When John woke up, he was duct-taped to a chair in a small room. His head ached. There was no one else in the room. He wished he could just close his eyes and go back to sleep, but instead he tried to loosen one of his hands until someone walked in.
"Ah, John! So nice to see you again. It's been far too long."
John glared at Moriarty.
"Well, I see you've left Baker Street. How sad for Sherlock. He must be lost without you to cook and clean." He put on an exaggerated pout. "Still…I can use you, even if he can't anymore, so don't worry: You'll be useful for the rest of your life—however long or short that might be. Anyway, Johnny boy, I've come up with something special for you…something sort of…literary. I thought you might appreciate it."
John closed his eyes, as if that would make it all just go away.
"Don't you want to know about my brilliant little plan? I think of these things myself, you know. Sherlock isn't the only person who likes to be groveled to."
It was at that moment that John realized he knew—absolutely and positively knew, to the core of his being—that Sherlock was not just using him. They helped each other. The first thing Sherlock had done upon meeting him was to save him from himself—his loneliness, and his boredom, and his psychosomatic limp. Yes, Sherlock needed an audience, but John wasn't just an audience—he was a friend. And, no matter what situation they were in, Sherlock, with all his arrogance and self-confidence, had always looked after him.
And he realized something else: That little seed of doubt Moriarty had planted in his mind had grown greater than he realized. It had made him bitter, and had kept him from figuring out the solution to his problem. It was not his fear for Sherlock's life that had paralyzed him over the past month, it was the unacknowledged fear that Sherlock did not want him in that life. He had not really been trying to end this bizarre hostage situation. If he had truly believed in Sherlock, he would have solved the problem earlier. He would not have given up so easily.
"Hello-o-o! Johnny! You listening? I am about to reveal to you My Great Plan. You've heard this poem, right?:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
"Well, I've always had a special place in my heart for it, and now so will you. So will Sherlock, come to think of it."
"Well, aren't we lucky!"
"Feeling saucy, eh? Well, we've tried fire on you, and that nosey brother of Sherlock's kept you alive. This is your second chance to perish. Or, I should say, my second chance to make you perish. So ice it is. What do you say? Poetic justice?"
John just glared at him.
"Well, my pet, just to be safe…" and Moriarty signaled to one of the thugs who put a sack over John's head again. He felt a gun at the back of his neck, and the duct tape was (rather painfully) ripped off. His hands were quickly handcuffed behind him, and he was frog-marched off to a car.
He thought they must have been in the car for about twenty-five minutes when it stopped and he was dragged out. When the bag was finally lifted from his head, he was at the back of a school canteen, looking at a small walk-in freezer. Moriarty stood by the opened door.
"See? Walk-in freezer with no ventilation. Negative twenty degrees Celsius. This model is guaranteed to cause discomfort to a man in a winter parka within minutes. But wait! There's more! (A modification of my own, you know, John—Make it a bit more fun, and less time consuming.) This freezer comes equipped with dry ice! Accelerating time of death by a factor of eight!"
John's stomach was churning, but he tried to look calm.
"Now, John, do be a good boy and get in. I really am in a hurry, here."
As one of the biggest men was shoving John towards the door, and he was trying (uselessly) to stay where he was, a shout rang out, and a gun went off. The man holding him let go in surprise. John grinned. He would recognize that shout anywhere—and he would give Sherlock all the help he could, if it took his last breath. His hands were still behind his back, but he hurled himself at Moriarty, who was still standing by the freezer door. He fell on top of Moriarty, who fell to the ground, and hit the back of his head on the corner of a shelf.
John was struggling to get up, when he heard a clang. Someone must have closed the door behind him. He was trapped—helpless!—with his worst enemy beside him, and his best friend separated from him, possibly fighting a losing battle. He already felt himself wanting oxygen. He wished he weren't a doctor—couldn't predict the stages of asphyxiation from carbon dioxide poisoning. At least Moriarty wasn't moving. He must have been knocked unconscious. John looked for a handle, but this freezer did not seem to have one. He kicked at the door with all his remaining strength, and internally cursed the school district for not following safety regulations. He was exhausted, his hands were still cuffed behind his back, and despite his burning fury, he was cold—so, so cold! He slipped down by the door, and everything went black.
"Sherlock, I can hear you perfectly. There is no reason to shout into your phone."
"Mycroft I went to the Chinese restaurant where you lost track of him, and I have some more information. You must make this top priority, Mycroft. Moriarty wants to kill him, and you know it."
"Yes, yes. Please, don't get excited. Tell me what you deduced."
"John was put into a delivery car that left the building between 10:30 and10:45. It was a long van, and said 'Peking Cuisine' on the side.
"I have my people on it, Sherlock. I'll tell you where the car went, and see if we can track it from there."
Sherlock paced nervously. Ever since his brother said he'd lost all knowledge of John's whereabouts, he'd been nearly panicked. He needed to find John before Moriarty killed him.
His phone rang.
"We have traced him again. He is currently in a black sedan driving towards West Croydon. I will not send police cars after it, as that would probably just encourage the murder of the hostage. You can follow in a taxi. I will give you directions."
Sherlock relayed his brother's instructions to the cabbie, and got out a block away from the primary school that the sedan had stopped in front of. He ran the rest of the way, making certain to avoid the attention of the thug standing by Moriarty's car as he opened a side entrance with a lock pick and crept in.
