Disclaimer: I wrote this story with no intention of plagiarising the writers of the BBC 'Sherlock' series, or any previous Sherlock Holmes stories/adaptations.

Author's Notes: Gah! It's taken so long, I can only apologise…and now I'm so sad it's finished! Really loved writing this one, clearing up (some of) the loose ends, and building up to a dramatic climax (no pun intended…well maybe!).
Obviously, I'm not going to finish the Saga of Sherlock/John here – as soon as I come up with some new ideas I'll start a new story. It's far too much fun writing about them to stop now!
I'd really appreciate some constructive feedback with this one – mysterypoet66 kindly gave me advice about keeping John in-character, and I've tried to improve the narrative style with this chapter to make it more convincingly Freeman!Watson. I'm also going to go back over old chapters when I can to give them a bit of tweaking – hopefully it'll be an improvement.
Thanks so much for sticking with this! I'm gratefully indebted to each and every one of you.

Warning: Scenes of a non-con nature.
EDIT: Sequel up now! 'The Disappearance of an Heiress'

Files:: Personal Documents:: Protected:: Dr John Watson: Private Journal

New Entry:

I'd wanted to write down all the details of The Case of the Black Hart last time – just get them out of my head and let it all lie; unfortunately, there aren't enough free hours in the day – not at the moment, anyway. It would have helped me – removed the urge to over-analyse what happened by putting it all on the page and out of my brain, like I do in my public blog – as it is, the events have still been hurtling around my memory, assaulting me at the worst possible moments. It's therapeutic, writing down my experiences, more than I'd ever realised it would be; and of course, here, I can be completely honest. No details omitted. I can express my innermost feelings - sometimes, before I've even admitted them to myself - on these pages.

But I've also wanted, so badly, to discuss these things with Sherlock; to find out his thoughts on the past couple of weeks, mostly beyond the events of the case. I know he's read this journal at least once, and though it might be a small blessing that he hasn't been near my laptop for days, it means that he hasn't shown any sign of having read these latest entries.
Sherlock, if you read this, please talk to me about...things. I'll never ask you face to face.

We went on with our investigations for several days, usually just going about normal (by Sherlock's definition), everyday things and patiently observing – trying to establish whether our shadow had decided to follow us again. The day after our taxi-trail, we weren't followed at all – by car, or on foot. So Sherlock avoided the dreaded Boredom by visiting Lestrade at Scotland Yard and listening to his tedious reports about the various things he'd seen and heard while carrying out the tasks Sherlock had recommended to him. The police in a few handpicked northern counties had been contacted, in case any Salters had come to their attention following Sherlock's restaurant lead; and Lestrade and his team had been visiting yet more seedy clubs and the like in the immediate London area. Sherlock actually seemed surprised when it turned out Henry Salter had visited a strip club in Camden – though it had been several months before his murder and the club owner only vaguely recognised him from a photo because his friend had gotten ridiculously drunk and had had to be ushered out. None of the women working there had remembered him, and as far as anyone could say for sure, he'd only ever been once. Lestrade was happy though; he'd gotten it into his head that, because we were being followed, Salter's murderer must have been a lover – according to him, only a woman would come up with a death as poetic as the Black Hart, and women are notorious stalkers...charming man, at times.
I knew Sherlock believed he was one-hundred per cent wrong, but he never said a word. Just nodded along and changed the subject as swiftly as possible.

So while Lestrade had set off on this new tangent – trying to prove, against Sherlock's advice, that Salter did in fact have a known lover, and that she was following us around London in a silver BMW E70 – we continued to assume that the male killer, whoever he was, knew that we were aware of him, and was only out of sight at that moment because he was formulating a plot to put us out of his way.
I should have been worried. Maybe I was – but not enough.

Two days after we'd first seen the killer (or at least their car), Sherlock decided that we ought to try again – in case the killer had sent out someone else to do his legwork while he constructed his next plan of action.

There was a strange atmosphere between us, that morning. I couldn't tell what Sherlock was feeling – I never can, really – but there seemed to be a shared understanding between us that we were nearing the end. It would only be a matter of hours before that vital detail would fall into place and the following hours would be a blood-pounding adrenaline blur as we started to chase down our suspect. Knowing this, and somehow incredibly aware of just how much things had changed between us, I felt that I really ought to seize these last few moments of blessed ignorance and uncertainty; the eye of the storm. Yet again, I wanted to turn to Sherlock for reassurance, and yet again, I was too much of a coward to ask for it.
My hand was somehow attached to his arm as we reached the front door; there were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted him to know how excited I was, how eager I was for us to succeed, how much I was looking forward to being able to watch him, how scared I was that he might make one of his rash mistakes and end up in another brush with death, how I would be so concerned with his actions that I would completely forget about my own, how I had the strongest urge to hold him as tightly as I could, just then, and tell him to be careful.

I said nothing, of course. But as Sherlock paused and turned to look at me, I leant upwards slightly and kissed him carefully on the lips. It was enough, to calm my overactive mind. Sherlock smiled vaguely back at me, his expression slightly quizzical, and bit down gently on his lower lip. I could see the question on the tip of his tongue, but he stayed silent – just held out his arm for me to pass through the front door ahead of him, before wheeling round and locking it behind him.

I tried to get Sherlock to divulge some more of his deductions on the taxi journey, but he was being purposefully vague and unreadable – sometimes, I think he does it just to annoy me. He wouldn't even let me look through the back window to see if the BMW was following us; said we couldn't both look. When I asked him why I couldn't look instead of him, he just laughed. I tried my hardest not to sulk, since I'd only been thinking how concerned I was for him a few minutes before. And the way he placed his hand decisively on my thigh was oddly effective at keeping my attention from wandering.
We stopped in Kensington, just for five minutes; long enough for Sherlock to hop out of the taxi, have a quick look around, and, seeing no one, direct us back to Baker Street.

"Are you sure?" I asked him, trying and failing to mask how sceptical I was, "Maybe he won't get someone to follow us on foot this time – he didn't before - maybe he's just gotten better at following us without being seen? Isn't it a bit of a risk to go back so soon?" I wondered if this no-show would put the investigations back another day; the thought was even more of a disappointment than I would've expected.

"When am I not sure about these sorts of decisions, John?" he answered, in typically self-assured style. "We have to get back to Baker Street." And then I saw something in his eyes that made a lump catch in my throat.

"...What is it? Sherlock?" I raised my voice slightly; he'd gone into a sort of trance, his mind working at a breakneck pace, and something infectious about him passed harshly into me.

"...I'm not sure..." he answered softly, and for some reason my stomach flipped; he wasn't being ironic.

The cab pulled up outside the flat, and Sherlock paid the cabbie while I unlocked the front door. He followed me up the stairs; I could almost hear his breathing in the tense atmosphere we'd brought home with us. I tried to shrug it off as I opened the door to 221b, put on a show of indifference that I wasn't at all feeling – Mrs Hudson had said she would get the cleaners in to sort out my room today and I didn't want her to worry unnecessarily (sometimes, I think we're more like unruly offspring to her than her tenants).

