The Equation; Chapter 6

Unforeseen variables

Disclaimer; Still the same, no money made, only grateful for the eye candy of Martin Freeman and adorable jumpers. God bless you Moffat and Gatiss.

AN; First of all, I am _so_ sorry for the delay here. I wanted this chapter to be longer also, but it truly kicked my butt. It's not slash but you can maybe read pre-slash (consider it an apology gift for making you wait). Probably one more chapter and an epilogue. I'm getting deep into my other Sherlock story which will be novel length, definitely. Again, apologies and thank you to everyone kind enough to comment, fav and watch, it means the world to me.

X +

Sherlock

"Not an option." The consulting detective barked, never relinquishing contact with John.

"Sherlock." John whispered, exhausted.

"Find another way, you're not going to submit him to any more pain." *Mycroft* the name went unspoken but was implied in every syllable.

"And have John subjected to the gas we know is still lingering?" Mycroft's crisp, no nonsense tones weren't helping matters.

"You have gas masks, I presume?" Sherlock growled, hands tightening on his friends shaking shoulders.

"Sherlock." John tried one more time, his voice a reedy whisper.

"Look at him, Sherlock." It was Lestrade, not Mycroft who finally got through to the younger man.

John's patient face was so lined that it twisted Sherlock's heart….*Heart? Really?*

One look at John confirmed. Really.

"Please, just, let's end this." He sounded so tired, brave, self-less John who had taught Sherlock so much that the detective thought he already knew.

"The pain, John…"

John's slight smile didn't help the pounding in Sherlock's chest. "I'm a doctor Sherlock, I know what has to be done."

But still Sherlock didn't let go.

"I can do it, John. If you want."

Most of the team's, and Donovan's specifically, eyebrows went up at that but John understood, he always had and always will.

*It's all, fine.

Thank you*

A brief nod, reminding Sherlock of another horrifying moment thanks to Moriarty. It reinstated John's trust in Sherlock and his own self-sacrifice.

Sherlock took a deep breath.

He exhaled forcibly when a garish voice sounded out through the small room.

All of them, even unflappable Anthea jumped back. Sherlock, however, didn't bother turning around. The fury and distaste on John's face told him everything.

'Oooh, naughty, naughty! You're supposed to be playing by the rules sweetheart.'

Sherlock growled low in his throat. "There are no rules in this, _Jim_, and I'm done with you. Best start running now, I'll even give you a head start." The detective didn't turn to look at Moriarty's images.

'Awww, don't be like that lover, nobody likes a sore loser.'

"Sore loser, what?" Donovan asked. Sherlock's heart skipped a beat.

The televisions blared out, a toneless, mechanical voice counting down. *Ten, nine, eight*

"Bomb! It's another bomb!" Lestrade shouted.

Sherlock looked at John and knew his horror, terror showed plainly.

Mycroft glanced to Anthea who began scanning the small room, fruitlessly.

'Say bye-bye, Sherlock! You have five seconds left.'

"No." Sherlock ground out.

"Get out of here, now Sherlock." John whispered.

"NO!" He bellowed.

'I need a partner, I _want_ this Sherlock Holmes. Jimmy always gets what he wants, it's the first rule you'll learn.'

John looked at Sherlock, eyes pleading. *No, please, don't*

'It's the only way to save him. Or I'll just blow him up now, release the gas and have you come around to me in your own time.'

'It's what I have, y'see. Unlike your little mongrel. I'll free you from your meaningless, limited little life by taking away what's most, ahem, limiting'

*Two*

"Yes." Sherlock whispered. "I'll do it."

All of the televisions switched off but one.

Y =

John

"I'll do it." John, his ears buzzing from the adrenalin and his own pain and exhaustion, jerked his head up.

"Sher-"

"Disable it, everything, and I'll meet you. I'll continue to play your game as long as you wish, by whatever rules you want."

Mycroft frowned and stepped forward but one gesture from Sherlock stopped him.

"It's as you said. Limiting, show me a real game but end this one first."

John gaped at him in horror. "Sherlock, no!" He yanked at the cuffs desperately, sending sparks of agony once more through his joints.

One long, pale spidery hand reached out and grasped a wrist. It should have hurt, but it didn't. The touch was feather gentle but Sherlock wouldn't meet John's gaze.

"You _can't_ do this, Sherlock!"

