A package for John is delivered a few minutes after Sherlock leaves the flat to meet with Lestrade. John opens it gingerly and finds his mobile phone tucked inside the box, accompanied by a note:
I know the phone was a gift from your sister so I thought you might want it back.
The phone rings. John wants to ignore it but the threat in the note is clear. He answers. "What do you want, Moriarty?" he says in a cold, clipped voice.
A warm chuckle. "Hello to you too, darling."
"What do you want?"
"Aren't you going to thank me?"
"Thank you?" John snaps incredulously.
"Of course! Perhaps you didn't notice, but your vest wasn't actually strapped with real Semtex."
"I was in the army. I could tell it was fake from the start."
"And you didn't say anything."
John doesn't dignify that with a response.
"I want to see you," Moriarty says after a pause. "Today. Now."
John laughs. The sound is hollow, mirthless.
"I mean it," Moriarty says softly. "I want to meet with you, anywhere you want."
Moriarty sighs. "Don't be difficult, Johnny."
"Don't call me that," John bites out.
"Fine. John." A concession. "Come on, I could have just sent some men to kidnap you but I'm trying to be nice. Meet with me."
John says nothing.
Moriarty sighs again. "It's not a trick," he says.
"I'm serious. It's not. I just...want to see you."
John lets out an angry breath. "Do you honestly think I'm that stupid? Fuck you. I'm not an idiot, despite what you - "
"I know you're not," Moriarty says, cutting him off. "Listen," he continues, his voice soft but urgent, "I was playing a part last night. I had an agenda and I did what I had to do. But I want you to know, I didn't really mean the things I said about you at the pool. That was part of the game." He pauses. "The pub was different. I was playing a part then too, but I was mostly telling you the truth and being real with you, as much as I could be. What I said...I actually meant most of it."
"Oh, for god's sake! Stop it. Enough. Do you honestly think I don't know what this is about?"
"You're wrong. It has nothing to do with Sherlock. It's about you. Me. Us."
John snorts. "Us," he repeats.
"I can't stop thinking about you."
"This is ridiculous. I'm hanging up."
"Don't," he warns. "Come on, don't be like this. I could force you. You know I can. But I don't want to have to do that. Be reasonable."
"You're insane. Fucked in the head."
"You kissed me back," Moriarty says quietly. "You wanted it too."
John flushes at that. "Yeah, you're right. I did. When I thought you were Jim from IT. You played a good game, I have to say. At the pool, at the pub, all of it. I've got to give you credit for that. So, congratulations. You were very convincing. And well done, you managed to get me to snog you at the pub. But don't forget, I pushed you away in the end."
"You're angry because you think it was all a game. But it's more than that, isn't it? You're upset because even though you believe I was just playing you the whole time, you're still attracted to me."
"No. I'm not."
"Yes, you are. Don't lie."
John is silent for a moment, then says, "Fine. I admit I was attracted to 'Jim from IT' but I'm not attracted to you."
"Last night wasn't me. You don't know the real me. But I want you to."
"John - "
"No. I don't care who you really are. You're Moriarty. That's all I need to know." He hangs up.
The phone rings seconds later. John doesn't answer.
A text comes next:
I didn't want to have to resort to threats but you're forcing me. Do I really need to mention Harry or Clara or Mrs Hudson or Sherlock? Meet me in the front hall at The Savoy. Now.
When John enters the lobby of The Savoy twenty minutes later, he doesn't see Moriarty. Instead, he gets another text:
Go outside. My car is pulling up now.
John thinks of all the people who could get hurt if he doesn't comply; he goes outside and approaches the black car that's waiting for him.
The back window opens a crack. "Get in."
John opens the door and slides in next to Moriarty, who smiles at him then knocks twice on the smoked glass divider, indicating for the driver to go.
"I'm glad you came," Jim says softly, and his tone is low and intimate, as if it's a date, as if John is there willingly.
"It's not like you gave me a choice," John replies, his voice sharp.
Moriarty shrugs and waves a hand dismissively. "Whatever works," he says. "It got you here, didn't it?" His eyes are bright as he gazes at John intently. "You know, Mycroft Holmes has you under very tight surveillance. Of course, I can get around that. Easy peasy." He types something into his phone then looks back at John as the car pulls into the heavy London traffic.
"Where are we going?" John asks.
"It's a surprise. First we're going to drive around for a bit. I want to show you something." Moriarty takes out a laptop and opens it, then scoots closer to John. "Here. Have a look."
