Moriarty escapes merely a week after her incarceration.
“Well,” quips Sherlock, eyes clearer than Watson’s seen them, because between her solving Moriarty like a puzzle and checkmating her like a game, Sherlock has been finding broken pieces of himself and safeguarding them; time, my dear Watson, will put them back together, “that’s far longer than I thought would have taken her to break out.”
Watson just sighs in exasperation. From news outlets dubbing her the “Napoleon of Crime,” and the new frenzy of the media hailing Watson her Waterloo, she has been bombarded with reporters and inquiries and requests for interviews; Watson has denied them all, doesn’t wish to change this into a game, because people are not games, are not a painting to be deconstructed into its paint and brushes. Deigning to such requests feels like a betrayal, a reversal of an undefined doctrine with which she has followed from medical school. It’s when the surgeons see the patients as a game when they fall. Watson has not fallen.
Sherlock’s lips are chapped. New York in the winter is almost as unforgiving as he is with blackmailers, but even then, his smile looks to have been broken down by more than just elements, by things he hasn’t spoken of, but will.
“Let’s see how my bees are doing, Watson.”
Watson knows Sherlock is waiting, can see it in the twitch of his legs, his rearrangement of locks that go from year to make to country to size to rust—rust, Watson thinks; that’s what gives it away. Watson can tell from his normal, obsessive ticks to his nervous ones, and rust, rust like copper breaking is what arrangement Sherlock keeps hanging the longest.
“They call you my Waterloo.”
Watson startles, nearly dropping her coffee; Moriarty only gives her an amused smirk. She has on a beanie, and it is…pedestrian, casual, unlike the cool and collected Moriarty that has toyed with her and Sherlock for weeks, and Watson takes a few moments to reconcile this image with the other.
“I’m sorry that we must keep meeting like this, Watson.”
Her voice is the same, and Watson nearly frowns at the thought that a week in prison would change her voice, change her somehow, as if she wants it to physically mark her, as if she wants her victory to be something Moriarty will carry with her.
“Yes, ambushing me on the street—lovely.”
Watson has learned by now that Moriarty will not kill her. She does not kill mascots.
Moriarty does not reply to that, but tips her head into the direction of an old, beat up car.
Watson narrows her eyes, “You’ve surely upgraded.”
Moriarty scoffs, and opens the door for Watson before getting into the other side. When she does, Watson cannot help but be reminded of normalcy, of possible friendships, and the early light hits Moriarty’s hair like a mockery of an angel.
“You do not understand, Watson. That freeze you’ve gotten on my assets has…been an inconvenience.” She smirks, grips the wheel of the car, and says, “But do not misinterpret: my men are working on my reserves now. One billion is only a fraction of my empire. And—” she stops to flick her eyes to the rear view mirror, “my men will be following us.” Moriarty pauses, as if shy but Watson must be imagining it, and she says, “I want this to be…private.”
Watson knows she shouldn’t go, but she feels safe. It’s ineffable; but the knowledge that she has bested Moriarty at her own game gives her a sense of a buffer, that Moriarty will not kill her. And the way Moriarty looks at her now, in admiration, like a follower to her Artemis, it makes Watson wonder, and Watson didn’t get herself into this in the start from a lack of curiosity.
They actually never arrive anywhere. Maybe it means something.
Moriarty drives the streets of New York like a local, too fast and too sharp to be safe, and Watson thought the British were polite.
“Polite?” Moriarty scrunches her eyebrows, and perhaps this is the first time Watson has seen more emotion exude from her than confidence. “I plan murders for a living, dear.”
Watson had almost forgotten.
“Right,” she says, turning to look out the window.
And that’s it.
Moriarty drops her off where she found her and stares at her too intensely; Watson feels like being studied, like being worshipped.
It feels too much like a final goodbye, and Watson doesn’t know what to do with that.
Watson finds herself looking for Moriarty, wondering who she’s gotten ensnared in her web, if it would lead it to her.
She thinks she’s gotten it all backwards.
Moriarty was interested in her.
She tells Sherlock because he’s her partner, and she thinks she needs clarity, the kind Sherlock is always spewing of, the kind he’s always searching for, and Watson’s got it in her head that Moriarty is nothing like clarity—only a haze, the gas between constellations, the promise of something far greater and sinister.
Sherlock says nothing for a long time, but he’s staring off into the wall, the way his face seems to freeze into one expression, the way his eyes widen yet close at the same time, the vein at the side of his temple and the wrinkles around his eyes more pronounced than she’s ever seen them.
