A/N: I am a horrible, horrible, person - and for that I apologise profusely. This chapter fought back tooth and nail, and sat staring at me from my computer screen for ages before I was able to power on through and finish it! Other updates should not take so long, (mind you, I've made that promise before), as my plan is now permanently glaring at me when I turn my computer on.
Also - I now have a tumblr - so please, please, prod me on there when I don't update! My URL is 'alwaysguiltyface'. (Because, well… because I have a constantly guilty face!) :')
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this chapter - and hello to all new reviewers/favouriters/subscribers - you guys rock my world!
Disclaimer: I don't own it. But if I did there'd be none of this waiting until Christmas 2013 let me tell you!
Warnings (Contain SPOILERS): this chapter is considerably darker. It includes; non-consensual drug-use (to make someone unconscious), implied torture, emotional/mental manipulation.
Erm. So. Yes. Shall we?
When Sherlock arrived, panting, at the door to 221B he was greeted with a sight that made his stomach recoil.
Mycroft was slumped awkwardly in the doorway, one hand clawing at the wooden door, fingernails bent and broken from his efforts. His eyes shone red in the gloom, and the look of abject terror in them sent Sherlock's stomach attempting to expel it's non-existent contents, and he was sent sprawling into childhood memories he'd done his best to extinguish. Mycroft never looked scared, not even when they'd woken as monsters so many years ago. Not even when they'd arrived in the big, empty building, The Estate, and tried to learn how to control their new impulses.
Sherlock's entire life from that moment on had been built on the foundation that Mycroft did not get scared. And if Mycroft didn't get scared, there was nothing to fear.
Mycroft opened his burnt and cracked lips, taking a shuddering breath before even trying to speak. "Mrs Hudson-" He gasped out, "Sh- Sherlock, she's right there." Sherlock knew he meant without having to take the time to even think about it. Mycroft and John had been missing for days, and it was unlikely they'd have eaten in that time. Mycroft's control was slipping, and there had been nothing stopping him from just running down the stairs and into Mrs Hudson's flat.
Sherlock unlocked the scratched door and bundled his brother inside unceremoniously. Mycroft managed to stagger over to the sofa, where he collapsed in a tangle of limbs and shallow breaths. His usually perfect composure had vanished completely and in it's place was the raw fear of a child just noticing that perhaps there was something in the closet after all.
Sherlock ran a hand through the curls on his head and spun through all the possibilities. He kept an eye on Mycroft while he disappeared to the kitchen and returned with a bag of what promised to be a disgusting meal - the blood itself wasn't old, but having been apart from a living body for so long would make it unappetising to say the least. But it would do. It would be enough for Mycroft to calm down, get a hold over himself, and then Sherlock could think.
It was a painful fifteen minutes of Sherlock turning his back and trying not to notice the burns on his brothers skin as he ripped savagely into the bag… tried not to think about what it might mean for John.
John wasn't stupid.
Well, that's what he spent most of his time convincing himself, anyway. He wasn't stupid - and he had lived long enough to be able to tell when people were treating him as if he were. On the battlefield, that had usually been the patient's life-saving surprise… or the enemy's last mistake.
Now, though, it just seemed like an occupational hazard. You stick around with Sherlock Holmes, you appear stupid in comparison. Just one of the facts of life. John had grown used to it - even going so far as to expect it - which explains why any change in that attitude had him suspicious.
Moriarty was treating John as if he were a genius.
Now, John knew he wasn't stupid. He was a doctor, then an army doctor, now an apprentice detective of sorts - but that didn't mean he had been expecting this sudden change of attitude.
It wasn't so much in the way that Moriarty spoke, certainly nothing he said had inspired this feeling of recognition in John, it was the glint in his eyes when he looked at him - and the precautions he had begun to take.
A few hours after Mycroft had been shipped out, presumably back to Sherlock, though John had to wonder at the truth of Moriarty's promises, John had been offered a meal. It had come, slightly congealed but still definitely blood, in a tall glass adorned with one of those paper umbrellas you get in cocktails. John was hungry enough that it looked like a heaven-sent gift of grace.
If John had been a vampire for longer, if he had had the chance to hone his skills; make his eyes appear brown rather than swamp-coloured, have full control over his fangs, a better tolerance to sunlight… he might also have been able to detect the hazy smell of the drug in his drink. As it was, his eyes stayed the colour of sludge, and he crumpled to the floor as the new blood sent the drug rushing towards his heart.
He knew he wasn't stupid, but he sure as hell wasn't a Sherlock Holmes.
About an hour after Mycroft had first collapsed through the doorway he was sat, perfectly put-together, in a chair opposite Sherlock. His hair was a little mussed still, but he had the distinct aura of being back on-top of everything once again.
Sherlock had been having an almost monosyllabic conversation with him for the past half an hour.
"Rarely appeared. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he was avoiding me."
"It seemed he was not interested. It was John he had his sights set on."
"So this message-"
"Most likely relates to him, yes."
Mycroft watched as Sherlock's eyes raked over the neat scrawl of Jim's note, as if hoping to decipher something different than he had an hour ago, where he had spotted in poking out from Mycroft's lapels. The message itself wasn't actually cryptic at all. Mycroft could not work-out if it was that fact which was worrying Sherlock, or the message itself.
