Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to the BBC, created by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I sadly own nothing.
I am aware how long it has been since I have updated this story: for anyone who has loyally been waiting for or looking forward to it, I can only apologise for the prolonged delay, and thank you for your patience. I hope that this is up to standard; as always, I greatly appreciate your reviews, they really do make the difference to me.
Here we go.
It could have been years. Seconds twisted before his eyes, laboured minutes contorting into unrecognised hours, which in turn gave way to long, endless days whose beginnings and ends folded into themselves like a cheap smoke and mirrors magic trick. Fragments of speech, print and scent pulled at him, though he couldn't have placed them if he tried. Instead, these half-forgotten memories began to distort and shift, blurring themselves seamlessly into other fantasies of dream and reality, dimmed imaginings whose shapes and forms inverted themselves and left lasting impressions on his retinas. It were as though all that he trusted in – those irrefutable laws of physics that had anchored and guided him for so long – had simply crumpled beneath him, leaving in their place a swirling, unknown abstract, utterly alien, that paid no heed to his grappling for linearity and reason. He was lost to himself.
Jim could therefore never be certain of when Sherlock had left. After a while, he had become dimly aware of the shapes in his vision dissolving and re-forming themselves as solid entities, which gradually resolved into recognisable objects: a bench; a playground slide; an abandoned packet of cigarettes. The shadows were lengthy, opaque where they had earlier been hazy; the sky had darkened to gunmetal, threatening rain. He was alone on the swing set – had probably been alone for quite some time now. That Sherlock had ever been next to him, with his long coat and clever fingers, already seemed doubtful to him: the memory had begun to take on the candescence of a daydream or fantasy as opposed to what had (seconds? minutes? hours ago?) been a reality, as much of a reality as the biting wind or tarmac beneath his feet. Jim was perturbed to find that the harder he tried to piece together his and Sherlock's conversation, the more the details eluded him. There was however no mistaking Sherlock's final statement to him. He couldn't have escaped that if he wanted to: Holmes' voice came unbidden from the spell of confusion, swimming up slowly and purposefully to take residence in Jim's mind, where his tones echoed with the greatest of clarity. How they had been said at the time was debatable: now though, alone in the playground, Jim Moriarty replayed to himself a subtle inflection of contempt, of mockery; of a sneering, deliberate attack on himself, cold and malicious. Jim's hands squeezed into fists, nails finding familiar welts in his palms. Through the dull throb Sherlock continued undaunted, assailing Jim's conscience with his disdain. The word 'love' became mangled, a meaningless string of consonants and vowels repeated until it was almost pointless in his head, bleeding into other cool insults and humiliations. Moriarty winced slightly, fingertips pressed to his temple. He couldn't think. His head was overrun, crumbling under the weight of his memories and desires and desperate thoughts. The very ground under his shoes seemed unbalanced; if he shifted his weight, he was sure that the earth would shift too.
"Boyfriend leave you did he, Moriarty?"
The voice cut through the haze in his mind as though it were a surgical scalpel, the soft, tenuous tissue of Jim's thoughts yielding to its intrusion. Slowly uncurling his fists, Jim raised his head and, with an effort, smiled; it was a bright, winning smile, the kind that a small child one bestows upon a beloved parent. On Moriarty however, the smile slipped and faltered at his eyes; there instead lay an implacable, cold rage.
"Carl Powers. A pleasure as always. I wasn't aware that they were allowing the mental incompetent to roam the grounds freely." Jim's tone was solicitous, friendly even: the words themselves however were imbued with an icy contempt.
Powers, who had before been looking inexplicably pleased with himself, tensed: his broad swimmer's shoulders hunched, and his small eyes narrowed as he stared at Jim with an undisguised loathing. Like Moriarty, he was in his own clothes as a sixth former. This was, thankfully, where the similarities ended. Whilst Jim chose to attire himself in cutting-edge tailoring, Carl Powers favoured jeans, sweatshirts and trainers. Trainers. It was really all Jim could do to stop himself shuddering at the sartorial abomination that stood in front of him. Then again, he mused, lip curling, perhaps Powers' dress sense simply couldn't be helped. One could postulate that his lack of sophistication in the realm of fashion held a distinct connection to his frankly laughable IQ level. As an evolutionary throwback, it was unlikely that Carl would ever have the capacity to appreciate Moriarty's tastefully put together ensembles; the jeans and trainers could be argued as indicative of his somewhat simpler mental capacity.
