Welcome to the inner workings of my mind
So dark and foul I can't disguise
Nights like this
I become afraid
Of the darkness in my heart
Jim first noticed the far off, barely there look in John Watson’s eyes the first day that he met him. Well, the first day that he met him in person; John had, of course, crossed his radar during his observation of Sherlock Holmes, but he’d immediately dismissed the army doctor. That changed the day he decided to taunt Sherlock, appearing in Bart’s as Molly’s gay boyfriend. He only caught glimpses of John, focused as he was on Sherlock, playing his role and taunting the detective in his own, secret way, but what caught his attention was that look. The hollow, distant look in John’s eyes, as if he was hardly aware of his surroundings. Interesting, as well, was the way John flinched, just slightly, at the loud noise Jim made when knocking over equipment, finding an excuse to look away from the scene in what appeared to be embarrassment. Even more interesting was the way John spoke for Sherlock, the necessary niceties the other man would never say, all while Sherlock seemed to hold in a quiet irritation. John was quick to jump to be nice so the other man wouldn’t have to, ready and willing to curb his anger. Something about the scene caught Jim’s attention, something just off in their interactions. From that moment on, his attention focused on the doctor, rather than the detective.
At the pool, he found himself staring at John Watson before Sherlock arrived, memorizing the lines of his sleeping face and the variations in color in his blonde hair. John was asleep, vulnerable, and Jim used it as an excuse to lift up his shirt, eager to see more of the soldier’s skin. Bruises. Well, bruise. It was just one, spread across Johnny boy’s right ribs, green and yellow and fading. Jim’s brow furrowed at this, actually furrowed. He was never confused, and yet this didn’t make sense to him. It was an older bruise, that was obvious from the coloration, but it was pretty serious, not something caused by an accidental bump into a table or anything. Perhaps he got it while trailing after Sherlock on a case? Many of the detective’s adventures were more dangerous, and John did seem so eager to jump into the thick of things. Jim didn’t have much more time to explore that theory, because John was stirring and it was almost show time. So he put his shirt back down and sat away from him, a smile plastered on as hazy blue eyes flickered open under long black lashes. And Jim’s heart stopped. It was good that most of his life was spent acting, because this story didn’t involve the villain falling in love with the princess and he couldn’t let Johnny know that things had just shifted monumentally. Because John’s eyes were beautiful, when he didn’t go to whatever far off place he visited when his gaze glazed over. Jim didn’t know where it was he went for the longest time.
“I have friends, Sherlock, that’s what normal people do! I go out, I drink with them at pubs, I hang out with them. Since I started seeing you I’ve barely been out to see them anyway, I hardly see why it’s an issue for me to go have a drink with a few mates.”
“It’s an issue because it seems to me that you can barely go out without having at least three women hitting on you,” Sherlock had growled in return, nearly baring his teeth like an animal caught in a snarl. “Forgive me for experiencing such a human emotion as jealousy, John, I thought you of all people would understand why I have difficulty dealing with these things.”
He’d flopped down on the couch, turning his back to John, who had immediately started drowning in a river of guilt, cursing himself for fucking this up once again. It was hard to deal with a genius boyfriend on ordinary days, but even harder when that genius boyfriend also happened to be incredibly jealous. Just to try to cater to Sherlock’s more possessive side and avoid fights like this, John had been cutting down on his socializing, trying to keep his nights out to a minimum so Sherlock wouldn’t throw a three day fit about it. He had sat down next to Sherlock on the couch, hesitating before placing his hand on the other man’s leg.
“If you don’t want me to go, I won’t go,” he’d said softly. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Sherlock had turned his head slightly to peer at him with one blue-ish green eye, and John had smiled slightly, apologetically, and received a small, pleased smile in response. Even if Sherlock was difficult, it was worth it to earn a smile like that from him
John Watson was like a virus in his brain. No, not just his brain; John crawled through his veins, set his nerves on fire, hid in every inhale and was revealed on every exhale. Jim couldn’t get him out of his thoughts even long after the pool showdown was over. Couldn’t erase the memory of John grabbing him from behind, though it had been far from a friendly embrace. Couldn’t help the jump in his pulse, the hitch in his breathing when he remembered those blue eyes just as John awoke, before they held any malice, when they were just John, slightly hazy and confused. And certainly, certainly, he couldn’t forget the first meeting with John in the laboratory at St. Bart’s. The one that had first made him take notice of the army doctor he’d so painfully, regretfully neglected before now.
Notice easily turned into obsession, and obsession was just the way Jim classified love. Because there was a fine line between the two, and he’d crossed it with John, he could feel it. It was revealed in how deep his interest ran with every surveillance video of John he watched, in how he memorized and categorized every one of John’s expressions, in how he slowly and surely become more and more aware of the little, off details about John’s life. They were subtle, and hard to notice at first, but once Jim picked up on them, he couldn’t stop seeing them. The fact that John rarely seemed to go out anymore, and almost never without Sherlock unless it was to do the shopping, the fact that he’d show up at crime scenes with bite marks barely hidden underneath his collar, the fact that he was quick to do what Sherlock asked and seemed to tense every time the other man was angry, even if that anger was directed at someone else. Jim knew that the two of them had already struck up a relationship even before the incident at the pool, and as much as the thought set his blood to boiling, John had seemed happy, when Jim looked at the footage from before he personally met the two of them. Even after the pool, he’d watched the tapes as Sherlock rushed to John, such a concern in his eyes that it made something hard twist inside Jim. And John, of course, had been willing to risk his life for Sherlock. But now…John seemed to be fading. Drawing further and further into himself, his limp reappearing occasionally and causing Jim to lean closer to his monitors, starting to piece together a picture that was anything but pretty. And then, of course, there was that distant gaze. When John seemed to go off somewhere else, as if held in a trance, only likely to break out of it if Sherlock said something to him.
“Sherlock, I’m asking to go out for a pint with Greg Lestrade, you know him, there’s absolutely no reason for you to say no to this—”
Sherlock had been standing by the window, not even looking at John when he flatly refused his request, but he turned now, swooping into John’s personal space in the blink of an eye. His features had twisted up into that black anger that John had instantly shrunk away from, knowing this mood was particularly dangerous. “You are mine,” he’d hissed, inches away from John. “Not Greg Lestrade’s, not Mike Stamford’s, not Molly Hooper’s, not even Harry’s, no one else’s. Mine.” There had been such a dark inflection on the last word that John had nearly shivered, never liking when Sherlock showed this much intensity. Jealousy had crossed the line into possessiveness weeks ago and John hadn’t even noticed it. He’d been too busy making sure Sherlock stayed content, happy, trying to avoid these awful fights with him. Too late.
“Sherlock, this is insane, I’m not going to—”
“Oh, so you think I’m insane now, just like the rest of them?” The detective’s tone had turned bitter, with just a touch of calculated hurt. Not that John had thought it was calculated at the time, but later he realized it very much was. Sherlock Holmes, he learned quite quickly, knew how to play him just like his violin. “Fine, then, John. Leave me. Leave me just like everyone does eventually, go and be among the normal people you favor so much, if that’s what you want. I’m just the sociopathic genius, what on earth would I have to offer someone like you?”
And that had been the statement that wrecked John. A hollow feeling, like he’d been punched in the chest. Because he had always been different to Sherlock, had always been the exception, and had seen time and time again that the accusation of the other man being a sociopath couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sherlock had seen the defeat that crumpled John’s face, and a second later the surrender came; “I’m sorry, Sherlock. I didn’t mean it that way. Of…of course I’m yours.”
But Sherlock had been determined to get his pound of flesh for that night and that meant swooping in for a bruising kiss, his lips crushing John’s until John relented and opened his mouth to him and Sherlock’s tongue swept in, unrelenting and dominating. The sex that followed had been rough, and fast, and unyielding, and Sherlock had lain afterwards with John on his chest, repeatedly writing the word ‘mine’ on John’s skin with his finger.
