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Jim Moriarty was twitching, very slightly. Fingers on the car door handle, his heels on the floor behind the driver. The smile on his face was twitching too, barely perceptible, as he glanced over to Sherlock and away.

Sherlock didn't need to follow suit. He knew these sensations intimately, unlike the man sitting next to him. Down off the drug high; it would affect his mood for a few hours but not his reason. How it might affect Moriarty's remarkable but unacclimatised brain was more difficult to assess. So far, just the twitch.

It had to be the effect of the cocaine that was making Sherlock's current situation feel so bleak. The fact that a bleeding, naked and unconscious man had been left behind on a filthy mattress was a significant victory on his part. John should be picked up by Mycroft's people within two hours at the most, with medical treatment for his relatively minor injuries and a significant degree of protection in the near future from Jim's whims.

There would be repercussions from what had been done to John. Not important right now. This ache of concern was an artefact of his chemically depressed mood, one he didn't have time for. John was disposed of, and he had a twitching Moriarty to deal with.

There was for now no benefit in opening conversation. Sherlock had lost his temper earlier, a mistake; he was still considering the best way to recover lost ground. Jim would read nothing into his silence but prudence, not the aggressive approach that he preferred when dealing with the man but not one that conceded more than the most minor of points. That he considered Moriarty and therefore his situation dangerous was hardly revelation to either of them; to pretend otherwise would be to make himself ridiculous.

So he let Jim have the small flattery of silence as they were driven through the grey London afternoon.

They were heading towards the Highgate address that Sherlock had found on John's browser. Good. He'd pulled up blueprints, investigated neighbours, studied exits. But Moriarty must have expected him to do as much. Why use a place he'd used before?

"When shall we three meet again?" Sherlock murmured under his breath. John knew it; that's why they were going there. Like the warehouse, Jim leaving a trail wide enough to be followed even without Sherlock's help. An answer then to the question of how long this was intended to last; until John arrived, or until he told Mycroft or Lestrade where to find them. Hours at most. Sleeping pills wouldn't keep John under for long; not with Mycroft intent on waking him.

Then what? Moriarty wasn't planning to go down in a blaze of glory, that was certain. Not enough data.

Jim was rocking slightly now, funeral suit rustling. He'd dressed again fastidiously and despite the lack of facilities to wash, his narrow hands appeared clean. Sherlock had wrapped his black tie around the deep welling toothmarks on his left hand. Bloodstains on his right hand from his own blood, from John's.

A few hours was suboptimal to leave the bites untreated. Sherlock wondered if Moriarty's hospitality would extend to antiseptic and something clean to dress them with. He'd give the man the space to offer when they reached their destination; Jim seemed to like playing gracious host. If not he'd have to ask directly. Another small flattery. Too many of those would be dangerous; he'd keep the number to a minimum, find some way to even the score.

Start that now. "A little jumpier than expected, Jim. I trust that you took the potential for a bad reaction into account when you planned this." The hint of derision he would have used with anyone else was superfluous, so he left it out.

"Don't concern yourself about that." The unusually short retort, the touch of annoyance, was the dysphoria. Good. Sherlock could push him into losing his temper, if that became useful. Not until he knew what form losing that temper might take. There was the antiseptic to consider, after all. More important than scoring small points, probably less important than scoring large ones. He didn't speak again for the rest of the journey.

The house was as he'd expected it. Three men met them. Familiar faces from the funeral; two had also been at the farmhouse. The survivors. There might be more.

"Take our guest up to his room and get him anything he needs." Moriarty was sounding distinctly fatigued, cocaine and adrenalin dispersed. Sherlock followed his guide silently up another flight of stairs onto the second floor.

The man opened the door to a large bedroom. "What do you need?" Abrupt but not hostile.

"Warm water. Disinfectant. Gauze, bandages, nail scissors."

"Wait in here." He waited for Sherlock to cross the threshold, closed the door. Sherlock heard the key turn. There had been a second man following up the stairs. The other side wouldn't be unguarded.

The bedroom had a substantial bathroom attached. He postponed a full inspection of the room in favour of a quick shower, leaving the door open and the curtain pulled back. He would put John out of mind better without the remnants of sex and blood still sticky on his skin.

While he showered a tray of medicinal supplies had been delivered. Sherlock stood naked in the warm room, disinfecting and binding up the lacerations. He hadn't bothered to suppressed the yelp of pain as Dettol hit the deep bites. Not that kind of contest.

The oak wardrobe held clothes; shirts, trousers, jackets, ties, all of materials, cut and colours that could have been found in his own. The underwear in the chest of drawers was a brand he favoured. He deduced the existence of a second guest room with a neat pile of cable sweaters and his mouth twitched. John would have been thoroughly unimpressed.

The rest of the room told him a great deal about previous guests, none of it obviously useful. The house itself had been empty for a week or so, had been regularly occupied before that by the man himself. Moriarty had actually brought him, and John before him, home. Interesting.

Also interesting was the slender steel mesh set into the windows. Not a recent addition; it seemed that Jim had unwilling house guests before. A glance at the lock on the door had told Sherlock that it would take specialist tools and a great deal of time to break out.

Satisfied that he could do nothing useful until someone unlocked the door, Sherlock gave one deliberate glance at the supposedly concealed camera set into the wardrobe door, curled up on the bed and closed his eyes. Even in small doses, cocaine comedowns were exhausting.

He woke to darkness and a knock on the door. The professor would like to see him in the library. Sherlock snorted at the title, brushed creases out of his clothes. Nearly eleven pm, his minder told him. Far later than he had expected. The man was moderately relaxed; no hordes at the gate, obviously.

Sherlock followed him downstairs, mind racing. There could be any number of reasons why John hadn't yet given Mycroft this address. Not enough data, he told himself. Any number of reasons. That Moriarty might have arranged for something to happen to the the unconscious man after they left was merely one possibility, and a remote one. Jim would want Sherlock to witness anything he did to his pet.

More data meant talking to Moriarty, who was posing, seated in front of a fire in a small library. He waved Sherlock to the other seat. A tray of tea and buttered teacakes was set between them and the servants withdrew.

"Feeling better?' The man looked not much improved.

"We can't all lie about, dear boy. Some of us have pressing matters to deal with." Moriarty sounded considerably more cheerful if stll tired.

"Like?" Sherlock poured himself some tea, and after a fraction's hesitation took a teacake. At little over 26 hours since he'd eaten: John would be nagging if he were here. What had happened to John?

"Keeping an eye on mutual friends." Jim smirked at Sherlock. "Would you like to know what I know?"

Of course. "My brother has him."

Jim pouted slightly, a deliberate affectation. "You're no fun sometimes."

"They're coming here."

"No.' Moriarty stirred sugar into his tea. "Your little soldier's still fast asleep."

"Asleep?" Sherlock let a little of his bafflement show. "Why hasn't Mycroft woken him up?'