"Are you in, Mrs H?" I called as I walked into the flat; my voice a little forced, looking back at Sherlock's blank face with my eyebrows raised, as if to say 'hold off for a while'.

"Hmm?" the soft-sounding query came from the kitchen.

"We're back a little early – did the cleaners manage to - ?" I stopped dead as I rounded the corner, frozen in the act of removing my jacket so that one sleeve hung like a broken wing from my back.

Mrs Hudson was sitting at the kitchen table, as if she'd just made a cup of tea and was having a break. But her arms were bound behind the back of the chair and her mouth was gagged. There was a livid looking shadow developing underneath one of her eyes, which were both pink from crying. As her eyes met mine she began to weep again; I felt suddenly nauseous.
In a second I started to rush forward to help her, but time had seemed to take a dragging pace, as if something heavy had been strapped to my back. In a sort of underwater blur, I felt myself take a step, and then the firm grip of Sherlock on my arm. I paused, briefly, saw Mrs Hudson shaking her head emphatically, her eyes wide and shining with fear. Then Sherlock's body beside me tensed, and before I could turn to look at him there was an arm I didn't know around my neck and a pad with something that smelt suspiciously of chloroform was pressed stiflingly against my nose and mouth. I briefly had time to register that familiar flurry of panic before everything began to wind down, and clouds of black began to blossom behind my eyelids…

The idea of being kidnapped wasn't a foreign one to me; I know at least a dozen ex-army comrades who have either experienced it themselves or been involved with the capturing of hostages from the other side. In the time I've known Sherlock Holmes, I've also been kidnapped myself – twice (three times if you count my impromptu first meeting with Mycroft). But to wake up in a darkened room and know that with something as pathetic as an over-the-counter mixture someone had managed to render me completely powerless was damaging to my soldier's ego.

I wasn't myself when I first came to; thoughts that now seem common sense only came to me in drawn-out stages, far too slowly for me to take any form of decisive action.
My first thought was that it must be morning, since it felt like I'd been asleep and dreaming for quite some time. My eyes opened painfully and heavily, and I was confronted with the view of a brick wall, which reminded me violently that I wasn't at home; that I seemed to be in some sort of abandoned building, due to the state of the room and the boarded windows. This in turn triggered the memory of being attacked and drugged with chloroform and then my blood flushed livid with panic as I remembered Mrs Hudson, Sherlock and the fact that a known murderer of one had been keeping track of our whereabouts for several days.
Until this point, I hadn't tried to move. My head hung limply, my neck ached, and when I finally mustered the willpower needed to attempt movement, I found that several parts of me were bound tightly to the chair I quickly realised I was sitting on. I tried my arms: no luck – wrists bound behind the back of the chair. Legs: unfortunately, no luck either – these were taped up by the ankles, I could see blearily. And a tight kind of friction seized my stomach when I tried to shift; I had been tied to the chair with rope, as well. This guy was certainly thorough.
All I could see were the three walls of the room immediately surrounding me; I wasn't facing anything that would serve the purpose of an exit, besides the boarded windows, and from what I could see, the room was completely empty. But something in my steadily-waking senses told me I wasn't alone. The more I became accustomed to the compromised state I was in, the more I became aware of certain important factors I should've noticed a lot sooner. First, the sound of soft, laboured breathing; second, the warmth and pressure of someone's back pressed into mine; and third, a sort of soft, musky scent that I could only ever identify with one person and that brought back a wave of vivid, unspeakably wonderful memories…

I instantly wondered why he hadn't spoken sooner, reassured me that he was OK and, informed me of at least four plans of escape. Shit - maybe there was something wrong? I tried desperately not to overreact, forcing back images of an unconscious Sherlock covered in injuries. 'Oh God, I'm out of my depth,' I thought – not for the first time.
When I tried to speak, to get his attention, the words emerged in a weak croak, and I winced at the burning sensation the chloroform had left in my throat. At the sound of this, the body behind me stirred; if it were possible, I would've been knocked backwards by the intensity of my relief.
Sherlock must have been tied like me, because all I felt was the tensing of the muscles around his shoulder blades, and a slight bump as he leant his head back against mine. I tried to speak again, but Sherlock physically knocked his skull against mine, and I felt the motion of him shaking his head vigorously. 'Stay quiet?' Why? Was there someone in the room with us? Sherlock must've been facing the door; I realised he was warning me about something, and when I heard the footsteps approaching I finally realised that it would benefit us both to pretend that we hadn't come round from the chloroform yet.

I closed my eyes, bowed my head a little, and in seconds, the door behind me creaked open. I felt the small tremors from Sherlock's body as he tried to compose himself. Who was this man? He must have been some sort of monster, if Sherlock was finding it so difficult to keep himself under control. His footsteps echoed quietly, yet somehow deafeningly, around the room, and I managed to stop my hyperactive mind from running away with itself by listing the number of ways I'd been trained to free myself from situations like this. One of them involved dislocating my shoulder, and I tried not to shudder at the thought of it, my mouth tangy with the recollection of dozens of similar injuries I'd already experienced.
The footsteps stopped somewhere to my left; I heard soft breathing, and then a sudden burst of inappropriate laughter. The sound was somehow familiar, and the only thought that my mind could summon up to help me remember was the fact that most murderers do not laugh.

"Good God, look at the two of you. Sleeping like babies…erm, don't think so!"

The last was an almost childlike sing-song, and I tried to stifle my uncomfortable knee-jerk reaction as the familiar voice finally registered itself.

"Chloroform doesn't knock out an adult male for that long. Come on, as if I would be stupid enough not to time it! WAKEY WAKEY! I've been so dying to have a chat with you!"

Sherlock didn't move. I didn't know what to do. If I opened my eyes, I wouldn't be surprised by what I saw: Jim Moriarty, no less, probably getting irate and dancing around like a moron because we were both ignoring him. But I didn't want to accept it, somehow. Moriarty never got his hands dirty like this; why would he associate himself directly with something as petty as a kidnapping? What could he possibly want with us – why would he have initiated a case as seemingly pedestrian (by his standards) as The Black Hart? Something wasn't right, and I realised: Sherlock hadn't moved because he wasn't ready, either. He was thinking. Deducing. Preparing himself for a fairly-matched battle of wits.

"Sherlock, Sherlock…" The voice was soothing, disgustingly soothing. I felt a small rush of air as Moriarty moved behind me; he must've been leaning over Sherlock. "…do you remember what I said to you, oh so long ago?"

Sherlock didn't answer immediately; I felt the friction of his back against mine as he heaved a small sigh. The touch of our bodies was one shred of comfort in this – as much as I feared for the both of us, to know that I was close enough to touch him made me feel that I still had something to stay positive for.

