John supposed he really should have expected the knife.
Sherlock and he were running, chasing after a serial killer. David Brannigan, who Sherlock had only worked out the identity of a few hours ago, had killed four people so far. Brannigan was a janitor in some large law firm, picking off all the upper executives who had treated him badly.
John and Sherlock had camped out in the dark alley for over an hour, waiting for Brannigan to dump the latest murder weapon. Brannigan used a different knife each time, probably thinking he was clever—Sherlock had snorted at that. The different knives had given away where Brannigan had bought them, and one look at the security tapes showed who the murderer was.
Now, instead of notifying the police like any sane person would do, Sherlock had them crouched in a cramped skip, waiting for Brannigan to show. Sherlock was sure this was the place he would choose.
At the 72 minute mark, they finally heard the soft sound of footfalls at the opening of the alley. Sherlock froze, and John mirrored his actions, both silently waiting.
John looked to Sherlock and mouthed, ‘Is it him?’
Sherlock slowly poked his head out from around the bins they were hiding behind, only to connect eyes with a certain murderer.
Brannigan eyes widened a fraction when he saw them and he bolted, sprinting down the alleyways. He knocked over bins and boxes, attempting to slow the detective and blogger down.
Sherlock easily vaulted over the obstacles, John right on his tail. Blood pumped through John's veins, his breath rushing in and out of his lungs. His muscles were on fire but soothed by adrenaline. He loved this. Loved the rush and danger that came with living with Sherlock.
The man was brilliant, all cheekbones and dark curls—with a sharp mind and tongue to match. John had to admit that he was just as addicted to the man himself as he was to the lifestyle. Sherlock had made him whole again—a broken soldier returning from war, trying to adapt to civilian life.
They twisted and turned down dark alleys, the back of Sherlock’s coat brushing John’s thighs. Sherlock suddenly deviated left, hoping to cut the man off, and John followed without hesitation.
It was interesting, to John, how much he trusted Sherlock. The man came barrelling into John’s life—became the centre of John’s life—in such a short period of time. Hell, John killed for the man under twenty-four hours of meeting him.
Sherlock did eventually catch up to Brannigan, jumping off of a balcony and landing in front of him.
Obviously Sherlock had underestimated what Brannigan would do if under duress. The man panicked, drawing a knife out of his pocket and trying to plunge it into Sherlock’s diaphragm. Sherlock twisted at the last moment, and the knife slipped into his side.
Sherlock’s pained gasp alerted John, and the doctor couldn’t remember ever moving as fast as he did in those few seconds. Before Brannigan could get the knife in again, John was there and twisting the man’s arm until it broke. The knife was wrenched from his hand and kicked across the alley.
John stop to didn’t think, working purely on instinct. He slammed the heel of his boot into the side of Brannigan’s knee, snapping the joint inward. There was a sickening crunch and the man bellowed.
John left him for the moment, rushing over to Sherlock. Sherlock’s eyes were closed tightly, his breathing erratic. John ripped away Sherlock’s shirt to get a good look at the wound, and sighed in relief. The knife had slipped between the eighth and ninth rib, missing his lungs and most things important. Still, the blood loss was something to be cautious about.
He pulled his mobile out of his pocket, dialling 999. “Emergency. Which service do you require?”
“Ambulance,” John said quickly, rattling off their location. The operator tried to ask more questions, but John tossed the phone away.
“Sherlock?” he said, slapping his friend’s cheek lightly. He only got a pained groan in response. John pulled off his jumper, pressing it tightly to the wound. He internally winced. That was his favourite jumper.
“John?” Sherlock said feebly. His eyes couldn’t seem to focus, glazed over in pain.
John smiled. “There you are. You’re doing fine. The ambulance is on its way, alright?”
Sherlock nodded, but John doubted the detective heard a word he said. The man seemed mostly out of it, shock taking over his body. John gently manipulated his body into the best position, lifting Sherlock’s hand to keep pressure on the jumper.
He turned to glare menacingly at the man still whimpering on the asphalt a few feet from them. Once he was sure Sherlock wouldn’t bleed out, he strode over to Brannigan, fingers twitching with the want—the need—to inflict pain on this man. His eyes scanned Brannigan over looking for the perfect place.
John lifted his boot, stomping down on the man’s clavicle. The doctor felt the bone give way and smiled at the resounding howl the man let out. After second thought, John leaned down and jammed his fingers into the hollow of the man’s throat, bruising the larynx. Brannigan wouldn’t be doing much speaking for a while.
Eyeing the dumpster a few metres away, John dragged the man by his broken arm, hauling him up and throwing him inside. It was mostly empty, and only a pained wheeze escaped the man as his body hit the cold metal.
John took a moment to simply look at the man, feeling a perverse satisfaction that he hadn’t experienced in a long time. Brannigan’s leg was bent at a horrid angle, and his hand looked almost as if it was on backwards. It would have to be good enough for now.
John calmly walked back to Sherlock, patiently waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
James Bond was rarely surprised. It came with the job. He had a natural ability to adapt to situations, which came in handy in the field.
So it was a true accomplishment, really, that his Quartermaster continued to surprise him. Yesterday, he found Q playing a complex version of pat-a-cake with the wall (it helps him think), and the day before that he caught Q digging into a secret stash of liquorice.
Bond knocked on Q’s door, wondering what he’d find today.
Q’s voice was brisk. “Enter.”
Bond walked in, eyeing the room. There were no burnt marks on the walls, nor bullet holes, which slightly disappointed him. He would love to see Q shoot.
Instead, he found Q pacing his office, muttering under his breath. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
“Q?” Bond asked.
Q glanced at him, pausing for a moment, before continuing. “Yes, hello, 007. If you’re here to return your equipment, please place it on my desk. How was Peru?”
Bond frowned. “The assignment in Peru was a week ago. I gave you my equipment right after.”
“Of course. Silly me. Apologies.”
“Are you alright?”
Q sighed, holding a hand up to his head. “I apologise for my inability to concentrate, today. It’s unprofessional.”
Q’s mobile pinged, and he dashed over to his desk to pick it up. His shoulders visibly sagged, and he let out a puff of relief.
“My idiot brother is in the hospital. He managed to get himself stabbed. He’s just got out of surgery.”
Bond’s surprised blink didn’t go unnoticed. Q’s lips quirked. “What? Did you think of it impossible for me to have a life outside of Q-Branch?”
Recovering, Bond shrugged. “It wouldn’t surprise me.” Ignoring Q’s indignant squawk, he asked, “Why don’t you go visit him?”
“I can’t afford to leave right now.”
Bond looked around the room once again, looking for whatever it was that was so important. He saw nothing. “Do you have any pressing missions in progress right now?”
Q shook his head. “But—”
“Is anything going to explode in the next hour unless you personally attend to it?”
“Then I hardly think England would fall if you were to take a small break. It’s not like you were getting much done in the first place.”
Q shifted awkwardly, wringing his hands. “M won’t let me go without protection detail.”
Bond opened his arms slightly, gesturing to himself. “I’m here, aren’t I? Let me come.”
Q hesitated, biting his lip. “Are you sure?”
“Okay, then,” he nodded. “Let me just notify R.”
Bond wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting as they walked down the halls of St. Barts. So Q had a brother—who apparently got stabbed by his own fault?
He idly wondered what Q’s brother would look like. Would they look similar, or completely different? Bond would bet anything that he acted just as posh as Q.
Q finally stopped at a closed door, taking a deep breath. He raised his hand to knock, when an annoyed voice croaked from inside, “Just come in already, Quentin.”
Rolling his eyes, Q opened the door and stepped inside. “You never change, do you?” he asked, smiling fondly.
On the hospital bed, Sherlock sniffed. “Why would I change? I am perfectly fine the way I am, thank you.”
Bond waited just outside the door, unsure if Q wanted him to intrude on his family. He shifted, waiting.
There was a sigh from in the room. “Quentin, tell your agent to come inside as well. His thinking is so loud I can hear it from in here.”
“Come in, Bond,” Q called. Steeling himself, Bond turned the corner and walked into the hospital room. He blinked at what he saw.
Lying on the bed was a near perfect replica of Q. The man was slightly older, but had the same dark curls and piercing eyes.
But that wasn’t what surprised him.
Because there, sitting unassumingly in the small hospital chair next to the bed, was the last person Bond expected to see.
John ruddy Watson was three steps from him, wearing a blooded oatmeal-coloured jumper; the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
John looked up at him, eyes widening fractionally, before he schooled his expression and shook his head ever-so-slightly. The message was clear. Don’t. Do not give me away.
Bond blinked once in surprise, before reminding himself to carry on as normal. He glanced at Q and his brother to see if they had noticed, but the pair was absorbed in talking to one another. Discretely, Bond threw a wink at John, causing the younger man’s lips to twitch.
Q stepped up to Sherlock, brushing the hair away from his forehead to kiss it. Sherlock grimaced, lifting a lazy hand to wave him away. “Let’s not do acts of affection. Your breath smells like liquorice.”
Q frowned, holding a hand up to him mouth to smell his own breath. “No, it doesn’t.”
Sherlock opened his mouth to retort, but John cut him off before he could. “Quentin, it’s nice to see you again.” John stood, holding out his hand.
Q smiled, shaking his hand. “John, you are a breath of fresh air. Oh,” he gestured to James. “John, Sherlock, this is my colleague, James. James, this is my brother, Sherlock, and his flatmate, John.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” James said, stepping forward. He shook John’s hand, and then held a hand out to Sherlock, which was ignored.
Now closer, James could see the tell-tale glaze over Sherlock’s eyes. He glanced and saw the morphine tap was set to it’s highest setting—enough to knock out a horse. This Sherlock was a former drug user, then.
Even drugged, Sherlock found a way to look down his nose at James.
“Sherlock,” Q warned, “Play nice.”
“I’m always nice,” Sherlock muttered, but kept his hands pointedly in his lap. Q sent James an apologetic look.
Q sat in the other chair, while James remained standing at the foot of the bed. “What happened?” Q asked.
Sherlock snarked, “Like you didn’t hack the records.” Q stuck his tongue out.
John sighed. “Sherlock ran after a serial killer.” He rolled his eyes, “Who then tried to kill him.”
“I’m fine.” Sherlock sniffed.
Q’s eyes narrowed. “And where is this man now?”
John shrugged. “I was a bit occupied with making sure Sherlock didn’t bleed out. He got away.”
James was the only one to see the slight twitch in John’s fingers on his left hand; his tell. John was a wonderful liar, except for that small twitch. Whenever John and James used to play poker, John would have to sit on his left hand and play one handed.
James hid a smirk. So the killer hadn’t gotten away. James knew John was a force to be reckoned with when he was defending one of his friends.
Sherlock rattled on, “Brannigan most likely won’t try to leave the country—he’s paranoid about government buildings. Chances are he’s staying with an old friend or distant family member, under the guise of being kicked out of his flat.”
James coughed. “I’m going to get a cup of coffee. Q, would you like some tea?” Q nodded, smiling gratefully.
Sherlock turned to his blogger. “John, fetch me some tea.”
John rolled his eyes. “Yes, your majesty.” He rose from the chair ungracefully, a skill he had perfected over time. After all, the average doctor couldn’t cross a room without making a sound.
John left with James, and the pair waited until they were well out of earshot to turn to each other and grin.
"You bastard," John said.
"Me? You know, when I told you to get into trouble, this is not what I meant."
John laughed, "You can’t be choosy about what kind of trouble I get in.”
Glancing around inconspicuously, James asked softly, "So where is the killer, actually?"
John reached a hand up to rub the back of his neck. "I left him in a dumpster just a ways down the skip he attacked us in."
John nodded, though James would bet anything that he wouldn't stay that way for long. "I was going to go back for him once Sherlock fell asleep."
James laughed loudly, "Sly little shit.”
“It’s my fault, though,” John said. He looked pained. “I wasn’t paying enough attention. I should have known.”
James sighed. “You haven't changed one bit. Always blaming yourself." He nudged John with his elbow. “You did what you could. And the bastard won’t be a problem for much longer.”
"And what about you? I can't believe you're even still alive. Did you ever get promoted?"
James nodded, "Yes, about a month or two after you… resigned."
John whistled, grinning. "James Bond, a Double-O." The opened the door to the stairwell, deciding to walk down. "How do you know Sherlock's brother?"
"Oh, he's the new Q."
John nearly tripped in surprise. "No!" James nodded. "He's so young!" John's grin faltered. "What happened to Boothroyd?"
"He died in the explosion half a year ago."
"Oh. Shame. And M?"
James only shook his head. "Just soon after."
They quieted as they neared the shop downstairs, John and James getting coffee for themselves and grabbing a tea for their Holmeses.
They walk back was spent briefly catching up, with promises to get together later.
Finally, about fifty feet from Sherlock’s door, James and John simultaneously slipped into their roles; John the innocent doctor, James the protective bodyguard.
They entered the room, slipping in mostly unnoticed by the brothers, who were already arguing about something John couldn’t be bothered to follow. John handed Sherlock his tea, as James did Q, and then the dark haired geniuses were sipping at the hot drinks instead of tearing at one another’s throats.
The group lounged around for a while, making idle conversation. Q pulled out a laptop from his bag, probably making sure World War III didn’t begin. James grabbed a magazine, though John was 99% sure he wasn’t paying attention to it at all.
Sherlock seemed lost in his mind palace, hand pressed together and resting against his lips in this signature thinking pose.
John, he was watching Sherlock. He had come close to losing him today. John had failed to look after Sherlock, and look where that had gotten them. John sighed. It didn’t matter now; the man responsible for this would be taken care of soon.
John noticed Sherlock’s blinks getting gradually longer, the drugs slowly pulling him under. Eventually, the detective’s head slouched back into the hospital pillow, his breathing slow and steady.
James caught his eye from across the room, and nodded slightly. He reached out to touch Q’s arm slightly, bringing him back from the technical world. Q blinked slowly, before finally realising where he was. He glanced across the room to see his brother asleep, and smiled softly.
James whispered, “We better get going.”
Q nodded, quietly closing his laptop and tucking it away. He and James stood, while John remained seated, one hand closed around Sherlock’s.
