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Shadow-Bride

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“That’s what people do, don't they ? Leave a note. Goodbye, John.”

  He threw the phone behind him, focused on making the precarious jump and avoid death while looking plausible. There was no time for John would not wait idle. Sherlock gathered his resolve and threw his body weight forward. That’s when he heard it. A faint and derisive cough behind him. He twisted his upper body mid-course, just in time to catch the mild, bloodied, infuriatingly dubious smile of the criminal.

“Come on, nobody would fall for that Sherlock.”

  Moriarty lost sight of the detective as the later fell from the edge of the roof but heard both cursing and a sickening crush from bellow. What an excellent foresight, choosing the roof of a hospital for their little show. Jim could appreciate practicality sometimes… It had an elegance of its own.

 

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  He did not understand why Sherlock was playing dead. He was not dead of course, just playing dead. Gone from London it seemed. Disappeared from the radar. What about the flowers Jim sent him while he was in intensive care? Exquisite blood red roses with a get-well card. Not even a thank you. How rude.

  When no thanks seemed to be coming from the detective (former detective -thank-you-Kitty-), Jim had one of the staffs of the hospital get the medical report for him. -Highly classified- of course but what is classified to a good bribe. It stated : Severe blow to the head. Impact with an edge of the façade during the fall. Fractured skull and internal bleeding. The patient interred intensive care while comatose but died from his injuries under the hour. Body collected. Bullshit.

  Mycroft was getting sloppy, he had done better cover ups than that. All of this was frustrating the criminal out of his mind. And when frustration took him, he got restless.

 

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  The pain was atrocious. Hundreds of dull blades piercing his brain and dancing along to the agonising flashs of bright light that aggressed his senses. What the hell… He tried to look at his surroundings but had to give up as a fresh wave of pain threatened to knock him out again. He settled his senses, allowing the pain to dull to an intense but constant buzz at the back of his head. He could almost faintly hear…

“…ths of planning, tens of agents … uttermost secrecy … serably fail the plan.”

… Mycroft rambling about something or other. Well that could certainly wait.

“- Are you even listening to me Sherlock?

-I think he drifted to sleep again, sir.” The man, a surgeon, looked uneasy before continuing. “He took a nasty blow to the head sir, one that was almost lethal. We limited the damages, but he won’t be able to hold his attention focused for a few days. We won’t be able to determine the extents of the damages until then.”

  Mycroft eyes that had been rived on the laying form of his brother snapped up to the surgeon.

“- What are you implying doctor?” The surgeon swallowed nervously.

"-Well sir with that kind of blow all kind of head trauma must be expected. From minor confusion to the reduction of mental capabilities.” He stammered: “We won’t know fore sure until he wakes up.” Mycroft’s glare on the surgeon could have melted ion. It definitely melted the poor man’s nerve who decided he would onward cultivate tulips for a living.

  Mycroft cursed silently : there was no time for an injured Sherlock in the equation.

Chapter Text

  With Sherlock as good as unconscious he had to take a decision. How things had proceeded on the rooftop between Sherlock and the criminal was still unknown: all devices, bugs and cameras planted beforehand got jammed the moment Moriarty showed up. But several things were sure: even if a decent sized puddle of blood was found on the roof, the criminal (or the criminal’s body depending on the scenario) had vanished. The blood was not Sherlock’s that much was clear. A gunshot had been heard quite clearly. And Sherlock had seemed fit to proceed with his extraction before injuring himself in the process. That was all they knew.

  He sighted holding the bridge of his nose. He would proceed with the plan and announce Sherlock’s death. Even if Moriarty was still alive it could give his little brother some respite from the maniac. Anyway, it would take time to restore his reputation. There was no reason not to go on as planned.

  Sherlock was officially announced dead and buried.

  John broke down to his very core.

 

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  Sherlock found gazing at the ceiling as boring after a few hours as during the first 30 seconds of his wakefulness. He was aggravated. Clearly scaring the nurse away when she tried to put back in place the IV he had torn out of his arm had been a bad move on his part. Mycroft’s men were far less likely to be charmed into letting him go. Well he thought, if Mycroft was detaining him, as it was very probably the case, he would not make it far even with the help of the nurse. The headache was now but a faint, dull buzz at the back of his head. That is if he took care not to move his head too fast. He could think now, without the painkiller flowing in his system anymore. Nobody was saying much to him but for the usual medical rambling (‘Please sir, stop messing with the injectors.’) and they must have been severely briefed not to let any piece of information slip. Apart from the personal life of the nurse and the surgeon, their love affair -extramarital on the nurse side-, his pungent headache (a concussion very likely) and the fact that his brother was tightly detaining him -definitely Mycroft’s men’s- he had no idea what was going on. Something seemed to be slipping past him when he tried to focus on what had come to pass in the previous days and why his brother dear would intervein so directly in his life. Had he given in again ? He was clear of all hard stuff for several months now and did not remember getting any but then botherdom had always gotten the best of him. But still, he had just agreed with Mrs Hudson to move in and was not especially bored as far as he could remember…

  The door creaked open. Speaking of bother … His brother knew when to make an entrance. He took a sit by his bed and Sherlock refused to break the eerie silence that followed with Mycroft’s condescending look on him.

“Slept well brother dear?”

  Sherlock forced a smirk on his face. “The rest will be better appreciated when I’ll understand the reasons behind you charitably hosting my person.”

  At that Mycroft’s face fell a tiny bit but the reaction did not escape the younger brother.

“-What? Were you expecting a ‘thank you’ brother dear?

-What do you remember last Sherlock?”

  That was straightforward at least. Sherlock frowned as he tried to focus on the answer… A sharp stab of pain hit his brain. He winced, his hand coming reflexively to his forehead.

“-Well, I am pretty sure I concluded a deal with Mrs Hudson about that decent flat of hers. The poor woman needs company and I need a cheap rent. But I must admit…” His frown deepened. “… It is a bit fuzzy.

-Sherlock, this was over a year and a half ago don’t you have anything more recent? Do focus this is of the uttermost importance.

-Have the Queen lost a dog and I was recruited to find his whereabout?” Sherlock answered with a snarl. Mycroft was being overbearing especially now that his head was pounding severely as he tried to access his memory. The concussion, right? Head trauma induced memory loss. He cut out Mycroft’s rambling and tried to sink into his mind palace, but everything was blurry, a hue or several to high and the headache was unbearable. He opened his eyes to a distressed (was this even possible?) Mycroft looking at him intently.

“Fill me in?”

Chapter Text

“I don’t think you get the gravity of the situation William !”

  Mycroft only called him William when he was utterly pissed at him. This was a bit not good for he needed his beloved older brother to keep feed him data pertaining about the year and half he just accidently erased. And what a year … it was fa-sci-na-ting.

“-My attention is sorely focused on the task at hand. Just like you ‘asked’ me.

-You are missing my point.”

  Sherlock kept skimming in between the different documents, videos and photos that Mycroft had ‘asked’ him to look at. To put it mildly. Now and then he would experience a sharp pain as he absorbed information and his brain was undoubtedly trying to have the relevant memory surface. Unsuccessfully so far. This Moriarty guy was … unexpected? His ploys, his shenanigans proved him a clever engineer of chaos with a unique flare. As Sherlock got the bigger picture better and better, he was starting to get kind of an impression of the chap and thought of several older case that fitted his touch.

  He had been feeling off somehow since he woke up, like he was missing something important. Aside from his memory of course. Something tengible... It was a fuzzy feeling to be honest. He had thought it was a cigarette and a smoke but, maybeee, he was wrong. He smiled a thin-lipped smile.

“-We are supposed to find this criminal to put an end to his deed Sherlock, not for you to ask him an autograph.”

   Sherlock scowled. “Well I don’t know what you expect me to do. I am poring over your data files, but my memory is playing hard to catch right know.” He deposited the folder he was studying on the bedtable. “Nothing is coming back Mycroft”.

  Silence settled in between the brothers.

“-We can hardly keep you hidden on the British soil much longer brother dear.

-And what am I supposed to do ‘brother dear’ (he emphasised), now that you have carefully sabotaged my life in London?

-Well you would have managed to do it by yourself believe me. But I will pretend I am sorry to have spoiled your little game at playing normal.” Sherlock huffed. “You, we, are to continue as planned Sherlock. We have gathered major intelligence about Moriarty, and you have agreed to do the legwork to dismantle it.

-I appear to have been exceptionally well behaved about this plan of yours brother ! Very unlike me to play this tame.

-Moriarty was enough of a menace to motivate you. I do think you did not like him strapping explosive to your flatmate.”

  Sherlock raised an eyebrow at the folder of Dr. John Hamish Watson.

“-You’ve grown quite fond of the man in the past few months.”

Sherlock scoffed at that. “Please ...”, he mumbled.

  Mycroft frowned slightly at his little brother. Watson influence on his temper had been very beneficial to keep Sherlock away from his… let’s say darkest depth. He was not sure how the recent development would affect his character in the long run, but he hoped for a quick return of his brother memory. He would never admit that he desired it less for the precious information stored there than for the preservation of the very fragile mental equilibrium of his brother.

   For several minutes Sherlock continued to skim through all the documents with a singular, and a bit feverish focus. Then he stacked the folders and looked at Mycroft with a barely concealed smile.

“All right, I’ll do it. The legwork. Would not want to mess your careful planning would we ?”

 

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  It took Sherlock just under two weeks to get AWOL. He still managed to get surprisingly useful information trough to his older brother, proving himself most useful to the dismantlement of Moriarty’s web. But he was utterly unpredictable. Mycroft sighted at the latent headache his little brother was proving himself to be once more.

“-Your tea sir.”

  Since the accident Sherlock had reverted to his independent and uncontrollable self. And he was excellent on the field, an expert at disimulating from unwanted attention, meaning that Mycroft’s monitoring of him was thin at best. It remembered him when Sherlock had been at his lowest: even high on drug it had taken him months to make a mistake that had allowed Mycroft to find him. Swirling the tea, he contemplated how it had perhaps been a mistake to keep the doctor out of the whole affair. Sure, it had been one of Sherlock most strict request before the hole plan was set in motion, and before his memory loss. John had to be kept in the dark, his ignorance a form of protection in itself. But John was predictable, and it had been so much easier to keep an eye on Sherlock the moment the doctor started sticking to him…

 

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  He was starting to get DEAD bored. Bored bored bored.

  But then, just then, something rippled. A little fish was nibbling the line. He had to be patient… Or not. Who knew? He kept proving himself he was terrible at waiting.

Chapter Text

  The bouquet of crimson roses was opulent and completely out of place in the grim basement Sherlock had found the drug dealer in.

  Well former drug dealer if he trusted the gentle dripping of blood from the body. The guy (-Bangladeshi-revoked doctor-No American citizenship-Heavy debt-7 kids-) had been synthetizing something far from conventional and was about to flood the young, rich and bored society constituted by the offspring of some of the most important politicians of the country. This one had been tricky to unravel before the drug was out and it was too late. Not that he cared for the families he had ‘saved’ but more as a matter of self-satisfaction. And Mycroft would be pleased once he takes the time to tell him about this one.  If he ever does. But now that it was over and he was going down from the high of the chase, he was feeling a bit… unsatisfied ? No : unsated. Down. That is why he liked serials killers : they were better to work with in the long run. He sighted. Back to shovelling the underworld for big brother it was, he supposed. It had been six months already. Perhaps Moriarty really was dead after all. He had not bitten back at Mycroft for attacking his web and that seemed out of character for the man.

  He supposed he had time for a cigarette before burning the place down. We would not want someone to collect the drugs or the formula after all this work right ? He side stepped the body, avoiding the blood dripping profusely from both nose and eyes of the chemist, with half a mind to explore the adjoining rooms. The chap had tried to jump him with a curved sword (how old fashioned) and Sherlock had thrown him on his worktable. He had seemed fine at first, shout and curses testifying an urge to come charging back at the detective. But they had quickly morphed into agonizing borborygm as the chemist fell and contorted on the floor. He was dead under the minute.

  The broken equipment must have pierced his skin allowing the highly concentrated chemicals to flood his system Sherlock had concluded. He was not easily disgusted by the organic aspect of life, but after considering carefully the gruesome result of the drug on the poor man’s body he wisely decided against plundering this specific place for drugs. Lighting his cigarette with shaking hands (-shaking ?-) he could not do but contemplate how dramaticly appropriate the scenery of his first murder was. Pulling on the cigarette he went for a side door. Perhaps not telling Mycroft would be better. He would know and that would only straighten the stick he had up his…

  He pushed the door to find the perfectly clean, tastefully decorated boudoir and the flowers. It was free of any kind of traces and Sherlock was positive the chemist had not set a foot in this room since the arrangement was made. There was a note.

Found you ! <3  xJim

 

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  His phone blipped merrily. He extracted it from his pocket (-taking care not to unplug the Jake-), and took his gaze off from the rising fume of the burning building in the distance. He looked at the picture and grinned widely.

  Sherlock had taken the flowers.

  It had been hell to trace Sherlock. The criminal had even started to question his original hunch that Mycroft would put his little brother ‘holiday-time’ to good use and send him to dismantle his ‘web’. He chuckled. Well to be honest he was impressed at Sherlock for giving the slip to Mycroft, even though it made it so bloody difficult in return to locate him. But now that the former detective was properly baited it would be so much easier to keep tabs on him.

  The frustrating part on his side of the mirror was to find time for Sherlock in his -oh-so-busy- schedule. He had an empire to keep in line after all and you have no idea how difficult idiots are to manage sometimes. Yes ok most of the time. But it would not do to keep dear Sherly bored, not do at all.

Chapter Text

  Did he sign a contract with the devil ? He must have, for life seemed to have at last decided to make a move in the right direction and get INTERESTING. Well, life in a general sense since most his time was taken with dead or dying people. Dies, died, will die : the shadow would take them all. Or he and Mycroft would, for all had been so far involved with the Big Bad Wolf. Was Moriarty sacrificing pawns again ? To what purpose ?

  For from that moment Sherlock was out of the Bangladeshis chemist hide out, the Criminal was always but half a shadow away, teasing, taunting and luring Sherlock deeper into the woods. There would be trinkets, messages, staging of locations… Hints to decipher about where to go next. The game was on, a bloody dance on a jolly-grim rhythm. Moriarty was leading with both flare and dramatics and Sherlock could only but step in time (barely so sometimes) with the narrative. But the Grim himself was playing shadow after the little show of appearance he pulled to instigate Sherlock’s fall. Sherlock sometimes wondered why, and wherever or not the Criminal was aware of his ‘condition’. He never hinted so. Somehow, he had a hunch that if Moriarty knew about his memory loss, he would have tried a different approach to whatever it was he was pulling.

  To all it would seem he was just doing it all again. ‘The Great Game’. Just to watch Sherlock dance. But no, it seemed unlikely for the man, far too mundane, far too boring to just repeat a used up strategy. No no no, there was a bigger picture here that both he and Mycroft had missed when they decided to play along with the Criminal. But what was the extend of the ploy ? Everything was shrouded.

  Of course, he thought about informing Mycroft about his suspicions. About Moriarty’s behaviour too. Never more than three seconds at a time, but he did think about it -for the record-. As the months passed his interactions with Mycroft had diminished to an absolute minimum and he was pretty sure he was out of his brother’s monitoring capability. He was keeping secretive for his own comfort of course, and if he once or twice went out of his way to destroy the evidences of his interaction with Moriarty it was something he took great care not to overly contemplate. It was simple really : he did not want his dear older brother to spoil the little fun he could have while working for the ‘grater good’. He was after all, an undercover agent of the British Government. A useful member of society. How proud would Mother be.

 

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  He had his suspicions about Moriarty's plans confirmed on a rather peculiar fashion.

  He was investigating a weapon dealer nest and had as good as stumbled on what passed as their headquarter. He had not planned properly for this, but curiosity had killed the cat. And, of course, he got caught rather lamely. Not without a decent fight mind you (he was almost certain one of the guards was out cold and the other had a broken nose). He had been dragged to the ‘thug in charge’ -for lake of a better name- with a broken rib and a lot of curses. Why on earth he had answered ‘yes’ when the guy had asked him if he was Moriarty’s man was for anyone to guess. It had seemed a good idea on the spur of the moment, better than saying he was working for the British government or sassing something or other. He was reconsidering his choice now that it landed him straight into too tight restraints in a rather grim looking locked room.

  From the reaction and behaviour of his captors, it had been quite clear they were in fact, renegade. There had been fear at Moriarty’s mention, but also a form of grim determination. That was shining a new light on the whole situation at least. He had been having growing suspicions for some weeks (months ?) that they were not exactly 'clearing' Moriarty’s web. The lake of retaliation from the Criminal to the damages they were supposedly dealing to his Empire had been highly suspicious. No, more probable was that they were cleansing the bad spiders away for him. Moriarty must have played Mycroft into doing the dirty work for him – how elegant right ? And efficient. Well whatever the philosophical reason behind the whole matter it still landed him in a tight spot.

  Almost as soon as he had concluded those men indeed knew their jobs and that he would not make it out on his own, he heard the door squeak open. A young, mousy face peered through the door. The man (boy ?) snapped a picture of him with a phone and texted it. Chantage to Mycroft ? Unlikely. He was supposedly dead and not renewed enough out of England that those thugs would have recognised him on the spot. He heard the faint sound of a notification and a strangled (-panicked ?-) sound from the boy. He entered the room, pushing the door close and approached skittishly.

“-Free you and… out.” He said with a hard and heavy Polish accent.

Sherlock, still gaged, nodded carefully.

  The boy undoubtedly knew his way around the coumpound and they dodged surveillance easily enough. He had to take down a guard or two but was able to chock them silently and their escape was not hindered. They were out almost as fast as Sherlock had been in with the very serious advantage of not being bound and gagged. Bonus for a coat still in one piece. He sent a quick text to Mycroft, precising the location of the depot and to hurry.

  As he pressed sent, he heard a merry (-too much so-) ringtone. The boy fished out jerkily the same phone than earlier from inside his jacket. It was new, expensive -no- luxurious (solid gold, really ?). The phone made the poor boy look even shabbier if this was even possible. It was not his -obviously- and he handled the object as if his life depended on it. He had a short conversation in what was most certainly Polish before paling noticeably and handing the phone over to Sherlock. Puzzled, he took it out of the shaking boy’s hand.

The low, vibrant voice rooted Sherlock’s attention.

“Presenting yourself as My Man… I must admit I am touched Sherlock. It would have been rude of me not to acknowledge such a gallant move on your part right ? You get a free pass today but don’t you get used to it, honey. I am not you guardian angel.”

  And just like that the Criminal hanged the call. Sherlock was under the feeling that something both very cold and hot was racking his brain as the sing-song voice kept resonnating mercilessly in his head. Good thing he had texted Mycroft before for his brain was as good as short-circuited. After what felt like ages but was in fact a solid 30 seconds Sherlock snapped back to reality. Of course, the kid would have slipped away while he was distracted. Not keen on being caught again, Sherlock followed suit and ran away before Mycroft’s men came into action.

Chapter Text

  Of course, the phone would lock up right after the call. But since the kid did not try to wrestle it back Sherlock had probably be meant to have it. The phone kept blipping with new notifications, and it was driving him crazy. There was no maximum number of try for the code but each time the delay before he could try again was raised. What a torture. But in all honesty, he obsessed over the phone as a distraction.

  Since Moriarty’s call he was disturbed. The voice of the Criminal was rattling something in his rather messed up memory and it was not … agreeable. He was having flashes of sounds and images but way to short to make anything of it. It was grinding his nerves and the more he tried to grasp the fugitive data the harder his head pounded.

  He was buried deep in an armchair, door and windows locked. The air was heavy with cigarette smoke and the phone clasped in-between his hand. The substances coursed lightly through his veins as he let himself slowly sink down his mind palace. His accident had messed up the place a bit but he somehow managed to keep it functional. It was still the same but felt somehow different. Everything was a bit too much, too vibrant, a hue or several to high. He got used to it, since his head was still organised pretty much the same way and working perfectly to his satisfaction. But sometimes he had the disturbing impression things were vanishing out of view or were projecting fleeting shadows just to disappear when he tried to focus on them. He had reasoned those were probably manifestations of his ‘missing memories’ but that did not make the occurrences any less irritating. He went for Moriarty’s corner. He had given the criminal a full wall, with pictures and documents hanging loosely, thread connecting them. The content of the file his brother gave him was littering the carpeted floor. There was no recording of Moriarty speaking before. The man did not utter a word during his trial and if Mycroft had other materials at hand, he did not share them with his younger brother. Trying to protect the little one from the Big Bad Wolf ? Perhaps. Mycroft had a twisted sense of what protecting someone meant.

  He pulled up Moriarty’s words again. The one part that had his head hurt like crazy was when the Criminal said his name … “Sherlock, Sherlock …”. A short, mocking tone. A distinctive one he was sure he had heard before. He had it now, almost. “Sherlock.”

  The reverb was wrong, it was not the echo of the call. Sherlock’s eyes snapped open. Just in front of him was a heavy, black wooden door. It had been there before. Not invisible, just… out of reach ? It stood, both inviting and grim. The folder, the scattered documents had disappeared. The door (-the room behind it obviously-) and the folder were after all the same logical entity. There would be no duplicate in this place.

  He pushed the door open in a noiseless motion. The room was a smooth, plain white (-or was it ?-). And in the dead center of it, facing him and standing still in a perfectly pressed Westwood suit was Moriarty.

“Sherlock Homes.” He paused. “Hi.”