"That you wanted me to be your fag?" he eventually replied. I felt a painful pang in my throat when I heard it – but I'm sure Moriarty's response to it wasn't so morally-bound. He must've been taken by surprise though, because he was suddenly silent, and only spoke after a noticeable pause.

"Hmm, I did say that, didn't I?" He chuckled spitefully. "But WRONG, Sherlock, I wasn't talking about that…"

I heard the sound of rustling fabric, and my heart surged into my throat when I felt Sherlock's body jerk and tense behind me.

"Though the offer's still there, if you've changed your mind…" I felt an additional weight against my back; my blood ran cold at the thought of what Jim might be doing.

"Get…off me…" I'd never heard Sherlock's voice like that; an almost feral snarl, filled with hate and loathing. I felt a strange sort of vacuum behind my ribs when I thought back to the night they were both talking about; the night that Moriarty almost raped Sherlock…and the same night that I first dared to open my feelings to him…The memories were too strong, too raw, and I couldn't keep silent any longer.

"What – what are you playing at here, Jim? This is a pretty weak kind of stunt for you, isn't it?" I didn't sound as brave as I'd wanted to, but my voice didn't crack, which was reassuring. Sherlock leant his head against mine again; I opened my eyes, and realised how desperately I wanted to be able to see him.

"Ah, Doctor Watson! So nice of you to join us…" Jim stalked around to stand in front of me; I took him in in one withering head-to-toe glare. He was wearing his usual expensive suit, hair close-cropped, dark eyes glinting in the half-light. I've never had murderous thoughts, despite the things I've had to do for Queen and Country, but if there's one man I'd ever happily like to see brutalised in some way, any way, it's him.
"Much as I'm desperate for your approval, Doctor, I really don't think you're all that well informed about what I do and don't like to indulge in in my spare time." He smiled sickeningly, and somehow, I managed to hold his gaze.

"Okay – prove me wrong," I challenged him – it wasn't difficult to put the arrogance into my voice. "Why would you get involved in a murder like Salter's?"

Moriarty looked at me for several seconds; it's spooky how similar he is to Sherlock – how one look from him can feel like you're being dissected on a lab desk. He shrugged sharply and moved away; obviously wanting to see what Sherlock thought of my question.

"What about you, sexy? Do you want me to prove the Doctor wrong, too?"

Silence from Sherlock. Moriarty came around to my side of the room again.

"He doesn't look interested, John. I don't think he wants to know. And I've never really given a shit about your opinion, so - I don't think I'll tell." He made to leave the room, but I felt Sherlock tense and I knew he was reluctantly preparing to speak.

"I want to know."

"Pardon?" Moriarty added a plummy tone to his voice, immitating Sherlock's accent in a subtle, immensely irritating way.

"Tell us – tell me – about Salter."

I couldn't see Jim any more, but I was sure his face would've lit up completely at Sherlock's request, and could hear it in his voice.

"Oh, you've twisted my arm."

I tried to turn my head, to see where Moriarty was (and what he was doing), but I couldn't move far enough. The ropes and duct tape holding me in place felt tighter and tighter as time went by; I could feel my muscles burning with unspent adrenaline, and my mind was acutely alert, waiting for the perfect moment to attempt an escape. Most of all, I wanted to see Sherlock, needed to see him, and it felt like the stab of a knife that he was in danger and I was powerless to help him.

"You want to know about Salter, OK." He began pacing. "It's a shame: you've both been so busy, haven't you? Driving all over London, bless your hearts. You were right from the off, Sherlock: I've read the blog. Salter wasn't murdered by a lover: in fact, he was an irrelevant accessory to my higher designs. So you were wasting your time – well, that's not entirely true. You were wasting my chauffeur's time, letting him trail you all over the place like that. You might as well have stayed at home – probably would have avoided getting yourselves kidnapped that way." He sniggered softly. "OK, probably not. I would still have found some way to get you tied up and unconscious…"

"Get to the point," I spat, sick of the sound of his voice already. Jim carried on as if he'd never heard me.

"But fooling the police, that was a bit silly, wasn't it? Why did you do that, Sherlock?"

"The police would have made things so much less…elegant. I could tell that this was the work of a criminal with – finesse – and didn't want them to cheapen the whole thing." What was he saying? I couldn't believe that he had the willpower to flatter this potential rapist and psychotic criminal.

"Ha – I don't believe you. LIAR!" Moriarty laughed like a maniac. I heard footsteps shuffling from the next room; so his lackeys were close at hand. Might've known. "I think you had an ulterior motive, this time. And I'll tell you –"

"Tell me about Salter, first. You haven't told me why you did it." Sherlock just managed to keep the impatience from his voice.

"Ooh, Sherlock, you really know how to get what you want, don't you?" I couldn't stand the way Jim was talking to him, but I held my tongue. We were close, now, so close to the truth. "I like my men forceful…"

As Jim began pacing again, I tried out the bonds around my wrists. Firm, but not impossible. I only had a very slim chance of being able to dislocate my arm in this specific position, but I thought that if I frayed the ropes around my waist a little, I would be able to turn enough to get the right leverage. I was talking myself around to the idea in my head, convincing myself steadily that it was my only option, while I listened to Moriarty's explanation.

"Since you've called the case The Black Hart, I can see you've given the name of this place its proper importance..."

'So that's where we are.' This realisation was reassuring; at least The Black Hart was vaguely familiar to me. That made things a little easier – escape routes, for one. Information for the police, for another. Though I was pretty sure that if we ever escaped the place, Moriarty would be long gone before the police could get to the scene.

"Like I said, Salter is a nobody. It's not him I was concerned with." I heard Moriarty moving, felt that he was close, but knew from the lay of his shadow that he was much closer to Sherlock. "You were my motivation, Sherlock. My muse, if you will."

I groaned at the admission; dreading the possible explanation as to why Moriarty murdered Salter with Sherlock in mind.

"Problem, Doctor?" Jim hadn't walked around to my side of the room, but I could somehow feel his eyes burrowing into the back of my head. "'Cause I think you'll want to know why Sherlock forced me to kill a man, too."

'No one forced you to do anything, you sick bastard.' I managed to keep this sentiment to myself, and gritted my teeth.

"It's not Salter who has the black heart, you see. It's our mutual friend and sex object, Mr Holmes here!"

I turned viciously in my seat at this, creating several nasty friction burns where bindings rubbed skin, "What the fuck are you talking about, you disgusting –"

"Now, now, no need to get precious." Jim moved around a little; I could see him now in my peripheral vision. "We have a common interest in all of this, John my dear. Except you got to fuck it, and I didn't."

"I don't know what you're talking about…" I said weakly, my resolve breaking because Sherlock is my one greatest weakness and at that very moment he wasn't saying a word and I had no way of knowing what he was thinking.