Jim first made contact with John a few weeks after the pool. John was on his way to Tesco, lost in his own world as he hurried along, clearly anxious about the amount of time it was taking him. Another little tip off for Jim, who sidled up in a black town car, escaping John’s notice for a minute. When he finally did notice, his eyes went wide, and he turned to run but met the rather imposing Sebastian Moran.
“Oh don’t be like that, Johnny boy, I just want to have a friendly little chat,” Jim called from the car, and John started shaking his head as he allowed himself to be led into the backseat. Jim smiled broadly at him, though John shrank as far away from him as he could across the seat, and said, as Sebastian climbed in behind John, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a ride to Tesco.” He tapped on the glass divider and the car started moving again, causing John to jump slightly. John seemed to be on high alert, body tense as he was sandwiched in between Sebastian and Jim, unwilling to turn his back to either of them.
“If you’re trying to get Sherlock’s attention again, this is the wrong way to do it,” John said, finally settling with his back against the seat behind him, his body facing forward but his head turned towards Jim, fists clenched against his legs.
“Oh no, the last thing I want to do is get Sherlock’s attention about this little meeting,” Jim said, eyes glimmering dangerously from his corner of the car. “I wouldn’t want to make him upset with you.”
John’s brow furrowed at this, a wary, cautious look, and Jim leaned forward suddenly, causing John to flinch backwards into Seb on instinct. He instantly jerked away from Seb, caught between a rock and a hard place, and found himself closer to Jim than before, partly because of his own movements and partly because Jim had sidled closer when John wasn’t paying attention. The interesting thing for Jim was that there were absolutely no tremors in John’s body, no shaking from the danger he was in at all. John was absolutely still, focused, though his breathing was slightly labored. That was no good, Jim didn’t want to scare him; no, no, Johnny had enough fear in his life already. Though, to be fair, he had strapped a bomb to him not a month ago, and that did usually unsettle ordinary people. But ohh, was his John so far from ordinary.
John was tugging his shirt and coat sleeves down, almost unconsciously, and Jim’s eyes ran down his arms, mind cataloguing and categorizing, the implication clear even to someone who wasn’t a genius. At least, it was if they already had an idea of what was going on. John noticed where Jim’s gaze was and shifted uncomfortably, crossing his arms against his chest.
“I’m sorry, then what is this about? Just come to scare me, have you?” John asked, more than a touch of hostility in his voice.
Jim’s head tilted slightly to the side, his eyes still on John’s arms. “Is that where he did it this time, Johnny boy? Always a clever boy, our dear detective, putting things where others won’t see…” His voice trailed off, his eyes flicking back up to John’s azure eyes. The other man had paled considerably, though he was trying to hide the fear obvious in his features.
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John said, clearing his throat. It seemed his throat had suddenly become too dry to speak, at least from Jim’s point of view.
Jim didn’t answer, just looked at him for a moment, and then straightened his head with a snakelike movement and lashed out to grab John’s arms just above the elbows without warning. John flinched back with a sharp inhale of pain. Jim admired his tenacity, his ability to control himself even while in pain. He released him again, John instantly pulling away from him, and said, “Let me see your arms.”
“No,” John said immediately, flatly. His arms were crossed against his chest again defensively, though he winced slightly at the way his coat dug into the area Jim had grabbed.
Jim smiled sweetly, leaning closer to John again. “Simon says let me see your bruises. If you don’t, Sebby here will ask you a lot less nicely.”
John thought for a minute, giving Jim a flat glare that he’d seen before, when John woke up and realized he was covered in Semtex. He didn’t like that look being directed at him at all. But John was taking off his coat, handing it to Jim for safe keeping, and pausing for a moment, probably debating whether he could show him by rolling up his sleeves instead of taking his shirt off. In the end he sighed and began unbuttoning his shirt with quick, precise fingers, slipping it off his shoulders when he was done. Surprisingly, the first detail Jim’s eyes slipped to was the scar on John’s shoulder, a faded supernova exploding on his left shoulder. John noticed where his gaze was and shook his head slightly. “Old army wound,” he said, and Jim’s eyes went to the more important detail; the blue and purple, fresh bruises on John’s arms in the shape of fingers. He reached out—slowly this time, so as not to scare John—and gently put his hands on the marks to see. His fingers were shorter than the marks, but they fit into the shape. John had been grabbed roughly on both of his arms, and probably slammed back against a wall. The mental image this produced put a bitter taste in Jim’s mouth that he tried to ignore. “How did you get these?” he asked, and John seemed surprised at how soft his voice was.
“Why on earth does it matter to you how I got bruises?” he asked, and Jim frowned at the way he was deflecting the question away from himself.
“I’ll answer that if you tell me where you got them from,” Jim said, and John’s expression turned more frustrated than anything.
“A suspect realized he was cornered and attacked me. He grabbed onto me and slammed me up against the wall.” So Jim had been right about the wall. Something hissing and angry began to uncoil in his stomach. “Suspects aren’t exactly gentle when they’re cornered, you know. But why do you want to know in the first place? Do you just enjoy my pain?”
There was a hard edge to his voice that leant credibility to his lies, something that would have fooled a lesser man than Jim Moriarty. Because John, oh, John was such a beautiful liar. His eyes didn’t waver in the slightest, maintaining firm eye contact with Jim, his voice stayed the same, with inflection where it would normally be, and his lie wasn’t elaborate—detailed enough to make it believable, but not so detailed that it seemed extravagant and unlikely. His voice didn’t even waver in the slightest when he said it.
But then he looked down to redo his buttons, and when he looked back up at Jim as he retrieved his coat from him, slinging it back on, his gaze held a touch of worry underneath the questioning sheen that tried to hide it. John knew that a genius like Jim would be able to see through his lie, especially if they were looking for the truth.
“I want to know because I care about you, Johnny boy,” Jim said, and the look of absolute shock on John’s face sent a somewhat painful thrill through him. The words hung in the breathless silence for a minute as they looked at each other, John staring and Jim smiling, slightly amused. He did so like surprising his John. After a few minutes, John opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the buzzing of his mobile vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out, paling slightly, and then looked up at Jim, his lips pursed and his eyebrows raised.
“Go on,” Jim said, a slight smile on his lips. “We both already know who it is. Answer it, or someone’ll be in trou-ble!” The last word was in a sing-song that didn’t belong in the gravity of the situation. But Jim used madness as a defense mechanism, and it seemed to work, John looking slightly disturbed as he pressed the button to pick up the call, bringing his phone to his ear to say, “Yes, Sherlock. I’m at the store now.” That wasn’t a lie; the car had stopped moving sometime during their stand-off. Jim was sure John would’ve bolted if he wasn’t sandwiched between Jim and Seb. “I’ll be home in fifteen to twenty minutes.” A pause. “No, I can’t get home any sooner—I understand, but it’s just not possible—” Another pause, and John jumped into anger. “No I’m not having a bloody affair with that brunette cashier. Jesus, Sherlock, if I was it would take longer than fifteen minutes and I’m sure you would have deduced it by now.” He listened for a minute to the voice on the other end of the line that Jim wished he could hear. At the same time, it might’ve made him want to wring someone’s neck, since John was now closing his eyes with a heavy sigh and pinching the bridge of his nose. “No, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. You know I love you. I’ll try to get home sooner, okay?” He listened again, opening his eyes and moving his hand away from his face. “Yes, I know. And you know how much you mean to me too.” Something twisted sharply in Jim, something that felt like broken glass attacking anywhere it could. “Yours. Always yours.” The glass moved, pumping through his very veins and straight into his heart. “I’ll see you soon, love. Bye.”
He hung up and slipped the phone back into his pocket, turning his eyes back to Jim. Jim’s jealousy must have been showing on his face because John looked genuinely surprised, and more than a little taken aback.
