"Oi, Watson!" John grimaced at Carl's obnoxious voice before turning to face him. "You should know that I've taken care of your little pest."
John rolled his eyes at the unbearable git, "What are you on about?"
"That little freak that's been followin' you 'round, I told him to fuck off. Me and the lads gave him a good thumping just so he got the message."
Without a moment's hesitation, John's fist connected with Carl's jaw, sending the boy flying to the floor. When the other boys stopped and stared in shock, John angrily shouted, "Anyone else that lays a hand on Jim or so much as looks at him funny will get the same!"
Sherlock cautiously entered the pool where Carl Powers died. The lights were low and reflected eerily off the water's surface. For a moment, he wondered if Jim had received his message but the movement from across the tiled floor let him know he was not alone. Not wanting to delay the inevitable, Sherlock called out, "It took me awhile to figure out what you were after. I have to admit, you were very clever."
"Why Sherlock, that almost sounded like a compliment," a voice from the shadows answered. "And here I thought you hated me."
"What gave you that idea?"
"We're rivals in profession and love so isn't it natural for there to be some animosity?" Jim asked as he stepped out into the light on the other side of the arena dressed in an impeccable black suit. "There's also the telling fact that you arrived to our little rendezvous armed."
"This is merely because I don't trust you," Sherlock explained as he took out John's pistol and aimed it directly at Moriarty. In his other hand, he held out a flash drive. "I have what you want so why don't you take it and leave John and I alone."
"You said you figured out what I was after, tell me so I can be impressed by your deductive skills," Jim commanded in an oddly sing-song voice.
"This, all of this, was one big distraction. The pips, the bombs, and even Sebastian Moran were designed to keep me distracted from these plans. Everything was going fine until you walked into that lab at Bart's and the unthinkable happened: John Watson recognized you. You assumed that no one would remember some insecure little genius but John did so you used yourself to distract him. Then you played off my jealousy and threw in Moran to distract me. No more distractions: let's end this." Sherlock then tossed the flash drive toward Jim, letting it skitter across the floor.
Jim stared at Sherlock in disbelief, his eyes almost comically wide making Sherlock nearly grin, but then the man began to laugh. Jim's laugh was loud and giggly taking Sherlock by surprise. The small man had nearly doubled over as he was wiping tears from his eyes. After finally calming himself with some deep breaths, he spoke in an odd, high-pitched accent, "You are amazing. That was absolutely wrong. I didn't think it was possible and yet here it is: you are completely wrong about everything!"
Softly, almost to himself, Sherlock responded, "I can't be."
"Oh but you are," Jim answered as he walked forward and smashed the drive under his foot. "Except one thing: you're right, I didn't expect John to recognize me . . . but he did. John's the wild card in all this. My game with you was supposed to end with that ridiculous cab driver but John Watson, like the angel that he is, swept in to save you."
Sherlock remained motionless, the gun still aimed at Jim as he tried to contemplate what he was hearing, "See, your delusion comes from actually assuming you're a threat to me. You're just part of the game, an expendable toy."
When there was still no comeback from Sherlock, Jim continued, "So you're sleeping with Seb? Believe me when I say I knew nothing about it. I'm not obsessive over my colleagues so who Seb chooses to shag is his business. Speaking of Seb: say hi to Sherlock."
Jim's eyes gleefully glanced down at Sherlock's chest. When Sherlock followed his gaze, he saw a small red dot hovering over his heart.
"He's a crack shot, was able to wound John in Afghanistan from over a 1000 meters. Don't give me that look; I couldn't leave such an extraordinary man to be killed in a senseless war not when I could do something about it," Jim sneered. "See that's the difference between you and me: you wait for things to happen and then respond, I make things happen. That is why John is mine and will never be yours."
"You lie, cheat, steal, and murder. What do you suppose John will think when he finds out who you really are?"
"It doesn't matter: he belongs to me now and no one else will have him."
"Then it's too bad that John is currently under protection from the British government." Just as he finished the sentence, Sherlock's mobile alerted him to a text. His heart dropped when he looked at the screen to see the word wrong! mocking him.
"You're not the only one capable of hacking mobiles," Jim taunted with a giggle.
