Warnings: Angst, Character Death
Disclaimer: Not mine, no affiliation with anyone related to it, and I'm not making any money.
He stares Moriarty down as he pulls the trigger, his body tensing in preparation for an explosion, ready to throw himself to the ground.
That explosion never comes.
Instead, he's staring into Moriarty's smug face, his expression cruelly gleeful. He claps his hands as though he were a small child. "Finally! Now we can move on to the real reason I've brought you both here. You didn't honestly think I was going to use another bomb, did you? How dreadfully boring," he says with a little giggle. "No, no, no, I've got something much more interesting planned. You'll love this." With that, Moriarty removes a mobile from his pocket and begins to text on it.
Sherlock sends a questioning glance over at John, who looks as baffled and uncomfortable as he's ever seen him, but they don't wait long. Suddenly, the pink mobile in his pocket chimes. He glances wearily at Moriarty who has the same expression on his face that he's had for the last two minutes. Sherlock is still trying to stay unruffled, though he can feel uncertainty churning in his stomach, welling up like a rising tide into his chest. He does his best to batten down the hatches.
He holds the gun steady as he retrieves the phone and opens the message. It's a video and what he sees nearly makes him drop the gun in shock and a dawning sense of horror.
It's the flat at 221B, but everyone he knows-anyone in this world he could possibly care about with the exception of John-is there and there are guns trained on them.
My God, he thinks, Mummy and Mycroft. Even Mycroft's wife and kids. Christ. His eyes snap up to Moriarty, his hand shaking ever so slightly, but his voice is cold. "What? You're going to kill them, too?"
Moriarty beams at him. "That's up to you, dearest."
He grips the gun slightly tighter and stays silent. There's a catch, he knows there is, and he's waiting for Moriarty to drop the other shoe.
Moriarty giggles gleefully. "You see, you have a choice. Either 221B Baker Street goes BOOM! with everyone in it, or you," and he breaks off for a moment, his grin becoming positively malicious, "kill dear Doctor Watson here. Your choice."
He can sense John's reaction to that-fear and horror, panic and dread-and his own reaction is heart palpitations, sweaty palms, a thick sense of No, God, no, not John! choking his throat.
"What's the point in choosing?" he growls, for the first time in his life feeling real, true fear. "You'll kill them anyway."
Moriarty rolls his eyes, huffing in slight condescension and Sherlock recognises it as a sound he himself has made at a crime scene when Anderson is being particularly dense or Donovan is being particularly dull. It makes him feel like spiders are crawling up his spine. "Well, obviously, but not right away. And not all at once." Moriarty giggles again. "Think of this as a second chance or a Get Out of Jail free card."
Sherlock narrows his eyes, studying Moriarty. And while the man is admittedly hard to read-and quite obviously fully capable of deceiving Sherlock, much to his chagrin-he can't help but feel it's exactly the kind of quandary or puzzle that delights Moriarty. And it's a test: where does Sherlock's heart lie?
Sherlock knows where it lies and it's standing next to him, shaky and pale.
Moriarty grins. "And to show you just how generous I am, I'll even give you five minutes to make up your mind."
It's on the tip of his tongue to say that he doesn't need five minutes or any time at all, that his choice is obviously John, but he feels a slight pressure on his elbow and his voice is quickly caught in his throat.
"I want to see," John whispers quietly, a barely-there tremble in his voice and a slight tremor in his hand where it rests lightly on Sherlock's elbow. Sherlock loses his concentration and glances at John.
His face is pale-deathly pale-his lips pressed together in a thin line, bloodless. But his eyes are hard and his jaw is set, and every muscle in his body is taut with tension. "Sherlock," he says quietly, a slight rebuke, and Sherlock almost ignores him, but the hand on his elbow tightens ever so slightly. He swallows hard and reluctantly hands the phone over to John.
