He froze. Age old instinct to fight or flee was useless in that moment, but the adrenaline kicked in, speeding his heart into high gear so that Sherlock could feel it pounding not just in his chest, but in the pulses on his neck and in his wrists. He tried to keep his breathing normal, tried to focus on slowing his heart rate, but the adrenaline rush worked against him, making it more difficult to concentrate than it was already. In the back of his mind, he wondered if adrenaline and morphine might be a bad combination.
He had never been more acutely aware of how vulnerable he was than at that moment. Unable to see, he could not react to Moriarty's presence. Unable to walk, he could not move to get away.
"I wouldn't bother yelling," Moriarty said, almost conversationally, as if he were commenting on the weather. "They sound-proof these rooms, you know. Because the machines are so loud."
Sherlock had already figured that out and the realization made it worse. He kept his unseeing eyes trained on Moriarty's voice, but other than locating where the other man was, it was useless. He couldn't see what Moriarty was doing, and that was the worst. Sherlock was suddenly hyper-aware of the IV needle in his arm, and the fact that he needed a contrast dye injection for the second portion of the MRI. There were needles everywhere, that could be filled with anything. How long had the radiologist said this would take? Against the drugs and the panic, he struggled to remember. Thirty to forty-five minutes.
Moriarty chuckled, and Sherlock felt a pressure at the foot of the bed, as if the other man were leaning or perching on it.
"This is fun, isn't it?" he asked. "Almost like hide and go seek except, of course, with all of its essential elements stripped away."
This is quite possibly the first time you've ever been truly terrified of anything, some small part of his mind that remained rational and detached, even now, told him. He swallowed hard. If this is what terror felt like, he could leave it.
"Fun isn't the word I'd choose," he managed. Moriarty laughed and gave Sherlock's right lower leg a companionable squeeze.
"Well, you've been unwell," the other man replied, as if conceding to something. Sherlock fought against the instinct to fall back on the bed and look away, insofar as that was possible.
"How did you get in here?" Sherlock asked.
"Oh no, no, no, Sherlock," Moriarty said, true disappointment in his voice. "So boring! Come now, you're better than that. Although, I suppose the morphine can't be helped. It's not the same, you know, playing against you like this." He sighed, as if this were really a let down. "But I'll suppose I'll have to manage. Really, though, who suspects a bobby coming into a hospital? And then, who suspects a tech once inside? But there are so many other interesting questions."
Sherlock remained quiet, not out of a desire not to ask, but struggling to stay caught up and alert. The adrenaline helped, but everything he'd sustained didn't, and Moriarty was right about the morphine, despite what John said Sherlock's reaction to it.
"For starters, you could ask me what I've done. That's an old favourite, isn't it? But you know what I did. Too bad about that delivery driver, but he was really quite uncooperative. I heard a few others died, too, how tragic. Do you want to know why?"
"Why?" Sherlock managed. He had no illusions that Moriarty wasn't keeping tight track of how long they'd been in there since the orderlies left. This was not a case of keeping a suspect talking until back up arrived. There was no back up. Moriarty held all the cards, and could kill him whenever he wanted. That knowledge was like ice.
"You really should put your heart into this more," he admonished. "One might think you're not all that interested. Why? I was bored. You know that feeling, don't you?"
Sherlock tightened his jaw against nodding.
"Not so bored that I kill people," he said.
"It was a game, Sherlock. An experiment. The other victims, inconsequential. After all, what were their lives? Do you suppose they did anything worthwhile? Extraneous data. I was only interested in what it would do to you." He paused a moment, and Sherlock wondered what he was doing, what his expression was like. "I must admit, I am very pleased with how it worked out. I did not expect these results. This is most satisfying. Tell me, what will you do now with all of your time? What does a consulting detective do when he's forced to retire, I wonder?"
"The accident might have killed me," Sherlock said, resisting the urge to lash out at the question about what he would do now, if only because it was so close to the surface of his terror.
"Oh, well, then you'd have been dead," Moriarty said with equanimity. "I'd have found something else to do, in time, I suppose. After all, there's still John."
Involuntarily, Sherlock's hands tightened into fists. Moriarty chuckled.
"Ah yes, the good doctor," he said. "I never did congratulate you on your nuptials did I? How remiss of me. I wish you two all happiness, of course. Well, except for perhaps right now. And the night of the accident, but nothing personal you understand."
He paused, then laughed again.
