Disclaimer; Oh how I wish I owned at least BBC's Sherlock and the gorgeous characters Moffat and Vertrue have reincarnated but I don't No money is being made from this story. Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and others are the property of the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Inspiration for this story came in several different forms and follows the timeline pre-Richenbach *sniffle* yet post Baskerville.
The first inspiration, the title and others, comes from the Sherlock Holmes' sequel, "A Game of Shadows" where Holmes informs the Professor that John Watson was now, 'out of the equation'. Of course all that really does is show Moriarty how John means to the detective.
Second inspiration is the multiple kidnappings of John by Mycroft Holmes. From "Scandal", 'you're right, he thinks its Mycroft' and of course the scene which got my pulse racing (c'mon, admit it, for just a moment you suspected) where John is taken at Mycroft's club, by force, from "Richenbach"
Finally, I really did research this story and so if some things seem 'improbable' forgive me but I did do my homework concerning Moriarty's, ahem, methods.
"So is this" John's voice sounded steely. He never sounded that way, except when he held a gun and Sherlock was threatened.
Apparently it wasn't just physical threats.
Sherlock barely heard the exchange, still slightly relieved that following John only led to this. Someday, someday soon, he would strangle Mycroft for his heavy-handedness.
His text sounded out and the conversation below stopped. Sherlock made his exit.
John had stuck around during his 'danger night'. He stuck around for a lot more than that.
Sherlock heard the doctor come back but he, back facing the room, made no movement to show he knew, or cared.
John took a few steps toward the couch, sighed deeply and retreated.
"Why would I need you?"
"No reason whatsoever."
How was it that even the small things seem to be adding up in Sherlock's mind? He didn't need a keeper or even a friend. He needed an assistant, a sounding board with at least two brain cells to rub together.
John Watson was a good assistant, even Sherlock would admit that. It was his uncanny capability to keep shouldering his way into Sherlock's carefully sterilized life that was making the detective…..uneasy.
Uneasy? Or frightened?
Resentful Sherlock snarled to himself. One Mycroft was bad enough.
Except he's not like Mycroft is he? Or you? Not at all.
Sherlock Holmes did not feel guilt, he did not feel pity and he honestly didn't care what the older man did and did not do concerning his own person.
He's the wrong combination, like an unsolvable equation. Brains and nerve, yes, but too much heart. Too much compassion. Weak.
Sherlock actually slept that night. He had nightmares and couldn't remember them.
John looked concerned the next morning and Sherlock, nerves already frayed, snapped at him.
John hadn't been rising to the bait as much lately and he didn't now. He just looked at his friend for a long time and Sherlock knew that the man could see right through him.
John was out the door but Sherlock's temper had risen.
His phone buzzed some hours later.
He looked down, gasped, then bolted out the door, somewhat dressed. It would do, anyway.
An Apple a day….
Below, there was an address.
It wasn't far, not comforting to Sherlock.
The detective's heart was pounding in his ears when he reached the open market. Apples, apples….
He slammed into someone and started to say something rude.
"Tsk, Mr. Holmes. Your manners?"
The shorter man pulled back his hoody.
The two men stared each other down in the middle of the pedestrian traffic.
"Over here, good sir."
Moriarty gave a mock bow and gestured toward a nearby bench.
Sherlock followed him, feeling like he was walking through cement.
The moment they sat down, Sherlock wasted no time.
He grabbed the front of his archenemy's hoody and yanked.
"Where is he?"
"Oh please, Sherlock. Always so suspicious. Why the accus-"
"WHERE is he?" Some customers glanced in their direction.
Moriarty snorted, looking bored. He gingerly pried Sherlock's fingers away.
"Honestly, do you even know the simplest clichés? Away, as in away Sherlock. I don't have your sweet little pet."
Sherlock didn't know whether to believe him but a slight wave of relief hit him.
"Since he's always trotting along behind you, however, faithful, scrawny mutt, I wanted an opportunity for a one on one."
Sherlock's fury at Moriarty's insults increased.
"I just missed our little chats." Moriarty's grinned increased, something unsteady flashing behind his eyes.
"What do you have to say to me?" Sherlock hissed.
Sherlock started, the familiar words cutting through him.
"Yes, bored to tears actually. I need a new game but the ones I tried to play with you haven't gone so well."
Moriarty sighed dramatically. "There, you see? Where was the fire-eater seeing my hand in everything, always?"
Sherlock thought back. Standard crimes, below standard actually. Beneath his notice he actually thought.
"You knew I'd ignore them, since when do you need an excuse?"
A look of mock hurt crossed the other's face. "Am I really that bad Sherlock? I've only just upped the ante."
"Well, then, here we are. The final standoff, even though you, naughty boy, didn't play the first rounds."
Sherlock felt something cold prickle down his spine. The Fifth Pip. "No."
Moriarty laughed, it was scornful but still joyous. It set Sherlock's teeth on edge.
"You do realize how easy it is, yes?"
Sherlock got the brief satisfaction of finally surprising Moriarty.
"Your bureaucratic brother? That's your ace Sherlock?"
"He is, obnoxious, overbearing, pompous ass not withstanding, the British government. Eyes, ears, nose to the ground, everywhere."
Moriarty's eyes flashed with hate. "Not even John Watson could make you run to your brother for help."
Sherlock gritted his teeth. "I have surprises too, Jim Moriarty."
"Do you? And you think you can outmaneuver me in this game?"
"I don't have to; I'll play your game."
Disbelief flittered across the other's face. "You play your own way and frankly, I've grown tired of it all. I'm….."
"Bored, yes I heard you the first time."
He's getting unimaginative. Not a good sign.
