A/N – Sorry for the delay, blah blah yadda yadda, etc. Real life getting' me down, man. But onwards! I have some unexpected free time coming up, so maybe that means more updates? (or maybe not lol) Apologies if it's not up to snuff. I kind of rushed it a bit because I felt bad it had been so long since I updated...
Warnings for possible sadness at the end of this one. See the disclaimer at the end after reading.
John stared at his phone as Sherlock handed it back to him wordlessly. Their eyes met for a moment before Sherlock averted his eyes and stepped away. Odd. John frowned and felt a shiver go up his spine. He'd seen that implacable look before, and he knew enough to recognize it now. Sherlock was concerned—and confused. A dangerous combination. Always bound to make him cranky. John kissed his hopes for a toasted cheese sandwich goodbye. Or Thai. He would have loved that noodle thing… or soup…
Sherlock was right. He should have eaten before he left.
With Moriarty back in the picture, there'd be no stopping Sherlock now. John sighed and dropped his eyes to his phone again. Moriarty's message—mocking little smiley and all—still stared up at him from the screen.
Oh, we're going to have so much fun. : )
What could it mean? And why had it been sent to his phone, and not Sherlock's? Sherlock was the one Moriarty had his little "game" with—not John. He'd had quite enough direct involvement from the episode with the bomb vest, thanks very much. And that episode hadn't done Sherlock any good either, he thought. Although he had so enjoyed the puzzle of it all... That little doubt still niggled away at the back of his mind.
"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…"
Moriarty's words lingered, pulsed in John like a clotted vein, obstructing a clear flow of thought as he gripped his phone. One day, the clot would break off, he knew… straight to his heart…
Wait. No, it wouldn't. Because Sherlock did care. He did. John shivered again and wondered what was wrong with him. Had his fever had returned? It wasn't that cold in here, to be shivering—and thinking such ridiculously melodramatic thoughts…
"John—John." Sherlock's voice broke into his thoughts, forcing John to focus on his friend's raised eyebrows. Sherlock motioned for him to get in the cab that seemed to have magically appeared. John didn't even remember walking outside. He glanced back at the house to see Lestrade standing in the doorway, looking perturbed, before the doctor turned and got in the cab. Sherlock slid in after him and shut the door.
"Where to, mate?" asked the cabbie, hair flopping in his face. How could he drive like that? John wondered. Shouldn't there be regulations for cabbie hair length, or something?
"221B Baker Street," answered Sherlock. "What?" he said in response to John's questioning look. Settling back in the cab seat, he pulled his coat tighter around him. "I need to think." And for the next hour, he did. He sat in his chair, fingers steepled, staring into the middle distance.
John, on the other hand, did his best to keep busy. He made his toasted cheese sandwich after all. Ate it. Cleaned up after it. Cleaned the rest of the kitchen (except the area around Sherlock's latest experiment—he was pretty sure that one was going to require gloves). Looked up foxglove on the internet. Checked his e-mail. Debated responding to Jessica's break-up e-mail (why did they all keep dumping him?). And generally felt bloody useless as he waited for Sherlock to find a use for him again. He sat in the chair next to Sherlock and waited—like a good dog.
At last, Sherlock straightened. Not his "aha!" rapid straightening, which would have meant that he'd actually made some worthwhile progress, but a slow straightening that he'd come to associate with frustration. "It has to be the garden where the mistress got the foxglove for the tea," Sherlock said after a pause.
Coming out of his apparently enraptured fiddling with a pen, John took a moment to fret at his friend's tone before responding. "Why… don't you sound happy about that?"
"Because it's too obvious," Sherlock hissed in displeasure. " 'All I do is just plant a few little seeds… I do love a garden'? It's a double meaning, has to be—the murderer's garden, or her source's, and… what? He's up to something."