  - How could one have such expressive features and voice yet let slip so little information ?– was the question Sherlock was calmly considering as he pulled a gun from his own back pocket and shot himself in the head.

 

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  Sherlock woke up drenched in sweat. Air seemed to refuse to stay in his lung and he was suffocating. He brought a hand to the side and back of his head, but there was not bleeding, and his skull was still in a hard, solid, one piece. It was fine, he was fine. A panic attack, that was all. He fought through drug induced haze to try and regulate his breathing. What the hell… had happened. This was not by far the weirdest thing he had experienced in his mind palace, but this time it had a vivid touch that sent a body-wrecking shiver down his spin. He could somehow faintly taste the iron from gun’s barrel in his mouth.

  The ‘good side’ of this mess, he thought after a while, was that he had probably found a way to recover the memories and data related to Moriarty. If he could stand his ground and not get expelled from The Room under the minute that is.

Chapter Text

“You’ve been a bit off your game on this one.” He paused. Just long enough to make it frustrating when he continued. “I mean it was an obvious trap all things considered.”

“Shut. Up.” Sherlock mumbled in-between gritted teeth.

  The punch to his abdomen had him recoil violently, the chains pulling taught on his outstretched arms.

“I didn’t quite get that !” The man pulled his head back by the hairs. “Again. Why did you break in there ?”

  Moriarty was behind him, quietly taking in the room. He lowered his head to Sherlock’s hear, eyes fixed on his captor.

“Better not to tease him too much Honey, he seems a bit on edge already.”

  It had been days already, weeks perhaps. He had been physically and mentally tortured, sleep and food deprived. He was beyond retreating to his Mind Palace to escape the pain. He was losing it, his reality blurring. That Moriarty, since ‘the incident’, had started to prowl his Mind Palace, distorting his thought process and his reality was one (-rather problematic in itself-) thing, but now he was out too. He was permeating his reality, his addled brain allowing way to much freedom to this hallucination. He needed to take back the control of the situation. Quickly.

  They were prepared and ready when Sherlock had broken in the base. They had trained men and equipment at hand. They had a bloody helicopter for Christ sake. Sherlock’s source had hinted at a half-abandoned compound where a branch of a Serbian terrorist group had settled a headquarter. But nothing of this magnitude. Had someone purposefully sold him out ? Was it Moriarty that wanted him out of the picture at last ? At this thought, Moriarty, who was carefully considering to opposite wall and door, looked back at him with an affronted and slightly hurt expression. Not really his style… Well Sherlock was sure the Criminal was using blunt and brutish force when convenient. Just not with Sherlock, not like this at least. Satisfied with Sherlock’s thought process Moriarty went back to his careful inspection, humming.

  He took another punch to the face, then the stomach.

  And just when he had thought he was getting to the end of it at that. The end of their little dance, with this last Serbian cell. All the rest was small fret, not worthy of his attention. This was the last ‘big catch’ on the list. Those were violent, dangerous, organised men. Their leader was careful and intelligent - had probably tried to double cross Moriarty thus ending on his blacklist -. This was not a party; this was a target to take down.

"Someon is comming..."

  The door clanked open and a man entered the room. He exchanged a few words with the guy who had been interrogating him so far. Sherlock, recognising the voice, smirked. Mycroft to the rescue then. The bastard took his time.

 

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“- You have been busy, haven’t you? Quite the busy little bee.

- Moriarty’s network. Took me two years to pull out all the dangling threads.”

Mycroft frowned.

“- And you’re confident you have?”

Sherlock stayed silent as the barber took care of him. Getting ride of the traces of his captivity, looking his true self again. The feeling was heavenly.

“- You got yourself in deep there. Small ‘thank you’ wouldn’t go amiss. For, you know, wading in and saving you.

- Wading in? You sat down, watched me being beaten to a pulp ! Why didn’t you intervene sooner ?

- I couldn’t risk giving myself away, could I ? It would have ruined everything.

- You were enjoying it.

- Nonsense.”

Sherlock’s eyes glazed over, going slightly unfocused.

“- Definitely enjoying it.” There was a long silence before he continued. “Moriarty is alive. But you know that already don’t you ?

- Yes, of course. Even though he has kept himself discreet and uncommonly quite this past two years. As far as England and Europe are concerned that is. Has he... contacted you ?”

The barber was finished, and Sherlock got up, whipping his face with the towel.

“- Just notes. Taunting. No valuable piece of information.” He started dressing up with the fresh clothes that had been brought in. “I will find your underground terror cell Mycroft.

- You’d better. Every whisper, every echo is adament. There is going to be a huge attack on London, a massive blow to the country.

- But I will manage my own accommodation and life in London.

- Pardon ? And where will you go then?

- Well I do believe I have an uncancelled arrangement with Mrs Hudson. Nobody took the apartment in Baker Street I believe?

- No.” Mycroft paused, taking in his brother. He looked positively ragged even though that was to be expected after this little Serbian incident and well on the way of being fixed. There was something else though. His cheerfulness was… off, his eyes going vacant  every now and then. He sighted. “Is this wise Sherlock ? Not the most… discreet entrance if I may say so.

- You willed me back in London brother mine. There is no point in hiding myself for I do believe Moriarty got as much ears and eyes as you do. He is aware that I am alive, so no sense in hindering my movements by prolonging the ‘play dead’ act.” He passed on the tailored jacket and smoothed it over looking at himself in the mirror with a pleased expression. “Where are the bugs for me to rip of?

- Shoes.” Mycroft scowled. “Please don’t.” He paused. “John Watson will probably demand an explanation, he was… deeply affected by your disappearance.

- Then he’ll have one of course. If cares to drops by.” Sherlock answered carelessly, pulling on the coat. “Off I pop then.

- Careful Sherlock, we would not want your return to be short lived.”

Chapter Text

  He had made quite an impression on Mrs. Hudson. But after the rather … well vocal welcome he had been settled under the hour. In the easy not so quiet silence of the nocturnal London he was feeling a bit melancholic. Was it the flat? He supposedly lived here for quite some time even though his memory never really came back. Nothing but sounds and places flashing discordantly in his mind. Faces sometimes. But that was all really. The place felt … homely ? It was a strange and disconcerting sensation to be quite honest. He took out the violin out of his case and smirked. He had missed this. He had travelled light those past two years, with nothing more than the basics and had left all his prised possessions behind for Mycroft to take care of. He wrung the cords to start with the tuning of the instrument, but all the notes were perfectly right. It had been recently tuned. He frowned and put the violin down. Mycroft would not have touched the instrument, for Sherlock had a ferocious protectiveness toward it. He started rummaging inside the case. Here. There was a cart dissimulated in the lining with the elegant writing and expensive paper he had come to recognise at a glance.

Welcome back Sherlock Holmes.

PS : I can’t believe it was so simple you didn’t even try it.

  Sherlock slowly took out ‘the phone’ from his pocket. He would not have dared … right? He tipped : -0000 -. When the phone unlocked Sherlock put it calmly down on the table and brought both his palms to his temples, feeling an irate frustration rising. That was a good move on his part, for a message came in at this precise moment: Well you kept me waiting, Love.

  Had he had the phone in hand he would have hurled it at the wall.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  There were dozens of messages waiting. From ‘James M.’ exclusively. They went from a simple -I am soooo borded. Entertain me. Pleeeeaaaaase ?- to a much more serious -Watch out for the Serbians, they are a mean lot. Wouldn’t want you out of the game again so soon right ?-. Generally speaking you could gather the very obvious confirmation that Sherlock hypothesis was right : the criminal had played the British government. Giving it a bone to nibble to get it off his heels while using it to cut out dissidence in his web. Killing two birds with one stone. Elegant.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- Congratulation on your engagement Dr Watson.”

  Around the end of his day John had been informed by a puzzled Mary that someone had called on him and a car was waiting to pick him up. She had looked worried when he got in the car and he had waved her off reassuringly. He knew where he was going. He was now sitting in one of the comfortable and elegant private sitting room of the Diogenes’ Club. In the company on none other than Mycroft Holmes.

“- Out with-it Mycroft. Not a world from you in the past two years. I don’t think I am here to chat about my personal life.”

  The doctor was tense, on edge. He was both resentful (-extremely so-) and angry. Mycroft had hoped that after two years John would have gotten his feelings under control, but he was apparently still looking for someone to punch in the face. Well this was going to be difficult.

“- John…” He was cut short.

“- Two years Mycroft. Two. Bloody. Years. This… mess Moriarty made, Sherlock’s death !” John raised from his chair and started pacing aggressively. “How come his name is being cleared just now, Mycroft ? What were you doing all this time ?” Mycroft opened his mouth to speak but John cut him again. “And NOW, after TWO YEARS of complete silence, you dare to come back into MY life, to tell me, to tell me…

- That my brother is alive, Dr. Watson.”

  This seemed to still John. He stopped pacing completely, his head turning slightly to the side considering the floor, before looking straight back at Mycroft with steel in his eyes.

“- Say that again?

- My brother survived the ordeal John. It was just a little stunt that we planned to get the better of Moriarty. Everything was staged.” Here Mycroft could see John get out of his torpor, blunt violence ablaze in his feature. He raised his voice not to lose control of the conversation. “But something went awry with the plan. Sherlock suffered a concussion during the fall that nearly killed him. He survived… but it erased all of his most recent memories at the time.”

   There, he had the doctor’s tumultuous feelings under control again. He could not have people yelling in this place after all. He rang for tea.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  He had no doubt Lestrade was still an inspector at the Yard. His brother must have pulled strings to keep his faithful (-even if not so bright-) watchdog in place for the return of his wayward charge. For Sherlock tolerated him when on a case and that made him a key piece for Mycroft. The inspector had the decency not pretend to know better and recognised Sherlock genius. At least he let him work and act mostly as he wants, which was all for the better.

  Sherlock pushed the backdoor of the building and made his way up the along the (-empty-) emergency stairs. He was in no mood to explain a sleep deprived night guard that he was a very much still alive Sherlock Holmes and to convince him to let him in to see the chief inspector. No, back door and confident stride it was. The security really was terrible here so it was good enough to take him to Lestrade's division without a hitch. He ran in a problem in front of an empty and locked Lestrade’s office. Well… Donovan it was then.

  He made his way through the thankfully mostly empty open space at this hour, and located the distinctive figure of Sergeant Donovan. Her back was turned to him as she pored over scattered documents.

“- ’Skeleton Mystery’ ? A fake for sure, a jest not even worth the time of the Yard if you want my personal view. Pray tell, where can I find Lestrade ?”

  Donovan, who had been extremely focused on the cluster of documents, pictures and evidence in front of her whipped her head his way. Her complexion whited out in the blink of an eye and she opened her mouth soundlessly.

“- I did not quite catch that, where ?

- Out… Out getting coffee… Back in a minute.” She somehow managed to stutter.

“- Oh. Well I will be smoking on the balcony then.”

  Donovan watched him walk to the door and push through, bewilderment and shock fighting a tough battle for her feature. She was thankful to still be able to see him through the window. If he was hidden from sight, she would not have trusted herself about what had just happened. Bloody Sherlock Holmes. Alive. With the sensibility of a brick. At least some things never not changed.

  She grabbed her phone not sure wherever to hit Greg’s or Philip’s number first (-she now owed Anderson an indecent number of pints for him being proven right about Sherlock-). The choice was made for her as she heard the door being pushed open by Lestrade. He was balancing precariously what she guessed to be two extra-large cups of coffee and dinner from the corner Chinese. She came to the rescue before the uncharitable laws that were gravity and Sherlock Holmes' tact caught up with their dinner's balance. From the corner of her eye she could see Sherlock coming back inside.

“- Any good idea about the case while I was away ?” He asked while she grabbed the food from his hands. He interrupted himself when he caught sight of her face. “What's wrong ?

- Listen you must know …” But Sherlock cut her.

- Well I have nine hypotheses just from the newspaper articles. But really you are losing your time with this one it is really nothing more than an elaborate joke.”

  Lestrade befuddled gaze raised past Donovan to rest on Sherlock in all his … Sherlockness from coat to boot.

“Oh you bastard !”

  Sherlock really did not know what to make of the hug.

Chapter Text

“- So, you are telling me you sent your convalescent, amnesic, unstable brother on the field to dismantle the criminal web of the supposedly still very alive and active Moriarty?”

  It was funny how the disdain in John’s voice just highlighted the obvious bad sides of his decision.

“- You know” The doctor continued.” I am not a specialist, but I am pretty sure a case of amnesia requires the patient to be put back in a familiar environment, surrounded by familiar people and a lot of care. You know, to help the memory surface, reduce external sources of stress during the recovery... I really would like a world with the medical staff that took charge of Sherlock’s condition.” John said with an obvious unsaid statement his ‘word’ would be punctuated with his fists.

- Dr. Jansen has retired from the medical profession and is currently cultivating tulips at his family estate in the Noordoostpolder.” He paused looking John in the eyes.  “I had to send Sherlock away John. You may not be aware, but Moriarty’s reach is especially strong in England and around. I could not keep him here, even less so return him to Baker Street without Moriarty knowing and making his life a hell. And concerning the missions I asked him to complete, I know my brother, doctor. I had to keep him occupied. Believe me when I say, even like that keeping tabs on him was tricky .”

  John forehead was resting on his palms as he listened to Mycroft.

“- And what about at least following a therapy ? Even abroad ? There are recognised ways to help with amnesia. I cannot see why it was, is, out the equation.”

  To John bemused puzzlement Mycroft stated pacing the office.

“- There are here complex issues you are not aware of Dr. Watson, that makes this kind of initiatives impossible. To make it simple this is not the first occurrence of memory related issue with my brother. He has buried memory before. Traumatic memories better left alone.” Mycroft stopped pacing and met John’s gaze.” To be completely honest with you John, I am worried for my brother that if those memory were to ever resurface, Sherlock's spirit would be broken beyond repair.”

  There was a long silence in-between the two men. An expectant silence from Mycroft.

“- I am not doing it” Said John at last, with a ‘stating-the-obvious like’ tone. “I known what you want me to do and I won’t do it. You, Mycroft, are a sick manipulative bastard. You toy with people’s lives. You asked me once already to look after Sherlock but you did not judge IMPORTANT to explain ME the situation or the plan or whatever was going to happen ! Just stop for a minute here and think about how crazy that is. So, no. I will NOT be a puppet for you again. He doesn’t…” John voice broke a little at that. “He doesn’t even remember me. I am out of this. This crazy drama of yours. On with my life. Bugger you and the British government, bugger Moriarty and bugger all.”

After a little while John rose from his chair, put on his coat while Mycroft stayed silent. He strode out, pointedly avoiding the car that was waiting for him and made his way home.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- And so ?” Asked Mary.

“- And so, what ?”

  John had come home to an excited (and slightly worried) Mary. There was a newspaper spread on the table with “Hat detective back from the grave !” in huge red letters on the front page. John recounted everything to her. She was now looking at him expectantly, with that damn smile of hers.

“- Well are you really not going to see him?

- Yes.” John paused, looked down, blinked, looked up at the ceiling. “Well I suppose so... For God sake I don’t know ! I don’t know what I should do.

- You ought to see him.” There was a blank. “Well really, you never know, that much may trigger his memory. And if not, at least you will have tried.”

  John sighted, leaning back on the pillow and closing his eyes.

“- I really don’t know if I want to be involved in the Holmes drama again you know.”

 On his left he heard a faint disbelieving snort from his fiancé. Bugger the love of his life too it seemed.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  Sherlock, all dress grown and ruffled hairs, groaned while hugging his knees. Lestrade, apart for his truly shocking display of affection (-his ribs and shoulders were still protesting from the abuses of both the Serbian hunchman and Lestrade’s hug-), had no case of interest form him. Not one of thoses 'interesting cases' anyway. When it came to Mycrofts' asignment, all was ready. Every one of his ‘alarms’ were in place to warn him about anything related to the impeding terror strike on London and there was nothing to do but wait. 'The phone' chimed and he dashed for it.

Wanted to drop by to say ‘Hi!’ but… My, Sherlock, you are better protected than her Majesty the Queen. And I know a thing or two about what I am saying. Big brother is watching you veeeerrry closely. Take my advice and do not sneeze too loud it would make the guards nervous. JM

  So, nothing coming this way either. Disappointment and irritation raked against his nerves. Perhaps he would go around doing something pointless just to piss Mycroft. Yes, good idea. Better to roam London on an excuse than stay obediently put for his dear brother benefice. He grabbed the God-awful hat of the man he had missed in the morning hoping it would prove a good enough distraction and went out.

Chapter Text

  It was dark already as Mary was walking down Baker Street to surprise John and pick him up. He had texted her earlier that he would drop by his old place on his way home. She had been relieved and a little giddy at the idea that John would once again be involved with his most  peculiar friend. After all she did love the ex-soldier deeply and was convinced a bit of action would do him (-and with any chance her-) a lot of good. With a bit of luck she would meet the younger Holmes today. She smiled at the prospect.

  Her phone blipped and she fished it out of the pocket of her very pink and inconspicuous coat.

Save souls now !

John or James Watson?

 

A second message followed.

Saint or Sinner?

James or John?

The more is the Less?”

 

She frowned and hurried. She was but a minute from the flat.

_________________________________________________________

 

  Sherlock was just home from 'the hat guys’' place, who happened to monitor the District Line Tube’s security footages. Boring individual but oh so interesting problem. Last train on Friday night from Westminster Station, one passenger getting in. But the passenger is missing when the same train gets to Saint James Station. No stop. And missing driver since then. Thank you so much for the puzzle Mr. Shilcott.

  He was toying with the problem in his head and was about to watch the footages again when he heard a bit of ruckus from downstairs. He frowned. Someone had pushed through the front door past Mrs Hudson and was hurrying up the stairs.

“- Oh Mrs Hudson, I think someone’s got John. Is John Watson here ?

- I don’t think so ! Who are you ?” answered a flustered Mrs Hudson.

“- I am his fiancé !

- Oh !”

Sherlock pushed the living door open and frowned at the intrusive lady.

“- Sherlock Holmes ?” The blond women asked.

Newly engaged, only child, part time nurse, linguist, short-sighted, clever, cat lover, disillusioned, secret, baker, liar.

  She walked right to him without a second thought and displayed her phone to give him a clear view of the screen. He raised an eyebrow but kept silent. Looks like it was his lucky day and he would have entertainment for the evening too.

“- Look, I think John is in danger. At first, I thought it was just a Bible thing, you know, spam, but it’s not. It is a skip code.”

  Sherlock shrugged off a bizarre uneasiness at those words and read the message intently. His stomach dropped several inches lower.

- We leave now ! Look Mary, I think you are right, and your fiancé is in danger. You need to go to Saint John the Less at once. It is a church. I will have my phone on to guide you when you’ll be there.

- But where are you going ?!

- Got place to be.”

  He heard her ask Mrs Hudson his number as he dashed out while dialling Lestrade's number.

"- Sherlock ? What do you …” Started Lestrade.

“- Whatever is happening in front, around and in Saint James the Less needs to be put on hold right now. There is a life at stake here, most likely.

- Well there are policemen in the area making sure everything goes all right with the bonfires tonight. But it is not my division so...

- Deal with it.”

  Bonfires… He hanged the phone and started to think. There were two messages in the text Mary received. Of course, she notices the one about John Watson. One every 3 word -Save John Watson, Saint James the Less-. But one every 6 words told another story -Save James, Saint John-. Several churches were called Saint John so which one was it ? Think, think, think. He was turning on himself in the middle of the street, the light blurring, at loss for a direction. Perhaps try to dash for the closest one and on to the farthest one ? No, that would take too much time.

  Then he heard it, his own voice echoing within his head : “He is the Napoleon of crime.” Of course. Saint John’s Church, Waterloo it was. 15 to 20 mn by car, too long. He cross checked information for good measure. Bonfires were planned tonight both at St James the Less and St John (Waterloo) but none at a closer homonym church. A loud sound had him rise his eyes from the screen to the source of the noise. A motorbike. A fast one. Perfect. He locked gaze with his owner, who was just starting the machine, and walked straight to him. He made a move to go but Sherlock ran the last few meters.

“- Wait ! I need to borrow your bike. Look, this is urgent.” The stocky man didn’t budge. From his built and stance Sherlock had no hope to overpower him easily. He had come to recognise men trained in combat extremely fast these past two years. “Look, I am Sherlock Holmes ? Famous detective from the paper ? And there is a life at stake so can I please borrow the bike ?”

- Where are you going ?” Answered gruffly the driver.

“- St John, Waterloo.” The driver seemed to consider him for a second, unmoving. “URGENTLY!

- I’ll drive, put the helmet on and keep it.

- You’d better be fast there is no time to lose.”

  Sherlock hardly had half a second to jump on before the motorbike assumed an adequately insane speed. Good.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  They made it in under 8mn. A true feat and compliment to the biker’s skill. An enthusiast crowd occupied the pavement and cheered as the newly lighted bonfire was fast coming ablaze, illuminating the columns of the church’s porch. Sherlock jumped from the motorbike and ran to the bonfire while trying to pull off his helmet. But the biker, while both running and fidgeting with his phone, pushed the helmet back on with an angry “Keep it on !”. He himself had kept his helmet and Sherlock chose not to argue for the time being. They pushed in the crowd and started digging up in between the alight timber.