Jim grinned at him, delighted to be ahead. "Because he doesn't trust you. He may not have your obsession with playing with chemistry sets but he knows a man or two who does. Johnny boy is going to tell him far more unconscious than he will when he wakes up."

Sherlock needed no help to follow the reasoning from there. His brother was taking all this personally. He seemed to think that John's involvement was a particular slur on his own judgement; like everyone else he'd underestimated the man. Mycroft would be hostile and critical when John woke. John's response was entirely predictable and any prospect of a useful alliance would be slim. It was still probable that the location of this place would be revealed to Mycroft or, more likely, Lestrade, but the timing was now uncertain.

"Did you predict this?" He was genuinely fascinated. That the liberal distribution of forensics had been for his brother's benefit; that his increasing estrangement from Mycroft had been part of Moriarty's plans all along; that he hadn't deduced at all.

Moriarty just laughed, of course. Not in the business of giving away information about his own methods. Think wider, Sherlock chided himself. Even he was capable of being manipulated. Jim was no more in this out of a desire to get laid than he was.

"Thought you should know. I hated the idea of you lying awake, waiting in vain for him to come. Do try to get some more sleep, my dear. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?"

The audience was over. Back in his locked room, Sherlock paced without regard to the watching camera, wishing he had some nicotine patches and access to coffee.

John was safe enough, for the moment. Moriarty's intentions would become clearer tomorrow. This was as useful a place as any from which to achieve his own long term ends; the locked door and barred window were irrelevant.

Still Sherlock paced, turning over every shred of evidence that he had about the man, his methods, his resources, his motives and desires, until the sun was up and the door was opened. A breakfast tray arrived instead of the anticipated invitation. Jim was occupied or still indisposed.

Robbed of Moriarty to keep him occupied, Sherlock turned his attention to his minder. Early thirties, single, of course; Moriarty didn't tolerate either distractions or rivals. Lower middle class origins, well educated, gay, greedy and without scruples. Like Richard Telling but a decade older; Jim had a favoured type, it seemed. The other men here were more what Sherlock would have predicted; professional bodyguards from a range of criminal backgrounds.

Sherlock had known nothing of Moriarty's own origins; the man was a consummate actor. Quite possibly he knew something, now. Certainly worth the research.

This man seemed pleased enough with himself. Unsurprising; yesterday they'd buried his younger and prettier rival. He'd be no more capable of attachment than Moriarty was. Jim could have found himself any number of disciples who would have adored him no matter what he did to them. Instead he chose to bed men too self-centred and venal to be affected by his powerful personality or considerable charisma, men only there for what they could get out of him. And Sherlock. That was an insight worth as much as anything Sherlock had figured out previously.

Sherlock applied a small amount of flattery, got a response to the first harmless question. Darren, the man was called. He pushed a little further, playing on Darren's desire to seem important. Five years he'd worked here; Moriarty relied on him. Stephen had just been a fancy of the professor's, a pretty piece of ass with pretensions. Sherlock nodded gravely, amused. It was an accurate enough description of Darren himself.

What he could read without being told was that the expected invitation back to the professor's bed hadn't followed Stephen's death last week. Seemed that Darren knew less than he ought to about what his boss had been up to; it hadn't occurred to him to associate this with Moriarty's kidnappings. And that was interesting too, because if what it implied about Jim. He'd no more done this before than Sherlock had, but now that he had, it seemed he'd lost his taste for his unpleasant young men.

Quite possibly, Sherlock thought, because he himself was more unpleasant than any of them. Some people would definitely think so; Sally Donovan, for a start. After yesterday, maybe John would agree with her. That was an uncomfortable thought. John would be angry, but John would understand, in the end. John wanted him. John trusted him. John, God help him, liked him. Nothing he'd done would be enough to change that.

John must surely be awake by now. If he'd fallen out with Mycroft he'd go to Lestrade. John worked well with others; one reason why Sherlock found him so useful. Just a matter of time before they came here in force. What was Jim's plan?

Breakfast was removed and hours went by. The house wasn't completely quiet; there was music for a while, something modern and beat heavy, and occasional drift of voices. Guards came and went from behind his door. Sherlock dismantled the camera in the wardrobe, for something to do, using the tiny penknife no-one had bothered to take from him, then put most of it back together in case he wanted to get Moriarty's attention. He'd connect it up when he needed it.

By noon he was thoroughly bored. Darren hadn't been back after taking the breakfast tray away. No-one else had come in. This room was dull. He wanted to play with some of the deductions he'd made about Moriarty but he needed the man present for that. Someone to talk at would have been a start. He missed his skull. Maybe leaving John behind hadn't been necessary after all. Also he wanted three nicotine patches and two large mugs of coffee.

He suspected that Jim knew all of the above. Jim did people like that, in the way that Sherlock did only when he put his mind to it. Working out who they were, what they had done; that was interesting. What they wanted, what they liked wasn't difficult, just unrewarding. Boring Mycroft stuff. What Moriarty wanted; now that was interesting. But he didn't yet know the answer.

Maybe Moriarty was waiting for Sherlock to act first. That would be annoying. He could wait the man out but that meant more boredom. Jim had the whole world to amuse him. Sherlock was stuck in this bedroom.

Jim would know how John was recovering. That decided Sherlock. He reconnected the camera. "Five minutes," he told the small lens, "or I start getting creative in here." Then he disconnected it again. There wasn't much to work with but he didn't need much; he had electric flexes, power sockets and water.

Three minutes and forty eight seconds later Darren reappeared. "Library." He was unhappy and wary; clearly Moriarty had not appreciated the camera footage of their earlier little heart to heart. Score one to Sherlock. Plus compliance with his ultimatum- two. This was going much better now. He strode ahead of his minder and into the library, smiling.

"Sherlock, sweetie." Moriarty's answering smile was even more predatory than usual. "I hope you haven't been too bored."

"You set out to bore me. Not particularly considerate of you."

"No?" Darren was dismissed with a gesture. "Sit down."

Sherlock stalked over to a bookcase, started to examine the titles. Philosophy. Pointless. He moved onto the next set of shelves, spoke to the man behind him. "Tell me what you want, Jim. Negotiation may be possible."

"I want you to sit down." Moriarty's tone was light.

"Really? And what are you offering?"

Jim considered that for a moment. "Nothing?"

"You're a poor negotiator, Jim." This bookcase was history. Surely there were some real subjects in here somewhere.

"One of us is. Are you going to sit down?"

"Not yet." He'd just found the chemistry section. He glanced across at Moriarty and it was suddenly clear that somewhere in that conversation he'd made a mistake. Jim had been waiting for that realisation. Teeth flashed as he whistled and the library door crashed open.

Moriarty had choreographed this beforehand. Jacket ripped off, shirt torn to pieces, Sherlock was pushed face up against the chemistry shelves, arms and legs spread and immobilised. His thoughts raced as Jim's quick hands curled round his waist to start on his belt buckle. Surely the man didn't think that sexual assault would have a significant effect? Then he felt the pull as the leather slid out of the belt hooks and he realised Jim's intention.

