Hello all! If you're here reading this because you like my "Misadventures of Vampire John" fic, well, this one is very different so don't expect anything crazy and goofy and fun! This is my first really serious fic in the Sherlock fandom, and, if you want me to update, you've gotta let me know! I thrive on positive feedback. So. Please enjoy:

The Persistence of Memory

Chapter One: The Man Who Stole a Heart

One glance was all Jim needed. There were intense feelings between them that neither man was willing to discuss. Fascinating. The way that John stood openly toward Sherlock, relaxed with his arms hanging loosely at his sides, and the way Sherlock's usual rigidity was near non-existent in John's presence showed a unique level of trust between them; the kind that is shared by close friends and brothers in arms. The gaze Sherlock received from John Watson that was creased with worry and a sort of sad warmth was met with a sideways scowl from the consulting detective. Though it was a scowl there was no real venom behind it, only a defensiveness that people (including Sherlock, surprisingly enough) use when they're hiding something beneath the surface. John had killed for Sherlock, this Jim knew for a fact. Would Sherlock do the same for John?

Perhaps I should write that down, test the theory at a later date, Jim pondered. Their feelings of trust and companionship were obviously unspoken, but very tangible. Jim could practically taste it in the air around him. There was a strange sensation creeping into his limbs as he observed them. The feeling was electrifying; it was pure envy. It was an overpowering sensation that filled every inch of him as he looked and saw something he was certain that no one else was clever enough to see. The doctor and detective cared for each other, and Jim knew then what he wanted - no, had - to do.

He had to take John Watson.

It was late evening and John was seated in front of his lap-top at the flat, trying to relax a bit. Sherlock was off doing whatever it is he wanted or needed to do, and John was trying to take a few moments to collect himself. His blog lay open with the new entry box staring at him blankly. He wanted to write, but at the same time, he couldn't bring himself to.

This game of Sherlock's was wearing him down, wearing him thin. He'd seen horrible things, terrifying and disgusting things in his life time. They paled in comparison now. Sherlock's particular brand of adventure made John utterly steady and still with fear and anticipation. Lives relied on that man's brilliance, and that terrified John. It terrified and excited him. He wished he could just be sensible. He wished he could just move out and move on from this life that he'd fallen into with Sherlock, but the very idea of having anything other than this life now felt impossible.

He turned his gaze to the skull that sat upon the mantle, Sherlock's "friend", and thought back to the first moment he'd met Sherlock. The brilliance blazing in those pale blue eyes and the pure genius that poured off of him had been overwhelming, intoxicating even. He tried to picture what his life would have been like had he not gone to meet Sherlock in front of 221B, when his phone rang.

The ringing was unfamiliar to him. He rarely heard his phone ring these days, and it was a bit jarring to hear the tone. He was only ever really contacted by Sherlock on a regular basis, or maybe Sarah, if he was lucky (or unlucky, depending upon whether or not Sherlock had a case). He knew immediately that it was not his absent flatmate, because Sherlock refused to do anything but text him. Texting hadn't really been John's cup of tea until he'd met Sherlock. He'd certainly adjusted many things to suit him. It occurred to John how absurd it was that he was so flexible for Sherlock. Breaking away from his thoughts, He picked up the phone and recognized the number as Barts. Who the hell would be calling me from Barts? John pinched the bridge of his nose briefly and pushed his irritable thoughts away to answer the phone.

"Hello?" John greeted quietly, not sure what to expect. When Molly's nerve-wracked voice filled his ears so cracked and shrill he pulled the device away from his face a bit.

"John! Oh John, it's M-Molly. I didn't know who else to call. I... It's Jim. He slipped in the morgue, and hurt his wrist. Uhm. C-Could you come by and take a look at it? All the clinics in the area are closed at this hour and he won't go to a hospital. Hates the A and E's."

Her voice was choked and nasal, making it apparent that she'd been crying and that was enough to tug at John's heartstrings. He knew that Molly was sensitive, he'd seen Sherlock just earlier today stomp on her heart (to be kinder to her of course, Sherlock justified; rubbish, in John's opinion.) and John wasn't about to make her bad day worse. He listened to her stammer and ramble on, tapping his fingers idly against his knee. When he heard Jim's terse, muffled tone on the other end he interrupted Molly's rambling.

