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The Empty Rooms of 221B Baker Street

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There was a strange and unsettling finality to the sound of the door of 221B Baker Street slamming shut. It wasn’t the first time the residents had argued, not by a long shot. And it wasn’t the first time one had stormed out in a fit of potentially misplaced rage, but it was the first time the words “I don’t need you!” had left the mouth of London’s only Consulting Detective and Chief Arsehole. And it was certainly the first time his assistant had left the house without her coat, keys, or mobile phone. It would only be later that either of them realized this, or cared to do anything about it. Frustrated and feeling very unwelcome in the flat, John Watson had simply…left.

 

As she walked down Baker Street, going in no particular direction with no particular destination in mind, she refused to look back at the windows. She knew damn well Sherlock Holmes was standing there, watching her walk away and waiting for her to turn back. Every time they fought over something, if it was an experiment she’d come upon in a place it didn’t necessarily need to be or found something in the fridge beyond its use, or something he had taken of hers without asking, or…well, any number of things; she always looked over her shoulder as she walked away. It was kind of her subconscious way of letting him know she was coming back later. But she didn’t look back this time, and she wasn’t in a hurry to go back to that, anyway.

 

At least they hadn’t disturbed Mrs Hudson, who was out of town visiting her sister. Mrs Turner would probably have plenty to say about it when Mrs Hudson got back, but she didn’t give a damn. With her hands in her pockets and her head down, John stormed the streets of London alone.

 

She wandered for hours, it seemed, blessing the weather for being kind to her for once. It was a nice day, not too cold and not too warm, no clouds or rain in sight, but there were people. Too many bloody people. After being jostled one time too many, John growled and took her hands out of her pockets, lifted her head, and squared her shoulders. She must have looked a bit of a fright, people were rather quick to get out of her way as she kept moving.

 

It was nearly noon when she finally took a minute to get her bearings. She stopped on a street corner and looked around. She knew every street in the bloody city no thanks to her reckless, selfish flat-mate, so…where the hell was she? Not anywhere near Baker Street, good riddance. John looked around, caught sight of the cameras on the adjacent building, and growled. Mycroft. Fucking nosy little shit. He’d probably been tracking her across the city for hours and giving his dear little brother updates.

 

Baring her teeth, she flipped off the camera and ducked around the corner. She only stopped walking when she reached a dead end. No big deal. Looking around, she spotted a nearby fire-escape and smirked. He may be the smartest man in the city, and definitely the smartest sociopath (though John was starting to think he was more of a psychopath than she’d given him credit for), but she had to give Sherlock credit for teaching her clever ways of getting around the city. Climbing the fire-escape, she took to the rooftops and just…ran.

Finally, she was forced to ground again and stepped out onto the pavement brushing off her jumper. It was colder now than when she had left the house, and she had stupidly left her coat back at Baker Street. She didn’t have her phone or her keys, either. Not that she cared. She hated her phone, it was a hand-me-down from her brother anyway, and she didn’t care about the keys, but she did wish for her coat. What she did have, because God forbid she ever leave the house without it, was her SIG L105A1. Last time she’d left it at home, she’d gotten back from errands to find Sherlock shooting holes in the wall with it. Out of boredom, he’d said.

Ever since, she had never left the house without it. So, when she heard a soft scrape behind her as she stood in a CCTV blind-spot, she reacted with speed gained from experience and hours of training. She wasn’t technically the shoot first ask later sort, but she wasn’t above pulling the trigger first.

“Oh, you don’t need that, dear.” Her company, as unwanted as Sherlock, just grinned at her and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender and good-will, “I’m not here for trouble.”

“Jesus Christ.” She let out a slow, sharp breath, “Mr Moriarty.” And it was. Standing at the head of the alleyway, dressed immaculately as always, was James Richard Moriarty. Not the worst of men but certainly a clever criminal, and far smarter than people gave him credit for.

“What the hell are you doing in this part of town?” She lowered her gun.

“I imagine I have more legitimate business here than you do, love.” He took two steps towards her, gauging her state of mind. She was too tired and too cold to threaten him, and honestly, she was glad to see him. Glad? To see Moriarty? The man who, not two weeks ago, had kidnapped her off the street in front of Baker Street, drugged her, tied her up, and used her as bait to lure Sherlock in a mad game of wits?

She still remembered the weight of the bomb-vest, the dread, the utter fear, wondering if Sherlock would even show up. He’d shown up, alright, with a dud copy of the missile plans in hand. When John had emerged to confront him, Moriarty’s words in her mouth, he had been momentarily confused, betrayed even. He’d honestly thought she was Moriarty. For one split second, he’d thought John was Moriarty.

