveller, and John had no reason to doubt that fact. He’d assumed that Jack was younger than he was, but the way Jack sometimes casually mentioned events that most certainly should have happened before he was born had made John start to wonder. He may not be Sherlock Holmes, but he certainly wasn’t stupid.
John and Jack had been circling their assigned target for two days (they still hadn’t found out his real name, but if John didn’t care, Jack was okay with not finding out) when the man finally made a mistake.
“Follow him,” Jack whispered in John’s ear. John, his hair hidden under a baseball cap and his eyes hidden behind sunglasses, broke away from Jack and casually strolled down the street, hands in his pockets, occasionally checking his phone, trying to look like a tourist. He kept the man in sight while Jack kept a cautious distance from John.
The man turned into a hotel, looking around cautiously before he opened the door. John kept walking, pretending to be looking up something on his phone, trusting that Jack would catch up to him.
“What’s the plan, Doc?” Jack asked, strolling up beside John.
John grimaced at the nickname. “We’ve been dancing around this bloke for three days. He’s eventually going to figure it out. Any suggestions, Cap?” Jack made a face at the nickname and John figured he’d gotten his point across. “Frontal assault?” John suggested.
“I thought you’d never ask,” Jack replied with a grin.
John shook his head and reached around to pull the gun from the back of his waistband to stuff it into his jacket pocket. “If you’ll do the honours,” he said, motioning to the front desk.
Jack opened the door and walked up to the front desk, all white teeth and trusting eyes. The desk clerk stuttered as she answered, obviously flustered. John kept too far back to hear what Jack said to the girl, but he walked across the lobby as Jack thanked the girl and headed for the stairs.
“There’s other people in the building, so be careful,” John said behind him. Jack nodded and led the way up the stairs.
“Let me go in first,” Jack said when they reached the top of the stairs.
“Are you sure?” John asked.
“Just trust me,” Jack replied. He moved onto the floor and motioned to a door. John nodded, pulling his gun out and checking the chamber. Jack had his gun out and was standing in front of the door at the end of the hallway. John stood off to the side of the door, gun at the ready. He nodded, and Jack leaned back and kicked the door.
The cheap wooden door crashed into the wall and Jack pushed through, gun up and ready. “Drop it,” John heard him bark before he rounded the corner just in time for a shot to ring out. He fired his own gun, barely stopping to aim. He’d automatically gone for a head shot, but he didn’t stop to check on Jack until he’d confirmed that the weapon was out of the dead man’s reach.
Jack was slumped against the wall, eyes open and glassy. The bullet had gone in just over Jack’s left eye. John pushed the door closed as best he could before he crouched down next to Jack.
“Christ,” he said, pressing his fingers to Jack’s neck to try to find a pulse. He knew it was probably useless, but he had to try. There was no pulse, and Jack wasn’t breathing. Hands shaking, John closed Jack’s eyes and sat back, trying to decide what the best course of action would be.
He’d pulled out his phone and was trying to decide what he could tell the Doctor when Jack gasped and flailed. John almost jumped out of his skin, but immediately moved over to Jack, checking for a pulse. He smoothed the hair back from Jack’s forehead, but there was no bullet hole to be found.
“What? How? What?” John asked, watching Jack rub his face.
“That’s why I told you to let me go first,” Jack said, looking over to where the other man was sprawled out on the floor. “Good job.”
“Thanks,” John said faintly. “You were dead.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t stick,” Jack replied, torn between amusement and resignation.
“It doesn’t...” John started to repeat, and then trailed off.
“It’s a long story and we need to get out of here,” Jack said, standing. John was still crouched when he looked down. Jack sighed and offered John his hand. “I’m fine, you’re fine, we need to search this room and leave.” John took the hand (the warm, alive hand) and let Jack tug him to his feet. They walked over to the man John had shot and rummaged through his pockets, coming up with a wallet and a mobile phone. John checked under the bed as Jack pulled papers out of a suitcase and put them into a satchel he’d appropriated from the foot of the bed. John pulled on his gloves and pulled out a black case, setting it on the bed and opening it.
“Found his gun,” he said, examining the weapon. He suppressed a shudder as he thought of that telescopic sight being trained on him. “We used them in Afghanistan.”
“Leave it out,” Jack said. “Anything interesting?”
“I think you had more luck than I did,” John said, hearing sirens in the distance. “We need to leave.”