'Really, Sherlock, I can't believe how much you actually care. And here I was thinking we agreed it was a disadvantage. You realise, I do hope, that I will have to use this against you. No other way to prove quite how much of a mistake it is. The people you care about get hurt, you see, and sometimes even a genius can't put them back together.
I have no doubt I'll be seeing you soon. I just wonder if you'll leave with what you came for.
Love, Jim XX'
Sherlock read and re-read the note until his vision blurred. His brilliant mind was full of distractions, pulling anagrams out of the words and collecting as many possible meanings of the note as possible. There was absolute silence in 221B, and Sherlock knew Mycroft was likely doing the same thing.
After a few more minutes, the reality hit Sherlock like a physical weight.
"He's planning to break John." Sherlock realised aloud, with dawning horror. "Mycroft, he's not going to kill him, he's going to change him."
Mycroft betrayed no emotion in neither his face nor his tone - his calm exterior counterbalancing Sherlock's terrified stare. "John will be easily influenced within the first month of changing." Mycroft pointed out matter-of-factly. "He is strong, but his mind is weak. We hadn't even gone over his abilities before we were taken."
"We have to get him back." Sherlock said, reaching for his phone. The 'before it's too late' remained unspoken, but was as clear to his brother as if he had said it aloud. Sherlock moved his thumbs rapidly, keying in his password then raising the phone to his ear.
"What are you doing?" Mycroft asked.
Sherlock allowed the tiniest hint of his usual smirk to grace his lips. "I'm calling Scotland Yard. They owe me a favour and my flatmate's gone missing."
John collapsed again, seeing the world slip past his eyelids in slow motion, trying not to worry about the fact that his shoulder hurt when he hit the floor, hard. He fought the oncoming fatigue as hard as he could, but deep down he knew it was a wasted effort. He'd fail again, just like he had last time. Just like he always did. Such a fail.
What would Sherlock think of him? He could almost hear the answer in his mind, in the familiar deep rumble, reverberating around the cold chamber. 'Weak, useless again. Boring.'
As soon as John stopped moving completely - Moriarty knew better than to be alarmed by the lack of chest movements - Jim steeped out of the chamber and walked back towards the meeting hall, hands deep in his pockets. He was looking forwards to this; breaking John slowly, showing him what he was missing.
If Sherlock came, when Sherlock came, he wouldn't recognise what was waiting for him.
Once in the empty hall Moriarty changed quickly. A new shirt, a new tie, new cologne to mask the old. He applied a streak of dirt to his clean suit trousers, and flipped a few strands of his hair around. When he wandered back onto the room, he stood differently, slightly more slouched - like he'd been fighting insomnia. Eyelids heavier… it was the perfect disguise - acting as yourself.
When John came round, the new sights and smells disorientated him. He could've sworn things were different just a second ago… but no. Moriarty looked different; a change of clothes, a smug smile. God, he even smelt different!
"How long?" John gasped into the floor, he knew Moriarty would understand the question; how long have I been out? The pain in his shoulder felt recent enough, but he knew he couldn't trust his senses anymore.
Jim chuckled. "Two days, Johnny boy. How's that shoulder?"
John gaped. Two days? How had he lost two days?
"Oh come on now" the lilting voice interrupted, "Don't play the mute, it's so boring!"
"'m not." John groaned, manoeuvring himself into a sitting position and glaring up into Jim's shadowed face.
"You could've fooled me. But, I'm nice. I'll let you have your own way" He smiled, all teeth. "Speaking of nice - where's Sherly, John? I would've thought he'd be looking for you by now."
John knew there was some reason he shouldn't be replying. Some part of his brain realised he was playing right into Jim's hand - perhaps even realised he was being fooled - but the rest of him was too tired, too hurt, too hungry, to care. "He's not looking?" He mumbled, eyes wide.
"Nope." Jim sighed, popping the 'p'. "I think he's been distracted by the newest criminal on the block." He glanced sidelong at John's expression. As he'd suspected, the other man didn't seem too surprised. Low self-esteem was always such a good thing to play around with. "That seems to be the only way to grab his attention, don't you think?"
John found himself nodding; it was true. Sherlock had always been more interested in the dead and guilty than the live and innocent. Jim looked at him pityingly, and he felt something in his chest bristle.
"No." he said, straightening his spine. "No, wait. That's not true. Sherlock… he cares." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself more that Jim, but barrelled onwards regardless. "He'll be looking."
Jim frowned. "It doesn't seem rather desperate to you - pinning your hopes on a sociopath who cares?" He paused, watching John's face for the hints of doubt he knew would be spreading. "Oh well. I hope you're right, Johnny boy. I'm getting bored of waiting." He said, then turned on his heel and left the room, slamming the heavy door behind him. Once out of sight, he grinned.
Sherlock and Mycroft had been searching the CCTV feeds and streets ever since Mycroft had been fed up and able to relay his message. John thought they had left him alone with Jim. By the time Sherlock got here, John would be convinced he'd been here for weeks, and Jim was planning to be very accommodating. And maybe, by the end of it all, John wouldn't even want to go back to Sherly. Why would he? Jim had always been able to get his attention better than the tiny army doctor anyway; and that particular attention was what John craved.
Low self-esteem indeed.
A/N: Any feedback? (: