Author's Note: This was written before The Great Game (episode 3) aired. It features Moriarty, not as any type of spoiler, but as an inevitability in the series; after all, Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes' Ultimate Foe. It can be months or days or years down the road from the first season of Sherlock. Enjoy!
If Sherlock had known, then, what he knows now -
But that way lies madness - or at least idiocy.
How many times has Sherlock heard victims' next-of-kin utter that phrase? If I'd only known, they'd say, fingers pressed to lips; and Sherlock would snap viciously,
What? What would you have done? Tell me honestly;
and they would gape, or say Fuck off, or Can't you see I'm grieving?, or just
I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.
Or maybe Sherlock would have just rolled his eyes instead, or maybe he would have only twitched in irritation, because John knows him too well and would shoot him a look before Sherlock could say or do anything.
The problem with this isn't Moriarty, and it isn't this sideways game of his or even its outcome; it's John's stare right now, in this moment, as he tries to coach Sherlock silently, as he would then in rigid tea-rooms or flats or police interview offices:
This isn't a game, Sherlock, these are real people -
The problem is that Sherlock isn't a real person. He doesn't watch movies for fun, or have a partner, or eat beans on toast in front of the telly, or read a paperback on the tube on his way to work, or think, he doesn't think like a real person, like John,
like John who stumbles out of bed looking for a cuppa, not a dead body; who laughs with Sarah, who feels real humor and rage and frustration, mostly at Sherlock, he'll admit -
Like John, Sherlock rages at himself, who would be weeping now if he had breath, if he had made the choice instead of Sherlock.
Like John, who should never have been part of Moriarty's game.
Now John is staring at him with that look; with soldier's eyes: steady and scared. Now John is watching Sherlock with the same intensity he saves for interviews with next-of-kin and survivors:
Proceed carefully, Sherlock, this isn't a game; these are real people, with real lives. Use your manners.
But now he knows more than manners; he knows John, who taught him rage and kindness, and heartache, and how to feel a deep terrible ache in one's stomach when staring at a friend only two-point-one meters away.
Now he knows - knows Moriarty, knows John, knows fear and knows knowing all the pieces, so fitting and logical he can taste it. He wishes he could go back, back to when John rolls his eyes and says:
Sherlock, you're an idiot;
and buys the milk because he knows Sherlock will choose to forget to.
Now, says Moriarty, now we're going to play a game.
If Sherlock had known, then, what he knows now; had known, as Stamford bumbled into his lab; or as the cabbie had howled
with his last breath, his very last breath; or as John had said:
You're mad, you are, utterly mad, and Sherlock had whispered Danger, and John's eyes had flashed with defiance and challenge and humor because it's all good fun, isn't it all good fun -
Isn't it all good fun, Sherlock, says Moriarty; I know you get bored, just as I do -
It used to be that when Sherlock was bored he'd find bodies in the streets, bodies the police hadn't found yet, and he'd investigate or practice on them until something else came up; or he'd just go as far as he could on foot, learning and absorbing and cataloguing. Once he makes it all the way to France, going through the service tunnels of the Chunnel.
Now he shoots holes in the wall because he knows John will come up and ask what the racket is, even though anyone can tell it's a handgun, and Sherlock can say
so John will maybe sigh and lead him out to get a Chinese, or maybe leave for an irritated walk, alone. It's fifty-fifty these days.
These days it's fifty-fifty.
It's all good fun, Sherlock, says Moriarty. It's just a little game. Fifty-fifty. You? Or your friend?
If Sherlock had known, he would have had the chance to glance at John and then away, and say:
Stamford I appreciate the gesture but I don't need a fragile wounded soldier living with me thank you,
-and swept out before John's spluttering had gained any coherency. He would have had the chance to say:
Give me a room, Mrs. Hudson, before I tell the authorities you had enough money to pay your husband's ransom and didn't anyway; and don't overcharge me.
He would have….
What would you have done? Sherlock would demand in the interviews; Tell me honestly, what would you have done?, and none of the survivors ever gave the correct response, which is:
Nothing, I would have done nothing; I would have kept him by my side and gone through all the late-night take-aways and gripes about the rent and fantastics! and angry stormings-out and falling asleep on the couch watching cheap talk shows and endless kindnesses and John, always John -
John Watson, isn't it? Allow me to explain the game a bit.
If Sherlock had known, then, what he knows now -
But that way lies madness.