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A Christmas Kidnapping

Chapter Text

The nightclub was throbbing with voluptuous Latino beats, the shrill cries of the frenzied dancers on the floor and the loud chatter of the patrons thronging around the bar. Amongst a largely twenty-something and thirty-something crowd one man stood out. Six and half feet tall, all rippling muscles and the perfect V structure with broad shoulders, narrow hips and long, lean legs, blond mane he wore short and close cropped at the back and slightly long, with bangs in front, he was a devilishly handsome man in his early thirties and clearly someone most women and a few men dreamt of ending that night with.

 

He was also his own man. Slightly drunk, ass slapping a few sluts who threw themselves at him, glaring at any man who dared come in his path, he finished a dart game and collected a sheaf of notes because he had made wagers with several others. Happy to have earned a wad of cash, he walked out the back door to the alley where the smokers took a few puffs before heading back inside.

 

Once there, he counted the notes, snickered loudly to himself and pocketed the money. Then he lit up one of his Marlboros, using a Jim Beam lighter and took a few drags in. Electric blue eyes fixed on the wall opposite him, he leaned on the outer wall of the nightclub with one leg up and cutting a dashing, mysterious figure in the semi darkness of the narrow lane. Three men and a woman were smoking there and as soon as they left, the woman stealing a glance at him, six men suddenly appeared from nowhere. The blond man remained unaffected, blowing out ring after ring of smoke.

 

“Colonel Sebastian Augustus Moran?”

 

“Nope, I don’t think I raped your sister, slept with your mother or scorned your brother.”

 

The booming, deep voice echoed across the alley. The six men looked at each other, stunned. Not only was this man least bothered about the threat staring him openly in the face, he was actually mocking them as if he had the upper hand.

 

“Motor mouth eh?” One of them stepped forward, another one close behind.

 

“Seems someone needs to be taught how to shut their mouths.”

 

Before anyone could react, two cracking sounds took them by surprise as Sebastian tackled the first two men and sent them flying. They landed on their backs a few feet away, both of them yowling from the broken bones in their arms. The other four, cautiously approached Sebastian, expecting him to take them on one by one. But the mountain of a man handled them all at the same time and for the next several seconds all that could be heard were grunting noises, pained yelps and the dull thudding sounds of bodies hitting the wall or the ground. Sebastian took a grand total of fifty-five seconds to reduce the six goons to moaning mass of bodies piled up on the ground before he produced a bottle of mineral water from the pocket of his jacket and drank from it.

 

“Ahhhhh,” he grinned at the bottle, “I was thirsty.”

 

Suddenly he heard more footsteps and looked at the end of the alley where someone had shone a flashlight, hitting him directly on the eyes. As a result he couldn’t see the faces of the men behind that light but he could make out one prominent figure, followed by three more men behind him. Sebastian took off his jacket, ready to fight some more, when the man in front spoke. “Colonel Moran, please don’t even try to fight us off. We aren’t like them.” He pointed to the ground as he walked closer and this time Sebastian could see his face partially. “These three men are armed and while you’re remarkable at hand to hand combat, you cannot dodge several bullets at the same time.”

 

Sebastian snorted, “If you had to shoot me, I would be dead by now.”

 

“Clever man you are. The famous and infamous Sebastian Augustus Moran!”

 

“Who’s asking?”

 

“George. George McKenna. You can call me Georgie.”

 

“American werewolf in London?”

 

The man touched his mustache and grinned, his face now fully visible, “I like your sense of humor.”

 

“I’d appreciate being told the purpose of your visit. My sense of humor doesn’t last too long if I am pushed beyond a limit.”

 

“Shall we go sit at a quieter pub down the street? Eddie’s?”

 

“Work?”

 

“Yes, with the sort of payment that will keep you off the streets for years to come.”

 

“I am not exactly on the streets but yeah, I could listen to you if that involves a new job offer.”

 

***

 

The 3 men who were with George had chosen to stay outside. This was going to be a 1-1 talk.

 

Sebastian ordered the best whisky when George offered to pay and a mixed meat platter along with it. He dug in the moment the food was served and kept sipping his whiskey while George sat with a beer and a small salad. He was a small-built man with a walrus mustache and bright green eyes.

 

“So, the job is dangerous but I am sure you have seen enough danger in your lifetime to consider yourself a pro in handling them,” George began half-way through their meal, placing a mid-size duffel bag on the chair between them, “The payment is extraordinary, in fact one that could be your retirement plan. One million dollars in cash, upfront. Another million when half the job is done. A further three million once the whole assignment is over and we have what we want. No haggling about payment, no delays, everything happens on schedule as long as you deliver per promise. I have the one million cash, hard cash, with me right now. All you have to do is say yes and the show is on.”

 

Sebastian thought for a moment. He was in need for money. After being disowned by his father and dishonorably discharged from the military, he had no pension, no inheritance and very meagre savings. Hailing from a wealthy family, he had always spent like a spendthrift and never saved much so whatever he had was exhausted when he bought a one bedroom flat in the outskirts of London. He could have bought a flat in a remoter area but the work he did was mostly in London, so he had to stay there.

 

He was not destitute. He had nice clothes but not too many of them. He had enough to eat but he had to mostly earn his drinks by playing card games, win wagers on dart games and snooker. He had loans. He needed to buy a car. He needed more furniture. He needed to buy a better health insurance. But more than any of that he needed his dignity back. He wanted to write books, he wanted to start a shooting range, he wanted to train young shooters to win Olympic medals, he wanted to only do big jobs and not small pesky tasks like threatening a family, evicting a bachelor from a property, killing some small time criminal because of unpaid sums.

 

“What are you thinking colonel?” George asked, “I know you earn about three hundred a day, at the most, sometimes only a hundred. Not enough for someone like you. Government and government patronized agencies won’t hire you as a sniper because of your discharge from the army and crime bosses won’t do so because they are scared of the Spider.”

 

Sebastian had to admit the very mention of ‘Spider’ made even his heart skip a beat.

 

The Spider, notorious criminal mastermind, the unseen and unknown devil in the flesh, the Napoleon of crime whose tentacles reached out to all corners of the globe and whose fear sat tight in the hearts and minds of even the most powerful criminals, governments and leaders.

 

Sebastian couldn’t help but ask a question. “What makes you think a big man like The Spider considers me important enough to stop others from giving me work?”

 

“Because we know. We have been told. Why else are you not getting real assignments?”

 

Deep down Sebastian knew that was the truth. He had been pretty surprised that no gang or gang lord had offered him a single stakeout as a sniper, and he had waited for not one or two months but for the past year and half he had spent in London looking for work. So now he knew the reason. “So,” he didn’t want to dwell on a disadvantage, “What makes you offer me work and inviting the wrath of the Spider?”

 

“You aren’t being offered a sniper’s job,” George answered, downing the last of his beer and asking for the cheque, “Since you were an ace sniper with your regiment, possibly the best in the world, the restriction imposed by the Spider is that you won’t be hired as a sniper, nor can anyone recruit you as their regular lieutenant. So we are not doing either of that. This job is different and, if I may add, a bit complicated. You need to abduct a young businessman and keep him in your custody for at least three to four weeks. But he shouldn’t be harmed nor can he be allowed any self-harm, he absolutely must not escape, nor should a single soul get to know who he is and where he’s been hidden. As I said, one million today, one million when you show proof he’s kidnapped and in your custody, then three more at the end of the month.”

 

“Do I have to kill him by the end of the month?”

 

“Would that be a problem?”

 

“No. But tell me now if this involves a murder.”

 

“It might be, but I can’t confirm right away.”

 

“So, who is this man?”

 

“He is a billionaire businessman with a net worth of 5.8 billion. I speak in dollars of course, so in pounds it will be a little less. A simple case of extortion and some favors we’d need from him, if he and his people agree then he goes free and if not, his corpse will be displayed for the world to see, so no one else can ever turn down a ransom demanded in future. We shall make an example out of him.”

 

“I agree.”

 

“Few conditions. You won’t try to find out the details of this abduction and what goes on behind the scenes. Neither will you try to reach out to us. We will reach out to you. If you need supplies, we shall provide you with them. You will have exactly one week to study his movements, where he goes, what he does, so you can abduct him at a point where he’s the least guarded. Of course, we shall provide you with some details, videos etc. from our side.”

 

“I am only interested in my payment. I don’t care if you ask for a king’s ransom and give me only a fraction of it. Neither do I care what sort of favors this person will be asked for. My job is restricted to one aspect of this whole operation, the abduction and keeping him safe in my custody, and I will do my job. But I have a few conditions from my side as well, which you need to agree on.”

 

“Name them.”

 

“I need a cell phone with a number that cannot be traced. I need guns that are not in anyone’s name. I need some equipment to keep an eye on him, like close circuit cameras etc. I can set them all up by myself, so no help needed. I like to operate alone so nobody else from your gang will be anywhere around me. The venue where he will be kept will be my choice and it’s also my insurance, therefore if you try to tail me or put any surveillance on me, I will simply let him go. Or maybe I will kill your golden goose. I have ways and means to find out if someone is spying on me so don’t even try to say yes now and break that promise later.”

 

“In our line of work, we are honestly dishonest. We might do illegal work but we are very particular about keeping our hands clean and making a promise only when we know we can keep it. That’s how we all survive and stay safe, that’s how we have each other’s backs. So no one will dare to tail you and if you feel so at any point, let me know and that person will be removed from the face of the earth like a spec of dirt from linen.”

 

“Good. Now who is this person whose life is about to turn upside down over the next few weeks?”

 

“His name is James Brooke.”

 

***

 

Sebastian stared at the pictures.

 

He had put them up on his wall, along with other details related to the man and the job, and noted down his plan in a diary, adding and modifying as required, putting together Plan B’s and more as safety measures and insurance. But those pictures kept distracting him.

 

He knew he had to remain professional, he had learned it the hard way while in the army that one must never let personal intent or emotions interfere in work, but somehow this man was dragging him away from his firm resolve. James Brooke was his age, perhaps slightly younger, with dark eyes and glossy hair, a boyish handsome face, a cute smile, skin that glowed with youthful vitality, eyes that twinkled with naughty promises, and a slender build that reminded him of a performing trapeze artist. Small, light, easy to horse around with, lithe, flexible, he could be such a wild cat in bed…..

 

“NO,” he shouted.

 

Then he realized he was alone in his flat and talking to himself. Lowering his voice he repeated, “No, please, don’t make that mistake. This man is your meal ticket for the rest of your life. He isn’t someone you should fall for, even if it’s a simple innocuous crush.”

 

Such seemingly innocuous crushes had ruined him earlier. He would be damned if he let that happen to him again.

 

He studied the man’s daily routine and whereabouts, his habits, his company, placed he frequented, things he did, and a plan formed in his head. James Brooke’s daily routine was like clockwork, he woke at seven am, left the house at eight for work, reached work at eight-forty-five. He had lunch with clients, associates or colleagues at one of the three favorite joints close to his office, at the stroke of one pm. At four pm he went to the Four Seasons where he utilized the services of their gym and pool. He was back at work at six, sipping a protein shake on the way back in his luxury limousine, and stayed at work till eight. He had dinner at nine, by himself, in his palatial Hyde Park mansion. Then he watched films or listened to music for a while. Then he worked on his passion, math, solving complex problems and playing with a thousand different formulae. Bedtime was at twelve.

 

He travelled half the month so Sebastian had only two weeks as a window.

 

“Not the weekdays,” the ace sniper murmured, “He has bodyguards with him round the clock. Too many others. Car is bullet proof. Home and office are inaccessible.”

 

He looked at the weekend routine and smiled.

 

“Yes, Sunday morning. He always goes for a jog and there is one spot where he cannot be watched. The tunnel between the Myers building and Aquafina Shopping Complex. I have twenty-seven seconds there. Or I could target the half hour he spends in that little office of his after the jog. Conduit Street. Hmmm, I need to drop a red herring and then act on a real abduction plan within half hour, distracting his security team with the first move for long enough to execute the real abduction.”

 

He had found the perfect place to hide this man.

 

Scotland. A small village near the beautiful Loch Ness on the Highlands. Too obscure, too peaceful and too far away from London. The journey to that place would have to happen by road and he would need to keep the captive at bay, either with threats or with medication.

 

He’d try talking to him first. If the man was obedient, compliant and could hold his nerves together, maybe he’d neither need to threaten nor incapacitate him.

 

“Shut up Sebastian,” he berated himself, “Since when have you started worrying about a stranger you’re supposed to abduct? Threaten, medicate, do whatever the fuck you can. If you feel bad, just look at that one million bucks sitting on your table right now.”

Chapter Text

James Richard Brooke entered the tunnel between the two buildings, temporarily hidden from the eyes of his security team which watched over him round the clock like a bunch of hawks. They were paid very well to do that and since he hired only the best, his safety was always guaranteed. The tunnel was a private path and not accessible to anyone other than residents of the first building and some senior staff from the second. Each and every one of those folks had been carefully researched by his security firm and none of them posed a threat.

 

The tunnel had only one entrance and exit, both security controlled, hence no one could enter or exit it without proper validation and access code.

 

For years the man had been using that path to jog from his Hyde Park mansion to his Conduit Street flat and nothing had ever gone wrong. But that Sunday morning, December 02nd, a weird event occurred. The security personnel monitoring the screen gasped in unison when a whole minute passed and James Brooke did not exit the tunnel. Immediately a team was dispatched to check the tunnel to ensure the man was not in trouble. No one else had entered the tunnel for the past half hour and the space was reported empty only five minutes ago. “It could be a health problem or an injury,” one of the senior security officers said, “He might have pulled a calf muscle or suddenly experienced giddiness due to a drop in his blood pressure. Let’s go and check right away. Block off both ends first.”

 

When the teams reached there in less than three minutes, they found no signs of James Brooke. But there was something else that made their eyebrows rise. A packing crate.

 

“It’s too heavy,” said one of the men as he tried to lift it, “It might have a body inside.”

 

“It could be Mr. Brooke,” said another bodyguard.

 

The large square-shaped wooden crate sat right in the middle of the tunnel path and was closed so tightly and with so many nails hammered into it that it took the ten odd men nearly twenty minutes to get it open. They had to do so gingerly because if their employer was stuffed inside, he could easily get hurt by a careless use of the pick-axe or the hammers they were using to open up the crate.

 

Inside they found the corpse of a fat old man.

 

“Fuck,” the chief bodyguard, a half-Portuguese named Malcolm Pereira snapped at the team, “This isn’t Mr. Brooke. This is a sort of an eyewash. Find Mr. Brooke now, ask the team that monitors his cell phone signals round the clock. See where he’s headed.”

 

“But how did someone get in here?”

 

“If Mr. Brooke isn’t here, did he simply disappear?”

 

“Don’t fuckin know. Trace his cell phone and send men to all the residences and office, NOW.”

 

“Boss, the other team said Mr. Brooke’s cell phone is switched off, no trace for 27 minutes.”

 

***

 

Sebastian thought of his handiwork and grinned, giving himself a pat on the back for his ingenuity. He had a bunch of grown men and women running helter-skelter trying to figure out where their boss, all the while as he was climbing the stairs to his Conduit Street flat. Those trained, experienced teams which did security, surveillance and private eye work for celebrities, politicians and the mega-wealthy, all outwitted by a simple trick of ‘illusion’, where people saw things happen just because things happened exactly the same way every time.

 

Five minutes before James Brooke jogged into the tunnel, Sebastian had collided with him and they had both paused to apologize to each other. Seizing that opportunity, Sebastian had muttered ‘The damn tunnel ahead is closed’ and jogged on. He had also flicked James’ phone.

 

James had never taken that tunnel route that day. He had skipped the ‘caution’ and neglected to inform his security team he was going to run around the buildings that morning rather than through them, like he always did. It would only take him five minutes on that detour, it was broad daylight and the place was teeming with people. What could go wrong? His confidence was clearly a mistake because he didn’t know that the man he’d bumped into was tailing him and, at some point, would go ahead of him and position himself in his Conduit Street flat.

 

Sebastian had picked up a strange pattern upon entering Conduit Street. The place looked normal if given a superficial glance but to an observant eye the anomalies were many. There were many cars parked there but all of them had special numbers, indicating that they belonged to one person. The houses had flower pots on the balconies but none had any clothes or a clothes horse outside on a sunny day. He could hear some sounds but all of them were sounds from televisions or radios or recording devices. Not humans talking, crying, laughing.

 

“He owns the entire fucking street!!!”

 

Sebastian had stopped and decided to disguise himself quickly in order to reach his destination without getting stopped or restrained. The last thing he wanted was to be picked up by the thirty odd employees of James Brooke who occupied a few of the sixteen semidetached and detached houses and the two high-rise apartment buildings there. But why? Why did they need to make the street look like a normal street while keeping only a handful of employees there to guard the area, make every house look ‘lived-in’, at least from the outside?

 

By the time he had broken into the four-bedroom duplex flat James Brooke occupied, he knew he had won. If he had managed to reach till this point, the rest of the abduction process would be a piece of cake.

 

***

 

“Are you sure you gave this assignment to the right person?”

 

“Oh yes boss, I am absolutely sure.”

 

“Georgie-Georgie-Georgie. You have always been an overconfident man who also occasionally fails to deliver. The only reason I tolerate you is because you are distantly related to me and I’d hate to say no to my mother, who still thinks I am into real estate business and you are just an accountant in my company. Anyways, this man has a history that goes against him. Drinking problem, serial womanizer, temper problems, frequent troublemaker at bars and pubs, kicked out of military where he served for almost ten years and rose with the rapidness of an eagle, only to fall crashing on his beak. Such a man is…..dependable?”

 

“Boss, all I can say is that he is bold and brash and will take chances many others won’t. And this job needs someone who can innovate, take risks, do all they can to keep it together.”

 

“Yeah, I believe so. But can this man do it? He killed his superior officer and half his unit. He has killed people with his bare hands in alleyways. What if he gets upset with our prized possession and puts a bullet through his skull?”

 

“Man of his words. He won’t. He will keep him safe till we have got the nine hundred million.”

 

“Shush, don’t say it aloud. We also need a code from him, remember?”

 

“Oh yes, for the Swiss bank vault where he’s kept that rare piece of art…..”

 

“Oh do shut up you loose cannon.”

 

“Sorry boss.”

 

“We need to finish this before the new year sets in. I have committed to someone too Georgie and that party won’t listen to a ‘no’, nor will they be agreeable to giving us even a day extra.”

 

“Um….boss, what if the Spider learns who we have employed? I know he’s not employed as a sniper, nor is he on our regular rolls, but still we have paid him to work for us, haven’t we?”

 

“Oh I have thought about that too. That art work we are trying to get out of the vault in Zurich, that’s meant for him…. for the Almighty Spider, I mean. It’s a peace offering for him, you can call it a gift, and naturally this means the whole abduction plot becomes part of that ‘offering’ to our underworld ‘deity’. Sebastian Moran isn’t really working for us, he is working to lead us to the code which will allow us to lay our hands on an art work created by a Renaissance maestro. An art work the Spider also desires, so I have been told.”

 

***

 

James Brooke entered the flat and dropped the keys on to the outstretched hands of a woman’s statue right next to the door. It was the dancing figure of an Indian courtesan, made of solid silver and had cost him a fortune. But then whatever he owned came for a high price. He was James Richard Brooke, not some small fry. Even his private jet and his yacht were custom made and super-expensive.

 

With a sigh he wiped his face with a towel and headed straight for the kitchen when he drank from a carton of cold milk. Once done, he filled a glass of water and was almost done with it when he thought he heard a sound.

 

Curious, he went towards the room where the sound had come from and peered inside. Nope, no one was there! For a second he thought his housekeeper Lyla had arrived earlier than expected. Good that she didn’t because he needed to work for about half an hour. It was not advisable to have anyone around him while he worked here. Closing the door to that room he padded back to the kitchen with the empty glass in his hand, casually throwing open the curtains of the living room windows as he passed by them. A bowl of fresh fruits kept at the center of the kitchen table caught his eye. He loved apples.

