"Don't try to move," John said softly.
"Alright," said Sherlock, totally disregarding the doctor's shrewd advice.
Sherlock sounded a bit delirious, with that sort of slight compliancy and obedience. No logical retorts or snide remarks that he usually made within 6 seconds of waking on regular every day mornings, guilt thickened in John's stomach as he saw Sherlock's face fully since those days before all this. Sherlock looked awful, pale beyond anything he would call healthy or normal, Sherlock would need a hospital soon or he might just lose consciousness again and never come back out of it.
"Look at him John," said Moriarty and John was looking at him and it made it all worse. Moriarty continued after a moment: "You don't need him. You don't need his help. He's just a set of new tricks for you. A way to get your thrills. You could do so much better than this freak of a man."
"But you're his fan," replied John remembering what Sally Donovan had said, what the Chinese woman had said, what the art museum director had said. "The best fans always see their obsessions for what they are in the end-he waved a hand dramatically at Sherlock—"freak."
"And you aren't?" John said, feeling fury rising in him like the tide.
Moriarty's face screwed up into a doggish snarl.
"Please," he said dangerously, "do not call me a fan. I appreciate his intellect and his stamina thus far but I will kill him in the end. Do I sound like a fan to you?"
"No," John said flatly.
John tried not to flinch at the sound of Sherlock's voice.
"Yes, Sherlock?" He asked Sherlock keeping eye contact with Moriarty though.
"Oh good, you're responding, you didn't respond…before," said Sherlock, slurring his words a bit in his exhaustion.
"Before what?" Already Sherlock was losing him, how could that be? Sherlock was the one shot not him.
"You were in trance, John," Moriarty answered before Sherlock could get the words out. "When you shot him, it was quite interesting. Sherlock looked quite miffed when you shot him." He cocked his head as if savouring the memory.
John snapped to attention in an instant.
"Trance? But- You hypnotized me?"
Moriarty blinked at him, and shrugged.
"Cheap trick I know, but it's quite fun knowing it works. The classroom gets so boring sometimes and you wonder if you could just make them remember the history of aesthetics once and awhile. And you've done it before with that therapist so I thought, why not."
John glanced at Sherlock and his face only confirmed what Moriarty said to be true.
"I knew you had done it before in your sessions and those seemed relatively productive, so I thought I could try that. It's quite fun. Your eyes got a bit dead though, I theorized they wouldn't or at least you would show some form of conscious thought but really it was like watching a sleep walker. You do make for a good test subject for an experiment, John."
"I didn't know you were a scientist, Jim," John replied quietly, distracted by the fact his hands were actually shaking now and all he could see was the ash on his hands, from that hallucination or whatever that had been.
He heard Moriarty let out a noise sounding halfway between a growl and a note of displeasure.
"Still confused about the ash?" asked Moriarty, after a beat, his voice surprisingly light.
"That was you too," John said slowly, fitting the pieces together in his mind.
"Yes," said Moriarty, his grin too quick and too decided.
John buried his hands in the parka despite his cramped position. John sighed; at least he knew he wasn't going completely mad. He felt Sherlock's head rest on his shoulder, his dark curls awry, mumbling random facts and observations about the nature of the fake cobblestones underneath their feet where his blood was gathering, slipping back into unconsciousness, his wounds considerably worse than John had hoped. Sherlock wasn't in any state to help John.
And John didn't see any way out of it. The snipers were still on the roof—no, wait.
John found himself glancing involuntarily in the direction of the snipers and their red target zones, but he didn't see any now. Moriarty had called them off. That only meant one thing.
He glanced back Moriarty. He looked radiant, triumphant, watching Sherlock fading before him like a man who had just trumped the queen in a giant cosmic game of chess.
Jim Moriarty had used them, on themselves, on each other and now he was going to win.
"You don't need Sherlock, you know" John heard him saying, a little disembodied now in the back of his mind.
"Not really. Look at you, ex-soldier, doctor. You could do so much more than be his dogsbody, his lacky. Don't you want to be something more? He doesn't need you."
