A/N I started this months ago, but finally got around to finish it a few weeks ago. :3 After Season 2's release, we all know how this scene really turned out, but I feel like it would have been so fun to see it in the more dramatic way that we were all envisioning... if you don't need the onscreen bit played out for you again, feel free to scroll down to the part where the gun is fired. :P
Rated T for peril or something like that
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc.
The pool was glowing. Clear water shifted in minute waves, throwing dancing patterns of aqua-tinted light over the cool, smooth tile walls. The grating sound of the door closing echoed through the high-ceilinged chamber, and that confirmed it. If Moriarty was here- and he must have come, he had to- then he was aware of Sherlock's arrival. He had the tactical advantage, wherever he was. He could shoot a gun, and his problems would be over.
But he's not that stupid. Sherlock's fingers curled around the small, seemingly insignificant memory stick that had taken lives- and that contained a plan to take so many more. He could toss it into the brightly lit pool now, end it all... but then his use would be over and he'd most certainly be killed. So he whipped it out and held it in the air, suspended in the twirling shadows that emanated from the silent water.
"Don't you want your little getting-to-know-you present?" he tried again, keeping it casual, not daring to expose the sense of mounting tension and approaching dread that was rising up inside of him. His deep voice rebounded off the slick walls, an invitation. It was several moments before the faint echoes faded, but then all was silent save the muted slap of ripples against tile. Still rotating slightly, he allowed his eyes the briefest flicker upwards, scanning the walls, checking for any sign of a trap. It was in that instant, with him facing the wall, the Bruce-Partington plans glimmering teasingly in the low light, that it happened. "That's what it's all been for, hasn't it? All your little puzzles, making me dance... all to distract me from this."
A creaking rustle disrupted the perfect stillness behind him. He stopped, every particle of his body trembling in strangled anticipation, in excitement, as his head slowly pivoted to see the figure that was stepping into the open. His breath had simply ceased coming, so that, for a moment, he was frozen, an ice sculpture in the shimmering turquoise aura enveloping the room.
The person, Moriarty, turned to face him. The majority of him seemed right- average build, green parka, hands tucked comfortably into his pockets.
But the face-
The face was wrong.
It didn't belong. There was an odd, foreign boiling in Sherlock's stomach, rising up to his chest, but all his mind could comprehend was that it wasn't right. Usually things clicked together in his thoughts, a steady flow, but... the man standing before him couldn't be Moriarty. He already had an identity assigned to him.
Dr. John H Watson, the man he'd worked with, lived with, long enough for it to become the way of things. The one who'd insisted on the two of them having a James Bond night, who'd stopped suggesting that Sherlock be the one to buy the milk, who'd refused to spy on him for Mycroft, killed the taxi driver to save him the day after their first meeting, given up questioning his odd experiments, deemed every casual deduction he'd ever made 'fantastic' or 'brilliant-'
That had been Moriarty?
"This is a turn-up, isn't it, Sherlock?" the man asked. Each word might have been a prod in Sherlock's chest with a burning iron poker. Oh, God, the voice. He knew that voice, but it was associated with all the wrong things. Rainy days of boredom with the two of them sitting in the flat watching bad telly, Sherlock in his blue robe with his arms wrapped snugly around his knees and John lounging back in his favorite armchair with its Union Jack-pattered pillow, giving one of those ridiculous giggles at every lame onscreen joke that made Sherlock roll his eyes... that voice didn't belong here any more than the face did. But things were starting to come together in his mind, forming the unavoidable truth: there never had been a John Watson. Only a John Moriarty.
His innards seemed to be twisting. It hurt, it hurt so damn bad...
"John?" he rasped, and he distantly recognized how weak his voice had become. The tsunami of emotion that seemed to be ripping him apart from the inside out convalesced into three words, slipping gratingly out from between his pale lips: "What the hell...?"
"Bet you never saw this coming."