"DON'T LIE TO ME!" Moriarty almost screamed; he swooped down on me like a crazed raven and seized me by the shoulders.
"Sherlock rejected my polite advances – and that's fine! No hard feelings. I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea. But you? I've got no idea what he saw in you. You're so…boring." He chuckled maliciously, and let go of me, taking two steps back.
"But well, whatever it was, I can see it on both of you - you're pathetic. It's like you're dripping unspent testosterone. And now you're fucking inseparable – like Sherlock daren't even phone his buddies down at Scotland Yard and get them involved in a case because he can't bear to share his Doctor with anyone else…"

I closed my eyes and shook my head slowly; more to clear my thoughts than to disagree with Jim. Most of all, I was shocked that my feelings for Sherlock were so easy to read – and wondered what his body language had told Jim about the way he felt about me.

"You do know it will all end badly for you, don't you John?" The question was so softly-delivered that I barely recognised Moriarty's voice. Looking over at him, I could see that he was staring at Sherlock; so addressing him, gauging his reaction, rather than waiting for mine. I spoke anyway – couldn't resist, somehow.

"What? What do you mean?"

"Salter was a warning. For the Doctor, I suppose. But mostly because I like you to know how easy it is for me to read you. I know that you're emotionally-stunted, Sherlock: the way you carry yourself, the things you say, the precautions you take never to let down that self-serving barrier of yours. Truth be told – and I always tell the truth – you're heartless. Now, that's not an insult. Heartless people are much better protected than those who care; that's common knowledge. But it will end badly, Sherlock. You keep tugging on the Doctor's fragile little heartstrings like this, and he will wind up with a heart as bloody and tattered as Salter's. Metaphorically-speaking, of course." He flashed me a smile, and my insides churned. "Or, you know, he could just wind up dead. Most people you come into contact with die, don't they? Or they're already dead. Or you put them in prison, where they are as good as dead. Catch my drift?"

I found myself completely speechless, horrified by what Jim had said. I closed my eyes and silently willed Sherlock to answer; he was the only one who could rationalize this, put the whole sorry situation into combatable terms. For once, his lack of surface emotion put him at a great advantage.

"That's far too dull for you, Jim," he said softly. "You can't seriously expect me to believe that you went to such an effort and risked blowing your cover, just to prove a point about the nature of mine and John's relationship. You could have done that by text – I might've read it…"

"Droll, Sherlock. But that's not it." I felt Sherlock's head turn; it was the first time, as far as I could tell, that he'd actually chosen to look Jim in the eye. "I enjoyed how clueless you were – that was fun. You overestimated me, in this instance – thought I was too highbrow for a simple homicide. Even when the vital statistics of the killer were plain for all to see, you still didn't have a clue that I was behind it. And you look so adorable when you're all confused…" The last two words were delivered in a paternal coo, and I winced at the thought that Jim might try and pinch Sherlock's cheek.

"So go on then, tell me: why else?" Sherlock was getting impatient now – if he didn't keep himself in check, things could start to unravel.

"Have you remembered what I told you, yet?" Moriarty's voice was back to its simpering, soothing tone, and I heard and felt the chair creak as he leant himself against Sherlock; my brain cried out to do something, but I was totally helpless – I began to think I might die on the spot if Jim tried to rape Sherlock again and I had to sit and listen to it.
"I told you, Sherlock, that someday I would burn the heart out of you…" The memory of him saying these words the first time around attacked me suddenly; as well as the ice-cold disgust of remembering the scene at the swimming pool – the end of The Great Game. I couldn't bear the thought of that night; my chest constricted, and I felt hot tears welling in my eyes. "Now I know that you might just possibly actually have one – well, that John has it – and you know, hearts are so much easier to MUTILATE when they're vulnerable…"

"Jim! Jim stop this now!" My voice had an exasperating tremor, but I couldn't bear to hear any more. I couldn't even begin contemplate the horrendous pain of Moriarty's threats.

"Poor, poor Henry Salter," Moriarty purred; I heard the chair creak again and was stricken with morbid curiosity at what was happening behind me. "Imagine what would happen if I stabbed your John and blackened his heart the way I did Henry's. Well, at least we'd be alone…"

And then I heard the sound that could only have been Moriarty kissing Sherlock. It's a sound I never want to hear again; one that I've not quite managed to blank from my memory and one that attacks me at moments when I think I'm totally safe, totally secure – it's completely demoralising. Even as it happened, I knew I would be haunted by it, and so my instincts took complete control and my lips made sounds without me even being conscious of them.

"You know what? You're fucking welcome to him. He'll probably enjoy it…"

Sherlock moved noticeably; I felt his head brush against mine, in the same, warning way he did earlier. I knew he was trying to stop me speaking: concerned that I might do something rash, probably. But something told me that I was the only one who could get us out of this situation – no idea why. It was a hunch, one that felt totally right, somehow, so I went along with it.
It worked, anyway – to begin with. Jim moved away from Sherlock slightly; I felt it.

"Excuse me?" he asked, unable to mask his curiosity. Maybe it's because my voice sounded so calm, so steady. It was the voice I used for military negotiations, and it's never let me down.

"He gets off on it, Sherlock does: when it feels like it's not consensual. That's why he does it with me. It only encourages him that I'm not into it, that I fight him…He'll love it if you force him."

"Is he serious?" Jim laughed, addressing Sherlock. I didn't give him chance to answer.

"He never forgave me for stopping you, that night. Said if I'd have let you go all the way, he might not have forced me into sex at all…"

I heard the chair creak and managed to resist the urge to release my pent-up anger in an irrational way as I realised that Jim had gotten off Sherlock. I still had a slight advantage: the fact that Jim was on Sherlock's side of the room meant he couldn't read my true feelings in my expression or my posture. I could fool him with my voice – for a while, anyway. I just hoped that Sherlock would play along – he had to, if we were going to get out of this. I felt him shift, knew that Moriarty was staring at him intently, without having to see, and I hoped he would be able to keep up the pretence.

"He's right," Sherlock sighed, and there was something deep and dangerous in his voice that made me shudder; so believable. It was as if he'd dropped a mask that he'd been wearing and was revealing his true self, rather than the other way around.

"Christ," Moriarty breathed.

"I manipulated John into sex; I was bored, needed something to do. You'd be surprised at the uses I've managed to put him to." I could hear the smug smile in Sherlock's voice, and it chilled me more than it should have.

"I can't see it. Sorry, but you're just too magnolia for that sort of stuff. Anyone can tell from a mile off that you aren't, and never have been, a freaky sex pest. This is all just a ruse to distract –"

"Ah, Jim, you're such an idiot, at times. What do you think compelled you to want to fuck me in the first place? I love to let people think it's free will; makes it easier for me to get what I want."

Wow, what a genius. Now he was letting Moriarty believe that his sick perversion was Sherlock's idea all along. It was a twist I could never have thought of. And it was such a ridiculous idea that it just had to work.

"That doesn't sound right at all." There was a tone of self-doubt in Jim's voice that gave me confidence.

"Depends why you decided to rape me." Sherlock's comeback was so rapid that I only just registered it.