  They found him thrashing around as much as a tightly bound and gagged man can do (-which is to say, not much-), covered in scratches, sweat and soot. Jim Moriarty, at arm’s length at last. He was wearing inconspicuous shirt, jeans and a black coat, torn and singed by the starting fire. And looked, of course, extremely pissed at the situation at large. They dragged him out from the flames. He did not look badly injured but, as he took the detective in, positively baffled. When their gaze met a drilling, pain pierced Sherlock’s brain that had him almost loose his footing. Oh, he had it nailed now. The same black coat, but on a rooftop. A handshake ? The scene unravelled in a blur in front of his eyes with its stomach-churning end. He gasped but managed to collect himself. The biker produced a knife to cut lose the bindings while Sherlock worked on the gag. Sherlock frowned as he took in several little details about the situation. Moriarty seemed to have relaxed a bit at the sight of the biker and the later was purposefully positioning himself to block the view of the Criminal from the crowd and the street. This was good thinking, if you knew who the soot-covered individual was, and you wanted to cover for him. All around them people were screaming and looking shocked. Soon they would start to ask questions, they had to move. He took his scarf and gave it to the Criminal to cover his face.

  The biker helped Moriarty up, his bulk and pace dissuading the people who had started to gather their wit to start asking questions. A black car had pulled on some meteres away without Sherlock noticing, and Moriarty lost no time going in. The biker turned to Sherlock with a not so subtle body language stating -Get in.- and waited for him to do so. Well this was an unexpected turn of event even for his evening, but he was not complaining. London really was the thing.

Chapter Text

“The glasses are tinted Mr Holmes.”

  Sherlock took the hint and pulled the helmet off. On his left, Moriarty had already gotten rid of the scarf and was looking through the window. Or at Sherlock’s reflection in the window. Probably both.

  The Criminal stood silent, seemingly torn between seething at the general situation and a mix of bemusement and suspiciousness at Sherlock’s presence. What Sherlock could collect of his expressions and body language was confusing to put it mildly. “Changeable” would not begin to describe it. The man was fighting to gather his wits and pull on a façade but failing to settle in one persona. Clear signs suggested he got drugged by whomever got him, but the substance would soon be clear out of his system. A pungent smell of burned wood had taken possession of the elegant car as the ‘ex-biker’ drove them away from St John. A loud, awkward silence ripped in-between the passengers, dangerously close to tear and explode.

  That is when Sherlock’s phone started to ring. He closed his in a silent prayer, but the ringing continued, persistent. Carefully he took the phone out of his pocket and when no objection was raised by the other occupants of the car, looked at the screen. Unknown number. He frowned.

“Do you mind if I get that”

  His mind stumbled on the world. They had a Moriarty like echo reasoning in his head and he got a flash of the Criminal standing by a pool, looking exasperated. The very real Moriarty seating next to him looked at him with a dark, pissed, searching gaze before settling for an indifferent expression and shrugging. Whatever he gathered from Sherlock must have pacified him.

“Speaker.”

  Sherlock nodded and put the phone on speaker before answering the call.

“- Sherlock ? It is Mary. I am at the church.”

  Oh right, the ‘fiancée’. He had completely forgotten about her. 

- There ought to be a bonfire ready to be lit close by.” He answered wearily. “Do you see it ? Is it alight ?” Sherlock crossed finger hoping Lestrade had done the job. That would make it a lot faster and easier.

“- I see it, it’s not burning yet. A policeman is arguing with a guy.

- Well dig in-between the crates and wood. You ought to find Watson if my guess is right.

- Oh my God.”

  Sherlock heard her breathing change as she started to run. He was about to hang the call when he heard a faint “This is for you.” And shouts (-“John !”-) and the noise of heavy objects being moved.

“-Who is this ? What is the meaning oh this ?”

  Policeman, right.

“- This is Sherlock Holmes, and you ought to help this woman. I do think you will find a living breathing man that was about to be burned alive in this bonfire.

- What are you …

- John !

- Oh crap !” He heard the policeman curse before everything from the line blurred into incomprehensible panicked noises. He hung the call. Moriarty was watching him with raised eyebrows and a look Sherlock could not quite place.

“- Lost pet ?

- In a way…” answered Sherlock, with the worried look of Mary in head.

  The Criminal studied him a bit more, thoughtful. Then he snapped his fingers and gave some numbers to the driver. Their destination Sherlock supposed. Better and better.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- What do you mean you ‘lost him’ ?” Snapped Mycroft on the phone.

- He just jumped behind a guy on a motorbike and they set off without us having any time to follow sir.

  Mycroft pinched the bridge of his nose and let out an exasperated sight.

“- That will be all Andrew.

- Yes sir, sorry sir.”

  His brother was no treat to watch over. He knew that and conceded it. But sometimes he wished his men were a bit more reactive. He was about to log on the surveillance camera network when Anthea knocked politely at the door.

“We may have a situation sir.”

Chapter Text

  The apartment was in one of the most luxurious part of London. The outside was a historical treasure, but the inside had long been refurnished in a sleek, modern style. A sharp contrast. It was not especially big, and mostly functional. Only occupied intermittently, probably just a place to touch ground now and then on a job. Nothing personal here just the exquisitely expensive basics. He smiled at the thought of Mycroft passing in front of it every other day unknowing of its inhabitant and the ploy unwrapping under his nose.

  Moriarty had settled him in the sitting room and excused himself for a few minutes (using the refresher by the sound of it). Sherlock had been left free to roam the place but had found nothing of interest but biscuits and dark chocolate in the adjoining kitchenette and a shelve staked with advanced mathematics books in a corner. Recent ones in terms of publication date but worn by extensive and neglectful reading. He leafed through one of them but had had to admit they were far above his current level in the subject. Not above Moriarty’s comprehension though, if he trusted the harshly crossed sections and circled equations and concepts here and there.

  He was back on the leather seat pondering the recent events (to no avail) when Moriarty entered the room again. He had showered the burning smell away and was wearing a clean change of clothes. Wet hairs, worn jeans, plain white T-shirt and … socks. The casual attire briefly triggered another image from his brain : “Jim, this is Sherlock Holmes !” He frowned the echo of Molly’s voice away but got the related image of the criminal sorted for further analysis. He was in a ‘relaxed’ attire, yes, but miles away from ‘Jim from IT’. Sherlock was impressed, he knew the man was a consummate actor but now he was starting to remember how good he was. Enough to fool him right under his nose at least once, and probably many times.

“- Tea ?” asked the criminal, smooth controlled voice. Casual.

“- Yes please.” Answered Sherlock, eyes following the man and voice as neutral as possible.

  Moriarty seemed to have settled a bit. The man seemed perfectly relaxed as he rummaged around in the kitchenette, making it almost possible to forget he was likely to lose his temper, and have you killed in the blink of an eye. A couple of minutes later he was slouching in front of Holmes, with a tea trail in-between them. ‘Jim’ broke the awkwardly comfortable silence with half a smile on his face.

“- Not really how I envisioned our ‘reunion’ you know. I had drafted something a bit more… exciting.” He blew on his tea. “Quite the show, would have had every network provider fight over it.” He gave half a shrug and pouted a bit. “A shame really, you would have loved it.” He seemed to consider something briefly before adding  : “Even though I salute your ‘nick of time’ entrance. Quite the theatrics’ touch.

- You’ll have to give a raise to that driver of yours. Quite the pilot, I wouldn’t have made a better time myself.

- Yeah, that’s Sebastian for you. Perfect choice for a henchman, you know ? Excellent driver, excellent sniper. Does not talk much but quite the quick thinker in the heat of the moment.

- Hum…” Sherlock acknowledged, remembering how ‘Sebastian’ had forced his helmet back on to keep his face hidden from any onlooker. “Keeping your best man on me, I am flattered.”

 Moriarty grinned as he bent down to reach for a cup.

“- Business is a bit slow right now I am afraid, keeping a low profile and all you know ? And Sebastian is overqualified for those trifle. And I am tired to ‘fire’ (-he quoted-) people who fail to keep track of you.” He settled back and looked at Sherlock, a nonchalant mask on.

“- Now dear, I do think you have some explaining to do.” The tone was the calculated crack in the mask, you could guess the cold fire of anger raging beneath. A warning. Careful then.

  Sherlock took half a minute to collect himself. Then, elbows resting on the armchair and joined fingers in front of himself, he started.

- This evening, around eight, a most peculiar text came to my attention. John Watson’s fiancé, Mary I believe…

- ‘Mary Morstan’ yes.” Said Moriarty with a knowing smile.

“- She came to my doorstep having just received two very peculiar texts. The first said : “Save souls now !  John or James Watson?”. The second : “Saint or Sinner? James or John? The more is the Less?” He scribbled the words on a scrap of paper before handing it to James. He looked at it and Sherlock saw the faintest clenching of jaws as the Criminal read the words. “I sent ‘Mary’ to St James the Less after a call to Lestrade to put the bonfire event on hold. And I kind of convinced your man to give me a lift somehow. Real luck to intercept him the precise moment he was out and going I must say.”

  Moriarty gave him a good look over before deciding to answer the half-veiled question.

“- We have regular check in when I go around unguarded. He picked you up because he intuited you rushing out of your flat madly was probably linked to my lack of responsiveness. Which ended up being the case somehow.” He put the paper on the coffee table. “I have to point that St John’s is a bit unspecific a location. How did you know ?” He raised a brow at Sherlock, leaning forward and chin on his palm.

  The detective was going to explain how he knew where to go but stopped mid breath. Now that he was thinking twice about it, it had been quite the silly reasoning. Linking a half-remembered echo of himself describing Moriarty as the Napoleon of crime and Waterloo road. 

“- Closest church named St John where a bonfire was taking place.” That came out wrong.

  Moriarty looked at him weirdly, his head tilting slightly to the side. Then his gaze hardened.

“- Don’t you dare talking circle with me Sherlock. I am a bit short on patience today.

- It’s just …” He frowned, irritation mounting. “It was a silly guess really. Seemed to make sense on the spur of the moment mind you. I remembered you being presented as the Napoleon of crime.” He paused. “Thus, Waterloo street. It checked all the boxes, being about the same distance than St James the Less, and having a bonfire planned this evening.”

  Sherlock stopped talking and waited for the inevitable outburst (-whatever form it would take-) to pass. Whoever had pulled that today had been insane (-or stupide-) enough to not only kidnap  a criminal mastermind and threaten his life and mock him at the same time. Waterloo ? Really ? Napoleon greatest defeat ? He saluted the critical level of self-confidence and ego that suggested from the kidnapper. But the man must have the survival instinct of a lemming, he thought as the Criminal’s composure started to crack. He was snickering with his face half hidden in his left palm. His gaze though was mirthless, with the ever-present twinkle of insanity shining bright from its depth. He rose from his position, grabbing the paper from the coffee table.

 “- Can you believe the nerve some people have ?” He said, still chuckling. He produced a letter opener from a secretary and turned his head to look at Sherlock, face dead serious. Sherlock tensed, watching the gleaming as good as weapon in the Criminal’s hand. But he just stabbed the note in the middle of the otherwise bare wall. “Going against me. And you Sherlock. At the same time.”

  The Criminal turned to him, personality completely shifted. All joyful business, hand clasped in front of him he continued, sing song voice back on :

“- Well I have to admit he does have style. Saint or Sinner ? James or John ?

- He’d better be up to the task after spoiling your welcome or I’d be deeply disappointed.”

  Moriarty smiled broadly at that, getting behind Sherlock and leaning on the back of his armchair. Giving him a clear view of the wall and the note and disrespecting his personal space once again (-once again ?-). It was odd, out of place. Jim would obsess over the note until he broke down the responsible. Sherlock was, for once, not envying the attention. Without him noticing a smile had twisted the corner of his mouth. He was feeling a kind of uncanny exhilaration. Was it the adrenaline kicking in ?

“- Don’t get your hopes up Sherlock. People are an endless source of disappointment.”

  Sherlock’s phone chose this moment to ring again. He rolled his eyes. A text, from Mycroft. Bugger. He swapped the notification : Where are you ? Above him Moriarty considered the text.

- Well, I think we are done for the day then. Wouldn’t want to keep you too long from Big Brother Sherly. It makes him nervous.”

  Sherlock glanced at the note as he rose from the chair. The Criminal was right, better not to attract Mycroft attention too much. He could prove a bother when properly motivated. He would have to ask the Criminal the details of his ‘kidnaping’ later. Which was perhaps not a bad thing altogether since the extra distance offered by a text could prove a useful buffer to the man frustration about this peculiar event.

“- Moriarty.” He acknowledged presenting his hand.

“- Jim please.” The Criminal smiled a wolfish grin while shaking Sherlock’s hand. “If we are going to hunt together, my dear.”

Chapter Text

  Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s henchman, dropped him a few blocks away from Baker Street. James had found a rare asset in the former Colonel, he mused while watching the black, sleek car drive away. A dangerous man, and a cunning one from what he had witnessed today. Not a surprise all things considered : to be and stay under Moriarty direct supervision you had to be a certain brand of man.  

  It was this time of the night closer to an early morning than a late evening and the dark street was empty. Sherlock dully noted the security cameras had been conveniently smashed. He shuddered in the cold night and lighted a cigarette before strolling to his apartment distractedly dodging supervision as far as possible. Playing and re-playing the evening in his head, unaware of the smile etched on his face now that he was alone.

  In front of the door he stopped. Someone was in. The knocker had been disturbed. Unlikely to be Mrs Hudson who, as a creature of habit would be deep asleep in bed and at this time of the night (-how did he even knew that ?-). A now familiar twinge of pain twisted his brain (-hardly painful anymore-) as a buried information tried to surface. He heard the whispering voice of Jim comment : “He always does that, eh ?” The whisper tutted. “OCD.” Sherlock unclenched his fist and eyes. “Oh it’s only brother dear paying us a visit right ?”

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- Anything you would care to share Sherlock ?”

  Mycroft was standing by the mantelpiece, umbrella in hand and a scowl on his face, as Sherlock pushed the flat door open. He could not have bothered less. He was still riding high on adrenaline and he was craving something more. He needed to immerse in his mind palace and brother dear was in the way.

“- Not really, no brother dear.”

  Coat off, he went for the violin, but Mycroft beat him to it and interposed himself in-between his brother and the soon to be offending instrument. Sherlock huffed in annoyance and settled to sit in his seat and staring ahead above his joined fingers, pointedly ignoring his brother. The offended party chose to sit in front of him in the other chair, setting his umbrella beside him.

“- An attempt was made on John Watson life this evening. But you already knew that.”

  Sherlock raised an eyebrow at his brother stating the obvious, his gaze still purposefully watching through him.

“- Indeed.

- It has come to my understanding that the good doctor was not the only ‘victim’ tonight.”

  He looked pointedly at his little brother, who remained stubbornly silent.

- From the security footage I have very little doubt about who it was that you rescued. What you are going to explain is why you did so without asking for backup.” Silence. “Sherlock ! You owe me an explanation for your irresponsible behaviour !”

  This got the younger Holmes attention.

“- I owe you an explanation ?” His gaze turned cold and condescending. “I owe you nothing Mycroft. You ought to be happy already I consent to play good-little-hound for you, but while it is all in good fun do not forget. You. Do. Not. Control. Me.” Mycroft looked slightly ruffled by his brother tone. There was a short silence. “You may show yourself out now.” When Mycroft did not bulge and looked at him pointedly, Sherlock closed his eyes in frustration. “I won’t let you down with your little terrorist attack. I took the case.” His gaze bore lifelessly at the ceiling.

  Understanding he would not get anything from his brother but a childish silent treatment from now on, Mycroft rose from the armchair. As he pulled on his coat and pushed the door to leave, he dropped a last warning.

“- Don’t go thinking yourself above the rules Sherlock. I am watching you very closely.”

  An excruciating sound answered him. Only Sherlock or a true beginner could get such atrocious sounds from a violin. It followed him all the way downstairs before turning into a heart wrenching melody the moment he set a foot on the street. He got into the car. As the car drove away silently into the night he thought about Sherlock. He had noticed something was off when they got reunited after their two years separation but tonight it had shone brightly. He was being unhinged again, the same way his younger self was. He had lost his footing and stability again. But back then he was alone. Mycroft's face scrunched up the slightest bit. Now that Moriarty was in the picture who could tell how Sherlock would react ? He sighted. The security on Sherlock was already maximal, short on bugging his shower and clothes. He could not do anything more now but lock him up, and he would not be doing that. Yet.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  A stash, he must have had at least one stash. If he really lived in this apartment for more than a few weeks there was a rainy-day reserve hidden somewhere.

“- Well, if I were myself, where would it be ?”

  He needed to immerse in his mind palace, he needed to sort today’s events and all the broken memories seeing Moriarty had triggered. He started to rummage in his room, checking the walls and floorboards for loose pieces.

“- Still have to hide from big brother. A tad pathetic if you want my… opinion.”

  Sherlock passed a hand his hand in his hairs, pulling slightly. Mycroft must have combed the place before he came back. He started to ponder wherever going to his old dealer wouldn’t be faster.

“- He has no imagination your brother, that’s his weakness.” The Jim-like voice in his head seemed to ponder. “That and his total lack of practice with anything remotely manual.”

  Sherlock waived the voice away but walked in the bathroom. Annndd yep, false pipe. Blessed be his own self. Very little was left there but he did not need much. Just a fix to sink properly into himself. He locked the door of the apartment and his room and drew the curtains before preparing the needle.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  The place was messed up. He was dimly aware were everything ended up, but all was askew, out of place and a little twisted. His mind palace had not been so disorderly since the day he killed that drug chemist back in the US. He frowned but chose to ignore the situation in favour of his objective. The sleek black door was ajar already, and he pushed it open.

  The room was pitch black, absorbing light and sound alike. He stepped a few meters in and away from the door, searching the darkness for the now familiar silhouette. It was hard to tell in the blackness, but the room seemed empty. There was no echo, but the stillness of the air and the sound of his breath suggested the room was far from small. And empty.

“- So kind of you to drop by Sherlock.”

  Startled, Sherlock turned on his heels to see a smug and smiling Moriarty enter the room by the same door he did and lean on the doorframe. He was dressed in the same attire he had seen him in earlier today.

“- Making yourself at home I see ?” Sherlock asked, one brow raised.

“- Been occupying myself. You have the most fascinating mind Love.”

  Sherlock scrunched his nose slightly in concentration and clasped his hands behind his back.

- I ought to lock you up.”

  The criminal shrugged playfully and slowly closed the door with the tip of his foot, effectively cutting out every source of light and trapping them in the darkness. He dimly noted that neither him nor Jim were in the shadow, and he could see every detail of the man that was walking up to him.

- You would have to do better than ‘lock me up’ Sherlock. Chain me at least. Perhaps even use a camisole.” He was close, too close. Almost to ear level. “I wouldn’t mind you handcuffing me in a locked room Dear.”

  He ignored the dubious flirting and closed his eyes.

“- I am starting to remember. Our meeting. Our meetings.

- Ah, but do you remember our problem Sherlock ?”  The air got chilly and he opened his eyes. They were on a rooftop. The rooftop of St Bart’s hospital. Moriarty had his back to him, and his arm raised to the sky. “The Finaaaalll Problem !” A very serious and distraught Moriarty half turned his face to him, his body still facing away. “Did you figure it out at last ?”

  Sherlock walked up to the man.

“- You never intended for me to die here.” He climbed the ledge of the roof. “But you went to impressive length to have me make the jump.” He stressed out the last word. Frowning he turned to the criminal. “Why ? Why break cover, and reveal yourself to the world for this … outcome ?

- I did teeelll yoouu, but did you lis-t-en ?”

  The voice was coming from his right and, as he snapped his head toward the source, the scene shifted to Baker Street. Moriarty was seated deep in his armchair in a dull grey costume. Sherlock looked at him, confusion written over his face.

“- Couldn’t cope with an unfinished melody.” He smiled wearily. “I owed you a fall my dear.

- You are not making any sense.

- Just because you are ignoring the Problem Dear.” Answered a sing song voice. Jim-from-the-pool walked to the little coffee table and picked up a red apple. He turned it slowly toward Sherlock to reveal the carved I O U letters. “A problem I died to solve.” He grinned madly.

  Sherlock was losing the lead here, and his focus. Behind him, wind was blowing over the rooftop.

“- You promised to ‘burn me’. You destroyed my reputation. But I never really cared for my reputation, and it was only a matter of time anyway until Mycroft could prove the fallacy. If the outcome was not to be fatale then your grand plan… doesn’t add up.

- Sherlock, Sherlock… You are missing it. You can’t keep missing it like that.” Answered the distraught Moriarty in his black coat. “You almost had me convinced to end it that day you know. The disappointment of you missing all my little lovingly crafted hints. But you had me in the end, convinced me we were worth the trouble.”

  He saw himself and Moriarty, standing about a meter on his left, shaking hands. Frozen in the moment.

“Ready to burn….” Continued the criminal, also observing their double.

- From the beginning it was between you and me.” Said Jim-from-the-pool, his navy-blue suit way to vibrant for the grey laying of the roof top. The apple in his hand a painful red as he played with it, tossing it from hand to hand. “Remember ? We are made for each other, you and I.” He grinned. “And I’ve never liked not to get what I want.” He took a step forward and Sherlock tried to step backward to keep the already short distance between them. But he couldn’t : he was on the ledge again, the fall waiting for him.

- Off you pop Dear. For me ? Pleeeaaase ?” The vowel was drawn on an incredibly high-pitched note. But there was no botherdom or disappointment there. There was … exhilaration ?

- You are insane.

- Madness is like gravity Sherlock.

- Not from you this one.” Mumbled Sherlock back.