Sherlock knew that he should have been angry, and yet he wasn't. He felt sick. Betrayed and sick. He wanted to rewind life, change it so that John was still John. Forget Moriarty and his games; all that mattered was John, And that he was gone, that he'd never existed... but he should have known. Moriarty hadn't begun stirring up trouble until the very day after John appeared.
Of course. So obvious. But you couldn't tell, you absolute idiot, because you wanted to believe in that fake character he projected. You were so damn desperate, so lonely, that you let him trick you.
You'll pay for that now...
But something was happening. The man that he couldn't make himself think of as Moriarty was speaking again, but something had changed. There were paused between the words, and the words themselves could have served as a chilling caption to the image of wires, Semtex, blinking red lights that was unveiled as John pulled back the sides of the green coat.
"What... would you like me... to make him say... now?"
It was as if some gigantic, tense blockage that had built itself up around Sherlock's heart and lungs let itself go all at once. Things inside him were coming apart, collapsing. There was another person here, at the pool. An external villain. The person calling himself Moriarty hadn't yet penetrated the very depths of Sherlock's well-hidden emotions.
He's only stolen them.
John, who, at the moment, symbolized everything Sherlock had to fight and live for, was being held hostage. Right there, yards away, looking rather small under all the explosives that had been strapped to him. And then there was another bizarre emotion rising up inside of Sherlock. It was several confused seconds before he was able to identify it: fear.
But there was no time to process the knowledge that he, Sherlock Holmes, was afraid- bloody terrified, in fact- because the voice Moriarty had stolen was once again echoing through the air and sinking into the luminous shine of the pool water. Though their tone was dragging, tortured, the words themselves- gibberish- were taunting. Cruelly, painfully taunting.
"Gottle-o-gear... gottle-o-gear, gottle-"
"Stop," Sherlock hissed, not thinking about the consequences his rudeness might have, just knowing that he couldn't stand to see John humiliated on top of the already present guilt and terror.
"Nice touch this, the pool... where little Carl died. I stopped him..." John's eyes squeezed shut then, and he tilted his head slightly, as if he wanted nothing more than to turn away, deny and escape this reality that threatened both of them. Sherlock's grip on the memory stick tightened until he could barely even feel it. He needed the same thing, desired nothing more than to make it happen, come to the rescue... play the hero. Even though he himself had said that he was anything but... it was what he wanted now.
"I can stop John Watson, too... stop his heart."
"Who are you?" The words that finally ripped themselves from Sherlock's mouth came out simply because he couldn't bear it anymore. Stop talking, stop- doing whatever you're doing, whatever it is that's hurting me... that's hurting him... show yourself, you absolute coward, he thought, but he couldn't make himself say it. His eyes were fixated on the little red laser point dancing around John's Semtax. And when the back of his neck began prickling, it seemed almost without reason, until the lone, mournful, sing-song mumble of a voice emerged from an unidentifiable point in the room, slithering along the pristine walls and cold tiled floor.
"I gave you my number... I thought you might call."
He knew, instantly, that this was the voice of a madman, as surely as he was aware of that madman's name. This was Moriarty. This man, not as recognizable as John had been, but a familiar face nonetheless. Walking casually into the open, donning a glaringly expensive suit, hands in his pockets. His eyes were so dark that they seemed pupil-less, shining like mildly interested black pools out of his neatly unshaven, pale face.
Now Sherlock was the one moving, turning around to fully face the two people he cared most in the world: one whose death was absolutely essential, and the other, whose life. Because John did need to survive this. He had to. Without him, Sherlock would be lost. This was the climax of their game: time to fight. He had just never expected the prize to be something so... essential. He couldn't walk out now if he wanted to; this infuriatingly perceptive new enemy might as well have bound him with steel and iron.
"Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket," Moriarty drawled lazily, watching with those dark, dark eyes, "or are you just pleased to see me?"
It was practically an invitation, and not one Sherlock was eager to ignore. He pulled out the gun in a single swift movement, gaze deviating slightly from his immediate target to ensure John's safety. The doctor was still staring straight ahead, unnaturally rigid- in fact, so perfectly still that, had he not been standing up, it would have been questionable whether or not he was even still alive. It was this impossible thought, that soon he might not be, that propelled the cold fury of the single word Sherlock spoke: "Both."
