Based on this prompt by anonymous: John never gets the call about Mrs. H so Sherlock tries to make John hate him to leave.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Warnings: Un-beta'd un-Britpicked. Will make some changes if you leave a review and let me know what needs fixing; be honest. Thanks! :)
Some time over the last few hours John has fallen asleep in one of the lab chairs, his face propped against his arms on the counter in front of him. His back is probably going to hurt him when he wakes, Sherlock notes automatically. Which- he glances at the clock- should be fairly soon. He gave Molly very specific instructions, and the time is fast approaching. In a few minutes John is going to get a call and rush off. Sherlock will be free to meet Moriarty alone, and whatever happens from there…well, at least John will be safe.
He watches the rise and fall of his friend's back while he sleeps and feels a twinge of regret. He knows if he's correct- which he usually is- and if all goes according to his plan- which it usually does, although there's no telling when Moriarty's involved- that John will be hurt. He knows there's no way to avoid it, but finds he feels guilty nonetheless. It's not an emotion with which he's familiar, not used to the idea of being responsible to anyone other than himself. He glances at the clock again and finds that the remaining minutes have already slipped away. The second-hand reaches the twelve. It's time.
But John's phone doesn't ring. The minute slips past in silence. And then the next one. John continues sleeping, slumped against the countertop and snoring slightly. Sherlock returns his feet to the floor, standing as quietly as he can, and approaches his sleeping flatmate. He picks up his phone and examins it. Dead battery. Of course; John wouldn't have had time to charge it…why hasn't he prepared for this?
He places the phone on the table as it was and returns to his seat. He'll text Molly, have her (or the paramedic she enlisted for this purpose) call his phone instead. He'll relay the message to John that Mrs. Hudson has been shot. John, of course, will leave immediately while Sherlock will insist he must remain behind. His friend will be angry at him, but he's prepared for that already. He's just pulling out his phone when it signals an incoming text message. Sherlock curses inwardly as John stirs. He looks at the text.
"Sherlock?" says John sleepily, rubbing his eyes. "Who's that?"
No good. He could lie, of course. Tell John he's texting Mycroft and have Molly call him anyway, but he's out of time. John has to leave now, or Sherlock will never get Moriarty where he wants him again- asking to meet twice in the same location would be far too suspicious. Hopefully the fact that he's chosen the hospital rooftop isn't enough for Moriarty to suspect Sherlock knows something of his plans, that he's made some of his own to prepare. Moriarty can't know the significance of the role several people in this building are likely to play. (People even Sherlock has never met. But he trusts Molly to have enlisted only the best.) They can't meet anywhere else. It has to be here. It has to be now.
All this goes through Sherlock's head in about two seconds. In three he's formulated a new plan. It takes an additional four before he's ready to carry it out…because he knows that it's for John's protection, but also that he's done everything in his power over the last year to win John's respect and admiration. And now…now Sherlock has to strip him of both. In those four seconds he retreats inward, burying his regret and crafting a mask behind which his real self can retreat so he can play the part required of him.
He pretends to read the text for a long moment before he stands and turns his back on John, pacing and running a nervous hand through his curls. Every aspect of his body conveys stress, as though the text he's received has delivered the final blow. He's not a method actor: the self-proclaimed sociopath does not feel the emotions he portrays, but rather mimics them, detail-for-detail. And yet the genuine stress of the last twenty-four hours leaks through, making his performance just a tad easier.
"Sherlock?" says John, and he hears the concern in his voice but doesn't let it affect him.
"What?" he snaps back, not looking at him.
He hears John pick up his phone, looking for messages and grumbling when he discovers it's dead. "Who're you texting?" he asks, unfazed by his friend's rudeness. He's used to it, after all.
"Oh do mind your own business, would you?" He's no longer pacing, but standing, back still turned on John, his fingers steepled in front of him in his traditional "thinking" pose.
"Hey," says John, irritation making its way into his voice for the first time. "I know it's been a rough day, but I'm just trying to help. It's what friends do, after all."