"Are you offering me something?" asked John, disgusted.
"Just a chance to get out of this alive and a healthy dose of adrenaline," said Moriarty. "You wouldn't have any more nightmares, and you wouldn't remember things. You would be conscious free. And much better off I must say."
John imagined that sort of life for moment, working for Jim Moriarty, not remembering his bad deeds, not having to worry, not having that guilt. He knew he shouldn't, he knew he couldn't possibly—and yet, it stung and hit its mark within him, and he so desperately wanted that bit of peace and quiet and stability, no matter where it came from. Heaven knows he would never get it with Sherlock, not really, if he was honest, already morally ambiguous and erratic to the bone. Perhaps he might be able to let it all go if he went with Moriarty.
He might just able to convince Moriarty to let Sherlock Holmes live the night, if he left with him. That would be the brave thing to do: to see the morning, alive and whole as the madman he was, a man who killed cabbies because Sherlock was too stupid to put the pill down, too busy trying to find that next step that logical maze of his.
John Watson inhaled and took in all the cold air he could, letting it fill him up trying to get up the courage to let it all go. He could it feel it on his tongue. The icy numbness that made him forget that he ever shot a man named Sherlock Holmes, that he—
Then his hand wrapped around something in the bottom his pocket, forgotten. That must have been a part of the act Moriarty put on to make John forget he was carrying a beautiful British Army Browning L9A1in his pocket, a delicious piece of cowardice.
John exhaled, and as he did he slowly stood up, trying to ignore the screaming pain in his leg as Moriarty looked on at him in confusion, his brow furrowed.
"He may not need me, but he needs a doctor," John said, pulling his hands and the L9A1 out of his pockets. He glanced down at Sherlock, who had found a tiny piece of consciousness, enough to give him a look that resembled reassurance and a tiny smile, blinking in dots and dashes, the signal: Go.
John didn't hesitate, fearing if he lingered one more moment he might just back down and let Moriarty have him. He took one solid step towards Jim Moriarty and fired, aiming and catching his left shoulder.
Moriarty give him one tiny look of surprise, almost imperceptible before he crumpled. To John's instant relief, there was no instantaneous death, no explosions. Just a man clutching his shoulder in pain, a lot of pain, as to the doctor's satisfaction.
Then there was noises, sounds that John didn't like and the bomb vest on his chest was getting heavy all of the sudden, and there were fingers, grabbing at him, a familiar face saying to him areyoualright areyoualright over and over, mumbling, as his hearing went as he found himself lightheaded . There was a mixture of light and darkness and smoke like some chemical experiment, torchlights bouncing off the buildings and a roar from Moriarty. Then the bomb vest was suddenly off his chest and Sherlock was dunking him in the fountain and John was wondering absentmindedly as his vision went what all the fuss was about.
"I hate water. I hate swimming," John found himself saying.
Out of the corner of John's eye, Sherlock smirked at him behind his empty cup, his knees tucked under his chin, the orange shock blanket he had stolen from John tucked around the sharp edges of his shoulders.
"Still thinking about the fountain?" asked Sherlock.
"Yes," said John, lowering himself gingerly into his favorite chair in the den, closer to the fireplace of 221b.
"I was a bit delusional."
"Really? You kept calling for your skull."
Sherlock gestured at the general area of his wound, healing very slowly under the strict supervision of Dr. John Watson.
"I had a reason John."
"Maybe, now stop waving that arm about."
"Oh mother hen, you're as bad as Mycroft."
But Sherlock winced when he tried desperately to wave it anyway and John saw it and made a face at him.
"It bloody hurts," said Sherlock darkly.
"And I wouldn't know?" asked John.
Sherlock sniffed unappreciatively, his knees sliding down to the floor. Clearly, he did not take to being shot and housebound well.