The blow, when it came, was sharp enough to jolt his racing thoughts. Analysis distracted him from the pain. As hard as Jim could lay on; one of his muscled bodyguards would have hit harder. A little appreciation of technique but little if any experience. Another thing that Moriarty didn't do before Sherlock. He felt very slightly flattered, and considerably more furious.

One blow. The men let go of him and he turned to face Moriarty, because not turning was unthinkable. Jim was flushed and laughing.

"Sit down." One blow was a clear message; it promised escalation without bounds. Moriarty had had enough of playing their games around consent. This was crass; it was crude and violent and Sherlock hated it because he had no response. He sat down silently, still half naked.

"That's better." Jim was smiling. "You'd like coffee. I'll have it brought up."

Sherlock needed something, some response to this. What did Jim want from him that he could deny?

Sherlock himself. An unpleasant young man. He sat quietly, waiting.

"News of your...do pets have pets? Or is he my pet now?"

Nothing.

"Don't sulk, Sherlock. It's childish. Do you want to know what's happened to him?"

A direct question. He wasn't going to lie, not when it could be detected. "Yes."

"There. That was easy, wasn't it? Your brother is keeping him imprisoned. The police are still looking for both of you."

Sherlock struggled not to react to that. Mycroft was a control freak and a fool. John wouldn't tell him anything now, couldn't tell Lestrade anything. No-one would be coming here.

Good. Other people-John in particular-were better off as far away from Jim Moriarty as possible. Sherlock would deal with the savage little beast himself. Moriarty was going to regret that blow.

The coffee was hot and strong. He sipped it, watching Jim watching him. What now?

Moriarty picked up the belt again, running it through his fingers. "Nice." It was Italian leather. Sherlock wanted it back. He was acutely tempted to explain to Jim how much of a mistake he was making. Silence was much harder.

"I'm going to have to send you back to your room, I'm afraid. I'm too busy to play any longer. You can take a book with you, if you like."

Sherlock stood up without glancing at the shelves. Moriarty snorted. "Don't blame me when you get bored again. Dinner will be at seven. Be properly dressed." He tossed the belt at Sherlock, who caught it and walked out.

He was bored, and he did blame Moriarty. There was a new camera up in one corner, not concealed. He could take it to pieces; no-one had told him not to. Instead he had a long bath, hot water burning sharp against the abrasion across his spine. Afterwards he bound up his bitten fingers again and lay naked on the bed looking at the ceiling, ignoring the pain in his back. He was empty, nothing, to any observer. He was thinking.

By five to seven Sherlock was dressed and sitting on the bed. This was going to be a difficult evening.

"Good evening." A dining room and table set for two. Resentful and reluctant were both things Jim could play with. Sherlock returned the greeting civilly, went to his place without prompting.

Moriarty was amused at that. "What have you been thinking about all afternoon, pet, to make you so polite?"

"Good manners." It was true enough.

"How laudable. Can I expect best behaviour from now on?"

Oh yes. That was definitely the plan. "Yes."

A flicker of something unreadable in Moriarty's eyes. "I'm delighted to hear it. Red or white wine?"

"Red, thank you." He ate what he was told to, one handed, drank up when prompted, answered every question with brief civility. John, he thought to himself, would not have imagined him capable of it.

Jim of course was onto the game by the end of that first exchange. The questions became gradually more barbed as the meal went on. Moriarty seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Sherlock's cases and an endless memory for every small mistake he had ever made. And, it had to be said, the larger ones as well. By the time Jim had him explaining the precise circumstances under which he'd mistaken the consequences of a small child's attempt to eat baked beans for the third victim of a serial killer Sherlock was thoroughly though, he hoped, imperceptibly irritated.

It was at this point, straight after an over-sweet dish of chocolate pudding which Sherlock loathed and ate obediently, that Moriarty changed tack.

"Your Detective Inspector Lestrade is proving to be a bit of a nuisance. Any recommendations?" Darren was pouring coffee. Sherlock took his and sat back.

"Greg's driven by immediate personal loyalties. Take away his team, poison his relationship with his superiors, and his effectiveness will be significantly reduced." Or just have him murdered. Moriarty didn't need Sherlock's advice but it was his for the asking. With any luck he'd choke on it.

"Lovely. That very peculiar brother of yours is in a position to obtain some information about the security surrounding a member of the Royal Family that I have a use for. How should I go about persuading him to get it for me?"

That sounded a little more like a genuine question. "I doubt that you can. Mycroft's loyalties aren't for sale. You could try using me as pressure but anything short of a regular delivery of Holmes body parts is unlikely to impress him." The coffee was wonderful. He'd never regretted his caffeine habit as much as over the last 24 hours.

"It's an idea, certainly. Maybe I can spare a few bits of you, later." Moriarty had put down his cup. "Do tell me, Sherlock, how far I can expect your capitulation to extend?"

"As far as necessary."

"Not specific," Moriarty complained.

"It wasn't a specific question." No challenge, just factual.

"Specifically, then." He was watching Sherlock's fingers wrapped around the coffee cup. "You'd make a beautiful murderer. Would you kill for me?"

Still in the obvious territory. He'd given this all the consideration it needed, lying on his bed this afternoon. "Probably. Depending on variables." Anyone brought in here for him to murder was doomed anyway. Nothing more sure to make Jim try it than to say either no or a definite yes. Give him a gun, he thought, and he'd turn it on Jim fast enough.

Sherlock held his cup out for a refill, but Moriarty lifted a finger and none came. "Enough for tonight, I think. Off to bed with you. Tomorrow we'll have a nice little chat about John Watson." Happy grin. "There's something in your room to stave off a little of the boredom, if you can't sleep."

Something was a small vial of coke and a needle. Sherlock barely glanced at it; what he needed was nicotine. He showered instead and curled up in the wide bed, conscious almost for the first time of the bars and locks as real.

This wasn't going quite as he'd hoped. He'd expected Jim to embark upon an orgy (figuratively and most probably literally) of pushing him as hard as he could. He'd been fully prepared for that unpleasant prospect. By now it should have been dawning on the man that this characterless compliance was all he was going to get.

Instead it was Moriarty who was prepared to drag this out session after session, saving the best bits up to be savoured at his leisure. Sherlock would still wait him out, of course, but he didn't relish the prospect of days spent in this room with nothing but cocaine that he couldn't touch for company and neither coffee nor cigarettes. And silence; he needed to talk.

He slept a little, barely an hour or so, woke restless. Where would Mycroft keep his captive? That house in Herald Row, doubtless. Easy to guard. More comfortable than this one. If Mycroft mistreated John Sherlock would make his life hell. Lestrade must be running around in circles. The warehouse had been filthy; would John take a precautionary course of antibiotics? Probably not; the doctor would think it set a bad example. It wasn't; it was sensible. Sherlock could picture the pattern on John's shoulder clearly in his head; Moriarty's initials, his own. John would be remarkably unhappy right now. A flicker of unnecessary and unwanted self-pity; so was he. It was a long time until morning.