Jim carefully smoothed his features again, a trick he was extremely well versed in. “You’ll only be able to placate him for so long, Johnny boy. Someday it won’t be enough for him,” he said, and John’s gaze took on a hard edge.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” he said, and Jim bounced back into a smile.
“Well then, I guess I’ll just have to keep checking up on you,” he said, and Seb opened the door and slipped out, causing John to cast a glance behind him at the open door. “Off you pop! Wouldn’t want to keep dear Sherly waiting, would we? Until next time, ‘love’.” John didn’t react to the derision in the word like Jim had expected he would, and when John cast a glance back at him as he left the car, Jim saw why; his eyes had already glazed over again as he retreated back inside of himself, putting up walls that Jim couldn’t hope to breach yet. But despite his extremely powerful urge to pull John back into the car and force the truth out of him, he didn’t want to scare John that way. Things had to be taken slowly. Eventually he would know where John went, and what he was seeing when he went there.
“Sherlock, this is absolutely ridiculous, I can’t live like this! I’ve barely been allowed to leave the flat all month, and I have to ask permission anytime I want to go anywhere. I can’t—I can’t do this anymore.”
Sherlock’s gaze had been nearly sharp enough to cut, turquoise eyes focused intently on John and John alone. Almost any other time John would’ve been glad to be deserving of all of the genius’s considerable focus, but it absolutely didn’t bode well for him at the moment. That look only came before Sherlock managed to guilt or shame or frighten him into something as he’d been doing more and more recently, the shadow of his influence slowly crawling over John as he began to control every aspect of the army doctor’s life. John hadn’t even really noticed it was happening, had barely objected even in the slightest, and that was the most upsetting part. “What are you saying, John?” His baritone had been layered with such ice and glass that John had nearly flinched away from him, but his resolve was luckily keeping him warm, protected from the worst of it.
He had paused, his hands on the back of his chair where he stood in the living room. Sherlock had been sitting across from him in his own chair, his violin still tucked under his chin from when he’d been playing a frightfully intense melody. It was sad that any show of intensity from the other man scared John now, unless it was affection or as close to love as Sherlock could get. He had taken a deep breath before speaking again, averting his gaze from Sherlock because he didn’t want to see the other man’s reaction, let alone have to weather it. “I think…I think it would be best for us both if I stayed at Harry’s for a few days. Just a few days, mind you, nothing permanent. I just need some space.”
There had been a drawn out silence, and finally John had dared to raise his eyes to look at Sherlock. Oh no. Oh god no. The other man had been practically seething with a quiet rage, his expression appearing blank to anyone who didn’t know him well as fury radiated from his very pores. As opposed to shaking, John had gone absolutely still, the danger of the situation not lost on him, though he derived no thrill from it. “Temporary,” Sherlock had said, practically spitting the word at John. “An extremely low percentage of couples continue dating after they go on a ‘temporary’ break. An extremely high percentage, however, breaks up for good. Is that what you want, John?”
John had looked stricken at the very thought. “No, no, Sherlock, of course I don’t want that—” Sherlock had risen from his chair and placed his violin down in one fluid motion, striding over to John with a purpose that John couldn’t divine until it was too late. Sherlock had latched onto his upper arms with crushing force, slamming John back against the wall in way that had John crying out in pain and trying to escape from the grip. But Sherlock had always been much stronger than his thin frame suggested, and he had slammed his body against John’s, pinning the shorter man with his hard, unyielding frame. “How many times do I have to tell you that you are mine?” Sherlock had asked, though John knew it wasn’t really a question. Then he’d resorted to logic.
“Sherlock, you said it wouldn’t happen again after the incident before the pool. You promised you wouldn’t—”
“I lied, John,” Sherlock had hissed, mere centimeters away from John. “Isn’t that what normal people do, lie and steal and murder each other out of petty feuds and jealousy? I’ve always been told I wasn’t normal enough, and as soon as I am you object. Nothing I ever do is good enough for you, John, is that it? Is that why you want to leave me?”
John had gasped in pain at that point, fingers clawing at the part of Sherlock’s arms that he could reach in a futile effort to get the other man to lessen his grip. “Sherlock, please, you’re hurting me—”
“As you hurt me every time you try to pull away from me, as if I’m not enough for you. Is that what you want? ‘Oh, it’ll just be a few days, Sherlock. A few days at Harry’s, you can trust her. A few days where I’ll be free to be as unfaithful as I like’.” The words had been bitter, a jab that hit its intended target somewhere in John’s fragile heart.
“No, it’s not like that, I’d be completely faithful to you—”
Sherlock hadn’t even let him finish his sentence, jumping on his words. “Then why do you need space, John? Your words exactly, ‘I just need some space’. What do you need space from me for, if there are issues in our relationship—which I don’t believe there are—then we should work them out together, shouldn’t we? That’s what ordinary couples do, isn’t it? And we are much better than ordinary, John.”
At that, John’s shoulders had slumped in his inevitable defeat. “I… just thought it was a good idea,” he had said, his voice smaller than he would have liked it to be. Blue eyes had connected with Sherlock’s again. “But you’re right, if we have an issue, we should work on it together. Talk things over.”
“Good,” Sherlock had said, finally releasing his grip and taking a step back from John, who had immediately started rubbing the affected area on his arms in an effort to alleviate some of the pain. Sherlock’s face had seemed to soften slightly at this, and he had moved in slowly to kiss John’s cheek, saying softly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He’d kissed the other cheek and John had allowed himself to be folded into the taller man’s long-limbed embrace, Sherlock tucking him under his chin and holding onto him tightly. “Sometimes I don’t know my own strength…and every time you talk about leaving I get so afraid that you will. That you’ll get tired of me.” There had been a heart-breaking honesty in those words, a marked lack of manipulation. Even until the very end, John believed those words to be true.
He had taken a deep breath before answering, “I’m not going anywhere, Sherlock. I promise you that. I’d never leave you.”
The detective had huffed out a sigh, his next words giving John a chill that he shouldn’t have had. “Good. I don’t know what I’d do if you did.”
Their next meeting was about a week later, the gap longer than Jim would’ve liked. Again, he surprised John on his way to Tesco, but John didn’t bother trying to run this time, placidly slipping into the backseat of the town car and allowing Seb to slip in behind him and shut the door.
“Tired of fighting everyone, Johnny boy?” Jim asked, eyebrows lifted, and John gave him an amused look, Jim catching the detail of what appeared to be a cut on John’s bottom lip.
“I figure I can get a free ride to Tesco this way and it cuts down on the time it would usually take me to get the shopping done. That’s always a good thing,” John said, and that far off look started to appear in his eyes. Jim immediately snapped his fingers, bringing those pretty cerulean eyes back into the present and focused on him. God he loved it when John focused his attention on him. What a lovely human being John Watson was, when he wasn’t fading away.
“Stop doing that,” Jim said, and John’s brow furrowed adorably.
“Doing what?” he asked, and Jim rolled his eyes.
“When you disappear into your own head and go God knows where.”
John closed his eyes, shaking his head slightly, but opened them again when Jim asked almost casually, “Bruises?”
And oh, there was the fear in John’s eyes, because he knew that at this point, there was no way Jim didn’t know what was really going on. And how sad it was, to see that dear Johnny boy, a doctor and a soldier, was beaten down and resigned, accustomed to daily fear. “No, no bruises,” he said, and something in his voice made Jim’s eyebrows arch up again.