John reached his free hand out to shake Q’s. “It was good seeing you again, Quentin. Sherlock won’t admit it, but he appreciated you coming to see him.”
Q smiled. “You too, John. And thank you.” He walked to the door.
James reached a hand out as well, and John took it with a smile. “Nice to meet you, James,” John said, a twinkle in his eye.
“Pleasure’s mine,” James said, smoothly slipping something cool and metal from his hand into the sleeve of John’s oversized jumper.
John waited until he was certain James and Q were out of the building before he peeked at what James had gifted him with.
A small knife rested in his hand, now warmed from his body heat, beautifully sharp.
Back at Q-Branch, Q plopped ungracefully into his chair. He tiredly rubbed at his eyes, sighing.
Bond, who had followed Q, came to rest a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “What is it?”
“I worry about him, Bond.”
“Yes. He hasn’t an ounce of self preservation in his body. I’m just—” Q cut himself off, sighing. “I’m just afraid one day, he’ll take it too far.”
Trying to be comforting, Bond began rubbing at Q’s shoulders. “Look,” he soothed, “don’t worry about him so much. Your brother lucked out on the flatmate lottery.”
Bond smiled. “Well, when someone happens to have an assassin looking out after them, they tend to be quite safe. John blames himself for not seeing the knife sooner.”
“John,” Q repeated, dubious. Bond nodded absentmindedly, walking over to the coffee maker Q had in the corner of his office. Q blurted, “What?!”
Bond turned, frowning. He saw the look of astonishment on Q’s face.
Q began to rant, “John. John is an assassin? How?”
Bond’s eyes widened. “I thought you knew.”
“Knew! Apparently, I don’t know anything.” Q began to pace, and Bond sighed. Q spun to him, “Are you sure? Are you completely sure?”
Bond deadpanned, “He got tortured for me. I think I’m sure.”
Q tugged at his hair. It reminded Bond of a child’s temper tantrum. “But I met him. He was perfectly normal!”
“He’s an excellent actor.”
“How is this possible?” Q asked. “I read his file cover to cover. Mycroft did a background check! Mycroft knows everything.”
Bond tried to calm him down. “Look, I don’t know who Mycough is, but don’t fault yourself for not knowing. It’s not in his file. Well, his public file. Officially, he served in Afghanistan for fifteen years. Unofficially…”
“There would have been a trace,” Q countered. “No records are completely hidden. Someone would have found out.”
“His true file has been secured by the best programmer in the world.”
Q turned and immediately snapped, “I am the best!”
Modesty was not a Holmes strong point. Holding back a smile, Bond soothed, “Exactly.”
Q opened his mouth to retort, but froze. “John was MI6?” he breathed.
Bond nodded. “That’s probably why this Microsoft person didn’t find out. You always say that your encryptions are impenetrable.”
Q was silent, musing. He walked slowly to his computer. This time, he pulled up a catalogue of present and former employees. “Did he at least go by a different name?”
Bond shook his head. “Nope. Same name.”
Q typed, his fingers flying but his mind sluggish.
Search: John Watson.
The screen flashed for a few seconds, before Q was given a screen he designed himself.
Query: John Watson.
One result found.
Clearance Level Required: Grade 10, Ultra.
Please enter security clearance password.
Ultra clearance level? John must have been someone important, then.
Q quickly typed in the password, and John’s (rather long and impressive) file popped up on the screen. John’s file picture was obviously taken when he was quite a bit younger, but there was no doubt it was the same man.
Agent John H. Watson
Code Name: ░░░░░░░
Joined: April 2002
Retired: August 2009 Grounds: ░░░░░░░░░░░░░
Subject has ░░░░░ and shown the ability to ░░░░░░░░░░░░░ with ░░░░░░░░. Prior work in ░░░░ has allowed Agent ░░░░░░░ to ░░░░░. Subject shows signs of ░░░░░░░░░ and ░░░░░░░░ with suggestion of childhood trauma. Only living relative is ░░░ ░░░░░. No ░░░░░░ tendencies, with ░░░░░░░.
Q frowned at the redacted information. A quick press of a few keys fixed that.
Then, with hungry eyes, Q began to scroll through the file.
Oh. Oh. This was wonderful. This was absolutely wonderful. Who knew John was hiding so much history under his cuddly personality?
Bond came to stand behind Q. John’s file was nearly as long as his own. “I do ask, please, don’t tell anyone. This is John’s past, he’ll share it with Sherlock when he’s ready.”
“Oh, no,” Q said. “I don’t plan on saying a word.” He turned to shoot Bond a grin. “For once, I know something that neither of my brothers know. This is brilliant.”
He continued to scroll. “John was considered for Double-O status?” he asked, shocked.
Bond nodded. “We both were, at the time. The last mission we went on together was something of a test assignment for the both of us. We promised that we wouldn’t let the competition get between us.”
“Did he get angry when you were given the position?”
“He didn’t know for sure until just today, but no, he wasn’t angry. He looked happy for me.”
Then why did he leave? Q went to the end of the file. He frowned, “It says here he was declared no longer fit for fieldwork?” Attached to the final mission report were two video files. Q wanted desperately to watch them, but he had the mind to wait until Bond had left.
Bond sighed. “It’s not my story to tell, but essentially, yes. After that mission, John was sent home.”
Once he saw that Sherlock was deep asleep, John slipped out of the hospital, carefully avoiding all of the CCTV cameras. There was no need for Mycroft to be alerted.
He made his way back to the alley, easily ducking under the crime scene tape. There wasn't an officer on guard; all the evidence needed had already been collected. It was still sectioned off, waiting for the cleanup team to come and fix the dark red spot on the ground.
John slipped the knife that James had given him out of his pocket. It was time to finish what he had started.
Medical training came in handy for more than just fixing people, after all.
John didn't start out like this.
He wanted to help people. The body fascinated him, and he wanted to save lives.
John didn't come from a rich family, of course. Mrs. Watson died giving birth to John, something his dad had never quite forgiven him for. John had to watch his dad drink his problems away, and did his damndest to keep Harry from doing the same.
He made it into medical school by the skin of his teeth—applying for any and all scholarships that he could. He studied, worked hard, kept out of trouble. Made enough money to get Harry into a good rehab centre.
Halfway through medical school, his dad bit a bullet and Harry checked herself out of the centre. She was given every last drop of their inheritance. John was given their father’s debts.
He enlisted a few days later.
The army offered him a solution. He had a purpose—he could do something, help people. He finished out his medical training through the army, travelling and practicing in many different places.
Two years later, John was deployed to Afghanistan. He loved the danger that came with going into active zones, loved the power that rested in his hands. Soon, though, it wasn't enough. As a doctor, they put him far away from the front lines; told him he was too valuable.
John strongly disagreed.
He put in a transfer request, asking to be moved to the front lines in Kandahar. He was granted the move two months later.
John was amazed at the difference. Everyday was an adrenaline rush—everyday was filled with danger and excitement. He did a few tours in the hot Afghan deserts, requesting each time to be placed on the front lines.
Then, five years after he enlisted, John was pulled aside while back in London for a few days. Well, pulled aside was a nice way of putting it. As he was walking back from Tesco, he was shoved into the back of a van, a cloth sack pulled over his head.
John fought for all he was worth, but there were at least four other men in the back of the van with him, keeping him subdued. No one said a word, and John was much too smart to call out for help. Instead he bided his time, categorising what little he knew about his attackers.
After only about ten minutes of driving—and to John’s surprise, no drugging—he felt the vehicle begin to come to a halt. The doors slid open and John was hauled out of the van. He was walked for quite a ways on what felt like linoleum tile (and two lifts).
Finally, John was placed in a room and cuffed to a cool metal chair—which was sadly bolted to the floor. The door slammed shut, and John resisted flinching.
The bag was finally yanked off, and John squinted as his pupils quickly adjusted to the light. He was… in an office?
John glanced around, noting the posh furniture and large mahogany desk in front of him. Behind it sat a small woman, her hair just starting to turn white. Her pale eyes were sharp, scrutinising him and his reactions. John caught sight of two armed men flanking him, making sure he didn’t make a move toward this woman. She was someone important, then.
He calmly gazed back at her, though his stomach was churning with apprehension. Finally, her lips twitched into the faintest of smiles.
“Good morning, Dr. Watson,” she said pleasantly.
“Is it?” he mused. John calmly tested his bonds, and the woman raised an eyebrow at him.
“I believe you’ll find my men have been quite competent in securing you.”
John shrugged easily, slipping on a charming smile. “You can’t blame me for trying.”
The woman pursed her lips at him, but her eyes were amused, and John couldn’t help but to feel as if he’d passed some test.
The next few hours went by quickly. The woman proceeded to introduce herself as ‘M’—whatever that meant—and calmly told him that this would be his one and only offer to join a training team for MI6 Special Ops.
John was dubious at first—‘MI6? You’re joking. What, like spies and all that?’ But the woman, M, assured him that she didn’t joke—John honestly wasn’t sure that she even knew how. He had apparently caught their attentions by his frequent requests for transfer; anyone who was crazy enough to want to be transferred and smart enough to not get killed was a person of interest.
He eventually agreed, becoming more excited when he realised it wasn’t a hoax. They gave him a new set of clothes and a pen to sign his life away. He did so in a heartbeat. They told him that his army friends would be told he didn’t reenlist, and civilians would think he was still overseas. He didn’t exist as soon as his pen lifted from the paper.
John had met James Bond at a training exercise. They were paired off for sparring, and each found the other a worthy opponent. James told him he was pulled from the navy, having served for seven years and been a Commander for nearly three. They met in the lounge, sharing stories. James had apparently caught MI6’s attention after he had faked his death while aboard his ship, staying hidden so he could sneak around and find out who was smuggling drugs.
John had laughed at that, telling James to not make a habit out of faking his death. James only shrugged.
His first time in the firing range at MI6 got him some looks. John only fired twice each time, perfectly hitting the centre of the head and heart. The instructor moved the target from twenty feet away to thirty. John did it again. And then again at fifty. John ought to have been offended at the number of surprised faces.
He was assigned to sniper training the next day. John loved the feel of the butt of a gun against his shoulder, loved working the metal in his hands. He became addicted to the feel of the gun’s blast working its way through his body. It was cathartic.
The psych evaluations were a pain. John had to suffer through a man with beady little eyes sitting across a table, showing him inkblots and asking him how they made him feel.
Or the word associations. Christ, the word associations were the worst.
“London,” the man intoned.
“I hate you.”
“Respond with only one word, please. Gun.”
“I really hate you.”
“That wasn’t one word. Spy.”
“Only one word, Dr. Watson. Queen.”
The man visibly gritted his teeth. “One word,” he stressed. “Country.”
“Pissoff,” John rushed out, smiling innocently when the man looked up to glare at him.
It only took a few more goes before the man stormed out. M pretended that she wasn’t too pleased with him, but there was a certain light in her eyes that gave away her amusement.
Eventually, John, James, and a few others had made it through training. MI6 had sharpened his combat and shooting skills, shaping him into the perfect assassin. He was more in-shape now than he had ever been.
The training had altered his mind as well. He no longer thought of his sister at home, blowing away their inheritance, or how his old army buddies were fairing overseas. His mind became focused on the next job, the next target. He did as he was told to do.
His medical knowledge gave him an advantage; every swing or kick was precisely aimed to get the job done quickly and efficiently. He knew exactly where to hit a man to make his death look like a heart attack; knew how to be charming and worm his way into any building.
If John was addicted to danger before, then working as a SIS agent was the best fix ever. He had never worked as well as he did while under pressure. Every job was an adrenaline rush that would last him for days after the mission was over.
John was spectacular at his job. James and he were often placed together on assignments, working well with one another. They both understood the other in a way no one else could—both knew that without the job, they were nothing.
John even got along with the Quartermaster, an aging man by the name of Boothroyd. Major Boothroyd was just a little crazy, and equipped John with the most random gadgets—most of which ended up becoming handy in one way or another in the field.
After six years of working for MI6, James had met with him in the firing range one day and told him that the pair of them were being considered for Double-O status (he had broken into M’s flat and found the information on her laptop). The former 007 had died in Morocco a month ago, and M and other officials were scouting for a replacement. So far, they had narrowed it down to John and James.
“It could be you,” James had said, grinning.
John had immediately countered, “Or it could be you. I think I’m a tad short to be a prestigious Double-O. I’m pretty sure there’s a height requirement.”
“Who knows.” James shrugged, though neither of them could quite contain their excitement. “They’re sending us out on an assignment tomorrow. It’s supposed to be something of a test for us both.”
John frowned. “Promise me we won’t let this come between us?”
“Of course, John,” James agreed. “You’re my friend, and this is just a little competition. Besides, Double-O’s don’t have a very long life expectancy—another position should be opening soon.” John laughed at that.
Though, late at night in his small bedsit, John allowed himself to think about it. About what it would be like to be a Double-O. Double-O’s were the best of the best, the elites of espionage. John pictured himself with the rest of them, wondering if he’d fit in.
He quickly scrubbed the idea from his mind. The chances of him becoming a Double-O were slim; and everyone knew Bond was M’s favourite. Punching his pillow twice, John forced himself to sleep. He had to be well rested for tomorrow’s mission.
John had found out just as he was boarding the plane that the mission would be in Afghanistan. He sighed.
James, who was across from him in the private jet, laughed. “What,” he joked, “don’t you miss the sand?”
“Fuck off,” John muttered. He went to the bathroom to swap his suit for a pair of fatigues that had been supplied for them. James did the same, though he admitted he was unused to the green instead of blue.
Only four other agents were on the jet, and they all read over the file, working out a plan of attack. Major Boothroyd was talking to them over the phone, adding in advice when he could.
They were to infiltrate an enemy base and retrieve (or if that wasn’t an option, destroy) thousands of pounds worth of stolen weapons. The operation was meant to take about a month, and most of that time would be spent planning.
The mission went completely and utterly to shit.
In the middle of the night, a month after arriving, the small group of agents and soldiers made their way across the sand. There were thirteen of them total, ten men and three women, all strapped to the nines with weapons. Only John and one other man had ever travelled the Afghan sands before, and the rest of the group was silently following their lead. Navigating in a desert was always a bitch, John thought. He had sand in places he had forgotten sand could get into, and his skin had gone back to tanned almost immediately.