'Are you going to listen to your mutt, Sherlock Holmes? You still have a choice you know. I'll give you a few more seconds to get out before blowing it to oblivion. Enough time for everyone, well, mostly everyone to get to safety. And isn't he a dear, so upset about the dilemma?'

John's hatred of that, maniac, reached fever pitch. They'd never get him out in time, he was trapped. Still, more importantly…

"Sherlock, don't. Please, it's better that you leave than give in to him. I'm not…"

Sherlock's other hand reached up and grabbed John's shoulder, still so gently. He squeezed.

Then he finally met John's eyes and John gasped at the naked vulnerability there. He'd suffered these terrible hours, but his best friend had suffered as well.

All of the terror of what could have been shown out of Sherlock's normally icy persona. The detective put his hands on the sides of John's head and brushed his lips against his forehead.

Briefly, and so softly John almost didn't catch it he whispered, "Trust me." Then he moved his own pale, cool forehead against John's sweating one.

The contact, the reassurance of his hands and the deep abiding caring that went from one man to the other was all that was needed.

John said nothing more, he leaned into the contact and communicated, without words, that he trusted Sherlock Holmes explicitly. To the end of his life.

A flickering shadow of a smile replied that Sherlock understood. One more gaze and Sherlock removed his hands.

"People will talk, Sherlock."

Sherlock didn't even reply, his gaze flickered from tenderness to fondness, even amusement. His hands ghosted over John's shoulders then he stepped away.

One last smirk from Moriarty and the screens flashed off.

"About time Mycroft." Sherlock growled.

"Would you rather have had me wait and allow him to detonate. This way whatever, plan, you're concocting might actually succeed." Mycroft's every tone and syllable showed his doubts.

"He probably has speakers still, somewhere. Get John out of here, now." Sherlock brushed past them and didn't turn back, even when he heard John's faint calling of his name.

Mycroft waved his team in.

"Dr. Watson, this might sting a bit, but at least your thumbs will be spared, yes?"

A quick glance at Anthea who confirmed that the pressure gauge had settled completely. The small blow torch was extremely tiny, yet effective.

Gas masks covered the faces of the working team, however, with an oxygen mask for John. Not taking precautions against Moriarty was sheer madness.

Finally, blessedly, John slumped down. The pipe had been scraped open in three places, despite the care of Mycroft's team.

Faint wisps of something sickly-sweet turned John's stomach. His entire body was shaking from exhaustion and shock.

When he was helped, no carried, just terrific, out, he could feel his body shutting down, finally giving in against Moriarty's torture.

"Hospital, sir?" A paramedic nervously asked Mycroft Holmes as another re-fitted John's oxygen mask.

"No, I have other instructions." John felt a stab of concern before finally succumbing to the darkness.

The Solution

The market was abandoned, covers flapping over empty stalls, ghostlike in the soft breeze. Spring was coming but the chill in the air still allowed Sherlock his dramatic attire, at this moment he wore it like armor against the man in front of him.

Moriarty was impeccably dressed as always; honestly how many suits did the man own? And how many times did he change them during a day?

But Sherlock already knew the answer; he knew what this man, if he could be called that, really was. A creature of pure vanity, cruelty and self-serving motivation.

Sherlock knew he probably had minions waiting close-by, despite his own instructions about no back-up. Creatures like Moriarty always had some kind of net. Trust was not only an alien concept, it was dangerous.

So Sherlock had no fear, no hesitation. He had, from the beginning of Moriarty's ridiculous and hideous games, held the stacked deck and the man dealing the cards never even knew it.

They paced each other like restless cats, Moriarty's smirk firmly in place. Sherlock kept his features schooled and icy, he'd allowed Moriarty to tap in and exploit too much from him in that area.

"Have they gotten your precious little doctor out yet, sweetheart?" Moriarty asked, teeth bore in a mocking smile.

"Undoubtedly."

"Was he feeling a bit worse for wear? It's sad, isn't it, how broken toys just aren't any more fun to play with."

Sherlock's eyes flashed then cooled again, just a nanosecond break.

"But you won't break, will you Sherlock? Not as long as I stay away from your, uh, friends?" Moriarty snorted. "Come now, possessions is a better term, isn't it?"

"You know, Sherlock, I think your heart isn't in this, but I'm willing to forgive that. I'm willing to train and apprentice you until you truly see how pathetic your existence once was. And, in the end, you'll be grateful for it."

