Title: A Façade Faded

Author: starjenni

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Warnings: Oh, so much angst.

Rating: T


Summary: Alternate Ending. You know that person who we thought for a split second might be Moriarty? Well, he is.

He turns around as the other person enters the empty pool, the hard-won USB stick high in his hand, the other by his side, his nerves screaming with danger and excitement. Now he will see who Moriarty really is. After all this waiting, all these games, how wonderful, how damn wonderful -

He turns.

His heart stops.

John Watson is standing at the other end of the pool, wearing exactly the same clothes he left the flat with, his dark jacket, his scarf, even his hair is the same, everything is the same as when Sherlock last saw him but…

But he is holding himself differently, he is not in that rigid, military stance he usually adopts, he is looser, more flexible, more agile, and there is a smile on his face that Sherlock never imagined John could even make, a bitter, cold, calculating smile.

"Evening," John says, the very picture of casualness.

He cannot move. He cannot breathe. His limbs seem to have crystallised into each other, his blood congealing, his veins hardening, until he is nothing but the strangest, strangest statue, holding the USB high as if it is the forbidden flame from Olympus itself.

It cannot be. He cannot have been so blind. It can't be…

Not John. Not John. Anyone but him. Not John.

It's impossible. Surely it's impossible.

"This is a turn-up, isn't it Sherlock?" John grins.

It must be a trap. Someone is behind the scenes, controlling John, making him say this…but no, because it is obvious John is loving this, he is smiling so easily, so triumphantly, and John would never - would never -

"John?" His name comes unbidden, tumbling from his lips, and his body is gradually unfreezing, the arm holding the USB is falling slowly down, but he feels unconnected from it, from it all, his mind is whirling in the past, in everything, wondering how can it be?, wishing it cannot be. "What the hell - " he says involuntarily.

John laughs, gleefully, and it is such a wrong sound, out of his mouth, it is so wrong. "Bet you never saw this coming!"

Like it's a game, like it's nothing, like it's funny. Sherlock stares, unable to look away; John is standing there, so relaxed, so confident, mercurial, enigmatic, nothing like the John he knows - it's as if someone has swapped personalities with him, leaving his body the same but his nature different, like an alien mind has swamped his own. He is trying to pin down reasons why this revelation cannot be, but his mind is distracted, for the first time in his life he cannot concentrate.

And then there is a part of him, a whisper, that says, of course. John has killed before, and he has done so without the slightest remorse, Sherlock has been there, he has seen it. John is a crack shot. John is good at killing.

And yet this revelation, this suspicion that John could be anything but loyal and trustworthy and moral - it feels like the worst kind of blasphemy, like a swear word spoken in a church.

He takes a step forward, as if, by doing so, he will step back out of this darkness into the real world, where Moriarty is someone else, some insane man in a posh suit or something, not this man, not John. But the world stays where it is, it stays unbalanced, and John is still there, hands casually in his pockets, that cold smile still on his face, and Sherlock can't bear it, cannot bear this. Anything, but not this.

John stretches, as if he has just woken up from a long sleep, flexible, pliant. "God, that's better," he sighs. "You have no idea how annoying it is to have to act so stiff all the time. I think I've pulled something!"

He practically skips up the pool, closer to Sherlock, beaming, and by god there is insanity in his eyes. "You know, I'm actually relieved its finally come to this. I was getting so sick of following you around." And then his smile drops, and his face falls rigid, and Sherlock never thought he could see so much hatred in John's eyes, and especially not directed at him. A part of him curls away from it, instinctively, painfully.

"Treating me like a nothing," John continues, coldly, every word stabbing knives into Sherlock. "Treating me like your servant, like your pet, like I was as much of an idiot as the rest of them, when I knew, when I knew, Sherlock, that I was so much better than them, better than even you." His face relaxes for a moment. "Mind you, it was hilarious at times. You have an ego big enough to rival even mine. And look where it's landed you." He half smiles. "No one ever thinks of the side-kick, do they? It never crosses anyone's mind to mistrust them. Certainly not John Watson, sweet, solid John Watson, John Watson without a devious bone in his body. No, no, no one ever looks at him twice. Not when the wonderful Sherlock Holmes is in the room." His eyes harden. "And yet," he says, "…here we are."

"Who the hell are you," spits Sherlock, because that is all he can say, because the betrayal is running too deep now for him to phrase any other questions, millions though he has spinning in his head.

"James Moriarty," John says formally, as if he is about to extend a hand or give Sherlock his card. "Hello."

There is a gun in Sherlock's belt, but he can't bring himself to grab at it, he could never shoot John, never, not even if John was physically attacking him, and by god this hurts, it hurts.

"I've been watching you since the beginning," John continues indifferently. "Ever since dear little Carl Powers met his end. I knew then, oh, so long ago, that I had finally found my rival, and I wasn't wrong, was I Sherlock?" He frowns, curious. "Tell me, Sherlock, did you ever suspect? Just once? Or were you lured in by it all, this poor, pathetic little army surgeon with a crutch - did you like the psychosomatic limp part? I knew I had to present you with some sort of challenge, a hook, a mystery, something to make you want to take an interest in me. And, oh, I did love the chases. That bit wasn't a lie. Watching you work, Sherlock. It was fascinating." He cocks his head to one side. "You didn't suspect, did you? Not even once."