They were a block away when the police arrived. John put his hat and sunglasses back on. “Keep walking,” he said to Jack. Jack nodded and pulled out his phone.
“I’m getting the CCTV footage pulled and wiped,” he said as they turned a corner. “Unless you’d rather get Mycroft to do it?”
“Go ahead,” John replied, waving a hand. They walked on in silence for a few more minutes before John finally asked, “So, you can’t die? Ever?”
“Technically I can die,” Jack replied, sounding weary. “It just doesn’t stick, like I said. It’s...not pleasant.”
“So, how old are you?” John asked.
“Older than I look,” Jack replied enigmatically. “That’s usually not the first question people ask.”
“What do they normally ask?” John asked
“What’s on the other side,” Jack said. John glanced over and saw that Jack’s face had gone stony.
“I’d rather not know,” John said after a moment, flexing his left hand. “I’ve already been too close for my liking.”
Jack snorted, but John didn’t take offense. “Let’s get something to take back for lunch. I’m starving.”
They got takeaway from a restaurant near where the Doctor had parked the TARDIS. John was careful to keep his right hand in his pocket to hide the gunshot residue.
“Doctor? Sherlock?” Jack called when they got back to the TARDIS. “We’ve got food!”
John went up to his room to wash his hands. He heard Jack yelling down the hallways, and the Doctor’s answering shout. John went down to the kitchen, helped Jack to pull down dishes and dished out curry and naan for himself.
“Any of you want anything? I’m fixing lunch,” Jack called again.
“Why, was it broken?” Sherlock asked as he descended the stairs.
Jack stared at Sherlock in shock before bursting into laughter. “He does have a sense of humour!”
“Yeah, don’t tell anyone, he has to keep up his public image,” John said. Sherlock huffed and muttered something that sounded to John like “Americans.” “Eat something, Sherlock, I know for a fact you haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
“So you got your man, then?” Sherlock asked a few minutes later after the Doctor had joined them and they all had plates. John raised his eyebrows, his mouth too full to ask how Sherlock had known. “You smell like gunpowder.”
“John’s a good shot,” Jack said around a mouthful of his own curry. “We got him, he’s dead.” The Doctor looked down, hiding his disapproval. “What? He shot me, it was self-defence.” Sherlock’s eyes roved over Jack, settling on Jack’s face.
“He shot you, John shot him, but you’re not hurt,” Sherlock said slowly, putting his fork down. “If he’d missed, you’d have said he’d shot at you.”
“He did hit me,” Jack said, tapping his forehead, and then swallowed. “I heal quickly.” John snorted. Sherlock’s brow furrowed and his eyes still roamed over Jack’s face.
“He shot you in the head but you recovered,” Sherlock said, disbelieving.
“Well, technically, he killed me,” Jack said casually, and put another bite of food in his mouth. Sherlock’s eyebrows rose in shock, and John wished he’d had a camera. That wasn’t a facial expression he saw on Sherlock very often. “I got better.”
“That’s impossible,” Sherlock said flatly.
“I saw it,” John said. “He was shot, in the head, just above his left eye. I took his pulse, checked his breathing.” Sherlock’s expression was moving from shocked to gleeful. “No, Sherlock, you are not allowed to experiment on Jack.” Jack looked alarmed and Sherlock looked stubborn. “I swear to God, if you so much as take a hair sample, I will make sure the next person who knows you’re alive will be Anderson. And you’ll have to explain, in detail that he can understand, how you did it.”
Sherlock looked disgusted, and John relaxed, smiling at Jack.
“What about the man at Scotland Yard?” Jack asked.
“In jail,” Sherlock replied. John glared at him until he picked up his fork and started eating again.
“Your friend Lestrade found some very incriminating evidence in the man’s desk,” the Doctor chimed in. “Sherlock’s brother has taken over the investigation from there.”
“Hopefully he won’t cock it up this time,” John muttered, and then yawned. “Bedtime for me, I think.”
“John, we still have to find Moriarty,” Sherlock protested.
“He’ll be there in the morning, all however many of him there are,” John replied. “Take some pain medicine and go to bed, you’ve got to be sore.”
Sherlock nodded, much to John’s surprise. He got out of his chair stiffly, leaving his dishes on the table, and wandered out. John sighed and gathered both of their dishes and deposited them in the sink.
“Genius needs creature comfort, eh, John?” the Doctor said as John started doing the dishes. John looked up to see Jack’s smirk.
