CHAPTER 1

Sherlock's footsteps echoed loudly as he cautiously walked through the faded blue door into the watery stillness of the darkened swimming pool. His eyes darted from corner to corner as he started to slowly pace in a circle, continually searching with his eyes for the person who had so intrigued him with their criminal elegance during the past few days. Briefly he thought of his colleague and friend, John Watson, glad that he was safe away from the hoped for confrontation this evening. As distasteful as the mere thought of John spending time in the company of that dull Sarah woman was, at least his absence tonight would afford Sherlock the opportunity to meet his adversary without feeling the need to protect his friend should things turn sour. He began to speak to the presence he could feel in the dimly-lit room with him, hoping to draw his rival out of the shadows.

"I've brought you a little getting-to-know-you present." He said confidently as he raised the Government Issue thumb-drive above his head with his right hand. "That's what it's all been for isn't it? All your little...puzzles? Making me dance? All to distract me from this..." His voice peters out as the metallic clunk of a fire exit door opening has him looking over his shoulder towards the sound. As John steps into view Sherlock can feel his heart skip a beat and the blood drain from his face. John is wrapped up warmly against the biting cold London night, the hood of his puffy khaki jacket pushed back and his hands in his pockets.

No! This can't be possible! Sherlock thinks as his mind goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the kind, moral man who had become his only friend with the cold-hearted criminal mastermind who has been taunting him. John stands there calmly, his face carefully neutral.

"Evening" John says quietly, his voice barely echoing in the large tiled room. "This is a turn up isn't it Sherlock?" The taller man's breath catches in his throat as he fixes his gaze onto his friend's face and takes a hesitant step towards him.

"John" he breathes, "What the hell...?" His mind whirls as he tries to think back through all of their interactions, wondering how he could have missed a vital clue. How could I have not seen this? How could John have deceived me for so many weeks without me realizing? All of these thoughts fly through Sherlock's formidable brain in a second before John speaks again

"Bet you didn't see this coming" he continues in a curiously dead voice, shifting his weight slightly and with his hands still in his pockets, he spreads his jacket wide exposing the arsenal of explosives strapped firmly to his chest. As a wavering red dot of light flickers over John's chest Sherlock is suddenly hit with an intense feeling of relief that John isn't Moriarty and then the realization of the very real danger his friend, and he himself are now in. He begins to reconsider the wisdom of arranging this meeting, this confrontation, with Moriarty. John continues to parrot Moriarty's words as Sherlock desperately tries to think of a way out of this situation without himself or John being blown up or otherwise losing important parts of their respective anatomies.

"I gave you my number – I thought you might call" The nasal, whining voice carries across the water and echoes off the tiles. As James "Jim" Moriarty introduces himself in an overly theatrical, arrogant manner Sherlock finds himself less eager to meet this criminal genius than he had anticipated. Suddenly the most important thing is not solving the riddle of Moriarty but getting out alive with his flatmate firmly in tow.

Moriarty continues to ramble on in his incredibly irritating voice, singing his own praises and throwing innuendos around. Sherlock struggles to maintain the facade of interest in the small, weasely-looking man who has been the mastermind behind the past few weeks of cases, and who knows how many cases prior to that. Sherlock's eyes constantly flicker toward John, who is standing stoically unmoving barely three feet away from him. He knows that he must continue to feign fascination in Moriarty if he is going to have a chance at getting them through this alive, he needs to let him believe that he holds all the cards, that Sherlock and John are no real threat – of course in their current circumstance, even with the revolver, they really are no threat to Moriarty.

"...it has been fun though, playing these little games." Moriarty is still talking when Sherlock tunes back in, "Playing Jim from IT, playing gay – did you like the touch with the underpants?"

"People have died" Sherlock points out blandly.

"That's what people DO!" Moriarty's face contorts as he screams the last word as though possessed with multiple personalities. As the word echoes off the walls Sherlock hears the unmistakeable metallic clang of a door somewhere closing. He thinks it unlikely that Moriarty heard it over the sound of his own tantrum and so Sherlock begins to formulate a plan.