That moment had presented a turning point in their relationship, and it hadn’t been a very good one. Getting out of the pool-deck alive and unharmed had been a relief, but now…no, she wasn’t thinking about it right now. Not the way Sherlock had treated her like she didn’t matter, belittling her work (both on the blog and at the clinic), insulting her not-insignificant intelligence, leaving her out of case-work or leaving out details he thought she didn’t need to know. When she tried to protect him, he pushed her away. When she tried to take care of him, he pushed her away. It was awful, it hurt, and she had no one to talk to, no one to turn to for help. Lestrade tried, but he was in Sherlock’s camp and turned out to be good for little more than empty platitudes and too many pints. And she knew that anything she said to him wasn’t sacred. So she didn’t…Jesus.

John wasn’t aware of anything until she found herself sitting on the cold, damp ground with her back to the wall. She’d lost her footing and slid to the ground. She was aware of something landing on her shoulders, something warm, and raised her head. It was a coat, a rather nice one. Moriarty? Oh, right. He was still standing there. He’d…given her his coat? Why? She leaned her head back and looked up.

He was rather handsome, she thought blearily, in a way Sherlock wasn’t. He wasn’t tall, or skinny, but he was…the right size, she thought. Just a few inches taller than she made taller still by the slight heel of his shoes, still slim but not cadaverously skinny, and not as pale as Sherlock. His eyes were a rich, pretty brown that had just as much character as Sherlock’s, which nine times out of ten couldn’t fucking make up their minds and were awfully cold. His hair was soft, shorter, cut long in the fringe but kept neat. Almost military neat. His clothes were carefully chosen, still cost more than anything in her pitiful wardrobe, and gave him a subtly sinister air.

It was his personality, too. He could get whatever he wanted, through force or negotiation. She remembered the sweet, slightly-clumsy man she had met at Saint Bart’s during The Great Game, and how shocked she’d been when she learned that soft-spoken, giggly Jim From IT was not who he seemed.

Now, to be fair, John thrived on danger and adrenaline rush, this was no secret, and she had kind of enjoyed the game; at least until she was one of the pawns. Then it hadn’t been so much fun and she’d kind of lost her touch after that.

She was aware of careful hands prying the SIG out of her grasp and she heard the click as he ejected the clip and the chambered round, pocketing both before he tucked the gun into a holster hidden in his waistband. She caught a glimpse of another gun, knew he wouldn’t travel unarmed. But she didn’t feel threatened. For some reason.

“What the hell are you doing out here, Doctor Watson?” He crouched before her, holding her hands between his, “How long have you been out here?”

“I’d be Anderson’s idiot if you didn’t know.” She sniffed, “You’ve as many cameras as Mycroft Holmes.”

“But I wasn’t tracking you. I wasn’t even looking for you.” He rubbed her hands, “You don’t even have your phone, love.” There it was again, that “love”. It sounded nice in his native accent. She liked his accent, she decided.

“No coat. No keys. No phone. You could disappear and no one would ever know the difference!”

“No one would care.” She spat, “Did you at least see me leave Baker Street?”

“No?” He pulled her to her feet, but her legs didn’t work suddenly. “What happened at Baker Street? You weren’t…ah.” He made a soft sound. “You were kicked out, weren’t you?”

“Both. Get me up.”

“A moment, love.” He turned and looked over his shoulder, “Seb! Get your arse over here!”

“Coming!” A moment later, another man appeared. He wore black tactical fatigues and a drop-holster on his leg with an L105A1 tucked into it. She saw a couple of knives and loaded magazines on the duty-belt. He took one look at John and both eyebrows went up. “Bloody hell! Doctor Watson?”

“Get her up, and get her to the car. Don’t ask questions.”

“Jesus! Missed at Baker Street yet?”

“Not yet. This place would be crawling with spooks if she was.” Between the two of them, they got John to her feet and tucked into the idling car. She slowly she came to her senses as they left behind wherever they had been. Somewhere in Brixton, of all places.

It was a quiet drive from Brixton, she didn’t feel threatened.

“Where are we going?”

“Can you trust me?”

“Should I trust you?” She shrugged off the blankets. “I let you take my gun. Why did I let you take my gun? You…”

“At the moment, I don’t pose a threat to you.” He watched her, “You’re not asking any questions.”

“You caught me at a bad time.” She rubbed her forehead, “A really bad time.”

“Cameras caught you leaving Baker Street without your coat, keys, or your mobile phone.” He folded his arms and looked at her.

“Yeah, well.”