“Other injuries?” he asked, and John sighed slightly and took off his coat, handing it to Jim again. As he pulled off his jumper, eyes covered by it, Jim took the opportunity to press the inside of John’s coat against his nose, savoring the clear scent of John saturating the fabric. It was in his lap again when John emerged from his jumper, handing that to Seb, and started unbuttoning his shirt. What Jim saw when it was finally off made him suck in a breath of air, his sharp inhale loud in the still air of the car. Bite-marks peppered John’s chest, harsh ones that didn’t seem to be made with any loving intent, some of them sucked into lurid bruises that were fading, appearing to have been made several days ago. Particularly dark was one right over the scar on John’s shoulder, as if someone had tried to bring back the painful memories of the wound when it was inflicted. “Turn,” Jim said, his voice as casual as he could manage it. John complied, and Jim wasn’t any happier to see the slowly healing scratch marks arcing across his shoulders and back, five of them in each set, perfectly spaced far enough apart to be fingernail marks. They trailed down his entire back and disappeared into the waistband of his jeans, causing a sick sort of anger to rise in Jim’s chest. Worse still were the little half-moon nail marks just barely visible on the part of John’s hips he could see, the placement indicating that the rest were hidden underneath his jeans. They must have been hard enough to draw blood, because Jim knew they would have healed by now otherwise.
John turned back around again, his eyes looking away from Jim’s chestnut gaze—and yes, there was indeed shame there, as well as a fair amount of denial—and the car lapsed into silence again.
“And what’s your excuse this time, Johnny boy?” Jim asked sardonically, cocking his head to the side. “Another suspect?”
“It was my idea,” John said, but he couldn’t even force himself to meet Jim’s eyes this time. “I proposed it, and Sherlock agreed. I don’t think I have to go into the details of my sex life with anyone, let alone the man who tried to kill me.”
“Lie!” Jim sang out, though he seemed almost bored. “If I wanted to hear a sick joke I’d ask Sebby why he was discharged from the army.”
John just shook his head slightly, his eyes moving back to Jim. “I don’t care if you think it’s a lie or not. You have no claim over my life.”
“Didn’t you listen in our last meeting?” Jim asked. “I care about you, Johnny boy. And unlike Sherlock, when I say it it’s not a lie.”
John instantly bristled at that, a sharpness in his tone when he said, “Sherlock doesn’t lie about the fact that he cares about me. He cares about me to the extreme, he’s terrified that I’ll leave him because he feels so intensely for me that my absence would break him. You don’t know what happens behind closed doors, Moriarty, so you hardly have a right to comment on it.” He angrily pulled on his shirt again, buttoning it up with no small amount of haste as Jim regarded him coolly. It seemed the dear doctor didn’t believe him even when he wasn’t lying. Not that Jim could really blame him for that—he had tried to kill the man before, after all, but that had been before he truly appreciated the doctor. Before he really knew him.
“Jim,” Jim said, abruptly enough that John looked up from his buttons, surprised.
“What?” he asked, knocked off balance by the sudden, unrelated word.
“Jim. Call me Jim. I am in love with you after all, it’s only right that we get on less formal terms.”
John stared at him, his mouth slightly open, those lovely pink lips parted to take in as much air as he could manage. “You’re what?” he asked, a level of disbelief in his tone that had Jim frowning instantly.
“In love with you,” he repeated. “Congrats, Johnny boy, you managed to snag the attention of two geniuses, not just one.” He gave John a winning smile that John seemed to shrink away from, his eyes narrowing.
“What are you playing at, here?” he said, and glanced around the car. “Are you recording this, is this some set-up and you’re going to play it for Sherlock to trick him or something?”
Jim snorted. “Well of course I’m recording this, Johnny boy, I record every conversation, especially the ones with you. But I would never show Sherly this. Oh no, I’m afraid it’d put him in quite the black mood, and we don’t want any more marks on that pretty skin of yours, do we?”
John closed his eyes at this, taking a deep breath before opening them again, leveling Jim with a remarkably even gaze. “I don’t believe you,” he said.
Ohhh, Jim had been waiting for him to say that. “Then let me show you,” he said, and pounced on John’s mouth before he could react. God, John’s lips were exactly what he’d expected, soft and thin, but with a touch of plushness on the bottom one. Kissing him was delightful, and Jim would have loved to deepen it and very enthusiastically show him just how he felt with his tongue, but he didn’t want to risk Sherlock finding something wrong and John had to be able to feel the passion Jim was putting into this. Sure enough, John looked positively dazed when Jim pulled back, and the criminal smiled and planted a shorter, softer kiss on his lips before pulling back completely.
It took Johnny a few minutes and several attempts to speak before two words managed to come out: “Oh god.”
Jim’s brow furrowed as he frowned slightly. Not the reaction he wanted. It only got worse when John buried his face in his hands, moaning slightly. The source of his distress, however, was revealed with his next words. “God, he’s going to know, somehow, he’ll figure it out, one of my buttons will be undone or I’ll taste different or one hair will be out of its damn place. Oh god…”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Jim said, and reached between John’s arms to take ahold of John’s chin, gently tipping the other man’s face up out of his hands to face him. “You forget, I’m a genius too. Sherlock won’t know a thing.”
John shook his head, Jim’s hand staying on his chin. “No, this is not alright, I need to get out of this car, now.”
“I’m afraid that’s just not possible,” Jim said, and John’s eyes darkened in the most interesting way before he slipped back into that heavy resignation that he wore as if he had weights on his shoulders, bringing them down again and curving his back in a way that Jim knew had to be psychologically ingrained by now. Every one of John’s movements seemed defensive now in a way that they hadn’t been before, and the very thought of why they would have changed made a dark anger swell through Jim’s chest, a desire to take John and convince him that there was something better for him, that he deserved so much better. But, he was getting ahead of himself. He’d barely made his feelings known, and John instantly seemed ready to jump out of the car, though whether that was out of fear or genuine distaste for Jim remained open for debate. But right now, John was shutting his eyes tightly as if trying to shut out the world and Jim’s latest revelation, repeatedly muttering two words under his breath. Jim’s heart seemed to stop when he leaned closer to listen to what he was saying and he heard the phrase, repeated over and over quickly, “I’m Sherlock’s, I’m Sherlock’s, I’m Sherlock’s—”
“Trying to convince yourself or me, honey?” Jim asked, using amusement and a surefire petname to cover up his roiling jealousy. John finally stopped repeated that hideous mantra and opened sapphire eyes to focus on Jim, something in the depths of his eyes that took a minute for Jim to understand; desperation. Desperation, mixed with a thin, tiny thread of hope, just barely visible under the surface of the ocean of John Watson’s eyes. Along with the heavy dose of fear and paranoia that Jim’s knowledge of the flaws in John’s relationship brought out in John, there was also that tiny little sliver of hope, that belief that maybe, just maybe, Jim could make things change. That the other man, twisted as John saw him to be, might understand. And god, did that break Jim’s heart into tiny little pieces. Because, contrary to popular belief, Jim Moriarty did actually possess a heart, and a rather fragile one at that. He almost always managed to hide it away, put it below layers of madness and sadism and careful play-acting, but it always peeked out. It showed in the way he treated Molly even while he was using her to get to Sherlock, in the way he went after Sherlock through John, both showing that he understood human emotions and the way John was unequivocally Sherlock’s heart and that he chose to use the stoic, well accustomed to danger army doctor over the weaker, more obvious choices like Mrs. Hudson. Of course, he had then strapped John into an explosive vest and used him to emotionally blackmail Sherlock, covering any signs of compassion with a thick layer of expected villainy. He could hardly blame John for his mistrust, as not even Sherlock Holmes had picked up the subtle signs of the existence of anything resembling a conscience in Jim, though he’d been too blinded by hatred to even bother looking for them.
So it was with a heavy heart—and oh, how he hated having one of those—that he said, “Alright.” Those pretty blue eyes widened in surprise, and Jim said with a touch of humor, “I don’t want you to think you have anything to fear from me anymore. Besides, you have to be done with the shopping in—” he checked his exorbitantly expensive watch “—twenty five minutes, if my estimate is accurate. And we wouldn’t want you to be late. Give me your mobile.”