“We can’t—we can’t just throw her back in prison,” Watson reasons, ignoring the way her heart tightens at the thought of a permanent loss of Moriarty—this way, loose around the city, at least the dark corners and alleyways hold some hope of her web of her empire—but it’s also because—
“Five guards dead; yes, Watson. I remember,” the words slip from him softly, his eyes still to the wall, and Moriarty killed five guards to escape prison, and returning her would prove futile, but Watson can only feel relief—because Sherlock will not rename her as his nemesis, and perhaps she can name her something else.
“Lovely, have you missed me?” Watson hears spoken right beside her ear. She nearly jumps again, but Moriarty has placed her hand on her shoulder, and Watson calms.
She whirls around in her chair when her pulse has calmed and crosses her arm.
They’re in the brownstone. Sherlock is out running an errand, and Watson was hunched over the table, the dim light of the lamp the only brightness in the room as she scoured over autopsy reports. Their latest case has proven quite challenging; a reprieve for Sherlock after Moriarty’s case had gone cold a long time ago.
“What are you doing here?”
Watson is relieved and angry and hurt. Relieved because she’s here, here, here, and angry and hurt because she’s here. She had given her goodbyes and came back; Watson feels lied to, played at, confused.
And surprised, when Moriarty takes a step forward and sits onto Watson’s lap, as if she had sat on a flipped chair, only the chair is Watson, and Watson feels her breath shorten. The light casts shadows on Moriarty’s face, and Watson sees sharp angles and high cheekbones, a glint of amusement, and murder.
She’s a murderer, remembers Watson.
“I missed you, lovely,” is her reply, and when Moriarty leans in to kiss her, Watson tastes spices and herbs, and smells jasmine. “I was on a business trip,” she whispers against her neck, after she’s pulled away and Watson is still. Moriarty hums against her neck, relishing in her skin, and Watson feels heat spread throughout.
Moriarty is a mastermind, a manipulator, so Watson pulls away, fixes her with an intense stare, and harshly bits out, “What are you doing?”
She pauses, mulling over her answer and goes with, “Surely, you know, or we’re going to have a problem.”
Moriarty’s weight is comfortable on her legs, and she wants to push her off, but she doesn’t, instead glares and asks, “And why do you think I’ll sleep with you?”
“You’re my Waterloo, dear,” and she thinks it’s enough explanation.
Watson blames it on the lighting, the way her eyes cast shadows onto her cheeks, the way she looks lighter than before; she feels like her business trip was a purge, and sees cuts on her hands, like Irene—no she’s Moriarty Moriarty—had gone and fought and won and came back to Watson.
But it’s not like that at all. She’s rationalizing, she knows.
And it seems to work anyway because Watson grabs her by the neck and crashes their lips together.
When Watson wakes, it is dark. The curtains are drawn, and Moriarty is in a loose robe, staring at the books that line the bookshelf.
“Good morning, dear,” Moriarty says without even a glance.
Watson runs a hand through her hair, shutting her eyes for a few moments.
Moriarty smiles, “Dear, you still misunderstand the scope of my empire.” She waves a hand flippantly in the air, “Let’s just say, he was preoccupied.”
Watson narrows her eyes and sits up.
Watson lets it go at that.
“You have quite exquisite taste, Watson,” Moriarty says after a moment of silence. Her hand caresses the spine of one and says, “This is my favorite.”
Watson squints to see the title.
The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Watson allows herself a smile, the first, she thinks, in her presence.
“Do you think Irene was ever alive?” Watson asks one night. “An actual part of her?”
Sherlock is still sensitive around the topic of Irene—Moriarty not so much, but Irene still has its tentative nerves, has its triggers, and Watson doesn’t like to treat Sherlock like a delicate little flower, and he doesn’t expect her to, so she asks.
He turns to look at her, his only reply at the moment, and he’s got that look again—the frozen one, but this time it’s less cold and stoic; he looks like he’s looking into another time, reliving it, but understanding at a far more complex level. He probably picks up the inconsistencies, like Irene’s accent, her lack of familiarity of American idiosyncrasies. Watson doesn’t know. She’s not like him. She does not see games nor does she see puzzles; she sees dolls, and they’re all broken, cracks at every seam, hastily done stitches, broken ribs, and bruised knuckles. She’s done her best to put everyone back together.
“Maybe when she was younger. Maybe a version of her that could’ve been,” Sherlock finally supplies. He looks toward the wall and continues.
“People like her, Watson…” and for a moment, Watson thinks he understands her, why she’s asking, and she is not surprised if he did; his brain is only rivaled by Moriarty, hers by better surgeons. “People like her, they’re Gods. In their eyes, they are Gods. Infallible, omnipotent. Brilliant.” Sherlock rubs his face, tired and resigned to the brilliance of Moriarty, of her discipline and manipulation. “I’m going to make some tea.”