John suddenly stopped. The rest of the group did so as well, weary. “John?” James asked quietly.
John shook his head. Something was wrong… something was just off. His eyes scanned the horizon in the dim light of the moon, searching. There. The glint of light off of steel.
John barely had enough time to shout ‘get down,’ before a large explosion sounded just next to them. Orange and yellow sparks lit up the sand, and John saw the terrified faces of his group as the gunfire started. Next to him, Bill Murray cried out and dropped to the ground. John dropped over him, trying to shield his body, but when he asked if Murray was okay, he didn’t get a response. He glanced down to see Murray’s eyes open in eternal terror.
John swallowed and grabbed his own gun, searching for the source of the bullets. Another explosion shook the ground, this one much closer. The bullets seemed to be coming from everywhere and no where at once, and John heard garbled bits of Pashto from his right. He fired a few quick shots, but only succeeded in getting shot at in return.
Another bomb, and this time John felt fire in his leg. He reached down to feel a piece of shrapnel sticking out, and grimaced.
John painfully crawled around from person to person, trying to tend to their injuries. Most of them were gone by the time he could reach them, but John found a woman with a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen. He held his hands firmly over her, trying to stop the bleeding.
A command was given in Pashto, and the gunfire suddenly stopped. In broken English, a man’s voice called, “You are surrounded. Do not use weapons. The alive will stand.”
Jaw clenched, John slowly rose to his feet, gently bringing the woman up with him as well. He saw three other people stand, but the rest remained lying in the sand. John grimaced when he smelt the putrid smell of blood and gunpowder.
“Drop weapons,” the man said, and John did his best to disarm. “You will follow.”
John and the other’s were led far away, to the enemy camp. They had apparently been tipped off about the agent’s advances—John guessed it was one of the locals who had warned them.
The base was made up of caves, and John and the others were herded into one of the deeper ones. Bars were put over the mouth of the cave, with guards watching.
John immediately set to work on the others, fixing up injuries. He was privately pleased to see that James had made it out alive, with only a gash in his arm. The worst of the injuries belonged to the woman that John had carried. Without proper medical equipment, it was nearly impossible to treat her. Him and the others crowded around her, offering her comfort and warmth instead of the cold reality. John held her hand and told her that she’d be fine, that they would make it out of this.
She was dead before the sun came up. John didn’t even know her name.
The only one’s left now were John, James, Sebastian, and Mary. Sebastian was in the Army and Mary was CIA. They had volunteered for this mission. John listened closely to the guards speaking. After being in Afghanistan for five years, he had picked up both Pashto and Dari. He winced when he heard what was planned for them.
“James,” he said quietly. James, who was sitting next to him, tilted his head slightly to show he was listening. “I am going to do something rather stupid, and you are going to get yourself and the others out of here.”
“John—” James tried to argue, but John cut him off.
“Trust me on this,” John said. He glanced at the two others, who were huddled around the small fire they were allowed. “You get them out of here. Run back to the base. Tell them it’s too dangerous to try to send in another team.”
“John, they’ll kill you.”
“They’re planning on killing us anyway. This is the better alternative.”
“I’ll come back for you,” James promised.
“Don’t.” John reached a hand up to cup the back of James’ neck. He smiled shakily. “Don’t worry about me. Just get out.”
“John, I can’t—”
“You can and you will. Promise me.”
James seemed reluctant. Finally he sighed, “I promise. But you better stay alive long enough for the retrieval team, Captain. You got that?”
John only smiled.
The sound of metal screeching made them all wince and look to the doors. A burly man walked in, flanked by the two armed guards that were standing post at the gate. The man spoke, “Which of you is least important?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” James asked.
The man asked again, looking frustrated, “Which of you is least important?!”
Sebastian, whose head wound had finally stopped bleeding, spoke up. “No. We don’t… we don’t work like that. None of us.”
“Grab that one,” the man said in Pashto, gesturing towards Mary. The guard stepped toward her, and John felt the familiar fire in his veins.
The next few minutes were a bit of a blur. John remembered hauling himself to his feet and grabbing the guard’s gun, spinning both of them so the shots from the other guard hit the first. John was told, later, that he shouted some explicits in Pashto and fired at the man and remaining guard.
The four agents then ran down the halls of the cave, firing at those who tried to stop them. John was still bleeding heavily from the wound in his leg, but he hardly noticed the pain with the adrenaline pumping through him. James had grabbed the other guard’s gun, and they fought their way to the mouth of the massive cafe.
John turned to James, smiling sadly. “This is where the stupid part comes in. I’ll hold them off long enough for you to get out of sight.”
“We can all make it.”
“If we all go we’ll be sitting ducks. There’s no cover. They could easily take care of us all in one shot. I’ll hold them off.”
“You promised.” The sound of footsteps sounded from inside the cave, coming toward them. “Just go.”
“You bastard,” James said, but the words had no heat.
John grinned. “Don’t you forget it.” He ran back into the darkness of the mountain, giving James and the others the chance to escape.
John’s objective now was not to kill as many as he could, but to keep them busy. They couldn’t know that the others had already escaped. John made no effort to be stealthy, loudly running through the intricate hallways, drawing their attention to him. He even managed to pop a few grenades in different places.
John wasn’t sure how much time had passed before he was finally taken down by a bullet in his shoulder. As he crashed to the ground, his torso flaring up in pain, John couldn’t help but to feel proud. The last thing he remembered was more yelling and a blow to his temple, and then darkness.
John was actually surprised when he woke up. He hadn’t been expecting to be kept alive. John catalogued his injuries, noting that his bullet wound hadn’t been tended to. It was surprising that he hadn’t died from blood loss.
John found he was tied with rope to a metal table, and a quick glance around confirmed his suspicions. Next to him was a tray of surgical instruments, still with the last poor bastard’s blood on them.
Well then. He was glad he was given torture resistance training.
A man walked into the room, eyes narrowed. He seemed almost sorry as he walked over to the tray. Another man followed, holding out a camera. The small red light flashed at John, mocking him. The camera man spoke in English, “Who do you work for?”
John pressed his lips tightly together, wondering how long it would take for them to get bored and just kill him. He hoped it would be sooner rather than later.
Miles away, James and the others had made their way back to the base. James demanded they radio for help right away, before collapsing from dehydration and heat exhaustion.
John had lost count of how long he had been in the dark. Every day was the same. Every day, three men would crowd into his makeshift cell, one of them always holding a camera. One would keep the barrel of his rifle on the base of John’s neck, while the last would ask him questions. The questions were sometimes in English, others in Pashto. Some were softly asked, others were yelled. Some were about him, while others the country.
They asked for his name. They told him to beg for his life.
He spat at them.
Fists were constantly flying, but John soon learned that the man who asked him questions had an affinity for knives. Sometimes they were cuts, sometimes they were gouges carved out of him. John was only actually stabbed twice.
He almost wished for the beheading.
He wasn’t fed often; but when he was, he could hardly keep anything down. The water was dingy, and John was pretty sure he was concussed. The blurry vision made it a little hard to think straight.
Most days it was the same set of questions, but there were a few days where John was dragged to a different room and strapped to a chair. The men filmed themselves beating him. No interrogations were performed; this was for sport. John Watson was reduced to a punching bag.
Those days took the longest to recover from, and John often blacked out before they had finished. He would wake up in a different location each time, as they would move him around so he couldn’t get a good feel of the layout. Not that he could do much thinking in his condition.
Then the infection set in, and things got even worse.
It had taken MI6 three long weeks to put together a retrieval team. In that time, James refused to believe that John was dead. He knew John; John was a fighter. John wouldn’t die in some dark cave.
James had been told that their intel was wrong, that there were three times as many men in the enemy base than what they were expecting. James didn’t care about numbers, he just wanted to make sure his friend was safe.
The team was made up of thirty-five agents this time, and James insisted on going with them. M tried to order him not to, but he stared her dead in the eye (an impressive feat through through the shoddy webcam) and told her where she could stuff her order.
After the long time it had taken to assemble the team and find the base, the raid seemed almost… anticlimactic. The enemy found themselves outgunned and outnumbered, and it was over within minutes.
James ran through the tunnels, searching for any makeshift room where they could have been hiding John. He would not accept that John wasn’t there.
The torch in his hand flickered in and out, and James hit the back of it against his hand angrily. He heard the ominous rattle of chains echoing through the tunnels.
"John?" A shuffling noise sounded to his left. “Watson, report!” he yelled.
“Here,” a raspy voice called. James followed the tunnels a few metres down, frantically sweeping his flashlight from side to side.
A motion to his left caught his eye, and James immediately had his gun cocked and aimed before his flashlight could whip around to shine on the huddled shape in the corner.
The voice was gravel. “Cor, Bond, put that away before you hurt someone.”
Bond immediately holstered his gun. “John?” He squinted. John’s blue eyes peered at him, glazed over slightly. His hair had grown longer than his usual military length, and he was sporting a grizzly beard. John had been stripped to only his pants, and James winced as he catalogued the damage. John has lost a good amount of weight, and James couldn’t find an inch of skin that didn’t have a bruise.
John’s left eye was swollen completely shut, and lip split. James spotted quite a few nasty cuts, the largest of which on John’s right thigh. John’s back seemed to take the brunt of it, with more cuts and a few burns. Worst of all was the untreated bullet wound in his left shoulder. James grimaced; it was definitely infected.
John shifted slightly, wincing, and chains rattled again. Something was off about his breathing—James would have guessed a broken rib. John peered at him. “Are you real?”
James blinked. “Real as I ever was, I suppose. How do you feel?”
“No,” John groaned. “Now I know you’re not real. The real James would never ask about feelings.”
“Funny,” James deadpanned.
There was a beat of silence, before John gruffed, “Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to help me?”
“Right, yes. Sorry.” James started forward, getting a closer look at the chains keeping John’s wrists behind his back. One end of the short chain was screwed into the hard rock wall, and the other split into manacles that had rubbed John’s wrist raw. They didn’t look like they’d be coming off without a saw.
James grabbed the chain, and yanked, trying to dislodge it from the wall. It wouldn’t budge.
“The lock,” John said. James looked doubtfully at the padlock that secured the manacles shut.
“I don’t have the key.”
“Shoot it, then. Just fucking get them off.”
James pulled out his Walther, and tried to aim in such a way that the ricochet wouldn’t hit either of them. John flinched at the noise of the gun, but immediately pulled his wrists free. John noticed that his left arm wasn’t quite responding to his brain.
“Can you stand?” James asked quietly.
“Not really. Bastards got my soles.” A glance down confirmed that John was in no condition to put any weight on his feet.
“I’m going to have to carry you.”
“I don’t care.”
“It’ll hurt,” James warned.
A humourless laugh came out of John’s mouth. “Story of my life. Just get me out of here, James.” Neither of them acknowledged the pleading tone that John’s voice took on.
Nodding, James slid one arm under John’s atrophying legs, and the other under his shoulders. He saw John wince as the cuts were agitated. “One, two, three—” James lifted, and John hissed. “You’re too damn light, Watson,” James said, setting a quick pace to the mouth of the cave.
John, who was breathing through gritted teeth, snapped, “Piss off.”
“Why didn’t you use your capsule?” James asked.
“They pulled it out,” John answered. His voice was getting quieter, his body ceding to the pain. “B‘sides,” he said, “I knew you were comin’ for me...” John trailed off, eyes slipping shut. James sped up his walk, shouting for the medic.
When John opened his eyes, the first thing that he noticed was the light. The beautiful, wonderful light, so bright it nearly hurt. He had almost forgotten that there was something other than darkness.
John tried to take stock of his body, but found that he was feeling a bit too… floaty to feel most of his extremities. They had him on the good drugs, then.
The writing on the posters and medicine was a combination of English and Dari, so he was probably still in the Afghanistan, or at least near it. He couldn’t find the willpower to hit the call button, and eventually fell back into blissful sleep.
The next time he awoke, he opened his eyes to see M next to him. “I’m dreaming,” he said, but it came out as a wheeze. M frowned at him, and pressed the button to call the nurse. A woman came in, and gently fed John a few ice chips until his throat had stopped feeling like a bonfire.
John realised that his face didn’t feel scruffy, and that one of the nurses must have shaved him while he was asleep. The nurse gave him a reassuring pat, told him she was glad he was awake, and left the room.
John tilted his head to smile blearily at M, wondering what had made her travel out all this way. Her face was grave. “Agent Watson,” she said, “how are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been tortured for the past few weeks. How are things for you, ma’am?”
M seemed unimpressed.
“How bad is the damage?” he asked instead. M picked his chart off the foot of the bed and set on his lap. He tried to pick it up, frowning when his left arm wouldn’t move. His right one was hooked to an IV, and he couldn’t move it far. M took pity on him and lifted the chart up in front of his face. John skimmed the records, nodding mentally to himself. As expected, then.
“What have I done to warrant you here, then?” John asked as she put the chart back. “You don’t normally get out of the country much.”
M hesitated. She rested one hand on top of his. “John,” she began, and he felt his stomach drop. M never used his first name. “Your country would like to thank you for your service.”
“But…” John encouraged her to keep going.
She squared herself, and calmly stated, “Doctor Watson, you are being relieved of your duties. We will pay for your rehabilitation, and you will receive a generous pension, but as of now, you are no longer one of Her Majesty's Agents.”
John simply stared at her, his mouth agape. “You’re firing me.” he deadpanned.
“You are in no condition to return to field work.”
“I can heal.”
She looked at him as if he were a small child. “Watson. You saw your chart; it’s likely you will never regain full function of your left arm. It will take many weeks of rehabilitation before you will even be able to walk again.”
“And after that? I’ll be right as rain.”
“You should be grateful. Not many field agent get to leave this cleanly.”
John found himself getting angry. “I just spent the last three weeks protecting you—protecting your secrets—for what? So you could drop me the first chance you get?”
“Look, Watson, you’ve been seriously injured. There’s no shame in saying you’ve had enough. The only shame would be not admitting it until it’s too late.”
