A/N – At the pool, before Sherlock arrives, Moriarty plants the seeds for psychological warfare against John and Sherlock.
So, this is eventually going to be a chapter fic (hopefully), but I'm testing out the prologue first, since it could stand alone as a oneshot if I decide not to continue it. Not brit-picked, so I apologize for any mistakes in that way.
I don't own Sherlock, or Sherlock Holmes. If I did, series 2 would already be out. :(
Slosh, drip. Slosh, drip.
The noise echoed oddly everywhere, bouncing wavily off the walls of… wherever he was. Wetly. John dragged his eyes open and frowned. For a moment, he squinted at the flickering shapes on the walls and his first confused thought was fire? But that didn't feel right. Shouldn't he be hotter, if there were fire inches from his face? His next thought was blue. It couldn't be fire then. Fire wasn't blue. Usually.
A fine deduction, he snickered to himself. Sherlock would be proud.
He blinked several times to clear his clouded head and wondered why his skull ached. Concussion? That seemed most likely. Swallowing to clear the sticky feeling from his mouth, he rubbed a clumsy hand against a sore spot on his neck. Drugged as well, then. Well, that just seemed like overkill… The stark, chemical smell of chlorine hit him, and he realized he was laying facedown in a shallow puddle on the floor. With a groan, he lifted his head from the cool ceramic and grout digging into his cheek and looked around. Once recognition of his surroundings dawned on him, however, he was utterly bewildered all over again. A… swimming pool? How—what?
He struggled to his feet blearily, staggering as the movement shifted weight he knew he hadn't had there before he'd woken up. He looked down—and his heart stopped. Horrified eyes widened as his hands pushed aside a ridiculously puffy coat and touched the bulky vest strapped to his chest beneath. A tiny red light danced over the black material. His breath quickened. Bomb. Bloody hell, his foggy mind supplied, he was strapped to a bloody bomb.
But why? How? He searched his memory frantically. He'd been walking, on the way to get a cab to Sarah's when… He growled in frustration. What had happened? He must have been attacked, that much was clear. He hazily remember three men—had it really only been three?—jumping him as he'd turned a corner. It had happened so fast… They must have knocked him out and dragged him here and… strapped this bomb to him… Bomb. Oh, God…
The fifth pip.
He was the fifth pip.
"I see you've finally decided to wake up," a lilting voice called to his left. "Good job, too. It's almost show time." John whipped his head around toward the voice.
His eyes came to rest on a little man standing by the poolside, stance self-assured with his hands in the pockets of his obviously expensive suit. A quick glance around confirmed that they seemed to be the only people in the area. Well, except for the invisible sniper, obviously, with his little red dot. Did the sniper count? Didn't matter. John frowned and cleared his throat. "Right. And… who are you?"
The man's smile curved up, all Cheshire cat and barely veiled malice as he rocked on his heels. John's stomach suddenly froze. "Oh, I think you know who I am, Dr. Watson."
Moriarty. His mind whispered the name tremulously, and he felt a jolt of panic. John stood a little straighter despite the added weight and he worked to fix a glare on his features. Even if his heart was beating out of his chest, he wasn't going to let this bastard see that.
If this man was anywhere near as smart as Sherlock, however, John suspected that Moriarty already knew. Besides, he could probably smell fear. It was his stock in trade, after all.
"Spectacular," John managed to spit out dryly. "What do you want?"
"Ever the soldier, eh, Johnny boy? I have always enjoyed a good show of bravado," the criminal trilled. He made an expression of mock-stoicism before grinning. The bravery of the soldier… John thought almost fondly back to when Mycroft was the worst he had to worry about, back when he'd wondered if the man with the umbrella was some sort of evil mastermind. Mastermind, maybe, but not evil as far as he could tell. Moriarty though? John sighed. Only Sherlock could dredge up a man like this as an opponent—and be happy about it.
He studied the other man cautiously and Moriarty tilted his head under his scrutiny, as though enjoying it. The criminal allowed the stalemate to continue for a moment before taking a few casual steps toward John. "How does it feel?" he asked suddenly. John was eerily reminded of a cat tossing its prey in the air, playing with it before making the final kill. Brown eyes gleamed, predatory, in the half-light. The doctor marveled briefly at the unnerving—and almost certainly insane—expressiveness of the other man's face. How could he even keep up that expression? Never mind. Focus, John.