 

He had just extended his hand towards one of the green ones when two strong hands grabbed him and a handkerchief doused in chloroform was pressed to his nose and mouth. James struggled and used all his known skills to wriggle out of that grasp but the man was way too strong and he couldn’t do much. He managed to ram him back against the fridge, tackled him down to the floor and even hit him on the face with a salt shaker he had managed to grab, but it was as if the assailant didn’t even feel the blows.

 

Eventually the oxygen drained from his lungs and he was forced to breathe in.

 

The fumes from the handkerchief went into his system and he slowly felt sluggish and sleepy. His eyelids drooped, his body sagged in his attacker’s grasp and his head lolled to one side. As he was gathered up in those strong arms, the room began to blur and fade from his view.

 

The glass dropped and broke into two pieces, right next to the spilled bronze container of salt.

 

The last thing he remembered was a pair of blue eyes staring at him. It was supposed to be a fierce, cruel gaze, or at least a curious and observant one, but he felt it was more of awe and admiration that were reflected off those close-set eyes with upturned lids.

 

‘You’ll be fine’

 

That deep voice poured into his ears like an avalanche of honeyed sweetness and he lost consciousness, the room finally fading to a deep purple-black.

 

***

 

Sebastian started the truck and drove out of Conduit Street slowly. He didn’t want to speed up, lest James’ team stationed there suspected any foul play. He was cruising along at a slow-to-comfortable 20 miles per hour when he heard a loud smack against the side of the truck, followed by a barked order of ‘Halt’.

 

Sebastian was immensely grateful that he had disguised himself as a West London Waste Authority worker because the man who had stopped him was a former Major of Her Majesty’s Services. He would have easily recognized Sebastian since they had once served in the same unit. “Why are you here at this hour?” The man, now a senior employee in a private security firm, asked him in an interrogating tone, “Aren’t you supposed to be here at eight am?”

 

Sebastian used his ‘disguised voice’, a harsh, grating, somewhat strained voice which spoke of an addiction or a lung-related infection, words interspersed with loud clearing of throat and multiple coughing fits. “I am doubling up for a colleague….*cough-cough-cough*…he informed last moment so…..*clears throat*…..I had to cover my area first and then show up h-here.” He paused and panted, trying to look age appropriate (he was portraying a man in his early sixties) and weak, before he added, “Have I done something……*cough* wrong son? Have you stopped me because I have entered some restricted area…….*cough-clears throat – cough* I didn’t know that I shouldn’t be here….”

 

“No, nothing wrong. Just wondering why you’re late.”

 

“I am *cough-cough* sorry about that. As I said……”

 

“It’s okay. Let me check your truck and you can move.”

 

Sebastian was fearing this. Though he had stolen one of the waste disposal trucks and incapacitated the driver and dumped him at the back, he hadn’t really found the time to load up the truck with waste and make it look realistic. If this fellow checked, he’d get caught.

 

“Hurry up old man,” the security officer barked.

 

Sebastian cursed under his breath and turned off the engine. He was about to get out of the truck and unlock the back when they heard several cars approaching and the former army major’s cell phone started ringing. The whole commotion caused the man to abruptly stop whatever he was doing and answer the call which, as Sebastian realized a moment later, was from the security firm’s top boss.

 

“Yes sir…..ohh, that is unfortunate, yes I shall go and check his flat right away……”

 

Without disconnecting, the man impatiently waved his arm at Sebastian and asked him to get the hell out of there. It was an order the former colonel gladly complied with and as his vehicles was taking a turn around the corner of the street, he spotted in his rear-view mirror at least half a dozen cars and SUVs land up on Conduit Street, laden with security personnel. Close on their heels were two police cars as well.

 

“Just in time,” Sebastian said, looking behind his seat where he had laid James Brooke out on the floor, covered with blankets and cushions, “Enjoy your nap Mr. Brooke.”

 

***

 

Sebastian drove till late afternoon and managed to get out of London safely and proceed towards Edinburgh by using a route nobody usually took because it was too long winded and broken in several places. He kept a steady but medium pace since leaving the city and finally arrived at the point where his real vehicle was waiting. It was a motorhome, a four berth 2.3 liter Serrano automatic, which Sebastian had purchased using the hard cash he had been given as advance. It had set him back by sixty-three thousand pounds but he intended to keep it for later, so he considered it a good buy.

 

He took a good look at the insides and smiled. Yes, perfect.

 

A fixed double bed at the rear, small closet and dresser made up the bedroom space, which was cordoned off from the rest of the vehicle by a sliding door and offered privacy. There was a separate shower, sink, toilet. The lounge area had a sofa that also doubled up as a pull-out bed, two cushy chairs, a coffee table, a refrigerator with separate fridge and freezer spaces, hob, grill, oven, sink, counter and luggage space. There was wi-fi and television, raised awning with skylights, air-conditioning and solar panels and a separate storage space (under the bedroom area) which was enough for at least ten suitcases, four humans or six bikes.

 

He carried James to the bedroom and laid him out gently on the bed. He cuffed him to a lever on the wall, cuffed his feet together and gagged him before going out to dispose of the truck he had borrowed. At the last moment he remembered there was a man inside it as well and, instead of pushing the truck off the edge of a hill, pushed it half into a small lake. He waited till the truck had stuck into a slot and was in no danger of sliding further into the waters, untied the still unconscious man’s hands and quickly got back into the motorhome.

 

He drove off, taking roundabouts and circles randomly to throw both men and dogs off the scent. He was sure the waste disposal worker would bring the cops back to this spot later.

 

Finally he was on his way. In three days he would be at his destination, deliberately taking a route nobody would ever search for. He didn’t plan to stay anywhere or stop at any place for meals, which was why he had chosen a motorhome. They’d cook, eat and sleep there.

 

It was nearly sunset when he heard the first noises from the captive and grinned, “He’s up!”

Chapter Text

The noises Sebastian heard were grunting, muted howls and angry growls, clearly coming through a gag. Knowing the man would be thirsty and hungry, he picked up two one-liter bottles of Evian water and a few fruits he had picked up from James’ own kitchen at the Conduit Street flat and opened the sliding door with his elbow.

 

A pair of dark eyes, their bottomless depths so inviting and alluring, glared at him with anger, disgust and fear. Yes, fear, there was fear written large in them. Still the man was fighting hard to mask that fear behind indignance. “Grrmmphhh,” he went, kicking out at him with both legs.

 

“Careful kitten,” Sebastian said as sweetly as possible, “You do not want to break or twist an ankle here.” He walked over to the side of the bed and looked down at his captive, noticing for the first time what we wore. It was a Gucci jogging suit in light orange and tan, Nike trainers with cushioned soles on his feet, a limited edition and sporty Hamilton watch on his right wrist, a ‘Fit-Bit’ device on the other wrist, a dull gold chain around his neck with a shining diamond studded Trinity pendant dangling from it. He was rather attractive even in his disheveled state and Sebastian could see through the jogger bottoms that he had a hard-on trapped underneath.

 

For a moment he was flattered that someone this rich, appealing and successful would be so instantaneously aroused by him when James launched a double footed kick at him. He missed narrowly but that effort made him hiss and tense his legs, horror clouding his eyes. That was when Sebastian had the lightbulb moment. “Oh-Oh…sorry, you need to use the bathroom, I get it, wait, I’ll help you.”

 

He helped him sit up and uncuffed his hand, then cuffed him back to his own hand. The prisoner quickly got to his feet and only then did Sebastian realize that he hadn’t stated a few ground rules yet. It was important to do so before he extended any service or cooperation.

 

“But before we go, let me tell you very clearly that your well-being depends on YOU. If you try to act too smart for your own good, try to escape, or try to attack me, I shall overcome you within seconds. First time might be forgiven but if you repeat that stupidity, I shan’t hesitate to shoot you…..in the leg. I can take the bullet out and patch you up after that, but then there will be pain, loss of blood, possibly a limp throughout your life. Your choice.”

 

The man answered, “Grrrrnnnn! B’thruuunnn!”

 

“Do you understand?”

 

“Hnnnnnn.”

 

“I asked DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

 

In response the man jumped, his legs still cuffed together and landed on Sebastian’s right foot. Pain shot up right to his knee and thighs and Sebastian swore colorfully. He was sure he heard James chuckled behind the gag. Feisty little fella, not easily cowed down.

 

Sebastian decided to let him use the bathroom or else he’d create a mess on the floor and he’d have to do the cleaning up. “Okay, step into the bathroom. I shall keep my face turned and stand at the doorway. Use it and flush, then I will help you wash up.”

 

The man seemed least bothered by his compromised situation and happily pushed down his track pants and started to pee. Sebastian felt embarrassed and aroused at the same time, simply from the knowledge that his hand was inches away from the other man’s cock which James was holding with his cuffed hands. Even though he knew the other man was urinating, he felt a strange urge to grab his cock and jerk it a few times through the process. Weird kinks crossed his mind and for a second Sebastian felt like the captive and not the captor. This lush, sexy, businessman was beginning to give him wet dreams and being around him 24/7 was going to be a serious test of his testosterone levels and urges.

 

When he heard the toilet flush, he turned and gasped. James had left his half-hard cock out and was pointing at it with his eyes.

 

“Oh…..you want me to wash it.”

 

“Nnnnnno.”

 

“Then?”

 

“Ghynmbneshnikunh.”

 

Sebastian sighed and decided he had to take off the gag. He couldn’t really understand a word of what the man was saying. “I am going to remove the gag now,” he warned, “Scream and it goes back on again.”

 

The prisoner nodded and Sebastian took off the gag. At first the man gagged and coughed and took deep breaths, then he screamed with the full force of his lungs. A startled and annoyed Sebastian grabbed the man’s long throat with a single hand and lifted him clean off the ground. “What did I tell you Mr. Brooke?” He asked sternly, “Shout and I put the gag back on. Try to act smart and I won’t give you more than one chance at getting a pardon. Now you crossed that line. I have to shoot you in the leg.”

 

“Help me wash first. NOW.”

 

To his shock, Sebastian found himself complying. He helped the man wash his cock, hands, face, allowed him to use soap and water, then rearrange his clothes and finger comb his hairs. “Water,” he croaked next.

 

“Back to the bedroom. I have water, fruits.”

 

“Do you also have chocolates?”

 

Sebastian gave the man a wide-eyed stare. Just now he was screaming for help and the very next moment he was asking for chocolates. This tough little cookie was going to be far more difficult to handle than the average captured victim. “Yes, I do have chocolates, but they are in the refrigerator so I will have to cuff you again and leave you here,” he said as he forcefully pushed the smaller man down on the bed and started doing as he said, “While I get the chocolates I will also have to put the gag back on. You just made things worse for yourself by screaming like a bitch just now. For the records, we are in the middle of nowhere and no one will hear you anyways.”

 

“Not the gag,” James pouted.

 

“You screamed, hence you don’t get to stay gag-free.”

 

“That was my right.”

 

“Okay, you exercised your right as a prisoner and putting the gag back on you is my privilege.”

 

“You said once is pardoned.”

 

“You have already crossed the ‘once’ mark. You stamped…..no, you jumped on my foot. It’s still fucking numb.”

 

“Serves you right.”

 

“What?”

 

“I didn’t know stamping on your foot while you were denying me the bathroom use would be considered as a….a….a…..misbehavior. I was only trying to help you man…..you know that? It seems it’s not just your foot that is numb but you also happen to be a numbskull. What would have happened had I-I just relaxed my bladder on the floor. You’d have to mop it up, wash my clothes and also give me extra clothes, which I don’t happen to have with me. Now go and get me my chocolates.”

 

Sebastian’s emotions ranged from wanting to slap this man to kissing him into silence to grabbing his hairs and threatening him in the worst possible way. Eventually he realized he had to make a move from there and he simply didn’t have time for arguments.

 

“Fine, this is your last chance. No more misbehavior.”

 

“Okay-Okay.”

 

By the time Sebastian came back with the Toblerone, James had finished both bottles of water and an apple. He was trying to peel the banana. “Help,” he said and extended the unpeeled fruit towards the blond man. Sebastian noted that though James was asking for his help, his tone was one of a subtle command. Gosh, the man was bossy to the core.

 

He peeled the banana and handed it, and the chocolate, to James who muttered a soft ‘thanks’ with a one shouldered shrug. The sniper stood in a corner of the small bedroom area, eyes on the slender man. He watched him eat hungrily, least bothered by Sebastian’s presence and the butt of the pistol sticking out of his pocket. Whatever Sebastian had expected from this man, this wasn’t it. A man used to living in the lap of luxury, surrounded by a security team, always attended to on hand and foot, how was he not even the least bit distressed by his precarious and uncomfortable position? At some point of time he found himself handing James another bottle of water, a glass of juice and some biscuits.

 

Once done, Sebastian helped him visit the bathroom again and was about to put the gag back on when James looked pleadingly at him. “Please…..what’s your name?”

 

“Call me Bast.”

 

“Bast pleeeease!”

 

“No can do. Now cooperate or else…..”

 

“Please-please-please-please! I will be quiet as a mouse. Have I shouted since then? Have I?”

 

“That’s because you were eating. Now hold still.”

 

“Nooooooo, you can’t do this to me. No gag. I want to talk. You know I am used to talking at least eighteen hours a day? At this rate I will get into seizures from the after-effects of ‘not-talking’. Don’t gag me, pleeeeease, Bast please-please-please.”

 

Sebastian looked on for a few seconds, undecided and dismayed. God why am I even listening to him? Why am I not slapping him?

 

‘You can’t, they don’t want him harmed in any way’, his brain answered, and his heart chimed in with ‘You don’t want to mess up and bruise that pretty face, admit it’.

 

“Fine,” he said at last, keeping his voice stone cold with a faint underlying threat, “But as I said before, this is your last chance and if you as much as raise your voice you will be gagged and I’ll put you in the storage space beneath this bedroom area. Or I shall simply inject you with something to keep you asleep twenty-two hours a day and let you wake up only to take a bite or go to the toilet.”

 

***

 

Sherlock Holmes looked around the room and suddenly lay down in a prostrated position on the floor. His nose nearly rubbed on the ground as he sniffed it like a dog, causing the onlookers to stare in astonishment at him and then towards the ace detective’s friend and colleague, Dr. John Hamish Watson.

 

“He is very thorough,” John offered by means of an explanation before kneeling next to Sherlock, “Found anything?”

 

“He was kidnapped from this very room,” Sherlock rattled off his observations and deductions, “He had water, then he was about to eat an apple, when he was attacked. He fought back, tried to hit his kidnapper with the salt shaker, then everything dropped from his hands when he was knocked out. But he wasn’t given a blow to the head, he was knocked out by chloroform. I can smell remnants of that strong smell of the chemical on the floorboards. Mr. Brooke was wearing Nike trainers with cushioned soles when he was kidnapped. The kidnapper took six apples, two bananas and one peach from the fruit bowl we see on the kitchen table.”

 

One of James’ senior employees gasped, “You found out all this by sniffing the floor?”

 

“Yes and by carefully observing everything,” Sherlock got to his feet, “I see faint footprints of your employer and the outline of the shoes suggests it had a special padded sole. That’s available only with Nike. He was about to eat an apple, because the kidnapper took that was the main fruit the kidnapper took with him. Six of them. I know he took six because of the overall volume of the fruit bowl and the way the fruits are stacked. The banana and peach were taken more or less like a ‘change of taste’.”

 

“How did you know he hit the kidnapper with a salt shaker?”

 

“Jim…..I mean your employer, he is a brunette?”

 

“He sure is.”

 

“There is a blond hair sticking to the edge of the shaker.”

 

“Oh….I see that now.”

 

“Lestrade,” Sherlock looked at the pensive Scotland Yard inspector, “Please let your team know the kidnapper might be blonde. He might have been wearing a wig but I am more or less sure it’s the natural color of his hairs. If this hair was part of a wig it would have been very difficult to pull it out with a simple hit. Hairs on a wig base are glued in so hard it’s near impossible to pull off strands. The whole wig would come off instead.”

 

“Damn,” said one of the women employees of James Brooke’s firm, “He is really good.”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock said, completely misunderstanding the compliment, “Jim was really good.”

 

Once they were out of the flat, John looked at Sherlock crossly, “Really? Jim was good, Jim was this, Jim was that, the very man who had made your life hell on several occasions! He is a thug behind this mask of a businessman. So clever that not even you or big brother Mycroft could build a single case against him. Whoever has taken him, let them keep him. I am sure sooner or later they will return him with their compliments because he will drive them up the wall. No need to take up this case, you need to tell Lestrade who ‘James Richard Brooke’ really is.”

 

“NO.”

 

“What? What do you mean no?”

 

“I don’t want to out him. I mean out him as the same man who…..”

 

“Who is the most dangerous man in London? Well, if you have proof…..”

 

“I have none.”

 

“So you’re waiting for proof then?”

 

“No, even if I had proof I wouldn’t use them.”

 

“I fail to understand why would you protect a criminal like him? Why does he even deserve your mercy? Has he not done enough damage to people, society, you, me, to be put behind bars? Or better still, committed somewhere for a lifetime? Sherlock, don’t walk away from me please, help me understand what’s the weird connection between you and Jim Moriarty.”

 

Sherlock closed his eyes and remembered a rainy night, the naked pale flesh nestled against him, a slender arm wrapped around his chest, the feel of stickiness and the bliss of release, talking about math, stars, art, past criminal cases, psychology theories, politics, teasing each other with puzzles, then falling asleep. He had woken up and found a dark head cradled on his chest. The next time he’d woken it was morning and the man had disappeared, like a specter.

 

“Sherlock?” John was shaking his arm. “Some other day John. Please, I need some time.”

 

John reluctantly let go but his brain was whirring around like a washing machine on full speed drying mode, rustling up various theories around Sherlock and Jim. Was Jim blackmailing Sherlock? Was there a secret that Sherlock required Jim to reveal, perhaps for greater good?

 

There had to be a reason why Sherlock wanted Jim safe. He knew the detective would speak only when he was ready to. He would have to wait until then.

Chapter Text

“WHY ARE YOU GETTING INTO BED WITH ME?”

 

James Brooke seemed deeply disturbed at the sight of Sebastian climbing on to the double bed at the back of the van. It was big enough for two people but Sebastian was a large man and after he had comfortably lain there, James would have little space to stretch his arms and legs. But somehow that didn’t seem to be the reason why the sprightly little man was so perturbed by Sebastian’s presence.

 

“It’s not like you have a choice to ask me not to,” Sebastian was tired after a day that had lasted almost twenty hours, sixteen of which he had spent driving, “I need to be here to keep an eye on you and to ensure I am there should you need to use the toilet or drink water or get hungry for a small bite. And no, I am not going to molest you or rape you, far from it, so you will be as safe as you want. In fact, I know I am the sort of person a lot of people would like to sleep with so my request to you, don’t try to feel me up. I am a light sleeper, I am armed in ways you can’t even guess and this time the bullet will be right there next to your shin bone.”

 

“Stop the stupid threats.”

 

“Shut up before I break your jaw.”

 

Sebastian brought his large fist down and connected with the pillow barely an inch from James’ face. The kinesthetic threat worked well and James flinched. The initial fear in his eyes became more prominent now and he simply nodded.

 

“Now sleep and let me sleep.”

 

Despite Jim saying nothing to that and his eyes almost shutting down, Sebastian felt a strange anxiety work up within himself. As a result of that he couldn’t drift off, remaining in an unpleasant half-awake, half-asleep stage for almost twenty minutes before the silence of the bedroom area was shattered by a hissed whisper from the man next to him. “Psssst…..Bust? Bust? You awake?”

 

“Bast. Not Bust.”

 

“Bast, are you awake?”

 

“I am talking, no?”

 

“People talk in their sleep.”

 

Sebastian did an eyeroll and hissed back, “Just tell me what you need. Washroom? Water? Milk? Cookies?”

 

“I don’t eat after brushing my teeth. I just wanted to ask you something Bast. What do you intend to do with me?”

