Disclaimer: Sherlock and John belong to ACD's grey cells, and each other in that order... Although the B.B.C. version receives full credit for inspiring me to put a pen to paper.
Summary:An AU, where John is Jim Moriarty's fiancé. He finds out about Jim's job and agrees to testify against him, and is put into protective custody as a result, under the alias Victor Trevor. Sherlock meets Victor, sparks fly. Written for a truly unique prompt on the shkinkmeme; so credit for inspiration goes to the OP.
Author's notes:This was something I was working on before Reichenbach happened and temporarily derailed it. The story is now on the verge of completion. This will be a multi-chaptered fic and I will be posting atleast one part weekly. My first real attempt at S/J, so please be gentle.
A special mention and a million thanks to my amazing new beta, lady_t_220 for her patience in going though the story, correcting my frankly disastrous punctuation, and plugging plot-holes, which I hadn't even noticed. You're a gem.
He wasn't supposed to be in London; hell, he wasn't supposed to step outside his room after sundown, those were Lestrade's strict instructions. He didn't bother pointing out that following instructions had never been his strong suit.
Also, Lestrade couldn't possibly know the biggest danger to his life lay within the featureless four walls of his bedsit. The gun had looked a little too tempting in his hand this morning and it hadn't even been a month since he had gone into hiding. Afghanistan and its nightmares had been vivid, unforgiving, horrifying even, but never cruel. His nightmares had a new spectrum to them now; Ella would have been pleased! Not that he could go back to her.
Concentrate Watson, he ordered himself. They had reached the sixth round of betting. Out of the original eight players, only three were left in the game, including himself. He was all in. It was either this, or shooting himself in the foot just out of sheer boredom. His Army Browning didn't deserve such a pathetic mess of a target. Not yet, anyway.
He had deliberately chosen this disreputable sinkhole of a pub, desiring both anonymity and risk. He could hear the hubbub from the bar below, which he had ignored in favour of the game. Getting drunk was too tempting and far too dangerous in the long run.
There were about ten to twelve people milling about the room, observing the game now. Most of them were probably regulars. He concentrated on his fellow players- the one to his right was beefy with two of his front teeth missing, still in the game not due to any skill but instead sheer dumb luck and an abundant amount of money. The other player was old and at least partly drunk judging by the smell that had been wafting over. His eyes were drooping, much of his face obscured by a beard, but he had been making the right calls. He was clearly not as drunk as he intended to appear. Clever!
John took a deep breath as the final card was dealt out. The atmosphere was thick with expectation though he remained unmoved. The sinking sense of apathy that had been dogging him all night seemed to take firmer hold with every passing moment, up until the last card was flipped over and everything went to hell.
The door to their room was suddenly pushed open as two men walked in, guns in hand, heads swivelling as though searching for someone. One of them walked over, overturning the table and sending the cards scattering across the floor.
"Game over, folks," he growled
The sudden rush of adrenaline in John's veins was almost euphoric. Ah, this was what he'd been searching for.
The low thrum of conversation in the room had come to an abrupt stop, only the beefy co-player speaking up loudly in the silence. "Aw, Billy, what the hell? I was winning this one."
The man with the gun didn't seem to hear him, his eyes boring into every face. His voice was hard. "He's here. The bloody snoop that's been plaguing 'em over at Checkers."
The beefy player scoffed, "Not a chance…all regulars here, except for these two." He gestured towards John and the old man. "One's ancient and other's a cripple."
The man with the gun narrowed his eyes as he checked out the old man, dismissing him a moment later before his gaze settled on John. His gaze hardened. "YOU, what's your name?"
Even after a month, the name felt alien on John's lips. "Victor Trevor."
It was a weak lie. Even a two-bit thug could sense that. The man's eyes narrowed.
"How about some I.D., Mr. Trevor?
John's hand wavered. The documents provided by the Witness Protection Program certainly weren't going to do him a lot of good. They were still locked in a strong-box under his bed in Sussex. John gave the man looming over him a cynical glare.
"You think I'm going to bring personal effects to a place like this? That'd just be asking for trouble."
"Is that right?" The man sneered. "I think you need to come with us now. Just want to ask you a few questions."
John pushed off from the table, hand reaching automatically for his cane though for once his leg didn't seem to be troubling him. They thought he wasn't who he claimed to be, and it was partly true. But somehow, he knew that they had nothing to do with his…don't go there, John!
He hobbled down between the two men as they silently descended the stairs and he let himself be herded into a dingy back-alley. Curiously, after that initial jolt of excitement, all he could seem to feel now was a dull sort of irritation. Not even enough to stimulate the fight or flight response. The two thugs prodded him round to face the wall and he sighed.