“It’s not like that,” John said to Jack, before he turned to the Doctor. “I thought I’d lost him, Doctor. Those four days were awful. Not the most awful days I’ve had, but they were pretty damn close.” He sighed, looking down at the soapy dishes. “The least I can do now that I’ve got him back is make sure he stays here.”
When John woke up the next day, the TARDIS was in flight.
“Are we going anywhere in particular?” John asked when he found everyone in the control room.
“Nope,” the Doctor said. “Just needed to get her moving again.” He was doing something with the wires under the control panel. “I needed to do this, and it can only be done when the TARDIS is going.” He put two wires together and sparks flew. John flinched, but Sherlock and Jack didn’t even look up from where they were examining Sherlock’s laptop.
“Err, okay,” John said, changing his course and going around the centre console the other way to get to Jack and Sherlock.
Jack was typing furiously on Sherlock’s laptop. Code scrolled across the screen. The sniper’s phone that Jack had taken from the body was hooked to the laptop.
“You hacked the phone network?” John asked.
“The man had ten numbers in his phone,” Sherlock replied. “All of them except one have been called within the past twelve hours.”
The phone rang. The three men all looked at each other before Jack picked it up and answered it.
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he said, holding the phone between his shoulder and his ear and leaning over the computer, typing furiously. “I’m sorry, he’s not here right now. May I take a message?”
John heard a yell from the other end of the line, and Jack winced, holding the phone away from his ear. “You know, Moriarty, you’re kinda insane.” There was a moment of silence before a voice came from the phone. “Oooh, ganching, haven’t come across that one in decades.” He kept his tone light and playful as he typed away. “Wouldn’t be the first time, though. Where do you keep your hooks?” He snapped his fingers, trying to catch the Doctor’s attention. There was another yell from the phone, and Jack took the phone away from his ear, call ended flashing across the screen. “Got him. Doctor!”
“What, Jack?” the Doctor replied, exasperated.
“Trace this signal,” Jack said, bringing both the laptop and the phone to the Doctor. “It’ll take us to at least one of the Moriartys.”
Jack and the Doctor worked together, plugging in cords to the console and the monitor. Sherlock and John just watched as they worked.
“Jack is sure we’re going to be able to track the signal back using the TARDIS and Torchwood’s network,” Sherlock said to John. “If we had access to his network, it would make my life so much easier.”
“Pretty sure that’s illegal somehow,” John replied, although he privately agreed with Sherlock.
“You can’t have it, Sherlock,” Jack called. “I’ve set a remote wipe, so don’t get attached.” Jack paused, twiddling a dial on the console, then continued, “And don’t ask your brother. He doesn’t have access to this either.”
“And now we do this!” the Doctor said, and threw a lever. Everyone stumbled as the TARDIS jerked. The Doctor whooped with joy, pulling levers and pushing buttons. “Almost there!” he said, and turned a dial. John fell against the railing as they landed. Sherlock had simply planted his feet and didn’t even wobble. Jack and the Doctor clung to the console as the ground solidified.
“That was exciting,” John said, moving away from the railing and straightening his jacket. “Where are we?”
“Ummm...” the Doctor said, pulling down the monitor. “London?”
“Still?” Jack asked. “What, is this guy obsessed with the city?”
“It’s what he knows,” John said, then heard the click of the TARDIS door opening and closing behind him. “Oh, hell.” He turned on his heel, noted that Sherlock was nowhere to be seen, and hurried to the doors.
“John,” Jack said, catching John’s shoulder as he started to open the door. “Let’s just follow him.”
“He’s going after Moriarty,” John hissed. “The last time he went against him, he threw himself off a roof!”
“I know,” Jack said. “Here.” He handed John the hat and glasses he’d been wearing the day before. “I’ll follow Sherlock, you follow me. Moriarty doesn’t know me, and he thinks Sherlock’s dead. He’ll recognise you, so stay back.” Before John could object, Jack had slipped out of the door.
“Are you coming, Doctor?” John asked, keeping one eye on Jack.
“I’ll be behind you.”
John pulled on the hat but left the glasses off since it was a cloudy day. He pulled his coat collar up around his ears and set off after Jack. He didn’t look back to see if the Doctor was following, but instead focused on keeping Jack in sight, silently cursing the way the cap limited his line of sight.