John hesitated, wavering somewhere between distrust and that tiny thread of hope until Jim rolled his eyes with a slight sigh and said, “Twenty-three minutes. I’m not going to do anything terrible with it, and I’ll make sure Sherlock never knows it’s me. I assume he goes through your phone and deletes your exes’ numbers?
John nodded slowly, and after another moment, handed his phone over. Jim quickly set about putting his number in it, the one to his personal phone that he almost never gave out. He handed it back to John, saying, “If you ever need me, you can call or text me at this number. I put it in your phone as ‘Dr. Vismer’. I’ll answer with an Eastern European accent anytime it rings, and if it goes to voicemail he’ll hear a fake message. You must have a primary care physician, right?”
John nodded, his mouth pressed into a thin line; there was a hesitation clear in his face, but at the same time it was obvious that he was taking Jim seriously. Which was good. Excellent, in fact, because the more John believed in Jim, the more likely it was that he would trust him. And trusting him meant that eventually, Jim could get revenge on Sherlock Holmes for John. As a final gesture, while their hands were still both on the phone, Jim leaned forward slowly and softly kissed John’s cheek before pulling away. John looked like it was honestly the only affection he’d seen all week, and didn’t that just twist the knife already buried deeply in Jim’s gut? He smoothly pulled his hand away from the phone, a practiced smile slipping onto his face. “Run along now, dear, and we’ll see each other again soon,” he said, the door opening again and Seb sliding out, handing John’s jumper to him to pull back on. “And if you need me before then, you have my number. Don’t hesitate to call.”
John continued to stare at him for a second, apparently still dazed, and Jim was debating the benefits and risks of trying to kiss him out of it when John abruptly left, grabbing his coat from Jim and sliding out of the car with a polite nod to Seb, who was holding the door for him, before slipping his mobile back into his pocket and heading off into the store. As Jim watched him go, his vision soon blocked by the door to the shop and then by Seb’s bulky frame coming back into the car, the door closed behind him, he rated the meeting on a scale that ran from their last meeting (a mostly good result, could have been better) to their meeting at the pool (permanently damaging to the relationship between them and likely burning quite a few very important bridges in the process). It was somewhere in the middle, he decided; he’d startled John and perhaps even frightened him slightly, but John seemed to be slowly accepting that Jim was serious, and Jim had no doubt that a tiny little seed of hope had been planted in John’s mind—a seemingly impossible idea that maybe, just maybe, Jim could become an ally.
When John arrived home after his first meeting with Jim, Sherlock had been on the couch, lying across it with his fingers steepled under his chin, his eyes closed. John hadn’t known whether the man was in his mind palace or sleeping for once in his life, but either way he didn’t want to disturb Sherlock if he didn’t have to, and had gone into the kitchen to put away the shopping.
“Seven minutes and thirty two seconds,” Sherlock had drawled out unexpectedly as John returned to the sitting room to hang up his coat.
“I’m sorry, what?” John had asked, brow furrowed as he put his arms back down by his sides. He had looked down quickly, just to check that he’d rebuttoned his shirt correctly, and then looked back up as Sherlock’s eyes flicked open, the detective sitting up on the couch like a vampire rising from its coffin, swinging his legs over the edge to put his feet flat on the floor. He hadn’t turned to face John, but John could see that there was something calculating in his gaze, an ordinary look that usually came before some big deduction. It was so ordinary that it hadn’t tipped off John that something was wrong. His first mistake.
“It took you seven minutes and thirty two seconds longer than usual to get home.” The implication there that he had been counting, which had disturbed John deeply, and for good reason. Most people didn’t count how late their partners were, didn’t even pay such close attention to how long it usually took them to do things. “You said if you were having an affair with the cashier it would take you longer than fifteen minutes, but your estimate of returning was fifteen to twenty minutes and you were seven minutes and thirty two seconds late. Tell me, would twenty seven minutes and thirty two seconds be enough time for you to be unfaithful?” He’d turned to look at John then, and John realized that he had made a terrible miscalculation about Sherlock’s mood. Lovely.
“The shop was really busy today, I couldn’t get out any sooner. The chip and pin machine was acting up again, which only made everything worse. I had to abandon it to get into a queue,” John had answered, his voice holding the frustration from his meeting with Jim in place of the frustration he would have felt in his imaginary scenario. He had been at the very end of his rope with geniuses for the day, and wasn’t about to back down from this if Sherlock was going to be difficult.
Sherlock’s eyes had narrowed at that, quickly darting up and down John’s form, no doubt looking for signs of dishonesty or infidelity. Whatever he saw must have been insufficient, because he had let out a frustrated growl and pulled John down onto the couch, rolling them both so John was trapped underneath him. Before John knew what was happening, his wrists had been pinned above his head with one long-fingered, pale hand, its partner busy flicking open the buttons on John’s shirt.
“Sherlock, I’m really not in the mood, right now,” John had sighed, convinced that this was just another minor hissy fit. The gravity of the situation hadn’t hit quite yet, but it had started to when Sherlock bent down and bit into the skin of his chest, not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt when he sucked on the same area, drawing the skin up between his teeth and lathing it with his tongue. John had made a noise that was a cross between pain and surprise, hands instantly jerking at the hand restraining him. “What the bloody hell are you doing?” he had asked, a strong tinge of anger around the edges of his voice. Sherlock hadn’t responded, causing John’s hands to pull more insistently in an effort to break free, until Sherlock’s hand clamped down on them like a vice. “Sherlock, I already said no, and if you’re going to be like this, I’m definitely going to say a rather firm no. Now let me up before—”
His threat hadn’t even had the chance to make it all the way out, because Sherlock had cut him off with a kiss that was nearly bruising in its intensity, biting down hard enough on John’s lips to draw blood. And when John had gasped in pain, the other man had seized his opportunity to slip his tongue into the doctor’s mouth, his hand reaching below the waistband of John’s trousers and pants. Fuck, that wasn’t fighting fairly at all, as John’s body had reacted instinctively to a familiar touch, beginning to stir despite the fact that Sherlock wasn’t allowing John a say in the matter and was playing beyond what could even be considered rough. It had hurt, with the way Sherlock had been proceeding, ignoring John even as the other man thrashed against him. Finally John had given up and bitten Sherlock’s tongue, causing the detective to draw back with an exclamation. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing,” John had asked, the question coming out flat in his anger. “I told you no, Sherlock, and that means you stop, not continue on your damn merry way!”
Sherlock’s eyes had narrowed into snakelike slits at that, and John had literally been able to see the anger uncoiling behind his eyes. Oh Jesus. “I want you, John. Disregarding the fact that you’re entirely mine, let’s look at the facts, shall we?” His voice had been cold enough to burn, dry ice against John’s salty skin. Sure to leave a mark wherever his words landed. “You’re an aging, washed-up army doctor who can’t even perform surgery anymore because of the tremors in your hands. Despite being reasonably attractive and generally likable—at least according to the conjecture drawn from popular opinion since my own is biased—you have never managed to hold down a serious girlfriend and have had your most serious relationship with me. Shelving for the moment the fact that I want you, who else will? You are vital to me, John, you give me things no other person can provide, but what can you offer the rest of the world? Our relationship is unique, and you would not be able to find anyone else who feels for you as I do. But you’re rejecting me now, and why? To prove your own misguided masculinity? If you really loved me as you claim to, you would give me what I wanted regardless of your slight objections on the matter. My needs are stronger than your wants, John, so just give in.”
Every one of those phrases had been a lash across John’s heart, creating a deep, bloody wound that no amount of care would be able to fix when this was over. Because, truly, he believed Sherlock; he hadn’t been successful at holding down a relationship before the detective, and it was unlikely that he would be able to again. The things Sherlock had said were so hurtful because they fed right into John’s own insecurities, his fear that Sherlock would leave him, and leave him with nothing at all.