John stiffens, both at the contact of Moriarty's shoulder, now pressed against his own, and at the sight of what's currently displayed on the computer screen. It appears to be live camera surveillance of every room in 221B: the sitting room, the kitchen, Sherlock's bedroom, John's bedroom, the bathroom, the stairs.
"This, John, is what you get when you throw in your lot with Sherlock Holmes," Moriarty says. "This is all courtesy of Mycroft Holmes; I'm just hacked into his surveillance monitors." He pauses and gives John a sidelong look. "Big Brother is watching. Literally. He's watching everything, every moment, every private moment. Now that you're with Sherlock, or rather, now that Sherlock is with you, Mycroft Holmes will stop at nothing. And this," he gestures at the screen, "is just the tip of the iceberg, just a taste of how much control he has over your life."
John stares. He knew, of course. He knew there had to be cameras planted by Mycroft all over the flat. But to see it like this, it rankles. To see the extent of it - not just cameras in the main part of the flat but in his bedroom, in the fucking bathroom - makes his fists clench with fury.
"Shall I show you more?" Moriarty asks.
John looks at him, eyes narrowed, then gives a terse nod.
Moriarty types something on the keyboard and the images of 221B are replaced by another live feed, this time of what is presumably Mycroft's office. "Now this," Moriarty says with a smirk, "this is courtesy of my surveillance."
"Unacceptable," Mycroft is saying to Anthea. "It is imperative that we find and retrieve John Watson, before my brother discovers he's missing." Mycroft glances at his computer monitor and sighs. "Thankfully, DI Lestrade is keeping him occupied with case files, but for how long?"
"Sir, I'm doing the best I can," Anthea frowns. "The CCTV cameras show nothing."
"Yes," Mycroft says impatiently. "I am aware of that."
Moriarty chuckles. "Like chickens with their heads cut off," he says with smug amusement.
John glares at him. "I get it. You want me to see that you're smarter, more powerful than even the omniscient Mycroft Holmes. Is that it? Right then. Brilliant. Well done. You've made your point, Moriarty."
Moriarty smiles and places a hand on John's knee. "Call me Jim."
John brushes the hand off. "Don't touch me."
"You didn't mind it so much outside the pub last night," Moriarty reminds him with a grin.
John lets out an exasperated breath. "Yes, well... I mind it now. Obviously."
"Really? Are you sure about that?"
Truth be told, what Jim said on the phone earlier was right. John does feel the attraction still, despite everything, but he sure as hell isn't going to admit it.
Jim's smile widens. "My dear John," he murmurs and his expression turns affectionate. "You can't hide from me. You may have fooled Sherlock, perhaps even Mycroft Holmes, but never me. I know who you really are."
John schools his features into a mask and casts Jim a blank glance. "What are you talking about?"
"Later. I have more to show you first." Jim types on the keyboard then says, "This was recorded last night, at around 4 AM."
John looks at the screen.
It's footage from John's bedroom: Sherlock is standing next to the bed, watching John sleep.
"A bit creepy, if not flattering," Jim notes. "You do have something - a certain je ne sais quoi - that invites the attention of stalkers to you, don't you think?"
"Apparently so." John gives him a pointed look and Jim laughs, delighted.
"It's not the first time Sherlock has done that," he says coyly. "I have other incidents on record, thanks to big brother's surveillance. Mycroft Holmes likes to watch you too. I have plenty of evidence of that, if you'd like to see it."
John's fists clench again.
"I've been watching you for some time now myself. And yet, it seems I'm the only one who sees the truth."
"The truth," John says flatly. "What's that then? Tell me. What are you doing? What is this? Because I'm bloody tired of it. I'm not going to be part of your game with Sherlock."
"Of course not. Don't be silly, John. This isn't about that. Though, you've been playing your own little game with Sherlock all this time, haven't you? Did you think I didn't know, that I didn't see? I did. Your game changed my game. It became about us, you and me. It became a question: which part of Sherlock ultimately controls him - his mind or his heart? And we both know the answer to that now."
Their eyes lock.
"And?" John says.
"You won." Jim smiles. "And for that, you have my regard."
Note: You might want to read "The Zero Hour" next - As part of the Catch-22 universe, "The Zero Hour" fills in what happened with John and Sherlock from the time between the cliffhanger at the Pool and certain events that take place during the first two chapters of Catch-22.