John’s brow pinched. He said frustratedly, “But I don’t want to leave.”
“If you want, we can offer you a desk job—”
“Don’t insult me,” John snorted, the anger leaving his body in a rush. He just felt empty now. His shoulders sagged.
M sighed. She placed a gentle hand on his uninjured shoulder. “I’m sorry, John,” she said softly.
John avoided her eyes, keeping his gaze firmly on the sheets. “Send in James, ma’am. Please.”
“Of course.” She left, and a few minutes later James walked in.
He smiled, relieved to see his best friend awake. “You look like shit,” he stated, grinning. He sat in the chair M had just vacated.
“Well, I should. I just got sacked.”
James blinked, searching John’s face for any hint of a lie or joke. “You didn’t.”
“Shit, John, I’m sorry.”
John would have shrugged if he could. He was used to having his dreams taken away from him. It was really no surprise this life had been stolen, too. It was just too good to be true. “It’s not your fault.” James looked like he was going to say something more, but John spoke first. “How’s Seb? And Mary?”
James eyed John for a moment, deciding to let it pass. “Mary is doing well; last I heard she was trying her hand at being a nurse.”
“Seb was dishonourably discharged. He came with the retrieval team to save you, and defied orders when he blew up their base.”
James shrugged. “He said it was worth it for you.” He paused. “John, something you said in the cave.” John flinched visibly, but James continued. “You asked if I was real.”
John avoided looking at him. “I knew you were coming for me,” he said quietly, “but I didn’t know when. The infection set into my shoulder about three days after I was shot. I had an off-and-on fever for a while…” he trailed off. James waited patiently; John’s eyes were far away. Finally, he admitted, “That was the third time you had come to rescue me.”
James hissed, “Jesus.”
John gave a little lift of one shoulder; a half-hearted shrug. “It’s funny, you think of fever hallucinations and think of children. Not a thirty-seven year old soldier.” James opened his mouth, but the doctor spoke quickly, “Did you ever find out her name?”
James didn’t need to ask who John was talking about. He thought back to the scared girl, barely twenty-four, bleeding out in a cold cave. He swallowed. “No,” James finally said. “We didn’t.”
“Oh.” It didn’t make John feel better.
James sighed, “So, what are you going to do now?”
“Rehab, I guess. Grow back my fingernails. Get a filling for my tooth. After that, I think I’ll stay in London.” He gave a small smile. “You know I can’t be anywhere else.”
James nodded, smiling. They sat in silence for a few minutes, lost in their own thoughts.
“Oh, right,” he suddenly, patting at his pockets. James pulled out a small box and set it on the bedside table. “A get well gift.”
John squinted at it, then smiled. “That’s your cologne.”
“Yes, well, now you can have it, too. Don’t think I didn’t notice you sneaking some when you helped me move into my new flat.”
John grinned. “Thank you. Should I give back the bottle I already nabbed, or…?”
James shook his head, laughing. “Keep it. They should last you a while.”
They chuckled, before John mused quietly, “James Bond, 007. I like it.”
James grinned. “It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
They laughed, and James patted John’s hand. They smiled at one another, neither willing to say goodbye.
Finally, James whispered, “Get in trouble for me, will you, John?”
“Of course, James. Raise some hell.”
“Always,” James promised. He strode to the door, glancing back as he opened it. He smiled. “Goodbye, John.”
After sneaking into a corner store’s bathroom and thoroughly washing his hands, John returned to the hospital. He came in the same way he went out, not a soul the wiser. The knife was placed into a hollowed out section in the heel of his shoe. He hoped he would get a chance to return it to James.
He popped his back and settled into the overly plush hospital chair. He would deal with Sherlock in the morning. Now, he needed to rest.
John closed his eyes and slept.
John killed for Sherlock just hours after just meeting him. The man brought him back to life; gave John a purpose to carry on again.
Sherlock had thought that he was recently invalidated home from Afghanistan, and technically he was right. His file history said he had been in stationed overseas these past six years, not running around, bringing down terrorist groups and arms dealers. Sherlock didn’t know the full extent of his past.
John’s hands didn’t shake as he gripped his gun, aiming steadily across a distance that would be impossible for most soldiers.
John wasn’t most soldiers.
The shot was quick and true, even through two panes of glass, and John didn’t stick around to see the cabbie fall to the ground.
Sherlock figured it out—of course he did. Though he suspected John was just an excellent marksman, nothing more. John didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
John didn’t tell him that he had already erased all traces of the gun from his hands, instead letting Sherlock take him to dinner and fret over invisible (non-existent) powder burns.
Then came the locked room murders and his failed attempts at dating, and the pips.
The pips and the bombings and John finding out how much of a sociopath Sherlock really was. Although, John couldn’t really blame him. He himself had killed civilians, calculated them as collateral damage as if they were nothing.
Sherlock was more on edge when he got this case. Sherlock’s mind ate itself if he didn’t have something to do, something to think about. John knew how agitated he was when his career was taken from him; he couldn’t imagine the same thing happening to a brilliant brain like Sherlock’s.
But this case, with the killer who gave him puzzles and a timer and called him clever—it was like a high for Sherlock. And John understood that. He remembered the giddy feeling he felt when handed a new assignment, the almost guilt of knowing he shouldn’t be happy about this but still over the moon all the same.
John didn’t expect to be the last pip. He should have, really, but hindsight was 20/20.
He asked Sherlock about the memory stick—recovered in the case Sherlock had practically made him solve on his own to get back at his brother.
Sherlock told him he had given it to Mycroft. Sherlock was lying.
John could see the lie, see it in the twitch in the detective's mouth and brow. But he didn’t say anything, nodding along like the innocent blogger he was supposed to be. He teased Sherlock about his lack of knowledge about the solar system.
He should have known that Sherlock was planning something—the man had offered to pick up milk.
But he ignored his instincts, dropping the matter and heading out to Sarah’s.
He never made it there. While in the back of a cab, a hypodermic needle was shoved into his neck, injecting a drug that immediately made him woozy. A bag was placed over his head, and John scowled at the smell before darkness overtook him.
John woke up to the smell of chlorine. A burlap bag was still over his head—seriously, what was it with the bags?
The rope around his wrists was tied in military grade knots, but John hadn’t survived six years as an agent without learning how to slip binds.
He easily maneuvered himself out of them, patiently keeping his arms behind his back to not arouse suspicion. From what he could hear, he was alone in a room (locker room?) next to a pool.
John suddenly remembered Sherlock talking about Carl Powers. The little boy who died in the swimming pool. John felt like smacking himself. Of course the bomber would have to be just as dramatic as Sherlock. He was the fifth pip, then.
Well, John supposed if he had to pick a way to go, drowning might not be the worst.
He heard footsteps approaching from the distance, and his fingers picked up a broken ceramic tile. It wasn’t much, as means of a weapon, but it would have to do.
The footsteps came closer, gait confident and sure. Male, most likely. Who ever it was came with a purpose. The man stopped in front of him and ripped the bag from his head.
John was moving before the man could get a word out. He slammed into the man’s legs, knocking him off balance, and tried to get his throat with the piece of tile. The two grappled on the floor for a minute, breaths coming out in harsh pants. John got a few swings in the man’s stomach, and the man used his heavy boots to do damage to John’s legs.
Finally, the man had a knife against John’s throat, while John had the shard pressed against the hollow between the man’s third and fourth ribs. Neither of them could move without becoming impaled.
Panting, John looked up to glare at the man on top of him—and opened his eyes wide in surprise. The man did the same.
They both dropped their weapons, Sebastian rolling off of John.
“Christ, Seb, what the hell are you doing here?” John said. He took the hand offered to him, Sebastian hauling him to his feet.
“John, I didn’t know it was you, I swear.”
John tilted his head, confused. “Did you do this?”
“It wasn’t me, John, I was just the hired gun. And I wouldn’t have taken it if I had known—”
John smiled, patting the younger man on the shoulder. “Oi, Moran, it’s fine. A job’s a job. I get it.”
Sebastian Moran looked wonderfully relieved. “Thanks, doc.” He looked at the shorter man curiously. “What does Boss want with you?”
John shook his head. “Not me, my flatmate.” He gave an easy grin. “I’ve been reduced to just a pawn, mate.”
“Not the John Watson I know. Never.”
John only shrugged. “What happened to you, then? Bond told me you were discharged.”
Moran nodded. “After your rescue mission, I was told to come back. I blew the place up, instead.”
John laughed loudly. “Is that how you got the attention of this man, then? This Moriarty?”
“Yeah. He liked bold thing. Oh—Mary’s here, too.”
John tilted his head, his mind drawing a blank. “Mary?”
Moran smiled at him. “We’ve got a while before Boss shows up. Come say hello.” Moran walked out of the changing rooms and into the pool, John following behind. “Mary,” he called loudly.
There was movement in the rafters, and then a lithe body was climbing down. John’s eyes widened. “Miss Mary Morstan,” he said in mock scolding, “I thought you we’re supposed to be a nurse.”
Mary grinned, running the length of the poolside to leap into John’s arms. He hugged her, chuckling.
The small blonde was set back down, bouncing excitedly on her toes. “I dabble in nursing,” she said coyly, “but on the weekends…” she shrugged.
John let out a loud laugh.
“And it’s Mary Moran, now.” Sebastian said, wrapping an arm around her waist.
John grinned, congratulating the couple.
“What are you doing here, John?”
He shrugged. “I’m here to play puppet.” Mary grimaced, but John seemed unperturbed.
Sebastian clasped his shoulder. “Don’t worry John, you’re in good hands.” His mobile beeped, and Seb grimaced as he glanced at the screen.
“Showtime?” John asked.
Sebastian nodded. “I’ll get everything ready.” He made his way back to the locker room.
John turned to Mary, smiling sadly. “I guess that’s my cue.” He made a move to walk away, before pausing. “Oh, and Mary?” She tilted his head curiously. “Congratulations,” he said, nodding pointedly to her belly.
Her eyes widened, and she smacked his arm. “You hush, mister. I haven’t told him yet.”
John laughed, and kissed her cheek before following Sebastian into the locker rooms. Seb held out a jacket full of Semtex apologetically.
“This is to be my outfit for the evening, I suppose.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think Boss is going to kill you tonight.”
John gave a snort, and shrugged the jacket on. “Just, if you get the order, make it quick, alright?”
Moran grimaced. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” He held out an earpiece. “No hard feelings, right, John?”
John seemed surprised. “None at all, Seb.” He reached out to take the earpiece, slipping it in. “You take care, mate. When this is all over we’ll meet up for a pint.”
Sebastian nodded. “You as well, John.” The man visibly began to change, slipping into the personality of the enforcer. John did the same, making himself smaller in the jacket and leaning away from Moran’s touch as if nervous. John felt the subtle press of steel against his side.
John took an unnecessary steadying breath, straightening himself to look the part of a stoic army doctor.
Moran turned him to the entrance, where faint footsteps could be heard approaching. John blinked in surprise when a thin man walked in, dressed in a Westwood suit. The man was—
“Jim?” John asked, unable to hold in his surprise. He scolded himself. Play your role, play your role, he chanted.
“Jim?” he asked again, sounding nervous. “What is this? What’s going on?”
Molly’s boyfriend smiled at him. There was a feral look in his eye that was not there the last time they met. “Doctor Watson,” he greeted, nodding at him.
“Johnny boy, please do shut up. Your voice grates on my ears.” Jim—Moriarty, John presumed—stepped in front of the doctor. “Here’s how this is going to work, dear. You will do exactly as I tell you to, or I’ll tell them to pull the trigger!” On cue, a small red dot circled his chest. That would be Mary, then.
John opened his mouth to protest, but the dark haired man interrupted. “Ah, ah, ah! Say a word that I haven’t told you to, and you and your boyfriend will be blown to bits!” Moriarty clapped his hands together.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” John gritted out.
The madman actually laughed at that, looking entirely too gleeful. “Oh, you’re just precious.” God, what was Seb dealing with? This man seemed off his rocker.
“Understand, darling?” Moriarty asked, batting his eyes happily at John.
John clenched his jaw, nodding.
Moriarty patted his cheek. “There’s a good lad.” The man stepped close, zipping up the parka. From the outside, John looked perfectly normal. Moriarty took a hold on John’s wrists and placed them in the front pockets. “Perfect!” he cheered, “stay just like that—oh, that’s just wonderful.” He checked his watch. “Whoops! Look at that—almost midnight. I better get ready. Remember—” he waggled his finger at John, “not. a. word.”
The man strode away, and John rolled his eyes. Really, he and Sherlock were perfect for each other.
John muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Sebastian to hear, “He’s a bit of a peacock.”
John felt Moran shrug. “He pays well,” the man murmured back. John laughed silently.
Finally, midnight rolled around. Just as the minute hand of the clock on the wall of the locker room clicked over to twelve, John heard the entrance to the pool creak open.
Sherlock’s familiar gate sounded on the tile, slow and cautious. There is a pause, before Sherlock is calling out, “Brought you a little getting-to-know-you present. Oh, that’s what it’s all been for, hasn’t it? All your little puzzles; making me dance – all to distract me from this.”
John can’t exactly see Sherlock, but he’d bet anything that the bastard was holding out the memory stick—the one that was most certainly not in Mycroft’s hands.
The little earpiece springs to life, and John hear’s Moriarty’s silver-tongue. “Alright then, Johnny-boy, showtime. If you’d please step out so Sherl can see you. Ah— remember, hands in your pockets.”
John slowly stepped out of the room and onto the tiled path next to the pool. True to form, Sherlock stood with his back to John, hand holding up the small memory stick proudly. He had turned slightly at the sound of John’s footsteps, and froze when his eyes locked onto John’s.
Moriarty crooned in his ear, “Alright now, face him. Oh, he looks wonderfully shocked now, doesn’t he? And betrayed! Delightful. Let’s drag this out for just a tad longer. Say, ‘Evening.’” Moriarty lowered his voice to mimic John’s.
“Evening,” John parroted. He kept his expression schooled.
Sherlock had yet to move, still staring in disbelief. John could only imaging the speed at which thoughts were running through his head.
Moriarty continued, “Good, now, ‘This is a turn-up, isn’t it, Sherlock?’”