 

When Sebastian didn’t respond, he asked the question in a different way. “You were the same man who bumped into me while I was jogging. Then you reached my Conduit Street flat before me, which means you aren’t as old as you look, which in turn means you are under disguise. You planned this well, too well, for this to be a petty kidnapping case. You have been paid a hefty sum to do this because that duffel bag in the upper compartment above the sofa has a note sticking out of it. A hundred pound bill. So then, tell me what lies ahead for me.”

 

“You are a very intelligent man,” Sebastian had to admit to that, “The way you connected the dots just now was very precise and impressive. But then you couldn’t have run such a successful business empire if you had nothing between the ears. Therefore, if I tell you even a little you will end up guessing the whole thing. Yes, I have been paid enough to do this job and I want to do a bloody good job of it, therefore I cannot say anything to you. You have been abducted. There is obviously a price to be paid for your release. We both have to patiently wait till that price is named and if you can pay it, maybe you will be given your freedom. If not, then I’m afraid I will have to put you down.”

 

“As in kill me?”

 

“You know the drill.”

 

“How much have they paid you?”

 

“None of your business.”

 

“Whatever it is, I can always double it. Let me go.”

 

“I don’t let down people who employ me or work with me.”

 

“Is there honor among thieves…..and kidnappers?”

 

“I was something else long before I became involved in this kind of work. But as I said, none of your business. Just go to sleep. I have an early start tomorrow morning.”

 

“I can’t sleep.”

 

“Then count sheep.”

 

James started to toss and turn so much that Sebastian eventually got fed up and grabbed him, pinning him down against the mattress. “Enough,” he said, “One more movement and I will use chloroform on you again. Last time I used a lighter dose but this time I’ll use a potent one and you’ll have a killer headache when you come around. Or I use one of my tricks and knock you out with a blow, giving you a mild concussion in the process. Or you sleep on your own, no harm done. Now choose.”

 

“At least massage my neck and shoulders. They are stiff and sore. Maybe then I will be able to fall asleep.”

 

Anything to shut him up, Sebastian thought, as he started to do as the smaller man was asking him. He felt tense muscles under smooth skin, knots here and there, undoubtedly the result of staying in one position for too long as well as an after-effect of tension and anxiety. No wonder he couldn’t sleep. The more he kneaded and massaged, the more relaxed and drowsy James became. Soon Sebastian began to sense he was drifting. From the random twitches in his body to a subtle change in his breathing pattern, the massage seemed to have relaxed him enough to make him slip into the land of the nod. Sebastian was struggling to stay awake by then, his eyes falling shut automatically.

 

With a final squeeze he let go and lay down next to James, after carefully checking if he was sufficiently restrained to ‘not’ cause any harm to him or attempt an escape. He was nearly asleep when he heard the other man whisper, ‘Call me Jim’.

 

***

 

“Just what do you think you are doing Sherlock?”

 

Mycroft looked crossly at his younger brother who had simply walked past him and entered his home office as if that was his right. The elder sibling hightailed after the detective, always weary of him and his eccentricities. The last time Sherlock had acted like this, he had broken his favorite ash-tray and stolen one of his files. “I am asking you a question,” Mycroft said sharply.

 

Sherlock wasn’t being pesky or nosy this time. He didn’t touch anything on Mycroft’s desk nor did he open a drawer or peer into the laptop screen. He simply traversed across the room and stood near the window, harking out into the dark late evening of the winter. It was biting cold. No doubt it would start snowing soon. “You always knew, didn’t you?” He asked in a mocking tone, “As always, you knew! And again, as always, you didn’t consider it important enough to tell me about it.”

 

“Be clear in your communication. I knew what exactly?” Mycroft asked. But deep down he was bracing himself for his brother’s impending outburst.

 

“If you insist that I spell it out word by word, here it is,” Sherlock said, “Jim is not dead. He is James Richard Brooke.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yes, he is. When I asked you about this businessman, shortly after returning from my hiatus of two years from London, you said the name of the businessman was coincidentally a combination of Jim real and pretend names. You even told me his middle name was Thomas. But it is Richard. This is Jim, isn’t he?”

 

Mycroft expertly steered the conversation towards shallower waters so he could take a deep breath by surfacing briefly. “I am really curious as to why you call him Jim and not ‘Moriarty’. What have I missed?”

 

Sherlock almost spat out the next set of words. “What you have missed brother mine, what you have always missed, is that I am a human too and prone to mistakes, desires, weaker moments when I truly need support and understanding and not just patronizing and scolding. I asked you, I practically begged you for answers about him and you gave me none. All the while you rehabilitated him as a legit businessman, kept in touch with him, probably you guys even laughed together about my ignorance around this. Why? Why did I not deserve an answer? Why did you keep lying to me that Jim was really gone? Brilliant men like him should not die, they need to be redeemed, rehabilitated…..”

 

“That’s what I did,” Mycroft said coldly, “So where is the problem? That I didn’t tell you?”

 

Taken aback, Sherlock swallowed. “Um…..yes.”

 

“So you could try your outlandish, dangerous idea of working with him? Living with him?”

 

“No…I…..”

 

“He is still dangerous. I am aware he has a new web. The one you took down, he cooperated with us by abandoning it. The Jim Moriarty you knew no longer exists. That’s all I can tell you.”

 

“I WANT TO KNOW MORE,” Sherlock shouted, frustrated by now, “Why did you kidnap him? Don’t you dare to harm him Mike, I forbid you……”

 

“Lockie calm down and quit your yelling,” Mycroft said as patiently as ever, voice back to cold and flat as usual, “I have no reason to wish him any harm as long as he does no nonsense in England and doesn’t try to contact you in any way. This is someone else. My team is trying to figure out but whoever has done this had covered their tracks meticulously. As for why I didn’t tell you, it was not just my decision.”

 

“Who else decided? The queen and her private secretary and handmaiden?”

 

The sarcastic words didn’t affect Mycroft one bit. He coolly lit a cigarette and offered Sherlock one. The younger brother hesitated and looked into his face, searching for an answer. “Who else decided my future for me?” He asked again.

 

“If you must know,” Mycroft spoke in his trademark smooth voice, certain words perfectly enunciated, “It’s the long-suffering man you hardly bother to notice. Yes, I am talking about the kind and caring doctor who loves you more than a thousand ‘Jims’ combined. John.”

 

Sherlock lost his balance temporarily and hit the wall right next to him, as if someone had hit him with a club. He blinked a few times and walked out of the room, his shoulder brushing Mycroft’s in the same way he had done while entering his elder brother’s house. The only difference was that this time he picked up Mycroft’s half-finished pack of low-tar cigarettes on the way.

 

***

 

Jim woke up to the appetizing aroma of breakfast cooking in the kitchenette of the motorhome and the soft melodic sounds of old-fashioned country music, yesteryear’s superhit ballads like ‘I cross my heart’ and ‘Bless the broken road’ being played on the baby speakers fitted in the lounge and dining area. He could hear Sebastian singing out of tune with it and whistling and humming where he didn’t know the lyrics, the sounds of crockery and cutlery clanging and clinking and creating the perfect sounds of blissful domesticity. It was so idyllic and pleasant that Jim fell right back to sleep, as if soothed by those sounds like a child listening to a lullaby.

 

When he woke up, nothing had changed, except that the kettle was whistling. Oh, so he had fallen into a light doze then, for about twenty minutes or so. “Beast,” he called out loudly, “Beast? Let me off the hook. I need to take a shit man.”

 

Moments later, Sebastian appeared at the sliding doors and frowned deeply at him. “Fine, you can be entirely uncuffed for this because I sure as hell am not gonna standing in there while you’re pooping. But try one trick, make one smart move or even a single escape attempt and things will get pretty nasty. I will be right outside the door and the lock is disabled, so I can come in any time I wish. Just wanted you to know that.” He paused and added, “Also….It is NOT Beast. It is NOT Bust. Bast, it is Bast, how difficult is it to pronounce a single-syllable word?”

 

“Bast,” Jim repeated innocently.

 

Ten minutes later Jim had finished his morning routine and brushed his teeth, emerging from the bathroom in just his boxers. Seeing that, Sebastian kept his eyes firmly placed on the ground or a spot on the walls of the motorhome. He was no saint and the lack of sex over the past week was making him a wee bit horny. On top of that this man was quite attractive. He had a twink-like look to him which Sebastian preferred.

 

He is your job, your meal ticket, your multi-million dollar note. Don’t screw around with him.

 

“Poached salmon and eggs, ham slices, hashed browns, herb bread, yummmmm,” Jim, in the meantime, was rubbing his hands as he sat down at the small four-seater table, “Give me a glass of apple juice and some tea to go with it?”

 

There was an authority to his voice and a sweetness in the tone that somehow made Sebastian obey that gentle order without a thought. He’d already poured the tea and was about to pour the juice when he stopped. “What the heck! You want it, get it yourself. If you’re going to have your legs and hands untied for some time, better move around. It’s good for blood circulation.”

 

“You’re not tying me up again, are you?” Jim asked, looking aghast.

 

Sebastian started eating and took his time to answer. He could see his pretty captive growing visibly tense and anxious and grinned behind his mug of tea. Let him suffer just a few seconds longer. “So, as you were saying,” he said after eating a full slice of bread and half the salmon steak on his plate, “Am I tying you up again? I definitely am going to do that in a short while. If I had my way, I’d keep you tied and restrained round the clock but I don’t really fancy feeding you and bathing you so whenever you eat or take a shower, I shall untie you. The gag will stay off for most of the times, unless you give me a reason to put it right back over your mouth.

 

“No,” Jim sounded and looked dismayed, “No, you can’t do that.”

 

“Tell me why not.”

 

“I am not going to run away.”

 

“Prisoner has the right to escape. If you say you give me your word then why should I trust ya?”

 

Jim’s face fell and he sighed, “You are right. Why should you? I have not given you any reason to. But then ….. there is no reason why you shouldn’t trust me either. Okay, shall we find a middle path them? Here’s the deal, leave me loose while we are inside this motorhome and if I make even as much as a single attempt to step out without you, chain me to the toilet seat if you wish. I won’t complain or request to be set free again.”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I don’t want a knife on my back or my leg.”

 

“Why’d I do that? I don’t even know where I am. I can’t make it back to civilization from this wilderness. I have never driven a motorhome like this before. Even if I wish to escape I cannot do that. I will botch it up and cause myself harm. What’s the assurance that your accomplices are not lurking nearby and won’t take me down? Please, if you keep me tied up my ankles will swell, I feel achy all over, I won’t get tired enough to sleep at night, I’ll be cranky all day.”

 

“Better than dealing with an escape attempt,” Sebastian said firmly, “Request denied Jim. Now finish your food. Whenever you need the toilet or I have lunch ready, I shall untie you again.”

Chapter Text

“Jawn?”

 

“Jesus!!!”

 

John fell off the bed in fright. His eyes had opened to the sight of a white face, two shining eyes and a headful of curls looming over his face, like the proverbial monster from the closet that had gotten too close for comfort. It was only when he heard Sherlock whisper ‘Why are you rolling off the bed and why have you changed your name to Jesus’ did he realize that the ‘creature’ was none other than his flat mate, friend and colleague Sherlock Holmes. A trifle annoyed, he got to his feet and frowned when he saw Sherlock was totally unrepentant about this disturbance.

 

“Bad joke Sherlock, really bad. I didn’t roll off the bed damn it, I fell off it because I got such a start. And no, I haven’t changed my name………Of course I am still John but…..you just appeared over my face like that and…..Jesus…..okay, forget it, what did you want anyways?”

 

“I am confused.”

 

“Ohhh dear, not again.”

 

“Why?”

 

“The last time you were confused, I had to rearrange your entire closet.”

 

“It’s not about clothes and matching a trouser to a shirt. This time it’s deeper.”

 

John made a mental note to take the next day off. Sherlock was going to be a spectacular mess tomorrow and he’d have to be the one to clean it up and keep things level. This usually happened once in six to eight months, when Sherlock suddenly got into a bout of anxiety and nothing made sense to him at all. Mostly the trigger was lack of work or some trouble or tension with Mycroft.

 

“Talk to me about it,” John said as he started to rub his friend’s back.

 

“Have you ever been in love?” Sherlock grabbed the sleeve of his pajama top between his thumb and forefinger and rubbed his right eye with it. His eyes were watering slightly.

 

“Sherl,” John sighed, still rubbing his friend’s back, “I don’t think I am the right person to answer this question. I have chosen wrong, mostly, or I have interpreted a crush as love and moved on from it. To cut a long story short, I have been in love and I have been out of love.”

 

“You remember?”

 

“I remember lots of things. Which specific thing do you mean?”

 

“Initial days. When I said I am married to my work?”

 

John remembered the Italian bistro, the candle at their table, the case in pink, the waiter who adored Sherlock, how he had left his cane back there. Yes, he had been curious and asked Sherlock if he had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and the man had answered saying he was married to his work, his profession. How could he forget? For years those words had haunted him until he had decided not to let it bother him anymore. Sherlock was a workaholic and there was nothing he could do about it. His work was his source of sustenance. He was nothing without his work and nobody, not even John himself, measured up to the levels of commitment he had towards his cases.

 

“Yes Sherl, I do.”

 

“Well, for some time Moriarty was my work.”

 

John had to turn his face away to hide the look of horror on it. He had a hunch, an inkling, a strong suspicion, but this was confirmation. A sharp pain rose in his chest.

 

It’s okay John, breathe, even you have been in denial and constantly said you’re not gay.

 

“Okay,” he said in as normal a voice as he could, “Go on.”

 

“Help me Jawn.”

 

Great! He wants Moriarty back! Just as I feared. Is he out of his mind? That man is dangerous, cunning, wily and very unstable. When the hell will my friend wake up and smell the coffee?

 

“How can I help here?” He asked, keeping his voice steady and neutral.

 

“I just want him safe and sound,” Sherlock said as he pulled his feet up on John’s bed and hugged his knees to his chest, “There is something ‘different’ about this kidnapping, something that’s escaped even Mycroft’s radar. I don’t want anything from him…..I just want a mind like his to be preserved carefully, to be leveraged for the right things. I believe we can change him. I-I need your help in tracking him down.”

 

“We can change him?” John raised an eyebrow.

 

“You and me?”

 

“He hates me Sherl. Even someone as clueless about such things as YOU are, can clearly see that. If I ask him not to do something, he’d do it right away just to spite me or piss me off.”

 

“Will you help me or not?”

 

John saw Sherlock’s hands shaking, his face pale and suddenly all his selfishness flew out of the window. If there was one thing he feared the most, it was seeing Sherlock suffer. Something was bothering the man enough to shake him to the core and as his best friend, confidante and guide, he had to ensure he reduced that pressure. “Of course I will help you,” he said, giving Sherlock’s shoulder a final squeeze and letting go.

 

To his surprise, Sherlock didn’t get up and walk out of the room, nor did he say anything related to a case or work or buying milk. Looking strangely vulnerable, Sherlock gave John a very ‘unsure’ look and mumbled ‘Can I sleep here please?’ He paused and looked at the bed, then added ‘If it does not disgust you in any way.’ John was stunned. He had usually seen an arrogant, cock-sure Sherlock who was never afraid to shoot his mouth off. This vulnerable, shaky and unsure Sherlock was totally new to him. It scared him at so many levels he wasn’t even able to comprehend all of them.

 

“Of course it does not disgust me. Why should it?”

 

“Then may I?”

 

“Yes, we can sleep here on the same bed. Or I can come downstairs to your room?”

 

“No, this is fine, here is fine.”

 

“Come on then.”

 

They lay down, side by side, and Sherlock unexpectedly turned to face John. He lay so close to him that the doctor felt little puffs of his breath on his right cheek, smelled his shampoo and could almost hear his heartbeat. No, he was not almost hearing the heartbeat, he could really hear the man’s heart beating. Why was it so loud? Sherlock was really out of character at that moment.

 

“Go to sleep,” he said, staring at the ceiling, “I’ll be here when you wake up.”

 

A hand reached out from beneath the covers and held on to his, “Promise?”

 

“Yes, that’s a promise.”

 

To his surprise, Sherlock was asleep almost instantly. But even after fifteen minutes had passed and Sherlock’s breaths came in slow, shallow pulls indicating he was deep into the land of nod, the hold over John’s hand didn’t slacken. Not even a bit.

 

***

 

Two days had passed and Sebastian could finally see the Scotland topography slowly come into his view. The rolling hills, the solitude, the pretty little hamlets, the lakes….or lochs, the fresh crisp air.

 

So far so good, there had no incidents or interruptions during their journey. Nothing untoward. As far as he could see, no one was following him. Things were going per his plan and expectations. He was to receive the second million that day and he was on his way to fetch it before proceeding towards Edinburgh. The cash would be kept in an Adidas gym bag inside a barn, at an abandoned and isolated homestead which had a rabbit head at the top of their gate. Like a mascot.

 

Jim had been a mixed bag. While he was mostly cooperative and didn’t make any attempt to escape, he was also a very demanding and whiny individual. Sometimes Sebastian felt as if he was caring for a child. ‘Boost, my legs are aching, please get me a spray.’ ‘Bust, I want my pasta cooked al dente. You have overcooked it. Make some more’. ‘Beast, I want beer. No, not any beer, I want to drink Hoegaarden’. At first Sebastian tried to ignore but if there were two things one could not ignore, then it had to be a toothache and Jim Brooke. Whinging and whining, he kept up the nagging for so long that Sebastian thought an easier option was to cave in.

 

“Bot, I want some ice cream. I want chocolate ice cream. I am tired of the vanilla and strawberry you have stuffed the freezer with.”

 

“Bast,” he got angry, “BAST, repeat after me B-A-S-T, Bast, how difficult is it to remember the short form of a name? Beast, boost, bust, bot, what are you going to call me next? Breast?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“It’s not funny.”

 

“Oh, but it is.”

 

“Shut up. I will get you the ice cream but after I have finished one task. Till then, just shut up and read a book or something.”

 

“I don’t feel like.”

 

Sebastian took his eyes off the road and snarled at Jim who was sitting on the passenger’s seat next to him, “You are a man in your early thirties for Pete’s sake. Not some little child with dependencies. What do you want me to do huh? Get you a pop-up story book? A coloring book? Some kind of an Action Man figure?”

 

“I just want chocolate ice cream. Why are you making a big deal out of it?”

 

“I am not. But you are. What difference does it make if you don’t have ice cream one day? You’re so used to all your wishes getting fulfilled that you can’t imagine a world where people are denied even the basics. Think about the kids in third world countries. Think about people in the army or navy who have to go for months of restricted rations, sweat it out on hot deserts or freeze their arses in biting cold and snow.”

 

“You seem to be speaking from experience,” Jim didn’t seem offended, he sounded excited instead, “Tell me what happened for real.”

 

“Years ago when I was a Major, we were in the midst of nowhere in Iraq. Stones and mountains all around, no water bodies, dwindling rations, surrounded by guerilla forces from all sides. We were a small group stuck there and waiting for rescue operations but as the commanding officer I knew there were scant chances of that happening. We had been left there to die. Some of my boys succumbed to their injuries, some starved, a few died of dysentery. Even a slice of bread with no mold on it was a God-sent. Out of the hundred odd who had taken refuge in that gorge, only forty-nine of us emerged. More than half had died over the month that we were trapped in there.

 

“Have you been shot?”

 

“Five times.”

 

“Fatally.”

 

“Almost fatally. Once. An army surgeon saved my life. It was a miracle.”

 

“Where?”

 

“Neck.”

 

“You put a tattoo there to hide the scars?”

 

The surprisingly soft pads of his fingers traced the leaping tiger’s tattoo there, caressing the skin and feeling the outline of the jagged scar that hid beneath the pretty design. Sebastian got so distracted by it that he nearly missed a bend, swerved wildly and narrowly avoided letting the motorhome fall into a ditch. “Jim,” he pleaded with his captive, “You’ll get hurt. Stop distracting me and go and sit back there somewhere. We have two more days of driving left and we won’t make it in one piece if…..”

 

“If I touch your neck?” Jim’s eyes were shining with realization.

