Warning: Character deaths(ish)


"Probably my answer has crossed yours."

John stares up at Sherlock as he lowers the gun towards the jacket. His mind races: surely Sherlock must know that you can't fire a bullet into this kind of explosive and expect it to detonate? He knows everything important – this can't be something he never learned, or deleted as irrelevant.

Sherlock's head lifts and he looks directly at Moriarty. John turns his head slightly and watches as Jim rocks his head uncomfortably for a moment but then returns the detective's gaze and smiles. John's eyes flicker back to Sherlock, whose own eyes narrow. Then Sherlock relaxes a little, returns the smile ominously and says, "Of course, firing into Semtex won't set off an explosion. Your snipers were only aiming at your victims in order to terrify them into following your orders, or to kill them if they spoke out of turn. You always had the trigger for the bomb's detonator."

And in one smooth move he raises the pistol back up so that it's aimed directly at Jim's forehead. Almost casually, Sherlock continues, "I've never had absolute proof that if someone shoots somebody who's holding a pistol, their finger can tighten on the trigger and shoot the person at whom they're aiming." Sounding almost bored, he adds, "Of course, I would miss seeing your look of surprise, but shall we find out anyway?"

Jim's smile doesn't falter but even John can see the way that his eyes narrow slightly. A moment later, however, his smile widens further and he slowly takes his hands from his trouser pockets, then nonchalantly flicks them out either side of him in a "shoo, go away" motion. Instantly all the laser beads move away from Sherlock's and John's bodies. John tries not to breathe out a noisy sigh of relief, but Jim's eyes move towards him momentarily, so he must have made some kind of noise, and Sherlock's head twitches slightly as if he wants to turn and look at him but his eyes stay locked on the man he's aiming at.

"So," Jim says laconically. "Now what?"

John twitches in his sleep. Sometimes weeks go by when he doesn't have the dream, and then it will come night after night. It has got to the point where he almost knows that it's a dream, but he's not yet able to stop it, nor to wake himself up from it.

Almost unaware of what he's doing, he tries to force himself awake but he's just too tired. He drifts back down into a deeper level of sleep and is back at the pool as his dream re-sets.

"So," Jim says laconically. "Now what?"

"Bit of a stand-off, I would think," Sherlock replies. "Your snipers can't shoot me without the danger of me shooting you; I can't stop aiming at you without being shot. Not much choice, really: we wait until the police arrive, and you allow yourself to be taken into custody."

Jim's eyes narrow again.

"You won't be there for long," Sherlock adds. "Obviously you'll have a way of escaping police custody within a day or two, but you'd be surprised how much damage I can do to your empire while you're out of the way."

A police car sirens its way down Baker Street and again John stirs, almost surfacing from sleep before settling down. Re-set.

"Johnny-boy," says that hateful voice. "It sounds like your rescuers are arriving. You should nip outside and make sure they can find their way in. Sherlock and I'll be just fine waiting here."

John frowns, unwilling to take any more orders from that maniac, but Sherlock briefly glances across to him and nods reassuringly.

"Warn them about the snipers," he says before returning his full concentration to Jim's confident smile.

John clambers painfully to his feet and stumbles clumsily towards the exit. As he reaches the door he stops and turns back for a moment, thinking, 'Is Sherlock deliberately ...?'

John stirs momentarily, frowning, before REM sleep claims him again. Re-set.

"We wait until the police arrive and you allow yourself to be taken into custody. It's not like you won't be out in a day or two – though whether through a legal or an illegal route is open to debate."

John's sharp intake of breath makes both men turn their head towards him slightly, but they continue to keep their eyes on each other.

"I can do a lot of damage to your kingdom while you're out of the way," Sherlock assures Jim comfortably, "but you're not really in a position to stop me right now."

Sirens are approaching outside.

John whimpers, rolling over in bed onto his other side and briefly surfacing from the dream. His mind struggles to find something less distressing to fantasise about, but his imagination stubbornly insists on returning to the same location. Re-set.

He stares down at his bleeding hands, not fully understanding how they got into that state. The air is full of dust and people are shouting all around him. A paramedic throws a blanket over his shoulders and urges him away from the building, telling him that he needs treatment immediately.

Donovan is talking into her phone as she escorts him towards the ambulance. "We're at the swimming pool, guv. No, not the public one; the other one, off the High Street. The one that that rich bloke bought and tarted up and re-opened ... Reichendale, Reichenberg, whatever it is."

Half a dozen girls on a hen night sing rowdily as they pass by. John mouths three syllables and turns over again. Re-set.