 

"Doctor John Watson."

The paraphernalia of breakfast was spread out across the dining room table. No coffee yet. It would come with the conversation, an unnecessary stab at conditioning. Sherlock was already co-operating, even with John's name rolling delightedly across Jim Moriarty's lips. He'd been prepared for this, of course.

"Tell me something about him that he'd hate me knowing. For next time."

Sherlock didn't hesitate. "He fantasises about you buggering him." It was nothing. Neither he nor John had any pride to waste right now.

"That's terribly sweet, but no trivialities, Sherlock, please."

"He ran away from Joanne Telling. He was shaking, afterwards. Close to tears."

"Better." Moriarty lifted a hand and Darren brought a pot of coffee and mugs in. Sherlock didn't glance at it. "Try again."

It was just data. "He thinks that I'd rather play with you than him; that he's just tagging along. But he's too desperate about me to care."

"I know that." Moriarty's white teeth flashed. "Sad little mongrel, he is. Fun though. Do you think he'd train up as well as you have?"

"No." Sherlock didn't let his satisfaction at the thought show, "You could coerce him with threats to others, but he'd always be fighting the leash. He doesn't co-operate with bad guys."

"Doesn't he? What a hero. But you do?"

"Evidently."

"Is this co-operation?" Jim was frowning slightly.

"Yes."

"Hmm. I expected a little more of a contest, I have to say. Bit of arrogant resistance from you, bit of pain and mutilation from me. This abject cowardice is slightly surprising. Why?"

Sherlock resisted the impulse to shrug. Keep it boring. "Your capacity for inflicting pain exceeds mine for enduring it. I don't invest in competitions I can't win."

"Your John Watson would."

"Yes." Which was one reason why Sherlock was very glad that they'd left him in that warehouse.

"If he won't bend, he'll break. Tell me, darling. How do I break him? More than you've done already, of course."

Jim was wrong. John was in no way broken. Bruised, possibly, but fully functional. And Moriarty needed an answer without hesitation.

"Set him up to make the wrong decision and kill someone. Someone innocent."

No telling Moriarty less than the truth, not on the path he'd chosen. But John was safe right now, with Mycroft. Once Sherlock got out of here he could warn him.

Was that a flicker of frustration, swiftly hidden? There was surprisingly little harm that Sherlock could do from here. Moriarty was already thoroughly well informed about his opponents. What serious damage Sherlock could do would require access to a computer network, and Jim wasn't a fool.

And maybe he'd slipped, let some hint of satisfaction show because Moriarty was hissing at him with startling malevolence, "Why don't you go back to your room, petal, and think about all the things we haven't got to yet?"

 

Sherlock was lying on his bed, trying not to think about what Moriarty hadn't got to yet because the list was both open-ended and depressing, when the door opened and the room was full.

Two of the cold-eyed guards and two visitors. The one carrying the large case hung back; the other came forward. Sherlock could see the man's eyes roving up and down his body, disconcerting for a second until other clues slid into place. Slightly shiny trouser knees, awkward shape in the top pocket, a look that held nothing but professional assessment.

"Good morning. I'm your..."

"Tailor" Sherlock completed, reaching out to pick up a stray thread end from the man's jacket. Unexpected. He kept his other observations to himself. The man knew there was something odd about this particular client, had been told to do his job without chatter. He was not entirely unaccustomed to the presence of bodyguards, either. Not, Sherlock thought, a good bet for an ally against Moriarty. A good tailor though, he had to admit.

He was being fitted for clothes rather more formal than anything in the wardrobe. It could be a whim of Jim's but Sherlock suspected not. Some sort of social occasion; Moriarty was showing off his captive. Bold of him. And from the cheerful grumblings of the tailor, this evening.

First measurements done, the men disappeared and lunch arrived. Darren was favouring one knee slightly but nonetheless radiated smugness. Sherlock regarded him with dislike. The stupid idiot thought that being screwed by the boss was some sort of mark of approval. Moriarty wouldn't have been thinking of him, not this morning.

Afternoon was a barber, then more fittings. He'd been here for forty eight hours. It felt like far, far longer. When the tailor left to do the final alterations Sherlock paced around the room, deliberately not looking at the cocaine. Foolish to try to deal with Jim while high; not if he was the only one. Even the smallest of doses. Besides, Jim would know, if he used it, that he needed something; that this room was getting to him. Leave it be. Instead he pulled everything out of the wardrobe, sorting and re-sorting them by increasingly obscure categories of materials and techniques. It was poor entertainment but it might make Jim wonder what he was up to.

Five pm and his new clothes were delivered, the tailor adding the last couple of stitches as he dressed himself. Definitely on the most formal side of black tie; black single breasted jacket and wide cummerbund, suspenders for black silk socks and traditional black shoes. The white shirt was pleated- he could imagine Mycroft's frown- but he rather liked it. The familiar box of silver cufflinks placed on the dressing table had been stolen from Baker Street. He added the folded white handkerchief and stood in front of the mirror to tie the black bow tie himself.

It had been a long time. Ridiculous frippery, of course. Still- he raised an eyebrow at himself in the mirror, ran fingers through his curls- he carried it off well.

"You look quite breathtaking, my dear." Moriarty at the doorway, with not a hint of sarcasm. Sherlock bit down on the obvious response. Jim looked distinctly dumpy in black and white. Also, he was carrying handcuffs.

"Ready?" At Sherlock's nod he tossed the cuffs over. "Finish dressing, then. The car is ready."

 

Sherlock knew four ways to put handcuffs on so that they could be undone easily. With Jim's sharp eyes on him, he used none of them. The car was a limo with darkened windows and one of Moriarty's guards on either side of him. He closed his eyes, blocking out everything in the car, set himself to follow the route mentally. Moriarty was silent, letting him; that was probably significant but he was growing tired of always second guessing the man. Forget Moriarty; concentrate on where the car was taking him.

It wasn't difficult. Away from London, obviously; the spaces between traffic lights got longer, the traffic noise less full of buses and taxis. They reached motorway far too early for it to be anything but the M1 north. Onto the M25 anticlockwise, slow for the rush hour traffic. Still child's play. Off again after fifteen minutes, say ten miles, north west - towards Amersham. Then the limo turned down minor roads and off the roadmap in his head. By the time that it turned onto a gravelled drive half an hour later he could place them to within maybe fifteen miles, no better.

Jim was leaning forward to give him the key to the cuffs. So he wasn't to be paraded in chains, then. Good. Far more opportunities that way. It was getting almost painful to keep quiet; he wanted to interrogate Moriarty about what they were doing here, what he hoped to gain. Having to wait passively for information to be granted was near unendurable.