But Sherlock had to understand that this behavior was unacceptable. John had drawn a line with so few things with the dark-haired man, and he had to draw one here. Consent wasn’t just a word, it was the very fabric of a certain code of ethics. A code that John hadn’t thought he’d have to lay out for his partner.
So even though he was hurting from the wounds in his psyche, he had managed to say rather firmly, “No, Sherlock. I told you no, and I mean it. You can’t just have your way every time you want something.” And that had been when Sherlock’s eyes darkened, a storm cloud coming over the other man’s features in a way that made John shiver. The detective had only managed to growl out three words: “Yes. I. Can.” And then his lips and teeth had attacked John again, sucking another painful bruise on his chest as John thrashed and writhed underneath him. The worst part, John would reflect later, was that in the end, his body had betrayed him. Sherlock had been able to play him in all the right ways, using his intimate knowledge of all of John’s erogenous zones to reduce him to a quivering mess even as he bit and sucked his way across John’s chest. It had been why John stopped fighting eventually, merely hissing when Sherlock’s nails raked across his back, several layers of dead skin and some healthy ones as well coming off in the process. It had been why his moans wavered somewhere in between pleasure and pain when those very same nails were drawing blood from his hips as Sherlock slammed into him relentlessly again and again, being sure to keep John on the edge until he himself was satisfied, spent. And afterwards, in the frightened silence John had lain in, bleeding from his mental wounds as well as his physical ones, Sherlock had left him without a word, merely tucking himself back away and zipping up his trousers, because while he had entirely stripped John, he had only moved his clothing as much as he needed to in order to free himself. For the next few days, John had walked with his cane, and even when that stopped, the bite marks and scratches hadn’t entirely healed, Sherlock’s ownership written across his skin for Jim to find.
It took a lot longer than Jim expected for John to contact him. Sherlock must have been in an extended period of good humor, because John didn’t seem nearly so downtrodden on Jim’s monitors, a rare smile even coming out now and then, and, more astonishingly, coming out with Sherlock. Of course, this was absolutely normal—or so all the books Jim had bought on the subject assured—because in relationships like this, the abuse couldn’t be constant, or the victim would never stay. It went through cycles, and the length of the cycle varied each time, each phase a different length. One of the phases, though, was called ‘the honeymoon phase’. Evidently this was when the abuser would win back the other person, showering them with affection and false promises and vows of love until the victim fell right back into believing them, justifying the abuser’s actions in their own heads. They would make excuses for them, or remember why they really loved the abuser, or try to forget the abuse ever happened in the first place. John had evidently entered a particularly long honeymoon phase with Sherlock, and seemed to be content to enjoy it while it lasted. Of course, this phase didn’t mean that Sherlock’s tendencies went away. No, only two days after Jim gave John his number did Sherlock call it, and when Jim answered with his falsified accent, the line had immediately clicked off. But the detective’s behavior was at least controlled, his air as kindly as he could manage, and the tension John seemed to be perpetually holding disappeared. But there was no way it could last, and Jim received his first call from John a few weeks after their last meeting.
He answered with his almost bored, easily faked accent, and then heard the nervous voice on the other end of the line say, “Ah, Jim, right?”
John. Johnny boy was actually calling him, actually choosing to trust him in something despite the rather bumpy start to their relationship. The wave of relief that washed over Jim at this thought was absolutely ridiculous in its intensity. “Yes, John, you have the right number.”
“Ah, good. So…are you still serious about that whole ‘in love with me’ nonsense?”
Jim snorted slightly. “It’s not nonsense, but yes, I am. May I ask whyyy?”
There was a pause on John’s end. “Look, d’you think that I could meet you somewhere? Somewhere, I dunno, discreet?”
Ah. Of course. “Is Sherlock home?”
“No, but I really don’t want you to come to the flat—”
“Don’t be silly, John, of course I wouldn’t come to the flat. I’ll have a car come pick you up and I’ll meet you there.”
“Where is there, exactly?”
“A restaurant Sherlock wouldn’t even dream of going into.” Jim sniffed. “Looks down his nose at the entire thing because it’s so posh.”
John laughed slightly at this, and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. “Right then. I’ll…see you soon, shall I?”
“Be there in a jiff, Johnny boy,” Jim said, and hung up before John could change his mind.
He was there before John, sitting at a table well away from the windows in a restaurant that was too classy for even Mycroft Holmes. It practically oozed opulence, and Jim looked right at home in his dove gray Westwood. John, when he came hurrying in in his button-up and cardigan under his brown coat, a pair of black sunglasses over his eyes, did not. The sunglasses reduced Jim’s deductions to the singular implication present in the accessory; that John was hiding a bruise there. Because John never wore sunglasses, and certainly never indoors.
As soon as John was seated across from him, looking nervous and jumpy, Jim said almost languidly, “Let me see.”
John hesitated for a moment, clearly struggling with this entire situation, before taking off the glasses. A bruise, a few days old judging by the coloration, spread across the corner of his left eye and the top of that cheekbone. John folded the glasses and put them down on the table, the look he gave Jim daring him to say anything about it.
Jim merely rolled his eyes, waving his hand in a ‘get on with it’ fashion. “Well, come on then, let’s get the excuse out of the way now. What, did you fall down the stairs? Slip and hit the counter in the kitchen, maybe? Or was it a stray object that you turned too late to catch?”
John stayed silent for a moment, his mask of irritation covering up the other emotions that Jim could just barely catch roiling beneath the surface. “I’m glad that this is all so very funny to you,” he finally said, and Jim tutted, leaning closer to rest his elbows on the table. John didn’t shrink back, which was rewarding.
“If you think I find this funny, you really don’t know me at all, Johnny boy,” he said, and straightened up again, though his elbows stayed on the table. “Where have you been for the past few days?”
John looked honestly surprised at this, and Jim instantly said, “Oh come on, love. You must have known I was paying attention.”
“I suppose I still think you’re kidding about…all of this,” John said, waving his hand in a vague circle as he looked at the other patrons rather than Jim. “I keep expecting the rug to be pulled out from under me.”
“If you were going to be a punchline, it would be to the saddest joke I’d ever heard,” Jim said, and John looked back to him again, the look in those blue eyes just killing Jim. “Where did you go?”
John laughed a little, bitterly. “Nowhere,” he said. “I stayed in the flat, I couldn’t even go out to fetch the newspaper. He stopped short of tying me down, but he might as well have.”
“Did the bruise come at the beginning or the end?”
“Beginning,” John said, inclining his head slightly as if to indicate the time period in question. “He used it as an excuse for me to stay locked up. ‘If you go out, people will ask questions, John, and not everyone will believe you’. Yeah, well whose fault is that, exactly?” His voice was bitter, but even his bitterness sounded resigned. Tired, all around John seemed tired. Worn thin.
“Why?” Jim asked, and John’s gaze went to him briefly before going back to the restaurant, neutral territory.
“I ruined an experiment. On accident of course, I know better than to mess with those no matter how angry I am, and he started shouting and throwing things. I tried to leave, said I was going to get some air, and he immediately blocked my way, saying I wasn’t allowed to. I was not in the mood to have any of that, and there was a fight. This isn’t the only bruise I have, and he has more than a few himself, but he managed to stun me with this one. After that, I felt too bad to get away and he kept saying ‘I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry please forgive me I just can’t stand to have you leave’ and he went right back into apologetic, caring boyfriend like he was putting on a clean shirt.” He sighed here, slightly, his chest dropping sadly with the exhale. “And then I felt guilty because he reminded me that things had been going so well before I had to ruin everything, and even after I stopped feeling guilty, there was no way I was going to risk leaving. Well, trying to leave. Finally he let me out yesterday because the shopping had to be done, but he came with me to hover and glare menacingly at anyone who even so much as looked at me. I’m lucky he went haring off this morning on some mad chase for Greg—and didn’t have me come along because Greg would probably realize what was happening—because otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now.” He’d started rubbing his temples at some point during his speech, and it was only after a minute of this and a drink of his water that he finally, finally looked back at Jim.