Jim was silent for quite a while; I knew he was casting his mind back. In my opinion, he wanted to rape Sherlock because we managed to outwit him during The Great Game, and he couldn't stand the humiliation of failure. He wanted to prove his power over Sherlock in a way that would expose Sherlock's greatest weakness: his emotional immaturity. And somehow, he had witnessed the new closeness between the two of us and knew that he could use our vulnerability to his advantage. Would we have become so involved in a case like The Black Hart – a man, who shared so many of Sherlock's physical characteristics, and even shared his initials (in reverse), stabbed in his heart, maybe or maybe not by a rejected lover – if we hadn't shared the intimacy that we have? I suppose we'll never know.
Whatever his motivation, Jim didn't answer Sherlock directly - instead, he moved between us; I could see his blurry outline from the corner of my eye.

"You know me, Sherlock – I'm the curious type. I think I need more proof before I'll believe these spurious claims you're making.
I think perhaps you need to show me."

"Fine – I can seduce you just as easily as I did John," Sherlock continued to boast.

"No. Not me. I'm too into it; it won't prove a thing." Jim chuckled ominously. "Show me how you force John. I want to see it with my own eyes." His voice was almost trembling with excitement; I felt sick to my stomach, but realising that he would have to untie us to make his fantasy a reality gave me the strength to power through it.

As soon the tape around my wrists was cut, I moved sharply, ready to free myself as quickly as possible and tackle Moriarty, so that Sherlock could make his escape (what I would do after that wasn't really a priority). But as soon as I turned my upper body in Jim's direction, I saw the gun in his hand. It stopped me in my tracks. Jim clucked his tongue and shook his head, before he sliced open the bonds around my waist and ankles, making a beckoning motion with the gun which seemed to give me permission to stand. I did so carefully, not trusting my muscles, but besides a dull ache all over, my body seemed strong enough to support me just as well as it normally did. The amount of time we'd spent chatting must've given time for the after-effects of the chloroform to all but wear off.
I spun round on the spot, needing to see Sherlock, to check if he was alright. As I turned, I was slightly surprised to see that he hadn't moved from his chair, even though his bonds had already been cut. He was slumped forward slightly, with his forearms rested on his knees – the way he always sat when he was in deep contemplation. I shifted from one foot to the other slightly, keeping my muscles awake, and avoided Jim's eye (knowing that he would be staring at Sherlock, anyway). I felt like tense elastic in anticipation of what Sherlock would do.

Eventually, he stood – stretching his arms in front of him like a cat after its nap. He turned slowly, and I was struck by the full sight of him. Someone (no guesses who) had been playing with his shirt: it was undone by a few buttons, and hung slightly from one of his shoulders. His hair had been brushed from his face and stuck out from the top of his head at an odd angle, like he'd been sleeping under the duvet. And his skin seemed so pale in the dim light that it almost had a purple tinge to it. To see this and keep my expression passive was one of the most difficult lies I've ever had to pull off. But I managed it. Mainly because of the look on Sherlock's face: his eyes were so cold and stony, his mouth set in a firm line, his eyebrows knitted together – the hardness behind his look was so intense that I seemed to feel it passing into me, and I felt stronger. Any sentimental thoughts were immediately pushed from my mind – I knew they could wait. For now, all that mattered was the game. And winning it.

Somehow, I wanted nothing more than to have Sherlock's hands on me at that moment, and the chance to be close to him. The worst thought for me then was that no matter what Sherlock did to me next, I had to pretend that it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever experienced.
And Jim Moriarty would be watching.
That thought made my blood run cold. I felt the urge to vomit – and didn't suppress it. Might help my acting skills later on.
I didn't let myself be distracted by how bizarre this was going to be. I just had to reassure myself that we couldn't possibly lose. Losing is never an option. The issue, this time, was how we were going to win.

Jim had the gun raised in front of him, moving it slowly between the two of us, like a cobra about to strike – just to remind us that any false moves wouldn't go down well. But he stayed silent: I assumed he didn't want to disturb Sherlock 'in action', knowing that a man like him would have already planned his strategy from beginning to end, no doubt, and it was only a matter of seeing it through – no encouragement needed.
Though he did request a commentary.

"Talk me through it, Sherlock: I want to see that brilliant brain of yours tick."

Sherlock flashed him a hard look, which could've been taken as annoyance at the interruption – but I could see the sincerity in his expression and it helped me prepare myself for what was to come.
He came around the back-to-back chairs slowly, taking me in fully with dilated pupils. I shifted a little, my pulse reacting to his intense expression in spite of my anxiety. He drew up in front of me; I was suddenly very aware of his height, elegant and intimidating all at once, and before I could accustom myself to the closeness or prepare myself for his touch, he moved his head barely to look at Jim.

"OK, so first, I tell John something that I know will garner sympathy: 'I'm having difficulty locating a suspect', or 'I'm in trouble with Scotland Yard for leading a witness', or 'I've exhausted all my leads and I'm at my wit's end'…" He looked back to me, a smug smirk on his face, and I steeled myself to play along. "John, of course, can't help himself but become emotionally-invested in any case we undertake, and, by extension, feels in some way obliged to assist me in any way he can – particularly on the rare occasion that I appeal to him directly."

It was strange – Sherlock was constructing a lie, but so much of what he said was based on truth that it really was seamless, even, at times, to me. It helped, that he was as sincere as he could be – helped me adopt the lie just as easily.
Sherlock continued, "I observe the usual conversational etiquette: 'What's wrong Sherlock?'" At this point, he started imitating my voice and mannerisms in a way that was totally shocking. It made me feel strangely flattered, to think that he'd memorised my habits so carefully. "'Oh, this and that, blah blah, problems problems…', 'But Sherlock, what are you going to do?'" He sighed dramatically, "'Oh, I don't know John, it's all so impossible! But I can think of a way that you might be able to invoke my creative thought processes...'"

Somewhere, in the corner of my senses that wasn't totally immersed in Sherlock, I heard Jim chuckling lasciviously.
Sherlock brought his hand up towards me now, traced a tapered finger down from the 'v' in my shirt collar, to the waistband of my jeans. I jerked my head away sharply, away from Jim. He might've thought I was disgusted by Sherlock's actions; mainly, it was to hide the need and reluctant pleasure in my expression.

"See? The first touch. He hates it – bless him. Knows what's coming and knows that I won't let him leave until I'm fully satisfied. But he does try to fight me, don't you John?" I brought my eyes waveringly to look at him and he bit his lower lip slowly and deliberately.

"Sherlock…don't make me do this…" I whispered. It wasn't difficult to find the fear in my voice; I hated that we had no choice but to put on a show for Moriarty and that I had no idea just how far we would have to go until he was satisfied. The gun in his hand was a constant shadow in my mind; I've never felt so powerless without my own.