Something to do with John, he thought, clenching his hands. But what? Sherlock hated metaphors. Moriarty could do virtually anything to John. He had the will and the means—have him shot, have him drowned, hit by a taxi, maimed in an alleyway, left for dead… How was Sherlock meant to know what he intended in order to stop it? His stomach dropped out at the thought of John dead, lying in an alleyway, abandoned and alone, but he sniffed and straightened a little more. "Well, we'll just have to keep an eye on you." That was all there was to it. He hoped.
John "hmm"ed in agreement before he clearly registered what he'd said. "Sorry… an eye on me?"
"Yes, of course. You're clearly the target of whatever Moriarty's planning." Honestly. Hadn't that been made clear? He rolled his eyes at the doctor's blank expression. "The text, John, the text. Sent to your phone?"
John just frowned. "But, Sherlock—you're the one he's after. What on Earth would be the point of targeting me?"
Those indeterminately-colored eyes looked at him as Sherlock froze in surprise. What was the point? Did he really not know? But just as Sherlock opened his mouth to say he knew not what, Sherlock's phone vibrated on the table. He glanced at it—Lestrade—and snatched it up. "Yes?"
"Sherlock. You're going to want to see this."
Sherlock's mouth pulled down at the corners in irritation. Lestrade and his vagueness could be very trying at times. "See what, exactly?"
"It's the mistress. She and the husband are both dead."
John stared at the scene before him, feeling very blank but somehow as though his stomach had been filled with very wet concrete. The woman and man laid out before them were carefully arranged next to each other, heads turned toward each other—seeds spilling out of their mouths. Sherlock bent over them, poking and prodding as usual. John refused to approach. His part in this case was unnecessary. The cause of death was obvious—asphyxiation by means of seeds shoved down the victims' throats.
"This doesn't make sense," Sherlock fumed, greatcoat swirling behind him as he paced the mistress' flat in agitation. "Why would he have them killed? Why?"
"Mmm…maybe they knew something?" John offered with a tentative shrug.
Sherlock shook his head. His hair flopped a bit with the motion. "It's unlikely they knew anything of importance—certainly not enough to bring down Moriarty."
"No? It is possible, you know," Lestrade countered, hands on his hips.
"Don't be ridiculous; he'd never be that careless," Sherlock hissed, making a particularly dramatic turn. "Besides, this is a game to him. Each piece and move will have been carefully constructed before he ever even began the game."
"Of course," John said sarcastically to no one in particular. This "game" business-ridiculous. People dying, and for what? He glanced back at the bodies and that wet concrete feeling returned with a vengeance. The mistress may have been a murderer, but no one deserved to die like this, such terror on their blue faces, clear evidence of nails having dug into the hardwood in an attempt to struggle free… least of all for some twisted "game." The deaths of the mother and daughter, the mistress and husband… they lacked real meaning. Just a piece in a game of a man who considered himself greater-and was bored.
John felt the concrete in his stomach harden and sink to his feet. What was the point of any of it, really? He swallowed and looked away from the bodies, back towards the still pacing Sherlock. Suddenly, the detective halted, nearly running over a chair as he turned toward them. "Stop! Not a word. I need to think. That means you," he growled as Lestrade opened his mouth. The detective inspector shut it again and sighed.
In the stillness, as Sherlock stared at the bodies, one hand on his chin, John's phone began to vibrate. "Oh, for—" he began before he noticed Sherlock's glare. He gave an apologetic shrug, then stepped outside. It was still freezing. Flustered, he picked up without checking the caller ID. "Hello?"
His eyes widened. "Harry."
"Why have you been avoiding me? I've been texting you all day!"
"Yes, yes you have," said John. And so has Moriarty, so I really don't have the energy for this conversation right now, especially after last night's chat… Instead, he just said, "Look, Harry, I'm really busy right now—"
Harry snorted. A tinge of something like jealousy crept into her voice. "What, chasing after your detective? You can take two seconds to talk to your sister, little lap dog."
"Heeeeeeere Johnny, Johnny, Johnny! Come to Sherlock! Good boy!" She laughed and John's heart clenched.