John repeated the words, sounding almost bored.
Oh, but it hurt to see the look of utter betrayal on Sherlock’s face. Still, John felt some sort of grim satisfaction at being able to surprise the genius somehow.
“John?” Sherlock asked softly. “What the hell…?”
Again, John said as Moriarty told him to. “Bet you never saw this coming.”
Sherlock took a hesitant step toward John, and Moriarty sighed. “Predictable. Oh well, I suppose we’ve let him suffer enough. Open the jacket, Johnny-boy; let Sherlock off the hook.”
Slowly, John opened the parka, showcasing an array of semtex and wires strapped to his chest. Mary’s red dot was back, hovering threateningly around the bomb.
John repeated Moriarty’s next words slower, remembering that he had to act afraid. “What… would you like me… to make him say… next?”
Sherlock’s eyes were wide, immediately scanning the shadows of the room. John knew Mary was too good of a sniper to be seen.
Moriarty cackled in his ear. Dutifully, John said, “Gottle o’ geer… gottle o’ geer… gottle o’ geer—”
“Stop it.” Sherlock snapped.
John narrated, “Nice touch, this. The pool, where little Carl died. I stopped him.” John heard the next words and tried not to cringe at the overflow of drama. “I can stop John Watson, too. Stop his heart.”
Sherlock looked around again, eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
Then, finally, Moriarty revealed himself. He and Sherlock flirted around for a bit, before Sherlock pulled a gun out.
And really, John probably should have been thinking thoughts more along the lines of self-preservation, but all he could think was, ‘God damn it, Sherlock, that’s my gun. Mine. How many times have I told you not to touch it?’
As Sherlock aimed the gun at Moriarty, another set of red dots flashed on John’s chest. Wonderful.
Moriarty sounded as if he was scolding Sherlock, “Don’t be silly, someone else is holding the rifle.”
Then, there was more talk of Moriarty’s work and him and Sherlock bantering about who was smarter and what not. John zoned out for most of it. Honestly, he wasn’t that impressed.
He was snapped out of his revere by Moriarty’s ever changeable mood when the man shouted, “That’s what people DO!”
“I will stop you,” Sherlock promised.
Moriarty looked bored again. “No you won’t.”
Sherlock’s eyes shifted to John. “You all right?”
John’s instant answer is ‘fine’, but he thinks better of it. There was no need to poke the psychopath with a stick.
Moriarty walked over to his side, grinning. “You can talk, Johnny-boy. Go ahead.”
Well, fuck if he was going to follow orders from a man who put taurine cream around his frown lines. He met Sherlock’s eyes and nodded, but didn’t say a word.
Sherlock then proceeded to offer Moriarty the missile plans, to which the consulting criminal tossed them in the pool.
Seeing an opportunity, John leapt forward and slammed himself up against Moriarty’s back. He wrapped one arm around his neck and the other wound itself across his chest.
Sherlock stepped back in surprise, and John snapped, “Sherlock, run!”
Moriarty only laughed in delight. “Good! Very good.”
But Sherlock, the idiot, stayed put. John knew how snipers thought. There were at least three, Mary included. Chances are, none of them were actually loyal to Moriarty (Moriarty’s type didn’t like having regulars; they were too messy). They all would be waiting for a specific signal before firing. They didn’t want to take the chance of killing their boss’ most recent obsession.
Which meant Sherlock only had a five second time window before the snipers took their sights off of him and onto Sherlock. And Sherlock was wasting time.
John hissed in Moriarty’s ear, “If your sniper pulls the trigger, Mr. Moriarty, then we both go up.”
Moriarty only smiled at Sherlock. “Isn’t he sweet. I can see why you like having him around. But then, people do get sentimental about their pets.” John tightened his grip at being called a pet. Moriarty continued, “They’re so touchingly loyal. But, oops!”
John looked up to see a red dot held steady in the centre of Sherlock’s forehead. And he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
As much as he was willing to throw away his life, he couldn’t bear to do the same thing to Sherlock’s. The stableness of the laser gave away who was holding it. Mary. She was a damn good shot.
John’s grip loosened. He wouldn’t risk Sherlock.
“You’ve rather shown your hand there, Doctor Watson,” Moriarty crooned, and John’s arms slipped back to his side. “Gotcha!” He was going to rip Moriarty open and feed him his insides. He was going to make his suffer for threatening Sherlock.
John held his hands up, signaling to the snipers that he wouldn’t be trying anything else.
Moriarty swept his hands over his suit, brushing off imaginary dirt, and John shamelessly fantasized about snapping his neck.
The continue flirting around each other. “If you don’t stop prying, I’ll burn you. I’ll burn the heart—” he snarled the word, “—out of you.”
“I’ve been reliably informed that I don’t have one,” Sherlock said.
Moriarty sneered. “But we both know that’s not quite true.” He looked down at the floor, smiling, and then shrugged. “Well, I better be off. So nice to have a proper chat.”
Sherlock raised the pistol higher and extended it closer to Moriarty’s head. “What if I was to shoot you now?”
‘Yes,’ John silently chanted. ‘Do it, Sherlock, just do it. We’ll deal with the repercussions later, just shoot. him.’’
But, like always, Sherlock was oblivious to John’s murderous thoughts.
Moriarty threatened to kill them (again), and Sherlock promised to catch him (again). Really, it was all starting to become a bit old for John. The consulting criminal finally left through the way John came in.
Sherlock called after him, “Catch… you… later.”
There was silence for a few beats, before Moriarty’s sing-song voice seemingly echoed throughout the building. “No you won’t!”
A door sounded, and then it was dead quiet. Sherlock was still for a couple of seconds, pistol still aimed at the door, then his gaze drifted to John’s. He quickly set the gun down, hurrying over to John and began to unfasten the vest.
“Alright?” he asked. John didn’t answer fast enough, and Sherlock said again, more urgent, “Are you alright?”
Oh, right. John was supposed to be scared.
He pretended to stumble on his words, his breathing picking up. “Ye—yeah. I’m fine.”
Sherlock finally got the vest off—with quite a bit of hasty tugging—and slid it poolside as hard as he dared.
John reached up to pull the scratchy earpiece out—he was out of practice with wearing them. Trying to act as the scared damsel in distress, John allowed his knees to buckle. He staggered to the edge of the changing cubicles, leaning himself against the support.
“Oh, Christ,” he muttered.
Sherlock paced around distractedly, even going so far as to check the locker room for the criminal. John glanced up to see Sherlock scratching the back of his head with the loaded gun. He rolled his eyes affectionately.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Sherlock, still pacing, answers, “Me? Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine, fine.” He turned to John, slightly wide-eyed. “That, er… thing that you, um, that you did—” he cleared his throat. “That you offered to do. That was, um… good.”
John didn’t know how to easily express that he’d lay down his life for Sherlock without a second thought—didn’t know any words powerful enough—so he only nodded. He’s just have to show Sherlock over time, then.
Sherlock grinned at him, and John fancied for a second that he understood. He made a move to stand up, but the laser’s were suddenly back, dancing around him and Sherlock.
More annoyed than scared, John huffed out a breath. He hoped Sherlock didn’t catch it.
A door near the deep end of the pool was flung open, and Moriarty strode back in, clapping his hands.
He singsonged, “Sorry, boys! I’m soooooo changeable!”
Sherlock kept his back to the criminal, and John could see the wheels in his head turning a thousand miles a second, trying in vain to predict the future. His grey eyes scanned the gallery, once again attempting to judge the number of snipers hidden away.
Moriarty laughed and held his arms wide. “It is a weakness with me but, to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness.” He slid his hands into his pockets, a gesture showing that he was perfectly at ease.
Sherlock slowly lowered and turned his head to meet John’s gaze. John saw everything in that look. ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get us out of this. Please forgive me. I’m sorry. I am so very sorry.’ His look also had a question in it, asking—begging—John for permission.
Moriarty continued. “You can’t be allowed to continue. You just can’t. I would try to convince you, but…” He shrugged, laughing, “…everything I have to say has already crossed your mind!”
Sherlock was still looking at John, face emotionless. John squared his jaw, and gave a short nod.
Relieved, Sherlock turned to face Moriarty, raising the piston and aiming it at him. Moriarty smiled confidently, looking almost amused.
"Probably my answer has crossed yours."
Then Sherlock lowers the gun a fraction, pointing it directly at the bomb jacket.
Moriarty tilted his head, still smiling.
John could see it in Moriarty’s eyes. He thought Sherlock didn’t have the nerve. John could tell by the set in Sherlock’s mouth and shoulders that he was fully prepared to pull the trigger. Sherlock’s sense of self-preservation was horrible—worse than John’s; it must have been the fact that John would die too that was making him hesitate.
Sherlock looked down the barrel of the gun for better aim. It wouldn’t do them any good if he missed.
John tensed his muscles, preparing himself. The second Sherlock tightened his finger around the trigger, John planned on knocking them both into the pool. It couldn’t possibly work—John was logical enough to acknowledge that—but he had try something.
He couldn’t just let Sherlock die.
The room was tense for a full minute, three pairs of eyes locked on the little jacket. John sensed rather than saw Sherlock’s finger tighten ever-so-slightly on the trigger, and took a deep breath.
And then the phone rang.
Just like that, the tension in the room was cut. Everyone understood the unspoken ‘not today.’ Sherlock and Moriarty flirted some more—though John would never be able to listen to the Bee Gees again. Then Moriarty left, striding out of the room and snapping his fingers like a drama queen. John huffed at him.
Sherlock glanced at him, and John schooled his annoyed expression. “What happened there?” he asked.
The brunet was still staring at where Moriarty had exited, eyes narrowed. “Someone changed his mind. The question is: who?”
Sherlock then turned on his heel, nearly mirroring the criminal’s exit. John rolled his eyes. Always a competition.
Just before he followed the mad detective, John peered up into the rafters, easily picking out where he knew Mary would be. He threw her a wink, and was rewarded with a small chuckle echoing in the empty room.
Only two months after the bombings (John had dubbed them The Great Game, but Sherlock hated it), John went on a three week medical conference in Leeds.
Or, at least, that is what the Holmes brothers were led to believe.
John really spent that time tracking down a certain Westwood-wearing Irishman to a ski resort in the Alps (which took two weeks in and of itself) and putting a bullet in his brain. It was a rather unremarkable death for a character such as Moriarty, but John couldn’t take the chance that he could come back and hurt Sherlock.
He left certain… tokens from Moriarty’s person in places that were known to harbor many of London’s criminals. He let that be their warning.
John Watson was not a man to be trifled with, and anyone that touched Sherlock Holmes was a good as dead.
Sherlock was soon released from the hospital, and that was that. Life carried on as normal—well, as normal as living with Sherlock could be.
They continued to solve cases. John was shot at a total of seven times; Sherlock, twice.
John knew it would have happened sooner or later. Over the past two years that he had lived in Baker Street, he had become more and more comfortable around the flat.
Sherlock was supposed to be out for the day, having gone to reestablish ties with this homeless network. It was getting colder out, so Sherlock went to go distribute warm clothing and blankets. Which would be sweet, John mused, if it weren’t for his own personal gain.
It was just one slip. John, ever since he had moved in, always took his clothes with him into the bathroom to change into after a shower. Unlike Sherlock, who often paraded around in just a towel or his dressing gown before giving into the social tediousness that was getting dressed, John preferred to have as much skin covered as possible.
Sherlock had assumed that it was just John being modest, or embarrassed about the small pudge around his middle that had developed after being sent home (which John did not have, thank you very much).
When, really, John hated the scars.
This torso was littered with them, some thin and white, others an angry and bold dark red. They no longer hurt—aside from the occasional tightness of the bullet wound when it rained—but they were a strong reminder of his past. John had put that part of his life behind him—as much as an former-agent could, at least. He didn’t need the evidence of it staring back at him everytime he looked in the mirror.
The mistake happened on a Wednesday, about five months after the fiasco at Baskerville. John had forgotten to take his clothes with him into the bathroom, and now stood starkers after his shower with a dilemma.
Sherlock wouldn’t be back for another few hours, so walking to his room with a towel around his waist shouldn’t be a problem. The worst thing that could happen was one of Mycroft’s goons getting an eyeful of Watson skin.
Taking a breath, he steeled himself, wrapping the towel around his hips and tucking the spare corner in so he could have his hands free. John squared his shoulders and stepped out of the bathroom, ready to make a dash for his room like a teenage girl, when he bumped into a solid chest.
“Oof,” John huffed, rubbing his nose with a grimace. He looked up to see his madman of a flatmate, mouth open and ready to berate John for his klutziness—when he suddenly stopped. Sherlock’s jaw closed with an audible snap.
John was confused for half a beat—wondering what on Earth could startle Sherlock into silence, when he felt the cool London air on his bare chest.
Well then, that secret was out, John thought as Sherlock’s eyes flickered rapidly across the marred expanse of skin. He could practically see the cogs working, and wondered if steam would be coming out of his ears if it could.
John cleared his throat. “Right, then.” He brushed past Sherlock, realising belatedly that this would give the detective a perfect view of his back.
“John,” Sherlock said quietly.
John paused. He didn’t turn around.
Sherlock’s voice was small, soft. “You… you we’re a prisoner of war.” Close enough.
It was hardly a question, but John still answered. “Yes.”
Sherlock didn’t respond. The flat was silent for a few moments, before John finally risked turning around. Sherlock’s face was deathly pale, his bottom lip uncharacteristically worried by his teeth.
“I didn’t know,” Sherlock finally spoke. It was an odd thing for him to say; usually John got the typical ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘how awful,’ and had to awkwardly excuse himself. He was relieved at the difference. Trust Sherlock to be different.
“It’s not in my file,“ John said casually—well, as casually as one could while his history was being scrutinised off his back by his flat mate. That was one thing M had told him, that his ‘official’ file said that he had been in Afghanistan for fourteen years, invalidated home because of a bullet wound to the shoulder. There was nothing in there that hinted at any of the espionage John had gotten into.
“I never looked at your file.”
This was a surprise. John looked Sherlock in the eye, searching for any hints of deceitfulness. Sherlock gazed back, his face completely honest.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Yes, oh. Mycroft offered, but—”
“—anything having to do with Mycroft you refuse,” John finished.