 

Sebastian exhaled, restarting the engine, “Just-Just do as I said.”

 

“Where are we going now?”

 

“Right over there, see that path? Yeah, we need to take that and go through those woods. There is a homestead there, behind that hill, where I have to stop for a bit. Won’t take more than five minutes, I promise.”

 

***

 

Sebastian unzipped the bag and looked at the notes. All genuine. Nothing fishy. No trackers. The amount was perfect. Job done, they could be on their way.

 

He had left Jim bound and gagged in the motorhome, locked it and walked the last half mile to the homestead. He had parked the motorhome behind a thickset of trees so nobody would be able to spot it unless they walked right past it. Being a lonely area, he was more or less sure there were hardly any passersby. As Sebastian walked quickly towards the motorhome, he found himself worrying about Jim more than he should. What if he needed something? What if someone tried to rob the motorhome? What if he fell off the bed while struggling to free himself?

 

It occurred to him that during the three days they had spent on the road so far, his concerns about Jim had gone from ‘I want him safe because it’s my job’ to ‘I don’t want to see him hurt’. This NEVER happened to him. At least, it hadn’t happened to him since that one big mistake he’d made two years ago. His motto had strictly been ‘Never mix business with the personal elements, never do that’ and he had stuck to that like one would believe in the Gospel truth. But this pesky Jim, with his adorable and wicked ways, his annoying demands and surprising compliance, had started to drag him backwards into that same dangerous space.

 

He was not progressing. He was regressing.

 

“To hell with it,” he snorted and lit a cigarette, choosing to delay his arrival at the motorhome for just a bit more. He took a good ten extra minutes even after finishing the smoke, not hotfooting to the vehicle but stopping and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings.

 

But the moment he reached it, he knew something was wrong.

 

The door was open. The step ladder was down. He saw footprints going towards the loch.

 

“Shit,” he groaned, berating himself for trusting Jim, and tossing the bag full of cash up on a tree branch above. He ran at full speed towards the water body, hoping he was not too late and would be able to catch up with Jim soon.

 

He did find Jim after a good fifteen minutes but not in the condition he had expected. He found him backed up against a tree with three burly men surrounding him and laughing and joking. One of them had taken his watch, the other was asking him for the motorhome keys and the third one, a bastard of the first order, was feeling him up in an inappropriate way.

Chapter Text

Even though Sebastian had positioned himself perfectly to launch an attack on the three men and was swiftly making a plan on taking them down within the least possible time, he couldn’t help but pause for a moment to notice how steady Jim’s nerves were. Sebastian was a soldier, used to facing life-threatening, moral-crushing, soul-ripping situations and still keeping a cool head, but how was a young businessman like Jim so perfectly poised and unafraid in the face of such danger.

 

“Come on cutie, tell us where the money is. With your kind of looks, clothes, that motorhome, there must be a fat sum stashed somewhere. Road trip huh? There has to be cash.”

 

Sebastian didn’t wait a second longer. He lunged at one of the men and tackled him to the ground, then deftly avoided a punch from the second one and launched a flying kick at the third. The three men were clearly used to this kind of thuggery and attacks because they were also somewhat trained to fight at close quarters. It wasn’t a walk in the park but Sebastian strength, agility and his earlier training were far superior and in less than five minutes all three men were quite grievously injured and lying on the ground bloodied and motionless. Sebastian looked at Jim and asked, “You okay?”

 

Jim grabbed an empty beer bottle, his eyes narrowing.

 

“No, wait, don’t, don’t make me treat you like a dangerous prisoner who needs to be constantly restrained……”

 

“DUCK.”

 

At first Sebastian thought Jim was talking about the farm fowl but the bottle was already flying at his head and he caught on quickly. He ducked out of its way and suddenly heard a groan and a thud behind him. A quick glance revealed a man lying on the ground, having taken a nasty blow to the middle of his forehead by Jim’s immaculate throw. He was out cold. That man was the target of Jim’s flying beer bottle, not him.

 

“There is another one in the grass over there, next to the bushes,” Jim came running to him, “I kicked him between the legs. He was already drunk and passed out after hitting the ground partially with his head.”

 

Sebastian quickly checked and looked at Jim with a sense of urgency, “He is not passed out, he is dead.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“We’ll talk later. Get back into the motorhome quick.”

 

“Wait,” Jim smashed another bottle over the unconscious man’s head, “Yeah, now he won’t get up quickly. I might have even given him amnesia with this.”

 

“Incredible,” Sebastian murmured, “Now move.”

 

To Sebastian’s surprise, the smaller man ran back into the motorhome with such enthusiasm that anyone spying on them from a distance would think they were friends or boyfriends on a trip and not a captor and a captive. Jim didn’t make any attempts to attack Sebastian or run away, even though he had just proved that he could be rather feisty and tough when it came to fights. Then why did Jim escape his restraints and try to run away? What was going on? What did this fellow really want? Sebastian parked that thought for now and grabbed the cash filled bag from the high branch, swiftly following Jim into the vehicle and driving off from that site.

 

***

 

An hour had passed and Sebastian had made no attempt to start a conversation with Jim. He was angry, with Jim and with himself. He was upset with the way he had allowed some people to spot them and probably rattle off their descriptions to the cops.

 

He simply kept driving and bristling with anger, hoping Jim left him alone and didn’t try to tease him. This time his patience was wafer thin.

 

A soft, lilting Irish accent came from a few feet behind him. He felt Jim’s eyes on the back of his head as the billionaire businessman suddenly dropped his guard, and his posh London accent, and sounded like a much younger, simpler person. “I was not escaping. Yeah, I did manage to get out of the cuffs and gag but that was a challenge I threw at myself. Can I cut myself loose or not? I was able to. Then I picked the lock and stepped out of the motorhome, thinking I’ll give you a big scare when you return. But those fellows suddenly showed up and marched me down to the lakeside. If I had to escape I could have given them the cash and driven off in the motorhome. I know where it is.”

 

He has a point Sebastian.

 

The blonde still held himself back. He was not going to forgive Jim in a hurry. “You had no business stepping out of the motorhome. I told you I’ll be back soon and we will be on our way. Couldn’t you wait for just half hour?”

 

“You took nearly one.”

 

Shit. My bad. I delayed my return. Maybe if I hadn’t done that…..

 

“Jim, I know I have kidnapped you and it sounds funny if I say you’re safe with me. But the truth is that you are. I don’t intend to let any harm come on to you. Once you’ve paid the ransom, or your people have, you will go back to your life in London. Without a scratch, without a bruise.”

 

He heard footsteps and Jim came and sat down on the passenger’s seat next to him. Deep set dark eyes swimming with emotions, he said something that freaked Sebastian out instantly. “What if I don’t want to go back to London or to that life?”

 

Sebastian’s hands shook on the wheel for the briefest of moments. He could see what Jim was hinting at but he tried to keep things rational, plausible, on-track. “What do you mean really? You want me to drop you somewhere else? I just heard an Irish accent, so does that mean you wanna go back to Ireland? Dublin? Cork? Limerick?”

 

To his shock Jim reacted like a meth-addict on withdrawal symptoms. He stuck the windscreen so hard his knuckles almost cracked, then kicked at the door of the motorhome which rattled harshly on its hinges. “Do I have to spell it all out? Do I?” He yelled, much to Sebastian’s further shock because the voice sounded shrill, desperate, manic, “Every single thing has to be laid out on the table with a GPS navigator and a set of instructions? Can’t you handle a simple thing for a change? Can’t you understand it without asking a hundred questions. I am tired-tired-tired, I hate it, I hate it there, I don’t want to go…..if you even try…..I will-I will…..”

 

Sebastian called out a warning, “Jim stop it.”

 

“FUCK OFF.”

 

“This is my motorhome and you are still under my……”

 

“I will jump out. I’ll smash a window and jump out. Watch me, watch ME.”

 

“Jim…..”

 

“Not one more person is going to abandon me. I won’t let one more person decide my future. I don’t need anyone, I don’t….I don’t. I have managed for sixteen years, I can manage for whatever length of time I have ahead…..YOU HEAR ME?” The veins on his forehead stood out and his face was red as a beetroot, he was shaking all over and had picked up a chair to hurl it at the window next to him.

 

Sebastian realized that something had to give. He pulled off from the freeway and took a bumpy track that went into the woods and pulled up at one side. He got up, unlocked the door, stuffed Jim’s wallet, phone, a wad of cash and a thick jacket into a Harrod’s shopping bag and grabbed Jim’s elbow. “Okay enough, you leave the motorhome right now. I can see you have a pile of issues but they are none of my problems. I have enough of my own.”

 

“No-No-No-Bast-No…..!!”

 

“Yes. You’re going, NOW.”

 

“Please no. Let me stay.”

 

“No, out you go. I don’t care if I finish this job or not, I am not tolerating this for one second longer than I have to. Out you go, you have enough to go back to wherever you come from, or wherever you wish to go. But it’s sure as hell not going to be this motorhome.”

 

He shoved Jim out, threw the shopping bag at him and closed the door. Then he began to drive away. In the rear view mirror he saw Jim stand there, shell-shocked and hapless, unprepared to carry on alone and terrified of being left there, and a sudden storm of guilt and remorse hit him. No, he really shouldn’t have done this. He had committed to complete this job and he couldn’t let his employer down. He had also assumed a minor duty of looking after Jim and he had abandoned that as well. What the hell was wrong with him? But then Jim had pushed him to the wall and he had reacted.

 

“No, let me in, no, let me in your fucking asshole,” Jim was yelling as he ran alongside the motorhome, the shopping bag clasped in his arms.

 

Sebastian sped up for a moment.

 

Jim increased his pace and slammed his fist on the side of the van.

 

Sebastian slowed down and brought the speed down considerably. Then, without stopping, he pushed a button and opened the door. He didn’t let down the step-ladder, just kept the vehicle moving and maintained the slow pace. Jim caught up, tossed the shopping bag with the contents inside and climbed in with a big leap. Then he closed the door and headed straight for the bedroom.

 

Moments later Sebastian heard sobbing and the sounds of the sliding door closing and locking. “Gawd,” the blond man leaned back against his seat and drove on, “Issues and more issues. Pile of issues. How can someone so attractive and rich be so miserable?”

 

***

 

Despite pretending that he didn’t care, Sebastian knew he did. After sunset he stopped next to a small town and bought dinner, remembering from their scattered conversation the kind of things his prisoner liked to eat.

 

He had bought chocolate ice cream for Jim and one of his favorite meals, a cheesy spicy hamburger with a heap of fries on the side and a can of diet coke. He had also filled a massive jug with water and dropped some mint leaves and lemon slices in it, just like Jim preferred.

 

When he tried to open the sliding door and found it locked, he didn’t get angry or bang on it. Instead he picked the lock easily and gained access to the bedroom area where he found Jim snoozing on the bed. He was still wearing his shoes and his face was smothered into the pillow.

 

“Hey,” he called out, “Hey I got us dinner.”

 

No response.

 

Sighing out slowly, Sebastian sat down on the bed and set the food on the narrow side table next to it. While it was a well-equipped and luxurious van, it wasn’t exactly a flat and didn’t have a huge amount of space. Space! Sebastian looked at the bed and thought about the three nights he had spent sleeping on it, Jim right next to him, both of them totally comfortable despite Jim being an active sleeper and Sebastian such a large man. He’d had the best sleep of his life and that was despite waking up rock hard every three or four hours and wanking off in the bathroom. He wondered why Jim never needed to. He was cuffed to the bed and he’d get up just once during the night, for a quick pee, and head right back to bed. He’d be half-asleep throughout that process.

 

I wish I could be as unaffected.

 

Was I so angry because he affects me in ways no one else does? Or ever did? Or ever will?

 

No, I have no clue how these things work. I have never been in love to know what it feels like.

 

His mind began to conjure up answers. Again it’s about space. When two people are caught up in a small space, they might hate each other one moment and be totally attracted to each other the next. Sometimes small spaces, restraints, being locked together, it caused a weird kind of bonding. As familiarity bred contempt and made people snap at each other, proximity also built intimacy at the same time and brought them closer than they had imagined.

 

“Jim?” He tried again, this time putting his hand between the man’s shoulder blades and shaking him slightly.

 

At first there was no response and it appeared as if Jim was still asleep. But the moment Sebastian touched Jim again, the whole scenario changed unexpectedly.

 

“Get away from me, don’t touch me,” Jim suddenly grew fierce. He turned to look at the taller man and in the semi darkness of the van his eyes glowed in such a mad, unhinged manner that Sebastian quickly shifted away from him. But it was too late! Jim hit out at him and wildly threw the pillows and blankets about, suddenly hysterical. “Stay away from me, don’t you dare touch me, don’t, just don’t…..”

 

“Look I am sorry, earlier I behaved a bit too harshly and…..”

 

Jim growled and gave him a violent push.

 

Sebastian didn’t even feel it but his temper had started to rise. He was a rather hotheaded man himself and he could allow himself to be pushed only so much. There was no way this man-child with clear impulse control issues treat him like that.

 

“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU CREEP OR I SHALL TELL MY PARENTS!!!”

 

Sebastian had raised both hands to grab Jim and pin him down, possibly cuff him again, but at those words his hands fell to his sides. No, this wasn’t him Jim was fighting off. In fact, Jim was still asleep and reacting to a nightmare. He had just mentioned parents, so it had to be some unfortunate incident from his childhood. Thinking on his feet, Sebastian quickly switched on the lights and grabbed Jim from behind, sitting down on the bed and forcing Jim to sit on his lap so he could hold him still. Jim was snarling and growling, like an animal that was about to drink someone’s blood.

 

“James, Jim, listen to me, you’re not a kid, you’re more than thirty, possibly thirty-three,” Sebastian spoke into his ear in his heavy voice, “You are with me, I am Sebastian. You are a self-made billionaire businessman. You are an adult now. No one is assaulting you. Wake up, focus on my voice and wake up from this nightmare. The longer you stay in it, the worse it will become. Please, just wake up, gently, gently now.”

 

The struggles ceased. Jim closed his eyes and stayed still for a few seconds. Then he let out a soft mewling sound. “Jim?” Sebastian called out cautiously, loosening his hold over the smaller man a bit.

 

“Bast….is your name Sebastian?”

 

Sebastian realized he had given his name away. But he didn’t feel too bothered by it. If it had helped Jim, then it was worth a risk. “Yes it is,” he said with a chuckle, “Now I am sure you’ll call me by my full name and not twist it into all sorts of Busts, Beasts and Breasts.”

 

“Never called you breasts,” Jim said and chuckled too.

 

“I got you dinner.”

 

“Ice cream?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Chocolate?”

 

“Precisely.”

 

Suddenly Jim stiffened and that was when Sebastian realized he had the smaller man on his lap still. Not just that, Jim had realized that Sebastian was also incredibly hard.

Chapter Text

“Dr. Long?”

 

“Dr. Watson!”

 

John shook hands with the man who was easily in his mid-seventies but incredibly younger looking and fit, even at that age. At one glance no one would think he was a day older than fifty-five. Despite his salt and pepper hair, the crow’s feet at the corner of his blue eyes and various laugh lines, the shrink somehow managed to appear far more youthful than his age. He was a jolly man too and greeted John with the enthusiasm and boisterousness of a man half his age, eagerly enquiring about his work, Barts, London and its ever-increasing traffic-snarls and finally about the Holmes family.

 

“I got your address from Sherlock’s mother,” John said as the old man served him some coffee.

 

“Eugenia is a beautiful girl,” Dr. Long said, “I had known her since she was in her early twenties and a new bride. I am in touch with her and Reg, her husband, but I haven’t heard from Sherlock for a decade and half. When he used to be in therapy with me, he was in his mid-teens and his elder brother Mycroft, we used to call him Mike, had just started working. He….I mean Sherlock must be like, what, I think about thirty five years now?”

 

“Thirty-four still. He will turn thirty-five in about a month. I actually wanted to talk to you about him, Dr. Long.”

 

“There is a doctor-patient confidentiality sir which, as a doctor yourself, you’d be very well aware of.”

 

Dr. Long’s eyes twinkled. He didn’t sound offended or unhelpful but he wasn’t going to be unethical. John respected him all the more for that. “I am aware sir and I won’t even ask for any details. But I’d like some help from you to understand his past life, his issues, especially some unfortunate incidents that occurred when he was sixteen. He won’t seek help now, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need help. I-I want to extend that…..help.”

 

The shrink sat down on a chair opposite to John. He looked curious. “You’re Sherlock’s boyfriend?”

 

“I am not……”

 

“Not gay? Did I get that wrong?”

 

John smiled and shook his head. No way was he going to be in denial anymore, especially not when he knew Sherlock needed his help to figure things out for their future. “No, you didn’t get that wrong,” he said confidently, “Not wrong at all. I meant to say, I am not his boyfriend….yet.”

 

***

 

Sebastian woke up with a near bursting bladder and alternating numbness and shooting pain in his right arm. After blinking a few times and clearing the haze of sleep he realized he was in bed and Jim was wrapped around him. Jim was literally lying on his arm (therefore the numb feeling and pain) and had one of his legs wrapped around his lower abdomen (hence the bursting bladder because there was considerable pressure on it).

 

“Jim,” he nudged and shook the man, “Jim wake up man. I need to go.”

 

Jim didn’t move initially but after a few more nudges and shakes, he rolled over to face the other side. Relieved, Sebastian got up and quickly went to the toilet to empty his aching bladder. Once he was done and he stood in front of the narrow mirror while brushing his teeth, a strange thought crossed his mind. This journey to Loch Ness was not going the way he had planned. While everything was going well, they were going in a very different direction from what he had anticipated. He thought he would have to restrain Jim at every step and keep a constant eye on him, calm him down periodically with doses of mild sedatives and mood controllers. But Jim was not only willingly cooperating with him, he seemed to be enjoying this state of captivity.

 

“But why?” Sebastian asked as he spat out the toothpaste.

 

“Sebbyyy….!”

 

“Coming.”

 

“Get out fast. I need to go too.”

 

“Thirty more seconds.”

 

Gosh, it sounds like a conversation between a couple. What the hell are we coming down with? He had barely finished that thought when Jim stepped in, clad in nothing but his tiny briefs, rubbing his eyes and half asleep. When Sebastian’s eyes lingered on Jim’s body, the smaller man pushed him out of the bathroom with surprising strength and closed the door. “Hey, I haven’t rinsed my mouth,” Sebastian complained.

 

“Do it in the sink,” Jim answered.

 

We have truly started to act like a couple. Jeez!

 

Later, as Sebastian made pancakes and Jim watched him carefully and asked him a million questions, an interesting revelation was made. It started with Jim talking about how handsome Gregory Peck was and how Armie Hammer was aging badly, when Sebastian unwittingly and almost inadvertently complimented him. “You are rather good-looking Jim. I am surprised you do not have three ex-spouses bitching about you and possibly six kids distributed between ten odd mistresses across the world.”

 

“I have had sex with women, not very often but now and then,” Jim said with a shrug, “But I’d rather settle down with a man. Kids? Not so sure. I am not too fond of children.”

 

Sebastian plated the pancakes and said, “I am not sure about kids either. Didn’t have a great father myself, so I don’t know if I can be a good one or not. My belief is, if you can’t love your kids and support them financially, morally and emotionally, don’t have them. Too many people who don’t deserve to be parents have decided to breed due to biological processes and there are too many kids in this world who are suffering from the after-effects of broken homes and hostile relationship between their parents. Why add one more to that list?”

 

“Tell me about it,” Jim grumbled.

 

“Same story huh?”

 

“Worse.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Come on, are you not curious? Not even a bit?”

 

“It’s your private life after all.”

 

“I had an uncle. He was a pedophile. The bastard had never bothered to marry or have kids and used to butter up my parents all the time to eat and sleep at our place. He often used to touch me inappropriately, when I was hardly ten years old. At first I thought it was accidental, maybe I was not looking at it right, but the behavior kept repeating itself till one night I woke up with him right next to me in bed, the motherfucker had his hand on my crotch and was masturbating against my arse.”

