Lestrade has killed two people in the line of duty. One had happened before Sherlock had met him but the second one he been around for but not present for. It had been before John's time but after the drugs and Lestrade had been dealing with an impressive but very pedestrian robbery that had been too simple for Sherlock's involvement. So simple that Lestrade hadn't asked for him and Sherlock hadn't even insisted on his presence. Lestrade had gotten involved in it up to the point that he wanted to be there when the thief, Louisa Guest, was finally brought in. What had escaped his attention – a detail so obvious that Sherlock had actually believed that Lestrade had known all about it – was the involvement of an accomplice in the form of an identical twin sister.
Laurel Guest had been hiding in the shadows and had come at him with a knife when Lestrade had pulled his gun on Louisa (she'd reached for her belt for the knife she'd been carrying). Laurel had come at him and had made a move for his throat. He'd shot to wound but Laurel had ended up stepping right into it in a failed attempt to dodge it. It had got her in the neck and she'd died instantly. Louisa had howled bloody murder as they'd carted her away, after she'd made after Lestrade with her weapon and had been subdued by two constables, but Lestrade had remained silent as he'd regarded the body of young woman he had just murdered. Sherlock didn't understand Lestrade's upset. If a half crazed criminal woman had come at him with a knife he would have reacted the same way.
"No you wouldn't have," Lestrade had told him after the fact. He had been obviously annoyed that Sherlock had known about it but not enough to avoid the subject entirely.
"How can you say that?" Sherlock had asked, indignant despite himself.
"You just wouldn't have." That had been that, Sherlock hadn't been able to get him to answer any other questions and he never mentioned the Guest twins in Lestrade's presence again. Despite his silence he'd wondered why this one had affected Lestrade so much. He had shot a man before this. What was the difference between a serial murderer and a thief when it came to self defence?
Now, a few years removed, Sherlock understands that it was the age of the twins (twenty-three) that had really been the problem. Lestrade has some belief that those under a certain age can be saved. Sherlock knows otherwise but knows enough not to expect Lestrade to ever listen to him.
Sally Donovan had killed before; Sherlock had known that within five seconds of meeting her. He is fairly sure that everyone knows that even if they can't use their brains for anything other than basic motor functions. There is an air of authority in Donovan that had told him right away that she had no problems killing criminals who didn't comply with her directions or dared to move against her. It was fiercely tempered (part morality and part police training) but it's there as plain as day for anyone to sense if not directly identify.
In her third year of employment she had taken part in a police standoff against serial murder Tommy Boudier, Sherlock had followed this one with interest but hadn't been involved. This one was in the middle of the drugs. Mycroft had taken to taking all access to crime news away from him given he would get hooked on one point and simply rave about it for days without actually understanding the connecting thread. He'd done that for many cases, Sherlock knows, but he remembers this one because Boudier had chosen to be gunned down rather than be taken alive, a rare event in Sherlock's experience.
There had been one shot that had ended it and it had been a direct shot to the head. Donovan said she wasn't sure whether that bullet was hers or not; Sherlock believes it likely but can't be certain. He hadn't known that Sally had been involved in this standoff right when he'd met her, none of the officers had been named, but he'd deduced it shortly after the incident with the Guest twins. When he'd said this it had actually turned into one of the more civil conversations between them.
"Everyone here is prepared for the day that they might have to shoot someone," Donovan had told him while they'd watched Lestrade quietly mourn away from the maddening crowd. "No one is ever really ready for it though."
"You seem to be fine with it," Sherlock had observed.
She'd bristled at that but, for some reason (exhaustion? pity?) had not snapped at him. "If it had been just me and Boudier," she'd explained, "and I knew that I alone killed him it would be different with me, I think. I'm one of seven who fired, we all killed him. There's shared blame there and none here."
Sherlock had left at that point, quite certain that Sally was simply better at dealing with the idea of shooting someone than Lestrade was. He'd known that from 'who are you and what you doing at my crime scene?' He hadn't missed the thrill in her eyes there. Donovan was more ruthless than Lestrade and Sherlock knows that a part of her would have relished knowing for certain that she was the one that had killed Thomas J. Boudier.