As he got out off the car he glanced back. Two vans and men swarming out of them, spreading out around the outside of the large country house. Jim had brought his own security, and plenty of it.

The two guards had gone ahead of them. Some sort of dispute with the man at the door, resolved with a hand on a gun and a quick capitulation. By the time they got to the wide porch the butler was bowing politely and leading them forwards.

Music; a live quartet playing a waltz. A thirty foot drawing room making shift as ballroom for a score of people. Sherlock paused beside Moriarty as the butler announced in a tone that cut across the music and chatter. "Professor James Moriarty."

The room didn't fall instantly silent. Some people weren't listening. For the handful of teenagers present- sons and daughters- the name clearly meant nothing. The orchestra continued to play, seeming oblivious. But a full two thirds of the room stopped what they were doing and stared.

Mostly at Sherlock, who made a considerably more imposing figure than the shorter man beside him. So they knew Jim's name but not his appearance. Three, no, four people were looking the right way, including the attractive middle-aged woman in a thousand pound green gown who was coming up to them in some haste, trying to look calm and mostly succeeding. The hostess, undoubtedly.

"Professor! What an unexpected pleasure!" She was extremely frightened. Sherlock revised his opinion of who was being shown off to whom. This was a demonstration for Sherlock, not of him.

The attention of the room shifted to Moriarty. Easy to pick out the few still watching him; a couple were just speculative but at least three were rather more intense. He suspected that the name of Sherlock Holmes wouldn't go unrecognised by many in this room either.

"We thought we'd drop by, stay a while. If you're sure you don't mind, of course."

"No..no, you're most welcome. We're delighted..." She turned to the butler. "Professor Moriarty and his guest will be staying for dinner. Two extra places beside me, please."

The man blinked. Sherlock could see the beginning of a protest, quickly supressed. Everyone would have to be shuffled around, of course.

There was a general movement in the room towards family members and exits; rats fleeing the sinking ship. Moriarty smiled, raised his voice a little.

"Could you advise your guests that I have brought a little extra security with me? They might want to let me know if they intend to leave early, to avoid any misunderstandings."

The movement stopped. The dance floor was empty, the guests huddled in nervous groups. Sherlock found himself being patted on the rear.

"I have a few chats to have with people here; nothing that would interest you. Do you know how to dance, pet?"

"Yes." He knew how, he just didn't. A pointless activity.

"Excellent. Why don't you take the lovely Gabrielle here out for a spin? After that I'm sure you'll have no shortage of partners. Enjoy yourself."

Enjoy himself? He doubted it. Still it was a clear enough order and hardly one to break his self-imposed vow of compliance over. He smiled at Gabrielle. "Shall we?"

Dancing wasn't normally enjoyable but after that small room there was something to be said for the chance to move. He paced out long unused steps with a certain amount of physical pleasure. His partner was competent but inattentive; her focus still on Moriarty and whatever peril he represented. Eventually however, with Jim deep in conversation, she remembered her manners, or possibly regained her curiosity. As the dance finished she led Sherlock to the side, hand up for the drinks.

"I'm sorry. I don't think the Professor mentioned your name."

"Sherlock," He gave her a moment to absorb the second blow of the evening. To her credit she recovered gamely.

"Sherlock Holmes! We are all great followers of your work."

He had to smile at that. "Indeed?"

"Oh yes." She managed a wry smile. "We're extremely flattered to have you both here."

"You're terrified," Sherlock corrected, picking up a glass and sipping appreciatively. "The only possible reason that you can think of for us to be here together is that Moriarty has sold out his entire network to the police."

"Has he?" She was at least courageous, this one. He wondered what particular role in Moriarty's crime ring she played. He'd work it out.

"No." A quick smile. "Another dance?"

Gabrielle expressed pretty and insincere regrets. She was neglecting her duties as hostess. Perhaps... she was looking round the room, clearly wondering who on earth it would be safe to pair a consulting detective off with while she spread the word among everyone else. Not the young woman coming towards them, obviously, but the blonde was determined to be introduced anyway. Susie, she was called, and yes she'd love a dance. Not about criminal politics, this one, more about tall and handsome.

Gabrielle introduced him, reluctantly, as Sherlock. "Really? Like that detective?"

"Very like" Sherlock assured her, swept her onto the floor before Gabrielle could be more specific. In the pauses that the dance allowed she confided in him proudly that her husband was the one over there, talking to Professor Moriarty. She reminded Sherlock of Darren; neither had the sense to know when they should be scared. From here it was clear that whatever Jim was telling her husband was making miserable hearing.

The poor man looked considerably worse when he turned with Moriarty to watch the dancers. He knew who Sherlock was now.

What small pleasure Sherlock had found in the dancing was gone. Susie had an appalling sense of timing and appeared to know absolutely nothing about anyone in the room, her spouse included, except useless trivia. Watching the agonies of the trapped guests as they realised that Moriarty wasn't their only problem would have been more fun if Jim hadn't been so obviously enjoying it too. And the violinist was tiring; the noise emating from his instrument was getting too bad to bear.

As the waltz came to a close Sherlock lost patience with the whole sorry endeavour. Handing Susie back to her traumatised husband, he strode towards the small orchestra and seized the violin.

It wasn't a particularly good instrument, but with a little adjustment it would do. He tugged the bandage off his scabbed left hand, settled the violin under his chin, half closed his eyes, slid into familiar Vivaldi. No-one was doing more than pretending to dance anyway.

The first piece was met with a hesitant ripple of applause which Sherlock ignored. Moriarty hadn't noticeably reacted. He kept on playing, feeling the music thrumming through his body, letting his mind turn off just a little.

Halfway through the third piece Gabrielle approached Moriarty, who nodded. Dinner, Sherlock imagined, was getting late. Jim looked directly at him, moved a hand, swift and horizontal. Sherlock took the bow off the strings mid note, passed the instrument back to its owner and joined his keeper. The unfinished phrase seemed to hang awkward in the air

An indulgence, the playing, and one he could ill afford. Dull compliance was what he had chosen. Still, it hadn't directly challenged Jim, and he had needed the music badly. Maybe it had done no harm.

"What a dreadful show off you are," Jim murmured to him. "Found anyone here to rescue you yet?"

"No."

"Looks like you'll be coming home with me again tonight, then."

There was no answer needed or possible to that.

Gabrielle had seated them to either side of her, with ladies next to them as convention demanded. She started to introduce them to Sherlock but Moriarty stopped her.

"Let Sherlock do his party piece first. It might be amusing."

Sherlock wondered briefly how amusing to make it. Reminded himself that he was not in the business of passive resistance. He'd do what Jim wanted.

He smiled briefly at the lady across the table from him, in a dress with a bosom recently let out. Almost too simple to be worth mentioning. "Congratulations. Your first child; three months old?"

"He's nearly four months." She was delighted.

"And the first time you've left him. Understandably nervous." He'd seen none of these businesspeople use a mobile phone all evening but hers was at the top of her handbag. Worried enough to risk social censure for it.