He'd play for now. What choice did he have? Jaw clenched, he took a breath. "How does what feel?"
Moriarty's smile quirked up at one corner, as if to say,"Good boy." John bristled, but stayed silent as he waited for an answer.
"You used to be a proud military man," Moriarty began slowly. His mouth was angled as though sad, almost pitying, but his eyes were smiling devilishly. John tensed and tilted his chin up boldly. Wherever this was going, he didn't like it. "Off to war in service of Queen and country, and all that. You made a home there, didn't you? For all the horror, you thought you mattered there. Silly idea; of course you didn't. For every life you saved, more were lost, weren't they? And you couldn't do a thing to stop that. But you thought you mattered. And it made you happy for once in your sad little life, didn't it?"
Fists clenched, John could barely feel the slight tremor in his left hand. The sound of gunshots, the cries of the dying, the glazed blankness of dead eyes staring up at him, blood on his hands in the heat of the sun… Don't listen to him; ignore him, he repeated in his head. He tried to focus on the gentle sloshing of the water in the pool, the hum of the pool heater, anything. But he couldn't help listening. Moriarty's voice was hypnotic, and he felt it drawing him in.
"Poor little Johnny," the voice said in a simper. "The nasty divorce, father an alcoholic, mother unstable. You just wanted everyone to get along. Crazy sister you've tried so hard to save. But no matter what you try, you can't. You've felt useless your whole life, haven't you? That's why you became a doctor. A doctor is never useless. And a soldier is never helpless. You took charge of your life, and you risked your life to prove it. The danger made it feel real—made you feel alive, made you feel useful. You thought you'd found your 'purpose' in Afghanistan." He made exaggerated air quotes around the word "purpose," eyes widening comically, before replacing his hands in his pockets with a smirk. "But you were running away. And perhaps a little part of you that you'd never admit to didn't even mind if you died there."
Moriarty's face took on an oddly intense expression, and John tried to swallow past the growing lump in his throat. No—this wasn't right. There was no way Moriarty could know so much about him, when he'd never even... It wasn't bloody possible. But there the man stood, smirking, knowing he was right, and John suppressed a shudder. Still, he maintained eye contact with the brown eyes as their owner cheerfully tore him to shreds. He wouldn't look away. He wouldn't give him the satisfaction. His nails dug into the palms of his steady hands as glared. Give me your best shot, Moriarty. It'll take more than that.
"You lost more than just a job when you were wounded in Afghanistan. You lost the only stable family you'd ever had. The only place you'd made a difference. And then they just abandoned you on the streets on your homeland with barely a nod of thanks!" the criminal gasped. He made a tutting noise of mock-offense. "Parents dead, sister drunk, unable to do surgery. You were alone. Useless and helpless and everything you'd hated about yourself all over again."
John shivered. God, the damned blankness of that room where he'd lived, like it could swallow you while you slept… No. He wasn't going to just stand here and listen to this. He had to say something, tell Moriarty off, tell him he was wrong. But the truth was that he wasn't wrong. Moriarty's smirk widened as he twisted his verbal knife. "How does it feel to go from being the soldier to being the stray, the pet… the idiot companion of a genius? It's shameful how much you care for that man, even suspecting he can never reciprocate." His voice dropped in volume and his eyes blazed. "He'll destroy you—and like a sick puppy, you love him for it."
At the reference to Sherlock, John felt his stomach clench. Piercing blue eyes under a mess of dark curls.
The man had given him purpose again after Afghanistan. Something to live for. Given him back his leg and his life, in a sense, he supposed. He'd been captivated by the man and his sheer brilliance, Sherlock's raw potential to do so much good. John had done everything he could to protect and help him, from day one. More than that though, John was drawn to Sherlock, in a way that he could never have anticipated. Maybe Moriarty was right. Maybe it was just because that part of him that craved danger saw his own destruction in those blue eyes and screamed Oh, God, yes. Still, John couldn't help feeling there was more to it than that. It didn't matter though, he supposed. In the end it amounted to the same.
Even feeling the weight of the Semtex vest weighing down on him and knowing it was because he knew Sherlock, John had no doubt that it was worth it.