“- And I’ll tell you a secret, Honey. Gravity has a crush on me.”

  He put his fingers on Sherlock’s chest and gave him just a little push.

Chapter Text

  He fell backward and headfirst, sensing more than seeing the impending impact on the pavement, the awakening that would follow. But instead of his skull crushing against the cobblestone he felt himself breaching a freezing surface as air was chased from his lungs by the cold impact. His stunned body continued his descent, sinking into deep waters. His limbs felt numb and his mind uncooperative as the light slowly faded into ever darker shades of blue. The darkness closed around him welcoming him in its clutch, ready to whisper its secrets to his sleeping mind. His eyes were closing, relinquishing control to the lurking waters of his mind when his shoulder got violently yanked backward. The cold water went rushing into his lungs suffocating him. The pressure was crushing him, his limb uselessly kicking around. He couldn’t make out the surface, having sunk so far. Something was echoing through the heavy quite of the water : “Sherlock ! Sherlock !”  An unbearably bright light blinded him as something yanked him again, upward ?

“- Sherlock ! For God sake can you hear me ?

- Watch out John he is waking up.”

  Out of reflex Sherlock struggled backward and almost managed to somehow fall sideway of the deep armchair. But the man (-John ?-) was holding both his shoulders tightly. Sherlock, fighting the instinct to heave water, assessed his surroundings to see the sun well up the sky and two (-and a half since his morning tea was soon to make an entrance-) people in his apartment. ‘Mary’ he recognised from the day before and J. H. Watson from the file. Resolutely ignoring the man (-and his injuries from last night kidnapping-) that had just judged good to forcibly drag him from his mind palace (-an action never keen on the mind-), he turned to the women with a drowsy and gullible smile.

“- Oh hello Mary. How was your night out ?”

  She looked at him with a face torn between concern and amusement at his sass (-strange that, most people tended to be concerned in this general kind of situation-). She was standing by the door, out of view of her fiancé that was, anyway, currently entirely focused on a swaging Sherlock.

“- Sherlock look at me, you … “ Tried to continue the doctor, but  Sherlock interrupted him by standing up on the armchair, stepping on the armrest and out of the man’s grasp.

“- And why are you here again ?” said Sherlock, choosing to focus on Mary. J H Watson presence made him queasy, strangely so. But it could be related to the uncivil rousing from his mind palace. He frowned slightly. “Another text ?

- No we were just dropping by to say hi.” Answered Mary with a smile, unflappable as Sherlock advanced toward her. She paused in a moment in mock reflexion. “And you know, to thank you ? For helping to save John’s life ?”

  She obviously tilted her head toward the man and Sherlock turned sharply to look back. ‘John’ was standing, arm crossed and face frozen in the very expression supported by every man trying to manage his anger with the knowledge he isn’t good at it. And bewilderment. There was hurt bewilderment in here too somewhere.

- Well you’re welcome.” He grinned his best false grin to Mary. “No charges.”

  At that, John Watson blinked two time more before walking up to the man who used to be, was, his best friend. He grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. The still half-high Sherlock could do little but follow the movement imposed by a very angry ex-military man, half slumping on the shorter man. He got shaken backward and held firm in place, before rising his head and staring right into the man’s eyes.

“Sherlock, what the HELL do you think you are doing ?”

  There was a pause as Sherlock at last truly took in the man before him. Then his head clenched, his brain spasming in excruciating pain. He looked for purchase around him, but John Watson was holding him fast, not letting him any room to move away. A bit not good.    

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- He puked on me !” John was in the kitchen, trying to remove most of the offensive substance from his shirt and shoes. Sherlock had retreated to the bathroom. “Can you actually believe him !

- Shaking him when he was in withdrawal wasn’t the best move, I suppose.” Answered Mary calmly.

  She was discreetly going through the drug kit scattered over the table and frowned. From the little information she could gather, Sherlock couldn’t have injected himself much of anything. And considering he was an addict the symptoms didn’t add up.

“- That’s the first time I have seen him actually sick with the stuff you know.”

  John was making his way out of the kitchen and she moved away from the coffee table to the window, gazing out and frowning at what she saw. They could hear Sherlock retching from the refresher. John went and slumped in his armchair gripping the bridge of his nose. When he opened his eyes again, they fell right on the dug kit. He frowned harder.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  Sherlock was resting his head on the cool bathroom tile, trying to ease the pulsating pain in his forehead and move as little as possible. He had not experienced something like this since the aftermath of his accident. When he still tried to force his memory to resurface, ransacking his mind palace with and without stimulant help. He had given up after a few attempts, the pain those session provoked not worth the meagre results they yielded.

  He groaned dragging himself from the floor to the sink to splash his face with cool water. His reflexion looked at him. His mind provided again the image of the man and his stomach clenched in resonance with the stab of pain in his brain but there was nothing in it anymore to expel. A basic instinct wanted him to shove the image down, bury it and forget but his rational mind knew the living thing would be waiting for him in the living room.

  I have shared the flat with the man for what, roughly two years ? That makes for a lot of memories and details.

  There must be too much information related to the man trying to resurface at once. If he took as a reference the way his mind regurgitated the small amount of information related to Moriarty, the fact that seeing someone he had shared space with for so long sent his brain in overdrive was not surprising. The question was how to deal with the downright painful situation. He couldn’t possibly hope to have a normal conversation with the man right know. He needed him out at least until he found a way to control the information flux. He heard knocking at the bedroom door and Mary’s voice coming through :

“- Are you all right in here Sherlock?

- Never better.” He answered, affecting an obvious overly cheerful voice.

  He could distinctly hear the voice of the doctor rambling about “drugs” and “God awful” and feel the impending headache mounting. 'John' did not seem to be in a mood to be dismissed. He sighted wearily considering his options. The bathroom was giving in the bedroom whose window was giving on the street. Easy way out. From the main room he could hear an especially loud protestation from ‘John’. He looked at the inviting window again.

_________________________________________________________

 

~A couple of hours earlier ~

  Whoever said Moran was a brute was sooo far from the truth. Moran was an artist. And he had been in a downright dreadful mood after his boss ‘disappearance’. He could show quite the protective streak. Under Moran’s ‘incentive’, his men had found the perpetrator of the kidnapping at an impressive speed. Seb had hinted he would take his frustration out on whatever he had under its hand and that it would be better for the team if they found the responsible of the kidnapping before he was back (-of course none of them knew he was driving Sherlock back, this was a tightly kept secret between Moriarty and Seb-). Wasn’t self-preservation a wonderful thing ?

  The Criminal smiled at the sight of the blood of the men who had dared to touch him spattering the wall. It was quite the view and he was in a high mood again. Those little pieces of shit were freelance and knew nothing of their employer except he had money flowing down to them. Perhaps, just perhaps there was hope this adversary knew how to play and would not outright disappoint him and Sherlock. And Sherlock. That was the interesting thing wasn’t it ?

“- Sebastian ?”

  The colonel froze at the lithe tone and lowered calmly the towel he was using to whip the blood from his arms and face. When Moriarty had this kind of electric, lit enthusiasm, there was no tell about what demand was coming.

“- Yes boss ?

- Something was off with Sherlock. Go sniffing around would you ? Anything strange or interesting, you report asap.

- Everything strange or interesting around Sherlock Holmes ?” He repeated dumbfounded.

“- Exactly.” Answered distractedly the criminal, his attention already turning to his laptop’s screen and phone.

  Moran sighted internally. Sometimes his boss could be surprisingly thick.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

~ Current time ~

  Moran was posted in one of the flat giving him a decent view on Holmes’s flat. The curtain had been drawn when he took his position but since then they had been drawn open. He glanced down at the message log to see if Moriarty had given him directions without really expecting any.

10:00. : Watson just came in the flat with Morstan. SM

10:15. : Watson just opened the curtains. I think they are having a row ? SM

  He grabbed the bridge of his nose. It was always a bit tricky to know what kind of report his boss wanted. He would not have normally bothered him with such trivia but when it came to Holmes…

  He raised his head going back to his observation, just in time to see Holmes’s bedroom window being carefully opened, the man himself passing the head through the opening. He seemed to consider the street for half a minute, look back inside and proceeded to step on the window frame. He skillfully (-even if not gracefully-) made his way down thanks to the downpipe.  He snapped a picture (-his boss was fond of pictures-). Watson was still arguing with his fiancé in the main room and did not seem to have noticed the escaping (?) detective. Moran shrugged and started tipping.

10:30. : Sherlock is out of the flat. Through the bedroom window. The doctor and the woman are still in… SM  [Joined image]

  His phone buzzed with a notification. He paused for a second, stunned ... Good lord in heaven where did Moriarty even found all those smileys ?

Chapter Text

  He went to the hospital. He knew a quiet nook there where he was almost sure not to be disturbed. He considered texting Jim about the context of his kidnapping, but something held him back. The boundaries of their ‘arrangement’ for lack of better word were not exactly clear and he… didn’t want to be the first to text ? He shrugged internally, choosing not to overanalyze his decision. Again.


  He still had the memory stick in his pocket from the day before, loaded with all the footages of the mysterious 'Tube vanishing man'. That would do to kill time. He looked it thoroughly and smiled when he recognized the pixelited face of Lord Moran, Peer of the Realm and Minister for Overseas Development. The man was one of his ‘markers’, his ‘rats’ he was monitoring to know if anything was amiss with London at large. Lord Moran was working for North Korea since 1996, he was the Big Fat Rat and his extremely suspicious behavior concomitantly to an impending terrorist attack was a dead giveaway to whom was behind it all. But when and where would this ‘underground network’ plan its attack ? Why did Mycroft’s agent sacrificed himself to provide such an insignificant information ? An underground network planning an attack on London, and a man disappearing in-between tube station. Oh. He squinted at the monitor as his adrenaline spiked. Not just a man right ? An entire bloody Tube compartment vanished during the trip. It all clicked with a smile spreading wide on his face. Perhaps Mycroft’s men weren’t all useless chaps. Too bad this one was dead. Not an underground network, an Underground network. Brilliant.

  He needed to map the Tube area between Westminster and St James’s Park stations to find the missing carriage. He pated his pockets for his phone but only found the golden plated one he had from Moriarty. He cursed. His normal phone was in his coat pocket back in Baker Street. Well no way he was using this one to contact anyone but James. He yelled :


“Molly!!! “

  The mousy face appeared in his peripheral vision almost instantly.

“- There is no need to yell Sherlock, I am just behind you.

- I thought I saw something move.

- I have been here before you even came in.” Answered a flustered Molly.

- Really ? You’ve practiced your discretion.” He said distractedly.

“- I said ‘Hello’ and you answered !”

  Oh great she was verging on vexed now. End the conversation. Fast.

“- I’ll be needing your phone. Need to send a text.”

  Molly looked at the raised, expecting hand of Sherlock. His eyes were still fixed on the monitor that was playing repeatedly the same footage of a train getting in and out of stations. She fiddled with her phone, biting her lip in frustration, before giving it over. Sherlock almost instantly started tapping. She waited for about half a minute before gathering her courage to ask what Sherlock’s behavior made painfully obvious.

“- It is not back isn’t it?” She flustered. “Your memory… you still lack… things ? “

  Sherlock froze his tipping and frowned, glancing defensively at Molly. Then his gaze lighted in understanding. 

“- Of course. You were part of the medical team that picked me up from the cobblestone. Proper design I suppose since I technically committed suicide.”

  He smiled a thin-lipped smile, his tone and attitude dismissive. Molly was still looking at him with un-assumed skittish expectation. That was … unexpected. The Molly he remembered would have been taken aback by his closed behavior and left to fetch him a coffee or something in apology.

  When the silence was about to get awkward, she took upon herself to continue.

“- I saw the reports before you were taken out of the hospital. And I asked your brother afterward. So yeah… I know about that…”

  He pondered ignoring her (-that wouldn’t change much from his usual behavior, but again what was his usual behavior again? -) but ended up concluding the truth would probably end up simplifying further interactions. And get him rid of Molly inquisitive, caring nature faster.

“- The situation hasn’t changed much. I miss most of the two years preceding my fall.

- That’s terrible. Well if you need anything you know you can always ask me. I am, like, always here.” She chuckled nervously and started ordering the lab around. To Sherlock unabashed irritation she continued : “Even if a lot have changed in two years, you would never guess. I do have a boyfriend now you, Tom. He is kind and…”

  Gosh, was Molly trying to make small talk? He had to stop that asap.

“- Molly ?” That got her to stop chattering. “Please don’t blog about what I told you. It is a rather confidential information.”

  She turned a deep shade of crimson and her voice pitched significantly higher when she managed to squeeze a sentence out.

“- You read my blog* ?

- Well of course I read your blog.” He turned back to tipping his text. “Though I have not looked at your recent updates.”

  He heard the door close in a bang and fading footsteps hurrying away. Molly had fled the conversation. Teasing her about her blog was a low blow but she could not have expected him to endure chat about her boyfriend ?? And her blog was outright ridiculous after all. Out of curiosity he searched for her last entry amidst the pink and the kittens and his eyes grew wide. He scrolled up and down the entry and chat sections.

  So this was how Jim had taken contact with her ! Idle chatting on her blog and a casual invitation to coffee during a night shift. So simple. She had stopped updating the thing short after her ‘breakup’ with 'Jim from IT'. How hearth felling. The blog was probably still up because she was clueless about how to delete it.

  The phone blipped with a notification. Mr Shilcott was available to spill the Tube network’s secrets for him. He tried to grab his coat and hissed in frustration remembering it was trapped in Baker Street with an angry J.H. Watson. He was gone for about two minutes when the abandoned phone on the table blipped again.

12:00 : Looking for Sherlock, have you seen him ? JW

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  It had all clicked into place during the trip to Mr Shilcott and the subsequent Tub map dissection that followed. Today, the 5th of November, an all-night sitting was to be held at the Parliament to vote on the new anti-terrorism bill. Lord Moran had found a clever way to abandon a Tube compartment probably heavily loaded with explosive under said building. Remember, remember the 5th of November. A shade overdramatic for his taste. A tad predictable to base one’s plan on widely known movie reference and historical millstone. Clumsy even ? He pinched his lips, looking at the golden plated phone screen without tipping.

  Oh right, warning Mycroft was a must do. He would be a huge pain in the ass if the Parliament was to blow up. There was no time to drop by his flat, so he just pickpocketed a phone on the go (-it was a stolen phone anyway-) and send a short text.

18:00 : Get Lord Moran. He got a Vendetta against the House of Parliament. Won’t sit tonight. SH

  The borrowed phone kept buzzing in his pocket, first with Mycroft calling him, then when it appeared obvious he would not pick the call, with texts. The content was ranging from Would delaying the session be necessary to Where are you and what are you doing ?

  Sherlock knew Mycroft would narrow the signal from the phone very quickly, giving him access to his localisation. He abandoned it just before it he got out of signal range in order to leave an obvious trail for Mycroft in case something went awry. He dived into the maintenance corridor of the Tube and made his way to the place the bombed compartment had probably been placed. An unopened station just under the Parliament with no surface access because of legal disputes. Perfect setting, for a perfect drama. And he was all in for a good show. He wanted to give a go at defusing the bomb himself before Mycroft took control of the situation and had just enough time to give it a serious try before the inevitable swarming of the place by the police.
As he walked along the Tube’s rail, he noticed a kind of huge chimney going up right under the Parliament if his geography was about correct. It was plastered with explosives. He hummed appreciatively : Lord Moran had not done things over the leg. He turned his torchlight ahead and the abandoned carriage appeared about 10 meters in front of him.

  Just as he carefully opened the door, a familiar cologne hit his nose. He really had to do something about the way a smile seemed to carve itself on his face without his permission.

Chapter Text

  The carriage electricity was live, and Sherlock flipped the switch. The lamp briefly illuminated the scene with a painful white glare after the shadows of the tunnel before flickering on and off with a buzz. The car was eerily empty revealing no criminal mastermind waiting dramatically in the shadows. Sherlock made his way to the other end of the carriage and carefully pushed the door open. The other end of the tunnel showed no more signs of the Criminal. Everything was silent but for the faulty shimming of the light bubbles as Sherlock peered suspiciously in the darkness. He gave up with a sight and turned back to the task at hand and the inside of the carriage.

  Jim’s face was about two inches from his. He was almost sure their nose brushed when he turned.

“Boo !” said the Criminal flatly.

  To say Sherlock jumped out of his skin would be an understatement. He almost fell out of the carriage but caught the doorframe just in time, and just as Jim caught the lapel of his coat to prevent his fall.

“- For Christ sake !” he blurted.

“- Your…” Jim doubled over, laughing wholeheartedly. “Your FACE Sherlock ! Priceless…”

  Sherlock sat down, his heart pounding in a desperate attempt to abandon ship and flee the ridiculous situation. If Jim started to pull prank on him, they were doomed. The man had a rather explosive way of getting his attention when he was in a teasing mood.

  Moriarty seemed to pull himself together a bit, still half laughing and beaming about his success at startling Sherlock. He looked so nice, basking in his little mischief. Nice ? The rational part of his mind pointed that he looked a bit manic and really was not ‘nice’ by any common standard or approach. Get ahold of yourself Holmes. 

“- So what? Been playing hide and seek for two years and now you can’t go a full 24 hours without me? “ Sherlock had meant to be neutral in his inquisition but the amusement had slipped in his voice. Jim’s giddiness was getting to him God damnit.

“- Oh I am quite into you my dear, never far from my thoughts. Don’t want to crowd you really but the occasion was too good to pass.” He grimaced looking exaggeratedly around the car. “Needed to come settle things here anyway.

- Oh. So, it wasn’t one of yours. I thought as much but you never know.

- You ought to know better dear.” He scowled. “You see, you are gone for a couple of years and people start thinking they can pull something big without you.” He tutted sadly. “People have such a short memory. So now Daddy must make sure everyone remembers their lessons.”

  There was a short silence during which Sherlock started rummaging around to find the bomb. Moriarty observed him and continued with a chuckle.

“- If you had not showed up in time, I would have sent Moran to make sure the bombe misfired. Blowing up the attack but making sure every political brat up there pissed their pants.

- The idea got its charm, but I guess Mycroft would interfere. Probably got my lead by know so you know.

- Oh I know but we still have some time.”

  Under every seat was a copious amount of explosive. And Moriarty was casually seating, making himself comfortable on enough explosive to blow the whole Parliament. Sherlock smirked : the man was something else really. The igniter was dissimulated under the floor. As Sherlock started his carful examination of the contraption, the Criminal continued.

“- I have gleaned something from the men payed to kidnap me yesterday.” He hummed. “Nothing much though. They were just hired lackeys.”

  Sherlock raised his head briefly, looking at the Criminal to let him know he had his full attention even if his hand were occupied.

“- They were supposed to get me out of the bonfire if things started to get too heated. Make sure I came to no real harm.”

Sherlock frowned. A warning ? A Challenge ? A trap ? Whatever the consequences were, they would be delayed.

“- I’d like to interrogate those men. Might glean something.

- Well too bad for you, Seb got a bit heavy handed there. Nothing much to be gleaned from them. Basic material for a meat pie perhaps…”

  The light in the compartment lit up steadily which had both Moriarty and Sherlock look around. A *clonck* from the igniter draw their attention back. The countdown for the bomb started. Moriarty still seated cool as a cucumber while Sherlock fiddled with the mechanics. He drawled on.

“- Must be linked to ‘Mary’. Since the text was addressed to her. The doctor found himself a funny one…”

  Sherlock hair raised on his neck. Moriarty’s voice tone had slightly shifted in his last sentence. The cheerfulness suddenly seemed artificial. Calculated. Sherlock switched the bomb off (-there is always an off-switch-) and raised from his kneeled position. As Moriarty dark gaze bore holes into him, he could not quite whip the feeling he had missed some kind of important subtext. The conversation seemed to have developed layers without him noticing.

“- How long did you think I wouldn’t notice something was off with you ?” Whispered Jim-from-his-thoughts. “I know you too well.”

  He ignored the voice concentrating on avoiding any form of blunder.

“- I will look into her. Seems like our only lead anyway.

- Someone wanted to know who you’d go after.” Now Jim was up and circling him in the tight space of the carriage. His gaze was mirthless and dangerous. “And you chose me over the good doctor Watson.” There was a question hanging in the air.

“- Why would I choose Watson over you ?”

  The Criminal froze his pacing in front of him, well into is personal space. Sherlock has an urge to prevent Jim’s hand from reaching inside his coat. For a hypothetic gun. He is tensed, ready to leap.

“- You tell me, my Dear. Always thought you a bit of a moron about that.”

  They held each other gaze for about 15 tense seconds. Moriarty attempting to read Sherlock and Sherlock trying not to give away his puzzlement. Then Moriarty’s phone shimmed merrily. Sullenly, he fished it out of his pocket and read the notification.

“- Time’s up it seems.” The sing-song artificial cheerfulness was back. “Wouldn’t want the Ice Man to catch me before I even start to wreak havoc wouldn’t we ?

- I would have thought you the kind to pride yourself for being uncatchable.

- Oh we do like to have a chat every now and then your brother and I.” The Criminal answered with a devilish smile. “Ciao, Sherlock Holmes !”

  About two minutes later a team of policemen and a bomb disposal team flooded the compartment. They found a switched off igniter and a very pensive Sherlock sitting on enough explosive to blow a house, tinkering absentmindedly with a wire and completely lost in his thoughts. Still wondering what the hell had just had happened.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  Sherlock had hardly made his way out of his bedroom on the morrow when Mrs Hudson pushed the door of the flat open, carrying a trail heavily loaded with extensive breakfast and tea. Sherlock observed her arrange things in front of him, stunned enough by the insane amount of food precariously balancing above and around his notes to give a hand here and there as she was making conversation all by herself.

