Middlegame

Massive rewrite/elaboration from the initial posting. Reviews are wonderful things.

If you can once engage people's pride, love, pity, ambition on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you- L. Chesterfield
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There was little time left. Pieces in formation, the grand endgame set up, pawns playing rooks playing kings. It was perfect. Time slowed, diluted as the two watched the CCTV system.

Sherlock entered the back entrance, picking the lock easily, sliding through murky shadows, shoes quiet against the tile and cement, wholly unware that he was being watched, studied. Had been for months.

"You know what to do." The man nearly tittered, cinching the vest around John's waist. "No fear now. You're going to die. But perhaps you won't murder the entire neighborhood in the process. Of course, we're under under a large gas main. You could potentially take out three entire blocks if the pipe is breached." Jim smiled, eyes cast down. "But maybe your death will be painless. Then again. This was what you always wanted." Jim slipped the parka over John's shoulders, carefully tugging it over the bomb making sure that it was hidden. "No more boredom."

John stood there silent, playing the mute plaything.

"That's the way." Jim affixed the earpiece, securing it into the ear canal. Tapping the microphone, he clicked it on.

"You know the rules. Better than anyone. I don't need to repeat them. You're too smart for that."

John nodded, agreeing as he walked to the pool entrance. He was deceptively calm, his heartbeat steady, hands too still, his limp disappearing, pain dissipating. Nothing ever happened to him.

He walked out, saw Sherlock freeze, emotions fluttering over his face. He could see the thought patterns play out. That absolute loss of trust, that he had been something vile from the beginning. That Sherlock had underestimated him, thought him an idiot, the slow one in their partnership. John nearly lost the game with that look. "Evening," he got out evenly. "This is a turn up. Isn't it, Sherlock?"

"John," moist exhalation.

The loss of trust from Sherlock. Past conversations spinnng through the man's memory, reassessing John, trying to shift his worldview to fit his partner into something other than loyal friend and confidant.

"Bet you never saw this coming….

John finally opened the parka, exposing the bomb, healing Sherlock's broken universe. "What would you like me to make him say next.

"Gottla gear. Gottla gear. Gottla gear. Nice touch this. The Pool. Where little Karl dies. I stopped him- I can stop John Watson too. Stop. His heart." And then the trust returned. Greater than before. A perfect distillation of faith. It evolved instantly into belief in John Watson. A beatific religious experience.

Moriarty announced himself, his grating voice betraying near insanity. His Game cycling up to the next level. Sherlock, distracted with the man, with the gun. John reverting to empty plaything, letting the two introduce, size each other up.

And then he was wrapped tightly around Moriarty, playing the martyr, the self sacrificing hero, allowing Sherlock to escape alone, unharmed. And then sniper lights dotted them both, and the game shifted. From death to self sacrifice to a great unknown. Jim smiling, making faces, finally leaving, leaving them alone.

As Sherlock tore off the vest, John's adrenaline finally surged, a fantastic feeling of surviving and excitement and elation. His knees buckled, and he slid down, against the wall, the core of emtions surging, imploding any sort of rational thought. He pulled out the earpiece, snapped it from the wire, and quickly slipped it into his shirt pocket, the cord dangling behind his neck.

Moriarty returned. John and Sherlock shared a look, an emotion of complete agreement. They were going to die. Sherlock sighted the vest with the gun, and John went blank.

[-]

John inhaled, exhaled, felt fantastic at being alive. Being completely free. The police and Mycroft's people swarmed the area as the two owere hustled off to yet another ambulance. John was sore, tense, ecstatic. Sherlock buzzed around, unable to sit still with his pink blanket. John kept his dutifully around his shoulders, a styrofoam cup of tea warming his hands. Suddenly, he remembered the earpiece and pulled it out. Rocking it between his fingers, he looked down, saw the switch in the off position.

"What is that?" Sherlock asked.

"What?" John startled, dropping it into his tea. Liquid sloshed everywhere, dribbling over his pants and shirt. "Oh. That. Was just the receiver." He flexed his hand, feeling it tingle slightly. "Guess I accidently destroyed it." He fished it out, and tried to hand it over, palm open, a dangerous gift. "Maybe you could. I don't know. Deduce something from it."

"It's okay," Sherlock dismissed it with a wave.

John smiled softly, rocking it again, clicking the piece into the on position before Sherlock's own eyes.

Sherlock was clever, but had peculiarities that were easily exploitable, his emotions too uncontrolled, still retained the capacity for belief.

Mycroft was a stone of a man, a machine of impenetrable fortitude. But every man has a weakness, and Sherlock was his. To gain implicit trust of one was to gain access to the other.

As he sat there, thinking, letting his brain relax, he knew that the middlegame was finished; the insignificant pieces toppled and dead, leaving only the remaining strong on the board. Becoming Sherlock's faithful companion and protector, he had breached the inner workings of the globe. The British Empire of land and colonies might be gone, but the political structure was still intact, still retained nfluence over other nations and blocs. So much information leaked from the right people as long as one merely had access and trust.

Mycroft would trust him because Sherlock would worship him. The queen reduced to bishop reduced to pawn. Watson would gain mere whispers of information from them. Misplaced words here, coded references there, to be stored and exploited later. But those were just crumbs. Like the destroyed plans, they could be found anywhere. John certainly didn't need them, but it was nice to hear it straight from Mycroft's own lips.

But the true reason, why all this particular game had been played. Why he had positioned himself to be so publicly exposed, to be seen, osbserved, and then thoughtlessly dimissed by the Brothers Holmes. That was the reason- his safety and identity was now firmly ensconced within the protective embrace of a grateful British government.

John smiled softly then, allowing one last emotional high to course through him. It had been a stupid, amateurish mistake: not checking that the earpiece hadn't been turned on. Such insignificant slights had toppled empires before. But one easily enough rectified. Sherlock had missed it, had seen but not observed. Because he was John Watson, and now Sherlock saw exactly what was to be seen. But it would not happen again. No more gifts of love and affection. The doctor sidled the blanket further around his neck and shoulders. The fleeting triumph already passing, and James was growing bored again.