 

Sebastian closed his eyes and pictured the scenario. Jim, young, vulnerable, innocent, curled up in bed and crying as he was dishonored and shamed by that horny, warped bastard. An unbelievable surge of anger coursed through his body and he felt smoke come out of his ears.

 

“I asked him to stop but he didn’t. He finished and went off, telling me there would be dire consequences if I told anyone. I lay there, crying, my pajamas wet at the back.”

 

Sebastian gripped the edge of the counter and took deep breaths.

 

“When I told my parents the next morning, the bastard had beaten me to it. He had told my parents I was caught by him with inappropriate viewing and reading material and I had threatened to complain about him if he spoke to my parents. My good-for-nothing dad and insensitive mum decided to believe the thirty-five-year-old man, a proven molester and liar in the family, and I got thrashed for something I had not done.”

 

Sebastian gave Jim a fiery look. “Where are these people now? Honestly speaking, once this is over, I could pay that uncle of yours a visit and also your parents who…..”

 

“You can’t meet any of them really,” Jim said as he played with his pancakes, his coffee growing cold, “Dad got what was coming. He died in an accidental shootout at a bar, where he was piss drunk and chasing some twenty-two-year-old barmaid. Mum was committed and died there, due to an accidental overdose of a certain potent drug. None of them had happy endings. As for the uncle, he continued to elude punishment for about ten years after the incident till he was cut down in four pieces by some grinning maniac. You should have seen his face when he saw who that man was.”

 

Sebastian frowned, “Can’t say I am sorry for your folks. But that uncle, did he get killed by some serial killer?”

 

“No, an avenger.”

 

“Jim!!!”

 

“It took me ten years to plan and execute it in a manner that would make it look like some random psychopath on a killing spree had done the deed. His last words were all about begging for forgiveness and repenting for his deeds. It was a treat to watch him get eaten alive by fear first, then by the acid that was poured on him.”

 

Sebastian stared at Jim. So that manic look he had occasionally seen in the man’s eyes, the immaculate throw of that beer bottle at the goon, then his complete lack of remorse when the man died, it all added up now. Jim was not just a businessman. He was something more than that, or rather, something far worse than that. “Let me get this straight,” the sniper said, “You killed your uncle?”

 

Jim nodded.

 

“I’d never have thought…..”

“Surprised?”

 

“Nah. Nothing surprises me anymore.”

 

“You didn’t judge me, rebuke me, call me a monster.”

 

Sebastian shook his head, “That would be like the pot calling the kettle black. I have done a lot of things I am not proud of but given a second chance I’d do the same thing all over again. Some people deserve what is dished out to them. No tears for such people, no judgement for their killers. If anything, you possibly saved a few little boys from your fate.”

 

“I also killed a classmate, about a year older than me,” Jim said, “His name was Carl Powers. A big bully and a smug asshole. He also deserved it, I believe.”

 

***

 

“As a child I had no friends,” Jim went on speaking as Sebastian drove, “I was too bright and clever for anyone to identify with me. I spent little time at the desk and still got A grades. Envy and anger reduced my classmates to burning balls of bitterness and jealousy and they took explicit pleasure in bullying me or shunning me. My only friends those days were my sisters. I had one older and one younger sister. I had an elder brother too but he ran away from home when he was only fifteen and returned ten years later in a coffin. He had joined the army and got shot in the battlefield.”

 

“You have been on your own for a long time then,” Sebastian said, trying to picture Jim’s dysfunctional family and comparing it with his own, “I hope your two sisters are still in touch with you.”

 

Jim’s eyes were focused on the road. He had been biting down on his lower lip a bit too often and Sebastian noticed how red it had become. It reminded him of a juicy fruit and a disturbing thought started to cross his mind. He wanted to touch those lips, kiss them, suck on them till they were bee-stung and beetroot red. He was so busy staring he almost missed the answer Jim gave to his earlier statement about Jim’s sisters. “The younger one is in touch with me, off and on. The elder one I stopped communicating with.”

 

“Oh…..but why?”

 

“She didn’t understand why I did what I did. She felt I was derailed.”

 

“Talking it out with her might have helped. I am sure you tried that.”

 

“No, in our family people usually don’t talk, they act. Later my younger sis told me she repented and wanted to talk to me again, but by then too many years had passed and I couldn’t relate with her anymore. She tried to reach out and I wasn’t available. Then I tried to reach out and things somehow didn’t work out. Eventually we both stopped trying and……I haven’t seen her or heard from her for the past six years.”

 

He felt a small hand on his knee. He looked down at the slender, bony fingers and commented, “You are an artist, are you not?”

 

“How did you guess?”

 

“Those are an artist’s hands.”

 

“I am a painter. More of a dabbler in colors but that’s how I unwind. That and by watching the stars at night. That’s my passion.” Jim stretched his legs and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and enjoying the sun on his face. “You know, I have some simple dreams in life and God knows why I have never tried to make those work. On the one hand I have successfully completed complex, almost impossible tasks but uncomplicated and easy things like…..living on a homestead in the countryside and having barbeques in the backyard, visiting Disneyland, seeing the Northern Lights during winter from Lapland, Finland…..how difficult can those be?”

 

“If you have loads of money, they’re all easy goals,” Sebastian answered.

 

“I guess I had no one to share those dreams with,” Jim yawned.

 

“Sleepy?”

 

“Don’t know. I slept well last night but I feel less than energetic right now.”

 

“Emotions overload. Happens to the best of us. Wanna take a nap?”

 

“Bed feels lonely.”

 

Sebastian knew they should keep driving, keep moving at a steady speed so they’d reach their destination by the end of the day the next day but Jim’s puppy eyes were distracting, as was the incredible urge he felt about staying close to the Irishman. Saying ‘no’ didn’t even seem like an option. A voice in his head warned him that they were subtly and slowly switching roles, Jim settling into this life like he was a willing participant and Sebastian feeling trapped into it, because of his underlying feelings for Jim.

 

“We can take a short break,” he heard himself say, “Let me park.”

 

He swerved off the road and parked the motorhome behind a large rock, half a mile off the main road. They went to the bed and lay down, Jim curling up against Sebastian and Sebastian wondering if he should cuff Jim to the bed or not. “Cuff our hands together,” Jim yawned loudly, “So I know you’ll stay close.”

 

“Really,” Sebastian was pleased with the solution, “Not because you can’t run away like that.”

 

I have run away Sebby, with you.”

 

Sebastian wanted to ask what that meant but Jim was already drifting by then. In less than five minutes they were both napping.

Chapter Text

John shrugged off the heavy arm on his shoulder, “Mycroft, it’s been six years since we have known each other. Do you still need to get me to some unknown location in a government limo with your forever-texting assistant Anthea sitting next to me and telling me she has no idea what this meeting is about?” He looked at the tall man next to him, “And who is this? My right shoulder just cracked, I think.”

 

“Simple reasons of confidentiality and to avoid complications,” Mycroft answered coolly, leaning on to his umbrella, “I don’t want Sherlock to know about our meeting. As it is he has been acting really weirdly over the past few days.”

 

“And what are you doing about it?” John asked sharply, “Have you even tried to find out why he has locked himself in the flat and refuses to talk, take on a case or even get out of bed sometimes? Mycroft, I am scared, to be honest I am scared. I feel someday, one of these days, I’d go to the room to wake him up and find he’s overdosed. We have done all we can to keep him away from drugs but he’s a bloody genius. He can get his supplies without any of us even getting a whiff of it. I feel that one day…..all we will have left is regret. He has already tried……”

 

John stopped and clasped his mouth in shock. He had spoken too much.

 

“So you stole his files from my house?” Mycroft gave him an accusatory glance.

 

After the initial setback John grew defiant. “Yes,” he said, looking Mycroft in the eye, “So I did. Sue me.”

 

“And you told Dr. Long that mummy had shared the file with you?”

 

“I had to tell him something.”

 

“John, even mummy didn’t know the true extent of the damage Sherlock suffered those days. When Dr. Long called her and spoke to her, she was rather upset that daddy and I had chosen to hide facts from her. Now she’s not talking to me and daddy is eating his meals at the diner. Anyways, forget about that, what did you really wish to know about Sherlock’s past? You could have asked me, couldn’t you? Why reach out to the shrink?”

 

“Pardon me for thinking this way,” John replied, “But I had no clue you were so involved in his life back then.”

 

“Now that you know I was,” Mycroft said in an authoritarian tone, “What do you want to know?”

 

“Why did he attempt suicide? Why did he try to run away from the house? Why was he institutionalized for a month?”

 

“Anthea,” Mycroft looked at his assistant, “Dr. Watson and I need to discuss some sensitive matters. A table, two chairs, some tea and privacy please.”

 

Anthea, like the dog-eyed devoted assistant that she was, took barely three minutes to get all of these things done. As the door to the vacant office space closed and Mycroft’s team retreated a bit to give them the solitude they needed, Mycroft began his tale.

 

“When Sherlock was sixteen he had a meltdown one night, post a nightmare about Redbeard. To make matters worse, the only friend he had in high school had just transferred out to another school. At home, tensions escalated between him and our parents after I left for London to begin work. He began to write to weird hippie folks, so-called spiritual gurus and some strange addicts and junkies, quoting Kafka and Osho, trying all sorts of recreational drugs and even went to live with a woman who was twenty-five years his senior. Later he told us he was being a rebel, just to analyze his own psychology and his reactions to sudden changes in his life. Whatever it was, one night he was found in his own filth in a back-alley in Paris, where he had travelled with this cougar. Daddy and I went and fetched him back. Afterwards, the drug habits escalated and the situation worsened…..”

 

***

 

“You told me they would be at their destination by now.”

 

“Yes ma’am….that was what I was told, maybe there was a delay…..”

 

“Georgie, I don’t pay you to assume. Neither did we pay that blond hunk two million to do a botched-up job. The man we have kidnapped is far too profitable for us to take this lightly. Sebastian Augustus Moran might be a very clever man but isn’t it YOUR job to be cleverer, to be able to stay two steps ahead of him and track his every move? What do you have right now? Four dopeys tried to rob two men in a motorhome, one got killed and three are critically injured. No signs of the men or the motorhome.”

 

“It has to be them. It must be them.”

 

“Yes but do you have PROOF?”

 

Georgie looked suitably repentant.

 

“Hello,” the lady crossed her legs and leaned forward, “I do not speak ‘mute’. When I give you a job to do you need to ensure you have answers, not excuses. This is our nine hundred-million-dollar golden opportunity and I am just seeing your blank face and sheepish body language. Have you asked that colonel to check if he knows the code? Why are we wasting time? The work can start easily while they are on their way. It’s not like the man is kept out cold for the entire day and night.”

 

“No, of course not,” George admitted.

 

“Ask him how the prisoner got cornered and threatened by three or four strangers. What was he doing then? Anything could have happened to our target. He could have been killed, injured, maimed. This whole job is my biggest investment so far and I want to ensure he knows how to protect my investment.”

 

“Do not worry ma’am,” Georgie recovered from his earlier embarrassment to gather his wits and give his boss a proper answer, “I know I had a few misses before but I have this under control now. We have traced the house where he’s supposed to stay with the prisoner and also his account from which he’d be making transactions. Even though he has cash with him, plenty of it, there are some transactions which he will have to do online. He has mortgage payments for his house, a mortgage he is trying to close. That cannot be done in cash. The moment he makes any of those transactions we will locate him and also keep a tab on him thereafter. I already have three people over in that village, where he has rented a cottage. They will keep an eye on both of them, constantly.”

 

“Is one of them an assassin?”

 

“Yes, of course, just in case we need to finish the job at the end?”

 

“Yes, both of them.”

 

“Both!!!”

 

She looked at him with a derisive smile, “You didn’t think we would let the colonel go after he has found out so much about us, do you? If all goes well and we have what we want, James Brooke goes free and Colonel Moran is off the hook. If we have to kill James, we will need to finish off Moran and make it look like he was the one who did the deed. Now, why are you looking at me like that?”

 

George hesitated, “Um…..”

 

“Speak up. I haven’t all day.”

 

“He knows nobody from our organization aside from me and I can go into hiding for a while.”

 

“I high-profile cases like this, the world becomes too small a space for someone to hide. You will be pulled out from hell or earth and you’ll take the whole ship down with you. So, it’s a choice between getting rid of you or getting rid of Sebastian Moran. Take your pick.”

 

George swallowed. Then he laughed nervously and said, “Let’s hope we get what we want. So we don’t have to walk down that path.”

 

“But if we do, what would be your choice? Who should live?”

 

“Of course ma’am, I’d choose me.”

 

***

 

Sebastian woke up with a start. Good Lord, what the hell was he thinking? How could he just fall asleep on a chair while watching television, with the motorhome door unlocked and Jim unrestrained. They were not a couple traveling for fun or on their way from one place to another, they were captor and captive and he was supposed to watch over the wily Jim. Heartbeat speeding up, he sat up in a hurry only to notice something strange. A blanket covered him. Someone had placed it there to keep him nice and comfy, along with a cushion to support his neck. Otherwise he would have had a bad crick there.

 

“James? Jim?”

 

He checked the bedroom and bathroom first. But both were empty. Still, Sebastian no longer felt those uneasy palpitations in his chest or the niggling worry that his prisoner would run away. Jim was clearly not going anywhere. A man as resourceful as him, someone who clearly had a history before he became a globally successful businessman, wouldn’t place a cushion and blanket for his comfort if all he wanted to do was escape. “Jim, where are you?” He asked, turning the headlights of the motorhome on.

 

“Turn them off,” he heard a vexed voice outside, “The lights from the stars and the moonbeams are enough. Come on outside if you wanna!”

 

Sebastian wrapped the blanket around himself and stepped out of the motorhome. He found Jim a few meters from the van, sitting on a folding chair with a pair of binoculars in his hands. He had a bottle of water and a cup of tea next to him, on a plastic folding table.

 

“Star-gazing?” Sebastian asked, dragging another chair over to the spot and placing it next to Jim’s chair.

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“I wish we had a telescope.”

 

“Will you get me one when we reach whichever village we were supposed to?”

 

“Jim, can I ask you something?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Aren’t you worried about what lies in store for you? Don’t you fear that this could end very badly? I abducted you. It is a kidnapping and you aren’t free to go. You’re a prisoner. There is a ransom that’s going to be asked in exchange for your safe return. Do these things not affect you at all? What if I am a sadistic bastard who’d put a bullet between your eyes if my employers give me a green signal?”

 

Jim didn’t answer for the longest time. When Sebastian was about to open his mouth again, the Irishman placed his hand on Sebastian’s knee again, the same way he had done while they were driving that morning.

 

“I am the one who will be asked to pay up, share something precious, assist with something only I can do,” Jim replied nonchalantly, adjusting the binocular lens, “I know what I am capable of, what I am worth, so buying my freedom isn’t going to be a challenge for me. Yes, there is always the question ‘will this man simply let me go or kill me just so he can never be identified’.” Jim stopped for a good ten seconds and then looked at Sebastian, his eyes shining like glowing coals in the fire, “I knew from the moment I looked into your eyes that you can’t do something like that. I know you won’t.”

 

“Jim, you don’t know me. I kill for a living.”

 

“Then let me rephrase. You can’t kill ME.”

 

Sebastian had opened his mouth to protest but he closed it with an audible click of his teeth clashing together. Jim’s simple, confident and upfront statement had struck him at the core and he felt foolish for not being self-aware. Jim was right. He could die for this man or kill for him but he couldn’t really ‘kill him’. Over the past handful of days, Jim had managed to carve a niche for himself in Sebastian’s barren heart.

 

“You are wrong,” he said sternly. No way was he going to give away his weakness.

 

“We shall see,” came the response.

 

They sat there in comfortable silence till a point came when fates collided, stars flashed and a rainbow of happy colors and sensations exploded around them. Jim had got up to fetch more tea (Sebastian and he had finished the tea and water between them) when he stumbled on a pebble and fell straight on to Sebastian’s lap. The blond man gasped and stiffened, the feel of Jim’s pert arse cheeks giving him an instant boner, but the moment Jim tried to get up again he found his arms snaking around the smaller man.

 

That was perhaps all the encouragement Jim needed. “Sebby….!!” Jim whispered thickly.

 

“Uhnnn……!”

 

“Mmmmm!!!”

 

Their eyes met in the darkness, emotions flowing out in unseen vibes, till Sebastian’s gaze drifted down to Jim’s lips. He had longed for a taste, he couldn’t deny that, but now that he was within touching distance of his goal he felt…..what…..nervous? Was he really nervous? Casual sex, random orgies, threesomes, he had done it all. He had paraded naked proudly around a pool party, making smitten women and some men swoon and most men snarl with jealousy. Never had he felt hesitation or coyness when it came to sex, touching, desire……until now!

 

“The things you do to me,” Jim whispered and turned, straddling Sebastian’s thighs and resting their foreheads together, “The things you could still do to me?” His eyes fluttered shut and Sebastian closed the rest of the distance between their lips.

 

***

 

Sherlock sat on his bed, propped up by pillows, wearing clothes he had possibly worn two days ago. He felt no desire to change out of them, to eat, sleep or do anything but sit and brood there. A weird kind of slackness clouded his limbs and his brain was slowly looping around in circles, causing him to shun all thoughts other than the conundrum he was caught in. Was he an emotional fool like Mycroft called him? Did Moriarty win over the Jim he liked and had he been dumped just because he had nothing more left to give to that man? Did Jim have a greater fascination for his elder brother just because Mycroft was rich, powerful and connected?

 

But the most unnerving thing of all was his guilt and confusion about John. Had he ignored the person who was right there for him and perhaps loved him selflessly?

 

Cases didn’t interest him. There were none so interesting anyways, just the usual Scotland Yard homicides and clients with small issues like a lost document or a theft of a family heirloom. Yes, he did want to find out about James Brooke and get him back from whoever had orchestrated this strange abduction, but after having his worst fears confirmed that Jim was alive and he had never been told about it, he didn’t feel like doing anything there either. If I am that easy to forget, I’d rather assume we had never met, that was the thought swirling around in his mind.

 

“Sherl?”

 

“Jawn,” Sherlock quickly rubbed his eyes and put on a broad smile.

 

“Don’t,” John said as he set down the tray next to him on the bed.

 

“Don’t what?”

 

“Smile like that. It doesn’t reach your eyes.”

 

Sherlock’s eyes grew bright with unshed tears. In a shaky scratched voice he said, “Oh yes, I forgot, I am ugly…..” Before he could finish, he choked up and covered his face with the sheets.

Chapter Text

“Sherl, this isn’t exactly what I meant,” John reached out to touch Sherlock’s arm but stopped himself just inches from it, “Please, don’t cry, look…..I can’t see you crying or upset.”

 

Sherlock looked up, trying to keep the sobs in. “Why?” He whimpered. It was not so much of a question as it was a challenge. He was challenging John to speak the truth.

 

Time to tell him the truth then and to dispel all those fears and insecurities he was accumulating in his troubled mind. John cleared his throat and spoke in a voice that was steady, confident and filled with assurance and fondness. “Because I love you,” he said and waited for the reaction. It came a bit late because his flat mate and friend had clearly not expected something like this. Sherlock looked up, bottom lip still quivering, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed nervously. “Yes Sherlock Holmes,” John repeated himself, “I am in love with you. Probably I had been in love with you even back in those days when we handled our first case together as a team.”

 

“N-No way.”

 

“Yes way. Why else did I ask you whether you were in a relationship?”

 

“Curiosity.”

 

“No, not really. Even I assumed it was curiosity. Inside I was a bit jealous, of whoever it was, boyfriend or girlfriend.”

 

“R-Really J-Jawn….t-tell me the truth.”

 

“This is the truth kid, even if it took me several years to figure it out,” John said affectionately, ruffling Sherlock’s hairs and wiping away his tears. Gosh, his skin was so cold and clammy and he stank of sweat and cigarettes and the usual stench of unwashed hair and skin. His stubble was prickly, his eyes sunken, his skin pale and dry. John knew he had his work cut out. He had to nurse his mate back to his usual, healthy, ebullient self again.