He stands, but it’s stiff, awkward angles, as if the doll had been keenly aware of its cracks, and has forgotten how to stand without falling apart.
She hears the click of his shoes as he makes his way into the kitchen, and Watson can’t help but think he’s wrong—Gods, she thinks. Moriarty thinks of herself an emperor.
Moriarty ambushes her outside a flower shop.
Watson is walking by when her hand is grabbed, and Moriarty and her smirk follow, and she’s taking her inside.
“It’s my birthday,” Moriarty says softly, almost shyly, after Watson laughs at her impromptu entrance. “I’ve made it a national holiday. The Emperor gets a day off.” Moriarty gets bolder in her metaphor, and sometimes Watson forgets that she kills people, only sees a woman happy to see her, only sees someone pulling her hand into a poor excuse of a garden, into a shop called Eden, only sees someone who surprises her from behind with hot breath on her ear.
The shop is a mix of smells, from roses to lilies, and it isn’t unpleasant, but it is overwhelming. Watson takes in a huge breath. Watson thinks she can smell Irene, dry paint, in the mix, and Watson thinks this is the softest parts of her.
“And will I get to celebrate such an occasion with you?” Watson asks, a large grin making its way onto her face, and Watson doesn’t know when she started to let herself enjoy Moriarty’s company. This was why Sherlock was so enamored, because Moriarty is a murderer, but she was also charming, brilliant, and talented at anything she chose to be—the art of murder, of painting.
Moriarty doesn’t answer, pulls her in close, and kisses her, surrounded by white roses.
“I must confess, Watson,” Moriarty says, hesitant, “you’ve been…quite a distraction, really.”
“What’s that?” Watson questions, looking up from her book. Waterloo, the title reads, embroiled in gold. Moriarty had smirked when she saw the title, but said nothing.
They’re in the brownstone; Moriarty and her infinite complexities and webs had once again sufficiently distracted Sherlock. I’m saying I’m better, Watson remembers the words in the back of her head. Along with you know, she solved you.
Moriarty looks down to find Watson’s eyes, and says, almost petulantly, “I’ve been far behind on many of my plans. Quite a distraction.”
Watson rolls her eyes, says, “Good.”
In the heat of the moment, when Watson’s taken Moriarty’s shirt off, when Moriarty has her hand down Watson’s pants, Watson can sometimes hear Moriarty whisper, you’re my waterloo, you’re my waterloo.
Watson isn’t sure if she wants to be referred to as Moriarty’s demise.
“Which parts of you are real?” Watson says one night, when they’ve done nothing but peruse Moriarty’s library. Moriarty has too many facets that Watson forgets which one she’s marked as true as not. Moriarty’s library is sorted by subject, followed by subsections and so on—she leads her into sections for philosophy and then another for history, and Watson thinks this is how Moriarty arranges her mind.
“What do you mean, dear?”
Moriarty’s grip on Watson is gentle, tentative, and Watson can no longer reconcile any image of Moriarty with any she’s already forged.
“I mean,” Watson pulls her wrist away, needs the clarity of her physical absence to continue, “what is this? This—” she flings her arms up, frustrated, “is any of this real? Am I another game? Were you just angry that I beat you and now you need this—this sick twisted need of revenge, so you’re being grossly charming, with all these books everywhere, and you read everything, my God, you remind me just like him.” Watson runs a hand through her hair, and when she looks up, Moriarty has a cool look on her face, unbothered, almost bored.
“Are you done, dear?”
Watson sighs, nods, understands her outburst as a result of frustration and confusion.
“Well, then, allow me to explain.” Moriarty grabs at her wrist again. “The only lie I have presented you is Irene—and even parts of her are true. Could have been true in another time, perhaps, but a lie nonetheless. But my dear Watson, it was not a lie for you—but even then, you cracked it.” Moriarty looks proud, partly in awe, “How is it, Watson, that an ex-surgeon could unravel the threads of a criminal mastermind? Could actually succeed in dismantling my empire?”
Watson suppresses a shiver when Moriarty trails her finger down her forearm.
“You’re like,” Moriarty stumbles, and Watson has never seen this from her, words paused in a search because Moriarty had always been an endless seem of fluidity, of confidence built from assurance, and this Moriarty is stumbling. “You’re like—”
Waterloo, Watson thinks, but Moriarty says, “A queen, a goddess.”
“We’ve got to stop this,” Watson whispers, when Moriarty’s got her pushed up against the wall, a thigh between her legs.
“Stop what, dear?” she mumbles into her kisses.
Watson thinks of spilled paint and broken canvases, of passion exploding into color—and says, “Nothing—nevermind.”