John and the Doctor caught up with Jack and Sherlock as they crouched, out of sight, around the corner from an alleyway.
“He knows he’s being followed,” Sherlock said.
“Sorry,” Jack said. “I’m pretty distinctive.”
“Yeah, and following him for ten blocks didn’t help,” John said, pulling his gun from his waistband. He checked the clip.
“No guns,” the Doctor said, steel in his voice. John looked up at him, met his eye.
“Guns are necessary with him,” John replied, refusing to back down. He’d stared down Sherlock Holmes, after all, he could stare down the Doctor.
“No,” the Doctor said again.
“He’s got one,” Sherlock pointed out. “Shoulder holster, right-hand side.” John raised his eyebrows at the Doctor.
“Doctor, that man strapped a bomb to me the last time we met face-to-face,” John said in a low voice. “We are running out of time. I know you don’t like it, but you’re not the one pulling the trigger. This will be on my conscience, not yours.” The Doctor still looked rebellious, but didn’t argue. “I’m sorry,” John offered.
“Now,” Sherlock said, standing and turning the corner.
Moriarty was standing at the end of the alleyway, near a fire escape and a tall fence. He could escape either way, but both would be tricky.
“Hello,” Sherlock said smugly.
Moriarty gaped and then grinned. “I told you my people were going to have to see you fall, Sherlock, or I was going to kill your friends,” he said.
Sherlock just smiled. “I fell. Your people saw me fall. And you, well, one of you shot himself, I know there’s more than one of you. Feel free to go after my friends if you like, but I think you’ll find that you have fewer people than you started with. I wish you luck.”
John stepped up next to Sherlock, gun at his side.
“And Dr. Watson!” Moriarty said gleefully. “Oh, good. And the Doctor. I remember you from last time.”
“Hello,” the Doctor said with a grin.
“And you are?” Moriarty asked Jack.
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he replied without a trace of joking tone he’d used to introduce himself to John and Sherlock only a couple of days before.
“So you’re the head of Torchwood Three. I guess it’s you I should be thanking for letting me find this,” Moriarty said, gesturing at his body.
“OH!” the Doctor exclaimed. “Oh! You’re a ganger! A Flesh duplicate.” He grinned. “So, how’s he controlling you?”
“He’s not,” Moriarty replied. The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it at Moriarty.
“He’d have to be, unless something really, really weird happened... like the Rift!” the Doctor said, studying the readout. “Oh, brilliant! A vat of, what, Flesh? That came through the Rift, which altered its basic properties, meaning that it could create sentient, independent beings off of a single copy. But not unlimited ones. No, somehow,” he scanned Moriarty again. “Yes. It allowed for independent beings but not for unlimited replication. Which is fortunate for us, but also really, really bad.”
John looked at Sherlock, whose face was blank, and then at Jack, whose face was thoroughly baffled.
“Um, Doctor, care to explain?” Jack asked.
Moriarty rolled his eyes so hard his whole head moved. “Typical. Sherlock doesn’t even know the Earth goes around the sun, do you really think he knows about alien technology?”
Both Jack and the Doctor turned to look at Sherlock. John resisted the urge to roll his eyes, barely.
“There’s a Rift in space and time that runs through Cardiff and that’s how you got your clones or duplicates or whatever you are,” Sherlock said dismissively. “I don’t need to know the Earth goes around the sun to know that.”
Moriarty raised a silenced gun and pointed it at Sherlock.
“Hey, whoa,” Jack said, and stepped in front of him. Moriarty fired and Jack went down. John raised his own gun and levelled it at Moriarty, resisting the urge to check on Jack.
“You don’t have any snipers,” Sherlock said quietly. “What happened to not wanting to get your hands dirty?”
“I found myself with more hands.”
The Doctor studied Moriarty, head to toe, just watching.
“I’ve heard about you, Doctor,” Moriarty spat. John adjusted the grip on his gun, but Moriarty didn’t even flinch. “I did some research after we met last time. The Lonely God, the Oncoming Storm. Saviour to some, plague to others. And yet,” he paused, and then grinned, that reptilian smile, “you have rules. You, John, you both have rules. Even Sherlock does, although he won’t admit it. Jack had rules.” Moriarty poked Jack’s prone body with the toe of his shoe.
“I don’t have rules, you should have figured that out,” Sherlock said.
“You threw yourself off that ledge knowing you’d survive.”
“I didn’t know.”