 

“You always said you’re not gay,” Sherlock coughed and cleared his throat, still sniffling a little.

 

“That also was the truth back then,” John grabbed his arm and led him out of bed, knowing that his best chances of getting Sherlock under the shower was while he was distracted, “I had never felt anything but friendship or a sense of duty towards any man……that is until I met you.”

 

“I-I am scared…..”

 

“Of what?”

 

“This is a parallel universe. This isn’t happening. I will wake up from coma any moment.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” John said as he walked Sherlock to the bathroom and started to help him out of his clothes. That was when Sherlock realized what was happening and shirked, retreating a few steps when John took off his T shirt and reached for his pajama bottoms.

 

“What?” John smiled pleasantly, “I have never known you to be a prude. And what is it that ya got which I don’t? Come on now, you need to brush, shave, wash and eat something. Then a long nap which is overdue. Why are you shaking? Okay fine, have it your way, get out of those on your own while I squeeze some toothpaste on the brush.”

 

Sherlock looked at the mirror, in which his reflection could clearly get seen by John, and hesitated. Then he nodded slowly and turned around to face the shower stall while John smirked as he applied toothpaste on to the detective’s brush. Even though he tried to be a gentleman, John couldn’t help but steal a glance at his friend’s reflection in the mirror. A brief flash of the pale globes before the younger man stepped into the shower stall and closed the sliding door. John held his breath, trying to ignore his erection as he opened the door a crack and handed Sherlock a towel, the toothbrush and a bottle of body wash.

 

“Shave before you come out, okay?”

 

“O-Okay.”

 

“And Sherl?”

 

“Uhnn-huhnn?”

 

“I love you.”

 

John heard the shower start and more sniffles. He hoped this time his mate was crying tears of joy and not sorrow and self-pity.

 

***

 

A cry of pleasure, surprise and delight left Sebastian as he felt himself slowly getting engulfed in the tightest heat he had ever known.

 

Jim moaned in abundance, threw his head back and squirmed as he sank down on Sebastian’s monstrously large cock, inch by inch, impaling himself until his butt touched the taller man’s pubes and he was fully seated on his blond lover.

 

Their eyes met and so did they hands, fingers lacing together as Jim swayed and shuddered on top of Sebastian and Sebastian trembled with need beneath. They gasped and groaned in unison as the slightest of movements from either side, both of them overwhelmed by the experience. Then Jim gave Sebastian a slight nod and the latter braced his heels on the bed and thrust up as hard as he could. Jim’s eyes widened at the mighty thrust and he was almost thrown off before he managed to retain his balance.

 

With a start, Jim started moving.

 

Something that had never happened before to Sebastian, happened that night. He came instantly. He was left bereft of speech as his brain melted into mush and his body shook so hard he felt as if he was going into seizures. Tremors went right through his legs and arms and ripped up to his brain, making white light explode at the back of his eyelids. He was aware of strange moaning sounds he made and a litany of curses he wanted to spew but couldn’t, but what surprised and shocked him the most was the speed and intensity with which his orgasm had hit him. Never had he felt something of this intensity and potent raw power, never had he become so incapacitated by pleasure and sensations.

 

Through the orgasmic haze he noticed Jim watching him with lust and awe while he rose and fell on his cock. Perhaps Sebastian’s voluptuous orgasm acted as a trigger because barely after a few seconds Jim came hard. His hips jerked so wildly that Sebastian’s cock slipped out of him by accident, earning a cry of frustration from Jim who had already begun to ejaculate by then. A bit recovered by then, the sniper grabbed his still hard dick and shoved it back in, making Jim cry out so loudly with pleasure that Sebastian was worried for a moment that they would be heard from the nearest town.

 

It took them a long time to start breathing normally again.

 

“No way this happened,” Sebastian smiled, eyes closed, a look of bliss on his face.

 

“No way we had sex or no way you came like a fifteen year old?” Jim teased him.

 

“Both. But mostly the second one.”

 

“I did too.”

 

“I know. You looked beautiful.”

 

Jim giggled, “I can see it’s making you stay hard inside me.” He wriggled his butt a bit and Sebastian’s cock jumped inside him. “See,” the Irishman said with a wicked look on his visage, “That’s what I meant. You really are acting like a beast…..Bast?”

 

“Beast tonight,” Sebastian growled, refusing to just lie down passively anymore, “And I will eat you alive tonight you sexy little bitch.”

 

Jim moaned out loud as Sebastian sat up and reversed their positions, putting him on his back and starting to thrust between his open legs. For the next fifteen minutes he was ravished hard and fast, hungrily and passionately and when he came this time he didn’t even need to touch himself. Sebastian came barely a second after him, his second orgasm not so debilitating to his limbs but still just as intense as the first one. They moaned and clung to each other through it and fell asleep shortly afterwards, still tangled together like that and their heads lying at the footboard of the bed with their legs touching the headboard.

 

***

 

Sebastian stood under the spray with his eyes closed.

 

Jim was still in bed and sound asleep, dead to the world after the immensely satisfying and hot night they had had. They had woken up twice during the night and early morning to go for quickies before falling asleep again. But despite his body being all sated and relaxed, Sebastian couldn’t sleep in the morning after. In fact, he had woken up before the alarm had gone off, at six-thirty am. Unable to fall asleep, he had extricated his limbs from Jim’s and left the bed to take a shower and clear his head.

 

But no matter how wonderful the night had been, how dreamlike their coupling was and how many flutters it had caused to his heart, Sebastian felt harsh reality creep in and sting him. No matter how much they were attracted to each other, no matter the life-altering sex, they were not meant to be together. This was doomed. Jim was a billionaire businessman and part of a crème de la crème of London society, a man way above his league. Back in his glory days in the army, with his father’s title and estate in his name, this might have been possible. But not now.

 

He was a hired hand used to kill or threaten people, to steal and abduct, participate in heists and attacks. If he hooked up with Jim he would pull him down as well. He had no right to do that to a man he was beginning to fall in love with.

 

Correction, the man he had fallen in love with.

 

He remembered his grandmother’s words, the wise old woman who had perhaps been the only family member who loved him for what he was. “When you love someone, you do what’s best for them, not for yourself.”

 

He turned off the shower, got into his clothes and went to prepare breakfast. Distracted from everything, his heart already bleeding from his decision, but his mind totally made up, he worked on breakfast without even focusing on what he was really doing. It was only when Jim emerged from the bedroom area wearing his shirt (and possibly nothing underneath because the garment almost reached midway through to his thighs) and squealed at the sight of the food that he looked at it.

 

“Ooops, sorry.”

 

“Damn, the place is filled with smoke. Let me open the windows and door.”

 

“Sorry again.”

 

“Burned toast, charred eggs, pancakes mush in the oven, tea over-brewed, Sebby you okay?” Jim asked and held Sebastian’s wrist when the man reached out for more bread and eggs to restart the process, “No harm done. Just brew some fresh tea, okay? We will just eat some porridge this morning. I know we need eggs after….ahem……last night but we can have an egg salad sandwich for lunch and make up for it?”

 

Sebastian didn’t trust his voice at that point so he merely nodded in agreement and went to brew some fresh tea and clean up the mess he had made. As he scrubbed the pots and pans he kept looking at Jim from the corner of his eye, watching the smaller man as he whistled a merry tune and mixed the porridge with milk and expertly chopped some fruits before adding them to the two bowls. On a couple of occasions their eyes met and Sebastian felt his heart being ripped out of his chest. How was he going to talk to Jim about this? You have to do this Sebastian, you are doing this for his good, you have no choice but to make that decision for him.

 

“You okay?” Jim asked as they sat down to eat ten minutes later.

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

“I am famished and eating like a pig. Usually you eat three times as much and you’re nibbling at your food.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I will eat….just starting.”

 

“Last night…..it was great. It was wonderful. I have never felt so……it was amazing.”

 

“The best I ever had. I-I didn’t h-hurt you in any way, did I?”

 

“No. I can feel it a bit, but this will be fine by evening. Don’t worry, you didn’t go overboard.”

 

They continued to eat but Sebastian’s pace or intake didn’t improve and he mostly picked out the kiwis and berries and apple slices and munched on them while downing several cups of tea. Next to him, Jim ate hungrily. Not blessed with a very good appetite, the smaller man showed a remarkable improvement that morning as he finished his full bowl of porridge. Usually he quit half way through or at the most, after finishing two thirds.

 

“Bastian?”

 

“Huh? Oh yes, what?”

 

“There really is something wrong, isn’t there?”

 

Sebastian saw Jim’s scrutinizing glance on his food and knew he had to either lie through his teeth or admit to the truth. Do it now and don’t put off the inevitable, his head told him. Don’t break his spirits yet, his heart counter-advised. “Sebby,” Jim asked again, “What is wrong? Was it something I said or did last night?”

 

“No,” Sebastian measured his words carefully, “But after everything we did, I have taken a decision.”

 

Jim gave him a clueless look, his eyes glazed over with puzzlement. Sebastian kept his voice as unemotional as possible and said, “We are almost there, at the village where we were supposed to spend the next three weeks until your release….or whatever else is in store for you. But then….it doesn’t have to end that way. I am going to turn this motorhome around and stop at a different village, its name is Inverness. You can find transport from there to get to Edinburgh and from there a flight to London every two hours. I will give you the money you need, all your belongings, your phone and some clothes too, you can make it back home by late evening.”

 

Jim still looked confused.

 

“Have you heard me man?” Sebastian said in a tone laced by anger, more directed towards himself than Jim, “Go shower while I get us to Inverness and buy a pair of jeans and shirt for you. You don’t have to wear my clothes anymore and you are no longer a prisoner. You’re going back home. HOME, safe and sound, no harm done. Don’t just stand there looking at me as if I just showed you a unicorn.”

 

“You-You are sending me home?”

 

“What else does it sound like?”

 

“Why?”

 

The dismay reflected in his tone made Sebastian’s resolve waver for a moment. But he stood firm on his ground, the only thing on his mind was Jim’s wellbeing. He wasn’t going to risk that man’s life, not for a moment longer than necessary.

 

“What do you mean why? Do you think this is some kind of joke? In a few days or weeks you might even get killed. Even if I don’t do that myself, someone else will. Your life is in danger, grave danger. Don’t you fucking dare to refuse because I am NOT taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

 

“But I don’t want to go back,” Jim clutched at Sebastian’s arm desperately, “Please, don’t send me back, please Sebby.”

 

“I have made up my mind. If you don’t comply I will knock you out and put you on the doorsteps of the police station. So shut up and do as I tell you.”

Chapter Text

Jim cut a small, sorry, figure as he huddled down at the corner of a bus stop, about ten meters from the police station. “Please,” he said in a small voice, “Take me with you.”

 

“No.”

 

Jim’s eyes were filled with tears. “You don’t understand. This life I shared with you over the past six days, it’s been better than the rest of my adult life. Way better! You may find this funny but in a state of captivity I have finally found freedom. I feel fulfilled and happy in a way I cannot explain. None of the business deals, money, achievements I have had so far even measures up to the awesomeness of this trip with you. I want to go the village, live in a cottage, breathe in the fresh air, cook and eat simple meals with you, I want to go biking and trekking and boating and fishing, please…..please Sebby, don’t send me away.”

 

“Life isn’t a fairytale Jimmy,” Sebastian sighed, “I am not doing this as a happy man. Do you think this is what I want? But it’s not important what I want. What’s foremost on my mind is what’s best for you. Whatever is best for you shall be my priority and I can’t see a better way to keep you safe and sound. Go, live your life and next time be a bit more careful with your choice of a personal security team.”

 

“If you let me go, won’t they kill you instead?”

“Not if I return the cash.”

 

“Rubbish. Such people never like to take ‘no’ for an answer. They will harm you out of spite.”

 

“I am a tough bird Jim. I can look after myself. I will be gone much before they even realize something is wrong with the original plan. But don’t mind me, you look after yourself and do what’s best for you. Go back home. If need be, take the help of the local cops.”

 

Sebastian turned to leave and it was at that point that Jim broke. He grabbed at his arm and fell at his feet, begging him to take him with himself, but Sebastian remained firm on his decision. He had no idea how long he’d be able to stick to his resolve so he roughly pushed Jim away.

 

“Sebby? Bast? See, I even remember your nickname.”

 

“Bye Jim.”

 

“No, don’t leave me here, no!”

 

Sebastian got into the motorhome and drove off, blinded by his own tears. He didn’t dare look into the rear-view mirror lest he changed his mind and ran back to the pretty Irishman.

 

***

 

“Back to the land of the living?” John smiled as sleepy green eyes blinked hard and focused on him slowly.

 

“How long have I been out?” Sherlock’s last word was nearly cut off by a monstrous yawn that showed teeth and tongue.

 

John peeled his eyes away from the heartwarming sight and said, “I’d say pretty damned long! You were knocked out for a little over twenty-four hours. After showering, shaving and finally eating after two whole days, you fell asleep sometime around ten-thirty in the morning of December 8th. Right now it’s ten-forty-five am on December 9th. One whole day. But I guess you needed this rest so I didn’t even try to wake you or offer any more food. I just helped you a bit when you woke up twice, rather briefly though, to drink some water and use the bathroom.”

 

“You helped me take a leak?”

 

“Um…..possibly.”

 

“Yes or no?”

 

“Yes. Does it bother you?”

 

“You saw me naked?”

 

“I have seen you naked before.”

 

“But now it’s different between us, isn’t it? You-You told me you love me, so it’s no longer the same, isn’t it?” Sherlock sat up, self-consciously tugging at the sleep shirt he wore on top of a loose pair of shorts, “Gosh, twenty-four hours! That explains why I am so hungry all over again.”

 

“I’ll order some pizza?”

 

“Sandwiches, from downstairs?”

 

“Sure.”

 

They looked at each other and John grasped Sherlock’s hand with reassurance and kindness. “Listen, I know this whole idea of me being in love with you sounds weird to you but try not to let things change between us. We are still the same people, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partners in solving crimes and flat mates who have been together for seven years. If we change the way we see our partnership today and tomorrow that breaks down, we’ll someday think it was a bad idea to fall in love.”

 

“I-I-I am….Jawn, don’t be mad at me but I am not even sure if I am in love,” Sherlock said quietly, but his grasp on John’s hand increased in pressure, indicating an unwillingness to let go, “I have spent my life making all kinds of wrong choices outside academics and work….my cases I mean. I’ve let go of good friend, got dumped by people, tricked by my own brother…..even you didn’t tell me…..”

 

John took a deep breath, “These are complicated matters Sherlock. Nobody ever finds quick fixes for this because there are no quick fixes.”

 

“Mike told me that you didn’t want me to know th-that Jim is alive and James Brooke….is Jim Moriarty,” Sherlock sighed and allowed John to draw his head down on his shoulder, “You knew, in fact you were the first person who knew Jim and I were…..more than just enemies. God damn it, I loved him. He flirted with me for fun but I fell in love with him for real. Then he fucking dropped me like a hot potato, as if I was really nothing more than a part of his web. You were angry that I let you grieve for two years. How did I feel when I got to know I had been grieving for him for three and half and he was happily leading a different life, under a different identity, and everyone knew apart from me.”

 

John knew this was coming, even though he wasn’t super-excited about hearing Jim’s name. “I didn’t know initially,” he explained, “I got to know only after you returned, that too by sheer chance. I had visited Mycroft’s house and saw him walk out of your brother’s bedroom in briefs and bunny ears. Gave me the shock of my life. I honestly thought it was a malevolent ghost I had encountered. He even put a knife to my throat.”

 

Sherlock’s mouth downturned with anger and disgust. “He SLEPT with Mike?”

 

“Possibly. But they don’t have feelings for each other, that I am sure of.”

 

“Oh….how so?”

 

“Sherl, don’t believe me if you don’t wanna but I don’t appreciate the sarcasm.”

 

Sherlock sobered up and nodded, “Sorry, that came out wrong.”

 

“I knew because I put two and two together. Mycroft is a strict loner, he hates company and commitments and barely tolerates you,” John said honestly, making it clear that he was not going to mince any words anymore, “As for that man, Moriarty, you aren’t what he needs Sherl. You two are too similar to really make it work. Yes, there was bound to be great attraction, but I asked you not to act on it. You still went ahead and did that anyways. Later when Mike and I had a word and I realized he had moved on, I asked your brother to give you room to move on as well.”

 

“I didn’t like being lied to, for so long.”

 

“Had you known the truth would you have not gone running after him? Would we both still have had a chance to be together? Tell me the truth Sherlock.”

 

“He was alive,” Sherlock clenched his fists, his body language defensive and passive-aggressive at the same time, “He faked it better than me. He even got away with it. My elder brother fucked him, you worked out an arrangement with Mycroft, and I was simply cut out of the equation like I never even existed. From the way Lestrade looked at me at the crime scene, I felt as if I was being mocked. Even he knows, I suppose.”

 

John let go of Sherlock’s hand and got up from the bed, his famous temper rising once again. But he managed to keep some control over his words as he tried to put some sense into his friend’s head. “Listen Sherl, it’s okay if you are not in love with me but for God’s sake, don’t deceive yourself by thinking you love Moriarty. That man needs someone different from you, someone who can take care of him and keep him stable. You can’t do that for him, instead his instability will begin to impact you too. Can’t you see the writing on the wall? A one-night stand was the most you guys could get up to. If you want to find him, very well then we shall do that. I will even assist you. But don’t be stupid, please. You need to be taken care of, frequently. How do you suppose it will be when you’re with a partner who needs an equal amount of support?”

 

John paused and huffed, “Like the blind guiding the blind.”

 

“I didn’t say I am in love with him,” Sherlock said in a mumble.

 

“What?”

 

“I said…..”

 

“I heard that. So what are you so upset about then?”

 

“I wasn’t given the choice. The choice was made for me. My brother and my best friend conspired behind my back and for what purpose? The greater good? Eliminating a criminal web? Saving someone’s life?”

 

John finally understood his friend’s angst. In a way Sherlock was right. Unlike Mycroft and Sherlock deciding to keep John from the truth behind the Reichenbach Fall, this was something at a more personal level. They had decided on Sherlock’s behalf that he should be kept away from Moriarty. “It was about saving someone’s life,” he said in a clear, forthright manner, “Your life, to be precise.”

 

“He didn’t really want to kill me,” Sherlock suddenly lashed out.

 

John controlled the anger he felt. He remembered Dr. Long’s words clearly. ‘Sometimes anger is a way of expressing helplessness and sorrow’. Sherlock was saddened by the reappearance of Jim Moriarty and the subsequent knowledge that he had been kept in the dark about Moriarty’s ‘death’. At the same time he felt helpless about the situation and how he was unable to come to terms with his mixed feelings about the man and…..more importantly, about John. The hesitation, confusion and self-loathing was very evident in his body language and moods. He was blowing cold and hot, upset one moment and whiny the next, compliant one moment and rebellious right after.

 

“Accepted. But he didn’t really love you or want you either. Have you ever thought why he never tried to contact you?”

 

***

 

Sebastian drank and cried, drank and screamed. He knew he shouldn’t do this, he knew he wasn’t supposed to drive drunk, but he found himself doing just that. For the past hour he had neither felt like stopping the motorhome nor did he feel like putting down the bottle. The God damned alcohol wasn’t even working like it was supposed to, it wasn’t numbing his pain. Not a bit. Instead the pain kept increasing and increasing and his chest felt tighter and tighter till he had no choice but to howl out in agony and anguish.

 

What had he done? He had sent Jim away. You did it for his good, you did it to protect him, his voice of reason told him firmly.

 

The skies seemed to reflect his moods and, as minutes passed, the pretty blue had disappeared and dark thunderclouds shifted closer. It got to a point where the day looked like night and the wind had picked up so much that he was worried that a tree would get uprooted and come crashing down on the roof of the van. Thunder rumbled constantly and thanks to those noises, he didn’t hear his phone ringing until he had missed three calls. When it began to ring for the fourth time, the flashing light from the screen finally caught his attention.

 

Unknown number. But it was the same number that was trying to reach him constantly.

 

“Moran,” he barked.