“I knew you were smart, the first time we met. Smarter than that silly Holmes. This?” A gesture at the car, at their current situation, “This was not smart. At all.”

“You didn’t even look at me, you didn’t give me the time of day. I was no one to you.” She narrowed her eyes. “You didn’t care about me until I was useful.”

“You surprised me that day.” He smiled, “You were smarter than the others. There was no begging, no pleading for mercy, no crying. You were calm, frightened, and in control. But…” Something occurred to him and his eyes widened, “Oh my god.”

“Sherlock thought I was you.” John refused to cry, “For approximately two minutes, he thought I was Moriarty. He had no idea about any of it.”

“You let him keep thinking that.”

“You try talking sense into him some time.” She looked at him for a minute, then leaned her head back.

“I feel like I should have packed some clothes or something before I stormed out of there. I really don’t want to go back to Baker Street right now.”

“You are amazing. Does he know how lucky he is to have your loyalty?” He leaned across the space between them, resting one hand on her knee. It was unexpected and unsolicited, but she didn’t mind as much as she knew she should. 

“You do everything for him, without question, without asking for anything in return. Shelter, perhaps, somewhere to lay your head a few hours at odd times.”

“Desperate times, desperate measures. It’s kind of hard to make ends meet when you’ve had a fucking hole blown through your life and you can’t even do the job you went to school for or the one you spent nearly two decades doing.” She shook her head, “Y’know, not forty-eight hours before I heard your name the first time, I’d put my gun in my mouth?”

“Yes. I know.” His smile softened, “I’ve watched you far longer than Mycroft Holmes has. I knew who you were that day.”

“You were testing us.” She couldn’t be mad at him.

“And you passed with flying colours, love.” Again with the endearment. Was he aware of doing it?

She was aware of the car slowing and coming to a stop, and she looked out the window.

“We’d better not be at Baker Street.”

“Oh, no. We’re taking care of some practical matters.” He grinned and Moriarty’s driver/henchman/bodyguard was holding the door for her. She climbed out of the car and looked around. They were still in London, at one of the stores that dealt in electronics.

“Uh, what…what are we…?”

“Come along, lovely!” He went into the store ahead of her, whistling a cheerful ditty. Well, she was about to get a new phone. And she could choose hers this time! Thank bleeding Christ! Shrugging, she went into the store.

She had forgotten everything else, but she did have her wallet. She made sure she had the proper card, it was right where she’d kept it. There were secret compartments in her wallet, one of them contained a specific card Sherlock knew nothing about, and he had stolen her wallet many, many times. She had her i.d. cards, her Oyster card, an appointment reminder, a ticket-stub from something, a couple of receipts, and her secret cards. Her cash and bank card were both missing. Well, that was fine. She knew what to do with that.

But it looked like Sherlock had left her a little gift. She tugged the tracking device free and looked at it. Sticking it in her pocket for the moment, she caught up with Moriarty, who was speaking to one of the sales associates, who wore a vaguely frightened expression.

“Well, that’s a look.” He had noticed John’s expression, “Everything alright, my dear?”

“I need to put a hold on some of my bank accounts and freeze my cards.” She showed him the empty wallet, “My flat-made had sticky fingers.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Don’t worry. He didn’t find this one.” She flashed the secret card, “And he has no idea this account even exists. It’s my money, I just don’t do anything with it.”

“Oh, you clever little thing.” Moriarty chuckled, “I like you. Well, after you!” She explored the wares, played around with different models, and finally settled on a BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100. Her only regret was not having her SIM-card. There weren’t many numbers on it, and really, she didn’t have anyone on that card just at the moment that she really felt like talking to.

As she was settling the bill, she heard Moriarty make some discontent noise behind her and raised an eyebrow.

“I thought Sherlock was the only person who made that noise.” She finished what she was doing and smiled at the helpful, timid clerk who had taken care of them.

“Thank you.”

“Yes, ma’am. Have a pleasant afternoon.” The girl smiled shyly and looked at Moriarty, eyes wide. She probably had no idea who he was, but she knew he was bad business if he was angry.

Whatever it was, Moriarty was not pleased. She snickered and dug into her wallet for something. A little memento from The Great Game. God alone knew why she’d kept it, but she still had the card Moriarty had originally left for Sherlock that day at Saint Bart’s with his number and a handwritten note to “call me!”. So, with her new phone set up and functional, she entered his number into her address-book and sent him a text.

 

Smile! ;) – J

 

She was halfway out the door as his phone chimed, distracting him for a minute, and she giggled as his outburst followed her out.

“What in the…what is this!”

“I thought my flat-mate was the only person who made that noise! Can’t be all that bad, can it? Come on, lad, smile a bit!” She popped her head back through the door and wondered how much trouble she was in for baiting him like that.