John looked at Sherlock, appalled.
“For me to have survived that depended on a lot of people,” Sherlock said, stepping towards Moriarty. “You have duplicates. The one on the rooftop wasn’t the real you.” He looked Moriarty up and down. “And neither are you.”
“I’m just as real as he is.”
“Maybe so, but you’re not the original.”
“I have all of his memories, all of his feelings. Oh, he loathes you, Sherlock Holmes, and so do I. It’s fascinating, the line between what’s his and what’s mine is so thin,” he pulled his hands apart, forefingers and thumbs together like he was drawing a string between them before levelling the gun at Sherlock again, “it might as well not even exist.”
“But you don’t have the memories of what happened on that rooftop, and I will tell you what I told him,” Sherlock said, his voice low and dangerous like John had never heard it before. “And you can pass this along to however many of you there are. I am you. I am prepared to do anything, prepared to burn, prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do. I will shake hands with all twelve or four or hundred of you in Hell, mark my words.”
“I would, but you just talk big,” Moriarty said. “You’re ordinary.”
“That’s what he said,” Sherlock replied, his voice still low and sharp. “Right before he stuck the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.”
The Doctor raised his sonic screwdriver. Moriarty swung his gun to target the Doctor, and John fired.
“You shot me!” Moriarty said, and the Doctor activated his screwdriver. There was a quick whirring noise, and Moriarty dissolved.
“What?” John asked. “That wasn’t me.”
“No,” the Doctor said solemnly. “It was me.” He put his screwdriver away.
“What the hell?” Jack asked, sitting up. “Doctor?”
“I interrupted the signal. Wasn’t sure if it would work, I was trying a hunch.”
“Signal?” Sherlock asked.
“The Flesh starts with a DNA sample and a signal,” the Doctor replied. “I had a hunch that there still had to be some sort of signal that let the Flesh keep its shape.”
“You’ve come across this before,” Jack said, standing and brushing himself off. Sherlock studied Jack, his eyes flicking across Jack’s face where the bullet hole had been.
“Yes,” the Doctor said, his face suddenly very serious and closed off. “I’ve dealt with the Flesh before. And now that we know what he is,” he gestured to the pile of substance that had been Moriarty, “We can track the rest of them.”
Sherlock crouched near the stuff, carefully making sure his coat didn’t drag in it, and pulled a mobile out of the muck, wiping it with a handkerchief from his pocket.
“Yuck,” Jack said, and John agreed fervently, but didn’t say anything.
“We can use this to get the rest of them,” Sherlock said. “Look, he recorded everything, had a message already programmed to send.” He pushed a few buttons.
“You just texted Moriarty,” John said, switching on the safety on his gun. “You just texted Moriarty, Sherlock, are you insane?”
“Come on,” Sherlock said, heading out of the alley.
“I think he’s got a plan,” Jack said.
“I know he’s got one,” John said, resigned. “Let’s go make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said with a shrug. “Let’s go see what Sherlock has for us.”
They followed Sherlock back to the TARDIS, where he immediately began looking through the phone he’d pulled from the mess in the alley. “Sloppy, sloppy,” he was murmuring. “So sloppy. When did he get so sloppy?”
“Probably about the time he realised that there were nine more of him?” John suggested.
The phone in Sherlock’s hand rang. He showed them the screen where it said M Prime Calling. He pushed the answer button, put it on speaker, and said, “Hello.”
A beat of silence, and then Moriarty’s voice. “Well done, Sherlock, well done indeed.”
Jack tugged on Sherlock’s arm to get him closer to the computer.
“I’d say thank you, but you walked right into that one,” Sherlock replied, following Jack, who plugged the phone into the computer so the tracking software could start. “There are seven of you now, not counting the original.”
“Good, very good. Tell me, Sherlock, what’s my next move?”
“I don’t really care,” Sherlock said. A faux-shocked gasp came from the other end of the phone. “Expanding your business or pulling down the economy or whatever it is you’re doing, I don’t care. I’m the one that owes you, now, Jim. I O U, remember?”
John had a sudden mental image of those letters, surrounded by wings, spray painted around Baker Street. They were the same letters he’d found carved into an apple in the bin the day after Moriarty’s trial.
“It has been a lovely game, Jim, but it’s time for this to end,” Sherlock said, looking around at the Doctor, Jack, and John. “I want you, all of you, in London within twenty-four hours.”