"I'll play; I'll play by the rules set. I'll play like someone who knows your mind."
Moriarty's teeth were bared.
"Because it's just the other side to mine."
Now, a genuine smile. Sherlock preferred the grimace.
"But I have a rule as well. Oh I'll play your games and I'll make them as, fun, as you wish. I get bored to, Mr. Moriarty."
Moriarty yawned sarcastically and gestured. "And…?"
"I have one rule."
"Gods, how dull. No hurting good Dr. Watson? Really Sherlock, you were my last hope, how could you have become so predictable?"
Sherlock didn't care what Jim Moriarty thought of him. There were only a few things he cared about…..
"He is out of the equation."
An eyebrow quirked. "Is he?"
"Yes and then your pathetic attempt at entertainment will provide endless opportunities. Even sociopath's can be men of their word."
Moriarty regarded him for awhile.
"What?" Sherlock snapped finally, nerves reaching breaking point.
"But I like this little game, Sherlock. I like it better and better. I am slightly disappointed, though.
Y'know, even the loyal pet showed some unpredictability. Not much, but for a standard clod he could surprise. Do you know, when my men strapped him to the bomb he never stopped fighting. Even landed a few blows. It was only when he got close, to you, how lovely, that he stopped."
Moriarty batted his eyes at him.
Sherlock hadn't asked John about how Moriarty had taken him that night. Perhaps he just didn't want to know. He had deduced enough and now the same tortured imaginings came back.
John, frightened but stoic, his life in the hands of this mad man.
Moriarty's eyes shone demonically. "So easy, Sherlock. One step out of the door, one cab driver bribed men _brave_ enough to subdue your short, crippled bleeding heart."
Moriarty garbled the last word. Sherlock's hands tightened around his throat.
Moriarty didn't look afraid, he look pleased. His laughter wheezed out.
Sherlock looked at him through slit eyes. "The game, Jim Moriarty, and I will remember everything you said here today."
Moriarty rolled his eyes after Sherlock removed his hands. "Booooring!" He shrugged.
"As for your maths problems, well teach….I thought you were once unsolvable." He sighed and shook his head. "Not so, but I'll do the homework. So many other improbable out there."
"Is that your answer?" Sherlock snapped furiously.
Moriarty's eyes were cold and dead, so very unlike someone else's eyes that Sherlock knew. "It's the best one you will get, Sherlock Holmes."
He pulled the hoody over his head and disappeared into the crowd.
Four and counting nicotine patches weren't doing it. Mrs. Hudson poked her head in, even she was surprised by the amount of noise, Sherlock's endless pacing.
John arrived home, bags under his eyes. He had gotten groceries and take away and gave Sherlock a slight smile when he shook the latter.
Tempting smells wafted out. John was forever trying to get him to eat.
Sherlock's stomach, however, felt encased in a block of ice. He could barely look at John. Moriarty's words echoed round and round in his head and when he looked at John all he could see was what happened to him that night. Because of his friendship and loyalty to Sherlock Holmes.
He couldn't, however, of course he couldn't block out the brief flash of hurt that crossed John's face when Sherlock turned his back. No words of greeting, nothing.
Still, minutes later John called out softly. "Hungry, Sherlock?"
Sherlock gritted his teeth.
What, would you like me, to make him say, next?
"Sherlock?" The voice was closer now.
Your sniper pulls that trigger Mr. Moriarty, then we both go up.
"Sherlock?" John grabbed his arm in concern and Sherlock jerked away violently.
John backed away, hands in the air.
This is a turn up, isn't it Sherlock?
"How many times do I have to say it John? Don't get into my personal space, don't touch, my god are you really what everyone says? Is this why no woman wants anything to do with you? Why those idiots at the Yard, even, smirk at you? Do you think I want you constantly around, constantly annoying and in my WAY?"
He roared the last but John just stood there, his expressive face laid bare.
Sherlock hadn't meant to say those things. He was afraid. He had never learned to deal with fear in any way and certainly not this kind of fear.
"A bit of an overreaction, don't you think?" John finally spoke.
His voice was trembling but he still held his composure.
And suddenly, Sherlock became even angrier. Just over a year ago, he could deal with Mycroft and Lestrade and the Andersons and Donovans. He'd been free.
He didn't have to watch his heart Heart, HA! Being pulled out, twisted, and abused. Now, he was the weaker player.
Because of _him_. He hadn't asked John Watson to be the sort of person he was, the best person Sherlock knew.
He hadn't asked or expected John to help Mrs. Hudson up and down stairs, remember Molly's birthday and buy his 'shopping' list for an experiment two days in advance.
He hadn't known he would care about the doctor and he hadn't expected it. Now, he was weaker.
Unaccountably and unforgivably, he lashed out at John for being John.
"Why do you feel the need to be so subservient?" Sherlock snarled and John stiffened at the tone.
"Is it the military? Drummed into you? Your own dimmed intellect or just the fact that your dull, pathetic life has to cling to something, anything more dramatic to somehow justify your existence?"
"You disgust me."
The words hung, dark, heavy, deadly and John stood there, shaking.
His face, his eyes, Sherlock would never forget them as long he lived.
Nothing could be said yet John nodded.
He walked not walked, stumbled Sherlock, see and observe to his laptop, glanced at it briefly then went into Military! John. Stiff and formal.
He picked it up and walked out the door without another word.
The groceries had been put away and the take away set out. It looked nice, Again the plea of please Sherlock, you need to eat, too thin. But John was gone.
Sherlock stood there for a very long time and John didn't return.
It really wasn't that late, early evening at best, but Sherlock felt it one of the longest days of his life.