When Sherlock got to the doorway of the canteen he was not surprised to see the thugs. Six were more than he could handle, especially as he did not have a gun himself, so he decided to wait. But then he saw it—in the back by the freezer they had John, and one had a gun to his head. Moriarty was right next to him.
And for one of the first times in his life he made a completely irrational, emotional decision.
He shouted to get the attention of the nearest man, only to duck behind a large bin on wheels to avoid a bullet. When he next looked out from behind the bin, John and Moriarty had disappeared, and the freezer was shut.
There was no way for him to know what was going on inside that freezer. But there were several things he did know for certain. One, the air supply was limited, and two, Moriarty was a dangerous man. On the other hand, he could be fairly certain that Moriarty did not have a gun, and that this was not part of Moriarty's plan. He hoped John had had something to do with it. But not to think about that…
Were those sirens? Yes. A team of AFOs came running in, and the shooting began. Sherlock knew he should try to keep out of the line of fire, but instead, he ran through the halls, looking for an alternative route to the freezer.
There was another of Moriarty's men ahead of him, by the door that he knew he had to get through, so he sprinted up, grabbed the gun from the startled man, and shot him without compunction. The cooking area was completely deserted. When he opened the freezer, he immediately recognized the fumes in the choking air. Dry ice!
John was lying on the ground right near the door with his eyes closed. Sherlock grabbed his arms and managed to get him over his shoulder, before running to the nearest exit. When he deposited John on the ground, he saw that his breathing was very shallow. Sherlock searched back in his memory bank for something—anything!—that might help him in the situation, as he knew the ambulance had yet to arrive. He found a memory of a first aid class he'd sat in on once, thinking it might come in useful in his line of work. He'd never needed to call it up before. Now he forced himself to forget everything he ever learned about…germs…in the interest of giving mouth to mouth without losing his most recent meal.
"Come on John. Breathe!"
Suddenly John coughed. He sat him up.
"John. Are you okay?"
"Sh-sherlock?" He coughed again.
"Yes. It's me. Lestrade is in there, and they've got most of the men who were with Moriarty."
"Moriarty! Where is he?"
"When I pulled you out of that freezer, he didn't look like he'd be going anywhere soon."
"You have to…"
"What? Save him? If the medics get there in time, they will. But I suspect it is too late for him already. Right now I'm concerned about you."
"I'm fine Sherlock."
"You are not fine. You were barely breathing."
"Well, take me to the ambulance, and they'll check me out. But I'm sure I'll be fine."
Half an hour later the medics at the ambulance (with Sherlock's help) had convinced John to come with them to the A & E to be checked out. They had also declared James Moriarty dead of head trauma and asphyxiation.
After the doctor gave John permission to go home, Sherlock took him to pick up his things from the hotel, and they finally began making their way back to Baker Street. They sat in silence for several long minutes, until John broke the silence.
"Good riddance to him. I'm glad to know he's dead, Sherlock." Sherlock thought John's voice sounded unusually bitter.
"Would you say he wasn't a nice man?"
"Sherlock , don't be daft! He was as far from nice as it is possible to be. I…I hope you know that he things I said—Moriarty was forcing me to, or he said he'd kill you."
Sherlock looked at John closely. "Yes, I wondered as much, once I realized you'd been taken. But John…"
"It wasn't all an act, was it?"
John just turned away.
The next day began like any other since he'd entered into a flatshare with Sherlock. John woke up (perhaps a bit more stiff than usual, but nothing terrible), checked the shower for anything…interesting…and then showered, came downstairs, navigated his way around the mad scientist manifestation of Holmes (usually an early morning phenomenon), made tea and toast, and then took it to the sitting room to watch the morning news while he ate. There was one difference—Sherlock was working, but it was obvious to John that his mind was not on it. Before John finished his tea, Sherlock came and grabbed the remote off the arm of John's chair before sitting down in his own. He flipped around the channels for a few minutes, and then stared intently at the weather forecast before finally turning to speak.
"John. I've been considering, and I realize I can at times be a bit…thoughtless of you. I may not need the kind of emotional mollycoddling that you do, but I know that you need it, and you're my friend and I should be able to adapt."
"I also recognize that I may at times expect you to do whatever I ask. I did not think you minded doing little things, as you are a man of action, but it is possible that I am sometimes a bit overbearing."
"I will make an effort from now on to show you that I appreciate…"
"Sherlock, I understand everything. I've been doing a lot of thinking as well. And…I never believed…that is, I never really believed that you only wanted to use me…And…Sherlock?"
"You are a good man."
John was too embarrassed to watch Sherlock closely, but he was pretty sure Sherlock felt a bit uncomfortable as well. He thought he'd just savor the moment, as it wasn't likely to happen again. Besides, he wasn't going to say anything else…Too many awkward conversations like this, and he'd be wishing for the old, sociopath Sherlock back. They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Sherlock, to John's relief, un-muted the telly.
They had been watching for about twenty minutes, when Sherlock spoke up. "John, would you…" He coughed and got up suddenly.
John watched him, puzzled for a few moments, as he walked into the kitchen and began opening cupboards randomly. He suddenly realized what was going on when he saw Sherlock take out the tea, and begin carefully reading the directions on the tin. Sherlock grabbed a measuring spoon off the table from between a beaker full of greenish liquid, and a collection of assorted molars, and wiped it on his trousers. As Sherlock started to take the lid off the tea John suddenly had a vision of the last thing Sherlock had used the spoon for—or at least the last thing he'd seen Sherlock use the spoon for.
He jumped out of his chair.
"I'll do that."