"I'll be there in a bit. Just... Calm down." John said in his most "comforting doctor" voice he could manage. Molly took a few fluttery breaths and slowly began to settle.

"Thank you... John. Thank you. I really... uhm. Appreciate it. Oh and... D-Don't bring Sherlock. I'd rather not see him..." Molly's voice cracked again and John felt so badly for the young woman. It wasn't fair, really. Molly was so sweet and she deserved so much better than this. Sherlock was being a prick, and the one man she'd had since John met her was gay. Yes, "unfair" was the only word to describe it. However, she was resilient, through and through. John stood and grabbed his coat, slipping into it as he headed for the door.

"I'm on my way. No Sherlock. I promise." John agreed quietly, picking up his keys and wallet. As he passed through the doorway, the silvery metal of his cane caught his eye and he felt a twinge in his leg briefly. No Sherlock.John felt his whole body tense and for a moment he was frozen in those thoughts again. A life without Sherlock. A normal, sensible life.

"I'll be there soon, Molly."

He hung up, tore his eyes away from his cane, and headed out to the street. In the cool night air he stood, and flagged down a cab, glad one responded quickly so he could get in and be on his way.

John made his way to the morgue, where he could hear Molly chattering frantically at Jim. He was seated in a chair, cradling his wrist close to his chest while Molly fretted about, an ice pack melting in her gloved left hand. As John came into the room he caught Jim's eye, and he seemed to slump at the sight of him, looking embarrassed, while Molly looked relived.

"John, thank goodness. It's his wrist see. He won't let me touch it." Molly stated curtly. John gave her a reassuring smile and took the ice from her.

"I can take it from don't you go fix us a cuppa? I'll look him over," John suggested. Jim watched closely as John's warmth and kindness in his commands seemed to work wonders on Molly and she scampered away dutifully. John waited until she was out of the door and out of ear shot before turning to Jim.

"Let's see it then." John encouraged, pulling a chair up and sitting directly across from him. Jim licked his lips tentatively, knowing his men were closing in on them at this very moment. It was exhilarating, but he wouldn't let his anticipation show. John was no Sherlock, but he certainly wasn't as blind as many people (Molly) were. John was an army doctor, with experience, training, and a callous that only comes from war.

Jim observed quietly; the battles showed on John almost plain as day, his straightened back, his squared shoulders, that military hair cut. Jim found himself wondering what he could do to bring out that soldier in John. The fighter... How intriguing it could be, pushing the right buttons to gain the proper results. John could have been a fun puzzle in another lifetime. Now, however, John was just a pawn in a grand game; his game with Sherlock. Jim played his part properly for now. He extended his "injured" wrist to John.

"I just slipped and fell on it funny. Hurts a bit..." Jim said quietly, letting John take hold of his hand. Jim took in the feel of the clinging bits of callous that remained on John's hands after his time abroad in Afghanistan as he was examined. Those war calloused fingers ran over his own (delicate in comparison) skin, pushing gently at the muscles, checking for swelling.

"Tell me if this hurts at all." John instructed calmly. Had he really been injured, perhaps he would have enjoyed John's bedside manner a great deal more. Jim nodded in response, and faked a bit of a nervous swallow. John was carefully moving his hand this way and that. Jim hissed here and there, playing the part of "injured man" to his best ability. John drew his diagnosis quite easily and sighed, putting the ice pack over Jim's wrist gently. "Probably just a slight sprain. Ice it for a while, take two paracetamol for the pain, and you'll be fine."

Jim smiled, soft, almost genuine. He looked down at his wrist, placing his hand over John's, only to feel John pulling his hand out from between the ice and his fingers.

"Why did you leave Sherlock your number...?" John's tone was accusing, and a bit hurt. For Molly or for Sherlock, Jim could not quite tell. He drew in a long and low breath.

"She deserves bette'n me... I know Molly does... I just can' help what I am... An' I also can' help but feel fer th' girl. She's so... sweet and... They all turn her down. I couldn' bear the thought of bein' another one t' hurt her... I guess I'm doin' a shit job of that though..." Jim watched John's expression carefully as he explained himself, and John seemed to grow a bit sympathetic. It was amazing to watch the expressions John made, his face was so alive it was beautiful. His eyes grew soft and warm, and his lips were pulled into a sad sort of smile, his brows furrowing just a bit. Jim drew in a slow and steady breath as John squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, but then quickly withdrew his hand.