Sherlock chuckles without warmth. "Is that what you think we are, John?" he says, voice icy. "Friends?"
"Of course I do," John replies, sounding confused, either not catching on to the coldness of Sherlock's tone or else choosing to ignore it.
Sherlock spins, looking John dead in the eye for the first time. He's glaring at him with such intensity that would make lesser men cower. John simply stares back, brow furrowing with increased concern. Sherlock decides to cut to the chase.
"You," he says severely, "are an idiot. Of course you couldn't have been anything else- any assistant I found would have to be dull-witted to believe everythingI told him. Still, I played a very convincing game for a very long time. If there's anything for which I'm grateful now that it's all come out- and oh, I have fantasized about this moment- it's that I get to see the look in your eyes when you realize how thoroughly you've been had."
John blinks furiously, shaking his head slightly, his face a study in confusion with just a hint of hurt and denial playing through his eyes. "Why…why are you saying all this?"
"Because it's all true," Sherlock replies, speaking quickly with clinical, unwavering certainty. "Everything they said about me. I invented Moriarty." There's a moment of stunned silence.
"W-what?" says John, shocked.
"I. Invented. Moriarty," Sherlock repeats impatiently, speaking slowly and clearly as though to a child. "Really, John, is it so difficult a concept to grasp? James Moriarty doesn't exist. It's just a name I invented, under which I myself worked when I organized the crimes. It was me, John. It was always me."
John's shaking his head. "Shut up," he snaps. "Just shut up, Sherlock. The first time we met…the first time we met you knew all about my sister!" He looks at him as though this settles the matter.
The lie comes just a little too easily. "Oh do use your head for once," he says, his tone carefully exasperated- he might as well be talking to Anderson. "I researched you! I knew I had to be convincing, or you'd never work with me. I discovered everything I could beforehand to impress you. I tricked you. That's all there is to it. Nothing more."
"Stop it," says John, sharply. "Just…just stop it now. I don't know what you think you're playing at-"
Sherlock cuts him off, because this needs to end sooner rather than later. "You know, my brother might call it loyalty, what you're doing right now. But I know better. You're protecting your ego, because your tiny little brain can't accept that I used you…that I've been using you this entire time. Do you think I ever really needed a flatmate? I, who could somehow afford expensive lab equipment, or indeed the rent, without ever holding a paying job? How many holes in my story must I provide?"
"I…well I just assumed…Mycroft…" John is floundering, searching for any excuse. Sherlock presses on.
"Of course you did, but you were wrong, weren't you? Because for every crime I 'solved' I let at least two more pass unnoticed. I was the consulting criminal. I told you, the frailty of genius is that it needs an audience. I wanted the limelight. I obviously couldn't allow myself to get caught, so I became a consulting detective to solve my own crimes. I paid Richard Brook to be Moriarty, and real criminals to carry out 'his' plans, including the men who kidnapped you and the snipers who held us at gunpoint. I mean, even you could only believe in a faceless threat for so long."
"You're…you're daft if you think I'm going to believe all that," says John, his voice shaking a little. "You're a lot of things, Sherlock. Infuriating, rude, egotistical…but you are not a criminal. We've solved too many cases together. I refuse to…I will not believe now that you made everything up. Even you aren't that clever."
But Sherlock can see that John doesn't believe that last bit. John knows Sherlock's brilliant enough to pull it off. What he doesn't believe is that Sherlock would betray him; their emotional connection is too strong. He's going to have to hurt John further.
"Tell me," Sherlock sneers, "do you think it's coincidence that every time you got close to a woman there was conveniently something more important I needed you to do for me? That I was deliberately obtuse in their presence until it eventually drove them away? I couldn't have you distracted, John. Couldn't risk you getting married and leaving me so that all my work will have been for naught. I've been manipulating you from day one."
