This is not so much a postscript (or even a "prescript") to "An Innocent Man" as it is a companion piece. I did not include it with the story because it sort of stands on its own – putting it at the beginning would give away too much; putting it at the end would take the focus away from where it needed to be.
I definitely recommend reading this after you read "An Innocent Man." It doesn't necessarily fit into that story at all, but I believe it could fit into canon – I see it happening after "The Hounds of Baskerville" and before the events of "The Reichenbach Fall."
"'To know what would have happened, child?' said Aslan. 'No. Nobody is ever told that.'"
–From Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."
–Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity
"And what about John Watson?"
Jim Moriarty paused, fingers poised above the laptop that he was currently using to hack into the blog of Sherlock's little friend/personal assistant. For a moment he wondered if Moran had asked because he saw what Jim was doing, but seeing as how the sniper had positioned himself facing Jim's desk with the computer open between them, Jim could only assume his question was somehow related the orders Moriarty had just issued him regarding the kidnapping of the Bruhl children.
Huffing out a dramatic sigh to show his displeasure at being interrupted after he'd already dismissed the man, Jim lowered his arms and pouted up at Moran, who stood at parade rest like the gallant little soldier he was.
"Well? What about him, Jackie?"
A mocking challenge lighting his dark eyes, Moriarty watched with barely concealed glee as the former soldier's mouth tightened ever-so-slightly – the only sign of displeasure Moran ever gave at Jim's use of the hated nickname. The one time he had offered a mild objection, Jim had responded by calling him "Sebastian" for a fortnight. Moran loathed being called by his middle name even more than he hated being called "Jackie."
The sniper's voice was as steady and respectful as ever when he replied.
"Did you want Watson implicated in the kidnapping along with Holmes…make it appear they were in it together? People will probably suspect him anyway…"
Ah…now there was an idea. Moriarty pondered it a moment, intrigued by the thought. It might be interesting to see the proud soldier brought low.
But then Moriarty shrugged, returning his attention to the video he was currently uploading to Dr. Watson's web site. That was the thing, though – it would be interesting to see, but he wouldn't be seeing it – and neither would Sherlock.
Moran waited, but when Jim offered nothing further he nodded crisply and started for the door. Just as he turned away, though, Jim caught a fleeting glimpse of an odd look on the man's face, there and gone so fast he almost missed it. It appeared to have been – relief?
Why would Moran care if Watson were implicated? Jim almost called him back to investigate further, but the momentary interest ebbed away and he let him go. It made little difference to him what Moran felt about Moriarty's victims, so long as he carried out his orders.
And what was John Watson, after all? A hanger-on to Sherlock Holmes, drawn to his genius like a moth to a flame in much the same way as Moran was drawn to Jim's own. Soldier-boys, weren't they just so adorable…the way they needed a superior, someone to follow and admire? It occurred to Jim then that Watson, whom he usually never wasted much thought over, was a paler imitation of Moran even as Sherlock was a paler imitation of Moriarty – someone there to be used, only not so useful as Moran, of course.
Some might beg to differ, but Jim would take a skilled sniper over a boring doctor any day.
"Sir?" Moran, lingering in the doorway, was looking back at him.
"Hm?" Moriarty didn't even bother to look up this time.
"Are you planning to kill Holmes? At this…final showdown of yours?"
Moriarty paused again, considering the question. Then he smiled – a slow, devious smile. "No. I'm just going to talk to him. And then he's going to kill himself."*
Moran frowned, but he was too well trained to question a superior.
Moriarty had no intention of enlightening him, anyway. He waved Moran away. "That will be all, Jack. You have your instructions. Leave Watson out of it for now – he's not important."
As Moran departed the room, quietly closing the door behind him, Jim finished embedding the video he'd taken of himself in 221b Baker Street into the open text box, typed, "See you soon, boys!" below it, and clicked "post."** Then he sat back in his chair, smiling slightly. Apart from serving as a useful way to get at Holmes, John Watson was a nonentity, and Moriarty resolved to waste no further thought on him.
Still, he thought, as he laced his hands behind his head and leaned back to look up at the ceiling, it might have been interesting to know what might have happened had he told Moran to go ahead and plant evidence implicating the doctor, too. Much of the outcome would no doubt change, but Jim was willing to bet a lot of things would stay the same, as well.
After all…the universe is rarely so lazy.
*See "A Study in Pink," Sherlock series 1.
** See John Watson's March 16 blog post.
A few thoughts
My decision to incorporate post-Reichenbach elements from both series 2 and 3 of Sherlock into "An Innocent Man" was inspired in part by a novel I read some years ago titled Lightning by Dean Koontz.
In Lightning, a time traveler falls in love with the writing of an author from his future. He tries to influence the woman's life for the better by visiting various times in her life and subtly influencing events to make significant changes here and there (for instance, when he first becomes aware of the woman she is crippled; the time traveler prevents this by going back to the night of her birth and preventing her doctor, who was drunk at the time, from performing the delivery). While his interferences are largely successful, he notices quickly that some things either can't be changed or, changing, happen in a different form (for instance, though she is not crippled at birth, the woman still becomes a writer, yet her writing is vastly different from what it was in the original timeline). This leads the time traveler to believe that, while our ultimate destinies are somewhat fluid, fate struggles to reassert itself in some form despite outside influences.
I didn't think a lot of the book as a whole, but I found that thought fascinating – that, despite significant changes, some things would still happen, and that's what I had in mind when I started incorporating elements of series 2 and 3 into AIM. That's why John still met Mary (though, due to the physical and emotional changes he was struggling with as a result of having gone to prison, he did not work up the nerve to ask her out by the story's end), and why Wiggins still came into their lives, and why a number of key scenes still played out, albeit in different ways. Not coincidence, but fate (if you believe in that sort of thing).
So the way I see it – the scene above happened, Moriarty said "no," and we got series 3. If he'd said "yes," we might have gotten "An Innocent Man." Better for John that we got series 3, right? But that "no" also meant that the good things that happened – John's influence on Bill and, indirectly, Kitty, his friendship with the lonely old Dr. Bell, his time in Yorkshire with Sholto, his eventual return to Baker Street and a new understanding and closeness with Sherlock and even, to some extent, Mycroft – did not happen.
It's interesting to think about – how one change could potentially affect so much.
Thanks for reading!