He wishes he could look away from the devastation, the anguish on John's face when he sees what the message is, but he can't. He's riveted and that part of him that has always loudly declared himself a sociopath can't help but devour-analysing, cataloguing, memorising-the expressions that pass over John's face. Flickers of fear, horror, anguish, fear again, then determination. It's breathtaking and, for the first time in his life, he feels in tune with someone on an emotional level. Those are the expressions that would be on his face if he knew how to make it move that way, if the muscles around his eyes and mouth, on his forehead and along his jaw knew how to flex and relax in that exact pattern.
This, he thinks absurdly, is why John can't die. John can't die because he can explain emotions in a way that's not boring, inane, or unimportant. He can be the feeling part of their duo, the heart to Sherlock's brain and-between the two of them-they could be almost like one person. Thinking, feeling, being-a unit, a whole.
He's never been part of a whole before and now that it's within his grasp he's desperate not to let it go. He will hold on, he will fight for it, it's his and no one can take it away from him. Not for anything. He'd rather be bored for the rest of his life because he knows he wouldn't, not with John Watson. Them, this, could never be boring because it would take him a lifetime to unravel the complex knots, follow the loose strings of emotions and feelings to see where they belong and how they tie together with the more rigid strands of logic. How it all works. How could something so interesting possibly be boring?
And then John looks up at him, sighs a little, and Sherlock can see that there's resignation in his eyes, acceptance. He wants to scream, shake him and say, "No, don't you see, John, that this is what he wants?" If he has to do this, it will break him. He's no longer whole on his own. Or maybe it's that he never was, but never realised until this moment that there was a John Watson-shaped void in his life.
All he can manage to say is, "John," and he hates the broken way it comes out.
John takes a deep breath and his lips quiver like he's going to smile, or maybe he's going to cry-Sherlock can't tell, because that's what John's for, to tell him these things. "Sherlock," he responds, his own voice cracking. "You have to save them."
Sherlock's shaking his head, no because he hears what John didn't say, instead of me and he absolutely refuses to do this. He will not kill John Watson. How can he shoot himself in the heart?
John grabs his hand in a death grip, roughly and desperately. It hurts, but Sherlock doesn't complain, because it feels good, too, in a way he never knew touching another human being could. "You have to," he whispers harshly. "You have to defeat Moriarty, you have to get him back for this, Sherlock. And you'll need them more than me to do that."
"Yes," John insists, almost as if he's become a mind reader-and maybe he has because he's certainly more successful at reading Sherlock than almost anyone else, especially after so short a time. "That's my sister, Sherlock. That's your brother, your mother, for God's sake. You have to protect them by killing him. And if the price for that is my life, then so be it."
Sherlock wants to scream at him that he's not a hero, damnit, they've had this conversation, but John's jaw is set and he looks resolute in a way that Sherlock's never seen before-yet another expression, emotion to catalogue, memorise, treasure. There's a long pause as Sherlock gathers himself, marshals his intellect and every logical argument at his disposal to prove John wrong. It shatters, though, when John breathes out quietly, whispers sadly, "He'll kill me anyway, Sherlock, don't you see? He won't let me live, and I'd rather you...do it. You'll make it quick and painless."
John won't meet his eyes and Sherlock feels something give way inside of him, crack in his chest. He looks down and focuses on their hands-still clasped tightly together-and he knows that John's right. Logically, intellectually, he knows that John's right. Moriarty will kill John anyway. His heart squeezes a bit at the thought. He needs Mycroft-the resources at his disposal, his intelligence, ability to get things done-if he's going to kill Moriarty. And he's going to kill Moriarty for this, no question, and it's not going to be quick and painless. Not by a long shot.
But, some large piece of him thinks, but...
He watches John's fingers move, entwine with his, squeeze slightly and he feels something tight and hot, awkward bubble up from his stomach to his throat.
He swallows roughly, almost audible in the stifling silence, and squeezes back knowing that they both know what it means. Agreement.
John shudders in a deep, fortifying breath and Sherlock looks up, looks into those eyes and for a moment-just a moment-he lets his mind wander. He pictures, with frightening clarity, a life he will never have.