Sherlock sees that this strikes a cord. It's clear from the expression on John's face that his heart is going to be the fastest and simplest way to play this, even though, at the back of his mind, Sherlock's aware he's going to hate himself later.
"Or," he says slowly, his voice quiet and dripping with venom, "did you believe that I did it for other reasons? Did you think that I was jealous, perhaps? That I, the great Sherlock Holmes, was interested in the affections of my worse-than-ordinary flatmate?"
John's eyes widen, because Sherlock knows that's exactly what John thought. But he doesn't stop there. He can't leave a single doubt in John's mind. He smiles vindictively. "Oh, this is precious. I've been aware of your attraction for some time…you weren't exactly subtle about it, and I gave you every reason to desire me. I was handsome, brilliant…I even let you believe I cared, if only a little, just to keep you interested. But I never realized it went so far." Dark amusement colors his tone. "Tell me, John, did you think you were falling in love with me?"
John clutches the counter top behind him for support. He's visibly shaking. "Sherlock," he says quietly, his voice pleading, eyes begging for this to stop, a request which Sherlock cannot honor. "Why are you doing this?"
Sherlock lets the smile drop from his lips. All traces of humor gone from his features, he replies harshly, "People cleverer than you have figured out the truth, and I, at least, wanted the satisfaction of watching the penny drop." He slowly makes his way over to where John is trying hard not to collapse into a chair, watching Sherlock approach with eyes full of raw emotion. He towers over John, staring down at the man coming apart beneath him, and leans in close.
"You were meant to be my insurance. The one who would testify in my favor should anyone even so much as suggest I wasn't everything I claimed to be. Instead, out of some misplaced sense of loyalty, you ruined your own credibility as much as mine when you punched the Chief Superintendent. No one is going to believe you, because they will see everything I see in you now: a pathetic, washed-up ex-soldier who was taken in by Sherlock's lies because he was smitten. But make no mistake: you could have died- as you very nearly did on more than one occasion- and I would not have blinked. You're worse than useless."
As Sherlock watches, he sees something break behind John's eyes. He stumbles backwards, breathing hard as though he's just run a great distance. There's no longer any anger in his face. Instead there's pain and betrayal and a hint of desperation, as though he hopes he will wake up and never have to face the words which have cut far deeper than any bullet wound. Sherlock straightens, his face betraying no sympathy as he watches John retreat. He pulls out his phone and turns away, as though he's no longer interested in what John is doing.
"Go," says Sherlock, not looking at him. "I've had my fun, but now you're boring me. Run crying to Lestrade and beg his forgiveness for everything. I'm sure the others will take pity on you."
"Fuck you." John's shaking voice is barely more than a whisper, making the slam of the door sound that much louder as he crashes through it. And then he's gone.
The mask falls away. Sherlock hurls the phone in his hand across the room where it hits the wall and clatters noisily to the floor, but he barely hears it. His knuckles are white as he grips the counter, head bent, his breath coming in long, shaking gasps as he tries to get himself under control. Moriarty is waiting for him. He can't afford to be an emotional wreck. He chastises himself for his weakness- everything he said was meant to keep John alive. Because, right now, that's more important than anything.
He remains just a few seconds longer, enough to calm himself and slip back behind a carefully constructed mask- this one crafted specifically for Moriarty. He doesn't bother to retrieve his phone from the floor of the lab; it will soon be useless to him anyway, and he knows there's no longer any way for him to say goodbye to John before he leaves.
But as he grabs his coat he notices John's phone is still on the table. He picks it up and, without hesitating, slips it into his pocket. He'll allow himself this small comfort, one last piece of John to keep with him as he exits the lab and heads toward the roof to meet Moriarty.
Not sure whether I should leave this as-is or continue it. I'll wait to see whether anyone's interested in how this affects their relationship Post-Reichenbach. For now, just a one-shot. Update: Chapter 2 now posted, and at least two more to come. Thanks for the reviews, guys. :)
Side note, the title is from one of my favorite songs, The Riddle, from The Scarlet Pimpernel.