Her husband on the other hand: "Would you like some child rearing advice?"

"Yes please!" She was giggling.

"Move the baby out of your bed and go back to having sex with your husband. He's already looking elsewhere. Probably someone in the household; do you have an au pair, by any chance?" He'd dump the girl when the wife became available again; he wouldn't bother looking far afield.

"Yes." She was looking horrified. Her husband hadn't even been listening.

Sherlock moved on to the woman next to him. The man beside her was paying close attention.

"No problems with your marriage, I see. You work together." They had identical tiny cuts on their hands; handling something. Bags. "Drugs. Wholesale. And you don't trust your workforce; very wise. Not everyone can be trusted."He flashed a quick smile at the man. "Your wife's gorgeous dress is proof of that."

The woman flushed. Moriarty had tensed. "Meaning, Sherlock?"

Sherlock turned to face him. "These two are skimming off rather more than their agreed take."

"Liar!" The man was on his feet. "Where's your proof!"

Sherlock gestured irritably at the woman. "Look at her neckline. No-one would wear that dress without a necklace. In fact you can see the slight marks where she was wearing one earlier. She's taken it off; why?"

"Because I'd know they shouldn't be able to afford it." Moriarty was smiling, lizardlike. "Very nice. Sit down, Simon. We'll have a word after dinner, I think. Next."

Sherlock glanced at Gabrielle's face, read the slightest hint of appeal. No doubt that Jim had murder on his mind; a little cleaning up, setting examples. He multi-tasked rather efficiently.

"Gabrielle," he said, thoughtfully. "You didn't introduce yourself. Caution, I thought, but I've changed my mind. You thought I'd know already. There were no pictures of you on the walls as we came in and there's no sign of paparazzi or ways to get rid of them, so not a celebrity. You've been trying to control the situation ever since we arrived. Not just hostess. Politician. Your average backbench MP soon learns better than to think anyone will recognise him so Cabinet. Front bench."

A dry smile. "A dull deduction of what everyone else already knew. You'll have to forgive me for not recognising you. I leave politics to my brother." Did Mycroft know that Moriarty owned someone that high up in government? Is that why he was so desperate to bring him down?

She smiled at him, relief barely showing. "I have had the pleasure of meeting your brother on several occasions. An interesting man."

"He likes to think so." Sherlock turned, taking his chance. "Which brings us to Jim Moriarty.

"You made one mistake, Jim, and now you haven't got what you wanted. You don't know how to fix it; you don't even know if it can be fixed. You're on the point of giving up and settling for something else; maybe one or two of those violent sexual fantasies that you've been thinking about, but they're not going to be much fun if I'm not even here."

He turned back to Gabrielle. "Enough deduction, I think. Your guests are waiting."

The meal was quiet. Both the women seated next to them were struggling not to break down. Gabrielle chatted lightly to Jim throughout the meal, having clearly decided that if he and Moriarty were on opposite sides she'd stick with the one she knew. Sherlock couldn't blame her. So Sherlock ate alone with Moriarty's constant, undecipherable gaze on him.

When the ladies came to withdraw, Moriarty and four other men, the unfortunate Simon among them, disappeared. Sherlock was left alone with a great number of hostile stares, some good port and a cigar that he knew he shouldn't smoke and did anyway, the nicotine hit almost as good as cocaine. He amused himself by cataloguing faces, names and probable criminal activity. Not terribly amusing, really. Moriarty had let him have far too many names and faces; the implications were worrying.

The gentlemen didn't stay at the table long; no-one was even pretending to have a good time any more. They joined the ladies in the restored drawing room. At this point at what Sherlock very seldom thought of as home there would have been some hands of cards, but he suspected that the veneer of sophistication of most of these people didn't extend to any skill at bridge.

Sherlock hadn't played bridge since years before he'd left home. Before that he'd partnered Mycroft, some of the rare occasions on which they'd had a common purpose. They had been close to unbeatable but he'd lost his temper once too often at Mycroft's occasional, incomprehensible mistakes, and had finally refused to play again. It had been another couple of years before he'd realised that Mycroft had thrown those hands on purpose. Winning all the time hadn't been a problem for thirteen year old Sherlock; his older brother had already been playing a longer game.

No cards tonight. No-one was settling to any diversion. These people were just waiting for Moriarty to allow them to run. He caught poor Gabrielle's eye; her carefully planned party in ruins. She looked away, then squared her shoulders and walked back to him.

"Might you considerer playing for a little while?"

The quartet was packed, disconsolately waiting with everyone else. He shook his head. "I'm not a performer, Gabrielle, and I've no reason to keep your guests distracted. They chose Moriarty: a few hours scared is the very least that they deserve."

"It's not as simple as that." Her voice hardened. "For most of them, yes, but how much did you choose to be here tonight? What makes you think he gave some of us any better options than you?"

She believed it, at this moment anyway. Sherlock didn't. Jim liked to surround himself with the greedy and corruptible. Gabrielle was in further than she'd wanted, that was all.

And here was the man himself, with his guards. "Take him home," he gestured at Sherlock, and a hand on Gabrielle's arm drew her away.

Back in his room, an hour later, Sherlock flung down his jacket and paced. He'd made his play, and Jim was taking his time over responding. Impossible to predict what his response might be.

It was a couple of hours before Jim came in, dropping his jacket on top of Sherlock's with a sigh of relief. "I envy you sometimes. You don't have these management issues to deal with. People are so tedious."

He collapsed on the bed, rolled onto his front, head propped on one hand. "I delegate when I can, but sometimes one just has to get one's own hands dirty." His hands appeared spotless, but he'd sliced John open without spilling a drop on them. There had been executions tonight, carried out in front of the others; a reminder of where the power lay.

Sherlock sat down on the chair, waiting.

"Of course you didn't help. Gliding around looking mouthwateringly delicious. Did you like Gabrielle?"

"She's a politician. It's her job to be likeable."

"Yes." Moriarty grinned at him. "She's also useful and I have no intention of sacrificing her just yet."

Which didn't bode at all well for Sherlock's chances of getting out of here. Had that been the point of the evening?

"Ask me a question." Jim was smiling. "I can see that you're dying to ask something but your silly rules get in the way. So let me help you out. Ask."

Sherlock wasn't been subverted that way. He hesitated for a second then, "Any word on how John's getting on?"

Jim froze. Then rolled off the bed and came to stand in front of Sherlock; close enough that Sherlock could smell the brandy on his breath.

"It's been a long and difficult evening," he said quietly, reaching out to cup a hand under Sherlock's chin, tip his head gently upwards. "I'm tired and emotional and very close indeed to doing something that we will both regret in the morning." Fingers smoothed across Sherlock's cheek and he knew that his spike of desire hadn't gone unnoticed.

"So I'm going to go to bed instead. Tomorrow we will start this again." He dropped his hand, turned to pick up his jacket. A final word at the door. "I am bored with this game of yours, Sherlock. Tomorrow we will have something different. One way or another."