Sherlock says nothing, because John is right, he is right, he let himself believe that this person, that this one…this one actually cared. He should have known.

"Gosh, I did do well, didn't I?" John continues, victoriously, and his smile falls just a little colder. "As if anyone would want to stay around you, Sherlock. As if anyone would want to care. As if you could ever keep a friend."

He wants to seize him by the shoulders and shake him, he wants to scream why, why did you do this, why did you have to tell me, why couldn't you have just kept up the façade, why couldn't you have left me with the lie, I wanted the lie, I needed the lie John, John, John -

He has never felt so lost in his entire life.

"Shame this had to come to an end," John says, shrugging his shoulders. "But god - it really was driving me insane. Pretending to be stupid all the time. I don't know how people manage to be that slow. But I figured you trusted me enough by now, you needed me enough, for me to actually have a halfway decent effect on you when I broke you down. Because I have broken you, haven't I, Sherlock? I'm breaking you with every word I say, every smile I smile. I'm killing you."

His vision is blurring, and he knows why, but he is determined not to blink, not to give this…this stranger the satisfaction of seeing his emotions. But he can't help but think of all that could have been, if John hadn't done this, if he hadn't been this, he finds himself craving the strangest, smallest things, like more of their bickering, like watching crap TV together, like investigating together. He wants it back, he wants it back, he wants that warmth and that gentle affection back now, but it will never return, it has gone, it went as soon as he turned around, and he doesn't know what to do anymore, he doesn't know, he has no idea.

"So." John steps closer, and Sherlock should not want to step away, not from John, but he does, he wants to get as far away from here as possible, he wants to run and keep running, he wants to stop thinking, he wants to stop feeling. "So," John says again. "What do we do now?" He nods at Sherlock. "You have a gun in your belt. You could shoot me. It would be easy - there's no one here but us. And then you could leave, and you could forget that I ever existed, that James Moriarty and John Watson ever existed. You could persuade yourself that it was all a dreadful dream and go on as normal. You could do it." And then he smiles again, and Sherlock is beginning to hate that smile, and the thing he hates most is how he is getting used to it, how it is almost appearing natural on John's face. "But of course you won't," John continues, and then sighs. "Oh, you fool."

He takes another step forward, and Sherlock wishes he wouldn't, because the situation is becoming predatory now, and he is feeling trapped, trapped, trapped -

"You are an idiot," John continues, still saying these poisonous words with apparent abandon. "You let yourself feel. You let John Watson give you a heart equal to your mind. You let John Watson turn the machine into a man. You fool. You thrice damned fool."

And then he starts back suddenly and says, "Oh. Oh. Of course. You wanted it, didn't you? You wanted a John Watson to be in your life. Oh, not consciously of course, but secretly, deep down, you wanted someone to trust. Someone who would believe you weren't as bad as you know you are. You needed a John Watson, and so when he turned up, you didn't dare to question it, you refused to question it, you had what you didn't even know you wanted, you didn't want to push your luck. And so you never even let it occur to you, my betrayal. You never even wondered. Fascinating."

Sherlock betrays himself, god, even his body is betraying him - his eyes, fed up with the threat of tears, blink hesitantly, and he can feel moisture on his cheeks. He says nothing; he has nothing to say.

But John's face seems to soften suddenly, and for a moment, for just a brief, dreadful moment, he looks like that old John again, that other John, that better John, and seeing that reminder is almost as heart-stopping as turning around and seeing him at the beginning of all of this.

"John Watsons don't exist, Sherlock," he says, suddenly so quiet, suddenly so grave. "We make them up, we imagine them, but they don't belong here, not in this world, not to us. They are not real. We don't deserve them to exist."

Sherlock is numb, simply numb, he cannot feel a thing, all he can do is watch this man, this lie and this truth, through tear-blurred eyes and in utter silence.

"It's ironic, isn't it," John says, and maybe there is a trace of sadness there, maybe there is a hint of desolation. "That John Watson is the one who defeats Sherlock Holmes in the end. The one who changes the monster into the man, and who then goes on to destroy him. How ironic. How ironic."

And then John steps back, and it feels like the end of everything, like the end of an era, and Sherlock is close, so close to dropping to his knees and begging him to stay, asking for him back, and that weakness, that feebleness, that which he has never felt before, scares him more than anything else here has.

John ruffles at his hair, yawning widely, and suddenly he is not John anymore, but he is James Moriarty, and it is as if he has just witnessed the death of John in front of his eyes.

John Watson: his greatest failure. And he had thought him a success.

"Well," John - no, James - says cheerfully. "I have things to do. I suppose I shall be seeing you soon - after all, Sherlock Holmes - " And he is walking away now, walking to the exit without even a glance back, "The game is on."

And then he is gone, he is gone, and Sherlock is alone, almost as alone as he had been before John Watson appeared in his life but even more so now that he has left.