He knew regret when he heard it.
Mycroft has never actually killed anyone with his own two hands. Since beginning work with the government, a work that has gone on for nearly twenty years now, he's arranged for the 'disappearance' and 'redistribution' of several undesirables in the eyes of the law and of society. Sherlock finds murder distasteful but understands it as a motivation. Mycroft never has what he understands as appropriate motivation. It's a request or a solution to a problem. People aren't people to Mycroft, not really to himself either Sherlock has to admit but he likes to think that he hasn't quite reached this level. Having someone die for the greater good is one thing. Having people die because the government can't be arsed to do some real legwork to fix their problem is quite another.
Sherlock doesn't need to ask if Mycroft feels any guilt or thinks of the men and women whose lives have been ended for the sake of that failing. He knows well enough what his own answer would be in Mycroft's position. He thinks it just may frighten him.
Of all the murderers he knows Mycroft is the one with the most blood on his hands, and Mycroft has never touched a gun in his life. He doesn't even know how to load one.
Like Sally Donovan before him, John Watson had been identified as a man who would be willing to kill by Sherlock from the beginning. Morality and authority and high expectations but this killer strength was tempered not only by training and morals but also by the fact that he was a doctor. A healer who could just as sure end your life as save it was perplexing and enthralling to Sherlock. It was probably a main reason that he'd been willing to share a flat with the man. The fact that it still hadn't bored him was something also to be considered. He shouldn't have been surprised that John had killed a man very soon into their acquaintance but he had been. John was a killer, yes, but he was a man who didn't kill unless there was no other option and it was absolutely necessary.
John is a killer, yes , but calling him a murderer however just doesn't seem right. But if facts are facts then John is a murderer. Even if you discount the men he killed in Afghanistan there are a handful of men that are dead now because of John Watson. The first time John killed outside of a warzone had been their first case together. He remembered his assessment to Lestrade when questioned about the identity of the sniper: a crack shot whose natural environment was a battlefield with nerves of steel and a strong moral principle.
John had been unaffected by what he'd done. "He wasn't a nice man," had been his response to Sherlock's asking after his well being and he hadn't brooded like Lestrade or had that thrill of victory in his eyes like Donovan doubtless would have if she'd done it. He hadn't known him well enough to press any harder but he had observed. There had been nothing more to say in the opinion of John Watson. He'd done his duty, dealt with a problem, and was moving on. It was almost Mycroftian
He hadn't asked about shooting the cabbie because John wouldn't say even if he had pressed. He hadn't asked about any of the six men who had died while they had been on the run because they had had better things to worry about. After John had killed Sebastian Moran he had no problem asking how he'd felt about it.
"Pretty good actually," John had informed him while he'd brewed them tea; this was one week after Moran had been killed and the day after John had returned to him. "Though I'm assuming you knew that."
Sherlock had indeed known that but hearing John admit it had been different than hearing it in his own mind. "That all?" had been his response then.
John sighed and poured the tea. "I killed him because to let him live would do no justice to what he'd done. To all the lives he'd ruined. That and I was beyond sure he'd find a way to spring himself out."
He passed Sherlock his tea and sat down next to him with his own. "I also knew it would never end if I let him live."
It's all true, he's even being honest about shooting him because he just wanted to go home and end the whole business without precisely saying it. John's reminding him more and more of his brother when it comes to this aspect of the mystery that is John Watson but isn't too put off by it. It's another one of the many things that make John interesting. He does, however, like John's methods better if only because he's honest about them and can speak frankly about them. The marked difference in the world of people that John has killed is that he has nightmare about Afghanistan but not about the cabbie or Moran or any of the others.
Sherlock has always known that, in another life, he and Mycroft would have been exceptional criminals. He sees now that the same can be said for John. He considers himself fortunate and doesn't take the thought any further.