“- Thought this would cheer you up after, you know, yesterday. My mother would always make tea in this kind of situations. Said the herbs were soothing the nerves. The gall some people have, rubbing it in your face like that. I wouldn’t have thought him a bad sort but really ? So heartless of him to bring her along for your reunion after all this time… It was the first time you saw each other again right ? Dear me, I understand why you left by the window !”

  Amidst the buzzing of the monologue that he mainly tapered off, Sherlock noticed Mrs Hudson rambling was making less sense than usual. He frowned slightly, bringing the cup to its lips.

“- What is it about ?” He ventured.

- Oh it’s quite alright dear, you can always talk to me if you need.” She patted him on the shoulder in a motherly way. “He left his phone number by the way and asked me to tell you to call him when you’d be available.” Her lips were pinched in disapproval. Finally, she sighted.

“- You two made such a lovely couple Sherlock. What a shame…”

  It was just his luck the tea has been precisely the right temperature for him to sip enough to end up drenching his dressing grown in the mad coughing fit the last sentence induced. That got her attention (-her real attention that is-). He looked at her in bewilderment.

“- We what ??

- Oh I am sorry I talk, I talk and I don’t consider … Oh don’t move dear I’ll fetch something to clean this.”

  Surely this was not true ? He started searching his memory-notes madly. He would have known, Mycroft would have told him. Yet perhaps his prude of a brother would not have wanted to mention this kind of information. He had been, on the other, hand oddly insistent about the doctor. About his grief at Sherlock’s supposed death. And again, there was this maddening headache when he interacted with Watson. His eyes widened and he felt uncomfortably twitchy as the conversation he had with Moriarty the previous night came back to him with a newfound sense. Good Lord in heaven, had he been … romantically involved with John Watson?

Chapter Text

~ 18th of May : Wedding day ~


“- Sherlock ! You look … Good !” Beamed a radiant Molly.

  Well, beaming was the right choice of word for she had opted for a fully yellow outfit that she somehow managed to sport well. She looked good too, Sherlock noted. His eyes fell on the male following her like a lost puppy. Oh yes… the ‘boyfriend’. It was strange to see her being the leading party for once. It suited her.

“- Molly !” He paused, finding his social footing. “Hey !” He smirked his best appropriate grin, the one he kept for that kind of occasions he needed not to ruffle people right away. For if the ceremony had been the easy part (he had come in late and gone unnoticed), there now was a whole reception to attend.

“- Aren’t they lovely ?” Continued Molly, looking fondly at Mr and Mrs Watson.

  Sherlock noticed from the corner of his eyes she looked genuinely happy for the newly wed. It felt… odd to Sherlock the way she was able to relate to other people so easily. It had always both fascinated and disturbed him. When it came to cadaver and death she was downright sensible and he respected that about her. But she had this … alien something when it came to deal with the living Sherlock could not quite grasp. He too looked forward, mimicking her.

  The couple was about a stone’s throw away, welcoming the felicitations from the guests. A little old lady had John Watson’s hand in an inextricable handshake and seemed to never want to let go. A smile was plastered on the man face and Sherlock found himself inexplicably smiling at the situation. Molly, that had been watching him covertly (-as per usual-) elbowed him slightly forward.

“- Go ahead and give them your best wishes.” She nodded seriously against Sherlock’s reluctance. “It is traditional.”

  Fine. Since he came here, he had better play the part anyway. The old lady had been pushed away by her more sensible husband and John’s eyes fell on Sherlock, noticing him among the crowd standing by Molly. His stance got just slightly more rigid (-falling back to military stance, provided Sherlock’s mind-) and his smile lost a bit of his cheerfulness.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

~ 3 months before ~


“- So. The big question.

- Mmm-hmm ?

- The best man. 

- The best man ?

- What do you think ?” Insisted Mary carefully."

  She and John were sitting in their living room, drafting an early list of people to invite to their wedding. The date had just been set to the 18th of May and almost everything else was yet to be done. Including the choice of the best man. Which was a sensitive question for John, that Mary was not keen on letting fester.

  It had been around two months now that Sherlock had reappeared, both as a man and a public figure after being allegedly responsible for the stopping of a would-be devastating terrorist attack on London and the whole of England. The public was over the head with joy, the internet buzzing with the sensational story of the fabulous undead detective. But to those who knew him privately it was another story altogether.

“- What about Major Sholto ? He is the closest I have to a friend those days.” John gave his best try at appearing unconcerned but there was no fooling the devilish instinct of his soon-to-be wife.

“- Don’t you think he would feel…” She seemed to pout, considering the right formulation “… Ill at ease being offered this task ? You did present him as a rather private man.” High chances he would not even be coming anyway, she thought privately, but now was not the time to point it out.

John sighted.

“- You are probably right.” He seemed to think for a moment before scoffing and holding the bridge of his nose, throwing his head back to rest on the couch top.

“- What ?

- I just considered Mike Stamford for half a second.” His expression clearly said this reflexion showed a degree of desperation on his part he was not ready to consider. He continued, a bit disheartened :

“- What about we swap and I choose the maid of honour ? I could ask … I don’t know, Molly ?

- That is a straight no really.” She smiled at the thought. “I am having Janine as my bridesmaid and that’s final. You won’t get around this problem John Watson.” She stopped a second to ponder again. The man needed help on this one. “What about Greg ?”

  That had John blink and come forward.

“- Lestrade ? That’s … an idea. A good idea. I’ll ask him.

- You will have to invite Sherlock though.”

  That popped John’s little bubble of thoughts.

“- What ?

- Sherlock.” She looked at him knowingly, like she was pointing out the obvious. “To the wedding. You will have to invite him.”

 

_________________________________________________________

 

~ Wedding day : Telegrams ~ [after lunch]


“Pray, silence for the best man !”

  Lestrade got up from his seat (-swaying slightly, two or three glass too many but still thinking straight-) and started to busy himself with the telegrams with as much good grace as he could muster. This was tedious business to Sherlock, very obviously awkward and Geoff was by no way making this better. But somehow (-Sherlock frowned in incomprehension-) the man seemed to woo the room and an air of general cheerfulness and good humour was holding fast. Perhaps there was a good reason for the alcohol to flow that much during weddings (-Molly’s cheek had been getting steadily rosier through the meal-). He was about let his attention drift when a specific telegram got his attention.

“Mary, lots of love poppet. Oodles of love and heaps of goo whished from CAM. Whish your family could have seen this.”

  This would just have drifted away and be ignored like the rest if not for the clear discomfort it suddenly brought Mary whom he had been watching closely. She was the reason he was attending (-suffering ?-) the whole business after all . He stored this information carefully. Who was CAM ?. And was it the missing key to solve the little mystery that Mary was wrapped in ?

 

_________________________________________________________

 

~ 15th of November : 10 days after the busted terrorist attack. ~


  Jim had been right of course : the doctor had found himself a very funny fiancé. A little digging around and it appeared Mary Morstan was, in fact, stillborn in October, 1972. Her gravestone was still in Chiswick Cemetery. Five years ago, the doctor’s betrothed acquired her name and date of birth and thereafter, her identity. It was an old enough technique, known to the kinds of people who could recognise a skip code on sight. It was not hard to find out the truth when you were looking for it, but who would ? It was the very point of such inoffensive and kind persona like the one she had chosen. A kind and caring nurse, neither rich nor poor, orphaned but with a good heath and a quick mind that got her many loving friends. He would have to be careful, Mary (-for lack of a better name-) was most likely shrewd. But after five years there was a chance she would be starting to relax (-or get bored. Or restless -), so he just had to play his cards well.

  Part of the problem was that she was so tangled in with John Watson. He unconsciously clenched his hand at the thought of the man and cursed when blood splattered his trousers. He let go of the squashed kidney and proceeded to wash the stain. Yes so about John Watson… he had a feeling he was walking on eggs there. It was making it hard to use his … usual approach. The awkward feeling at the thought of the man started to rise again. He had sorted through all the information available to him and was pretty sure Mrs Hudson had been exaggerating the nature of his… involvement with the man but there was still a lingering irrational panic she may have told the truth. The thought was invasive and inferring with his thought process whenever he tried to focus on something. Anything really. His eyes came back on focus upon the second kidney he was experimenting on and had forgotten above the flame. It was completely charred now. Damn. He really couldn’t keep focused for a few hours. Well, that wouldn’t do at all. He needed to solve this now.

 

_________________________________________________________ 

 

~ Wedding day : Best wishes ~ [before lunch]


  Now that their gazes had locked there was no avoiding the man. Sherlock left Molly’s side to make his way to wait in line behind again another elderly couples (-looked all the same-) and tried not to fidget. He plastered a smile on his face and braced himself. He had gotten better at controlling the pain meeting with John Watson encompassed now that he knew what to expect. He had developed a few technics to deal with his … condition since it started, and it was just a matter of applying them. The couple cleared and he stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back.

“- Mr and Mrs Watson, congratulations to you both.” He said.

- Oh, Sherlock thank you.” Cooed Mary. “We were afraid a case would pop at the last moment and you would have to, you know, run off without notice to save England. We are so glad to have you here.” There was a kind of lingering silence as all waited for the other two to say something. Mary’s maid of honour approached, and Mary jumped on the occasion to force the boys to talk by abandoning ship. (She would later defend her withdrawal as tactful and refuse any accusation at being a shrewd bastard).

“- Yes eeer, mate. Thank you for coming. I know this is not really your thing. The … you know… celebration. Especially with everything that happened to you… and the …” John seemed to notice he was making a poor attempt at whatever it was he was attempting and opted to cut it short. “Well, just know that I really appreciate that you showed up at all.” He raised his hand and there was no avoiding shaking it.

  He knew about the pain but barely avoided wincing when the firm grip of Watson tried to convey a meaning words had not been enough to carry.

“- You all right Sherlock ?”

  It must have shown on his face. Damn.

“- Yes, yes of course. I will be leaving you to your other guests now hum ?

- Right… if you need anything just let me know, ok ?”

  Sherlock just shacked his head in a reassuring fashion before making his escape to the shade of the patio. He breathed shakily. Something was pushing at the forefront of his mind, trying to break free. Like a liquid’s surface tension spread thin but not breaking.

 

_________________________________________________________ 

 

~ 15th of November : follow up. ~


“- Hello ? Molly ?” Sherlock called from the door of the morgue’s lab.
There was a startled sound accompanied from some metallic crashing and something wet and organic colliding with the floor.

“- Sherlock ?! I am in yes !”

  Molly emerged from a corner of the room, taking off her blood splattered googles (-the blouse she kept on-). Her eyes fell on the two coffee cups Sherlock had in hands.

“- Eeerrrm … yes ?

- Coffee ?” Sherlock asked, raising one of the cups.

“- Sure !” She seemed both happy and flustered and off put by his behaviour. Well at least she didn’t look like she was holding too big a grudge about his last bout of temper.

  There was an awkward silence as Molly was unsure of what was going on and Sherlock was struggling to tackle the subject.

“- So how is it going with … Tom ?” He asked, not too sure about the name.

“- Great ! We’re having a lot of sex !”

  That muted Sherlock, sending him back reeling in his head. Oh God he was never going to make it.

“- So what was it you wanted to ask me ?

- Hum what ?

- You’re always nice when you need something.”

  Oh. So, she did notice.

“- It’s about my missing memory.” That got her worried attention. “I need … first-hand information about my time with John Watson.”

  Her eyebrows raised in surprise.

“- John ? What about him ?

- I am not fully clear about the nature of our … interaction.” He was struggling to formulate the concept of his question, and just kind of hoped Molly would manage on her own.

“- Well eermm. You two were … good friends. Yep !” She nodded with that musing pout of hers. Sherlock sighted internally in relief. “He just popped one day out of nowhere, and you got pretty close very fast I’d say. Never seen you get along that easily with someone.”

  That had Sherlock’s breath stuck, and his eyes widen. What did that …

“- We were… close ?”

  Molly saw Sherlock’s feature briefly go through various stages of concealed shock and panic. She rewind the conversation to see what could have produced such reaction in the usually unflappable detective. Then some form of gossip-related instinct kicked in and her eyes widened.

“- Oh no ! Not like that ! I mean, you and John...” A giggle formed in her throat at Sherlock’s expression and rather reddish complexion. “… were just friend. As far as I know of course !” The giggle did not seem to falter and having Molly laugh at the situation was not helping him regain composure.

  He was going to throttle Mrs. Hudson. And perhaps Jim too if he got the chance.

 

_________________________________________________________ 

 

~ Wedding day : Best man speech ~ [after the telegrams]


  This was just getting tedious now. Sherlock had switched off the room, only passively observing Mary and, out of curiosity, John. His earlier discomfort seemed to have settled. Or he was just getting used to meet with the man, as it had happened a number of times in the past few months.

  His mind naturally drifted to his recent unsolved cases. A closed room murder of a Grenadier at Buckingham, a strange ghastly vanishing serial dater. Both had a special something… The last one was still fresh, and he had almost been tempted to skip the wedding to work on it. Out of sheer boredom (and to escape the awkwardness of having to see Molly cuddle with her boyfriend) he immersed himself in his mind palace.


  They were in Baker Street, back from inspecting the place where the date had taken place between the maid and her “un-dead” date. She was clearly interested in the process and in no hurry, so Sherlock just started to browse similar stories on the internet to look for a pattern. Upon being ignored for about five minute she started.

“- I thought you had a colleague. John Hamish Watson ?

- Mmmh-mm. Moved out.

- He is getting married soon isn’t he ?

- Yes. Now what do we have here …”


  Oh. The memory faded as Sherlock eyes grew wider. How could he have not noticed before she knew about the wedding ? Not that many people out of those who had been invited would know about the event. Was it relevant somehow ? Linked to the fact she was dated by a serial dater who went to extraordinary lengths to be untraceable by using the living place and identity of recently deceased people ? But even he had to admit that was a very faint lead.

“- Coincidence, correlation or causality ? So what is it, hum? ” Pondered mockingly his mental projection of Moriarty. “I like this one, he is shrewd and planning something sneaky. At a wedding! ” He smiled an unapologetic smile. “A wedding is no fun unless it is properly crashed you know. Could be happening any second now. Tick. Tock.

- What would be considered a proper crashing I wonder ?” Spat Sherlock back more out of habit than any real spit. He could not see his own agenda being too disturbed after all.

“- Oh you know me, I am always in for a good murder. And so aaaareee yooou !”

  That infuriating voice... And yet... Murder? But who would the target be ? And what course of action would the mystery man go for?


  He smiled. This was chess and he was always in for a game.

Chapter Text

  Moriarty got out of the car and shivered. The air was growing cold as the sun started his descent toward the horizon and the ephemeral warmth of the spring afternoon was retreating to fight another day. The criminal turned the lapel of his favourite coat up and knocked on the car glass for Sebastian to open it.

“- Just be ready to pick me up whenever.

- Yes boss. Do you expect any difficulty ?

- No Seb. It is just a courtesy call. But don’t make me wait when I am ready to go.” He tightened his gloves. “There is an East Wind coming. I don’t want to suffer it more than needed.”

 

_________________________________________________________

 

~ Two weeks before the wedding, Noordoostpolder, Netherlands~

  Moriarty was idly waiting by the car. The weather was exceptionally nice for an early spring day and even he had to admit the vibrant colours of the tulip fields against the blue sky had a little … something to speak for itself.  At least he didn’t have to contemplate the soft quietness nature was providing in this remote, isolated area with Queen blasting in his earbuds. His hands started to clench and unclench impatiently on the audio device. This was taking too long. Sebastian was mentoring the young Polish boy Moriarty had taken under his wing after the dismantlement of the mutinous Polish weapon trafficking wing by Sherlock. Jim had taken a fancy on the boy, calling him ‘funny with his knobby knees’. So the Criminal was exceptionally showing some patience, to let Sebastian time to work with the boy. Nevertheless his (-short-) patience was starting to seriously wither when he received (-at least-) the all clear from Sebastian.

  Dr. Jansen, the man who had treated Sherlock’s injuries after his fall had proven especially hard to find. It had taken him months of investigation and sniffing around Sherlock to understand what was awry with the man. Their face to face interaction had been almost inexistent due to the ever-vigilant presence of Big Brother. The Ice Man had come too close for comfort after Moriarty’s and Sherlock last encounter under the parliament. He had not really been careless, but Mycroft was just good at monitoring London and his dear baby brother. But they had been texting constantly, mostly on his part, true, but still. Sherlock was hooked he knew it. He grinned and snapped a blurry picture of the landscape that he sent to Sherlock before making his way to the mansion. That would put him on his toes.

  Moriarty gave a disinterested look at the collection of old, tasteful and passed porcelain that every old country house felt obligated to display on every damn shelf. There was a little china windmill. He tried to move the wings but just ended up tipping the little reproduction on the side.

“A lovely place you have here Dr Jansen. How does your wife and boys do ? No regret for the thriving London life ? Of course, your boys still enjoy it, attending the Imperial College and all. Good thing they are visiting right now eh ?”

   The doctor just looked at him with wide eyes, aware his gagged mouth was giving him very few dialogue option. There was fear in those eyes, the fear of a man witnessing death closing on him. A prowling, playful death, ready to draw the moment until boredom kicked in again. Moriarty crouched in front of the man, grinning knowingly.

“Pips, why don’t you go fetch me a cup of tea hum ?” The criminal said without taking his eyes off the kneeled, gagged and prostrated doctor. The young Polish boy scuttled down the stairs. His real name was Mieczyslaw but Moriarty decreed that, with such a name he would as soon as do any task himself rather than take the time to call for the boy. So instead he called him Pips. Short, concise, funny.

“You know who I am ? Just nod.” The man gave a shaky nod. “Then here are the stakes. You tell me what I want to know without a fuss, and you will be the only one to die. You don’t, I dismember slowly each and every member of your lovely family slooooowly in front of you while you listen to their lovely voices. If you are not fast enough and they are back before we are done, they die too. Easy right ? Huum-mmh ? Now let me take that off.”

  He gently took away the gag and the man worked his jaw a bit before asking with a tremor in his voice :

“- But Mr Moriarty, what is it you want from me ?”

  Sebastian moved to kick the man but stopped at a sign from his boss.

“- I want the truth Dr Jansen. You were the one who threated Sherlock Holmes’ injuries after his fall about two and a half years ago. I want details.” He had dug up scarce and incomplete reports. Someone had wanted to erase all information and had almost made a good job of it.

   The middle-aged man gulped, seemed to ponder his situation for a moment. He was strategically placed to face a huge framed picture of his smiling family in some Mediterranean resort and that toppled whatever resolve he had been trying to gather.

“- Sherlock Holmes suffered a grievous head blow during his fall. He most certainly smashed his skull against the façade as he was falling. He was maintained alive in a comatose state for about a week and a half before he woke up long enough for us to establish a proper diagnostic of the damages his brain suffered. It became rapidly evident that events pertaining to the two last years had been lost to the patient, but the rest of his memory seemed complete, according to his brother. His intellectual functions had not been altered as far as the tests could discriminate. He stayed under care and surveillance of the medical staff for another week before his brother signed his discharge against medical advice.”

 Moriarty stood pensive for a while, still crouched, elbow on his knees, and his head down.

“- Tell me more about this memory loss ? Any chance of recovering the missing chunks ?

- Brain damage induced consequences and memory loss are complex fields. Most patients can be helped to recover at least part of their memory with help, but Mycroft Holmes opposed himself to any form of therapy for his brother.”

  Moriarty raised an eyebrow, and a knowing smile spread on his lips.

“- What does theses therapy generally rely on ?

- Association with elements pertaining to the missing memories, familiar environment … there are several technics that work best used together.”

  There was the sound of tires on the gravel in the inner court of the mansion. A chuckle escaped Moriarty.

 “- Looks like we have company !

- Please sir I told you all I know ! Don’t hurt my family !”

  There was true terror in the man’s eyes. And a shining truth. He had always excelled at dissecting minds and intents. He liked it.

“- Seems like it’s time for us to leave the good doctor’s company Sebastian. Don’t worry doctor my car is in the back garden.”

  He was already out of the room and fidgeting with his phone when the bullet was fired with a soft sound. He really liked these new silencers. Pips had the car ready and, to his credit, a steaming cup of tea done just right. There was hope for this little fellow, Seb never really prepared him any tea.

 

_________________________________________________________ 

 

~ Wedding day : Evening party ~

  He had been keeping alert for the whole day, but the murderer did not seem to have make his move yet. He had identified rather easily the most obvious target after a brief research on the guests. One was shining like a beacon : bad public image, hatred and isolation of his person. The Major Sholto was suffering from a seething public hatred since he came back the sole survivor of the platoon of recruit he had been leading in a military operation turned sour. From what Sherlock had gathered he was hardly responsible for the ‘tragedy’ but that was something a grieving family was not ready to hear. You need someone to take the blame and the Major was making for a perfect scrape goat. He had been keeping a close eye on the man who seemed to be doing fine so far. At least physically. Sherlock was even starting to wonder if he had not been over stretching his deductions because he was bored, or if the supposed murderer had not been scared into inaction by his presence. Everyone had joined the ballroom and a waltz started playing as the newly wed opened the dance with a lack of practice seemingly compensated by their enthusiasm and happiness. He noticed from the corner of his eyes Mary’s bridesmaid approaching him.