"Don't worry," Sherlock soothed: it was strange, how I almost believed him, "I'll try to be gentle, this time…" His hands moved to my shirt buttons, and I pushed him away sharply. He blinked rapidly, caught a little off-balance, but soon came towards me again, a new steeliness in his eyes.
He seized my arms roughly, and started speaking to Jim again, "You see: at this point, no matter how politely I attempt to negotiate, John seems to maintain his stubborn exterior. However, it soon comes to a point where he realises he can't possibly refuse me: that I won't relent once I've set my mind to something." He grabbed my jaw with one hand and forced me to look him in the eye, "More to the point, I'm sure he's pretty apprehensive as to what I might do if he puts up too much of a fight…"
I tried to pull away, making a sort of appalled whimper.
"So I say: 'John, I just want to taste your mouth. Will you deny me that? When I've done so much for you?'" He looked at me, expectantly, waiting for me to respond. God, the thought of kissing him still made my body weak – the surrounding situation seemed to melt into nothing.

"Sherlock – I – can't…please…" I felt the hotness of my tears before I realised what they were.

Jim was breathing heavily from his corner of the room; the gun was as steady as ever, but I could tell he was as distracted by the anticipation as I was.
"Make him…" the whisper was so reptilian. I glanced at him briefly; his dark pupils were tightly constricted, and he had an inane, almost feverish grin on his face.

"It's not difficult to coerce John into a kiss…" Sherlock was sounding slightly distracted, now – I couldn't decide whether it was because his mind was running on ahead of the present, or because the thought of kissing me stirred up emotions that he'd rather not address. "He hates it, loathes the idea of kissing a man – homophobic paranoia stemming from a career involving prolonged periods of time spent solely in the company of his own gender. But his time in the military has also taught him that there are few things worse than the imminent pain and prolonged physical damage of a broken bone."

I'd not forgotten that he was lying, but it was no less shocking that Sherlock could use my background against me like that. It wasn't difficult for me to resent it; I glared at him, turning up my chin in mock-defiance, while he grabbed one of my arms and twisted it tightly against my back, only just pushing the threshold of pain. This move brought our chests together, and I could feel his warm breath against my face. My eyelids closed and the tears that had been clouding my vision spilled onto my cheeks. Normally crying is a sign of weakness to me, but here it was the only right and logical thing to do – it relieved the tension, and made my act so much more believable.
Sherlock tutted softly and brought his free hand to my lips, pressing his fingertips there as if he wanted to stifle my silent sobs. Then he crashed his mouth against mine roughly, adapting his body to my violent attempts to free myself so that each of my struggles was absorbed by some part of him. I moaned harshly against his lips; a sound that seemed to be fear and disgust at the action but which was actually a release of my need for him, of my suppressed concern and fear for the both of us. Sherlock clutched my hair and drew back my head, lowering his mouth so that he could suck fiercely at my neck. I bit down on my lower lip, a familiar dull fiery feeling building inside me, but the sick pretence of the situation made me desperate to break the clinch.
"Sherlock, don't…DON'T!" I was starting to feel seriously disturbed by all of this; Sherlock's actions were almost devastatingly sexy but I couldn't let them go on any longer without risking dropping the act. He'd made the move to put his hand between my legs, and I knew, just knew that I would moan and then everything I'd lied about to Jim would become inescapably clear.
He broke away carefully, a little too carefully. His eyes were heavy with shadow when he looked at me, his breathing was shallow and his lips were dark with the rush of blood to them.
I held his gaze for as long as I dared, before making another mock effort to free myself from his grip. He held me close, his face so near to me that our noses were almost touching. When he spoke, it sounded like a voice from the other side of the world. And I hardly realised he wasn't talking to me, but to Moriarty.

"And then I say…bad move, Jim."

Before the words had time to register – with me or Jim – Sherlock had whirled around, something metal glinting between his fingers. He hurled the flick-knife at Jim at a lightning pace; the blade didn't make contact but the handle struck broadside against the butt of his gun, knocking it from his hand and sending it skimming like a stone across the floorboards.
This was all the cue I needed. The layout of the room flashed into my mind like a sketch drawing as I hurtled forward, knocking Moriarty to the ground. As I grabbed his upper arms, flipped him over like a dead animal and pinned his arms against his back, I remembered what I'd seen when I first been able to stand up: we were in The Black Hart. In the back room. The room behind the bar, which had a wooden trapdoor in the floor leading to…the cellar.
As I lifted Jim's body from the floor with a specific intention in mind, I could vaguely feel him struggling against my grip. One swift punch to his left temple stopped him struggling.
For a small guy, Jim was pretty hard to lift. I suppose my adrenaline was running pretty low, or that the pain from the kick he'd given me – which later turned out to be two bruised ribs – was beginning to sink in. Either way, it took me a little longer than I would've wanted to rip open the cellar doors and throw him down the stairs.

Sherlock helped me replace the iron bar across the trapdoor. It was a while before my blood stopped pounding and my vision faded from livid red, and I could turn to look at him and really see him. When I could, I did. He was panting, exhausted, drained. And – God, I'm ashamed of myself sometimes – he still looked so stunning that I could've stared at him for hours.

We'd ripped off the wooden planks across the window, smashed through the glass with the butt of Jim's gun and climbed out into the stone yard behind the club before Jim's lackeys had even opened the door. Their baffled shouts followed us faintly, but we were over the wall, down the alley and back onto the road, sprinting as fast as our legs would carry us, laughing like maniacs as loudly as we dared.
We took random, sharp turns in different directions, hurtling through tiny alleyways and climbing up metal fire escapes, across people's balconies and, at one point, through a multi-storey car park – all at Sherlock's instruction. I couldn't even comprehend the detail of the map of London that must've been running through his head as he planned our route.
When we were far enough away, and had taken enough diversions to be sure that no one could have followed us, Sherlock hailed a taxi. I've never been so glad to see the back of a Cockney's head in my life.

We both passed the journey back to the flat in silence – I couldn't seem to tear myself away from the rain-streaked view out of the window. I could hear Sherlock's heavy breathing beside me for quite a long time, and I knew he would be virtually dead to the world, running over the facts of the case in his head, combing over every tiny detail so that he was sure he couldn't have done anything better.
Even though the worst of the ordeal was over, I still couldn't unwind. We'd gotten away, that should've been enough – but Moriarty hadn't been punished enough for what he did to us. Sherlock would tell the police that he was behind Salter's murder, but they'd have no chance of catching him. It's obvious to anyone that Moriarty's only worthy opponent is Sherlock himself, and their battle will only end when one of them is dead. It's a fact of life: like natural disasters. But I don't like to dwell on that for long.
He was still at large – still is – and there's nothing we can do about it. It's something that won't ever stop haunting us. I'm sure that Sherlock is always vaguely aware that he's out there, and that he could strike again at any time. I just wish there was something I could do to change that. But I wouldn't even know where to start.

