The Real Thing

"Mycroft," John said, opening the door to his flatmate's brother. "And to what do we owe this pleasure?"

Mycroft gave John a superior smile while Sherlock snorted at the idea of Mycroft's visit being a "pleasure". "A file crossed my desk that I thought Sherlock should see," he answered, setting a briefcase down and pulling out a medium thick file folder. He handed the folder to Sherlock and sat down on the couch.

"I'll get tea," John said, not quite shaking his head while Sherlock flipped through the folder.

"John," Sherlock asked after a minute, "do you know, personally or by reputation, a Sebastian Moran? Colonel Sebastian Moran, dishonourably discharged from Her Majesty's Army?"

John took a minute to really think about it, but the only answer was, "No. Never heard of him. What's he done?"

"I do believe," Sherlock said quietly, "that Moriarty has decided that he's something of your opposite. Under which rock were you looking this time, Mycroft?"

"A routine background check of a government employee showed gambling debts owed to this man," Mycroft said, examining his umbrella. "He had asked this employee for information that was not, in and of itself, sensitive. In fact, the information is so innocuous, although the employee didn't realise it as such, that it appears to have been more of a test than anything else. Further investigation did reveal the possibility of a link to Moriarty; both of them have contacts in common."

"Dull," Sherlock said, but John could tell that this Moran had intrigued him.

Since the kettle was boiling, he poured tea for the three of them and handed the mugs around. Mycroft took his with an expression that suggested he never drank from anything as common as a mug, but that he would this time for politeness' sake. John would have found it more remarkable if he didn't wear the same expression every time he had tea at Baker Street.

"So, Moriarty decided he liked your notion of a colleague and went and found his own?"

"Oh, no," Sherlock said, shaking his head. "Assuming my deduction about the relationship is correct, Moriarty doesn't view Moran as anything as equal as a colleague. He's viewed as a pet; useful, but ultimately disposable."

Mycroft finished his tea and stood. "Thank you for the tea, John," he said, picking up his briefcase and umbrella. "Since you have the file, I'll show myself out."

John watched him leave and shook his head. "D'you think Moran gets that Moriarty sees him as a pet?" he asked. Trying to decipher the Holmes' brothers' interactions gave him a headache; he'd stopped trying. He found it amusing that the vitriol seemed to have decreased since he'd stopped saying anything about it.

"I doubt it," Sherlock said. "He likely believes that Moriarty needs him to succeed in his long-term goals. He has a much higher opinion of himself than anyone else does. Here," he handed the folder to John, "give this a read. I need to do some research."

John read through the file. Once he was done, he looked over at Sherlock. "I don't understand," he said. "Other than the fact that we both served in the military, we have nothing in common."

"Ah, but Moriarty doesn't want your counterpart," Sherlock said with a thin smile. "He wants your opposite. Consider: you're an army doctor. Bit of a contradiction in terms; however, it means you channel your more aggressive impulses into protection and defence. Moran channels his aggression into attack and, when no productive outlet exists, into simple violence. Most of his assignments are those of attack, and not infrequently behind the lines."

John, on the other hand, was seeing a different pattern. "Look at these known associates," he said, showing the relevant page to Sherlock.

Sherlock scowled. "I don't understand."

"The older ones are friends, not always close friends, but people he could go to for help, when he was in trouble, back in the day. Now look at them."

"Business acquaintances. Mostly Moriarty's," Sherlock said, but looked at John for his interpretation.

"Moriarty's cutting him off from his former support system. He's making sure Moran has nowhere else to go."

"And what do I do?" Sherlock's question was quiet. "What friends do I let you keep?"

John laughed. "You call most of them idiots, but that's just you. I have friends, real friends." Taking a deep breath, because the next admission was dangerous, he said, "And I have all of them because of you."

Sherlock started to disagree, but John smiled, cheerful and sure. "Yes, you're jealous of anything which gets in the way of my working with you, but you've managed to handle it beautifully. You play Mendelssohn to chase away my nightmares, you use chasing cabs across London to cure my leg and Mycroft is the one who cured, well, started the cure on my shoulder."

"Mycroft?" Sherlock asked, looking offended that John would grant his elder brother such power."

"When I first met Mycroft, he told me that I missed the battlefield."

To John's lack of surprise, Sherlock snorted. "Dull. You've never been happier."

"Not so much the battlefield, but he thought it was the adrenalin rush I was missing." John smiled, feeling truly happy. "I don't need a battlefield, but I do need to belong to a company"

And in a million little ways, that was John's life. He nagged at the Yarders to have their injuries properly cared for; he was on the call list at the clinic whenever they were a doctor short. Stamford called him when he needed an emergency teacher. Harry was trying to quit drinking again; Angelo was determined to turn them into a couple. The list kept going.

Just over a year ago, John had sat in a dreary bedsit wondering what to do with his life. The RAMC had tossed him out like so much bad rubbish, and he couldn't believe that he'd be able to make himself a life as a retired military doctor who could no longer function as either soldier or surgeon. He'd stared down at his gun and wondered if using it wasn't the better option for everyone involved.

Then he met Sherlock, and then he'd been kidnapped and asked to spy on Sherlock for his arch nemesis. "You're not traumatised by the war, Dr. Watson," Mycroft had said. "You miss it." And finally, as a parting shot, "Time to choose a side."

If he'd met Moriarty, John acknowledged that he probably would have followed him. He might have eventually come to his senses, which would have meant his death sentence, but he might not either. Moriarty could be very charming, and John was sure that he'd have been able to push all of the buttons to have John dancing to the psychopath's tune.

Instead, Sherlock and his side of chaos, destruction, truth and logic had shown up. To John's surprise, it was a recipe for a mostly happy life. (As long as the experiments were kept separate from the food.)

"Poor Moran," John said, shaking his head. "He got the substitute. I got the real thing." Grinning happily, John waited to see where Sherlock would lead him this time.