“- Hello !” An overfriendly smile was spread on her lips. Extroverted. “So you are the famous Sherlock Holmes right ? My name’s Janine. I have been reeaally excited for the chance to meet you.

- I am not free right now.

- Really ? I thought you were a confirmed old bachelor.

- What ?” His brow furrowed in confusion. “No, I mean, I am busy.

- You’ve been staying planted there for ten minutes straight.” She smiled teasingly. “I am sure you can spare a bit of brain space from your careful observation of the wall to entertain me.”

  Slightly vexed (-it is true he was not doing much presently but still-), he gave her a good once over.

“- Working in the news, as a secretary, a personal aide. Single and looking actively for someone. Preferably rich and good looking or famous which you consider feasible with your situation so a prestigious or widely known paper. You are a single child and hate kids.” She didn’t seem put off by his jab, and even seemed to enjoy his dithyramb. “How did you meet Mary ?” He added nonchalantly without pausing.

“- Oh she joined my yoga course in September. We got along splendidly.

- Not known each other long then. A bit untraditional for a bride’s maid hu ?”

  The first dance was over and the Major, having witnessed every ‘mandatory’ part of the wedding was making his way out of the room toward the accommodation part of the building. Rooms had been arranged for guests coming from afar.

“- Now if you’ll excuse me…”

  He just fended the crowd to follow the man. That meant stop his monitoring of the rest of the guest, but he had a feeling and his instincts often proved right.

  He followed the man carefully until he reached his room. He listened through the door to the sounds of the man taking his jacket off, opening his suitcase… this went on for a while. When he distinctly heard the shower starting Sherlock got to admit he had been over doing it and tried to go up to leave. But his mental projection of Jim pressed on his shoulders to keep him in place.

“Don’t be impatient love, it is only starting.”

 There was a muffled gasp and a soft crashing sound from inside the room. Sherlock tried the door handle, but the door did not open.

“Two locked room murder in two months ? Booring !”

  He gave the door four solid kicks next to the lock (-damn his dress trousers-) before it gave way. He found the Major sprawled on the bathroom floor a towel almost completely soaked in blood around his waist.

“- Ooooh it’s just the same than last time ! Lucky you didn’t solve it yet that would have spoiled the fun.

- Shut up. I am trying to think.”

  Jim gave him a look of utter disbelief.

“- Just so, stupid.”

  He looked at the wound and the arrangement of the room to confirm the setting was the same than for the guard at Buckingham Palace. The window was fastened shut. He fished his phone out of his pocket and called Lestrade.

  He took forever to answer.

“- Lestrade, lock the place down we got a …

- Your correspondent is not available, please leave a message…”

  Damn. The inspector must be dancing in an advanced state of inebriation right now. He looked through the window and there was someone on the ground there, looking up. It was difficult to say in the dark, but he had a camera around his neck. This was already suspicious but the fact the man broke into a run once he spotted Sherlock was even more. No time to fetch Lestrade then ! Molly would not have her phone on her with this pocketless dress… As he dashed out he spotted the wedding invitation in display on the nightstand and the clearly visible name of John Hamish Watson. He felt a mounting headache as he called the name in his phone. John picked up right after the first ring.

“- Sherlock ?! What is it.”

  He pushed the door leading to the back garden open, diving in the evening air.

“Say it.” The voice was level and deadpan. A voice he didn’t remember remembering so well. He turned to a memory version of John Watson running beside him, with an old fashion knitwear and a gun at hand. “Goddammit Sherlock, say it ! Vatican Cameo !”

  He felt his own lips repeat the worlds in the speaker as a terrible headache ripped. It felt like breaking surface tension, rupturing his mind. His brain both expanding and shrinking. He was out now, trying to pursuit the man in the dark since this part leading to the parking was not supposed to be in use for the festive part of the reception. But it was getting increasingly difficult to think and move toward the shadowy form of the man and he was losing ground. Through the blazing haze of pain, he mumbled something about the Major and the photograph hoping it would be enough for Scotland Yard to react. His knees gave out from under him and he registered the soft, cool grass against his face. 

  His mind shut down against the pain and he did not register the man approaching as his body twitched in a violent epileptic crisis.

“Well well, so much for my dramatic entrance Sherlock.” Sighted Moriarty.

Chapter Text

I that am lost, oh who will find me?

  Singing ?
Deep down below the old beech tree.

  A woman. No a girl. A young girl.
Help succour me now the east winds blow.

  Had he … heard this voice before ?
Sixteen by six, brother, and under we go!

 

  He opened his eyes to a white glare. He blinked, trying to get accustomed to the light. He was standing in his Mind Palace. Everything was in place, every line sharp and familiar. But something felt off. An eerie silence seemed to settle as the voice vanished as a wisp of smoke, gone unnoticed. Everything looked dull, every colour faded. Some form of homely disorder was lacking. A chaos he had gotten accustomed to over two years. A frown settled on Sherlock’s face.

“Jim ?” He called loudly.

   He heard the echo rip into the silent house and fade away, unanswered.

“JIM ?” He shouted again, but without heart. Jim never kept him waiting if he desired his presence. The catch was to get rid of him when his presence wasn’t desired. If he was not manifesting himself, he was not there. Which meant … Jim left him ?

  A pang of loneliness hit him. It was absurd. How could the man have deserted his Mind Palace on his own ? When he was so deeply ingrained in its every shadows ? For Jim had grown on him since the accident, crawling in his every thought as he slowly obsessed over the man. This intelligent, cunning, maddening and artful instigator of chaos. The sane reaction ought to be a form of relief he got rid of the obsessive thought, a thought he had refused to weed out early but had watched bloom with a kind of morbid fascination until it was too late and it consumed him to the point of alienation. The sane reaction of course.

“Don’t leave me alone…” He muttered brokenly.   

  A sudden loud bark behind his back startled him. He turned to a familiar long-haired ginger dog that barked happily to him.

“Redbeard ? You came to sheer me up buddy?”

  Sherlock bend to pet his old friend, but the dog escaped his attention and went running through the door and outside. Sherlock stopped, perplexed by the presence of the door he had never noticed and an -outside- he had never constructed consciously. Redbeard barked again, full of enthusiasm and he moved quickly to follow him. This was his head after all, what wrong could happen ? He was in control.

  He found himself in a green, rather melancholic garden. The lawn seemed to gently meet the sky and an old house was visible a little distance away. He could smell the salt in the air and the wind on his face. It whispered a soft tune into his ear he could hardly make out. The tune sung by the same little girl from before, but what were the world ?



Be not afraid … shade …come try! …My steps

 

  No use, it was too faint. He thought Redbeard was leading him to the house, but the dog was in fact waiting in what appeared to be a cemetery. All the headstones were old, corroded by wind and salt but for the one Redbeard was waiting by, chasing his tail.

  It was a black, smooth stone, polished to a mirror shine. It was body sized and laid flat to cover the buried coffin completely. A name was etched on it in gold letters and Sherlock’s breath froze on his lips. Sherlock Holmes. Deceased on the 15th of January 2012. He took in a shaky breath and the air suddenly seemed to turn colder. He crouched over the tombstone, a kind of morbid fascination taking him. He could see his own reflexion in the polished marble and made to brush the cold stone with his finger but stopped, hesitating. His reflection was… it looked like it had a life of his own.

Without your love, he’ll be gone before….

He turned to the dog, but only just in time to see Redbeard leap on him. The weight of the dog hit him, and he lost balance to fell back first on the headstone. But instead of the mild pain he was unconsciously expecting from such a menial collision he felt himself sink in a cold, goo like substance. He tried to raise by pushing on his hands only succeeding in trapping his wrist in the shiny dark substance. Redbeard had left and he was alone again, as a feral panic flooded him.

“JIM ! JIM help me !!!” He called desperately, trashing to get free.


Inside, brother mine -
Let Death make a room.

 

“Ssshhh It’s alright Sherlock…” Said the seductive, silky female voice.

  Sherlock knew this voice was both to be trusted and not. He froze in confusion and thoroughly ensnarled anyway. A soft finger with a sharp nail caressed his jaw and dragged up his cheek and cheekbones. He raised his eyes to the most beautiful women he’d met. It was not her physics (-well, not only her physics-) but her gaze and her mind. She was wearing his coat. Only his coat.

“Don’t worry he isn’t ever really far from you.” She said with a teasing smile. “You have to do this now. Just relax, it always hurts a lot less.”

  She kissed him lightly and that was the last thing he felt before he sank in the cold darkness of the grave.


Who now will find him?
Why, nobody will.
Doom shall I bring to him, I that am queen.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  Everything was still calm in the darkness of the park. Sherlock had stopped twitching now and laid sprawled in the grass. Jim prodded him with the tip of his shoes but to no avail. He crouched to idly take a closer look of the man as he laid defenceless. The very picture of the fallen angel.

  Oh, how long he had waited for Sherlock. Looking up as he precariously balanced, ever closer to the fall. Going for it almost but always flapping his clipped wings madly whenever gravity tried to punish his gall at last. And Jim, Jim had waited for him, patient and focused as a cat. Deep down the pit from the first day, watching hungrily as the man got bolder and bolder, testing the limits of his line. He had not wanted to push it at first, happy to wait for what had looked like the inevitable. To be there when Sherlock met the embrace of darkness, ready to at long last tear his useless clipped wings from his living flesh and burn his bared back until no trace of the cursed things remained.

  His hand had found the dark curls of the man and he pushed them away from his eyes, pulling slightly on them as he did so. Sherlock had a tormented look and he was burning. What the hell had happened to get the man in this state ? Sherlocks’ lips moved soundlessly, and Jim frowned as he thought he recognised the name Sherlock was calling in his sleep. But then …

“Jim… Don’t leave me alone…” He moaned breathlessly in his sleep.

Moriarty stood still as his shocked mind processed the words. Then his mind caught up.

“I could get used to you begging, Dear.” He answered the shivering (-still unconscious-) form of the detective.

  Moriarty wanted to steal Sherlock, tug him under his coat and keep him there. But that would draw the active ire of Mycroft which was, despite his constant and consistent long-term denial, not to take lightly. He was torn between the drive, the impulse to just take (-and to hell with the consequences-) and the rational, computing part of his mind who was desperately trying to rein him in by pointing out how bad an idea it was. The man was not even conscious.

  At this very moment, the very recognisable, angry and worried voice of John Watson boomed into the night.

“SHERLOCK !!!”

  Jim just took his phone out and sent a quick text to Sebastian. The very idea of the doctor sickened him. The idea to let the man close to Sherlock again just gave him an itch for murder.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  He was seating cushioned in what had quickly became his favourite armchair, inconspicuously reading a book when he heard the door being energetically pushed open. His new flatmate was back from the shop and in a sour mood. 

“- You took your time.” He said flatly.

“- Yeah, I didn’t get the shopping.

- What ? Why not ?

- Because I had a row in the shop with a ship and PIN machine.

- You … You had a row with a machine ?!

- Sort of. It sat there and I shouted abuse. Have you got cash ?”

Sherlock smiled before saying.

“- Take my card.”

  He had hardly known John for long, but the man had just come into his life and naturally taken a spot. Well, perhaps the fact he had murdered someone to keep Sherlock alive hardly days after they met did help in bringing the two of them closer. But still. There was an awkward, smooth easiness here. John, John made it easy to be around him. Sherlock felt both happy and content in the presence of another human being and that had not happened since … ever ? He frowned at that thought, something escaping his reflexive grasp. True, he had always felt uncomfortable and out of place around others. Both too much and not enough. Too much of a smartass, of a weirdo and not enough of a man or a mate to be around. He smiled thinly at the memories. He had grown into himself now, some things forgotten in the realm of his lanky adolescence and some others amplified to be the fully blown freak Donovan liked to look down upon. A genius outcast, out of place in a society tailored to the dull conventional submissive mind.  

  At this dark thought the world seemed to turn colder, even in hue. Something was not normal. Something was wrong. How did he end up here ? This was a souvenir, a reminiscence. A sharp pain stabbed his brain, and he shut his eyes tight against it. When he opened them again John was rummaging in the cupboard and the boiler was on. Homely, but far away somehow. Artificial, recreated. On the tea table next to him laid a painfully bright golden phone standing out against the background. It shimmed with an incoming text.

 

Sherlock, Dear.

 

  Jim his brain provided sharply. But the name escaped him like water through fingers. Jim ? The name tag said James Moriarty. The phone buzzed again in his hand. Repeatedly.

 

Sherooooooock !

Do you remember now ? Do you get it at last ?

Do you get the Final Problem ?

 

  The pain got sharper. Jim ? Jim.. Jim… Jim…

“- Jim from the hospital ? Did I left such a … fleeting impression ?” Drawled a familiar voice, all changing pitch.

  The man was standing in front of him in his casual outfit, bland white t-shirt and jeans. His smirk devilish and eyes impossibly dark. He kneeled in front of him and put his hands on Sherlock’s knees, pleading in his attitude if not in his eyes. Sherlock wanted to move away but the world shook around him, perturbing his balance.

“- Sherloooock don’t tell me you’d forget me in favour of Johnny boy over there.” He gave a not toward the kitchen. “He is so boooring.

- I remember you. I remember … everything.” He frowned against the pain splitting his head. The room shook again, rattling the bookcase and the chemistry instruments.

- Goooood ! Now hold onto that and …” His eyes turned cold, all mirth gone. “… Kick him out. He is only going to make things difficult anyway.

 - The fall… You tried to kill me !”

  Jim opened his eyes wide, articulating exaggeratedly.

“- Oh no Sherlock, nonono. Because it’s not the fall that kills you Sherlock. Of all people, you should know that. It’s not the fall.” The room shook and something crashed projecting glass everywhere. “It’s never the fall.” The grip of Jim on his leg was painful now and his gaze had turning manic as he purposefully held Sherlock in place in the chaos. “It’s the landing !”

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  The first thing Sherlock noticed was that he was mildly comfortable and warm and that both his arms were restricted. His brain was moving slowly, drowned in sleepiness. A second take at the situation informed him he was in fact in a car, wrapped up in a coat that didn’t belong to him. Jim’s voice was mumbling something about Sebastian driving like a goat when he was pissed.

  It was not his own coat.

  His muddled brain tried to connect the dots. He was as good as alone in a car with Jim Moriarty. A voice that sounded strangely like John told him to get his advantage, gather what he could about the mad-man criminal and make his escape as soon as possible.

  Jim was not wearing a coat.

  Another part of his mind was lulled by the comfort, and the prospect of excitement his current position was sure to lead to. Had the man wanted him dead he would have been out cold a long time ago. He was safe with Jim.

  He frowned as bits of memory crashed against each other. His mind was disagreeing with itself and the feeling was not pleasant. But he was tired, so tired. It could wait. He drew the coat slightly closer and let his mind shut down in sleep again. The coat was warm and comfortable.

  Ah. Jim’s coat.

 

Chapter Text

  Sherlock slowly woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Expensive. Ethiopian. His eyes still closed his mind registered the comfy mattress and cushions he was sprawled on. The quality of the sheets… Fuzzy memories from the previous night emerged to explain his situation away from his usual morning routine. He opened his eyes to find himself in a neat room, functional and clearly hardly lived in. A steaming mug of coffee was standing on the nightstand, next to few key belongings of his like his phones.

  He tried to assess his situation his mind now cleared of the numbness of the previous night. He was clearly physically fine, but his mind felt like on overstrained muscle. As the haze of sleep slowly cleared a kind of mental cacophony raised to fill the available space, building steadily. Sherlock grabbed his head and groaned against the rising migraine. Somehow the context of the crime scene at the wedding had flipped a switch and triggered his buried memory to resurface. All of them. But what he had failed to encompass for before now was that ‘memory’ did not quite cover it did it ? He suddenly had to face the complete, extensive recovery of two full years of his life, in every thing that made them. That had made him. He never would have admitted what a deep impact those two years had had on him to anybody, or even to himself, but for the fact it was made painfully obvious now that it clashed violently with what had been his current mind set a few hours ago. As for now… He could hardly pinpoint his thoughts as they shifted, crashing and retreating like waves on a shore, latching at his mind but failing to get a hold as his divergent moral fend of every other one. He was at war with himself, splitting and coming together at the same time. It was, to put it simple, a rather terrible feeling.

  At long last something wormed his way up through the daze induced by the alarming and overwhelming number of thoughts clashing around in his head. Why was he here ? At Jim’s place ?

“- As far as I am concerned, I consider first name basis of poor taste considering the previous attempt of the man at ruining our reputation and ending our life.” Interjected his old self.

“- Irrelevant, pointless. I am curious so let’s get going.” Replied his recent self, all ravenous curiosity.

“- It is not. You attribute value to it because it was a personal request from Moriarty. It gives you an empathetic link to your shadow.

- Oh, do shut up or I’ll have to raise the question of your deep understanding of empathetic bonding.”

  God this was going to be difficult. He took a deep breath and tried to shut and neuter this part of his mind as best as he could. This basically left him able to process through basic protocols and gather or act upon instantaneous or short-term data. A state of mind he usually liked to sink into when concentrating on an experiment or a puzzle but ill adapted to his current situation. Moriarty/Jim would be waiting somewhere for him to make an appearance and he would notice. Sherlock ground his teeth as the internal debate and clashing tried to bubble to the surface, close to overwhelm him again. He succeeded in pushing it down, breathing shakily. That would have to do, there was not really any other option available.

  He mechanically prepared himself, making quick use of the adjoining bathroom and just dressing in whatever clothes had been left for him. They were clean, the kind of things he would have bought for himself but not his actual clothes. These had been left in a bag with his belongings. He grabbed the cup, still steaming, craving the caffeine before pushing the bedroom door open.

  He recognised immediately the laying of the flat Jim had already taken him into and frowned in puzzlement. From what he could gather and remember there only was one bedroom here. He stored this information without analysing it further, still focused on not losing control. He followed a very distinctive typing sound into the living room.

  Jim was impossibly perched up a stool, one knee up to his chest and the other leg bend behind him. He was typing on a laptop, casually working on the kitchen’s countertop. His attention kept rapt on the device for about a few more seconds before his eyes snapped to Sherlock. His stance changed seamlessly from intensely focused, to openly curious and then to withdrawn and suspicious as he took the other man’s appearance in. In a futile attempt to distract Moriarty from deducing him, Sherlock took the initiative :

“- Why am I here ?” Sherlock asked, voice low and neutral.

“- I obliged a request of yours.” He answered equally neutral, giving nothing away.

  The Criminal gaze was careful and searching. It was painfully obvious he had noted Sherlock discomfort and distant look but looked like he was not yet quite sure what to make of it.

  Why would he ask that of the criminal ? Why would the man run the risk to grant his request ? He wanted to ask more but pressure was building at his temple, making it hard to even focus now.

“- I need to go.” He managed to say with a hint of determination.

  A hint of irritation flashed across the criminal feature, before being quickly buried under an unaggressive, cautious stance. Had Sherlock got his wit he would have noticed the discreet but unmistakable signs betraying the active choice of Jim to appear as unthreatening as possible.

“- You are free to go. Of course. But I must confess I had been hoping to enjoy snatching you from under you brother supervision a bit longer.” There was a question buried under the controlled voice.

  Sherlock’s eyes widened minutely. His brother supervision. Mycroft. Working with Mycroft to catch Moriarty. He had known of this place for a while now. A cog twisted in his head. Why had he not informed Mycroft ? Sherlock’s mind wall snapped as soon as the confusion registered.

“- Because,” Started his recent self, voice bitter, “ we don’t care to play hound for Mycroft. He just cares for a good chessboard piece to do the legwork.

- I agreed to his plan to catch Moriarty red handed. And you know he does care you just refuse to acknowledge it.” Countered his past self.

“- And look where that got you. Are we really going to discuss Mycroft family sense though ? Shutting me in rehab wasn’t even the worst of it !”

  His past self just gave in to the point of the shared, painful truth. Whatever the reasons, there was no sugar-coating Mycroft had handled some part of Sherlock life strongly against his will and rather ill at that.

  He could just process so much, bribes of thoughts rising from the twisting well of his mind and the rest too fast to follow. The overflow of data blurred his sense, effectively shutting him out of the pragmatic reality. He was not even conscious at this point that he had sunk to his knees in the middle of the room, the coffee mug clattering to the floor as his hands came up to cling his head.

  Jim had seen every shift in Sherlock’s feature. He had seen the blank, shut up gaze turn into a look from the past before the pain kicked in. Sherlock’s eyes had rolled back into his skull as his tall feature had crumbled on the carpet. With the key piece information, he had collected from the good Dr Jensen, it really did not take much brainpower to conclude Sherlock had regained his lost memories and that it did not set well with the man. How and how much of his long-lost memory the man had just recovered was yet to be seen. His lips set in a thin line as he wearily made his way toward Sherlock, not sure what to expect from the man in this state. His mood darkened as he pondered what Sherlock ‘recovery’ would entail.

  When it became obvious, Sherlock was in no state to try anything stupid he carefully sat next to him. Jim then gently grabbed hold of the detective to restrain his movements and prevent him from hurting himself. An anguished sound ripped from the larger man’s chest. It was obvious from his bank gaze that he was locked in his own head. It was not without remembering Moriarty the look some people had once torture had broken their mind down. Shattered to piece and blown to the wind. But Sherlock’s feature was still radiating pain and anguish despite the vacant eyes. Sherlock needed an anchor to come back to himself.

“- Sherlock. Can you hear me ? Focus on me will you ?”