Sherlock, on principle, never carries a gun. This is with the marked exception of going to the pool to meet Moran. He would have been an idiot if had gone to meet the greatest criminal mind in a century unarmed after all. That being said he had taken John's gun since he didn't own one of his own. He had managed to conduct his affairs unarmed and with only minor injuries previous to meeting John and his gun and he prefers to keep it that way. John has always carried the gun since they'd begun working together, sometimes Sherlock ends up with it for whatever reasons but it's usually John. Whenever John does draw it on a case it is only every meant as a threat and an enforcing agent. John never intends to fire it if he can avoid it (strong moral principles and all that). Neither does Sherlock the few times it has ended up in his hand. He has fired John's gun twice outside of firing it at the wall in complete boredom: Once to set off a bomb and once to tell John where he was.
When it comes time for him to kill Moriarty he does it efficiently with some measure of delight. He hadn't recognized it at the time but he knows it now, months after the fact. He'd shot Moriarty before he'd gotten a word out or had made any direct threat to his person. That would have come eventually, of that he has no doubt, but it doesn't erase that fact from his mind. After the shot(s) that had killed the greatest criminal mind that he'd ever encountered he'd fled, thinking of nothing.
When he'd arrived to his hotel the only thing he'd felt was the suppressed grief for the loss of John Watson. John Watson had not been dead though, at the exact moment he had killed Moriarty John had been asleep under a bridge outside of New York City. He'd been alive the whole time without any knowledge of the whole affair of his being dead. Mycroft's doing naturally.
Later, much later, after John had returned to him, Sherlock knew that shooting Moriarty had been satisfying. Not satisfying for the reasons that John had felt for killing Moran (though all of which applies in this case as well) but for something very primal.
Moriarty had killed John. For that he deserved to die and that was that. Revenge, he had found, was a very logical emotion.
He hopes that never has to feel it again.
He didn't see himself as a murderer until Donovan had made her comment. He hadn't even thought of Moriarty's death (murder) in months until she had opened her mouth. They were in the process of dealing with a complex series of thefts, truly baffling and even Sherlock found himself perplexed for some finer details, and Sherlock was in the midst of doing what he did best: proving his points with questionable methods and the assistance of John Watson.
At this particular time John had been hanging upside down out of an open window being held by nothing but Sherlock's hands. Neither Lestrade or Donovan had been there, or any others from the Yard. Why John was hanging out the window and not himself was because John had insisted. Sherlock had knocked his head pretty severely the night before (severe enough that he actually hadn't objected to John's examination at home or when he'd decided to take him to A&E and had suffered though another one). "I'm not hauling your dead weight through this window once you pass out," he'd informed him. "Now what am I looking for?"
Things had been going smoothly until Lestrade and Donovan had entered the room. Lestrade had gasped while Donovan had rushed over and shoved Sherlock out of the way, and thus knocking John's ankles out of his hands. She's grabbed John's ankles before gravity had taken effect and had hauled him up like a piece of meat. John had protested the whole way up and when he'd ended up on his feet Sherlock could understand why. The force of Donovan's haul had smacked his head against the side of the building (small bruise and a medium sized cut that was bleeding profusely down the side of his face). His hands were also knocked during the haul up. "We had it!" John had snapped as he stomped into the bathroom to locate some gauze. "What possessed you to do that? It wasn't like I was hanging out a window or anything!"
Lestrade had rolled his eyes and had followed after John while Donovan had stayed with Sherlock. "Were you trying to kill him?" she demanded.
"If I had wanted John dead he would be dead by now," he replied easily, "as would anyone else that I might consider having to have killed." Donovan either doesn't register the jibe or else is a lot better at hiding her emotions then he remembered.
Then she'd said it. "You're going to kill someone. One day, one day soon, you're going to kill someone."
It was far from the worst thing that Donovan had ever said to him but the way she had said it (like a prophet) combined with the sound of John barking orders at Lestrade and the bathroom ( "who the hell doesn't have gauze? Damn it, it's in my eye now.")
He hadn't even realised that he'd fled the flat until he found himself back at his own, sitting on the couch and scarping idly at his violin. No matter how loud he played it, however, he couldn't get the words from echoing out of his head. It really made sense that he couldn't though, if you really considered things. One day he would kill someone. One day he had killed someone.