“Why should I?”
“Because you’re curious,” Sherlock said with a grin. “You beat me once, or you thought you had. You want to see if you can do it again.” He looked up at Jack, who nodded. Sherlock hung up.
“Will that work?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock replied. “He can’t ignore a taunt like that.” He put the phone down and sat, wincing. He shifted, moving his weight onto his right side. “They’ll come. We just need to wait.”
“We can track them while we wait, make sure we get all of them,” Jack said. “Doctor, will you help?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said, pulling the monitor down and flipping a few switches. “Now that I know what kind of signal to look for, we can find all of them.
John watched the Doctor, Jack, and Sherlock work on incorporating Torchwood’s database, Sherlock’s laptop, the TARDIS control panel, and the two mobiles into something that could be used as a tracking device. John made tea, passed it out to the ones who wanted it, and eventually made a meal when he realised he was hungry. Jack and the Doctor helped him bully Sherlock into eating.
“I think that’s all we can do,” Jack said, standing back and looking at the amalgamation of technology before him. There was a map of the world up on the Doctor’s monitor with eights dots. Six were spread across Europe and two were in North America. John wasn’t sure what Moriarty could possibly be up to in Canada, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Lines of code scrolled across Sherlock’s laptop. John’s laptop, which had been incorporated a couple of hours before, had a map of London. A blue square marked their position. There were two dots on the other side of the city.
“It’s just a matter of waiting now,” John said, watching Sherlock inspect the array one more time. He was favouring his left side. John moved up beside him and put a hand on Sherlock’s right shoulder. “You should go get some rest.” Sherlock shook his head mutinously. “Sherlock, I’m serious. At least take some sort of pain medicine, you’re limping.”
“Doc’s got a point,” Jack said. John despaired of trying to stop him from using that nickname. “We’ve got hours before anything happens. The Doctor and I will keep an eye on it. You don’t have to do everything, you know.”
“All right,” Sherlock said with only a hint of venom. “I’m going.” He headed for the stairs, leaning heavily on the railing. John watched him go, torn between exasperation and relief.
“Thanks,” he said to Jack.
“Sometimes you just need to hear things twice,” Jack replied, waving a hand. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He fell off a building,” John said ruefully. He yawned and rubbed his face with one hand. “It’s a long story.”
“Well, we have a few hours to kill,” Jack said. “Unless you want to play strip poker.”
“Jack,” the Doctor said warningly, levelling his sonic screwdriver at him. Jack just grinned, and John shook his head and sat.
He talked while the Doctor and Jack worked, telling them the story of everything that had happened regarding Moriarty. Jack knew most of the legal side, having followed the case after the break ins at the Tower, the bank, and the prison, but he didn’t know the “game” Moriarty and Sherlock had played across most of London that ended the first time at a stalemate in a darkened swimming pool and the second time when Sherlock threw himself off of a roof.
“Wow,” Jack said when John had finished. “I’d read your blog, but I hadn’t realised it was that extensive.” He looked at John, studying him with a stare John hadn’t seen since he left the military. It wasn’t the look the Sherlock gave him, the gaze that took in all of the little details and gave a story. Jack’s look was assessing, one soldier to another, one officer to another. John suddenly Mycroft’s words, all those months ago, “When you walk with Sherlock Holmes, you see the battlefield. You’ve seen it already, haven’t you?” He wasn’t sure why those words came to mind, but he met Jack’s eyes squarely.
“I’d give my left arm for a team of people like you,” Jack said. “Competent, smart, medical, and really good with a gun.” He managed to make that last part sound dirty, and John just smiled and shook his head.
The next few hours passed slowly. The Doctor and Jack traded stories, amazing tales of planets and times John had never heard of and will most likely never see. They paused in their stories to explain things to John—“The sky was red, so all the colours were wrong, and how was I supposed to know that green meant stop?”—and John laughed outright at some of their more outrageous claims. Jack and the Doctor worked over and around each other, making various repairs.
Sherlock stumbled in a few hours later, his hair damp from a shower. He was moving better, though, and John breathed a sigh of relief.
“There are five in London now,” John said as Sherlock walked to the monitors. “The rest are on their way. I think they’re all on airplanes.”
“There’s about ten more hours,” Sherlock said. “They’ll all be here in time.” He grinned, teeth flashing and eyes bright. John knows that unholy glee. “I told you it’d work.”