The light went off. Sherlock listened to the key turn in the lock, the footsteps moving away. He was bored with this game as well. He wanted someone to talk to. Tomorrow, he decided, he'd take Moriarty at his word.

 

Sherlock woke to the door opening. It was late, the sun high. He'd slept for hours without stirring.

Darren was at the bed in a few steps, all the way round it -why?-hands rough around his arm, dragging him onto the floor. A glance up to the camera and a foot down bruising hard on his arm- that was why, the fool thought it would be hidden by the bed frame. So Darren had finally worked out what Jim was keeping Sherlock around for.

Toe of his boot into Sherlock's ribs. "Get up. You're wanted downstairs."

Sherlock got to his feet, wondering if he could get away with a little retaliation. Probably not wise, right now. Instead he dressed without rushing and followed Darren down to the breakfast room, enjoying the man's obvious annoyance as Moriarty waved him away.

Breakfast spread out, fresh coffee, and a necklace wrapped around the toastholder. Sherlock picked it up. Ruby and diamonds, to match the woman's deep red dress.

"It was panic that did for them." Jim commented. "It's not worth that much more that one might expect."

"Guilty consciences are lethal possessions." Sherlock dropped it back onto the table. "Not, I imagine, something that troubles either of us over much." He poured himself a mug of coffee, sipped at it with pleasure.

"You slept well." Slight surprise there.

"You didn't?"

Moriarty sighed, histrionic but probably not far off the truth. "I've been keeping my hands off you for a reason. Last night's slip was careless. Other distractions proved inadequate."

An inadequate distraction had bruised his ribs this morning. Sherlock didn't bother mentioning it. Jim would know. Instead he buttered a muffin. Not exactly hungry; he'd eaten last night, but it looked relaxed.

"So where do we stand this morning?"

Moriarty put down his own coffee. "Shall I summarise?"

"Please do."

"Very well. You are here, and here you stay until I let you go or that rescue party finally turns up.

"We are I think both agreed that using a combination of coercion and force I can make you do whatever I like, including any of those violent sexual fantasies that so interested you. I can also torture you, cripple you, mutilate you or kill you in a unbelievably painful fashion."

He flashed a grin, momentarily delighted, then frowned.

"What it appears that I can't do is keep you amusing while I do any of this. I like all that clever little banter of yours. I've missed it."

"So?" Sherlock poured himself more coffee.

"So I'll remove the collar, but you'll have to run around indoors. And of course if you bite I'll need to muzzle you. How does that sound?"

It sounded appealing. A few more days of silence and compliance might well drive Sherlock out of his mind, and they'd established the main principle which was that Jim did not hit him and he did not do what he was told. He'd work on getting out of here later.

Still this was negotiation which meant more to be had. "I expect all my requirements to be met."

Moriarty was shaking his head, amused. "l don't think so. You can have what I decide you need."

"Coffee and nicotine patches." Some things were non-negotiable.

"You can have the patches. But coffee goes so much better with conversation than drunk on its own, don't you think?"

"As long as it makes a regular appearance. I need at least six shots a day."

"Then you'll need to be sociable."

Sherlock thought wistfully of John, who made him coffee without needing to be prompted and then left him alone. Jim Moriarty was a far inferior house mate. Which reminded him. "I get access to your reports on John."

"Will that mean that I don't have to hear you mention him again?" Moriarty was letting a little annoyance show. Wisest to agree, for John's sake. "If you like."

What else was important? His negotiating space was almost gone. "Get rid of Darren." He could do without a man with a grudge having access to his room while he slept.

Jim's gaze sharpened on him. "Are you intending to make his presence superfluous?"

Wasn't that an interesting question? But one thing was certain. "Not," Sherlock said, definitely, "as any part of these negotiations."

Moriarty laughed. "You see. This is more fun already. Very well, Darren goes, but that's the last. If you want anything else you'll have to beg for it."

"That will do."

Silence for a while. Jim had picked up the copy of the Times on the breakfast table.Sherlock wondered just how this was going to work. Finally Moriarty pushed his plate away, tucked the paper under his arm.

"i have work to do in the library. You can come and look decorative in there."

No seemed to be an option, but a dull one. They spent an oddly peaceful morning, Sherlock browsing the shelves, Moriarty reading him snippets of emails.

"One from Gabrielle here."

Sherlock snorted. "Telling you how delightful it was to see you last night?"

"She liked meeting you. Much more charming than your reputation would suggest, apparently."

"I'm only charming with someone twisting my arm."

"Quite. Fortunately it's not your charm I'm after."

Sherlock ignored that. He wasn't ready to flirt quite yet. Not till he was sure their agreement was holding. What would Gabrielle be saying this moring?

"She's telling you extremely politely to stop playing games in her back yard because she's too high profile to survive it."

"Clever boy." Jim was still focussed on his screen.

"She's right, but she's bold to say so."

"She'd be no use if she wasn't smart. I'll send her the necklace. It will make up for getting so much blood on her carpets." He started to type. "I think I'll also send her a couple of unexpected guests a little less charming than you and I. Some people confuse irreplaceable with invulnerable. A little trauma might clear up that distinction"

If he could get a word to Mycroft... Jim was crowing at him. "You did like her! Who'd have thought you were susceptible to a pair of pretty eyes?"

"I am not susceptible." Sherlock said, stiffly. "I just find your methods childishly crude."

Moriarty glared at him. 'Do you run the largest criminal network in western Europe? No? Well I suggest that you shut up, then. I could have every single person that you've spoken to in the last three months killed in the next two hours. That would be extremely childish of me but they'd still be very dead. Coffee with lunch?"

"Yes." Moriarty was exaggerating, but possibly not by very much. Sherlock had to be more careful.

Sent back to his room after lunch, Sherlock found the promised nicotine patches and a surveillance report on Herald Row. One of Mycroft's people was playing for both sides. The man, or woman, must be extremely good to get past his brother's guard. John was bad tempered but in good health and most importantly secure. Sherlock set the report aside, reassured.

Underneath was a small brown file containing just seven sheets of paper. Sherlock read it through once, then again, carefully. Moriarty's dead man's switch would trigger a cascade of atrocities, fast and widespread. On the last sheet of paper was a post-it note. "So don't bite."

The afternoon dragged on into evening. Around 8pm Jim came in and sat on the bed.

"Sorry, pet. I was hoping for some playtime this evening, but your disappearance is creating waves, and business comes first. Don't wait up, sugar; I don't know when I'll get home."

"I'm sure I'll cope without you." Sherlock hid the twinge of disappointment. He was bored.

He remained bored for the best part of twenty four hours. There were at least meals, and coffee at regular intervals: Jim was playing fair. Another report on John arrived; no significant change.

Late afternoon and his latest minder opened the door. "This way." Not down the stairs, this time, but along the corridor.