"Boring! If I'd wanted that I could have gotten it another way" Moriarty says with a sneer as he throws the military thumb-drive Sherlock passes to him into the swimming pool nonchalantly. While he is distracted John leaps forward and grapples him into a stranglehold, telling Sherlock to run. The Consulting Detective is momentarily paralysed by the implications of this turn of events. No-one has ever willingly offered to sacrifice themselves for his life, he has never felt as though someone would do all they could to protect him – sure he thought that Lestrade would probably do his best to diffuse a situation in which Sherlock found himself in mortal peril but considered it extremely unlikely that he would value Sherlock's life over that of his own. John had just demonstrated in no uncertain terms that he was every bit as dedicated to preserving Sherlock's life as he was his own – more so in fact. If Sherlock's thinking was correct, and is almost always was, then the threat is not quite as dire as it appeared, nevertheless John did not know that and still he offered his life in exchange for his colleague's.

While these chaotic thoughts ran riot through Sherlock's head, he noticed John's eyes widen and Moriarty's smile grow moments before he glimpsed the tell tale sparkle of a red dot of light reflecting off his hair and briefly into his eyes. John hurriedly let go of the slender criminal and stepped back as the light dots moved away from Sherlock and back to his explosive-packed chest. Moriarty laughed and spilled forth yet more self-congratulatory commentary as well as the obligatory death threats before finally turning to walk away with a jaunty farewell, somehow managing to get the final verbal parry in as the door clanged shut behind him.

As soon as the echoes of the closed door fade Sherlock drops the gun and scrambles to John's side with no sign of his usual grace. He drops to one knee and desperately fumbles with the buckles on the explosive harness, finally tugging the jacket and the explosives free and throwing it across the tiles. He grabs John's shoulders and spins him around to face him.

"Are you alright?... ARE YOU ALRIGHT!" Sherlock demands frantically while leaning close to John's face and peering intently into his eyes. John is pale and shaking slightly under Sherlock's hands. "John, I need to know that you are OK" Sherlock all but begs as he shakes his friend gently by the shoulders.

"Yeah, yeah – I'm fine" John finally says faintly, chest heaving as the adrenaline of the past few minutes slowing begins to recede. His knees feel weak suddenly and he stumbles forward against Sherlock, the taller man quickly wrapping his long arms around his shoulders to steady him. John rests his forehead against the slightly scratchy cloth of Sherlock's lapel as he regains his balance, feeling oddly comfortable with another man's arms around him, Not very surprising considering the near-death experience I've just had he reassures himself. John straightens up and gently extracts himself. "Are you alright Sherlock?" he asks as he takes a few steps to the wall and gently lowers himself down into a crouch against a tile pillar. Sherlock is pacing agitatedly back and forth, rubbing the muzzle of the now retrieved revolver against his head, messing up his already unruly dark curls.

"Me? Yeah fine, fine..." he replies distractedly, still moving about jerkily. He takes a deep breath, "That, uh, that thing that you, um... that thing you offered to do...that was, er, that was...good" he finally spits out while hesitantly looking at his crouched companion from the corner of his eyes.

"I'm glad no one saw that" John murmurs, trying to lighten the moment.

"Hmmm?"

"You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool" John says with a wry smile as he adjusts his cardigan back onto his shoulders, "People might talk."

"People do little else" Sherlock grins as he offers a hand to help John up. "And I wouldn't be so sure about not having an audience John..." his words are cut off abruptly as they hear the bouncing footfalls of Moriarty as he strolls back into the room closely followed by a legion of small red dots of light appearing on both of their chests. Sherlock looks up towards the back gallery to where the marksmen must be.

"Sorry boys! I'm soooo changeable!" Moriarty sing-songs as John and Sherlock spin toward him. They are standing side-by-side, arms only inches apart as Moriarty talks about their impending death. "I simply can't let you continue."

Sherlock glances at John, trying to communicate his plan to him with his eyes. John blinks once and nods very slightly before shifting several small paces away from his companion, bracing his legs as he prepares to do what he thinks Sherlock was silently asking him to do. Sherlock parries more words with Moriarty and then dramatically points the revolver towards the explosive-loaded jacket still lying in a crumpled, sinister heap on the floor between them. A tense couple of seconds pass while Sherlock and Moriarty eyeball each other then Sherlock tenses and shouts "NOW!" as he squeezes the trigger.