Sherlock’s lips twitched. “So, is there anything else I should know about you? A George Cross, perhaps?” Sherlock meant it as a joke, of course, but John’s silence lasted a beat too long. “No.”
A flush rose on John’s cheeks. “Ah, no. Victoria Cross.”
Sherlock blinked, stunned.
John reached his hand up to rub at the back of his neck, and realised with a start that he was still standing in the living room in only a towel. “Um, I’ll just go get dressed, then.” Sherlock didn’t respond.
John turned on his heel, making a move to his bedroom, when Sherlock spoke again. “You earned it getting those.” His voice was soft.
John paused. “Sorry?”
“The medal,” Sherlock clarified. “You earned it getting those, didn’t you?” Sherlock nodded to the vast array of scars littering John’s chest.
John instantly straightened, his jaw tightening. “Sherlock.”
“A Victoria Cross is awarded for ‘most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy’,” he quoted. “You are a self-sacrificial man, but a good enough soldier to not have gotten those without dire circumstances.”
“Sherlock,” John stressed. His left hand began to tremble. His leg felt like dead weight.
Sherlock ignored him. “Most men dislike their Victoria Cross, as it brings up bad memories. The scars are consistent with interrogation torture techniques, and the little variation in the healing patterns suggest that they were acquired in a short period of time, most likely within a month of each other. They—”
“Sherlock!” John barked, voice rough. Sherlock raised his head to see John standing stiffly, hands clenched into fists. “Please,” his voice broke, “enough. Stop.”
Sherlock stopped. He watched as John visibly attempted to calm himself—could practically see him count to ten. No, twenty.
John let out a shuddering breath, and it dawned on Sherlock that he may have taken it a tad too far. A bit not good, John’s voice said in his head.
“John,” Sherlock started. “I—”
“Just leave it, Sherlock,” John’s voice was strained. “I’ll get you a copy of the medical report if you’re so curious.” He began to march away, back ramrod straight, but Sherlock’s voice stopped him.
“John,” he called. John paused, slowly turning to face the detective. “I… I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
John couldn’t help but to soften at the worried look on his flatmate’s face. “Of course, Sherlock. You’re my best friend.”
John didn’t like Janine.
He didn’t like Janine at all.
Her dark hair and brown eyes and her voice—her voice— reminded John too much of Moriarty.
John and Sherlock had met Janine at Mary’s baby shower. John had made Sherlock tag along so he wouldn’t have to go alone. He was confident that Sherlock would believe that Mary and Sebastian were old army buddies of his.
And Janine was there, apparently a friend of Mary’s. She stood next to the refreshments, eyeing the scene with amusement. It wasn’t hard to see why Sherlock singled her out.
John tried to shake it off, that Sherlock had chosen to spend time with some random bird instead of him. He smiled, socialised, did all the things that were expected of him, trying (and failing) to not glance over at Sherlock every few seconds.
John scowled. Sherlock was laughing. Laughing, a real—and rather loud—laugh. It had taken ages for Sherlock to be comfortable enough around John to laugh like that.
Sherlock’s eyes were glowing, crinkled with mirth. All for Janine. They whispered conspiratorially to one another, giggling like a couple of school girls. Moran caught John scowling and gave him a consolatory pat on the back—although John couldn’t fathom why.
Towards the end of the shower, Sherlock got a call from Lestrade. A case. An eight, at least. They had to leave right away.
John honestly had never been more glad to flee a party in his entire life.
But Janine didn’t stop there. Sherlock had given her his number. They were constantly texting—John had horrible flashbacks of The Woman every time Sherlock’s text tone chimed. Sherlock would get this look on his face, something in between a smirk and a smile, every time he saw that she had messaged him.
He would call her at the most random times (the most notable being in the middle of a dinner at Angelo’s), sometimes to ask for her ‘womanly advice’ on a case, others just to talk. John found himself hating her more and more. Sherlock even invited her on a case, once.
The worst part was after John had returned from a medical conference—a real one this time, not an excuse to kill someone, however much John wished it otherwise. He came home from a two week absence, exhausted and missing his madman of a flatmate.
Sherlock was perched on his arm chair, curled up between the armrests. He was sporting a rather impressive five-o’clock shadow, and clad in his raggedy dressing gown.
John stood in the doorway, holding his suitcase awkwardly behind him. Sherlock’s eyes were open, gazing into the kitchen. John cleared his throat.
Sherlock’s eyes flickered to him, completely unimpressed, and then returned to staring off into space. His lips were moving gently, probably talking to himself. John smiled fondly, shaking his head, and trotted up the stairs to put his things away.
He returned downstairs, instantly falling into the habit of making tea. He sat Sherlock’s down on the side table, and plopped into his own chair, quietly sipping at his cup. These were some of John’s favourite moments at 221; when he and Sherlock could sit and each be lost in their own thoughts.
Sherlock’s mumbling became louder, and John strained his ears to see if he could catch any words. He caught his name thrown in a few times.
“Sorry?” he asked.
Sherlock seemed to come out of his stupor, blinking lazily. “What time is it?”
John glanced at his watch. “About eight.”
“In the morning or evening?”
John rolled his eyes fondly. “Morning.”
Sherlock sniffed as if offended, and huffed out a breath. “I need a bath.” With a grunt of effort, he unfurled himself from the chair and stood. He walked through the kitchen and toward the hallway.
They both pause when a thump sounded from Sherlock’s bedroom. John looked over curiously, while Sherlock tried to act nonchalant about it. “Old house,” he dismissed. “Creaks.”
“Right,” John said, not believing him for a second. Sherlock closed the bathroom door, and John immediately started towards the bedroom. He reached as far as the hallway when the bedroom door swung open by itself, a familiar face peered out.
Janine was smiling at him, looking surprised. “Oh, John, hi.” She opened the door a bit wider, laughing embarrassedly. She tugged gently on the bottom of the shirt she was wearing—one of Sherlock’s, John noted absently. The shirt seemed to be all she wore. “How are you?” she smiled, and John had to resist dropping his jaw.
“Janine?” he asked, stupidly, because he’s not blind. But some part of him really hoped that this was just a hallucination. Maybe Sherlock drugged his tea. Again.
Janine gave him a smile. “Sorry, not dressed.” She brushed past him, walking into the kitchen, and John tried to get his shock-riddled body to cooperate. She asked, “Are you back from your… doctor thing?”
“Erm, yeah—yes, right. I am,” John stuttered out. He wanted to shake her, yell at her, ask her what the hell she thought she was doing here.
Janine glanced at the clock on the wall. “God, look at the time. I’ll be late.” She strode over to the worktop and fiddled with the coffee machine. “I guess he was in his mind castle?”
John blinked, “Mind castle?”
“Mind castle, yeah. You know, the thinking thing he does? He’s always hiding away in there.”
“Mind palace,” John corrected.
“Does he actually call it that?” she sounded surprised.
“Yeah.” John tried not to get annoyed with her. Truly, he did. It was just so hard.
“Huh! Oh, could you be a love and put some coffee on?” She threw her hands up in frustration. “I give up with this machine.”
“Sure, right, yeah.”
“Thanks.” Janine placed a hand on his shoulder. She looked around. “Where’s Sherl?”
“Sherl,” John repeated airily, bemused. He grinned. John was so not letting that one slip by. “He’s just having a bath. I’m sure he’ll be out in a minute.”
Janine chuckled, “Oh, like he ever is!”
“Yeah!” John agreed; half sarcastic, half completely bewildered. Had he stepped into the twilight zone? He wandered over to the cupboard for the sugar, and Janine walked back down the hall.
John did a double take when she opened the bathroom door. “Morning!” she called in. “Room for a little one?”
From in the bathroom, Sherlock laughed. Janine giggled, stepping in and closing the door behind her. “Morning,” Sherlock drawled.
There was a high-pitched “Ooh,” from Janine, and the sound of splashing water. John turned away, shaking his head.
What the hell was going on?
Later, Sherlock sat across from John, hands steepled under his chin. “So—it’s just a guess—but you’ve probably got some questions.”
“Yeah,” John drew out the word, eyeing his flatmate wearily. “One or two, pretty much.
“Naturally.” His gaze turned to the kitchen, where Janine was moving from the bathroom in only a towel back to Sherlock’s bedroom.
“You have a girlfriend?”
“Yes, I have.”
John grinned, but his mind was still processing. Honestly, what world has he fallen into?
Sherlock glanced back at his bedroom, becoming more serious. “Right, the case I’m working on now is—”
“Yes, you have,” John repeated, bewildered.
“You have a girlfriend.” Nope, saying it outloud didn’t help. John wondered if shouting it would.
Sherlock appeared surprised. “What? Yes! Yes, I’m going out with Janine. I thought that was fairly obvious.” He studied John, wondering if he was coming down with something. He wasn’t normally this slow.
“Yes. Well… yes,” he cleared his throat. ”But I mean you, you, you…” With all the training that MI6 had given him, he couldn’t manage a sentence. “You are in a relationship?”
Sherlock simply blinked at him. “Yes, I am.”
“You and Janine?”
“Mmm, yes. Me and Janine.”
“Care to elaborate?”
Sherlock drew in a long breath and looked up thoughtfully. He puffed out his cheeks, trying not to make it sound too rehearsed. “Well, we’re in a good place. It’s, um…” Good lord, how do people manage small talk? “…very affirming,” he finished. Affirming, yes, that would would do. He smiled tightly.
“You got that from a book.”
Damn. John was slightly more perceptive than Sherlock gave him credit for. “Perhaps.”
John turned as Janine strode into the room, finally dressed.
“Okay, you two bad boys, behave yourselves,” she said.
Sherlock smiled happily at her as she sat herself down on the arm of his chair. He placed an arm around her as she leaned close to his face.
“And you, Sherl, you’re gonna have to tell me where you were last night.”
John couldn’t tear his eyes away. Maybe he had died. Maybe this bizarre world was purgatory.
“‘Working,’” Janine said playfully. “Of course.” She whispered next to his ear. “I’m the only one who really knows what you’re like, remember?”
“Don’t you go letting on,” Sherlock said softly, running a finger down the length of her nose.
What the actual fuck?
Janine smiled at John. “I haven’t told Mary about this. I kind of wanted to surprise her.”
John nodded. “Yeah, you probably will.”
“But we should have you two over for dinner really soon!” Janine smiled, “She can bring that husband of hers and the baby!”
“Yeah!” Sherlock agreed, and John felt his eye twitch.
“My place, though—not the scuzz-dump!” Janine laughed, punching Sherlock on the shoulder affectionately.
They nuzzled together, and John blurted out, “Great, yeah! Dinner! Yeah.”
Janine (finally) stood to leave. “Oh, I’d better dash. It was brilliant to see you!” she said to John.
“You too.” Never come back.
Sherlock escorted Janine to the living room door and opened it for her. “Have a lovely day. Call me later.”
She turned back to him and fiddled with the edge of his jacket. “I might do.” She teased, “I might call you—unless I meet someone prettier.”
They kissed, and John quickly turned away—his mouth in a startled ‘Ohhh!’ shape. He stared pointedly at the window as the other two continued to kiss noisily.
Janine pulled back a little and whispered softly to Sherlock, their noses still touching, “Solve me a crime, Sherlock Holmes.” Grinning, she turned and left.
Sherlock closed the door and perched in his chair. “So, as I was saying, the case is of utmost importance. You and I will need to—”
Sherlock stopped. “Sorry, what. Dinner?”
“Me, Seb, Mary and the baby coming for dinner…” John mused. “With… wine, and… sitting.
Sherlock turned and simply stared at him for a moment. “Seriously? I’m trying to tell you about an important case… and you want to talk about dinner?”
John waved his hand dismissively. “Fine, talk about the… thing.”
Sherlock threw him a look. “Some other time. You are obviously too impaired to think properly.”
John frowned. “Yeah, fine. Okay.”
“John,” Sherlock peered at him curiously. “Is it really that hard to believe that I have a girlfriend?”
“Just a bit, yeah.”
Oh, and his steepled hands were back. John rolled his eyes. “Right, then. I’m going to pop out to the shop. Want anything?”
He didn’t get a reply.
John really didn’t like Janine.
It was with some sick satisfaction that John brought the butt of the pistol across her temple, knocking her unconscious. He didn’t envy her the lump later.
Right then, now that that was settled. John had already knocked out the ex-con of a security guard—a bloody awful security guard, if you asked John. He looked around the posh penthouse office, trained eyes taking in everything of importance.
Sherlock was right about one thing—no one expected a break in when you were quite a few storeys up. That was why John had spent the last thirty minutes scaling the side of the building to slip in through a window.
He was quiet for a few beats—and had made sure Janine and the guard were, too. John stretched his ears for just… there. A wolfish smile flashed across his face as he heard Magnussen’s footsteps upstairs, unalarmed and unassuming.
John walked around the corner and up the set of stairs, absolutely silent, and found his way to the room Magnussen was in.
The man had contacted him recently, not to blackmail him, only to inform him that he knew who (what) John was. The threat was implied, ‘I can ruin you. I know all of your secrets and I can ruin you.’
John Watson did not take kindly to threats.
The hit MI6 had slipped him with the papers was really just an added bonus. John was going to kill the bastard anyway, but this made it less of a hassle with the police. It wasn’t often that MI6 would ask John to do a quick assignment—maybe twice in the last six years—but John always took them silently and did the job efficiently.
So a little trip was made to a certain businessman's office to take care of him.
And, to be honest, he had missed this. Running around with Sherlock was thrilling, but sometimes John missed the rush that came with fulfilling a hit.
John thinked he deserved a little stress relief after the day he’d had. Sherlock had been more… Sherlock than normal, restless and irritated. They were going on three weeks now without a case, and Sherlock was so desperate he said he would settle for just a six.
But, no cases came and John woke up to Sherlock firing his unregistered Browning at the wall. Again.
A screaming match ensued, words were flung, and it all ended with John storming out of the house to go on a walk. He had an afternoon shift at the clinic, and didn’t say a word to Sherlock when he popped back in to get dressed.