"Will I?" Sherlock's deep voice used words sparingly, he'd had enough verbal sparring with Jim Moriarty to last ten lifetimes.

"Oh yes." A wide, manic grin that never, ever reached those glittering, snake-like eyes opened up Moriarty's face.

"I know you better than your sweet, crippled pet, or abominable brother, or even that bitch who gave you life. I know what frightens you."

Sherlock didn't want to say it, give this reptile any more power, but the words slipped out. "John is safe and Mycroft will ensure he stays that way." *Away from your tainting evil.*

Moriarty actually laughed. Its cold echo showed his sincerity.

"No, no, no precious, what would turn all your energies into jittering mania? What turns your so-called brilliant mind speeding out of control, blazing until all there is information, words, senses, until you scream for oblivion. And I could give you that oblivion, Sherlock, with minor strings attached."

Sherlock's glare could have cut glass.

"But even better, I can give you the antidote. You'll get tired of that pedestrian, shabby doctor, or one day he'll outlive his usefulness, probably trying to save you like the loyal fool he truly is. But before that, you'll tire of him, of your four walls and the prison of your own mind.

You'll get Bored. And it's what you fear most of all. "

Frigid, endless stillness. Sherlock did not argue.

"That's why you'll come with me, do it gladly and allow me to show you just what your mind can do without your meaningless and fruitless limitations. There's no black and white, Sherlock, only men like us turning it all gray with what we'll do with an undeserving, unappreciative world."

"Genius should have an audience." Sherlock countered agreeably.

"I knew you'd be a fast study." Moriarty put a hand on the taller detective's shoulder. "In the end, you always knew that I'm right."

Sherlock put his own gloved hand on Moriarty's shoulder…..

And with his other hand pulled a blade from his pocket and plunged, then slashed down the consulting criminal's right leg.

To his credit, Moriarty's barely blinked and didn't cry out in pain. He looked somewhat surprised though, as Sherlock pushed him away savagely.

He stumbled, then fell. Then he laughed, looking up at Sherlock with his eyes glittering in genuine amusement.

"Still learning, then, maybe not such a qu-…" Moriarty's face twitched, and he frowned.

"I missed the femoral artery, on purpose of course, but its close enough for you to bleed out within ten minutes. You'll lose your leg, the nerve damage which you're feeling is permanent. The dizziness and shortness of breath is from the poison that I coated the blade with."

Moriarty blinked up at him.

"You're starting to lose your sight now, mine was far more potent than the one you foolishly tried to harm John with. Let that be one of the last thoughts to ever cross your mind. I wanted it to be slower, true, more painful, but you're boring me so terribly that I have to give myself an early out."

The menace in Jim Moriarty's face darkened, there he was, who or what he truly was, as blood began streaming out of his nose, dribbling out of a corner of his mouth.

No fancy suits or silly mannerisms could ever hide it, not from Sherlock who knew the true measure of a man in John Watson or Greg Lestrade.

He kneeled down, his baritone rumbling even deeper. Moriarty started to shake and reached a hand out but Sherlock roughly batted it away.

"I know they are close, your always present network, but without the right antidote, you'll be left permanently blind, perhaps with irreversible brain damage. The leg you threatened to take out from Dr. Watson you'll lose, it's lost already."

"And you've lost all, Jim Moriarty. In the end you were nothing but a fool hiding behind a glamor of insanity and all you'll become is a husk. I've burned you away, as you threatened to do to me, and there's nothing you can do to hide from it."

Sherlock stood up, brushed off his coat and started to walk away.

A shaking hand grasped his trouser cuff. "K-Kill, Jo-John, b-bury him, piec-ces, g-gone, t-tonight, if, if, I…." Moriarty's teeth were coated red underneath his grotesque grin.

Sherlock kicked out as hard as he could, thrusting the other man back.

"No, you won't. You won't harm John Watson in any way, ever again. Not unless you want to play another round with me."

The detective grabbed the lapels of the criminal and hoisted him up, his own teeth barred. "And you don't, if the pain you're now feeling is a motivation."

Sherlock slammed his own head against Moriarty's and walked away. He heard shouts and footsteps as he turned a corner. The arrogant sod had ordered his minions to stay away during their ridiculous showdown, and Sherlock Holmes knew that the mad man would pay for it.

Sherlock smiled. Good.