“He’s the villain in this story, you know that,” Jim said, and John’s lips twisted wryly.
“Last time I checked that was you, and he was the hero, and I was the damsel in distress because you strapped a bomb vest to me and told me I was,” he answered. “Sherlock isn’t a villain, and I’m not a victim. He’s just…a little out of control.” He frowned down at his plate for a minute before looking up at Jim when Jim spoke again.
“Oh no, Johnny boy. The rules of this game have changed since the last time we checked the score, and I’m afraid the positions did as well. I’m the hero and Sherlock is the dragon that needs to be slain. You, my dear, are as much a damsel as ever, I’m afraid.”
John chuckled at that, and though it was more out of the dark humor of the situation than anything, Jim was glad to hear the sound. “And why should I even listen to you?” he asked. “After everything you’ve done, I’d have to be mad to even think that you could be an ally. You blew up an old woman, for god’s sake.”
“No I didn’t,” Jim said calmly, causing John to start. “I blew up a building. I never said she was inside. And you don’t really have a choice in the matter, honey, you don’t have anyone else on your side. But, the most important thing is that I want to make it all up to you.” He waved a hand, his nose wrinkling up slightly. “Sweep all that nastiness under the rug and make it up to you by helping instead of hurting.” He leaned close again, his voice dropping low, dangerous. “I can save you from Sherlock, and I can make sure he never hurts you again.”
And there was that thread of hope in Johnny’s eyes again, though it was thicker than the last time he’d seen it, more like twine than thread as it wove its way through azure irises. “I…I don’t know what I’m expecting you to do,” John said. He paused and then scrubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t know what I want you to do. I still love him, you know.” He cast a glance over at Jim at this, and Jim fought to keep his face impassive. “And he’s not all bad, it’s not like he’s…beating me on a daily basis or chaining me up. He’s just possessive…likes to reassert control. He’s terrified I’ll leave, and he’ll do anything he can to make me stay. It’d be sweet, if he didn’t take it this far.”
Jim leaned back in his chair again, lazily waving over a waiter and giving an order for tea, getting John’s preferences exactly right without asking. When he’d sent the man away again, he said, “It’s entirely natural for this situation to be complicated for you, my dear John. You have all of your feelings about him mixed up, fear twisted into love and everything blending together. Some days you’re terrified and other ones you’re in love. But you’re here, which means you understand the danger you’re in. Don’t you?”
John paused for a moment, looking at him with wary eyes that reminded Jim of a cornered animal. Caught between lashing out and playing dead. Was that what John’s life had become? That he was so wary of kindness? Finally, though, John nodded, a short, quick dip of his head. “Yes, I absolutely do,” he said. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table, rubbing his face with his hands. “You know, I handled some domestic abuse cases when I was still working at the clinic—because Sherlock made me quit that before this mess even really started—and the women always said the same things. ‘But he loved me, he really loved me’. ‘He always said this was the last time, and I believed him’. ‘It hurt more to be without him than to be with him’. Most of them only came in after they’d almost been killed. And I always thought that it was tragic, that they couldn’t see what these men were really like. That they’d been so easily manipulated because they were afraid and didn’t think they could do any better.” He put his hands together, turning his head to stare blankly down at the table cloth. “And here I am, saying variations of the same thing. ‘Sherlock really does love me, he’s just terrified that I’ll leave’. ‘He promised me he’d stop, that this would be the last time, and he seemed so sincere’. ‘I still love him, and leaving would be like tearing my own heart out’.” He tried to chuckle and failed, a slight, sad sounding noise coming out instead. “I don’t even know myself anymore. I don’t know how it got to this point, at what point I stopped caring what he did. I just decided going along was better than fighting, and that attitude still didn’t save me. I just can never really please him.” He shook his head, straightening up again as his eyes went to his lap, smoothing his napkin with his hands. “And I thought, when we started seeing each other, that I was biting off more than I could chew because how could someone so ordinary be enough for the brilliant Sherlock Holmes? Certified genius, supposed highly functioning sociopath, detective and musician and scientist and everything in between. I thought he’d get bored of me, leave me, or just forget I was there. That there was no way I could keep up with him and give him everything he wanted.” His brow had furrowed, and Jim realized he was very close to tears and doing an excellent job of trying not to show it. “But it was the exact opposite. I gave him too much. I became everything he needed and more because when you find someone like that, you can only do your best to keep him. And it wasn’t that my best wasn’t enough, it’s that it was exactly what he wanted. And he became as desperate to keep me as I was to keep him, and then more. And more. And more. At first he was jealous, then possessive, and now I don’t know what. Obsessed? Controlling isn’t enough, I don’t think. And I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore, going to a consulting criminal for help. ‘Dear Jim, please fix it for me and stop my abusive boyfriend’.” His voice was bitter at this, and tears had been brimming for a while. “I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what you want, the only person who I know what they bloody want is Sherlock Holmes, and I don’t think I can give it to him anymore.”
He paused, finishing the speech that had cut a hole straight through Jim’s vulnerable heart. Jim couldn’t find any words to speak, which was beyond a rarity for him. He always had something to say, could always find the proper words to use, whatever the situation called for. But at the moment, he was coming up with absolutely nothing. The waiter came back over with the tea before he could find any way to answer, and John blinked away tears to smile at the man and say, “Ta.”
Jim sipped his tea as he tried to find something to say, some way to reassure John, but John broke the silence first. His gaze at Jim across the table was flat, and devoid of any dishonesty. Anything that Jim wanted to read was laid bare before him, but he couldn’t bring himself to dig. “Where does it end, Jim?” John asked, and the thrill that John was actually using his name was muffled by the weight of the situation at hand. “How far is he going to go with this, and for how long? Because I don’t want to leave him, but if this continues, I won’t have any other choice. And he won’t let me. He told me, when this happened, that he’d kill himself if I left. Even before that, how far would he go? Would he hurt me, would he kill me, would he marry me just to have us legally bound together? I couldn’t be forced to testify against him then, and God, if I’m anything I’m loyal to a fault. I wouldn’t want to betray him, I feel like I’m betraying him now because I’m sitting across from his archnemesis who’s supposedly in love with me and asking him for advice. God…I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore…” His voice trailed off as he stared into his tea for a moment, looking as if he was debating whether he could drown himself in it or not, before he finally took a sip.
Jim supposed that this was to be expected, this long speech as John emptied all of the thoughts and worries and pressures of the past few months. He had to get out all of the thoughts he’d kept inside, thoughts he might not have even dared to really think. It was a form of venting, and though it almost hurt to listen, Jim was more than happy to if it meant helping John.
“John, I want to make one thing absolutely clear before we go any further,” Jim said, using his ordinary person voice, the one that he only dropped into for any extended period of time when he felt safe with the person across the table from him. So, with John and Seb. “I’m not expecting anything from you in return for helping you. I don’t expect any type of payment, I don’t expect you to sell Sherlock’s secrets to me, I don’t expect you to fall into my arms like a good little rescued princess. If I help, I’m doing it for free.”
John’s eyebrows had instantly raised at that, and Jim was glad to see that as broken as John had become, he still retained some of his former spirit. “So you mean to tell me what, exactly? That you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart?” He laughed slightly. “I think you’ll understand why I might have a hard time believing that.”