Things had cooled down by the time John returned home with dinner. John used the excuse of going to Harry’s to sneak off and grab his gear from where he had stuffed it in a nearby skip.
He changed quickly and efficiently, dressed in all black, with a knit cap to hide his light hair. Oh, how he had missed the comfort of his combat boots. The extra few inches to his height was a bonus, too. They still fit like a glove.
And helped John stay completely silent as he snuck up on Magnussen. The man was sitting at his desk in this office, reading over some files.
John rounded the corner, aiming his gun steadily at the blackmailer. Magnussen started, but immediately recovered. “Dr. Watson,” he said. “What a pleasant surprise.”
John’s voice was hard. “I’m sure.” As much as John wanted to drag this out—make Magnussen pay—it was really just best to do the job quickly. “Get on the floor.”
Magnussen raised a brow. “Now, now, I don’t think that’s necessary, do you?”
“Now. You know who I am, what I’ve done. This will end badly for you if you don’t do as I say.”
Slowly, Magnussen slid to his knees on the floor. “I have a particular feeling things will end badly for me either way.”
“Oh, look at you, you are a clever one.”
”I have failsafes in place,” Magnussen warned. “If you kill me, files will be sent to—”
“There are no files.”
Magnussen stopped and stared at John. “How do you know about that?”
John smirked, “I didn’t. Just a hunch. You see, I have experiences with mad geniuses and their extensive memories. You don’t need proof to ruin the people you blackmail, you’re in the news—you just print it.”
John could see the visible change in Magnussen when he realised his only bargaining chip was lost.
“Please,” Magnussen said immediately. “Please don’t.”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“What—what—what would your friend think, eh? Your genius?”
John was silent, letting the man continue.
“He… your lovely man, upright, honourable…” Magnussen’s voice quivered, “…so English. What—what would he say to you now?” Magnussen’s hands were now behind his head, shaking. The man was cowering here before John.
John loved it.
He cocked the gun, the click echoing in the silent room. Magnussen whimpered, lapsing into Danish. “Nej, nej!”
John grew impatient, readjusting the grip on his gun. Magnussen scrambled to speak faster.
“You’re—you’re doing this to protect him from the truth… but is this protection he would want? Think, Doc—”
It was always the first three seconds after pulling the trigger that made it all worth while. Total catharsis, all the drugs and endorphins rushing through his body. It didn’t matter that the pistol in his hand was still warm, and the walls would probably never be cleaned back to their original colour. The only thing that mattered was the rush.
Which was completely and absolutely shattered by a familiar voice sounding behind him, “Additionally, if you’re going to commit murder, you might consider changing your cologne…”
John went completely pale.
No. No, Sherlock couldn’t he here. Sherlock could never find out.
“…Mister Bond,” Sherlock finished, and John felt like sobbing in relief. Sherlock didn’t know it was him. Not yet. He still had time to get away.
John shifted slightly, debating on whether he should make a run for it. He knew all of Sherlock’s tricks when chasing a criminal, so it wouldn’t be that hard to out-maneuver him. Right?
“Come on, then,” Sherlock goaded, “Turn around. How will my brother respond when he finds out you’ve gone freelance. It will break his heart.” John heard Sherlock take a step toward him, and tensed. “Turn,” Sherlock demanded.
Very well, then.
In one swift move, John turned around, lifting his pistol to aim at Sherlock.
It was a shame, really, that John had to go to his sister’s tonight. Sherlock was going to ask him to come along to Magnussen’s office—but considering his inattentive state a week ago when Sherlock was trying to explain the case to him, it was probably for the best that he couldn’t come.
Sherlock almost shouted for John to bring him his phone—before remembering at the last minute. Huffing, he reached onto the coffee table and scooped up his phone.
Lestrade answered on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Lestrade, I require your assistance. Meet me at—”
“Christ, Sherlock. This is my one night off this week. I just want to relax.”
“You have caller ID,” Sherlock countered. “If you truly wanted to relax, you wouldn’t have picked up.”
Lestrade paused, before groaning. “Damn it. Fine, what do you need?”
Sherlock grinned, “I’ll be outside your flat in ten, be ready then.”
“Wait, hang on, where are we—”
Sherlock hung up.
The pair walked into the lobby of a large corporate building. Lestrade shifted uncomfortably. “Right, then. What exactly are we doing here?”
Sherlock nodded toward the lift at the end of the hallway. “Magnussen’s office is on the top floor, just below his private flat… but there are fourteen levels of security between us and him…” he trailed off. “…Two of which aren’t even legal in this country. Want to know how we’re going to break in?”
Lestrade sighed. “Is that what we’re doing?”
Sherlock huffed. “Of course it’s what we’re doing.” He turned to stride away, and Lestrade groaned.
“Why did you invite me then, a cop, if you’re just going to go something illegal?”
“John’s away,” Sherlock shrugged.
Lestrade held his hands over his ears. “No, I do not need to hear what sort of activities you and him get up to.”
Sherlock smiled, and they walked through the hallway. “Magnussen’s private lift. It goes straight to his penthouse and office. Only he uses it, and only his key card calls the lift. Anyone else even tries, security is automatically informed.”
Lestrade shrugged, “Right then, I don’t need the big explanation—let’s just get this over with.”
Sherlock frowned at him for a moment, before stalking over to stand in front of the door. John would have listened to my explanation, Sherlock thought sulkily. He stood in front of the camera and rubbed the key card against his mobile.
“Human error,” he said to Lestrade, and scanned the corrupted card. “I’ve been shopping.”
Just as predicted, Janine’s face peered back at him through the small screen. She blinked at Sherlock, stunned. “Sherlock, you complete loon! What are you doing?!” Sherlock put on his most charming smile.
Lestrade looked round in surprise. “Hang on—was that…? That…!” He started to step closer, but Sherlock held the flat of his hand up to stop him.
He spoke to the camera. “Hi, Janine.” He glanced around secretively. ”Go on, let me in.”
“I can’t!” Janine said. “You know I can’t. Don’t be silly.”
“Don’t make me do it out here. Not…” he paused, looking pointedly at all the other people in the lobby. “In front of everyone,” he finished quietly.
“Do what in front of everyone?”
Sherlock lowered his eyes and blew out a big breath, feining nervousness. He pulled out a small dark red box and opened it before holding it up to the camera to show the large diamond engagement ring inside.
Janine gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth.
Lestrade stared at the ring, mouth gaping. Sherlock gave his biggest pleading eyes over the top of the box as he smiled into the camera. The card reader screen turned from red to blue and the lift doors opened.
Sherlock grins into the camera, then clicked the box closed and turned to Lestrade, whose mouth was still open.
“You see?” Sherlock explained—because he had to tell someone what just happened. “As long as there are people, there’s always a weak spot.”
He started to walk into the lift but Lestrade stopped him. “That was Janine.”
“Yes, of course it was Janine.” He said it like it should have been obvious. “She’s Magnussen’s PA. That’s the whole point.”
“Did you just get engaged to break into an office?”
“Yes,” he stepped into the lift. “Stroke of luck, meeting her at the baby shower. You can thank John for that one.”
“Je-Jesus!” Lestrade stuttered. “Sherlock, she loves you.”
Sherlock’s voice was flat. “Yes. Like I said—human error.”
Lestrade rubbed at his forehead. “What are you gonna do?”
Sherlock tilted his head as if he was only just not considering this. “Well, not actually marry her, obviously. There’s only so far you can go.”
“So, what are you going to tell her?”
“Well, I’ll tell her that our entire relationship was a ruse to break into her boss’ office. I imagine she’ll want to stop seeing me at that point… but you’re the expert on break ups. You might want to console her.”
The lift doors opened before Lestrade could get in a good retort, and Sherlock put on his human smile and stepped out. He looked around for his ‘new fiancée.’
After a moment he stopped, now scanning more carefully and frowning when there was no sign of her. They walked into her office, but she still couldn’t be seen.
“Where did she go?” Lestrade asked.
“It’s a bit rude.” Sherlock said. “I just proposed to her.”
Lestrade walked across the room toward the window and saw Janine lying on the floor. “Sherlock!” he called.
Sherlock came over and looked down at her with a grimace. “Did she faint? Do they really do that?”
Lestrade took his hand from her head and saw blood on his fingers. “It’s a blow to the head.” He bent his ear lower to her mouth. “She’s breathing. Janine?” he called.
Janine moaned quietly. Sherlock looked around the rest of the office, eyes narrowing when something in an adjoining room caught his eye.
“Another in here,” he called, striding over to get a better look at the man sprawled out of the floor. Another blow to the head. Quick and efficient. “Security.”
“Does he need help?” Lestrade asked.
“Ex-con. White supremacist, by the tattoo, so who cares? Stick with Janine.”
Lestrade frowned, but still did as asked. “Janine?” he asked again. “Can you hear me?”
Sherlock looked around the room, mind racing. Who would have the motive and skills to break into such a secure building. He walked to the nearby glass desk. Bending down, Sherlock scrutinised the desk and surrounding area. He squatted down to the leather chair behind the desk and placed his hand on the seat, noting the temperature of the leather.
Lestrade quickly made his way over to Sherlock, crooking a thumb over his shoulder at Janine. “Hey. They must still be here.”
Sherlock straightened up, fixing his clothes. “So’s Magnussen. He should be at dinner but he’s still in the building.” His eyes scanned the room for any hints, and then he looked upwards. “Upstairs.” he said.
Lestrade took out his own phone. “I’ll phone for some help from the Yard.”
Sherlock gave him the ‘you’re-an-idiot’ look. “During our own burglary?! You’re really not a natural at this, are you?”
Lestrade sighed and put his phone away.
“No, wait, shh!” Sherlock suddenly caught a whiff of something. Something faint; something familiar. He knew that smell… Not caring how silly he looked, Sherlock breathed deeply.
Lestrade went back to tend to Janine.
Sherlock squinted as he tried to place the smell.
Chrome? Acqua Di Gio?
“Cologne—not Magnussen's,” he called to Lestrade.
Sherlock waved the thought away. Eternity? Paul Sebastian? No. Sherlock shook his head, and suddenly gasped.
Sherlock repeated the name out loud, and turned to Lestrade, grimacing. “Why do I know it?”
Lestrade looked up from Janine, frowning. “John wears it.”
Sherlock waved his hand dismissively, “No, not John. Somebody else.“ His head snapped up as he heard a noise from upstairs. His eyes narrow.
Lestrade hissed, “Sherlock!”
But the detective was already off. He threw a ‘stay with Janine,’ over his shoulder and made his way up the stairs.
Sherlock crept along the hallway to the open office door at the end. He could hear Magnussen from inside. His voice was shaky, “What—what—what would your friend think, eh? Your genius?”
There was no response.
“He… your lovely man, upright, honourable…” Magnussen’s voice quivered.
Sherlock stretched his neck to peek through the doorway. He was unsurprised to see Magnussen kneeling on the floor, his hands clasped behind his head.
“…so English. What—what would he say to you now?”
In front of Magnussen, their back to Sherlock, was a figure—obviously male—dressed in all black and wearing gloves. He pulled back the pistol and silencer, cocking it, and pointed it back at Magnussen.
Magnussen cowered, mumbling in Danish. “Nej, nej!” Sherlock’s eyes narrowed at the figure. “You’re—you’re doing this to protect him from the truth…” Magnussen continued. “but is this protection he would want? Think, Doc—”
The man fired.
Sherlock couldn’t resist flinching at the sudden muffled pop! but managed to keep from making a sound. And, because he apparently had a death wish, Sherlock stepped into the room of the murderer.
“Additionally,” he said, keeping his voice nonchalant. He relished in the tensing of the assassin’s shoulders. “If you’re going to commit murder, you might consider changing your cologne…”
Sherlock, like the drama queen he is, paused slightly for effect. The man was holding very still, but Sherlock took it as a good sign that he didn’t shoot right away.
“…Mister Bond,” Sherlock finished. He smirked when he saw the man flinch slightly. The agent looked like he was about to bolt at any second, so Sherlock did what he did best—taunt.
“Come on, then,” Sherlock said, “Turn around. How will my brother respond when he finds out you’ve gone freelance. It will break his heart.” Sherlock would make sure this James Bond would not get away with his betrayal. As much as he pretended to be aloof about family, he didn’t actually want to see them get hurt. Not unless he was the one doing it, at least.
“Turn,” Sherlock demanded.
Bond seemed to take in a breath, and then turned around swiftly, lifting the pistol to aim at Sherlock’s head.
It wasn’t James Bond, but John Watson.
The smile slipped right off of Sherlock’s face, air rushing out of his lungs in surprise.
Sherlock was hallucinating. He had to be. This couldn’t be real. This had to be like the pool—John was doing this against his will. There was no way that John could be… be a killer.
But the grave look on John’s face said it all. His jaw was clenched, but the pistol didn’t waver from its position.
Still, he had to ask. “John?”
John’s voice was hard. “What are you doing here, Sherlock?”
Sherlock’s voice seemed to be stolen from him; his retort came out no louder than a whisper, “I could ask the same of you.”
John’s eyes narrowed further. He snapped, “What are you doing here, Sherlock.”
“I was here to see Magnussen,” Sherlock said quietly.
“You’re a bit late.”
“Yes, well, so is he.”
John didn’t seem to appreciate the joke. “How did you get in?”
Realisation dawned on John’s face. “You were just using her.”
“You don’t sound too upset.”
“I never liked her much,” John admitted, but his voice was so much different than Sherlock was used to. It wasn’t warm or affectionate, but completely detached. John’s eyes flickered down to Sherlock’s ungloved hands. “How much did you touch?”
Sherlock frowned. “Touch?”
“Think, Sherlock, how many things did you touch? You forgot to put on gloves, you idiot.”
“I…” Sherlock trailed off.
“You’ve touched things, then. And your shoe prints are all over the place.” He scowled, “To top it all off, you were firing my gun this morning. I suppose you were too lazy to clean off the powder burns. Damn it, Sherlock, how many times have I told you not to touch my gun?”
“My guess is as many times as I’ve done it.”
“Smartarse. If I leave you here, the police will find powder burns on your hands and a bullet in Magnussen’s head. Even Scotland Yard could get somewhere with that.”