He doesn't really regret killing Moriarty. Not specifically. It had been a logical move at the time given the data that he'd had at the time (that John had been tortured and killed and then dismembered on Moriarty's orders) so the idea of regretting something like that made no sense. What bothers him is that Donovan was right. He has killed someone before, on purpose. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before he kills someone unintentionally. He supposes he could add in the people who have died indirectly because of him not solving the puzzle in time or misjudging the situation but eventually decides not to. He hadn't killed them with his own hands nor ordered or wished their deaths. He'd been too late, it was as simple as that in those cases.
People have died
That's what people do
Moriarty's words, as usual, do not apply here. People do not just die. There is always a reason for it. Old age is a reason but that is never the case in his world. Death is swift and violent and unforgiving when it happens in his world, whether he deals it or not. It's only a matter of time, he thinks again, before someone that isn't meant to be killed (or deserves it) is killed directly because of him. He remembers the blood trailing down John's face and the millisecond where John was suspended in midair, when Sherlock's grip hadn't been strong enough against Donovan's shove. He has a good idea of who it will be when it does happen and it's not like John will leave him, no matter what Sherlock says or doesn't say on the subject. They're stuck together now, for better or worse until death to them part.
Which is how it would happen of course, Sherlock knows. It had already happened once in Sherlock's world after all. John just hadn't caught on for a bit.
John's step sounds on the stairs as if summoned – still angered but not as furious as he'd been earlier, taking the tube had performed its cooling effect evidently – and he quickly appears in their doorway. "Where'd you go?" he asks with one hand on the side of his head. "You were right, of course, and they went off to search that house you mentioned. I thought you wanted to go with them to make sure Anderson didn't stomp all over everything like last time."
"Why didn't you go after them then?" Sherlock snaps. He gave a dramatic scrape on the violin and then sets the thing down. He could act like this until the end of time, he muses. Throw tantrums, insult John, and even set his things outside and John wouldn't leave. He was too smart for that. Just like he was too smart for this display.
John takes his hand down but doesn't give any other reaction. "I came to get some proper gauze." He points at the sticking plaster on head, it has bled through and is nearly ready to fall off. "Not anywhere near as bad as it looked," he goes on, "but it does bleed like no one's business. Head wounds always do."
Irrelevant information always gets on Sherlock's nerves (he knows that, dammit) but he lets it slide by this time. "I am a murderer," he pronounces instead of asking after his head.
John snorts as he rummages through his medical bag, it had been left under the desk after last night. "Aren't we all," he mutters sardonically and waits for Sherlock to say something to that. He waits instead and John sighs a different sort of sigh and says "And would I be correct in assuming this is brought on by the lovely Sally Donovan?"
"It is true, though," Sherlock continues, of course John heard. Donovan herself probably told him that one day John would die because of him and John had rolled his eyes, thanked her for the misplaced concern and had taken the tube home instead of walked. "I have killed a man."
"I've killed more so I think you should be more concerned about me than you." An attempt at lightheartedness, Sherlock knows. What does John take him for?
"War doesn't count."
Eyes rolling at him now. "Oh come on, how many people have I killed since I've been a civilian?"
John shakes his head. "Moran was unarmed."
The words are delivered in the same tone John had spoken in when he'd been Moriarty's mouth piece and Sherlock just stops at that. They've never actually discussed the mechanics of the death of Sebastian Moran, the same way they've never discussed the ones of the death of Jim Moriarty. It was enough that both men were disposed of and would never trouble anyone else again. "Unarmed?" he repeats like a child testing out a new word.
"Unarmed." John said the word like it was really two distinct sentences and took a seat next to Sherlock. "He'd gotten really cocky at this point, you know. When I walked in and drew he was terrified. Didn't reach for a pocket or look for a bodyguard. Nothing." He laughs an empty laugh. "I didn't understand why he was so stupid but I was dead to him. Makes a lot more sense now." He rubs his face idly, careful of the bandage. "I taunted him a bit, told him that he'd gotten sloppy. He said he had a right to be and then I shot him. Then I left." He throws his hands out in a 'and there you have it gesture' and leans back against the couch. "I walked in there with the intent to kill, that didn't change once I realised he was unarmed. Last I checked that's murder."
