He has to admit they did a good job; they chose a building with thick walls and the door won't open, no matter what he does.

The fire is coming closer, so he sits down and waits. Sherlock will be looking for him. He knows what will happen if John dies.

In the meantime, he thinks about who kidnapped him. Whatever the reason, it can only have to do with Sherlock. His cover is perfect. No one knows who he is, what he is. Therefore, it can't be anyone who's out for revenge or wants to take over his web.

They definitely are not out to kill him. If they were, they could easily have shot him from behind. No, this is proving a point, this is getting to Sherlock –

Oh. He should have realized.

Magnussen. Charles Augustus Magnussen. John doesn't think much of the man; he has no patience for people who have all the power in the world and only use it to prove to themselves that they matter. Magnussen never does much with the information he collects – now and then he asks for money, and what a motive is that? – and he never has any proof. It's all in his brain.

He's useless both as an antagonist – he would never play games – and as a partner. John should know. When the man first showed up, he considered contacting him. After all, it can never hurt to collect information about everyone who has something to say in the city.

He ultimately decided against it because Magnussen didn't know how to have any fun. Always so serious, and slightly sadistic. True, John enjoys a good torture when he sees one, but Magnussen doesn't have a big plan, he's all about power through information, and if people weren't so ordinary and would learn that all they had to do was refuse him or not be scared of him to make him powerless, he would have nothing. People are stupid, and that's Magnussen's luck.

Apparently he wants to play with Sherlock. No, Magnussen doesn't play, the boring sod. He wants to prove a point before the consulting detective ever decides to target him. John sighs. How ordinary.

Someone is running down the corridor leading to the room he's locked into. Sherlock screams "John!"

"Here" he calls back. His flatmate breaks down the door. He looks pale and agitated, and John grins.

Sherlock Holmes has too good a heart, and it will always be his downfall. He still cares for him, even if he hates him.

It's contradictions like this that make Sherlock Holmes the interesting man he is.

They quickly leave the building and John watches the struggle in the other man's face.

Eventually, Sherlock presses out, "Are you alright?"

"Fine" John answers cheerfully. "I barely inhaled any smoke, and they didn't hit me that hard."

Sherlock nods and looks away.

"Do you have any idea –" he begins, and John is happy to reply.

"Magnussen. I'm rather sure he considers me your pressure point".

Sherlock looks at him. John is surprised. As usual, he finds the sentiment fascinating.

"You heard of Magnussen" he states.

Sherlock frowns. "Yes. A few years ago – before – "

He stops, apparently not wanting to remember the times before he met John. Not that John can blame him. Sorting through all these feelings must be complicated.

The consulting detective clears his throat. "I had just begun to work – a woman came to me, a woman whose husband wasn't to know about her past."

"Let me guess. Someone higher up the food chain".

Sherlock nods.

"Magnussen wanted money – she didn't give it to him, and since I found out that he didn't have any proof, only knew everything there was to know about her, I couldn't do anything. He told her husband and he committed suicide." He pauses. "I have seldom thought less of a man than I have of Charles Augustus Magnussen".

"Should I blush?" John asks and Sherlock shoots him a disgusted look before turning around and finding a cab.

Sherlock sits next to the man he just saved and tries to understand what he felt at the moment he got a text from an unknown number and realized John had been kidnapped. He panicked, but not only because of what would happen if the consulting criminal died.

He was scared for John, too.

Why does he still care? There's not a person in the world who has wronged him more than John Watson. There's no one who has tortured him more, whose very existence has made his life more miserable.

He couldn't even kill him if Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson were safe, Sherlock realizes. He can't because John Watson was his first friend, and he hates him more than anyone else, but at the same time he means something to him, what they had means something to him.

He wants to be free of him and yet he isn't sure he could let him go.

It's all so confusing.

And now they have to deal with Magnussen. Mycroft warned him off when he wanted to act after his client's husband's suicide. This time, the situation is different.

Magnussen threatened John, which means he wanted to threat Sherlock. Which means –

He wanted to show Mycroft that he knows his pressure point.

Sherlock is aware that he can't fight a man like him, not on his own. Magnussen must be afraid of someone else.

And this someone else can only be Mycroft.

He didn't think he meant much to his brother, but apparently Magnussen disagrees.

They have to win. The country can't be at the mercy of such a man, and it will, unless they manage to fight him.

Mycroft won't help, he knows. Mycroft thinks that the best way to deal with problems like these is diplomacy, in other words not doing anything. But Magnussen has to be stopped.

At all costs.

As a matter of fact –

Sherlock looks at John out of the corner of his eye.

He might just free himself in the process.

Mycroft shows up at the flat barely an hour later. John expected him to come a little sooner – he must be getting slow – and as always, Big Brother can't admit that he's worried about Sherlock.

Naturally, he tries to order them not to investigate Magnussen.

"This is too dangerous, Sherlock. This man has – "

"I know, Mycroft. And I don't care. Someone has to stop him."