"What seems to be the problem?" he asked.
They didn't answer. Billy just motioned him to stand still. "Search him", he ordered the other guy, who stuffed his gun in his pocket and patted John down from head to toe. John thanked his stars for not having carried his gun for today's jaunt. The man roughly yanked out his wallet and mobile phone.
"HEY!" he gave a token protest and was roughly shoved to his knees. The cane clattered to the ground, disproportionately loud in the dark alley. The ground was damp and his jeans were soaked through in an instant, but after that cursory protest he stayed silent. Overhead, something squeaked.
"There's nothing here." The man's voice was disdainful. "Just a tenner and an oyster card."
"So! Victor, is it? You were gambling with ten pounds in your wallet? Very brave of you…"
"I was never in over my head!" John protested weakly.
"You know what I think? I think you weren't gonna finish the game in the first place. You made your way in to spy on one of our boys and get a sample of his work, coz he's stupid enough to use it for gambling, isn't that right, Mr. Holmes?"
John had had enough. He got to his feet, knees protesting. "I told you, my name is Victor. I don't know who it is you are talking about. I was here just for the game and I would like to have my wallet and my phone back, right now."
That prompted Billy to point his gun straight at John. "I think people like you need to be taught a lesson. So, I'm gonna try not to kill you…just shoot you enough that you'll remember not to go meddlin' in someone else's business."
John didn't move. Even as he stood there, he could think of at least two ways to try and overpower the man. Instead he closed his eyes in resignation. He had not planned on dying. But this was a much better alternative than killing himself, or attempting to live his life, or what passed for it now-a-days.
Behind his closed eyelids, he finally allowed himself the respite of his memories- the face of a man with crinkled black eyes and the impish smile. The gaze that had made him feel like he was the centre of the universe, the brilliance that had captivated him, that had shown in his smile when John had said Yes… yes forever! Nothing had changed, though everything was different. He was still in love with the lie. It is better to have loved and lost than not to …what utter bullshit!
Suddenly there was a larger clang overhead and John's eyes snapped open involuntarily…
…just in time to see a man drop like a stone from the sky on the top of his would-be-assassin's head.
A frantic motion in the periphery of his vision snapped him out of his emotional paralysis. He lunged and tackled the second man to the ground before he could reach for the gun in his pocket. He slammed his attacker's head to the ground, ducking to avoid the weakly thrown punch before pounding his fist into the man's face until his eyes rolled up in his head.
He rolled himself away from the prone figure, lying on the ground and panting heavily as he tried to catch his breath. He heard footsteps coming closer just before a shadow fell across his face.
"Are you alright?"
John opened his eyes to see the face of his second card-table companion, except that it wasn't the same man. This man had the hair and skin of a sixty year old, but the voice and bearing of a much younger man. His eyes glittered sharply in the dim light of the alley and the smell of alcohol was barely discernible out in the open. Behind the looming figure, the fire-escape was clearly visible overhead, the point from which the man must have launched himself into the fight.
John could swear that he had no control over his own reactions, as he began to giggle at the absurdness of his unwanted rescue. In response, a smile broke out on the stranger's face, throwing the false wrinkles in sharp relief. He grabbed John's hand to haul him upright.
"When you get over your hysterics, we need to leave." There was no rancour in his voice. "Their friends will come looking any moment now. I'm Sherlock Holmes, by the way."
Mr. Holmes? So, this was the man to be blamed for the mess he was presently in. Though if he was honest it was also the reason John was feeling more alive than he had done in months. Knowing that made is strangely impossible to hate him.
Holmes led the way, running through the maze of alleyways, over another fire-escape and two rooftops before they finally stopped to catch their breath.
"That…" John panted, "…has to be…the most ridiculous thing… I've ever done!"
"And you invaded Afghanistan!" Sherlock countered with a giggle of his own. At John's sudden frozen expression, his tone became querulous. "Or, was it Iraq?"
But John Watson wasn't in the alley anymore. It was six months back, and he was at Heathrow airport, watching Murray walk away to take his flight back to Kabul; the last person who mattered to John, going back to make a difference while John was stuck here. He had been sitting for what felt like hours, staring at his cane when someone had taken the chair next to his in the waiting lounge. He had ignored the new-comer, until a confident voice had cut through his reverie, thrusting a fresh paper-cup filled with piping hot tea into his cold hands…
"So, Afghanistan or Iraq?"
John stumbled one more step back from the man in the alley, unseeing in shock. Then he did something he had never done in his life before. He turned around and ran for his life.
To be continued…