“Yes, you’re brilliant. But what’s the plan once they all actually get into London.”
“I’m going to need all three of you, the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, a vortex manipulator, and one of those cell phones,” Sherlock said. “Moriarty isn’t playing fair, so I won’t either.”
John left Baker Street the next day, an hour before Moriarty’s deadline. It was barely dawn, and he hadn’t gone an entire block when he was grabbed from behind, a bag put over his head, and thrown into the back of a vehicle. He struggled, because it’s expected, but stilled when he felt a knife pressed to his throat.
“You’ll walk through quietly, or we’ll see how quickly the staff can keep you from bleeding out,” Moriarty’s voice hissed in his ear.
He and Moriarty make it through the mostly-deserted hospital up onto the roof. Sherlock, whose flair for the dramatic was insatiable, had decided that the roof of St. Bart’s was the best spot for their plan.
“It’s accessible, there are no cameras, and it will give Moriarty a false sense of security,” he’d said. John had wanted to say that that was entirely beside the point, but had given up when Sherlock kept talking.
When they’d gotten to the roof, Sherlock was in the centre of a circle of Moriartys. John counted quickly. All eight were here, if he included the one holding a knife to his throat.
“Well, Sherlock, here we are again,” Moriarty said. Well, one of the Moriartys. John wasn’t sure if it was the real one or not. Jack and the Doctor were nowhere to be seen. John tried to yank away from the Moriarty that was holding him, but stilled immediately as he felt cold metal against his neck.
“Careful, Johnny boy, you don’t want to cut your own throat,” the Moriarty holding him hissed in his ear.
Sherlock held the gun out at arm’s length, training it on each Moriarty in turn as he circled, trying to figure out which one, if any, was the real Moriarty.
“Really Sherlock? You’re going to try that?” the Moriarty behind Sherlock said. And then each Moriarty spoke in turn.
“You can’t know which one is the real me.”
“Or if the real me is even here.”
“You watched me shoot myself once already.”
“I managed to fool you then.”
“What makes you think you can beat me now?”
“The Devil’s greatest trick was convincing man he didn’t exist, and now everyone thinks we’re both dead.”
John saw Sherlock’s shoulders tense, but the gun remained steady. John shifted slightly, settling his weight more firmly, bracing his feet. The Moriarty that was holding him (was it a Flesh duplicate or was it the real Moriarty? John couldn’t tell) shifted his grip unconsciously. Every single Moriarty had his attention fixed on Sherlock.
“You can’t be serious,” Sherlock said, still laughing. “This is your grand plan? Lure me back up here, threaten John? What are you going to do, make me jump again?”
“I told you I’d burn the heart out of you, but I’d settle for cutting it out right now,” the one holding John said.
“And there’s nothing down there to catch you this time,” the first Moriarty who had spoke said. “I heard how Molly helped you. Poor timid little Molly got her time in the sun.”
“Don’t underestimate Molly,” Sherlock said, sudden venom in his voice. All of the Moriartys grinned, and John was reminded of sharks scenting blood in the water.
“She’ll be the first one I get to,” one of the Moriartys purred. “And then Mrs. Hudson. Or Lestrade. Maybe I’ll wait until Lestrade and Molly are together and get them both at the same time. I’ll dismantle your whole world, Sherlock Holmes, the way you’ve dismantled mine.”
“You’re assuming any of you are going to get off of this rooftop of your own free will,” Sherlock said.
“Duplication, true duplication, down to the last atom and hair on your head is extremely difficult. At first it was fine, but now? Several days later? All eight of you look different, had you noticed? One of you has a sun tan, one of you hasn’t shaved, one of you has a healing split lip, one of you has an almost faded black eye that you’ve attempted to conceal with makeup, but you didn’t do a very good job. One of you has a scar just above your left eyebrow, did you know? So, Moriarty,” Sherlock paused and slowly spun to point his gun quite decisively at the Moriarty that was in the circle on the opposite side of John, “I think I’ve found you. And I may never have seen the Devil, but I know that you are not him,” he said, and pulled the trigger.
The ringing in John’s ears from the shot hadn’t even had the chance to begin properly when an ear-splitting whine rang out. He grappled with the arm that held a knife at his throat before the pressure was suddenly gone. He stumbled, whirling around to face the man who had held him.
But he wasn’t there.