Apart from the things I couldn't change – there was the state of affairs back at the flat. No doubt Mrs Hudson would still be tied to that chair in the kitchen, getting more and more distraught as me and Sherlock were gone for longer and longer. Would the police have checked the flat, when Sherlock didn't answer the phone to Lestrade at the time they'd agreed? Only if Lestrade had tried the mobile, too. I hadn't heard it ring, but I wanted to be sure…

"Do you have your –?"

"No. Whoever kidnapped us picked my pockets first – yours too, if you check." I did. He was right. "Either they took the phone, or it's back at the flat. They probably stamped on it…I'll have to get a new one. At least they didn't find the knife."

We still weren't looking at each other. Both of our voices sounded distant, muffled, like we were talking through cotton wool.

"How did you –?"

"Trick lining. Up the sleeve. Bespoke suits – come with all kinds of specifications. We should get you one."

"Hmm. Suits aren't really my…thing." I turned to look at him now. His head was laid against the neck rest of the back seat, his face turned up to the roof of the car, his eyes closed. He must've sensed me looking, because one eye opened lazily and slid to me.

"Do you think the police will be –?"

"If they are, let me do the talking. I have an idea of where Moriarty may go next. There's a criminal safe house not too far from The Black Hart – I'm not supposed to know about it, but I sent in a friend of mine undercover a while back and he gave me some pretty interesting insights. If they can intercept in time, chances are they might be able to arrest some of his colleagues. He'll be long gone, of course – but that's only to be expected…"

"If we hadn't had to run…I – I could've…"

"There's no use, John. You don't want his blood on your hands – and we both know there's only one way to stop him for good…"

I nodded grimly. "I just – I'm so…"

"You did well." I felt his hand on my thigh, and my throat closed. Before I could say anything, the cab pulled up, and Sherlock leapt out.

I paid the cabbie, and shuffled with weak legs to the front door, which Sherlock had left open. Sure enough, there were three police cars parked outside, lights blaring.
I hardly dared walk through my own front door – how mental is that? But I'd seen and done enough and the sight of our front room crawling with coppers was something I really wasn't ready to face. As I stumbled wearily up the stairs, I could hear Sherlock's voice inside – he was talking in a low, subdued voice, not the usual animated way he speaks when he's solved a case. The gruff voice that replied was definitely Lestrade's – and then I heard a weak, trembling female voice that could only have been Mrs Hudson and my stomach dropped a little. She was talking – that was a good sign. But I felt sick with guilt that she'd been drawn in to it all.
Five police officers bundled past me at the top of the stairs; their walkies were full of the voices of other officers who were arranging to meet them at their destination. Moriarty's search party, then. 'Good luck, lads,' I thought, bitterly.
I pushed open the door to 221b all the way, and it gave a small creak as I rounded the corner which made all four people at the kitchen table turn to look at me. Sherlock was leaning on the table top, mid-gesture; Lestrade was standing behind him, arms folded across his chest; and Mrs Hudson was sitting in the same chair, freed from her restraints, with young woman sitting beside her who I presumed to be one of her daughters. Both women were nursing mugs of tea, and Mrs Hudson had been shrouded in one of those shock blankets that Sherlock seems to take such offense to. I shrugged my mouth weakly, incapable of making a meaningful gesture. Mrs H smiled gently at me, while Lestrade and Sherlock quickly resumed their conversation.

"Look, Sherlock, I understand: you've both been through a bloody bad ordeal. I just wish you could've gotten in touch with us sooner. You do realise we've got virtually no chance of catching Moriarty now, don't you?" It was a rhetorical question, so Sherlock stayed silent. Lestrade sighed deeply, and carried on, "Let me get the facts straight, then: he killed Salter, not for any grander purpose than to teach you and John a lesson? What was it?"

"He wanted John to realise that I am completely heartless: that my lack of arguably 'normal' human emotions will inevitably lead to his destruction and that should our work as a duo continue he will ensure that – what was it, John? – oh, that either or both of our hearts will be 'mutilated', just like Salter's."

Lestrade raised his eyebrows; I didn't blame him for being speechless. There's not really much that you can say to a statement like that. Except I could think of something to say: that Sherlock was being economical with the truth to the point of blatantly lying. I understood why he did it, though – we're vulnerable now. The less people know about how close we really are, the better. And Lestrade wouldn't understand anyway.
Lestrade looked at me, or at least, tried to. I must've looked terrible – his eyes kept darting away. "We can put the flat under surveillance, if you like. For your good, John." He looked back at Sherlock, knowing that he would rather die (almost literally, in this case) than agree to any kind of police interference. "You know, just for a couple of weeks, till we're sure that he isn't –"

"He won't." Sherlock interrupted, his voice firm. "John isn't in any kind of danger. Well – no more so than usual." He risked a brief smile, and I was grateful for it. I stepped forward, almost going to touch him then thinking better of it.

"Well, it's up to you." Lestrade gathered up his coat and made for the door. "Glad you lads are safe," he mumbled - the most empathy I think we've ever had from Lestrade. Both of us raised our eyebrows, and he frowned slightly. "Just – do me a favour. Next time – and I pray God there isn't a next time – don't be so bloody independent about the whole thing, will you? I don't know how I'm going to explain to the 'Super why our lot have been cavorting around sodding strip clubs when the killer was one of our 'most wanted' all along…" He nodded goodbye to Mrs Hudson and her daughter and was out of the door before any of us could reply. "I'll call you tomorrow!" he shouted before slamming the door downstairs.

When he was gone, I turned my attention to Mrs H. She turned her face up to me warmly, no trace of the resentment which she had every right to feel. What a wonderful woman. I placed my hand carefully on her shoulder and she rubbed her face wearily.

"You'll have to excuse me, John love. I'd give you boys a great big hug but I'm absolutely worn out."

Her daughter spoke up – her voice was just as warm as her mum's; I wondered how they could be so understanding, but maybe there was something in mine and Sherlock's demeanour that told them just what we'd been through, "Paramedics told her to be in bed ages ago, but she refused to go until you two were back safely. We'll go now, though – let you have a bit of peace."

"It's alright –" I mumbled, not wanting to be rude. Truth was I couldn't wait until me and Sherlock were alone.

"They didn't hurt you?" Sherlock's voice was so grave that it shocked me. My chest tightened when I realised just how sorry he felt that Mrs H had been dragged into this.

"No, no love. I'm fine. Bit shaken up, couple of burns from the rope, but they didn't touch a hair on me. They didn't even ask me anything about the two of you; I was surprised. But then, I suppose, if you've met this Moriarty chap before then –"

"I'm sorry that you had to experience that. It really wasn't…" Sherlock was examining the table top as he spoke; I've never seen him like that before. It made me more aware than ever just how much of a mother figure Mrs H is to him.

"Don't worry, sweetheart. It wasn't your fault. If I wasn't such a busybody, I never would've answered the door…" Mrs H smiled sweetly and then put her arm around her daughter's shoulders, letting her lead her carefully out of the room. "Night boys. Just give me a buzz if you need anything," I turned to say that it would be us helping her if anything, but they were gone.