"You are just looking for a dragon to slay."

Sherlock doesn't answer and Mycroft leaves.

The consulting detective doesn't need to say that he hasn't been dissuaded from going after Magnussen.

"What do we do?" John asks. "He has everything in his head, so the only way to stop him – "

"Is to kill him" Sherlock finishes without emotions.

John feels proud. He's starting to rub off on Sherlock, it would seem.

"I'm not doing this for you" Sherlock adds when he goes to put on his coat, and the doctor chuckles.

"Whatever helps you sleep at night, my dear".

For once, John doesn't know what he's thinking, Sherlock is sure. Because – this could be his way out. Mycroft wasn't trying to stop him because he was concerned for his safety; he was worried about what he would have to do if Sherlock did anything. He knows his brother – he isn't going to allow him to go to jail, but he can't let him walk around without consequences either. Most likely he'll send him away on a mission for the MI6; the consulting detective is aware that the ask the British Government if he could help them on a regular basis, and that Mycroft always declines in his name.

This time, he won't be able to decline. He has to send Sherlock away.

Probably on a suicide mission.

But –

Death has long ago stopped to be a threat to him. In fact, it stopped to be one as soon as he came back to life. Now, it sounds like freedom.

And John won't be able to do anything because Sherlock won't endanger his life or tell anyone who he truly is.

Whether he dies or not, Sherlock won't return. He will fake his death once again, if necessary. He will disappear.

John won't find him.

It will be over.

He shoots him a subtle glance.

He doesn't know, he reminds himself again. He can't know. Not even John Watson can know everything, and he can't know this, his plan of setting himself free without endangering others.

He has a reason to kill Magnussen.

It's only a matter of time before the man starts threatening others who mean something to Sherlock. Which is why the doctor didn't wonder why Sherlock was ready to kill him.

Then again, it might just be logical for him. The secrets are in Magnussen's head. Killing him is the only way to get rid of them.

Sherlock is silent as they make their way out of the town and towards Magnussen's mansion, but John has grown used to it. Maybe the consulting detective is having second thoughts about murdering someone; he is human, after all.

"Do you think Mycroft will have us followed?" he asks, "That he might try to stop us?"

He hopes it. It would be more entertaining than a simple murder.

"There would have been surveillance on us – but I told the cabbie exactly which route to take, and I am sure we lost them, at least for a while".

Long enough to get to Magnussen's mansion. Sherlock wants them to eventually figure out he left town; of course Mycroft will know immediately what they are up to. He'll come too late. He'll have to arrest Sherlock.

He only has to make sure that he's the one who kills Magnussen.

John wonders if he should be the one to shoot; they are both armed, but he's debating which course of action would promise more fun. He has made Sherlock Holmes kill and torture before – during the three years the consulting detective was dead – but he didn't see any of it and he really wishes he could. On the other hand, Magnussen is as boring and annoying a criminal as they come and it would be satisfying to pull the trigger himself.

And to do so under Mycroft Holmes' nose – nothing would happen to him. The British Government wouldn't allow it; he's only been good for Sherlock. He wouldn't want the consulting detective to lose his influence.

John smiles at the thought. And even if he should be forced to state an example, he is confident that he could find a way out of wherever they put him.

He doesn't want Sherlock to get lonely.

Breaking into the mansion is disappointingly easy. Magnussen must be so full of himself that he believes no one would try and break in.

The rest of the evening is as underwhelming as it's beginning. Magnussen tries to threaten John, and John acts scared because he has to do something to entertain himself when really, he could get rid of the extortionist in a heartbeat.

Sherlock shooting the man, though –

It's a great sight. It's a wonderful sight. John Watson sees what he's made of Sherlock Holmes, the cold-blooded killer he has created, and how the consulting detective hates what he's become but does it anyway, and it's delicious.

And then Mycroft shows up and John understands.

Sherlock almost got him. Sherlock almost beat him. Sherlock almost free himself.

That's the most interesting thing that's happened in months, ever since Sherlock came back.

If only John could show how happy he was. Just as he was getting bored with the cases –

But Sherlock won't get away. He's a bit disappointed that the consulting detective didn't expect him to have a plan for situations like this.

Sherlock acts devastated at the airport, right before he goes on his suicide mission, and John does his best to appear oblivious while he enjoys the relief in the man's eyes. Not for long. Sherlock hasn't escaped him yet.

The consulting detective lets himself sink into his seat and breathes a sigh of relief. He's done it. He's free. He feels regret (not because of John, no, not because of him, because of Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson and London) to leave, but all in all, he feels better than he has in months. Years, if he includes his time being dead.

He's free.

His phone rings.

As soon as the plane takes off, John pushes a button on his phone.

He always knew that the footage of Richie would come in handy.

The film of him asking "Miss me?" is on every screen in Britain, and Mycroft enters his limousine to call Sherlock back.

John smiles.

The game is far from over.