Where Moriarty had been standing, where all the Moriartys except the one Sherlock had shot had been standing, were just puddles of sludge, mostly white with bits of hair. John fought down the bile that threatened to rise in his throat. He stepped away from pile of...stuff...that had been holding him and sat down as soon as he was far away, breathing heavily.
“Bloody hell,” he said. “Did you know that would happen?”
“It’s the same thing that happened to the Moriarty in the alley,” Sherlock replied, unconcerned. He was looking down at the real Moriarty, seemingly entranced. John hauled himself to his feet and, stepping carefully over the piles remaining, went to Sherlock’s side, sliding the gun out of his hand.
“Nice shot,” John said quietly. The bullet had gotten Moriarty right between the eyes. All at once, the tension went out of Sherlock’s shoulders. John wrapped an arm around his waist, steadying him.
“It’s over,” Sherlock said, so quiet that John almost didn’t hear him.
“Come on,” John said, tugging. “Let’s go collect Jack and the Doctor and phone Lestrade.”
Jack and the Doctor came barrelling through the door onto the roof, startling them both.
“That actually worked,” Jack said, awe in his voice.
“Of course it worked,” Sherlock said. “I told you it would, as long as the Doctor got the frequency right.”
Sherlock and the Doctor bickered as they went downstairs, leaving John and Jack to walk behind. John called Lestrade, told him he’d find Moriarty on top of Bart’s hospital. Lestrade sounded so relieved that John actually grinned.
“Just, please, don’t ask how I know,” John said.
“Anonymous tip, got it,” Lestrade replied. “I’ll keep you and you-know-who out of it.”
Sherlock grabbed John’s phone. “I can give you documentation that Rich Brook is a fake,” he said. “And that he had the ambassador’s children kidnapped.” There was silence on the other end of the line, and Sherlock handed the phone back to John.
“He means it, you know,” John said. “We found papers on everything. Moriarty may have been a mastermind, but his people were idiots.”
“That would be amazing,” Lestrade said finally. “I’m on real thin ice with the Yard right now, and so are you two, but if you could prove it...”
“We could provide witnesses, even,” John said, looking at Jack, who nodded. “Powerful ones, not just Mycroft.”
“Who?” Lestrade asked, breathless. John wondered what the man had been going through, what kind of hell his supervisors had been giving him. Did he even still have his job?
“What do you know about Torchwood?”
It turned out that Lestrade didn’t know anything about Torchwood, but his superiors certainly did. Jack strode into New Scotland Yard the next day with file folders under his arm and was immediately escorted to the Chief Superintendent’s office, John right behind him. John took great satisfaction from the fact that the man’s nose was still swollen. It took them more than two hours to hash everything out, supporting their claims with papers, notes, screenshots, and text messages. They explained Moriarty’s network, how it had collapsed, how Sherlock had been working independently but still within the law to do what he had done. They carefully left out the fact that Moriarty had cloned himself. They also left Sherlock at home, ostensibly so they could get his name cleared, but really because John wanted to handle everything without having to run interference for Sherlock as well.
The Chief Superintendent called in Lestrade, Anderson, Donovan, and anyone else who had worked on Moriarty’s case. John and Jack filled in the details as needed. Neither Anderson nor Donovan would look at him.
The newspapers, of course, caught wind of the news, and ran headlines the next day, proclaiming Sherlock’s victory, his life, and his trick. Lestrade was furious, John amused, and Sherlock just perplexed by it all. The Doctor had left not even an hour after they’d gotten back to Baker Street, claiming he had urgent business. Jack had left after they’d finished with the Chief Superintendent, but he’d given John and Sherlock his number and an invitation to visit him in Cardiff if they ever got the chance. So now it was John and Sherlock alone, finally, in the flat. Sherlock was sprawled on the couch, dozing lightly under the influence of some of the stronger pain medication John had gotten for him while John was puttering around the kitchen, making tea to have while he worked on his blog. Mrs. Hudson had disconnected the buzzer for their flat herself, claiming she was tired of the noise and would get someone to repair it later. Sherlock had turned his mobile off after the fourth time John had hung up on a reporter. John’s own mobile was on vibrate so it wouldn’t bother Sherlock, but Harry and Mike and Molly already had the story, so it was blessedly quiet as John settled into his chair with his tea and his laptop and started his blog.
Jim Moriarty (also known as Richard Brook) was a criminal mastermind, and that’s not a phrase I use lightly...