“That was gutsy of you.” Seb, whoever he really was, stood at parade-rest to her left by the car, having elected to wait outside while John and Moriarty went into the shop together. She turned and looked at him more closely.

Former military, like herself. Ex-Special Forces, she’d bet, with that bearing. He knew his business, six ways around a gun, and twelve ways to maim and/or kill, six of them subtle. Master marksman, sniper, top of his class, definitely knew his business and exactly where his loyalties lay. He was about Sherlock’s height, but much broader, tanned from service in the Middle East and in the tropics, scarred from the same, auburn hair cut close but a bit longer than regulation, and eyes that reminded her a bit of sea-glass in colour. He looked very familiar. As they waited for Moriarty to come out, she joined him by the car.

“I know you from somewhere.” She said quietly, “I know you. Your name escapes me, but…”

“Where would you know Seb from? No one knows him.” This was from Moriarty, who had come out finally, catching the last of that conversation.

“Service, I think. That’s all I can think of. But the when escapes me. You were Special Forces. One of mine, then. Above me in rank, if I had to guess.” She kicked the hubcap, looking up at the sky. She took the opportunity to drop the tracking device from her wallet and destroy it under her heel. She kicked the remains under the tyre and knew the rest of it would be taken care of when they pulled out.

“You were…”

“Didn’t look through all of my records, did you?” John looked sidelong at Moriarty, who studied her with new interest, “I’ve got a couple of things on my records I’m not terribly proud of. Where do you think the secret fund came from? I make a pittance on clinic-hours, my pension goes to rent, and not a dime from the work I do at Baker Street. I have plenty secreted away for any needs I may have.”

“Oh, you’re one of those soldiers! Oh, I like you more! You clever, sneaky, deadly girl!” Moriarty grinned, that sly smile she’d seen at the pool. But it didn’t scare her this time.

“Targeted hits?”

“Who would expect someone who looks like me to be an assassin? Whatever it was, I did the job. Clean kill, or otherwise. I’ve got morals, but not strict ones. The military kept me busy until some Taliban sniper took my livelihood and my everything else.”

“If I remember that day, Captain, you took a bullet to the shoulder and kept fighting, kept standing.” Seb was grinning, “Fought until your ammo ran out. And when that failed you, bare hands and a couple of carefully-aimed rocks. You looked like death warmed over by the time we found you.”

“Which, if I recall right, was about six months later.” She rocked on her heels. Now she remembered. It was service, all right. Sebastian Moran had been one of the people to pull her out of Afghanistan.

“You told me I looked like shite, and I asked what the fuck had taken you six months.”

“You were a prisoner of war!”

“Yes, I was.” She rubbed her shoulder, “And they were very nice to the Western doctor. Kept me alive so I could keep them alive, moved me every couple of weeks.”

“Seb!”

“Oh, calm down, Boss. Your little soldier made them pay.” Seb was smart enough not to laugh at Moriarty, but damn it was close. “We, uh, found her in a rather interesting position.”

“Alive?”

“Conscious, even. Lucky us.”

“Thank Christ.”

“Sly little minx had stolen a key-ring during a fight between the guards, the place was pretty sparely kept for what it was, and let herself out the next night. She had a stolen pistol, hers, I think, a couple of knives, an American AK-47, and stolen clothes. We found her fifteen miles down the road from the place.”

“You walked out of captivity, under your own power, and left…how many alive?”

“None. Seb and a group of searchers found me with a truck and a chopper walking down the middle of the road. Initial reports had cleared the base as abandoned, any left were dead before our lot showed up.” She leaned over and poked at her former commanding officer, “I was mad as hell when I heard what they’d done to you. That was all kinds of wrong-doing.”

“All water under bridges burned, sweetie.” Seb just shrugged, “Don’t worry about me, lovely.”

“Guess not. So, what, you run after this cute bastard now?” She hitched a thumb at Moriarty, who looked at his phone, then at the two of them, and tried to decide if he should be upset by this or not.

“Try to keep him straight. More worried about you, though. You can do so much better. Deserve so much better.”

“Yeah, I know. But what can you do about it?” She checked her phone for messages, out of reflex, and made a face. There were none, of course, none from Sherlock. He didn’t know she’d replaced her phone yet, he would eventually, and so he hadn’t blown up her phone with text messages. Thank god.

“So, back to business. What the hell had you all mad back there, sir?” She looked at Moriarty, “I honestly thought Sherlock was the only person who made that kind of noise, and that’s when he has to deal with Greg Lestrade’s idiots. Lestrade, I like, he’s smart. He’s nice, and deserves better than his current. His team, on the other hand, can all burn in hell. Special circles for that lot.”