"You'll be amazed how much of your empire I can bring down while you're out of the way," Sherlock says confidently.

It happens so fast that John doesn't have time to react. Jim's face contorts into that manic snarl and he lunges forward, grating out, "Never," and grabbing at Sherlock's hand, forcing it upwards as he tries to pull the gun from it.

They're too close to the edge. Even as John realises that, Jim's foot slips over the edge of the tiles and he and Sherlock overbalance, toppling sideways still clinging to each other, and fall into the water. At the deep end.

John's legs won't work. He has been squatting for too long and the tension and strain of the past several minutes have done something to his muscles so that they won't propel him up into a standing position. He spends far too many seconds trying to get upright, then frantically throws himself forward onto his knees and starts to claw his way across the tiles, dragging his useless legs behind him. It's only a few yards but he can't seem to reach the edge of the pool to look over.

He can hear the water roiling but even with that noise, he knows that there's a sound he's not hearing.

He can't hear anybody gasping for breath.

John's body flails in the bed as his legs try to move. The motion disturbs him enough to jolt him temporarily out of the dream, then his legs become still and he settles again. Re-set.

"Probably my answer has crossed yours."

"You can't shoot a Semtex jacket in an entrepreneur's swimming baths," Jim assures him. "Not while Johnny-boy's hands are in that state. Tell the snipers to watch out for Donovan; and get the rescue team into the deep end."

Sherlock looks around worriedly before turning to John. "I need a blanket," he tells him. "Moriarty's going to send you away, and I agree with him that you should go, but his finger is tightening on the lasers. Lestrade's trying to get the gun into the pool with me – but I'll be dead by then."

John moans in panic. Re-set.

It's not the first time he has had to crawl through rubble to find a friend buried in the debris. In Afghanistan he failed to save his comrade.

He will not fail again.

Thanking God for once that he's quite small, he pulls himself through gaps in the collapsed concrete and shattered tiles until he reaches the poolside. It doesn't take him long to find Sherlock. And it takes even less time to realise that he's dead.

Choking his grief back temporarily, he crawls on and finds Jim's crushed, damaged body.

Jim Moriarty is still breathing.

But not for long.

Whining, John curls into a foetal position. Re-set.

'Is he deliberately sending me away?' John thinks to himself, then forces himself to move. The police need to know where Sherlock and Jim are but they also need to be warned about the snipers, so he reluctantly trots outside just as the first cars arrive. He runs towards them, flagging them down and is relieved to see Sergeant Donovan in one of them. He veers towards her car and is already talking as she throws open the door.

Behind him, an explosion goes off inside the building. As he turns in horror, the entire roof crumbles and collapses downwards.

When police officers finally manage to pull him back from clawing at the rubble, his hands are raw and bleeding. A paramedic throws a blanket around his shoulders, and Donovan leans into his face and sternly tells him that he must let them treat his injuries. She points out that the rescue and recovery experts have already arrived.

She talks rapidly into her phone as she escorts John towards the ambulance. "Yeah, we're at the swimming pool, sir. No, not the public one; the Victorian one that that rich businessman bought and re-opened ... Reichman, Reichbach, something like that."

John hears her pause as Lestrade says three syllables down the phone, giving the correct name, before she replies, "Yeah, that bloke."

Only in movies and television dramas do people constantly sit bolt upright in bed gasping and wide-eyed after a bad dream. Consequently John manages to avoid the bolt-upright-sitting, but his breathing is more rapid than normal and the only reason his eyes aren't wide is because they're squinched up against the tears.

He sits up slowly, swiping at his eyes and cursing quietly. It's bad enough to get the dream at all without it wandering off into so many variants of itself, mixing all those different scenarios that didn't happen with the real events. He's struggling to deal with the memory of what really happened without having a string of alternatives to cope with.

He wraps his arms around his knees, shivering a little even though it's not a cold night, and stares blearily at the opposite wall. He's had enough trauma in his life to know that he's not coping well with this one either. The horrors inflicted on himself and Sherlock by that lunatic won't leave him any time soon.

He shudders, desperate for something to distract him from the memories.

And as if in telepathic response, the other lunatic in his life stomps up the stairs and heads into the bathroom.

Smiling gratefully, John shakes off the nightmare for now and waits for Sherlock to come to bed.

Author's note: So I'm wondering if anybody has noticed that, with the exception of the opening section, each dream is either a drabble (100 words) or a 221B (221 words, with the final word beginning with a 'b').

Additionally, the aftermath is also a 221B.