...Running through London, chasing bad guys down in the rain...
...Smiles and laughter, throwing insults and taunts at the hideous idiots on the telly...
...A quiet, dark night, feeling John's breath soft against his lips, John's hands warm and comforting and beautiful on the back of his neck, in his hair...
...Skin on skin, sweat and sex, heat and humidity in a dark room-John's room. No, their room...
...An idyllic retirement in the country, keeping bees, thunderstorms at night, John reading the paper, grey in his hair, and his face lined with age and smiles, laughter and stress, living...
But it's gone, the sun chased away by the darkness. Never to rise again.
"Time's up," Moriarty chirps in a sing-song voice. "Oooh, I can't wait to find out what your decision is. Isn't this exciting!"
Sherlock ignores the taunt, his eyes still locked on John's. His heart is beating irregularly, out of sync, like a broken clock that's a hair too quick.
John surprises him, then, leans forward and kisses him and he'd never thought about kissing John before, never pictured what it would be like. It doesn't feel weird, though, it feels...
Well, it feels deep, and passionate, and lovely. Heavenly. Like goodbye.
John pulls away, clasps his hand tightly and Sherlock wants to stop this somehow, rewind time so that he never let John out of his sight. Or maybe further back, to when this whole damn game began. He doesn't want to play anymore. He just wants to take his toys and go home.
"Isn't that sweet?" Moriarty taunts, but there's something cruel and cold behind it, almost like jealousy. Sherlock refuses to acknowledge him, keeps his eyes on John. John, who is scared-terrified-
Please, God, let me live
Determined, shoulders square, jaw set. His eyes are on Sherlock's and they demand a promise, a vow, and Sherlock doesn't hesitate to stare back at him, so John knows that yes, yes. Always, whatever you want. Yes.
John nods his head slightly, sharply, and Sherlock inhales shakily. "Turn around," he whispers.
John turns and Sherlock stares at the back of his head and he thinks, gunshot wound to the hindbrain, should cease all autonomic functions immediately. He thinks, quick and painless. Least I could do.
He holds the gun up to John's head and he's aware of Moriarty cackling in the background, giggling at the choice that Sherlock has made. He doesn't listen.
Instead, he focuses on the sound of John's erratic breathing, rapid heartbeat and he's irrationally glad that his last memory of John's face, of his eyes, will be when he is living, breathing...
He keeps his grip on John's hand, squeezes once, twice, three times.
Then he pulls the trigger.
He doesn't notice the warm blood and brains spatter his face, or how John's hand abruptly loses its grip on Sherlock's, or even the sound of the bullet at such close range.
What he notices is the way that John falls to the ground like a sack of potatoes and he thinks how unfair that is. He's seen films-mostly at John's behest, but even before that-and he thinks it should be elegant, beautiful, in slow motion. It should be dramatic and tragic, befitting the gravity of the moment. And it's not fair that it isn't, that-instead-John collapses quickly and nearly drags Sherlock down with him because Sherlock refuses to let go of him.
He lets the gun go and that falls quickly and he doesn't care about that. Falls to his knees next to...
Moriarty is laughing, delighted, taunting, but Sherlock doesn't care. It doesn't matter. None of it matters. Nothing...nothing...
There's nothing. He can't see anything but John, feel anything but that still warm, rapidly cooling hand in his, hear anything but the space where John's breathing, heartbeat, voice should be.
He glances up-he doesn't know how long he's been staring at what he's done-to see that gloating expression on Moriarty's face. Moriarty doesn't have to say anything because his smirk says it all: I've won and I told you so, told you I would burn the heart out of you.
But Sherlock made a promise, one he intends to keep.
He lets Moriarty go and he doesn't move because he can't bear to see John's face-it won't look as he remembers, he knows, and he tries not to picture the exit wound. He waits, because someone will show up eventually. It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter at all.
His heart is at his knees, shattered, and the sun will never rise again.