It wasn't that it was a particularly cruel laugh—he'd had crueler from her—but it touched that nerve, that oh-so-sensitive nerve that had been trod on all day and stomped on just that little bit too much. He closed his eyes and breathed through his nose as he tried to contain his anger. "Harry," he warned.
"Did he buy you a leash yet? But then, you probably heel like a good—"
"That's enough!" John snapped. "Believe it or not, there are actually lives at stake here. I don't have time to—"
"Oh, no you don't, Johnny Boy, you're not shutting me out again—"
"Grow up, Harry!" John yelled down the phone, "Johnny Boy" still ringing in his ears as a shiver went down his spine. "Grow the fuck up, for once in your life! It's barely noon; how are you already drunk? There are two people, dead, in the next room, a madman who's killing them for fun for all I can tell, and you're seriously going to demean what… I just… can't… I can't deal with you today." She made a noise as if to protest and John shook his head. "No, actually, I just can't deal with you. At all, right now. Get sober, Harry. Sober for real this time. Call me when you've been sober for a whole six months. Until then, I don't want to hear from you." He hung up, giving the END button an emphatic push, and as the blessed silence reigned over the phone line...
He immediately felt guilty. Eyes widened and breathing quickened. What had he done? He'd never pushed her away quite so harshly before. Six months? Wasn't that a bit extreme? His fingers itched to call her back, to apologize—he just worried about her and he'd had a shit day, and damn it, he was a little scared that one of Moriarty's snipers was just going to haul off and shoot him between the eyes any second, and it wasn't fair to take that out on Harry… But he stopped. No. Maybe what she needed was a little tough love. Nothing else had worked, that was for sure. Maybe this could be the kick in the arse she needed to finally get sober. He'd give it a month and then call to see how she was doing.
That decided—although his gut was still churning anxiously—he shook his head and turned on his heel. He had to get back to Sherlock.
Harry stared at the phone in her hand. He'd hung up on her! God, he'd always been so damned sensitive. But… he'd hung up on her. And six months? How was she meant to do that? She'd tried to get sober before, but it just never stuck. He knew that. If he didn't want to hear from her until she'd been sober for that long, then… she'd never be able to talk to her brother again. She couldn't do it. Sure, she hated him as much as she loved him sometimes, and he claimed she said awful things to him on the phone—bollocks, if you asked her. Their conversations were probably just boring if she never remembered half of them—but he was all she had now.
Well, almost all.
Tears welled up in her eyes, obscuring the screen as she composed a text and sent it along to Marty. He hung up on me. Bastard.
It took a moment for the reply to come back. I told you he didn't care about you.
I know. And you were right.
She sniffled and held her phone for a moment before sending another text. What do I do?
The shrug in his answer was almost palpable. End it.
Harry's eyes widened and her tears overflowed as she texted back. I thought we agreed not to do that? A hand went up to her mouth as she stifled a sob. But oh, how she wanted to…
He texted back: I can't take it anymore. It never gets better. I'm ending it tonight.
A pause, then Marty texted:
We can end it together.
Harry dropped the phone into her lap. She rubbed her hands against the rough fabric of her jeans, feeling the beginning of a rugburn form. He was right. She buried her face in her chafed hands and cried. He was right. It never got better and it never would. She quickly wiped her face of tears, nodded once, picked up the phone.
Good. We'll end it together then. Tonight.
Harry stared at her phone and nodded again. She'd met Marty on a suicide chat site, but somehow it never occurred to her that it would really end like this. Like Marty said though, it would be for the best. See, John? she thought, You won't have to worry about me anymore. She had just gotten up to go get things ready, she supposed, when her phone bleeped again. She picked it up. It was from Marty.
Don't forget to write a note.
A/N – Please don't commit suicide. My step-dad's twin brother committed suicide after 9/11 and my step-dad has never been the same. It hurts those you leave behind, and there's always hope, no matter how dark it seems. There's always someone out there who loves you, even if it doesn't seem like it.
On that note, I would not mind feeling some love. Please do review! Reviews fill my heart with kittens. Also... buttercups?