Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: Inspired by Petra, written for Jenny, and betaed by Luna. 3
THE FIRST DEATH
"So. Here we are," he says in a lilting, cheery voice.
The pale figure gasps against the table, limbs cruelly stretched spread eagle and tied down. Red rivulets of blood run down his torso as a silver knife glints in the light. "P-Please," he sobs.
"Now, that's not very in character, is it?" The scowl from the voice is heard rather than seen. The knife is traced along the body again, and the man shudders.
"P-piss off," he says dutifully, dully.
The voice sighs. "Slightly better I suppose, though I know you can do better. Perhaps you just need proper motivation." The pale man cries out as his hair is grabbed. Spindly fingers harshly caress the curly locks. A knife is lowered once again, and the cries continue.
Scotland Yard watches this video, and by the end every head is turned towards the consulting detective to whom it's addressed. His face is paler than usual, his eyes tight, and there is something playing at the edge of his lips. Is it barely controlled grimace, or a slipping smile?
Either way, the symbolism of the video is lost on no one.
THE SECOND DEATH
"How can you feel safe?" Lestrade finally asks.
Sherlock looks up, his face impassive, as if he's not in the middle of watching the new video. It's dim in the flat, and the computer's soft glow casts Sherlock into jagged pieces of shadow and light. He smiles, one edge of his lips creeping into darkness. Lestrade fights the urge to shudder.
"How can you worry about something as mundane as safety when someone is being so interesting?" Sherlock asks imperiously.
Out of the corner of his eye, Lestrade can see John hovering on the other side of the room. The doctor stiffens and turns away before Lestrade can read his expression.
"That interesting person you're talking about is Moriarty," John says tightly, back still turned.
Sherlock glances over at John, and Lestrade feels as though there's an entire unspoken conversation in the way Sherlock looks intently at the back of John's head. When Lestrade blinks, Sherlock is staring at the computer screen again, and Lestrade wonders if he imagined it.
"It's new," Sherlock says, as if that can cover all his sins. Lestrade gets the feeling that beneath his words lies the confession, I can't help but need this.
Sherlock focuses all of his attention on the video, probably deducing the lean, dark-haired man's life story from the way he screams. Electrocution. Lestrade almost shudders again.
Sherlock's mouth twists into that selfish smile.
THE THIRD DEATH
Mycroft has been around long enough to know that there is no such thing as true omniscience. He has learned by now that putting up maximum surveillance around 221 cannot ensure Sherlock's safety. Short of a miracle, Mycroft isn't sure anything can accomplish that.
He still tries though.
This time there is no pale, skinny man being systematically tortured on film. Instead there is an audio recording which begins with low, shaky breaths.
"I don't want to die," the voice says in a deep baritone. It's soft and trembling, enough to make Mycroft Holmes pause the video for exactly two seconds as he closes his eyes in remembrance.
When he opens them, he resumes the recording.
"Please don't kill me."
"Oh, shh, don't say that. The microphone will hear you. Future generations and all that, don't want to disappoint them now, do you?
"I didn't do anything-"
"You LIVED. And that. My dear. Is enough."
The last words were not directed to the man, but to whom he represented. Mycroft keeps his face void of emotion as he listens to the deep voice choke and gasp for breath, until it slows into nothing.
Mycroft's knuckles are white from gripping the table, but his face still shows nothing.
THE FOURTH DEATH
The fourth video comes, and John vomits. He has not been so violently sick in reaction to blood since Afghanistan. He's got a feeling these past few days will creep into his nightmares and become even more prevalent than scenes of war.
Sherlock sniffs disdainfully at the sounds of retching and turns his attention back to the video. John is throwing up everything he had for lunch, so he misses the widening of Sherlock's eyes, and the slight paling of his skin.
John takes a shuddering breath and tries not to relive the screams of the video. "This is not okay, Sherlock," he whispers into the cool lid of the toilet seat.
When John rejoins Sherlock, the video is still playing. Sherlock has put it on repeat, the grisly images playing out again and again. Sherlock is looking at the video with wide, sleepless eyes, the deep bags unsettling John as the consulting detective watches the screen.
John closes the lid of the laptop and puts his hand over Sherlock's. Sherlock's hand shakes under his perfectly steady touch. He looks up at Sherlock, but there is no emotion on his face. He's left it perfectly blank.
"Are you alright, John?" Sherlock asks absently, looking off into the space where the video had been playing.
"No," John says. "And neither are you."
Sherlock exhales shakily. "No, I suppose I'm not."
John tightens his grasp on Sherlock's hand. Maybe if he holds on tight enough, they can be all right again.
The body on the table is emaciated, pale to the point of pasty. His body is no longer clean lines and angles, but jagged edges and rough corners. His damp curly hair clings to his forehead, obscuring his vision.
"So. Here we are," says a voice, the one Sherlock has been hearing in videos and nightmares for days.
Moriarty raises a knife blade and draws it slowly down Sherlock's cheek. Sherlock bits his lip in a poor attempt to smother the cry threatening to spill from his lips. It comes out as a sob.
"You aren't going to speak?" Moriarty asks, full of mock surprise. "The others all did. Of course, those were all just warm ups, all preparing for the grand finale."
"Me," Sherlock rasps out, his throat dry. "I'm your grand finale."
"Bingo! Oh, Sherlock," he says, running the knife down Sherlock's torso, creating meaningless patterns down his chest. Sherlock shivers, unable to lean away from the pain.
"You know, they all screamed for me to save them, your doppelgangers," Moriarty says, his voice snaking into Sherlock's ear. Sherlock resists the urge to shiver again.
"But you? I want you to scream for me to kill you."
Then the knife is at play again, and Sherlock cannot help but scream.
THE FINAL DEATH
They kick down the doors and shoot Moriarty, but they are sure that they are too late.
John walks into the room first, his mouth set in a grim line. He sees a pale white body chained against a table, dark curls smothering its face. There is also the very faint rise and fall of a chest, signs of life.
"Sherlock," he breathes, running to his friend.
Sherlock's eyes are closed tight, and he stiffens as John places his hand over his. "Please," he whimpers, his voice weak and brittle.
"Sherlock, it's me, it's John," John says in a voice that he hopes is soothing instead of panicked. "We got you in time. Everything will be all right."
Sherlock shakes his head violently. "No. Please. Please, John, please," he cries brokenly.
John doesn't ask what he's pleading for, because he already knows. In the brief moment before ambulances come and investigations are made, he lowers his head against Sherlock's bare chest, feeling its rise and fall.
"Everything will be all right," he repeats softly