The flat was suddenly very, very empty. It was the first time I'd had a chance to look around at everything. The living room was in pretty much its usual state, except the contents of mine and Sherlock's pockets were strewn about across the floor. Surprisingly, they hadn't broken his phone: it was lying on the coffee table, almost as if he'd put it there himself.
I turned to tell Sherlock this, and our eyes met, stopping all speech.
I soaked him up with my eyes – seeing him and knowing that we were alone, that we were safe, that, in some ways at least, we'd won the game.
It was a bitter victory.
I moved closer to Sherlock, and he moved closer to me. We stood either side of the partition, as if neither of us dared enter the room that the other was in. How stupid, after what we'd been through. Eventually, my paralyzed lungs started to work again, so that I could speak.



We both tried to speak at once, which of course ruined what either of us was going to say. I sighed, giving Sherlock a weak smile. He returned it, thankfully.

"I was so…" I started again, but the words just wouldn't come. I started to reach for him, as if that would help, but I couldn't do that either. It was like I was in a wrestling match with myself – and I was too tired to make any serious moves.

"I know." He nodded solemnly, his stance uncomfortable. Somehow his awkwardness reassured me that he was feeling the same as I was.
"Worse than the army?" he asked suddenly. I was taken off-balance, which made me forget to be nervous. I thought about my answer, though – it was a tough one.

"About the same…" I decided. "My sense of duty and loyalty…and…fear…for you was probably as strong as it was for all my comrades put together in Afghanistan." To admit this to him was slightly terrifying for me. I couldn't believe that I'd said it, and that it was true. And yet I hadn't hesitated to say it, which must've meant that it came from the heart.

Sherlock came a little closer; I could see the rips in his shirt and they stirred up my adrenaline slightly. Knowing that Moriarty had touched him…it still seared like a brand.

"Do you really believe what you said?"

"…What? What did I say?" My mind was still struggling to keep focused.

"Do you really think that I forced you?"

My muscles might as well have turned to stone. After everything we'd done, everything we'd said to each other, everything we'd shared – Sherlock was still that insecure?
It was a shock at first, but I soon came to realise: every step we take together since we first kissed is brand new territory to him. For probably the first time in his adult life, he has no idea if what he's doing is right, no point of reference to draw from, and nothing he's spent his life cramming into that amazing brain of his has any relevance. He knows he can trust me completely, but I'm just as uncertain as he is. We're both totally inexperienced – but I guess that's what makes it so exciting.
I basically gawped at Sherlock for about five seconds, at a loss for what to say without risking insulting him. So he gave me an exasperated look and spoke again.

"Because every lie that is believable must be constructed from at least a thread of essential truth. So I'll ask again: do you think I forced you? John?"

For some reason, I started laughing. Probably delirious exhaustion. Or maybe just because the idea seemed so ridiculous to me. Sherlock looked totally crestfallen at my reaction, which only made me laugh even more.
Eventually, when he started glowering at me and looking as if he might storm out of the room, I answered, the traces of laughter still in my voice.

"No, Sherlock, I don't think you forced me. If you had – do you honestly think we'd still be living together? That I'd even be talking to you?"

He adapted an expression which was so scarily similar to Mrs Hudson's 'headmistress' look that I started laughing uncontrollably all over again.

"John, you're being ludicrous now. It was only a question." His mouth started quirking into a smile – probably against all his best efforts.

I managed to pull myself together, wiping my eyes and massaging my bruised ribs, and came up closer to him so that we were touching distance apart. Finally the tension had been broken, and I felt comfortable enough to say what I'd be longing to say for hours.

"You're wonderful." His smile faded a little, but his eyes seemed warmer. "I don't know what I'd have done if –"

"Simple statistics, John. With your military training, and my astonishing intellect, there was a very small margin for failure. I'd say, percentage-wise, around –"

"I'm not talking about that – don't interrupt," I scolded mildly, reaching out and threading my arm around his waist. The thought of almost dying is something I've had to deal with for most of my working life – but what I really meant was that I couldn't have lived with myself if Moriarty had succeeded in his plan to rape Sherlock. I didn't want him to think that I took it lightly.

"You interrupted me too," Sherlock observed, in a mild tone of voice. I scowled at him, and he shifted his long arms to grip gently at my hip bones. "Alright, alright. I understand. I'm not undervaluing the sentiment. It's – good that you were with me, John Watson."

"Y'know, for a super genius, your choice in adjectives is pretty poor." I pulled myself in closer, pressing my chest into his.

"I could consult my thesaurus, if you'd prefer an alternative." His hand brushed my neck, and I felt a low growl in the back of my throat.

"No – no. Stay out of your head for once. 'Good' is fine. 'Good' is…perfect."

I stopped him from trying to talk. It really wasn't the time for one of his monologues. Though truth be told, his heart didn't really seem to be in it.
It was the overwhelming relief that poured out of me and into Sherlock, I think. Whatever it was, I had to share it - with him, and only him. I was flush up against him, as close as I could get, and my hands, my mouth, were fiercely occupied, taking total possession of his body in a way that was almost desperate. I was tearing at the fabric of Sherlock's already ruined shirt, dragging him roughly against me, and my lips were curled eagerly around his, the moisture of our passionate kisses creating a humid union between us. I knew Sherlock was struggling with this intensity, but the reactions from his body were outweighing those of his intellect. He was hard for me in minutes; I felt the pressure against my thigh and rubbed myself intently against it, making Sherlock pant heavily.

"You are wonderful," he growled suddenly, making me chuckle into his neck. "And stupid. And…courageous. And exciting. And marvellous. And…hmm." He tilted his head slightly, and I looked up at him, quirking one eyebrow. "And – a little disconcerting."


"Certainly. After you."

I don't think we've ever been so needy for each other before. We were like prisoners on Death Row who've been given a day's reprieve; rutting frantically as if the sun was never going to rise again. The hard planes of Sherlock's body reassured me as much as seeing our flat untouched – knowing that I was the only person who could touch him like that – who had ever touched him like that; and I don't plan to let anyone close to trying any time soon. His hands: those dextrous, artistic hands, moved over me and sent deep, sharp shudders of pleasure through me, reminding me that I was another case to him – something to be analysed, explored, solved – except not only did he want to solve me, he wanted to excite me and surprise me and make me happy to be with him. I'm definitely his favourite case.
We didn't untangle our hot, sticky limbs from each other until very late into the next morning – and I think neither of us really wanted to do anything for a long time except just be together.

When Sherlock made me come that night, loudly and harshly and so deeply that I almost forgot how to breathe, I felt some very unfamiliar words on the edge of my tongue – words that I've never said, that I never thought I'd say. And now I can't get them out of my head – and every time I look at him, these same scary thoughts occur to me and I find it very hard to keep my head.

It sort of feels like being in love. But it isn't. Can't be.

I'm not in love.

…I'm not.

Will write soon,

Dr. John Watson