  He gently squeezed the man’s frame to make his presence more of a reality. Sherlock’s eyes fluttered, not really focusing but showing he was not out of reach.

“- Sherloooock ??” He drawled, modulating his voice.

“- Jim ?” He the taller man answered feebly.

“- Gooood ! Now stay with me Dear. Focus on me and don’t drift.”

  Jim. That was a good sign, he thought.

  Sherlock clung reflexively to his frame in answer.

“- Everything is shifting. I feel… Split. It’s painful.” Sherlock’s feverish stutter broke down miserably. “Make it stop. Please… Jim. Make it go…”

  A litany of ‘please’ and broken sounds was all he could get from Sherlock after that. Jim scowled in frustration and grabbed his phone. If he was right Sherlock needed something to slow his brain and numb the pain. The fact he called Sebastian rather than texting him told a long story.

“- Bring up a morphine kit. Now.”

  He did not even wait for a reply before hanging up.

  He hardly had time to manoeuvre the bigger man’s frame to lay on the couch before Sebastian entered the room. He snatched the kit from the man.

“- Thanks.

- What’s up with him ?”

  Moriarty did not judge necessary to answer him. The Colonel had to admit he was not even sure his boss had registered the question. He was completely focused on preparing the injection.

“- Hold him Seb. I don’t want things to get messy if he jitters.”

  Piercing Sherlock’s skin to inject the substance was tantalising and his eyes stayed rived on it as the needle pushed through. He had no ill intent with this action, but his brain whirled at the possible consequences the drug could have for Sherlock regarding his past substance addiction. The dosage ought to be right at least. Blood beaded on the skin before he pressed down on it. It then took very little time for the man’s frame to stop his pained twitching and for his breath to settle.

“- Ok Seb, leave us now. I want you available if something comes up though.”

  The man begrudgingly made his retreat. It was his pragmatic opinion Holmes was a nuisance but there was no talking sense into Jim. On the other hand, whatever kept him from brooding was rare enough to put some effort into.

  It was a few minutes before Sherlock emerged form his torpor. Someone had laid him on the couch and Jim was sitting cross legged on the carpet by his legs, reading some book. Maths. His mind felt sluggish and peaceful. Events from the last few minutes trickled back but his mind was too numb to be sent spinning.

“- You drugged me.” He muttered at last.

“- It’s on me Dear, no charges.” Jim answered sarcastically without detaching his eyes from the book.

“- I wouldn’t have placed you as a nurse.” Teased Sherlock with not much energy.

  With the help of the drug and the nature of the situation it was easy for Sherlock to just slip into their latest dynamic, and just muffle whatever objections arise from whatever other part of his brain.  His latest comment succeeded in drawing Jim’s attention on him. Better.

“- Don’t push your luck Sherly or I might be tempted to show you some of my real expertise.” The Criminal drawled with an edge of danger to his voice. He shifted closer, putting the book aside. “Some of it does involve needles and medical material.

- Good at making people talk are you ?

- You don’t even fathom the beginning of it.”

  Jim was a shifting chameleon, never quite revealing his core, a master at shrouding himself. But for some specific, elusive moments where it slipped. Like at the pool. He had been so excited that day, elated and in the mood of showing off for Sherlock. There was a shadow of that now. He need not prove himself though, Sherlock was most convinced he was a terrific interrogator when he bothered. Jim had something to worm himself in people’s head anyway.

“- For example, it was easy to get Dr. Jansen to tell me about your little predicament after our little show at St Bart. It’s all right I pardon you for not thanking me for the flowers now that I know what happened.” He said, nodding his head in mock understanding.

“- Dr Jansen …” Sherlock’s eyes widened when the name registered. Oh god, so now Moriarty knew about that too. Well… “Looks like you are out of luck since I kind of got everything back.” His nose crunched in annoyance. “On short notice.

- Hum. Everything really ?” The Criminal whistled, his eyes going wide in a practiced comic way. “I thought as much. Must get a bit cramped over there !”

  Sherlock pondered what information to withhold and what to give away. He was feeling comfortable, the drug lulling him in a sense of untouchability. He could hardly bring himself to care about consequences.

“- I feel like there is two of me. Can’t process anything without them crashing against one another.” Moriarty did not interrupt. He was still and focused on him. “It is interesting though. I have basically the possibility to analyse if I am or not myself depending on my environmental input. If I can manage not to end up a crazy mess.

  Jim chuckled at the dark humour.

“- I get it. Your personality from before is being a bugger ? It was. Can’t you shut it up ?

- It is not amenable to the idea no. Looks like I’ll have to deal with it somehow.”

  Jim’s head tilted on the side as he pondered the situation.

“- Just switch from one to the other depending on the context. Let them flow, so they don’t antagonise, and you don’t just stay frozen like earlier. My best go, even if it irks me to know your do-gooder side is going to randomly pop around.”

  Jim’s nose was crunched in distaste at the very thought, but the advice had something to it. Instead of having his two past selves crash for dominance in every situation he could probably manage to just let them dance around, slipping in and out of the decision making. That would probably be confusing to him and others but that was worth giving a go if the situation did not end up settling by itself.

“- Do you have any morphine left ? That’s probably going to help in the beginning.

- Careful Dear, you are really going to owe me. And that’s something most people ought to avoid even if they’re rarely wise enough to.

- Oh but I am not most people, am I ?” Answered Sherlock, pocketing swiftly the vial handed by Moriarty and rising from the couch.

“- Now, why am I here again ?” Continued the detective, locating another steaming mug of coffee conveniently placed.

“- You really did ask me to take me with you.” Jim’s theatrical voice chanted, all too pleased with himself. “I found you twitching on the parc’s lawn outside of the dear John’s wedding reception. No idea why though.

- I was … chasing someone. Some guest got killed and I was chasing the murderer. How did you ‘find me’ exactly ?

- GPS locator in the phone I gave you doofus. Very handy. You can’t have a rest can you ? Murderer and criminal just throwing themselves at you, fighting for your attention. Such a lucky boy. I must admit the killer has balls of steel to pull a murder just under your nose. Very impressive if a tinsy winsy bit stupid.

- You do that all the time.

- Please Honey, I am not most people.”

  Moriarty had a minute silence at that, before a large smile spread on his face.

“- Talking about that, you’ll need to know I had to switch your phone off. It kept going on riiinnging and that was driving me positively insane.”

  Sherlock’s froze with the cup on his lips, his eyes widening. He had disappeared from the wedding, after signalling a murder and without any form of explanation. He looked at the time. He’d been out of the loop for little more than a day. Oh god Mycroft was going to kill him. And John, provided his own voice helpfully. John’s definitely going to kill you too.

Chapter Text

~ Earlier in the morning ~  

  To say Charles Augustus Magnussen was into the newspaper business would have been a close equivalent to casually mentioning Mycroft was into politics. A little inaccurate, and a large understatement. The press and the media were just tooling he capitalised over, not ends in themselves.

  The man himself was currently considering, with a clinical attention, two photographs that had been left on his behalf in a sealed envelope. The pictures were dark and a little blurry, taken from a bad angle, but luck had been with the photograph. Despite both darkness and distance, the faces of the two men were very discernible indeed,.

  A benevolent, fatherly smile graced Magnussen’s lip. It took some time for one to get what was wrong with this smile. Probably because most people avoided it at all cost. It sticked to your skin, making you feel soiled just being the recipient of it.

  The man trailed a finger on the pictures, committing to memory the images. Enjoying the knowledge his targets were desperately entangled, and that they didn’t even know it yet. Unaware the knot was already tight around their throat. He had expected the endeavour to prove more challenging. A pity, but he was not one to thwart an easy victory.

  He downed his glass of scotch and carefully slipped the two very incriminating pictures back into the envelope. There was work to be done.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

 How precisely the situation had shifted from tense seriousness to Jim almost hiccupping with laughter as a still drugged Sherlock, in a mad rush for his phone, entangled his limbs and fell flat on the floor was a bit unclear. Once the mayhem sorted itself Jim was cheerful enough that the shift from Sherlock’s attention to the outside world did not to sour his mood too much. A slightly disturbing giddy smile ghosted on his face as he just sat there and enjoyed the sight of Sherlock’s intense focus as he went for damage assessment.

“- Mycroft has tried to call me 23 times ! I mean, what was he expecting after the 22nd time ?” Whined Sherlock.

  At this precise moment the clock struck 10 am sharp, and to Sherlock’s surprise and dismay his phone ringed with an incoming call. From Mycroft.

“- Oh come on !” Cried Sherlock, rejecting the call.

  Jim just snickered from his stool, and automatically reached for his own phone as it blipped with an incoming notification. His face fell in an exaggerated downturn.

“- He is texting me now. What a pestering nuisance.”

  Sherlock head snapped up.

“- Mycroft has got your number ??

- I don’t know how he does it to be honest. I keep changing you know.” Jim eyebrow rose, his eyes still on the screen. “He wants you back, you’re in trouublle !

- When am I not ? Wait why would I be ? Aren’t you ?”

  Sherlock nevertheless typed a quick answer to his brother.

Am fine, I’ll be in touch shortly. Stop calling -10:02- SH

  Sherlock skimmed wearily through some more notifications before one caught his attention.

“- Looks like Lestrade got someone in custody for yesterday’s attempted murder. He wants me to confirm. Clueless as ever the whole lot.

- I still don’t get why you put up with them. Lestrade is a thing. But …  Donovan !” His voice had been theatrically going up and down on the vowel, outlining mock outrage. “I still have good hopes you’ll snap and skin her one day. That would be fitting don’t you think ?”

  Sherlock raised from the couch with some difficulty, his senses still a bit muddled from the injection, but doing good on managing his lack of balance once upward.

“- A bit obvious really. Beside I’m filtering most of what she says. I hardly hear her anymore.” He grimaced. “You’ve been a bit heavy handed on the morphine. I can’t even feel my fingertips.” Walking or taking a taxi would be a bother. “Care to give me a ride ? You make for a decent cabby I recall.

- Continue to sass me like that and you’ll be the one to get skinned.” He paused, taking in Sherlock’s appearance. “You sure you want to meet your Keeper looking like that ?

- I’ll manage Lestrade just fine. I have a few tricks. And he really is not the most observant.

- Suits you.” Jim shrugged. “But you’ll have to bear with Moran driving you. I am forbidden from wandering the wilderness of London alone since the bonfire incident.

- A real mother hen, Moran.” Scoffed Sherlock as Moriarty pulled a face.

“- Don’t call him that to his face. He would beat you to a pulp, whatever form of retaliation I would have coming.”

 

_________________________________________________________

 

  The car ride was not long to the Yard. He checked his texts again and some guilt started to sip in. Without the direct presence of Jim, it was easier for his past-self to bridge his consciousness heralding judgement. He had gotten a lot of people worrying. Good lord, even Molly had texted him. But most of the texts and missed calls were, of course, from John.

Sherlock, where are you ??? We found Mjr. Sholto. His condition is bad, but the medics got him. - 21:47 (Sun.) - JW

We are going to leave for the hospital. WHERE ARE YOU ?  - 22:01 (Sun.) – JW

  Sherlock had not been aware the Major was still alive when he had found the body. He had not even thought to check, in his eagerness to catch the killer. That even raised the question of wherever the guard back at Buckingham, that had been murdered the same way, could have been saved too…

You are chasing the murderer, aren’t you ? - 22:09 (Sun.) -  JW

There was a bloody man, bleeding to death in front of you and you went off, chasing the murderer ?  - 22:13 (Sun.)  - JW

  Sherlock could almost see John’s frustration and wrath at his poor prioritising and felt a pang of sadness and guilt hit him. John had always tried to make a better man of him. Pushing him in the right direction. He was not and had never been the man John thought him to be, but he had been doing efforts. Really. Before the St Bart’s rooftop accident that is.

If you got yourself killed, I’ll never forgive you. -22:58 (Sun.) - JW-

  That got a smile from Sherlock. You had to be ready to take a punch occasionally, but John was a rock, never managing to hold his grudge higher than his worries for his friends. After his two-years disappearance, after their poor reunion, John was still holding on. Hoping against all hopes. He could not wait to see him again. Properly.

  The next text was from Molly.

Hey ! We got the situation in hand here. The Major is probably going to make it. John is starting to relax a bit but we’re kinda worried about you so… just give us a ring when you see this ok ? – 00:15 (Mon.) - MH-

  Sherlock redacted a quick answer and pressed reply.

Hey I am fine here. Got knocked out but I am ok. Still at the hospital ? -10:29- SH

  This was technically right and was a convenient enough lie. The answer came under the minute.

You sure you ok ? Everybody kind of went home for a change and a bit of rest, there is just me left. Emergency shift. If I can be of any help don’t hesitate to drop by. -10:30- MH

  Sherlock reassured her of his wellbeing and texted John he was fine and on his way to the Yard. There. Keeping everybody updated. He was doing good !

  Sherlock had about just the time to wrap all his little messages up before Moran pulled to a stop. The man had not uttered a word for the whole ride and from Sherlock instinctive knowledge, that could be either a neutral or a very bad sign.

“- Thanks Moran.

- Goodbye Mr. Holmes.”

  Low voice, slight undertone of murder. Moran was pissed with him. Bad sign then. No tease and out of the car then.

 

_________________________________________________________

 

“- So the murderer was the photograph then ? But how ?” Asked a befuddled Lestrade.

  They had just finished with the suspect identification and all was left now was paperwork.

“- The crime was good. Perfect as far as execution go really. That came with a price though : the murderer had to rehearse it, to make sure everything would work out. Plus he was forced into a bad timing : the Major’s paranoia has made it terribly difficult for the murderer to find a suitable widow to act. He had to do a lot of sniffing around before creating an opportunity by being engaged as John and Mary’s wedding photograph.

- But how did he do it ? And what rehearsal are you referring to ?

- Come on Graham ! Make an effort !

- Greg.” Answered the DI pointedly.

“- Greg. Haven’t you noticed the close resemblance to the locked room murder of the Buckingham Palace Grenadier Guard ?

- A murder that left you, as far as I recall, clueless. And it was a Welsh Guard for your information.”

  Sherlock’s nose crunched at Lestrade point. The murder had left him as lost as the Yard at the time.

“- Well I got it well and proper now. It is all about the uniform you see.

- The uniform ?” Lestrade was sinking into ever new depth of befuddlement. But he was used to it by now, he had gotten pretty good at swimming in it.

“- Yes ! The uniform belts to be more precise. It kept the flesh bound all the time, preventing the wound to bleed out until removed. The wound is deep and narrow, made by a long thin knife probably coated with an anaesthetic. The lower back is a low innerved area of the body, and the wound would have only been but a minor discomfort until the belt was removed and the target bled to death. At which point the target would be alone and unable to call for help. Very clever, and to give the man credit, original.

- Well ... if you say so.

- And you caught the right man Lestrade ! Congratulations ! How did you manage ?

- We tailed him to his home. If it weren’t for the hints you gave us he would have probably slipped through our fingers but we got him as he was packing.

- He ought to have driven faster…” Mumbled Sherlock.

“- What ??

- Nothing, nothing.

- By the way what happened to you ? We couldn’t find you any…“

  The door of Lestrade’s office banged open, interrupting the inspector mid-sentence. John Watson stood frozen on the threshold, looking like he had rushed here at top speed, to find himself not quite sure what to do now that he was here. He took in Sherlock, looking both relieved and worried to see him present.

“- John ! I am … ermm… sorry for the inconvenience I caused.” Chanced Sherlock, shuffling on his chair.

  John scoffed in amused disbelief. Sherlock, looking genuinely worried and sorry had just apologized to him. He would not quite have believed it but for the air of kicked puppy in his eyes. He continued :

“- I was unconscious for the last 24 hours and I have really been in no state to have you know.”

  Good gracious he was serious.

- Sherlock it’s… fine. Really, it’s fine. I mean you are all right, my friend is alive. Because of you.” He said pointedly. “And we caught the bastard that tried to murder him. Thanks to you again.

- Yeah, if it weren’t for your hint about the photograph on the phone, we wouldn’t even have thought about going for him.”

  John scoffed again, not quite believing the situation in retrospective. He was more amenable to dark humour now that everything was settled for the best.

“- Can anyone actually believe this ? The photograph at my wedding, attempting murder over a guest ? What is this ? A bloody TV-show ? What next ?” He ended, shaking his head.

“- A life with you promises never to be boring Mr. Watson !”

  Mary had just made her entrance, going right for John to cheer him up. Her feature was tired, but she was managing a cheerful smile, certainly on John’s behalf.

“- It had been rather calm for some time you know, before…” He interrupted himself, his gaze flirting to Sherlock and back. “Well, you know. But I vow, Mrs Watson, to not drag you into anything dangerous.

- Oh John, I trust you to do your best.” She ended teasingly.

  Sherlock’s smile froze and stayed plastered to his face. Mrs Watson. Of course. What a moron. He had known for months now that this woman was dangerous and had let things go without interference. John was now married to and sharing a household with a very dangerous person indeed. Any false move could trigger a death-trap.

“- You all right Sherlock ?” Asked Mary. “You look a bit … peckish.”

  Her voice was very friendly, but her gaze was acute and searching. She had noticed something was off.

“- I am fine. I just need a smoke.” Answered Sherlock, a bit too quick. He rose and shrugged his coat on.

“- Are you really going to go without explaining about your disappearance ?” Interjected a slightly outraged Lestrade.

“- Yes, it really is irrelevant, and I am not in a mood for a chat.

- No way.” Interjected Watson, barring the way out. “What happened to get you out cold for a day ? Have you even seen a doctor ?

- I am fine. Things just got a bit tangled as I chased the photograph down.” This would not be enough to allow his escape ; he could see it in John’s eyes. An idea struck. “And I was going to. See a doctor. Molly proposed to check on me.

- Really ?” John was surprised. Sherlock reasonably accepting a medical check was not common occurrence. “I could do it for you if you want…

- Nah I’d rather not. And Molly is happy to help. Wouldn’t want to disappoint her. Now if you don’t mind …”

  He pushed his way out, and away from the room (-well away from Mary mostly-) and thanked the stars Lestrade had caught John’s attention by asking him to complete his deposition. He had a cigarette already out and had almost made it to the front door of the Yard when he heard hurrying footsteps catching up with him. He pulled on his best friendly smile and turned.

“- Mary ? Yes ?

- Sherlock ! I just need you to give you something.” She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a visit card. “You remember Janine ?

  Sherlock took the card with a raised eyebrow.

“- Janine ?

- My maid of honour. She kind of liked your … conversation ? She insisted I gave you her card.” She rolled her eyes in mock exasperation, making it pointedly clear that ‘insisted’ was a mild term for what had been happening backstage.

“- It’s an official business card. Bit weird of an approach, isn’t it ?

- Oh, she is quite pragmatic. She doubted you would contact her spontaneously, so she is trying to bait you by providing expertise. Her opinion is you always need to know someone in the newspaper, even if it is to get the latest gossips. And she just wants you to call, any reason is fine.

- Well. I got the card so your deed is done.

- Hopefully she won’t bugger me anymore. Bye bye now !”

  She looked very friendly and cheerful. Very … consistent. Either she had not picked up on anything worrisome from him or she was a very good actress. It was difficult to say at this point, but he would have to stay on his toes here.

  She went back inside, and he continued his way. He might as well make a detour by Molly’s lab to make good on his excuse. He had a few questions for her anyway. About Watson and Mary : how they had met, how they had gotten along. Molly had a way to know about this kind of things. He lighted his cigarette and turned the card pensively in-between his fingers. Now that he was thinking about it, he had never thought about questioning Molly about her time with ‘Jim-from-IT’. He had been vexed about Moriarty fooling him and had just ignored the situation at large. He was about to throw the card in the trash, but an ingrained reflex had him take a good look at it before. There was a private phone number scribbled on it, but the printing was still very visible.

 

Janine Hawkins.

P.A. of C.A. Magnussen

Press and media.

 

  Sherlock’s eyes and mouth went ‘oh’ as realisation kicked in. Sometimes, Reality and Chance had to team up to go slam the evidence in front of you. CA Magnussen. C.A.M. Perhaps it was worth giving the young lady a call in the end.

Chapter Text

  London trickled around the frozen shape of the uncaring detective. He was lost in a world of his own weaving threads into a coherent tapestry spelling Magnussen. Mary was an ex-mercenary, probably hiding from her past and every form of painful death or long-term sentence it would incur. She had assumed an inconspicuous identity, life and hopefully future. But despite her extensive precautions someone had busted her. Obviously, since she was the one to receive the text warning about both James and John unwilling participation to the Guy Fawkes Night’s festivities. If the text had only concerned John the conclusion could have been farfetched but Sherlock did not think Mary had been aware of the second skip code about James. She could have noticed and dissimulated the knowledge, but Sherlock had a feeling she was of an unwilling and unknowing participant dragged in for the ride. The question was : who was driving ? He twirled pensively the little business card in-between his fingers.

  Mary was perhaps an unwilling participant but not an idle one. She had felt the pressure mounting and had taken actions. Actions named Janine Hawkins. Personal assistant of C.A. Magnussen. Of course, a lot of people could have the initial C.A.M and send taunting telegrams to Mary on her wedding day about her family’s absence. A fairly fewer number would happen to be linked to the maid of honour, someone whom Mary had only known for a handful of months... A bit short a time to know someone for and ask them to be a witness at your wedding. Except of course if you happened to fortunately go along splendidly right away.

  She had cleverly secured a very good asset into Magnussen inner circle. A smile spread on Sherlock’s face. How kind of her to have left the door open behind her.