Whatever the state of his dress, Powers clearly wasn't best pleased at the disdainful look that had flitted across Jim's face. Taking a step towards the swing, he scowled, an angry flush working itself across his cheeks.
"You talk to Shirley like that? No wonder your boyfriend dumped you, you little fag."
"Excuse me?" Moriarty could feel his front of civility slipping: the ice in his voice was more pronounced now, cutting into the phrase. He wouldn't afford this Neanderthal the chance to anger him. He was too good for that.
Powers seemed slightly buoyed by Jim's question. He pulled himself up, voice assuming a fake tone of confidence. "Seemed like you and your boyfriend were having a nice, long chat over here. Funny that he just offed and left you all alone like this, isn't it?" Carl smiled, lips pulled back over his teeth. "What happened? Lover's fight? Not such a good fuck for the great Sherlock, Moriarty?" The smile was triumphant now. "Or maybe he realised that you're a creepy little shit." With that, Powers folded his arms and lent in a mock-casual way against the frame of the swings, staring at Jim, smirking broadly.
Studying his face, Jim tilted his head: unlike Carl his face was blank, seemingly unperturbed by the verbal assault. "Bad shave today, Carl?" he enquired mildly.
Tensing slightly again, Powers blinked at Moriarty, hand automatically rising to rub at an angry scar on his cheek. "The fuck?"
"Your scar," Jim continued neutrally, gazing calmly at Carl, "suggests that your razor is far too blunt; you've damaged the upper epidermis quite badly from the look of it. You should invest in a new blade, something sharp." At this, Jim smiled slightly; a small, insouciant smile. His eyes were locked to Powers'. "Of course, if you wanted, I could show you how to use a blade properly, Carl." A pause. Powers shifted slightly, unease evident. When Jim spoke again, any veneer of friendliness was gone: whilst the smile remained, his voice was low, the implication of his words perfectly clear. "Nothing would give me more pleasure, I assure you."
Carl Powers jerked backwards as though Jim had hit him, his face contorting in confusion and fear. "The hell, you fucking freak!" Face ashen, he fisted his hands in his pockets, snarling. "Christ! They should lock you up, you fucking psycho. You and your homo boyfriend!" Throughout this tirade, Jim's smile had remained unwavering, his eyes still on Powers. Carl however had lowered his gaze, eyes darting over the ground at Jim's feet. He kicked out suddenly at an empty coke can.
With this last exclamation of disgust, Carl turned and hurried away from Moriarty, glancing back once before he disappeared round the corner. Jim sat still on the swing, unflinching; slowly, the smile melted from his face, expression becoming once again inscrutable. After a time, he rose to his feet and smoothed down his trousers, before picking up his bag and exiting the playground.
By the time he was home it was early evening, with dusk setting in over the street. Jim blinked up at the sky, brow furrowing at the spreading darkness: his day was out of sync, the chronology fragmented across the minutes and hours. Finding his key, Jim let himself in and lent over to switch on the hall light, before bending to remove his shoes. He was thankful to find that his mother was out; the thought of her inane questions made him shudder slightly, grateful to be alone in the cold and silent house. Walking through the hall and into the kitchen, it occurred to Jim suddenly that having not had the chance to eat his lunch, he was in fact starving. There was some tomato soup in the cupboard: he could have that heated in five minutes. Moriarty hurried over to the cabinet, feeling keenly now the gnawing at his stomach. Fetching his soup, pan and a wooden spoon, he quickly set to work at the hob, opening the tin and lighting the gas ring. As Jim moved to place the pan on the hob, he found himself staring at the circle of flame: the tongues of fire ebbing and flowing in formation around the small black disc, the heat shimmering off the peaks in a haze. Fire, he thought, was clean. There was a beautiful simplicity to it; it didn't have a purpose or agenda in its devastation, but raged indiscriminately, equalizing men in its unforgiving blaze. No regard for emotion, no regard for morals. No. Fire was destruction in its most pure form.
Slowly, Jim moved his hand towards the flame. He felt the heat gently at first, licking at the very tip of his finger, wavering across the grooves in his skin; and then, as he moved in further, into the core of the flames, it lanced into something sharper, something altogether more primal. At their centre the flames were not really red, but a steady, pulsing blue.
When he finally removed his finger, the skin had flayed slightly, now red and with an unnatural sheen. His soup lay to the side, cold and forgotten.