"Terribly sorry, no, it is personal. And you've made it so much easier to make it personal, too, haven't you, bringing someone else in? We mustn't form attachments, yes? Emotions are such finicky things, I find. Look at Molly, although, you can't, actually, of course. But I should thank you for introducing John into all of this. He's immensely entertaining, you know. The two of you even more so, together."
Moriarty paused again and Sherlock fought to keep his breathing under control.
"Marrying a doctor, how ideal," the other man commented. "There are many who would be envious, I'm sure. Although your relationship is a tad less traditional than most. Not unexpected for you, really, but I was surprised about John."
"If you touch John, Mycroft will kill you," Sherlock managed.
"Oh, that's a bit better, isn't it? I expected something like "don't you dare touch John.". But your dear brother hasn't stopped me from seeing you, has he? I'm glad you said Mycroft, and not yourself, since there's really not much you can do at the moment, is there? Certainly right now, John must be fine, since I'm right here, but there's always tomorrow."
"Someone will find you," Sherlock promised. "Even if I can't. John won't stop once you've killed me."
Laughter, clear as a bell, broke out in the room.
"Kill you? Oh, no, my friend. I'm not here to kill you! Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Then what?" Sherlock asked, warring feelings of relief and terror raging through him. He felt Moriarty shift on the bed, and from the sound of the man's voice, it seemed he had leaned closer.
"No, I just wanted to admire my handiwork. See it up close and whatnot. You really look terrible, you know. Perhaps it's a mercy that you're blind. Has John told how you look yet? I should hope not." He paused and Sherlock wondered if the adrenaline and terror might make him pass out. "No, killing you would be dull, wouldn't it? I mean, then you'd be dead, and I'd have no fun. I've enjoyed our games, you see."
"You aren't a game," Sherlock growled.
"Game, case, arch-nemesis, choose one," Moriarty said. "I prefer game, and I think I will prefer this one much, much more. You see, here I am, in the middle of a hospital surrounded by your brother's people and Lestrade's officers and yet no one knows anything's amiss. I can go wherever I choose, be as close to you as I wish, and you can't see me."
He laughed again, gleeful.
"It's almost like Christmas!" he exclaimed. "How do you watch over your shoulder when you can't see?"
Sherlock gripped the bed in order to ground himself in something physical. The contact help, gave him something to focus on that wasn't the sound of Moriarty's voice.
"And I suppose I can come up with ways to lead Lestrade's men on some merry chases," Moriarty commented. "It won't be as interesting, I wager, but it will pass the time. I have several ideas for you, too."
Sherlock closed his eyes, gesturing impatiently at his face.
"Isn't this enough?" he asked.
"You should know better than that, Sherlock. Is it ever enough? When would you be satisfied? When would the game become dull, each case like the last? No, I'm not ready to quit yet, even if you're required to."
Sherlock gritted his teeth and bit the inside of his lip, focusing on the tight pain as hard as he could.
"And now, I really must dash. Don't want to keep you waiting and all. The MRI tech may still be alive, I have no idea. Do tell your bobby for me, will you? I shall be seeing you."
Sherlock half sat up as Moriarty's footsteps moved across the room from him. He heard the control booth door open and shut and then silence. He stayed absolutely still, straining his ears against the hammering of his heart, trying to detect any small sound that might alert him to Moriarty's continued presence. Slow minutes passed and there was nothing but the sound of emptiness around him. It pressed down on him, reminding him how isolated he was, how helpless.
The sound of a door opening made him yell.
"What is it?" a new voice demanded and through the haze of terror that had paralyzed him, Sherlock recognized the voice of one of the orderlies. He let out a shuddering breath and there was the sound of running footsteps across the room.
"What is it? What happened?"
"Get my brother," Sherlock managed to order through gritted teeth. "Get John. He was here."
"What the hell, Mycroft?" John yelled. The room was chaos. The hospital had been locked down, but it took time to search such a large building, and Sherlock knew that Moriarty was long gone before the order had even been issued.
"I'm trying to find out," Mycroft replied gruffly, angrily. Sherlock lay on his back, staring blankly at nothing, listening to the shouted conversation in a detached way. They had moved him back to his room with a heavy police escort after the area between the MRI suite and his room had been cleared.
"You said you could keep him safe! You've been keeping tabs on him his whole life and this one time when he really needs it, you screw up! Christ!"
"John, calm down." That was Lestrade's voice.