They were quiet for a moment. They had been quiet a lot since "The Fountain" as they liked to call it or "The Mouse Trap Case" as Scotland Yard liked to call it. John still couldn't sleep properly, not even after a few weeks and Sherlock didn't seem as settled as he was before. It was the unsaid burning in the air around them, the untold nightmares. Mrs. Hudson was doing quite well, or at least that was what Sherlock let on to John in his daily morning reports.
Sherlock was looking at the papers now, at the pink phone that they couldn't bear getting rid off or handing to evidence. Moriarty had escaped after all.
"I would have killed us, you know," Sherlock said to him suddenly, solemn, his eyes glinting.
John had given up wondering why he said things like that and just asked, prodding.
"We would have died if you hadn't shot me," Sherlock said, clearly thinking John didn't get it, but he knew. He knew Moriarty would have driven him in corner with only himself as the competition or something like that, as the cabbie driver had done and then he would have shot them, or killed John first, or tortured them further with something else.
"I trusted you and you came through."
"Yeah," John said softly.
"John, thank you," Sherlock said in a rush.
"Don't mention it," John said easily, though the words bite on his tongue.
Sherlock winced, but not from his wound.
"No really," he started again, staring at John intently, "I think that is the first time anyone saved my life."
John met his gaze, suddenly feeling less tired.
"Well, it was my pleasure saving you Sherlock."
"Yes," said Sherlock, suddenly looking a little embarrassed, if one could call it that, which John did.
There was more staring absentmindedly, but this time it was met with a shared feeling of comfort, one that stemmed from the hope that Moriarty knew, at last, after those months of preparation and the cases leading up to the Fountain that John was loyal, trustworthy, and Sherlock Holmes' friend. And that he knew now that John would not sway.
"Is there any tea?" Sherlock asked.
"Yeah, sure I'll get you some," John said, getting up, "move or I will call that brother of yours."
Sherlock did as he was told and listened to John wrestle with the contains of the fridge, bereft of heads or fingers or eyes for the time being but still full of chemicals and bottles of wine.
"There's still no milk or beans, or eggs," John said from the doorway of the kitchen.
"Did you eat the last banana?" Sherlock asked.
John looked a little crestfallen.
"No, I'll go out and get some things." John turned to pick up his coat off the table.
"Better just ask mrs. Hudson for bit of milk," said Sherlock, "the corner shop is closed now."
John paused a moment while putting on his jacket. How does Sherlock always know what time it is?
"No it's fine," he said, "I'll go to the other market."
John turned around ready for some sort clever resort and was taken aback as he noticed a change in Sherlock's expression. The look of guilt and anger that had lingered around the corners of his mouth and in his eyes was gone now, as if his confession that he was really grateful for what John Watson had done had made him feel better, lighter. Whatever Moriarty had left lingering in Sherlock's mind was gone, replaced by something else, a calm, a peace John doesn't think he had ever seen before. He looked better, more like the man John had wished as a flatmate, as friend before. But Sherlock was more than better.
John decided to complain about his leg just then, to make Sherlock feel better about them still not having any food worth eating and still not wanting him to leave the house while he was housebound.
"Damn your leg, John. I need my tea," was Sherlock's retort.
"Pop in with Mrs. Hudson for moment then?" John asked with a sigh already heading that direction.
Mrs. Hudson didn't serve them beans, but she did serve them tea. John would remember later that she smirked at them behind the milk carton and the eggs that when asked what she thought of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson then she would have said they were the truest friends she would ever meet.
Thank you all for reading. If you've enjoyed this, leave a comment. A special thank you to Cyberbutterfly, Silvermoon of Forestclan, and Elvendork-Infinity for sticking around for so long and being faithful and encouraging commenters.
Please no more story alerts this is the end of the fic. If you would like a sequel (!) please let me know in the comments/review section.
I'm now going to work on revising 'From a Lonely Country' my Sherlock BBC "Time-Traveler's Wife" fic. It's much cooler than it sounds. Lots of time travel, Sherlock erm, dying (Martyr! like Joan of Arc) and John being amazing and cursed and angsty.