  He snapped a picture of the card and send it to James with a quick text.

What do you have on C.A. Magnussen ? -SH-

  Sherlock had been very vexed at the lack of progress on their mutual chase since the bonfire incident. He had hoped to impress the Criminal with his skills, racing to find leads before James did. But he had found next to nothing and had to rely on Mary, their only lead, making a misstep. His only comfort was that Moriarty had not fared any better. This piece of information changed everything, and Sherlock felt thrilled, the rush of the chase coursing through his veins once more.

  Lost in his own little world of reflexions, Sherlock had not noticed the black car pulling beside him before a feminine cough drew his attention back to the firm reality. Anthea was waiting by holding the car’s door open for him. She was smiling politely but pointedly for him to get in. He had been expecting this of course but it came a bit earlier than he would have guessed. Mycroft must be on a schedule. Right on cue, his brother’s voice made itself heard from within the car.

“- As relaxing it must be for you to have all day, I don’t. So please brother dear… Get. In. The. Car.” Each word had been clearly enunciated with an edge of tiredness to the voice. Mycroft temper would be short.

  There was no cutting it and Sherlock knew a lost battle when he saw one. He just bent to get in, seating across his brother in the elegant, cream leather seat. He knocked on the driver’s glass and said loud enough to be heard through the glass :

“- Saint Bart’s hospital !” Then he turned to his brother. “That must be the first time in ages you actually bother to show up with the car. What happened to the good old -you get me delivered wherever you want- routine ? Starting to get a taste for legwork ?

- I anticipated your reluctance to follow proper procedure and I was in no mood to have you chased through London.” Mycroft paused, his whole face turning into a frown. “I can see you’ve been using again.” He remarked, with a cold edge to his voice.

  Sherlock’s face crunched in annoyance. He knew there was no hiding his highs to his brother but being caught right away still grinded. Mycroft inference in Sherlock’s past habit was a sore point.

“- Please let me reassure you the dose was administered for medical reason. Not that it concerns you the least.

- Your wellbeing has always been a concern of mine Sherlock.”

  Sherlock was about to make a scalding retort on the line of ‘Piss off’ when his brain caught up with him. Mycroft’s tone had been clipped with annoyance at his younger brother snapping, but there had been a clear weariness and truth ill hidden behind the words. Mycroft truly cared. It hit Sherlock’s slowed down thought process like a brick. Sherlock had frozen with his mouth half open with the aborted retort and Mycroft was looking at him with an odd look.

 That would of course be the moment a very loud and cheerful notification chose to rang from Sherlock’s pocket. The one pocket where he put the golden phone Moriarty had given him. The bastard must have changed the notification alert when he was unconscious because this one was positively ridiculous. Mycroft gaze zeroed on said pocket, scolding. Sherlock froze and closed his eyes in a silent prayer, but the phone rang two, three more time before going silent. Jim was always fast in answering any text from Sherlock (-not that the detective texted him often-). Sherlock could have done with a little delay this time. Mycroft was looking pointedly at him, undoubtedly deciphering the pretty obvious clues from his younger brother feature and reluctance to get the phone out of his pocket and make a display of it.

“- Is there any point in me asking ?” Mycroft finally sighted after an awkward silent of proper length.

"- I’d wager not really.” Sherlock went for a casual dismissal of the problem, hoping to ease Mycroft away from this line of questioning. He had always had a knack to woo Mycroft’s worries when he put some efforts into it.

“- I’m going to have to, really. Why do you cover for Moriarty ?

- I am not exactly covering for him. We’ve just happened to meet two or three times.

- You could have given us his whereabout. He could be under lock and key right now.”

  Something caught in the fabric of the conversation. An oddity. Mycroft had known that Sherlock was with Moriarty, but he had no idea where they had been positioned. It did not fit Mycroft usual trademark : if he got sight of something, losing him was night impossible. Something was off and Sherlock needed to find what.

“- You don’t know of Moriarty’s whereabouts ?

- Well obviously or we would not been having this conversation.

- Then how would you know Moriarty had picked me up, but not where he had taken me ? I know how you network works…  If you had caught us on camera you ought to have been able to follow. The catch is to not be caught on camera to begin with. I know something of it.”

  Mycroft shifted uncomfortably under Sherlock puzzled gaze, feeling pinned as a butterfly. Oh, Mycroft was, on a very no-nonsense basis, the bright one. But Sherlock had a knack to latch onto the ill-fitting truths, the dissonances in the scheme. That would have made him a terrific scientist but was serving him very well as a detective.

  Filling Sherlock in about the entire situation, about Magnussen tentative at blackmail through Sherlock errors, could not end well. The blackmail that had loomed as a threat in the background for some time had taken a serious turn this morning when a copy of two photographs had been delivered to his desk, unmarked. Sherlock and Moriarty, together, at what was clearly Watson’s reception. As much as he wanted to have Sherlock feel the gravity of his carelessness, informing him of the details and the consequences of the pictures would end sourly. Sherlock would want to launch a personal vendetta against Magnussen for using him and would only get out of the fight broken. Men like Magnussen were a plague, more akin to a natural disaster than the flesh opponent Sherlock was used to. You needed to compromise and contain, avoid giving them the upper hand at all cost. There was no winning with Magnussen, only a downward descent in hell of your own making. Because you were not fighting Magnussen, you were fighting yourself and your own past errors, watching back at you behind polished glasses and an insufferable smile.

  Sherlock would find there was no way out but to bend the knee and how he would react was for anyone to guess. Well, according to Sherlock recent pattern, Mycroft had an idea how he would react, but he avoided contemplating it too much. Jailing Sherlock would break Mycroft’s heart. This is not what he wants. Not for Sherlock. But on the other hand, blunt refusal and dissimulation would only upset Sherlock and encourage him to sink his teeth into what he would perceive as a mystery and Mycroft really wanted to avoid that. The way out was to give a measured amount of truth to pacify him. Mycroft had to remember there was no possibly way that Sherlock knew about Magnussen threat and thus would probably not give it too much of a thought.

“- Let’s say I got reliable information from another source.” Sherlock did not move a muscle and Mycroft made a show to sight at his brother stubbornness. “It happens someone photographed you and Moriarty together last night. Very careless of you I have to say. You can’t walk around being seen in the company of a dead world class criminal. People would talk.”

  Sherlock scoffed at Mycroft clumsy attempt at a reproach on a subject he was clearly trying to avoid discussing too much. This was out of pattern for him. He was hiding something big, but insisting would only have his brother tighten access to any information. If Mycroft wanted to dissimulate things, better let it slip and find his way to the stash later. Pictures then. He was starting to see a pattern here.

“- I won’t take any blame for this, I was probably unconscious at this point.” He answered in casual banter.

  Mycroft’s eyes snapped up in confusion and concern.

“- What do you mean unconscious ?

- Something has happened yesterday while I was chasing the wannabe murderer at John’s wedding.” It was time to go for this brotherly concern to woo Mycroft to his side and lower his guard. “Something kind of kicked a gear ? Got some big chunks of my memory back in place.” Better stay vague here, his memory was a good jocker when he wanted to be disagreeable and left alone. “It was not pleasant, and I passed out on the lawn. From what I could gather, Moriarty was just passing by for a bit of harmless taunting and found me twitching in the mud.”

  Sherlock had been expecting a wide range of reaction from his brother with this revelation. But a flash of genuine panic was not it. Should he not be relieved ? It was quickly concealed, and he decided not to point it out. Something more to investigate later.

“- All of your memory ?

- Hard to tell.” Sherlock answered with a dismissive gesture. “I have access to a lot more than before, but that was close to nothing so… Everything is a bit of a tangled mess. I need time to sort it out.”

  There was a knock at the window and Anthea gestured they would be at their destination under two minutes. Sherlock’s eyebrow raised up in surprise.

“- You really took me to St Bart’s ? How nice of you to drop me off.

- Yes, Miss Hooper got instruction to get you through a drug test routine. She is a very thorough young woman.”

  At this Sherlock’s thoughts soured considerably. His irritation bubbled way too fast to be natural.

“- Don’t push me Mycroft.

- Don’t be overdramatic and wrap yourself up. There is an East wind coming.”

  Sherlock found himself dumbfounded by his brother answer. But Anthea opening the door for him just ended the situation before he could give it his full attention.

“- I am not a child anymore Mycroft.” He grumbled, getting out of the car.

  Mycroft gave his brother a good, calculating look before judging that everything was under control. Everything was still under control. 

 

_________________________________________________________

 

   Sherlock really did not want to go through the drug test. All he needed was to distract Molly enough. Flashes of her laughing uncontrollably at Sherlock’s embarrassment about his forgotten relationship with Watson flashed in his mind. A mischievous smile tugged at his lips. Time for a little righteous vengeance !

Chapter Text

~A few weeks later ~

  Everything was going smoothly so far. Sherlock had planned for a bit of gloating at this point, confident John would be as flabbergasted as in the good old days at his peculiar brand of genius. And with good reason ! He really had outdone himself with this infiltration : with just a few hours of preparation and a trinket ring he had wormed his way into one of the most secure place in London. But in the close quarters of the glass elevator, John was radiating nothing but disapproval. The rebuke hit Sherlock’s pride hard and he set for ignoring the taut lines of John’s face accusing him from every polished surface of the glass cage. 

  Sherlock had needed to get access to Magnussen office. There were valuable documents there, documents he needed to deprive Magnussen off in order to continue undermining the man. Finding a way into Magnussen inner sanctum had proven … challenging. According to a dejected Moriarty, the physical and cyber security of the building was ‘adequate’ allowing for no real or hacked backdoor into the office. That is when Sherlock had smiled from ear to ear and gone into full ‘watch me’ mode.

  Jim had loved Sherlock’s plan. It had set fire to his eyes and soul, sending him into a working and planning frenzy of their next few steps in bringing Magnussen down. Shame that John did not seem to appreciate his ploy. Proposing to Janine. It had been easy : as soon as Sherlock had flashed the ring in front of the camera, adorning his best puppy eyes, Janine had bypassed the security and unlocked the elevator for him. She had been very silly by any standard, but Sherlock was well used to this kind of un-logical behaviour from people. It was not, and by far, the first time he had taken advantage of the human error factor to gain access to ‘restricted’ areas and materials. Whatever the security, wherever there are people there is always a weak spot to exploit.

“- What are you going to do ?”  John ended up asking, half- disappointed, half-hoping Sherlock had a plan to manage Janine’s feeling.

“- Well, not actually marry her, obviously.” He answered carefully. John was with him for the night at this point, so he had better go easy on him. “There is only so far you can go.” He half-joked.

  But why would John be so upset anyway ? It was not like Janine was either innocent or nice. She was a manipulative, interested and greedy woman. Surely marital bliss could not have drowned his judgment that deep he was not discerning his wife ‘friends’ were not of desirable company ?

“- So what will you tell her ?” John asked, his feature a mix of disheartened anger and outrage.

“- Well, I’ll tell her that our entire relationship was a ruse to break into her boss’s office. I imagine she’ll want to stop seeing me at this point but you’re the expert on women.” He quipped, trying not to be cross.

  He was saved from the interrogatory turning sour by the quiet opening of the elevator’s door, allowing them into the fortress that was Magnussen office and into action. He put on his best lightheaded smile, usually harboured by the excited and blissful couples and braced for the impact of Janine’s joyful embrace. He could hear John of his heals, following closely, but no other sound in the muffled quietness of the office. His smile fell immediately. Something was off.

“- So, where did she go ?” Asked John quietly.

“- It’s a bit rude I just proposed to her.” Sherlock replied, a tad vexed by Janine lack of effusive response. He had been lying all along, but it had been convincing lies he deserved a better welcome for his performance.

  He looked around, scanning quickly the dimly lighted room. He noticed the body lying on the carpeted floor right as John called his attention to it.

“- Did she faint ? Do they really do that ?

  Janine and a security guard. Both down and disabled by a blow to the head. According to the temperature of the desk chair, Magnussen had surprisingly not left for his planned business dinner yet. But if that was the case and her boss was still in, how could Janine have taken the risk to allow them up ? Janine had a lot of faults, but she was clever in a social kind of way and would not have endangered her position as Magnussen PA for whatever reason.

“- We should call the police.” Stated John, proceeding to take his phone out.

“- During our own burglary ?? You’re really not a natural at this, are you ?”

  Being with Jim would be so much better. The thought imposed itself briefly before being scornfully dismissed. This was not even about John or Jim or his past and recent self. This was just a stupide stray thought. Of course, he could not have pulled this with Jim. Way too dangerous, and there was soooo many ways it could have gone wrong he was not even going to start a list. The reason he had dragged John was because he had fancied this as a ‘get back together party’ with his old roomate. As far as their ‘adventures’ together had gone, this one was on another level altogether. Things had turned nasty once or twice in the past, but this one had asked for planning. This was Sherlock crafting a plan out of scrap, something John had not seen a lot of but for the Baskerville infiltration. He had hoped to blow John’s mind once again. It had gone poorly. But he was dealt a new hand now that things were getting awry so this could still work out for the best. He got a whiff of a perfume lingering in the air and his thought were pulled back to the festivities themselves.

“- Claire-de-la-Lune.

- That’s Mary’s perfume.” Interjected John from his low position as he was taking care of Janine.

  Oh. Mary’s perfume. Looks like things got a bit more tangled than he expected.

  A faint crashing sound came from upstairs. Sherlock’s head snapped up and he dashed for it ignoring the muffled protests from John. Sherlock climbed the clinically elegant stairs to the upper level of the office two by two and silently glided along the corridor following the panicked and sobbing voice of Magnussen. He got a glimpse of a wide bedroom with an open view on the side.

“- He … Your lovely husband. He’s honourable. What would he say to you now ?”

  He was on his knees, in front of a feminine figure clad in black. A lock of blond hair had made it out of the bobble hat.

  Mary charged her gun and took aim at Magnussen again. Sherlock had to think fast. On the one hand a dead Magnussen simplified a lot of things. He was but a dead man walking anyway. On the other hand, he was not looking for ‘simple’. Once killed, his and Moriarty association would have to come to an end. No more easy excuses, and the elephant in the room would have to be addressed. Sherlock was not eager for this moment to be brutally moved forward. Plus, it would piss Jim that someone else got the kill shot on Magnussen. He was eager to get his hand on the man even if he was patient enough to see him broken first. Nah, letting Mary deal with Magnussen would kill all the fun.

  In front of him the scene had barely moved. Seeing Magnussen grovel on his knees had a certain charm. A feeling of satisfaction at least. It hit Sherlock that Magnussen must be out of touch with reality, up here in his glass tower, to go and pick fights with people like Mary and Moriarty. He was himself used to be underestimated, to people believing him a tamed beast, and played it at his advantage well enough. But Mary and Moriarty… a trained agent and ruthless assassin, and a criminal mastermind with a patience thin as cigarette paper. What was Magnussen expecting with but his PA and a body guard to protect him ? Sherlock silently snapped a picture of the scene and sent it to James, both an update on the job and to share the delightful sight.

You ought to hear his whimpering -SH-

I do, I have access to the phone’s mic. Careful with the girl, she is good. -JM-

I really must check this phone. -SH-

  In the background the one-way conversation continued. He pocketed the phone taking care to orient the mic toward the room and not against his body.

“- You’re doing this to protect him from the truth ? What is this obsession here with honesty ?

- Additionally, if you are going to commit murder you might consider changing your perfume, Mary.” He spoke from the shadows.

  He had stayed under the cover of the corner, for he was pretty sure Mary would not hesitate to shoot him for being in her way.  She pivoted on her heels, searching the shadows with the barrel of her gun, only to locate Sherlock out of shooting line. The gun went back to Magnussen’s face, but she kept her bust facing toward Sherlock.

“- Sherlock ! Fancy seeing you here.” She squinted. “Is John with you ?

- He’s downstairs, taking care of Janine.” She made kind of a solemn approving face and node. He continued. “Bad timing really. We ought to have compared our agendas before both breaking in on the same night and at the same moment.” He declared, hoping Mary would not get the wrong ideas about his presence here. Their meeting really was but an awkward coincidence.

  “- What is it you want Sherlock.” She answered curtly. She was tensed in a very professional way. Her weapon steady and no twitchy finger. Good. Negotiations were open.

“- Whatever he’s got on you Mary, let me help.”

  She snorted.

“- Why would I ?

- Because you don’t have a choice.”

  She just looked at him with her tightly controlled expression. Time to play his cards right. He still had his doubts concerning her attachment to John Watson, but signs pointed she had a genuine affection for the man. It was little better than a 50/50 chance. But his instincts told him to go for it, that Mary was not faking her commitment.

“- If you kill Magnussen, you’ll have to kill me to make sure I don’t talk. But if you do that John, who is downstairs, will be left the only suspect. Since you are a capable agent and by lack of another suspect he will be condemned for the double murder.

- If I let you live …

- It depends on wherever you kill Magnussen. We kind of took the highway up here and our faces is bound to have been recorded somewhere.”

  She scolded at him and mouthed silently : -How did you manage ?-  

“- It means of course, that I would be keeping John company in his sentence.” He finished with a weak smile.

“- So you are asking me to just trust you to handle this one ?” She inclined her head toward the still kneeled form of Magnussen. “Really Sherlock ?”

  Magnussen was keeping wisely silent and was looking at Sherlock with an intense calculating look. He had instantly relaxed as soon as Sherlock had revealed his presence, making an unconscious show of his overconfidence. Magnussen is a man who believes he can get away with anything, because he is always a move forward. It is ingrained in his subconscious and Sherlock hoped this would not rill Mary up into taking the shot to prove a point.

“- Oh ‘trust’ is a big world Mary. But time is ticking, and John stay idle downstairs forever. And this is really your best option.”

  She gave him a last hard look, before turning to Magnussen and brutally knock him out with the butt of her gun. She threw the gun on the floor next to the window.

“- Show yourself Sherlock. I want to see your face.”

  He pondered the request. From his earlier glimpse she had no other ranged weapon. He straightened the collar of his coat and turned the corner, to face Mary. Keeping the distance between them.

“- You don’t tell John.” She asserted.

  Sherlock raised an inquisitive brow at the request.

“- John can’t ever know that I lied to him.” She insisted. “I would lose him then. Understand there is nothing in the world I would not do to stop that happening.”  

  How right he had been. The ex-CIA agent had not married John Watson just to perfect her cover. She had gotten involved. She had married a man for love and that love bind her now, when everything threatened to send her back to a hell of her own making. Sentiment. The crack in the lens, the fly in the ointment echoed Mycroft voice in his thoughts. Sherlock returned her gaze with equal intensity, his smile in-between smug and predatory.

“- Oh come on Mary, I have not told him until now and I won’t without a good reason. All I care for is John safety. So long as you do not endanger him, I have no reason to go against you Mrs Watson.”

  His older self-begged to differ, that John needed to know the truth about his wife, that Sherlock owed him honesty. He was quickly shushed on the common-sense basis that wherever Sherlock would keep his promise or not could be debated later and as for now the priority was to get rid of Mary.

  At this moment footsteps echoed from the staircase and Mary’s eyes widened. Sherlock just had the time to gesture her franticly to go before she turned her heels and made for the window, snatching her gun from the floor in a swift movement. She was out before John was even up the stairs.

  Sherlock needed a bit of time alone with Magnussen. They needed to have a chat away from the righteous ears of John… He walked to the unconscious man and started to pretend to assess his injury while discreetly making his pockets or any valuable.

“- What happened here ?” Asked John as soon as he entered the office and saw Magnussen sprawled on the floor and Sherlock tending to the man.

  Show time.

“- He took a blow to the head. I just found him like this.” Answered Sherlock with a taught voice. He raised his eyes to lock gaze with John, conveying a tense purpose. “The intruder must have heard me coming ! Since he abandoned his target without a fight he is going to try and flee the way he came…”

  John looked behind him, compiling what Sherlock remark meant.

“- The balcony !” He huffed.

“- We need to secure the windows and the elevator too, prevent him from escaping.” Continued Sherlock, still making a show of examining Magnussen and instilling a lilt of panic in his voice. This ought to be enough to …

“- You stay here to make sure he is alright.” And John dashed out.

  Enough to make sure John’s frustration would send him running. He was in it for the adrenaline rush and trailing behind Sherlock to take care of every wounded was bound to feel frustrating. Beside John apparently did not care much about Magnussen being wounded after the incident in Baker Street. He was still riled up at Magnussen quite literal show of dominance back there.

  Sherlock dropped pretence as soon as John was out of the room and started to rummage around before Magnussen woke up. This was just a bedroom, luxurious but bare of anything personal. Still, he found that the man wallet, satchel and vest were here. He made a little triumphant sound when the coat pocket yielded the document incriminating Lady Smallwood’s husband. He carefully folded the documents in his inner coat pocket. Another of Magnussen scheme foiled.

  This was their game. Turning around Magnussen, letting him build his blackmail only to foil them at the right moment. Buzzing around him like flies, pestering him. It was only part one though. To get him riled up and to crack the shell of invincibility while keeping up the illusion they were but a harmless nuisance. Part two was to drive his face in the mud and ruin his perfectly put up little reality. And for that he needed to step up the stakes.

  Magnussen started to shift on the floor and Sherlock took the opportunity to enjoy the truly magnificent view as the man gathered his thoughts. Granting him a little time to let what had just happened sink in, as he committed to memory the sight of his beloved city at night from a hawk nest. Then he attacked.

“- I want to see Appledoor.”