The old locker room reeked of mold, sweat, and chlorine. Jim and Seb watched from the other side of the room as several henchmen outfitted John's unconscious body with the explosives vest. Softly, in a near whisper, Seb asked, "Sir, what is the point of this?"
With a raised eyebrow from Jim, Seb instinctively fell silent; however, after another few minutes, the mercenary could not help but try again, "After what he did to you, he shouldn't even be alive. Holmes will come out of curiosity so why do you persist that Watson remain unharmed?"
"Because I NEED him!" Jim shouted, causing the bulky henchmen to halt their movements and stare wide eyed until Moriarty lowered his voice, awkwardly adding, "Alive. Because I need him alive. He's an integral part of my game with Holmes and he will remain until I decide what his fate is." Jim then narrowed his eyes and snarled, "Do you have a problem with that, Colonel Moran?"
Seb swallowed hard before replying, "No sir."
John, decked out in a vest of explosives, was unceremoniously shoved from behind a dressing curtain so that he stood between Jim and Sherlock. A red sniper's beam was poised on his head. Sherlock surveyed John looking for wounds but saw none. The brave soldier that he was, John maintained an impassive expression and looked neither scared nor angry.
Sherlock kept his gun raised and asked with a growl, "So what now, are you going to shoot us both, blow up this whole building?"
"No, I won't. I don't like to get my hands dirty," Jim taunted. "But Seb does. In fact, John, I believe Sherlock can tell you all about Seb's hobbies since the two have become so close recently. I have to admit even I didn't see that coming."
Jim laughed loudly and Sherlock tried to hide a blush but John was still not reacting. There was no shock, anger, or disgust, only slight sadness.
"John, this is what I was trying to warn you about. Moriarty has been using you and probably stalking you since you were teenagers. He has been operating right under our noses and . . . John?" Sherlock trailed off as he noticed the odd expression on John's face.
Nothing Sherlock or Jim said was causing any reaction. Just as the realization dawned on Jim, the same thought occurred to Sherlock who lowered his gun and turned toward John.
"You knew," Sherlock accused softly. There was a long moment of silence before John nodded. "How long? How long have you known that he's . . . Moriarty?"
Jim's face matched Sherlock's in shock and disbelief. His voice, back to its soft and small timbre, whispered, "John?"
John sighed as he answered, training his eyes on Jim, "Since Molly brought you into the lab at Bart's."
The air seemed to let out of Sherlock as he staggered to the wall and sank into a crouch.
"I'd always had suspicions about Carl's death and when you walked into the room at the exact moment we were examining his shoes, everything clicked."
A flash of emotions ran through Jim starting with distress, moving on to confusion, and then on to anger. "You let me carry on this entire time? You knew and-"
"Would you mind if I took off this ridiculous fake bomb now?" John interrupted while still staring intently at Jim.
"How did you-"
"I've spent over a decade in the military, give me some credit that I can tell a real bomb when I see it," John replied while removing the coat and vest. Once it was off, John rolled his stiff shoulders and commanded, "Jim, call off the snipers."
Wide-eyed, Jim sputtered, "What?"
"Call off the snipers, they're making Sherlock nervous."
Jim made a waving motion with his hand and the sniper beams focused on Sherlock and John disappeared. John then turned to Sherlock who was still crouching near the wall, trying to absorb what was happening. While cautiously lowering down, John asked in a gentle but firm voice, "Sherlock, may I have my gun back?"
Sherlock absently handed over the weapon and spoke in a weak voice, "I don't understand."
"I never meant to hurt you. Please believe that," John said softly while gently brushing back a piece of Sherlock's hair.
"What exactly were your intentions, John?" Jim shouted desperately as Sherlock remained motionless.
John stood and placed the gun in the waistband of his jeans. Walking carefully toward Jim, John answered, "The same as yours: I wanted to be with my first love."
"John . . ."
"I searched for you for years after your mother died, but you'd disappeared. When I saw you again, after all that time, I knew I would never let you go."
"Why didn't you say anything?" Jim asked as he walked closer to John.
"I couldn't risk seeing you retreat again, hide away from who you really are," John answered. "These suits, the mocking voice, the crimes, it isn't you. The real you is the man that I hold in my arms at night and whisper sweet words to. You're the man that blushes when I touch his thigh or kiss his neck in public."
"I'm not who-" Jim began but was cut off.