“No, I forgot…I had a dinner engagement tonight.”

“Oh?”

“Rather important one, to be honest. I am not looking forward to it at all.”

“Why not?”

“People.”

“What kind of people?”

“Important people.”

“So, what’s the problem? You can do whatever you want.”

“Not this time.” Seb leaned over with a stage-whisper, “Bad luck for him.”

“Seb!”

“Would he kill me if I said it out loud?” John didn’t miss the adorable blush that turned his face red.

“Depends.”

“He’s cute when he blushes like that. Would that get me killed?”

“Mm, not sure. Most people call him cute don’t really get away with it.”

“Pity. But, I can be nice.” She leaned against the car, “What’s the problem with this dinner party you’re obligated to go to? Family affair or something?”

“Yes.”

“Yikes.” She made a face, “Parents? Grandparents?”

“Mother.”

“Well, at least yours is still alive.” John cleared her throat, “And not…”

“We know, Jack.” Seb put a steadying hand on her shoulder, “We know.”

“My mother expects me to make an appearance at her birthday dinner.” Moriarty hissed, “And she thinks I have a girlfriend!”

“Well, to be fair, you had a girlfriend a few weeks ago.” John remembered what she’d seen at Saint Bart’s that once, “Don’t tell me Molly Hooper dumped you?”

“She was not very kind about it, either.”

“It might have been for show, but…damn! You don’t do that to someone!” John shook her head, disgusted, “And she’s falling over herself about Sherlock Holmes. She can have that bastard for all I care.”

“He hurt you, didn’t he?”

“Said he didn’t need someone like me. Hasn’t trusted me since that night. Keeps me off of cases, won’t talk to me at all most of the time.”

“Selfish prick,” Seb muttered.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“You can do so much better.”

“Where do I even start?”

“Disappear for a while.” A simple suggestion. Simple in practice, maybe not in execution.

“How?”

“Come with me.” The door of the car opened and he got in, she followed him in. It was barely two.

“So, where are we going?”

“Back to mine to regroup. You wouldn’t have anything suitable to wear to a dinner party, would you?”

“Not…specifically. I mean, the nicest clothes I own are my dress-uniforms. I’m not sure if that’s really appropriate.” She felt bad for leaving all of her gear behind, she really didn’t want it getting trashed by Sherlock.

“Seb?”

“Sir.” Without missing a beat, Seb handed back a tablet. Moriarty reached for it, but John got to it first. Ignoring him, she swiped into it, worked out the passcode, and found what he might need. It was an app that showed CCTV footage from cameras all over London.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for someone. Stop it.” She pushed his hand out of the way, “Hang on. So…here’s Baker Street. Looks empty.” She narrowed her eyes and flipped through the cameras. Three in the sitting-room, two in the kitchen, one in the hallway going up, one in the entrance hall, and one, she noticed, in her bedroom.

“Pervert.” She muttered. He had the grace to blush but didn’t deny anything. Reviewing footage, she saw that Sherlock had left the flat about an hour ago, left in a bit of a hurry. Thinking on something, John pulled up a website on the tablet and waited for it to boot. Entering the information, she got a very quick ping-back and triangulated the location of the subject, then she pulled up the involved CCTV cameras.

“Ah hah, there he is. Busy with The Met.” She picked out Sherlock and Lestrade, and a couple of the others. It looked like a juicy one, and she didn’t feel bad for missing it at all. He’d be gone for hours, at this rate. Fine.

“Seb?”

“Yes’m?”            

“Baker Street, please.”

“You got it, Captain.” She swore he smiled, but didn’t care much. At least Sherlock wasn’t around right now.

 

When they got back to Baker Street, she broke into the house and packed up her laptop and charger, left her old phone where it was after taking the SIM card, and packed up a few things. John didn’t really have much, having lived sparely for so many years. She packed a work-bag for her laptop, a few days worth of clothes, a few books, and garment-bags for her dress uniforms. Her fatigues were packed in a rucksack and there was a footlocker full of gear that she would be taking out. She wasn’t keeping her gear at Baker Street any longer.

“Is this all you own?” Moriarty looked up from loading her first load into the boot of the car. “I thought you’d have more.”

“This isn’t all of it. I kind of kept to myself in there, kept to my room.” She looked up at the dark windows, “I just packed a few days of regular clothes and all of my Army gear. I’ll move the rest out later if I need to.” Slamming the boot, she got into the car and did not look back as they pulled away. She hadn’t looked back that morning, she didn’t look back now.