A moment of silence because, for once, Sherlock doesn't quite know what to say. John is troubled by the fact that he shot an unarmed man but not really troubled enough - He wasn't a nice man, floats though his head. That was why the man was dead, along with all the other reasons that John had said before, it was simple as that, as simple as the death of Moriarty had been. So why are they both questioning that?
"It was premeditated for me also," Sherlock finally replies. He sees Moriarty's body before him for a moment, two shots to the head and chest, and then shakes his head to clear it. "Nothing is more premeditated than a revenge killing."
John turns his head and looks at him. There is a knowing shine in his eyes and a just as knowing smirk on his face. "Nothing indeed," is all he says but Sherlock knows better than to accept the words at face value.
"Do you regret it?" John asks him.
Sherlock shakes his head and asks John the same question. John's answer is also negative. "We're murderers," John states, "in one form or another anyway. Nothing to be done about it but, perhaps, that's a good thing in our line of work."
It is a strange statement and Sherlock knows his face is showing it. Then he remembers what he'd told John about heroes and heroes not existing. In the eyes of some people they were heroes, the pair of them. In the eyes of others they were nothing but vigilantes for the choices they've made to kill instead of doing the 'just' thing and putting these dangerous people through the criminal justice system. The very idea makes Sherlock shudder. Most would get out and the game would start all over again. More senseless deaths because no one wanted to end it right where it should.
"And that's not the real issue here, is it?"
Sherlock knows that he really shouldn't be surprised when John makes deductions like this anymore but he can't help raising his own eyebrow at that. John glares at him instead of smirks. "Right before Donovan said that I was dangling out a window, remember?"
"She – "
John held out a hand. "And who was I angry at when I got dragged back in?"
"Right. Now tell me why. You know why and I want you to say it."
Sherlock does know but he doesn't want to say it. He can't say it. Finally John takes pity on him. "She's the one that almost killed me today. You had me, you know it too. She's the one who came in and knocked you out of the way and hauled me up." John finally notices the blood that's been trailing down his face and he quickly wipes it away with his hand. "If I'm ever killed it won't be your fault." He opens up his medical bag and starts to dig for the gauze. "Besides, I died once remember. That wasn't your fault."
"You weren't actually dead either," Sherlock corrects as he snatches the gauze from John's hands and presses it to John's head himself. He watches the red blossom on white as John takes the gauze back from him and sets about wrapping up his knuckles, which aren't bleeding but are certainly raw and sore.
"Very, very true. I'm still debating whether or not to kill your brother for that by the way." He flexes his fingers once he's done and then waves a thinner adhesive gauze pad. "That should do it," he suggests. Sherlock nods and swiftly peels the thicker gauze off and places the bandage on John's forehead. He nods as if he's complete a work of art. John pokes at it for a moment and nods as well. "Thanks."
"Probably not the best of plans," Sherlock advises him, returning to Mycroft instead of dealing with the 'you're welcome' answer to that thanks. "Mycroft's men would have you killed seconds after you would dispose of him."
"Oh a challenge is it, then?" John's smirk almost makes Sherlock want to think about trying it then John's phone beeps. He checks, smirks again, and then passes it to Sherlock.
Perish the thought, both of you. Neither of you possess the cold-bloodedness or efficiency to dispose of me and then survive yourselves. Also, you are both murderers but only situational ones. John, you murder when duty calls for it. Sherlock, you murder when John is at risk or has been killed. I don't really fall into either situation. Do remind Sherlock that I did manipulate things so that he would kill. I'm still not apologizing for it either.
Sherlock snorts and then deletes it. He is right as usual and, as much as it angers him, he does feel better about that fact. "So by my brother's analysis we're situational murderers."
"Aren't we all," John sighs. "Everyone has a price after all. It's just that not everyone happens to know what theirs is." There was that look again, and this time Sherlock knew he was wearing the same one.
All of them are murderers, situational ones but murderers nonetheless. Sherlock finds he can live with that as long as John can. After all, he does have the monopoly on this sort of thing.