John wondered idly if his absence would mean anything to the detective. Would he notice something was wrong and deduce he'd been kidnapped? He doubted it. He'd said he was going out, so Sherlock would have no reason to suspect… But he would find out eventually. There was no point, otherwise, to all this. Would John just be another puzzle piece in the game to Sherlock, like the other four pips? Moriarty had clearly intended to up the stakes by taking him though. Surely that counted for something, if Moriarty thought it would affect him more? Perhaps slightly more than a puzzle piece then?
Still, John silently prayed with all his heart that Sherlock stayed away. He doubted the other man would—he couldn't resist a challenge, and Moriarty had become a sort of addiction. But John was beginning to suspect that the detective had finally found a worthy opponent, and he wasn't sure if it was one the man he'd come to think of as a friend could ultimately win against. His mouth went dry at the thought of a defeated Sherlock, and his lips formed a thin line. Not on my watch.
"Sherlock Holmes," Moriarty purred, watching John carefully, "who picked up a stray off the streets because he was bored. You didn't think he kept you around because you were actually of any use to him, did you, Johnny boy? That he cared?" John's stomach dropped in dread as Moriarty threw that bomb onto his mental tracks and completely derailed his train of thought. Not of any use…? Hold on, what?
Moriarty studied the doctor for a moment before his lip curled. "Hardly. Sherlock Holmes keeps you around because you're a bit of a curiosity to him, something he doesn't quite understand—yet. The mousy little man with the nerves of steel. But you know Sherlock Holmes, don't you." Moriarty grinned. "He never leaves a puzzle unsolved for long."
His smile curved up a little more as he began to circle John, completely at ease with his hands still in his pockets. Locking his knees to avoid falling from legs that were beginning to feel like the sloshing pool water, John watched. "What do you think he'll do, once he's figured you out?" Moriarty mused. "Do you think he'll keep you around? Let you beg for scraps and tag along at his heels, like you do now? Of course not," he scoffed with a little scrunch of his nose. He leaned in slowly and grinned, so close to John's ear that the former soldier could feel the man's breath. John tried to tense away even as he was conscious of the laser on his chest. As he worked to control the increasingly panicked pace of his breathing, a morbid part of John listened intently to the words he knew he should ignore.
"He'll get bored."
John's breath caught.
With a quiet laugh at the flash of despair John couldn't quite hide, Moriarty skipped back a step and continued the leisurely stroll around his victim. His voice hardened to a tone that didn't match the jovial expression on his face. "He'll get bored, Johnny. And he'll leave you behind as soon as he does. You may be of interest now. He may even think that he cares for you a little—it's easy enough to mistake prolonged interest with affection, especially for someone like him—but don't expect it to last long. He'll recognize the difference soon enough. And he'll abandon his little stray. You're of absolutely no value to a man like him. Nothing you do can change that."
No. No, that wasn't... Quick breaths rushed in through his nose, shuddered out. He tried to focus on keeping a steady rhythm to the breaths, stubbornly ignoring the small tremors washing over him. His drugged muscles ached with the effort of standing and his already foggy head clouded further in confusion. Sherlock didn't care.
But Sherlock wouldn't just abandon him… would he? Surely John was at least of some value to his flatmate? After all they'd been through, he'd thought… he'd hoped… Almost from the start, he'd felt a sort of connection with the man he couldn't explain, and he'd thought at times that Sherlock felt it too. That they were friends, for lack of a better word. Sure, Sherlock expressed it in ways most people wouldn't recognize, but he'd thought that was just because he was, well… Sherlock.
He supposed he really had no evidence to support his conclusion at all though. In fact… he had more to support Moriarty's claim than his own. Everything else Moriarty had said was certainly true. With every breath the pain in his chest increased a little. Maybe Sherlock was just… bored. Sherlock had been going about his life and solving cases long before John had come along. And if John were to somehow disappear, he suspected the detective would go right along, the same as always.
John didn't matter. He probably never would.
Still, the hope that maybe he did matter somehow was all he had left to hold onto. And even if he didn't matter to Sherlock… If he could keep Sherlock safe, help him solve a case just a bit faster than he would have on his own, maybe it was a bit that mattered. To someone. Somewhere. Even if they didn't know it.
That shadow of a hope was all he had. Because he really was useless everywhere else. God, it was all he had left—and suddenly it struck him just how truly pathetic that was. He was.
Moriarty's grin widened as he saw his victim realize the truth. Obviously satisfied, the man turned and strolled away, leaving John alone with the laser sight over his shattered heart.