A bedroom. Moriarty's. It had that touch of rather sickly decadence that the man favoured. Curtains closed and a standard lamp, and Moriarty propped up at the head. Sherlock nearly said something dismissive about the man's assumptions, but then what he was seeing caught up with him.

Jim was wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Shoes still on, and mud on the bedspread. A slight smell of gunpowder, a stronger one of sweat and blood, his shoulder twisted to keep it away from the headboard, and lines of pain around his eyes. A small gun rested in his lap.

"Hostile takeover?"

"Unsuccessful." Moriarty's voice was lower than usual, strained.

"You don't know who's betrayed you."

"Interrogations are underway. It will be business as usual by morning."

"But in the meantime there's no-one you trust to treat those injuries."

Jim grinned at him, pale-faced. "Wrong."

There was a certain logic to that, given the contents of the brown folder. He bolted the door without prompting. There were medical supplies on the dressing table, including a knife and scissors. Moriarty shifted sideways with an audible whimper.

"Shot in the back. Careless of you."

"I'm still alive."

"Clutching at straws, Jim. You were careless."

"Yes. I've been a little distracted." Moriarty was gritting his teeth as Sherlock cut the blood clotted clothes from his back. Roughly eight hours ago, from the dried blood. A long time to stay untreated.

"Pain killers?" There was codeine on the tray.

"Not tonight."

"You are in a great deal of trouble, aren't you?"

"No." Jim hissed in pain as Sherlock moved. "There's no evidence that anyone here is disloyal. This is merely precautionary."

"Extreme precautions."

"That's how I stay alive. What's the damage?"

"Minor. The bullet's scored a line across your mid back but that's all. I'll clean it up." He slid off the bed, went to fetch warm water, raised his voice. "You might want to reconsider those painkillers. I've no reason to be gentle."

"Come on, Sherlock," Jim called over from the bed. "I've put a lot of effort into persuading you to play rough in bed. Why would I mind now?"

Sherlock could do without the distraction of hurting Jim, and the likely outcome of that, right now. "Take the painkillers. I'll watch your door." He carried them over with a glass of water. Jim considered his face for a moment, then swallowed two.

Sherlock helped him to lie down on his front. The furrow dug across the back of the man's ribcage needed cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging but he doubted that it would affect Jim's mobility significantly once it was fixed up. Wouldn't want to be lying on his back for a while though, and that picture stayed in Sherlock's head a little longer than necessary.

There was the occasional fragment of cloth stuck in the torn flesh; he set to work with the tweezers. Moriarty was already starting to sound drowsy.

"Don't do anything..." he yawned, "interesting. I want to be awake for that."

Sherlock snorted. "You're not that irresistible."

"I most certainly am," Moriarty insisted, then went quiet. He woke again with a scream when disinfectant hit the raw flesh, then dropped off again. Like John had done, Sherlock thought, and was rather less careful than he had been.

When he'd finished taping up Jim's back with gauze he undressed him, dropping the muddied clothing on the floor and sat on the bed next to the naked, sleeping man, Moriarty's gun in his hand.

Breaking out was a possibility, with a weapon, except that Jim's men would be particularly jumpy tonight. No need to risk it; he could handle Moriarty, now. He reached out his left hand to the smooth curve of Jim's lower back, rested it there, feeling the warmth under his palm, picturing muscle and bone and blood, sat like that until daylight came and Jim stirred.

Moriarty took his gun back without comment and made his careful way to the lift. He was soon deep in conversation with his various people. Trouble had indeed all been resolved by the morning, but there was a great deal of clearing up to be done. Sherlock sat and listened, building up a real picture of Moriarty's organisation for the first time. Every so often Jim would glance over to him and smile, well aware of what he was doing and blithely unconcerned. The implications of that were still all bad.

The talks went on all morning. Sherlock could see when the painkillers started to wear off, Jim's face going a little grey, lines around his eyes. Half an hour later Sherlock was fairly sure that Jim was close to passing out.

When Moriarty next caught his eye Sherlock jerked his head very slightly upwards. Jim didn't react but a few minutes later he was drawing things to a close.

"Reports at four. I want coffee and him in my bedroom in ten minutes."

Sherlock was hustled out and allowed five minutes to change out of yesterday's clothes. When he entered Moriarty's bedroom the coffee was already there, and Jim was standing with his hand clenched around the bedpost.

"Bolt the door."

Sherlock did as he was told then helped himself to coffee."Get on that bed before you pass out."

"Coming to join me?" Moriarty hit the counterpane with a sigh.

Sherlock snorted. "Go to sleep. You've got to do this over again at four."

"You're no fun. How about tonight?"

"I don't shag corpses. Go to sleep."

"Tonight," Jim said, satisfied, closed his eyes. Sherlock had promised nothing. He sipped his coffee, watching the sleeping man, found himself smiling slightly. Moriarty was starting to rely on him, the captor becoming captive. Why not accelerate that a little? Why not tonight, indeed?

He'd been intending to keep that decision to himself, but Jim know, as soon as he was conscious enough to read Sherlock. "Get some rest, petal; you were up all night, and we are going to have ourselves a very long session tonight."

Back in his room Sherlock flicked through the latest surveillance report with some amusement. He hadn't been aware that John's language could be quite so creative. According to the report Mycroft had positively blanched, But John was still secure. John and Moriarty made a dangerous combination, he'd decided, much more volatile than Jim on his own. A combination with certain advantages, certainly; the three of them had generated a great deal of sexual heat, but possibly not worth the risks. He'd find out just how hot Moriarty could be on his own.

He slept easily, more relaxed than he'd been at any point since Moriarty kidnapped him. Progress, at last, and some degree of control. He hadn't worked out a way to bring Jim down yet, but he'd get there.

It was after dark when he was brought down to the library. "A drink before dinner," Jim proposed. "Your brother blew up that bottle of brandy but I've managed to get hold of some more."

"Excellent." The brandy really was very good.

Jim was watching him. "This has been quite a week, hasn't it? You seem a little more comfortable as my guest, now."

Not too comfortable. "Guest is still not entirely accurate."

"I'm sure we'll work something out about that. Tell me, Sherlock. If you could walk out of that door now, would you go?"

Before tonight? Reluctantly. Sherlock sighed. "I have my work. I have responsibilities."

"True for both of us." Moriarty raised his glass. "To brief interludes, then."

Sherlock had his glass to his lips when the shot rang out. Moriarty was on his feet.

"Did you miss one?" Sherlock enquired, mind racing. Anyone coming for Moriarty wouldn't want a consulting detective witness.

"Unlikely." The gun was out. There were shouts now, and footsteps. "This one's all yours, I suspect."

The library door slammed open, then shut. John Watson- John!- waving a hand at him. "Hi," the man panted, then launched himself at Moriarty.

And that, Sherlock muttered to himself as he got to his feet to referee between the two of them, was a beautiful evening ruined.

 

(This, of course, is where John came in...)