"You're only human, Jim. Everyone makes mistakes. Let her down easy mate. She's already been through enough with Sherlock." John answered, and for a moment, John's whole demeanor (the slight squeeze of his shoulder though fleeting; the calm reassuring smile. All of it.) made Jim feel warm inside. It was a strange and fuzzy mixture of validation and gratification that he wasn't familiar with. It was rather peculiar and somewhat uncomfortable because it felt positive, and just plain good.

"Oh John... You're too good a man..." Jim said softly, his voice taking on a sort of sing-songy rapture as his demeanor changed and he broke free from "Jim from IT" and became Moriarty once more. John furrowed his brows and grew very stiff, immediately realizing something was terribly wrong. Jim could see John's mind working out the darkness that now had taken over his appearance. His eyes going from soft and shy to gleaming with mischief and anticipation. His back straightening as he held himself more properly instead of slouching about. Jim grinned, absolutely ecstatic as he saw John's natural intuition kicking in. It was marvelous how the moment of realization came so quickly to the doctor. Oh he is so brilliant for an ordinary man. Jim understood in this moment as John became guarded against him what Sherlock saw in this particularly ordinary doctor.

John's eyes grew dark, his shoulders tensing and his fingers clenching. Jim briefly wondered if John would hit him when he announced his true identity, and furthermore, if he might like that. John was eerily still, save for his left hand that twitched a bit, reflexively wanting to wrap around his gun. Jim watched every single change take place in John and he stood, straightening himself up a bit and set the ice aside.

"Jim Moriarty." he announced, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Doctor Watson."

Jim practically giggled with delight as he saw John's look of horror that quickly turned to rage. He watched John's fists tighten and those blunt nails dig into John's war-calloused palms.

"Bet you really wish you had your gun, Johnny boy." Jim's voice was a soft and sad purr, taunting him. Jim could see in those twitches of John's hands how much he wished he had his gun, how much the soldier desired to shoot him down right there. Even beyond all this, Jim observed the calm and cool control that was ever present in the doctor.

"Why?" John demanded. His gravelly voice caused excitement to stir in the pit of Jim's stomach (unfamiliar, but enjoyable. You're growing more interesting by the minute, John.). He watched John lick his lips hurriedly, and he merely shook his head.

"Why? WHY?" Jim laughed hysterically, waving his hands in the air and gesturing all around him.

"It's so obvious Johnny! So obvious why! I'm a good person. A GREAT ONE. I solve problems for people that people just can't solve for themselves. I bend the rules and make lives better, and make a minor profit along the way. I love people John, I love watching them get away with crimes to achieve grand happiness, no matter how fleeting! I live to beat the system and free people from the mundane lives they lead. And with you and Sherlock coming in and mucking things up, well that just won't tsk tsk. No no no, Johnny dear, I cannot have the two of you running about and ruining the lives that I make perfect..."

Jim looked at John's face, at a glance seeing that he looked confused. Jim wondered if maybe he'd been wrong about the army doctor being brighter than most, but then he studied the expression more closely, discovering that the look on his face was not one of confusion, but one of repulsion. How dull. How incredibly common. Jim watched with amusement as John swallowed tightly at hearing the door behind him open and guns cock.

"Get our dear Doctor Watson ready for his big night boys. Sherlock will be ready to finally meet me soon enough..." Jim ordered. "And take care of the girl. She's too much of a risk to keep alive."

John jumped toward Moriarty, rage filling his every nerve ending as he was grabbed by two large, strong thugs. Moriarty of course, didn't flinch, though he was quite impressed (and amused) by John's courage. I'll say courage John, but really that's just putting your stupidity into more pleasant terms.

"Don't you dare harm her. Don't you bloody dare." John ground out evenly, yanking against the men restraining him in futile attempts to get free.

"And what do I get if I don't?" Jim inquired playfully, a smirk on his lips. He watched John's muscles ripple with each forceful tug he made trying to get away, cataloguing the man's strength and hazard potential. John remained intently silent, not playing into Jim's games, much to the man's disappointment. Jim wiggled his fingers in a teasing little wave, and then blew a kiss at John as the army doctor was dragged away.

"See you soon enough Johnny..."