"Calm down? That – that raging bloody maniac got in here! How the hell am I supposed to be calm about this? Why the hell aren't you out there, looking for him?"
"We're working on it-"
"Working on it? I can't- This is insane!"
"Everyone get out," Sherlock said quietly. Immediately, the sound died.
"What?" his brother said.
"Out," Sherlock said again, more loudly this time, his voice shaking, threatening to break. "Get out. Now. John, you stay."
"Sherlock-" Mycroft started.
Sherlock screwed his eyes shut, scrubbing his face with his hands, regretting it when pain flared from his bruises and healing cuts.
"Get the goddamn hell out of my room!"
There was a moment of silence, then John said:
"Get out," Sherlock repeated. Hesitation hung in the air a moment, then there were footsteps towards the door. It opened and closed again and silence settled for several seconds. Sherlock set his jaw and kept his eyes tightly shut, until John said:
His next breath out was a sob and John was beside him instantly, gathering him up, as though he were a small child. Sherlock didn't want this – this terror that wouldn't abate, this helplessness that left him ragged and exposed. Moriarty had robbed him of his sight, of his ability to find patterns and details and clues others would miss, and, in doing so, had robbed him of any control over his life.
How did one look over one's shoulder, when one was blind?
John held him and Sherlock sucked in a deep breath, holding it, trying to force the terror to heel. But he was shaking, and could not stop. He shuddered and let out his breath in another sharp sob.
"I can't do this, John," he said, fighting, and failing, to keep his voice steady. "He's not going to stop, because there's no one to stop him."
"I will," John promised.
Sherlock managed to shake his head. Part of him recognized that he was having a panic attack, from the sustained adrenaline rush and the terror Moriarty had inflicted on him, but it didn't help. The more he struggled, the worse it felt, the harder it was.
"It's okay," John whispered. "I'm right here."
That was enough. Sherlock let go – it was that, or break, even for him – and lowered his head onto John's chest.
The doctors had given him a sedative, refusing to bow the demands of the police and of Mycroft and his people to talk to Sherlock. The search of the hospital had turned up nothing, save for the terrified MRI tech bound and gagged in the corner of the control room. Security cameras had Moriarty coming in, almost unrecognizable in his police uniform, and going out, in a tech uniform, waving cheerfully, mischievously, at the camera.
Sherlock took the sedative, finding a way to slip past his brother's mandates. John didn't argue, but took his side against Mycroft and the police, telling them in a calm, infuriating voice that they would have to wait, that they had plenty to go on already.
"I'm not going anywhere," John had whispered as the nurse had injected the sedative expertly into Sherlock's arm. He had managed to touch John's face again, to see him in his own way once more before falling asleep, surrendering gratefully to a temporary world in which there was only oblivion.
He slept solidly through the day and the night, through the changes in nursing shifts, the rounds from the doctors, the glowers from his brother had his bedside, until the early hours of the morning. Waking was like drifting on warm waters, rising and falling peacefully, aware that he was regaining consciousness, but feeling no more fear, no panic.
Warmth on his right side told him John was asleep next to him, and the steady pressure of a hand covering his was comforting. Sherlock adjusted his hand slightly, so that he could curl his fingers over John's. The doctor made a small, satisfied noise in his sleep, but didn't stir otherwise.
Sherlock allowed himself to enjoy the moment, to detail as much of it as he could before it slipped away. He inhaled deeply, smelling the scents of old Chinese food and hospital disinfectant, mostly masked by the John's own scent, which he'd always associated with the smell of sunshine. He turned his face toward his husband's and smiled slightly, then turned his face toward the ceiling again and reluctantly opened his eyes.
The room seemed different that morning, airier, lighter. The sounds from the hallway and from the medical instruments were more muted and he was glad not to have them intruding on this moment. Carefully he shifted his left leg ever so slightly, to ease the stiffness in his thigh that came from the weight of the cast on his lower leg.
It took him a moment to identify the change.
It was brighter.
Instinctively, Sherlock pushed himself up on one arm and looked toward the window. The haze of grey that had become his world had faded and he could see light, not just at the edges of his vision, but all around. He stared, trying to resolve it into something, then looked down at where his husband was lying.
There was John, asleep in the pre-dawn dimness. It was blurry and faint, and this would not resolve itself for several days, but Sherlock could see him as outlines, pale strokes of gold hair and white skin against the sharper white of the hospital sheets and blankets.