"I told you that I understand you better than you think. You're overcome with guilt for the crimes you've committed and it eats away at your soul. You crawl deeper and deeper within this constructed personality to try to escape but it never stops haunting you."
A tear slid down Jim's cheek as John continued, "You brought me back from Afghanistan for a reason: you need me." John wiped away the errant tear and brought his hands up to either side of Jim's head. "You'll never be able to leave this life on your own and you brought me here to do it for you."
"John, I can't . . ." Jim trailed off as he was shaking under John's intense gaze.
"Say it, Jim," John commanded as his grip intensified. "Say what you've wanted to say to me since you were thirteen."
Jim swallowed hard and with a trembling voice, answered, "I- I love you, John Watson."
"And I love you, James Morstan," John replied with steadfast conviction before bringing their mouths together for a searing kiss.
Jim collapsed into John's arms as if the air had been seeped from his body. John held him tight and whispered tender comforts until Jim was steady enough to release. Softly, John told him, "Wait here."
John walked over to where Sherlock was sitting on the floor with a look of anguish and despair plastered across his normally stoic face. Kneeling beside him, John placed his hand on Sherlock's shoulder and contritely told him, "I'm so sorry, Sherlock. I have to leave now but know that it's not because of anything you've done. You rescued me; when I thought I had never to live for, you gave my life meaning and I'll never forget that. You're an extraordinary, kind man and the best friend I've ever had."
Slowly, Sherlock lifted his head and gazed up at John. Upon seeing the truth and love in his eyes, Sherlock's face softened and he nodded his understanding. John leaned forward and placed a soft, chaste kiss to his lips and whispered goodbye. John then walked back over to Jim and clasped his hand, leading him out of the room.
Sherlock sat with his legs stretched out in front of him as he stared at the water. Eventually, he was joined by Sebastian, dressed in black fatigues and carrying a large sniper's rifle. He set the gun down and sat next to Sherlock so that their shoulders were touching. Sherlock rested his head on Seb's shoulder and after a few long minutes, asked in a soft voice, "Would you really have shot me?"
Seb nodded, "Yeah." He placed a small kiss to Sherlock's curls and added, "But I would've felt very bad about it."
"Where do you suppose they'll go?"
Seb laughed slightly, "I'd imagine anywhere they damn well please."
Sherlock was stretched out across the sofa, bored as he waited for a new case to emerge. When he noticed a bead of sweat forming on his forehead, he let out an annoyed huff. It was autumn and had no business still being so unseasonably hot. He supposed he could go and open a window but that was boring and required standing up. When he heard a light rapping on the door, he groaned out a welcome and Mrs. Hudson entered with a plate of biscuits.
"Sherlock, I don't understand how a grown man can be so lazy," the elderly landlady admonished. "Why don't you get up and make yourself some tea to have with these?"
Sherlock gave a bored sigh in response and Mrs. Hudson continued, "I also brought the post. Looks like you have a letter from overseas. Do you suppose it's from John?"
Sherlock immediately leapt from the sofa and greedily snatched the envelope as Mrs. Hudson asked, "Is there any chance of him coming to visit soon? I do miss him sometimes."
However, Sherlock did not even hear her as he was engrossed in the latest correspondence from his former flatmate. Frustrated with Sherlock's lack of response, Mrs. Hudson gave up and went back downstairs. As Sherlock read the letter, he felt a strong pair of arms encircle him from behind and a kiss placed on his neck. Seb peered over his shoulder and briefly scanned the note detailing John's recent trip to South America. Noting the signature line, Seb still could not help rereading the names John and Jim Watson in disbelief.
Sherlock eventually set down the letter and helped himself to a biscuit. Leaning against the counter, he spoke between bites, "They sent a photo."
The picture was of John and Jim in some tropical setting, each holding a large parrot. Jim was laughing as John's bird seemed to be biting the doctor's ear.
Seb looked at the picture and sighed, he had been right the whole time: John Watson was a dangerous man. The seemingly harmless, jumper-wearing doctor had managed to domesticate one the most powerful and feared criminals in Europe. Just the wistful look in Sherlock's eye let him know that his lover would leave him in a second if John asked. However, Sebastian Moran was a soldier and knew when he was solidly defeated so he decided to relish what he had left and joined Sherlock for tea and biscuits.