 

“Sebby.”

 

“Jimmy!!!”

 

“I am not going back and you won’t see me again. See, we can both be happy….eventually.”

 

“No….what? What are you trying to say?”

 

“You didn’t want me to continue the journey with you and I didn’t want to go back to my earlier life. I have found…..I figured out a way for both of us get what we want. Just remember me with a smile….think of all the good things we shared…..and goodbye….. okay?”

 

Sebastian slammed his foot on the brakes and swerved the motorhome around blindly, narrowly avoiding hitting another car behind him and running into a tree by the roadside. This didn’t sound too good and he had already begun to regret pushing Jim to get off from the van. In a bid to protect him from harm, Sebastian hadn’t considered one major source of danger to Jim’s safety – Jim himself.

 

“I-I am coming to get you baby,” he pleaded, “I am sorry, I really am-am….sorry. Please forgive me and give me a chance. I-I shall be there in less than one hour….I promise. Don’t do anything stupid….please, just one chance, just one hour is all I am asking for.”

 

Jim didn’t say a word. He simply sighed and disconnected. “Jim….James,” Sebastian began, when it occurred to him that time was running out. He began to drive like a maniac, increasing the speed to the maximum despite the rain coming down in buckets and the visibility dropping to near zero. He had no fears or concerns about his own safety or those of other motorists. Not that there were many on the road in this weather, but he simply couldn’t spare a thought about them, not when his head and heart were so full of thoughts and worries for Jim. Several times he nearly skidded off the road, a few times he was blinded by the headlights of an approaching truck and nearly had a collision, but he didn’t reduce the speed at any cost. He had to be there within an hour or he had a bad feeling that Jim could resort to anything to teach him a lesson.

 

In fifty-four minutes he reached the same spot where he had left Jim about two hours ago. The place was getting beaten down by rain, puddles and streams had formed all over the streets and sidewalks, the signboards, banners and canopies swayed and swung violently in the gale. Amidst all of that, Jim Brooke sat under the bus stop, huddled up to stay warm. Though he had a roof over his head, the spray was too strong around him to stay dry in such a small place. He was drenched and shivering but he looked up with glowing eyes when the motorhome came to a half a few feet from him.

 

“JIM,” Sebastian jumped down from the van, arms outstretched.

 

“Sebby,” Jim got up and jumped into Sebastian’s arms, “You really came back?”

 

“Yes, I am sorry baby, I shouldn’t have left you here, shouldn't have pushed you away” Sebastian kissed him all over the face, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

 

“Let’s,” Jim said agreeably, clinging to Sebastian like a monkey.

 

Sebastian half dragged, half carried him to the van where he made Jim drop his clothes and pulled out dry clothes for both of them. They took a hurried hot shower and dried each other off, kissing and giggling, and put on warm clothes.

 

Sebastian made some hot coffee for them and they sipped it as they drove out of Inverness within fifteen minutes, the blond man behind the wheel and Jim seated on the passenger’s seat next to him, the goofy grins on their faces reflecting the joyous sparks in their souls.

Chapter Text

Mycroft looked at the details on his laptop and frowned. “Who is this Spider now?”

 

Anthea and a number of other senior members of the MI5 and MI6 team looked at each other, nobody had an answer and none of them wanted to be the one to tell the boss so. Mycroft was a tough man to work with and while everyone had tremendous respect for his power and abilities and leadership, they were equally scared of mucking up and facing his ‘cold’ ire.

 

“You are trying to tell me that someone disappeared one fine morning and none of you or your teams have a clue about who staged this kidnapping?” Mycroft asked, enunciating some of the words very carefully and watching his team members wince, “This man, James Brooke, is my investment. It’s an investment we were supposed to protect because it gives us returns over the years and those returns are invaluable. Like the time he gave us prior information about the assassination attempt on the Chinese Premier who was due for a state visit to UK. Or the time he helped us identify the terrorist cell responsible for the bombing threats.”

 

“We thought the Spider was Moriarty himself.”

 

“Yes and we know Moriarty is dead.”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

“I didn’t hear you guys.”

 

“YES SIR!”

 

“My brother used to call him The Spider. But we know the code name for him was Magpie. But the web this Magpie owned has been taken down and we have no proof he exists or the creation of a new web. What we have is a legit businessman who hasn’t given us a single chance to suspect him of any crime. Suddenly we hear the emergence of someone named Spider and then James…..Mr. Brooke gets abducted. We have to find out if it’s an old rival, an imposter, a new emerging mastermind or someone who is politically motivated.”

 

He looked at Anthea, “What have I told you about criminals?”

 

“You need to find the purpose and motive behind the crime first,” Anthea replied in a small voice.

 

“I told you and you remember, good,” Mycroft’s voice was dripping with sarcasm, “That’s charming. Now how soon can you put this to use?”

 

“Right away sir,” the gathering told him in unison.

 

“Don’t waste any time, go and find out where he is,” Mycroft admonished them, “I want Mr. Brooke back in one piece, understand?”

 

“Yes sir, sure sir.”

 

As the group of senior espionage members filed out with drooping shoulders, like a bunch of schoolkids taken to task by the principal, Mycroft got up from his chair and began to pace around his plush cabin. His team had to track Jim down before Sherlock began to show an interest in this case. For his brother’s sake, for his country’s sake, he didn’t want Sherlock to find Jim and rekindle their dysfunctional relationship. Put together, they could swing one way or the other. Jim could become a consulting detective but chances were that Sherlock could also become a consulting criminal. Then there was Eurus, who had very clearly told Mycroft a long time ago that in their family she had first rights on Jim Moriarty. If Sherlock got him, she would move heaven and hell and earth and set things right.

 

Too many variables, too many possibilities, one man in contention.

 

And this had to happen in the Christmas month, just as the world was beginning to prepare for the festivities. A Christmas kidnapping instead of Christmas shopping, Christmas carols and Christmas cheer. What had the world come down to?

 

***

 

“You said we are going to stay in Inverness?” Jim asked, munching on an apple.

 

“Yes and you told me you wanted to stay in a homestead,” Sebastian winked.

 

Jim was wearing Sebastian’s clothes again. He had got out of the sodden clothes and changed into one of Sebastian’s PJs and the next morning he was still wearing them, refusing to part from the soft cotton clothes that were two sizes too big for him. “Yes I did say that but you don’t click your fingers and create a homestead out of the blue, do you?” The Irishman asked, tossing the apple core into the waste bin and putting his arms around Sebastian’s neck, “You’re not part of the Narnia or Potter universe. We can park that dream for another time Sebby.”

 

“When Jimmy asks for something, Jimmy gets it,” Sebastian’s eyes twinkled and he rubbed their noses together, “This morning, while you slept in, I arranged for a homestead to be rented out for a month. It’s in ship-shape and we have it all to ourselves. In a village called Fort Augustus.”

 

Jim’s eyes sparkled like diamonds.

 

“You did this, for ME?”

 

“No. For old man Joe.”

 

Jim giggled. “This is going to be a grand Christmas month for me. I want a tree, I wants lots of decorations, I want a mini manger, I want a pile of gifts at the bottom of the tree, I want a table groaning under the weight of a Christmas lunch, I want mulled wine, I want eggnog, I want……”

 

Sebastian made a note of everything. He wanted to make this Christmas special for Jim, also for himself. It had been ages since he had someone to share Christmas with.

 

“Listen Jim,” he said as they stepped into the beautiful homestead, holding hands, “I know we are going to have a lot of fun but we need to maintain some cautionary measures. The people who asked me to abduct you, I am sure they won’t take very kindly to me disappearing with their prized possession. They paid me a big sum for this and even if I return most of it, which I intend to do, they won’t give up on their goal. From what I could gather, they intended to make a billion dollars using you as a ransom note. We both know such plans cannot be allowed to fail, too many things hinge on such ludicrous sums of money.”

 

“Then I will give them what they want.”

 

Sebastian’s eyes went wide, “You’ll just give away that kind of money?”

 

Jim nodded.

 

“I mean….your money…..”

 

“My money or my life and liberty, right? Then the money can go. I have enough and more. But I got only one life and I intend to live it to the fullest.” He paused and looked shy as he added, “I want to live it with you!”

 

Sebastian felt warm and fuzzy inside but he was hardly able to believe this was happening. “Jimmy, you sure you want to part with that kind of wealth? I can surrender to the cops, give them a description of the person who gave me this job and I am 100% sure they will be nabbed. You don’t need to part with such a chunk of wealth. You don’t have to interact or negotiate with people like George. You will be safe as a newborn in his crib.”

 

“You took a huge risk turning down this job half way,” Jim said, “You have risked everything you have. Can’t I do just this? For you? For us?”

 

Sebastian hugged Jim with all his might until the man made a choked sound and informed him he needed to breathe. “I am not so good with words,” he said emotionally, “I don’t think I can express my happiness properly Jimmy. This is the kindest thing anyone has said to me so far.”

 

“And this is the kindest thing someone has done for me so far,” Jim said, making an expansive gesture with his hands and showing the homestead, “Let’s go inside now?”

 

“Sure.”

 

It was a pretty property and occupied quite a lot of acreage. The rural plantation based layout consisted of the main cottage, stables, an outhouse, a shed, a green house, all of which were located within the extensive gardens, crop fields and sweeping lawns surrounding the structures. It had distant views to Loch Ness and the surrounding hills and meadows.

 

The main cottage was a single-storeyed timber construction set on low timber stumps, the house is clad in wide chamferboards with painted corrugated iron roofs. A sweeping verandah surrounded the house and entries to rooms were through wide French doors. Pretty flower pots sat on window sills and the edge of the verandah and windows offered a lovely, panoramic view of the picturesque surroundings.

 

As Jim went from room to room, admiring the master bedroom and three guest bedrooms, the large country style well equipped kitchen, the dining room adjacent to it, the study, the sitting room and the parlor, Sebastian simply followed him and watched him through mesmerized eyes. Was this a dream? Was this happening? Did this amazing, wealthy, sophisticated and attractive man really like him so much that a simple homestead in the countryside excited him to this degree? Sebastian had spent a quarter of a million of his advance payment to buy this but he hadn’t told Jim simply out of fear that the rich man would laugh off this modest (by Jim’s standards) arrangement.

 

“We stay in the same bedroom, the master bedroom, right?” Jim asked.

 

“I’d say yes, we will,” Sebastian said and watched as Jim squealed like a child and made a beeline for the bed. He lay down in the middle of it, kicked off his shoes and gave Sebastian the ‘come hither’ glare.

 

“Shall we christen the bed?”

 

“I’d say yes to that, again.”

 

***

 

“Sherlock? Wake up. Sherl?”

 

“Huh?”

 

John put his finger on his mouth and went ‘shhhhh’. Sherlock sat up, slightly dazed and saw that John had four bags packed and ready and was fully dressed for a road trip. There were two large rucksacks and two large duffel bags and Sherlock’s violin case. He had also arranged Sherlock’s clothes, including his great coat, and kept them neatly on the bed. “I have made all arrangements,” the good doctor said in a hushed whisper, “I took the liberty of talking to one of your ‘hackers’ to disable Mycroft’s remote surveillance system for long enough to leave without being noticed. Don’t switch on any lights in the flat please. Try to get ready within ten minutes so we can be on our way.”

 

Sherlock gave him a quizzical glare, “And where exactly are we going?”

 

John bit his bottom lip and then whispered, “I have been thinking about our discussions and came to a conclusion day before yesterday. I think you need to find closure with Moriarty and for that you must seek him out and save him from whoever has kidnapped him. Maybe that way you can not only close the loop but also part from him on amicable terms. But Mike shouldn’t know what we’re up to, nor should anyone else, so I organized for a Toyota Fortuner and withdrew a large sum of cash. No credit card transactions for the next few weeks. Now come on, let’s go.”

 

“Jawn.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“You’re doing this for me?”

 

“Nope, I am doing this for Phil Andersen. Of course for you, what a question to ask. Now are you getting out of bed or do I have to drag your lily white bubble butt out?”

 

Sherlock blushed, “Jawn….are you drunk?”

 

“No, but you’re being very lazy. Come on, before I change my mind.”

 

***

 

1 day earlier

 

“Dr. John Hamish Watson.”

 

At first John heard silence, then some breathing sounds and finally a very familiar voice whispered ‘Just gimme a second please’. John’s brows instantly knotted together. That voice! He had heard it before. In fact several times before. John got up from his chair, a strange excitement working through his system as he heard the sounds on the other side. The caller was opening and closing a door, then another one. Finally the heavy, smooth baritone came back with a ‘Hi Captain’ and John made the connection at last. “Colonel Sebastian Augustus Moran, is that really you sir?”

 

“You remember?”

 

“How can I forget? You were a legend.”

 

“The legend who got kicked out.”

 

“We all know why. Most of us were on your side, still are. Damned pity that our opinion didn’t matter at the court martial proceedings. But enough of that, it’s so good to hear from you colonel. Are you in London?”

 

There was a momentary pause on the other side. With an audible sigh Sebastian replied, “Had been in London all through, for the better part of the past two years. But I lost all contact with most of my army friends and colleagues. Aside from a couple of friends whom I knew from my school days, I stuck to mostly new acquaintances who only knew me as ‘Seb’ and not Colonel Moran. I didn’t contact any of you nor did I attend any charity ball, celebratory luncheon or Christmas dinners hosted at our club or by any of the boys. Officers who are dishonorably discharged for killing their superiors and subordinates don’t get welcomed with open arms.”

 

“You’d be surprised how many actually would. Where are you now? Can we meet?”

 

“Not in London. I needed some help John.”

 

“What kind of help? Just name it colonel.”

 

“Call me Sebastian or Seb please. We are no longer serving together.”

 

John smiled broadly, “Sure Seb. So, how can I help?”

 

“Actually, my friend needs help. We both want to get out of this country escape to Switzerland. Leave England forever. But I can’t do this alone. I didn’t know who else to contact so…..”

 

“I can help. But I’ll need to take someone’s help, actually my boyfriend’s….. Sherlock.”

 

“Holmes? You mean the famous detective?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“That’s music to my ears. Nothing better than hiring a professional for this. This person….okay you can call him my boyfriend, his life is in danger and we have to leave England as soon as I can. Will you please come over to the Inverness region along with your boyfriend and meet us? I am willing to pay for this like any other case Mr. Holmes handles. But it would be awesome if you could tag along as well since I am not too familiar with Sherlock Holmes and his ways.”

 

“Of course I will. In fact, I have a reason to visit that region as well.”

 

“Oh….why?”

 

“I’ll tell you when we meet.”

Chapter Text

1 day earlier

 

“Are you really going to do that?” Jim asked breathlessly. He was naked, lying on his front on the bed and rubbing his straining erection against the sheets. A gasp left him when Sebastian parted his pert globes to expose the central crack. “God, this is so surreal!”

 

Sebastian couldn’t really believe a man like Jim wouldn’t have had this experience before. He had the world at his feet and surely several men and women would have not even asked for payment to sleep with him, indulge him with kinks and perhaps render him breathless in the aftermath. But then Jim was an unusual man and his ways had been unusual so far. Sebastian was not going to be surprised if he got to know that Jim had pushed people away and never allowed them some privileges. It made him proud to see he was being granted those! He stared greedily at the twitching pink hole and replied, “This is all real, as real as you and me and this room and the homestead. I wanna spend half an hour doing this, only this. Permission please?”

 

“Permission granted,” Jim wriggled his arse for emphasis, “But only if you agree to fuck me into oblivion right after.” He spread his legs wider to accommodate Sebastian between them and yelped slightly as the blonde effortlessly lifted his bottom and placed a pillow underneath. His small hands grabbed at the pillows and headboard as Sebastian bent down and kissed the hole first, then nuzzled it slightly, before blowing into it. “Fuck,” Jim squealed with delight, “It’s been so long since I had someone do that to me…..please do it Sebby! Eat me out, do whatever you want with me.”

 

“Go caveman on you Jimmy?” Sebastian squeezed the base of his manhood and relaxed a bit. Jim’s open surrender had made him nearly spill himself on the sheets.

 

“Yeah, please, yeah!”

 

“Make you cum by rimming ya?”

 

“Yes please!”

 

“Fuck your brains out and make you pass out while I’m still inside you?”

 

“Damn it. Keep babbling and I will cum before you are even inside me.”

 

“Don’t you worry little kitten,” Sebastian said as he kissed both butt cheeks, sucking on one and then the other, “Making you cum again and again isn’t going to be a problem at all.”

 

He began to tongue the quivering hole teasingly till he had Jim howling with pleasure and thrashing about with anticipation. Then he began to make swiping licks on the soft skin there, using the flat of his tongue, before stabbing at it with the tip. Jim squirmed and cried and moaned and made such sexy noises that Sebastian felt another surge of ecstasy begin in his groins. He tensed his legs, wishing he had a cock ring. It took him a few seconds to calm down before he started to eat Jim out in all earnestness.

 

He slowed down whenever the Irishman was on the verge of ejaculating, earning whimpers and pleas galore. But he relented only after he had continued the process long enough for his mouth to start cramping up and Jim was beside himself with frustrated mingled with desperation.

 

He pulled the springy cheeks wide apart and thrust his tongue in as much as he could, keeping it there while he relieved some weight from Jim’s butt and gave him more room for movement. Letting out a cry Jim’s hips began to move uncontrollably. When the brunette was finally allowed to cum he created quite a racket, thrashing about wildly and sending pillows flying to the floor and even ripping one of them apart, feathers floating in the air and the limp cover sliding off the mattress and on to the floor. His body convulsed as if he had just had an epileptic fit, followed by a long supine and dozy period during which Jim was completely non-responsive. Sebastian didn’t proceed any further right then. Instead, he sat on his heels next to the napping man and massaged his foot and calves to relax him.

 

“You’re so hard,” Jim hissed when was somewhat awake and had grown erect again, “Don’t you wanna cum too?”

 

“Yes, but right now I am not bothered about me,” Sebastian answered him in a hoarse voice, shifting uncomfortably from side to side as his rock hard dick pointed straight towards his chin, “I want to ensure you have the kind of sex you’d have seen in good porn films, mixed with the sort of romance you’d see in a Hollywood classic.” Truth was that he was so aroused that he was about to burst a nut, but Jim’s comfort and pleasure came first for him. He wasn’t going to be the kind of brute who’d fuck his lover while the latter was drifting in and out of post coital unconsciousness.

 

He completely missed the look of shock and happiness in Jim’s beautiful, dreamy eyes. Seized by a desire to pleasure Jim and make him cum as many times as possible, he didn’t notice that the smaller man had literally come close to crying tears of joy. After ten minutes of doting on him, as Sebastian kept his word and began to fuck and ravish Jim caveman style, the Irishman let go and came again and again and again.

 

Sebastian came once but was just as hard after it as he had been before, so he continued without even a moment’s pause. Jim yelped, wailed and moaned as his prostate was hit dead on by Sebastian’s huge cock and those sizeable balls smacked hard against his arse.

 

“MINE,” Sebastian growled as he pushed Jim’s head down by placing a large hand on the back of it, “Never forget that.”

 

“N-No…..never…..always….yo-yours,” Jim stuttered between loud groans of pleasure. He turned his head and looked at their reflection in the mirror and it was such an erotic sight that he felt semen splatter from his cock immediately. He had no controls left over his body anymore.

 

“Fuck,” the blond sniper grunted between thrusts, “I love it when you keep cumming like that baby!”

 

Sebastian proved that he could be a beast between sheets and Jim was totally baffled by the tall man’s stamina just as Sebastian was stunned by Jim’s rather short refractory period. The smaller man hung on for the ride and enjoyed it very much but after a grand total of five orgasms in one and half hours he had nothing left to give and no energy to even stay awake. At that point Sebastian finally decided to let go and came for a second time, buried balls deep in his lover. He stiffened completely above his Jimmy, bellowed out his pleasure and release a few times and flowed profusely into the smaller man.

 

They slept for an hour before Sebastian got up, cleaned them up and roused Jim from a well-earned slumber. “Whaaat?” Jim asked crossly, smacking the blonde on his arm.