And everything exploded.
A month later, John woke with a start. Moriarty's grinning face seemed to linger, taunting him as the memory faded into the dark of John's bedroom. Just a dream. It had just been a dream… A sigh shuddered out and he let his head flop back onto his pillow. God, this was the second one this week. How long was this going to go on? He dragged one shaking hand across his face as he clenched his sheets with the other, desperate to ground himself in the present. The thin fabric was cool against his hand, and it took him a moment to realize that it was moist with sweat from his nightmare. He unclenched his hand in disgust and sat up with a cough.
A glance at his clock told him, as expected, that it was far too early for this. Or late. The glowing 2:34AM stared at him from across the room, and John moaned before he noticed the scratching noise creeping under his door. A weary smile snuck onto his face. Of course Sherlock was playing the violin at two thirty in the morning. The scratching whine took on a frenzied pace before sliding seamlessly into a soothing concerto of some sort. John relaxed back into his bed and breathed out. As always—whenever his friend was actually trying—his playing was beautiful.
It didn't completely drive away the nightmare though. As usual, John tried to combat this particular nightmare (or memory, really, he supposed) with the memory of what had happened after Moriarty had left him, crushed and alone, to wait for Sherlock's arrival. He remembered Sherlock's face through the encounter, the outright fear, his jittery actions and words after they'd thought the consulting criminal had left. Frankly, it had shocked John. No one could have seen Sherlock that night and not think that Sherlock cared.
Easy enough to mistake prolonged interest with affection, the ghost of Moriarty reminded him all too gleefully. He stifled another cough with a growl and turned onto his side. Damn Moriarty and his lies. His words were nothing but bloody poison. But what disturbed John most was how true most of Moriarty's words regarding John's life had been, things he'd had no right to know…
What if he was right about this too?
No. This was ridiculous. He couldn't believe he even considered buying into the words of a complete psychopath. He'd obviously been trying to shake John up—and he'd succeeded well enough, John had to admit. But it was over now. John breathed carefully in, then out. In, out. Sherlock's private concert crescendo'd downstairs and John was forced to smile at a flashy, rapid progression of notes.
As he continued to focus on breathing, the tremulous notes washed over him, finally washing away the remnants of the nightmare. He wondered for the hundredth time if Sherlock somehow knew when John had had a nightmare, or if he just happened to be playing whenever John needed something to coax him back into sleep. He rather suspected the latter. He doubted his flatmate slept at an hour any normal person would consider reasonable, and he was more likely to be playing his violin at night than not, even if they had a case. It helped the detective think—or alleviate his boredom, in this instance. He laughed softly to himself. It was certainly a better outlet than blowing up the microwave. Again.
Ten minutes later, he was silently thanking Sherlock and Mozart or Vivaldi or whoever had written the piece that was being played as his eyes closed in exhaustion. Recovering from a cold was always a pain, he thought as he coughed again, and he was grateful for any sleep he could get. Arm resting over his closed eyes, he focused on the music and let out a breath.
He was just on the edge of a hopefully dreamless sleep when his phone rang. The noise startled his raw nerves into action almost before he knew what he was doing. With a string of muttered curses, John jumped out of bed and over to the table where his phone was charging, the only light in the dark room besides the clock. Fumbling fingers snatched it up and he checked the caller ID.
His stomach immediately sank. Harry? And going by the time, she was in the process of calling him drunk. Again.
He considered ignoring the call. He'd done it often enough in the past. But enough of the memory of his nightmare still crept around the back of his mind that he was suddenly filled with a burst of anger. He wasn't useless. And he wasn't going to be useless to his sister. He loved her too much to give up. She'd been so variable lately in her drinking and moods, and he was growing increasingly concerned… but surely there was something he could do. He was a doctor, for God's sake. What good was he if he couldn't help his own sister? He just wanted her to be bloody happy—for once.
Bracing himself, he picked up the phone. "Hello?"
An instant after hearing Harry's slurred voice, however, he knew he was fooling himself. It was the same old story, and, as usual, she never listened. Still, he'd be damned if he didn't at least keep trying. No matter how much it hurt.
A part of him wondered why he bothered.
He shoved down the niggling bite of despair in his stomach and worked to soothe his sister for what felt like the thousandth time.
A/N – Love it? Hate it? Want to see some more? : P