A smile stretched across Jim’s mouth as he turned away for a moment, seemingly agreeing with the ridiculousness of the situation. In truth, every fiber of his being was shouting that he had to make John believe him, had to make John understand exactly how serious he was, exactly how wrong this situation was, and how far he was determined to go to get revenge for him. He’d kill Sherlock Holmes before he let him ruin John like this. “No, Johnny boy, no,” he said, his head weaving back up to face John, his neck stretching with each movement. “It’d be silly of you to trust me. But as I said before, you’re out of options, sweetheart. You’ll never take this to someone like Detective Inspector Lestrade because you’d be too ashamed, and he’d feel immeasurably guilty for not noticing it before. Besides, you have no guarantee that he’ll believe you. After all, he’s known Sherlock for a lot longer and he’s only seen you dodging going out with him in favor of spending time with Sherly. Your landlady, Mrs. Hudson, she must have noticed though. She’d know the signs well enough with her own past history, but she wouldn’t say anything because what can she do? Call the police that Sherlock’s so chummy with? Or confront Sherlock about it herself and make it all the worse for you? Most likely she’d try talking to you about it, but she knows you’ll never admit it. So that leaves little old me to look after Y-O-U.” He smiled, and it was so much gentler than any smile that he’d ever given John that John seemed transfixed, unable to look away from those warm dark amber eyes that seemed, unbelievably, sincere. As easy as it was for Jim to hide away behind madness and villainy and menace and hard for him to show this much honesty and feeling and caring, he had to make John understand. He had to show that he really, truly, was in love with John Watson.
John didn’t speak for a minute, a silence between them as Jim bared his delicate, well-hidden heart and John held it in his hands, turning it over to see the dark as well as light sides. When he finally spoke, Jim knew that the other man believed him, and better yet, trusted him. “Alright,” John said softly. “What do you suggest we do?”
When Sherlock was good, he was great. Beyond great, wonderful, fantastic, amazing, brilliant—there weren’t enough words in the English language to describe how Sherlock made John feel when he was at his best. It was why John had fallen in love with him in the first place, because he could sweep John off his feet almost unconsciously. He’d lie with John’s head on his chest, tracing lazy circles on his skin and running his fingers through John’s blonde hair as he chuckled affectionately, ‘my lion’; he’d compose sweeping, romantic violin pieces just for John; he’d trail kisses lazily across every inch of John’s skin, just to memorize and categorize every freckle, every variation in tone and every spot that made John’s breath hitch in his throat. Sherlock could make love in the way only a scientist could, using formulas and calculations meant to attain the maximum satisfaction for both parties involved. It was romantic, in a way, though, because he took the time to map out John’s body and his likes and dislikes and did everything he could to give and not take. Sherlock still had those days, now, but they were few and far between, aside from the few weeks’ span following what John ironically referred to as ‘The Case of Missing Consent’ because if he used humor, he wouldn’t have to think about how awful it really was.
When everything had been finished that hideous day, Sherlock had gone back to his experiments like nothing was wrong and John had taken a handful of low-grade painkillers, treated his wounds as best he could, and retired to bed even though it was only early evening and he hadn’t eaten. Sleep hadn’t really been his goal, at that point; he had just stared off into the darkness, fully aware that he’d chosen to sleep in Sherlock’s bed rather than the upstairs one that was slowly becoming dusty with disuse. It had taken a few hours, but eventually Sherlock had crawled into bed behind him, snuggling up to John’s bandaged back as he curved his body around the other man’s, spooning him with an arm slung across his waist and a soft kiss pressed to the back of John’s neck.
“I’m sorry,” he’d said, his baritone the low, growled purr of a big cat. Not a lion, but maybe a leopard or something. John had been too tired and sore to care about metaphors.
He hadn’t said anything, and after a pause the soft kisses had continued, trailing up John’s neck to his ear and back down to the junction of his shoulder and neck, each one separated by a murmured apology. John had gone to bed without his shirt on and Sherlock had used that to his advantage, kissing down his back, lips delicately avoiding the bandages on the scratches he’d inflicted earlier.
John’s eyes had slipped shut as Sherlock’s hand on his stomach had started drawing slow, soothing circles, fingertips light across his skin. “It’s never going to happen again,” Sherlock had murmured, kissing his way across the plane of John’s shoulders and pausing at his scar, which he placed the softest kiss on before burying his nose in the back of John’s head, taking a deep breath in his nest of blonde locks. His exhale had been warm on the back of John’s neck. “I just got so angry. I envy you, John. You can almost always handle your emotions so well, and I’m driven mad by a touch of jealousy. How do you ordinary people do it all the time? It’s so difficult for me.” He’d paused, his hand pausing as well, before it resumed drawing circles on John’s stomach. “I’m so sorry, John…can you ever forgive me?”
And John had hated himself for his answer, because by all rights he should have pushed Sherlock away, should have told him that this wasn’t okay, should have taken a stand in some way. Instead, he had said softly, “I can, Sherlock. Just…stay here, for the night, yeah?”
And Sherlock had hummed a happy agreement, nuzzling deeper into his hair like the affectionate man John had once fallen in love with. And John’s heart had broken somewhere deep in his chest as he realized for the first time that he’d slipped too far in to get out.
Their gorgeous period of peace had started then, and for a few short weeks John had his Sherlock, the sweet one that would do anything for him in a heartbeat and would never dream of hurting him. It was wonderful, and John allowed himself to hope that all of this mess was over and Sherlock would be better now. He was soft and kind and did lovely things again and kissed John’s cheek in the morning, ruffling his already mussed blonde hair and affectionately rumbling, ‘my lion’.
Then, of course, John had fucked the whole thing up and Sherlock had reacted even worse than before, forcing John to physically stay in the flat because letting him out of his sight might invite him to do something as unthinkable as leave. After the fight that left John with a lovely shiner for his efforts, John had sat down numbly on the couch as Sherlock paced the floor of the sitting room in front of him in some sort of agitation that John didn’t care to decipher. After some undeterminable amount of time, Sherlock had quite suddenly thrown himself down to the floor in front of John on his knees, crossing his arms against John’s lap and burying his head in them with a low moan. John had frozen for a moment, quite startled, and then had started petting Sherlock’s curls with one hand, knowing that trying to soothe the distraught man was the best option for everyone involved.
“You’ve seen it now, John,” Sherlock had moaned out, his voice muffled against the other man’s lap and his own arms. “This is what I’m really like on the inside and you hate it and you’re going to leave because that’s what anyone one else would do. I shouldn’t be surprised, I never knew what you saw in me in the first place…”
The statement had caught John so off-guard that he’d instantly responded, jumping straight into reassurance. "What…What I saw in you, Sherlock? I saw the most brilliant man I’ve ever met in my life, a wonderful detective and a great human being besides. There was never any question of how I felt about you, and I was just happy that you chose someone as ordinary as me.”
Sherlock had lifted his head at that point, resting his chin on his arms to look up at John, something that honestly looked like tears in his eyes. “Of course I chose you, John, there was never anyone else. You are everything I need, the only thing I need. I’d kill myself before I let you leave me.”
John’s heart had stopped at this, and he shook his head quickly. “No, Sherlock, don’t say things like that. You can’t mean it,” he’d said, a tinge of panic on the edge of his voice.
“Of course I mean that,” Sherlock had said with a quiet scoff. “If you ever left me, I would kill myself, John, that’s not a question.” He had stated it as if he was stating a simple fact, one of those obvious deductions he made that he didn’t understand why other people couldn’t follow it.
John had closed his eyes for a moment at that, drawing his strength together because god, no, this couldn’t really be happening. Sherlock didn’t mean that, he couldn’t, but John had known without a doubt that he did. “It doesn’t matter because I’m not leaving,” he’d said, looking down at Sherlock again. “Alright? So let’s not talk about things like that. Yours, remember?” And Sherlock had smiled, and John hadn’t even wondered how he had gone from trying to leave to comforting the person who had attacked him when he’d tried to.
Jim smiled, just slightly. “Leave it up to me, Johnny boy. I already have a plan.”
After all, he did owe Sherlock Holmes a fall.