 

“My wild little kitty,” Sebastian nuzzled his hairs, “I know the house is heated but still, don’t lie nude like this in this kinda weather. You’ll catch a cold or end up with a muscle pull due to the lack of warmth. Wear something. I’ll help you.”

 

“I have nothing to wear,” Jim complained and pulled a pillow over his head, “Let me sleep. Just pile on the blankets on me.”

 

“Oh all right,” Sebastian said indulgently, trying to pretend he was annoyed but actually feeling quite buoyed to see this side of his lover, a stubborn brat who needed constant pampering, something he delighted in giving him in abundance, “Have it your way. But don’t you dare saunter into the kitchen later naked and filled with goosebumps all over your skin. Stay here while I cook dinner for us, kay?” He swatted Jim’s butt, earned a mild curse from him before he covered him with three blankets and walked out of the room to go towards the kitchen. He’d cook a light dinner that night. They didn’t have much supplies to begin with.

 

Once out of Jim’s sight, Sebastian’s face crumpled slightly. With Jim as captive and the mission going per schedule, he had no reason to worry and every reason to look forward to the dates around Christmas. He was going to get his retirement sum and fulfil his dreams. But now, with Jim here as his lover, he had three immediate things to take care of. One, he had to get hold of some money so he could smuggle them out of the country for a while. Two, he had to put George and his team off the scent so they weren’t tailed. Three, he had to find a way to bring them back again, assuming that Jim wouldn’t really want to give up his business and life in London.

 

He remembered one man who could help.

 

Captain John Watson, former army doctor, the man who had once saved his life.

 

***

 

“So,” John said with a wide smile as they drove out of the city, “Any guesses what I have been up to?”

 

“I feel weird saying this but the truth is the truth,” Sherlock was doing something rather unbelievable, he was trying to bite at his nails, “I can’t deduce you anymore John. When Mycroft told me you had asked him not to speak to me about Jim…..I mean Moriarty, I found that I was beginning to second guess my own theories. While I have not been a paragon of all virtues, I was always quite sure that you were so. ‘I can break the law to uphold the law but John would uphold the law by abiding by the law’, these were words I swore by. Until of course, that point in time where my brother told me you had…..feelings for me. Are you the same man who always swore he wasn’t gay?”

 

“I think we spoke about this Sherl,” John said patiently as he drove, “I was confused. I took time to understand where I stand. Just because I felt in a certain way earlier doesn’t mean I cannot change my mind later! As for Moria…..Jim, pardon me for saying this but had you known he was alive you would have been in this condition a year and half ago, right after you had returned to London after the two year sabbatical. Confused, depressed, seeking him out, perhaps getting into trouble all over again. When you jumped from the Barts rooftop I thought I had lost you, then you came back and hope renewed itself in my heart. In those two years I had finally recognized your place in my heart, in my life, and I wanted you for myself. I admit I got a bit selfish but I am sure you can forgive me that. I am a normal human being.”

 

“Sorry,” Sherlock said, “Forgive me.”

 

“For what now?”

 

“For not considering the human side of you. I guess I got into a bit of idolatry.”

 

“We will need to talk this out several times to let the whole thing sink in. But things will get better.”

 

“You sure, right?”

 

John put his free hand on Sherlock’s and nodded, “I am sure they will be just fine.”

 

Sherlock looked at the hand covering his own and after a little hesitation he put his other hand on top of John’s. Things suddenly felt better again and in a lighter, slightly cheerier tone, he said, “But I think you’re trying to kill two birds with one stone.”

 

“How so?” John grinned, “I think you’re getting close though.”

 

“You want to help someone,” Sherlock said, tapping his chin, his mood slightly improving, “When you show this kind of urgency it’s usually for someone else and not yourself. At the same time you want us to be away from London so we can disappear, not get tracked by Mycroft’s surveillance and spies, and look for Jim. Am I correct?”

 

“You are correct, like 99.9% of the times,” John said with a wink, “But I have a question for you too. You said you wanted to go to Inverness as well. Why?”

 

Sherlock sat up straighter and fiddled with the seat belt, “I have been trying to find out about Jim’s abduction and his whereabouts. My hackers are working on it and the last information they gathered was that Jim’s cell phone was briefly used in the Inverness region. That device has been disabled and the number switched off since, but I am sure he must have been kept somewhere close by. I also suspect he is no longer a kidnapped prisoner but a willing ally. That man can talk his way out of any situation and this is no exception. He has struck a deal with them, I think.”

 

“Vintage Moriarty,” John shrugged.

 

“Like so,” Sherlock replied with a similar shrug.

 

“You think Mori….Jim is expecting you to rescue him?”

 

“No Jawn. He expects nothing from me. He has come a long way, from being obsessed with me to ignoring me as if I don’t even exist.”

 

“That bothers you?”

 

“I told you a long time ago that every genius needs an audience. Similarly, every brilliant man needs an intellectual equivalent. I was both his audience and equivalent. Since I understood him and the way his brain works, whether it’s about coming up with brilliant schemes or malevolent ones, I saw through them like a sheet of plain glass. Such understanding also is the basis of the best audience, because he knew….knows that my brain works on the same plane as his does.”

 

John frowned, “Then why is he avoiding you? What do you think?”

 

“Mycroft’s terms and conditions could be one reason,” Sherlock said thoughtfully, “But he isn’t the sort of person to follow guidelines or stay within boundaries. Pushing boundaries is what he is known for. The second reason could be his own, maybe he is cooking up something of a lifetime and doesn’t want me to intercept it and bring it down before it comes to fruition. The third reason….now that’s what bothers me.”

 

“Okay. Why?”

 

“The third reason could be…..he wants to stay away from me because of my benefit. Or because he dislikes me to a point where he can’t stand……me.”

 

“Nah, that’s not true really, I don’t think so,” John said, more to make Sherlock feel better because he didn’t mind Jim Moriarty shunning Sherlock for a reason as compelling as this. If Jim was no longer interested in Sherlock or had started disliking him strongly, that was the best way to keep the two eccentric geniuses apart. John was generous but he knew he wasn’t generous enough to share the love of his life. His Sherlock.

 

While chatting, John had moved his hand slightly and when he took off his hand from his friend’s grasp, Sherlock suddenly looked insecure and grabbed at his withdrawing hand. Their eyes met and Sherlock once again looked like the depressed man John had encountered over the last several days, someone who was afraid of rejection and abandonment. “Hey you,” he said as gently as he could, grasping the hand back and squeezing it hard, “I am right here. Going nowhere. Now do you want me to tell you about this new case I got for you? It is not too complex but executing this request will be quite challenging.”

 

“What is it and who is this friend?”

 

“An ex-military mate, someone I have known since my days at Afghanistan. I had saved his life when he was near fatally shot in the neck and had bled out considerably. He repaid soon enough, saving my life when the base was attacked and I was trapped inside a burning tent. The handsomest, bravest and strongest man I have ever known. Colonel Sebastian Augustus Moran, that’s his name.”

 

He noticed Sherlock’s peeved look and added, “The handsomest and bravest I have known besides you of course. Strongest…..well that has to be him because that’s a fact.”

 

“Sorry,” Sherlock said, “I am behaving like a jealous bitch.”

 

“That has its charm,” the doctor admitted with a crooked grin, “So....My friend, he and his partner need to be smuggled out of the country. They have too many enemies baying for their blood, apparently.”

 

“Lucky bastard.”

 

“Why Sherl?”

 

“He has someone he is willing to take such a big risk for. Must be the big love of his life.”

 

“Possibly. They are in a village called Fort Augustus in the Inverness area.”

 

“Fantastic,” Sherlock started to think about this request from John’s friend, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone. Help your friend and his partner and track down Jim.”

Chapter Text

“You look like a hippie student in his early twenties who’s been backpacking across Europe,” Sebastian teased Jim as they shopped in Edinburgh on a cold windy day, “Nice disguise you conjured up though. Nobody can really see through it and see the real you. Even I was taken aback when you suddenly tapped me on the shoulder and asked me for directions this morning. What’s funny is that I had almost started to give them to you…..”

 

“When I grabbed your cock and you knew it had to be me,” Jim waggled his brows while Sebastian turned bright red, “You disguise is nice too, you look real Goth, very cool and butch at the same time! Now why are you blowing up a fortune buying clothes for me? I have bought enough to last a year. I don’t think we have any further space left in the car. We could have brought the motorhome.”

 

“No we couldn’t have done that,” Sebastian helped carry the bags, which Jim was heavily laden with, “If the motorhome is identified then we might get caught. That’s why I bought the Ford Fiesta. Simple and unassuming car, perfect for two men living on a homestead in Fort Augustus. As for the clothes, if we want to get out of the country for a while then we need to be equipped for it. Clothes, fake passports, new identities and a destination where we can settle down for as long as we wish without being easily traced. Most of these things are ready, a few modalities need to be still arranged…..but I have reached out to a good and trustworthy friend who can help us with it.”

 

“Why don’t I just give them what they want?” Jim asked.

 

“I have met them,” Sebastian discouraged, “They aren’t the kind of people who let you go even if every will and wish of theirs has been acceded to.”

 

“I know such people.”

 

“Have you been kidnapped or threatened before?”

 

“No, because I was one such person.”

 

“Jim….Jimmy I somehow cannot believe that.”

 

Jim gave him a shrewd look and smirked, “Come on Sebby baby. Tell me the real thing. You don’t believe or you don’t want to believe?”

 

“I don’t know,” Sebastian sighed.

 

“I know you have questions. Why don’t you ask me Sebby?”

 

“I dunno why I can’t. Maybe because I know you’ll tell me when you’re ready and I don’t wanna push you. Your past doesn’t bother me or concern me. I don’t wish to rake up your past or mine and spoil our future. Seriously, I don’t.”

 

“What if I am ready,” Jim said, tilting his head slightly as he looked at his tall partner, “Come on Bastian. Let’s sit at a nice café, eat something, grab some hot chocolate with it and I’ll tell you about my past and whatever’s hidden in it.”

 

***

 

“Now Sherlock is missing, gone, vanished from 221B which he didn’t leave for almost ten days,” Mycroft felt despair close in on him from all sides, a rare and very unusual occurrence for someone as unruffled as him, “But what’s really left me baffled is that John is also gone. Now that man is someone impeccable in his manners, decision and impulse controls. My brother is the opposite and it’s John who keeps him in check. But if John didn’t do that this time and even agreed to accompany him to wherever Sherlock has gone off to, then the matter is very serious. My little brother can be very manipulative and he’s succeeded in influencing the steady rock in his life.”

 

“We will find him soon,” Anthea said, “They will leave some trail, some clue or hint, or if they really need help they will call you. Eventually Sherlock always calls you. Pardon me for saying this but he does need your help ever so often.”

 

“As I need his intelligence and resourcefulness now and then,” Mycroft admitted, pushing his now cold tea away, “But he is a canny boy who never leaves breadcrumbs for people to spot and follow him. That’s why I always say, if Sherlock and James changes roles they’d be just as lethal in their other ‘consulting’ avatars. No Anthea, he isn’t going to slip and slide. We need to either trick him into giving away his location or we need to find Jim and then lie in wait for my brother and John. I have a feeling if we find Jim we will also find Sherlock. He’s gone looking for him, for sure.”

 

“We tried to find out about the Spider. We have some information.”

 

“Right. What is it?”

 

“US based. Chicago is the headquarters. Unseen, unknown, unidentifiable. Could be a harmless businessman everyone knows or some reclusive heir no one knows. He has created a web too, much like Moriarty. Apparently, the timing is a very fortunate coincidence because he started to form his gang around the time Moriarty was targeting Sherlock and planning to bring him down. Maybe the man knew Moriarty would do something stupid or get defeated, killed.”

 

Mycroft rubbed his chin, “You’re trying to tell me he isn’t happy to know Moriarty is alive and wants to get rid of him.”

 

Anthea had no answers to that so she remained silent. She was good at sourcing and gathering information. It was her boss who had the intelligence and powers of deduction to make inferences from them.  

 

“Or maybe this Spider is a fan and wants to join forces with Moriarty?” Steven, another senior official of the MI5 team commented, “Idolatry, fanboying, sycophancy, it could be one of those triggers that made him take this step.”

 

“No, in that case he would have simply reached out to James and not staged this kidnapping,” Mycroft observed, ordering for a fresh pot of tea, “This is a malicious move or a total eyewash. One of the two. Either he’s trying to portray enmity with James and planning to launch a joint heist with him or he wants to use James in some way that James wouldn’t ordinarily agree with. Look, I don’t want to suspect James of any wrongdoing because in the past three and half years he hasn’t given us any reason or proof to think so. If he is in genuine trouble we need to rescue him because he is an ally. If he’s lapsing into his old habits we need to stop him before it’s too late. Before my brother gets involved as well.”

 

Once they were out of the room, Steven whispered, “Anthea, is it true the boss slept with James Moriarty?”

 

Anthea snickered, “That surprises, bothers or unsettles you because…..???”

 

“Isn’t he asexual.”

 

“What rubbish. He is selective.”

 

“You mean he has…..both men and women?”

“He’s, let’s say…….a bi-curios man. Sex for him, with a man, woman or even a trans person, is devoid of any attached strings or commitment. Both he and his brother have had sex. They are devoid of romantic feelings…..okay maybe our boss is devoid of romantic feelings while Sherlock has some of that……but I don’t think they are totally devoid of feelings and emotions. They’re just much better than others in masking them.”

 

“So….did he sleep with the mastermind or not?”

 

“Both brothers did. Whereas Mycroft Holmes acted like a chivalrous knight and treated it as an awesome experience, never to be repeated in future, I believe the younger one got a bit too attached to Moriarty.”

 

“Attached? Sherlock Holmes? Attached?”

 

Anthea sighed, “He’s human Steve. Despite his exceptional powers, bravado and his ‘I am the iceberg that never melts’, he is only a man. At the right temperature even an iceberg melts.”

 

***

 

“A browbeaten and neglected son, sexually abused as a child, a loner with an inherent malevolent streak,” Jim said as he settled back in his chair at the café, “I knew I wasn’t going to grow up and live a normal life or settle for a normal profession. But even I hadn’t anticipated running away at age sixteen from home and becoming a mastermind by the time I was twenty-one. I am a post-doctoral fellow in both math and astrophysics by the way, so I managed to do both my academics and run a web of crime at the same time. I had a nemesis once who used to call me ‘The Napoleon of Crime’.”

 

Sebastian’s jaw was on the floor. He simply listened. At that point he was incapable of answers or even a reaction.

 

Jim grinned at his predicament, “I know what you’re thinking. How can a man like me, childish, needy, dependent, clingy, hungry for love, be a cold-hearted, malicious, dangerous criminal? Well, you saw some glimpses of the other me but refused to accept the plain truth. But the Jim you see now, or have seen for the last few days, he’s also real. Every man or woman has at least two sides. One which exists at work and when they interact in society, the other which is reserved for their private world. So far that world had only me, just me, but now even you happen to live in it.” He paused for a few seconds and looked straight into Sebastian’s blue eyes, “That’s why you’re getting to hear and know and see so much!”

 

“Jim…..I am nothing as compared to you. Why…..why would you even want to forsake all of this, f-for me?”

 

“For myself too. I am tired of that life Sebby. I want out.”

 

“Tired of living legit or tired of the whole scenario where you have too much to do and too few to share it with?”

 

“Both.”

 

Sebastian nodded slowly. Somehow the whole concept of a man as attractive, debonair, intelligent, wealthy, brilliant and powerful as Jim needing to keep his company, stay with him, leave it all behind and run off to some country to lead a simple life there, it seemed too good and too odd to be true. He wanted to believe it but couldn’t. His logical side kept laughing aloud at him.

 

“I am also a bagful of issues Seb,” Jim said, “If that makes you feel better.”

 

Sebastian raised a brow, “And why would that make me feel better? I like you, I want the best for you, why on earth should I be happy that you have troubles in your closet?”

 

“Maybe that would prove I am human, with flaws and attributes in equal measures. I am not someone you should be in awe of.”

 

Sebastian shook his head, a clear look of disbelief on his face. “I don’t know Jimmy. I think I am walking through a tunnel of dreams. But unlike real tunnels where there’s light at the end, I see only darkness at the end of this one. Someday this dream will end and I won’t have anything to live for. Not without you.”

 

When Jim’s eyes widened slightly Sebastian snorted and interlaced their fingers together over the comforting mug of hot chocolate between them. Like a bed, dreams, a life, clothes and a home, they had started to share food and drinks as well. Jim swallowed, feeling strangely emotional. It disconcerted and comforted him in equal measures. For the first time in many years he felt grounded but at the same time Sebastian’s fears touched his soul. Yes, this was a big risk. What if it turned out to be an impossible dream? What if he woke up back in those days when he was a shrill, jittery, insecure, ruthless and mentally unstable man living in a prison of his own work and cruelty!

 

“I don’t think I can take another fall in this life baby,” Sebastian murmured, “This time I won’t be able to pick up the pieces.”

 

“I am not going anywhere,” Jim gripped the glass and Sebastian’s hands tighter, “From now on, where you go, I go.”

 

“Except for hell,” Sebastian said with a wistful smile, “I have been a criminal myself Jim. The punishment is coming. I know that.”

 

“Don’t say that.”

 

“That’s the truth.”

 

“No, it can’t be. You’re scaring me Sebby.”

 

“So far I wasn’t the least bit scared. I knew whatever came my way, I’d either win and whistle as I walk off or I’d take the fall like a man. But there was a big reason behind my brash attitude and fearlessness. I had nobody to worry about, no one to protect, none whatsoever who was my weakness, my responsibility or the object of my affections. But now I have you. Now I know what fear of loss means. I’m scared too Jimmy, I really am.”

 

“I wanna go home,” Jim said in a small voice, clasping Sebastian’s arm this time, “Please take me back home.”

 

“Yeah, let’s do that. It’s a long way off.”

 

Seb picked up the Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate, took Jim’s hand and walked to the car which was packed with groceries, clothes and essentials. It was a 6-hour drive back to the homestead.

 

***

 

The night at the small roadside hotel was strange, to begin with.

 

John and Sherlock had often shared rooms while on travel for solving cases, both around England as well as other parts of Europe and even a couple of occasions in Asia and North America. Sometimes there weren’t enough rooms available at the property they stayed in, sometimes they had to be together because there was a threat to their lives and they needed to watch each other’s back, while at other times they stayed in the same room simply because one or the other needed some help with an injury or something related to the case. But this time it was a conscious decision to share a room, despite 8 of the 10 rooms at the small hotel being free that night. Only they and a small family of three were occupying rooms overnight.

 

To make matters even more awkward, there was only one bed and a narrow one at that. While they had shared the same bed on a couple of occasions recently at 221B Baker Street, the bed there had been pretty large an expansive, the room familiar and most importantly, there had been no declarations of feelings for each other. Now things had changed and they were acutely aware of each other’s presence as they brushed their teeth, changed into their night clothes (John in the bathroom while Sherlock changed at the same time in the privacy of the room) and got into the bed. The same blanket, barely two pillows, a cold night and the heating system not the best in class, they had no alternative to sharing each other’s warmth.

 

“God damn it,” John cursed, “That window is partially open.”

 

“C-Close it,” Sherlock said, teeth chattering.

 

“I will, stay put,” John got out of bed. Somehow, he was the one who always did these things. He was the care-giver and enjoyed his role. “St-Still cold,” Sherlock shivered as John got back in bed, “Brrrrrrrrr!!!”

 

“The sheets seem doused in cold water,” John shifted uncomfortably, “Ouch, that is ice.”

 

“N-No, that’s my toes, s-sorry!”

 

“Oh God. Your feet are so cold. They’re really like blocks of ice.”

 

“J-Jawn I can’t sleep,” Sherlock whined.

 

I must look after him. He’s mine. Who else will do the job but me? He needs me, he always has. Whether he admits it or not, I am the one he needs. “Hey,” John said as he took off his sleep shirt so he could share his body heat with his partner, “Come here, closer, let me hold you.”