Sherlock didn’t feel the need to mention that a member of NSY was downstairs. No need for John to kill Lestrade, as well. “John, let me help you. What ever he had on you, let me help.”
John threw his hands up. “Well, what he had on me doesn’t make a bit of difference know. You’ve just found out!”
Sherlock peered at him. “I am curious. How did you keep this hidden for so long? Call it a dead man’s last wish.”
“Sherlock,” John looked at him as if he was insane. “I’m not going to kill you.”
“Aren’t you?” Sherlock asked. He didn’t seem too perturbed over his possible death. “I don’t exactly pay attention to all the action movies you force me to watch, but I am familiar with the concept of loose ends.”
John looked as if he could rip his hair out in frustration. “Are you alone?”
Sherlock frowned in confusion. Well, there was no need to lie to the man holding a gun. “No. Lestrade’s downstairs.”
“Good. I am sorry about this, Sherlock.” John reached into a pocket, pulling out something thin and long.
John lunged forward, jabbing the hypodermic needle into Sherlock’s neck. The man’s eyes immediately unfocused, a look of shock on his face. John sighed regretfully.
Sherlock tried to reach a hand up to grab the needle, but only succeeded in waving an arm around wildly. “John?”
“You’ll be fine,” John soothed. “It’s just a sedative. It won’t even keep you out for very long.”
Sherlock’s muscles grew weak, and John stepped forward to catch him as he sagged. Sherlock attempted to sound stern, but his words were slurring, “We are not done talking abou’ dis.”
John chuckled, “Okay, Sherlock. Just sleep now.”
Sherlock’s eyes slipped closed.
Sherlock woke up in a hospital bed, the monitor’s incessant beeping grating on his nerves.
So John didn’t kill him, then. That was good.
He opened his eyes slightly, noting everything of importance about the room. He frowned; Mycroft had paid for it. And the nurse was having an affair with the janitor.
The morphine drip was so tempting, so close; but Sherlock didn’t dare touch it. He needed to think—couldn’t think with a clouded mind.
His eyes closed as he went to his mind palace. John’s room was in a disarray, everything messed up from the shock of seeing John in Magnussen’s office. Carefully, he cleaned the mess, reviewing each piece individually. There were hints of John’s other life dispersed throughout his memories, but Sherlock had been too slow to on putting the pieces together.
When he finally resurfaced, Lestrade was sitting in the visitor’s chair, sleeping head perched on his fist.
Sherlock cleared his throat.
Lestrade’s eyes opened groggily, blinking a few times. “You’re awake,” he mumbled. The DI shook his head slightly, trying to wake himself.
“What happened,” Sherlock demanded. He needed to know if John had been caught.
Lestrade eyed him warily. “How much do you remember?”
Sherlock skirted the truth. “I caught the killer right after they shot Magnussen. Then they drugged me, and I woke up here.”
“Can you be more specific, Sherlock?” Lestrade asked. “You’re our only witness; you must have gotten a good look at the guy.”
“You didn’t catch him.” Sherlock tried to keep the relief out of his voice.
Lestrade shook his head. “He escaped. I heard the window shatter and came upstairs to find you on the floor.”
“The window shattered?”
“A shot fired through the window.” Oh, John must’ve needed to get Lestrade’s attention on Sherlock—he couldn’t very well call out.
Lestrade continued, “Bastard popped a flair and pulled the fire alarm. We think he left out the window.”
Sherlock shook his head. "Why else would he pull the fire alarm? No, he left right out the front doors."
"We've looked through the camera footage, but we don't know who we're looking for. Everyone looks normal."
Sherlock's lips twitched. "A master of disguise."
"I can't seem to get a hold of John," Lestrade said, "His mobile is off and he wasn't at Baker Street. I'm sure he'd want to be here."
Sherlock waved a hand, "Oh, he went to his sister's. Something about her gambling addiction and lack of funds. He’s most likely turned off his phone.”
Lestrade frowned. “Do you have Harry’s number?”
“God, no.” Sherlock looked as if Lestrade had two heads. “Why would I?”
“In case John was with Harry and he has his phone off?”
Sherlock paused, before conceding, “Fair point. Now that we have that settled,” he said, heaving himself into sitting position.
Lestrade was instantly fretting over him. “Oh, no you don’t. You need to stay—Sherlock!”
Sherlock ignored him, rising to his feet and stumbling to the door. At Lestrade’s squawk, he reached back and closed the gown over his rear.
Sherlock perched on his chair, now fully clothed, staring intently at the door. Lestrade was restless. “Sherlock, you should be resting. You’ve just been attacked—”
“It was a mild sedative, Lestrade. nothing to get upset over.”
Lestrade pulled at his hair. “You were facing the attacker, Sherlock. You must know who they are.”
Sherlock nodded. “Yes, what do you think we’re doing here?”
Lestrade was confused for a moment, before realisation dawned. His voice dropped to a—rather unnecessary—whisper. ”You mean, the killer is coming here?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Yes, he should be here any minute now.”
Lestrade moved to pull out his mobile. “I’ll phone for backup.”
Sherlock waved the thought away. “There’s no need, really. He’s harmless.”
“Sherlock,” Lestrade hissed, “he killed a man not five minutes before he attacked you. How can you say he’s harmless?”
Sherlock thought on that for a moment, before amending, “Mostly harmless.”
The downstairs door opened, the noise echoing in the silent flat. Lestrade tensed, while Sherlock grinned in anticipation. The footsteps on the stairs were slow, almost as if the person dreaded coming up the stairs. Finally, they stopped on the landing in front of the living room door.
“It’s open,” Sherlock called.
An audible sigh, and then the door swung open. John stepped in, looking completely unassuming.
“John,” Lestrade greeted, “Come away from the door. We’re about to catch a killer.”
John stayed where he was.
Sherlock’s lips twitched into a smile, looking as he did when he was solving a rather interesting case. “Oh, I think we have.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Really? We’re going to do this here?”
Sherlock nodded, and John sighed again. He took off his coat, leaving him in his jumper—the horrid oatmeal coloured one that he wore when they first met.
“No time like the present.”
“No t—what?” Lestrade was confused. “What’s going on.”
Sherlock stood, fixing his suit collar, and waved a hand out in John’s direction, as if the man was on display. “Lestrade, meet John Watson, former agent of MI…” Sherlock paused, as if thinking. “…five?”
“Six,” John corrected.
“MI6,” Sherlock said. “Assassin. Sniper, most likely.”
Slowly, John’s harmless persona slipped off. He stopped slouching, stopped fidgeting. His eyes became cool and his body was deceptively calm, coiled and ready to spring.
“You were very slow,” John said.
Sherlock cocks his head, “How good a shot are you?”
John’s voice was teasing. “How badly do you want to find out.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes at the threat. “You already said you wouldn’t kill me. Going back on that would be bad form.”
John let out a little snort, shaking his head at his mad flatmate.
Lestrade stood as well. “Wait. Hang on. John, you—you what?! An assassin.”
“Mm,” Sherlock answered. ”And a good one, too. Good enough a shot to hit the cabbie through two panes of glass.” He shook his head, “I should have realised sooner.”
“The cabbie? John, that was you?” John shrugged, looking extremely unguilty. “MI6,” Lestrade continued, “M-I-bloody-six.”
Sherlock was smiling. “How long did you work for them. I’m guessing you were still an army doctor before that.”
“Oh, I have a better question,” Lestrade snapped. He paced, leaving a wide gap between himself and the assassin. He meets John’s eyes angrily. “Is everyone I’ve ever met a psychopath?”
Sherlock’s eyes lifted up to the ceiling, as if thinking, and then said, “Yes.”
John gave a nod of agreement.
“Good, now we’ve settled that,” Sherlock said. “Anyway, we—”
Lestrade spun toward him, barking, “Shut up!”
They all heard a little crash downstairs, and Mrs. Hudson yelled a warning, “Boys!”
“Sorry!” John shouted back.
“And stay shut up,” Lestrade continued, albeit quieter. “Because this is not funny.” He gave the pair a tight smile. ”Not this time.”
“It’s a little funny,” Sherlock countered.
“Just a little,” John agreed.
Lestrade looked up, groaning in frustration. “What have I ever done…” he muttered.
“I suppose it is your fault,” Sherlock said. “You were the one that encouraged me to get a flatmate.”
“A normal flatmate,” he hissed.
John snapped, “Oi!”
“My fault,” Lestrade muttered. By this point, he was looking absolutely delirious. “Why is everything my fault!” He kicked at the leg of the chair, only resulting on a throbbing toe.
“Please, Lestrade,” Sherlock groaned. “There’s no need for the melodrama.”
Lestrade spun to point an angry finger at Sherlock. “You. You knew I’d react like this. That’s the only reason you had me stick around, wasn’t it?”
“That’s not completely tr—” Lestrade glowered, and Sherlock paused, before admitting, “Okay, that’s partly true. ”
“Sherlock,” John admonished, “don’t torment the poor man.”
“And you,” Lestrade spun to hiss at John. “You are not off the hook. You killed someone!”
“He’s killed a lot of someones,” Sherlock pointed out. “So probably not the best appeal.”
“Christ, the pair of you are going to be the death of me. John, you know I have to take you in.”
John instantly slipped back into his harmless persona. He blinked innocent eyes up at Lestrade. “For what?”
“Cor, that’s creepy. For…” he shook his head, trying to clear it, “for murder.”
“Can you prove it? Was any evidence left at the scene?”
“No, but we have an eye witness account naming you as the killer.” He looked pointedly at Sherlock.
Sherlock’s face mirrored John’s. “The sedative the killer used caused mild amnesia. I’m afraid I don’t remember what they looked like.”
Lestrade tilted his head back, huffing at the ceiling. “Why me?” he muttered. He focused his eyes on John. “John… I—”
“He’s battling his ethics,” Sherlock interrupted. “Catch a killer or help his friend?”
John smiled sheepishly. “I can show you the paperwork that makes it legal.”
Sherlock looked at him, curiosity piqued. “Where were you hiding those?”
Lestrade threw his hands up. “Okay. You win. I’m leaving—I need a bloody beer.” He turned to stride down the stairs.
John shouted after him, “We’ll catch up over some drinks soon. My shout.”
“Damn straight it’s your shout,” they heard Lestrade grumble. The front door slammed, and it was silent in the flat for all of five seconds before the pair burst into hysterics. John was sure he heard Sherlock snort at least once.
Chest heaving, John wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. “So, what now?”
“Well, Janine is most likely hunting me down. I imagine she’ll want to have a few words with me.”
“Good luck with that.”
“She terrifies me,” Sherlock admitted, though he was smiling.
John let out an unmanly giggle. “I am not protecting you from her.”
Sherlock teased, “Oh? And who says I need you to protect me?”
“I do,” a voice spoke from the doorway. Sherlock jolted, and John had his pistol drawl and aimed in a heartbeat.
Mycroft stood in the doorway, leaning on his umbrella. He looked unimpressed with John’s gun.
“Please, Agent, put that away before you hurt someone.”
Slowly, John let his arm drop. “I’m not an agent anymore.”
Mycroft raised his chin to look down his nose at John. “And yet, you accepted a hit from your former employer. I wonder why that is?” He stepped in the flat, and pointedly sat down in John’s chair.
“How long have you known?” John asked, voice calm though he didn’t put away the Browning completely.
“Admittedly, not until recently. I was tipped off when the remains of a David Brannigan were found in the concrete structure of a building made two years ago.”
It took Sherlock three seconds to recall which case that name belonged to, and he spun to look at John with wide eyes. John kept his eyes averted.
“How were they found?” John asked.
“There was a fire in the building. They had to tear it down to build something new, and well, the construction workers were very surprised, to say the least.”
John’s jaw flexed. “I’ll make tea.”
Sherlock watched him go, before perching in his chair once more. “And how did you know who John is?”
Mycroft smirked at his younger brother. “I happen to be friends—” he grimaced at the word, “with the head of SIS. I simply borrowed his security clearance do do a more thorough check on Dr. Watson.”
John walked back in, setting three cups of tea on the side table. “And why didn’t you do that in the first place?”
“Quentin has a tendency to make my hackers’ lives difficult—even our best can’t get past his security. Even now, I imagine he’s changed Mallory’s access codes.” Mycroft’s eyes fixed on John. “I’m sure Mr. Bond has told you that Quentin is the new Quartermaster.”
John nodded, and Sherlock sighed. “The one from the hospital.”
It wasn’t a question, but John still said, “Yes.”
Mycroft spoke up, “Also, John, a certain consulting criminal has been suspiciously quiet recently. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
John froze for half a second, before shaking his head. “Not a thing, sorry.”
“Oh, I’d imagine not.” Smirking to himself, Mycroft stood. “I suppose you two have quite a bit to sort out. I have other things to attend to. Sealand is quite possibly the—” he cut himself off. “Well, you don’t need to know about that.” He moved to stride out of the flat, pausing at the doorway. “Dr. Watson, I have allowed you to stay with Sherlock because it has proved valuable to his health.” Ignoring Sherlock’s indignant squawk, Mycroft fixed a cool look at John. “If you change that, consider yourself as good as gone. Afternoon,” he called, exiting.
Sherlock turned to face John, his features unreadable. “You killed David Brannigan.”
John steeled himself, waiting for the disgust or horror. “I did.”
“I might have done that too, yes.” John avoided looking the detective in the eye, and missed the look of wonder there.
John’s head snapped up, a blush spreading over his cheeks.
Sherlock grinned. “Quentin is going to be insufferable from now on, I hope you know.”
“He’ll be gloating about how he knew before Mycroft and me. Christmas dinners will be horrid.”
John chuckled. He teased, “That’s not my fault. You were slow.”
Sherlock opened his mouth to retort, when a heavy pounding sounded on the front door.
“Sherlock Holmes, you bastard, open this door this instant!” A feminine voice yelled.
He blinked once. “That would be Janine.”
“Should I tell Mrs. Hudson to not let her in?”
Sherlock contemplated the thought for a second, while Mrs. Hudson shouted up, “Sherlock, the door!”
“No,” Sherlock finally said. “I might as well face her now.”
John’s lips quirked. “Have fun with that.”