"Jim Moriarty. Hi!"
The last word was stretched into two unnatural syllables. John was staring straight ahead, rigid, the laser still flickering painfully around his torso. Sherlock noted this out of the corner of his eye, otherwise focused on the insane killer who was now slowly pacing the perimeter of the pool, speaking in that slow, deep yet high voice. "Jim? Jim from the hospital? Hm." Molly Hooper's boyfriend began to smile, coldly, easily. "Did I really make that fleeting of an impression? Then again, I suppose that was rather the point. Don't be silly; someone else is holding the rifle... I don't like getting my hands dirty," the psychopath continued as Sherlock steadied his gun hand. "I've given you a glimpse, Sherlock, just a teensy glimpse of what I've got going on out there in the big bad world. I'm a specialist, you see. Like you."
It clicked in Sherlock's mind. Of course. Working his way around the world... Moriarty hadn't been showing off; he'd been demonstrating. The crime was never done by him specifically. That would be too risky. But he was behind it all, orchestrating it all- not because of personal connection, though. Oh, no. He was doing it all on request.
"Dear Jim," he breathed slowly, watching the pale face that smirked at him down the gun with chilled, intensely focused gray-green eyes. "Please will you fix it for me to get rid of my lover's nasty sister... Dear Jim, will you fix it for me to disappear to South America..."
Moriarty snickered lowly, ducking his head in an almost embarrassed way. "Just so," he declared, undisguised pride in his voice.
"Consulting criminal." His pure opposite, like light and dark... but no. Not really. As different as their motivations were, the two of them were eerily alike. They thought alike. Plotted alike. Played their games out the same way. And standing there like a trapped mouse, unable to move because of the rock-solid psychological bonds woven around him, one hand clutching a deadly missile plan and the other a gun he didn't dare to shoot... Sherlock Holmes could admire Jim Moriarty. "Brilliant."
"Isn't it?" The voice was honeyed, syrupy, almost purring as he went on, slowly shaking his head back and forth. "No one ever gets to me. And no one ever will."
Sherlock cocked the gun with a sharp sound that shot like lightning through the room. Moriarty didn't so much as flinch. "I did."
"You've come the closest. Now you're in my way."
He couldn't stop a tiny burst of pride from briefly warming him. Once more, he'd come out on top. But he wasn't done yet. The little red dot tracing cheerful circles over John's chest and shoulders confirmed that. "Thank you," he murmured, trying to concentrate. The stalemate that was the invisible quadrangle between him, the sniper, John, and Moriarty was only another puzzle. There had to be a way out. Think. Just think. Don't worry about John, he'll be fine if you can just bloody concentrate...
"I didn't mean that as a compliment," Moriarty chided, his eyes flickering with faux, laughing disdain as he moved a couple of steps closer.
"Yes, you did," Sherlock replied evenly. The signs were all too familiar- he had, after all, received his share of grudging admiration throughout his lifetime.
"Yeah, okay, I did," the consulting criminal admitted with a broad grin that didn't reach his stony eyes, pulling his shoulders together in a hugely exaggerated shrug that seemed too childish for the fine, business-style clothes he wore. His voice rose to an appropriately high-pitched tone for the next sentence. "But the flirting's over, Sherlock... Daddy's had enough now!" He was pacing yet closer, until he stood between the detective and the doctor. An obstacle. But he wasn't an obstacle. He was a deadly, living, genius specimen, a normal-looking man with an exquisitely beautiful mind. Killing him would be like killing an endangered animal- painful, but, in this case, necessary. He had taken John, and it was probably on pure whim that he'd left him alive. Sherlock couldn't risk such a thing happening again. He just couldn't. Moriarty had to die.
I've just got to figure out how to do it...
"I've shown you what I can do. I cut loose all those people, all those little problems, even thirty million quid just to get you to come out and play. So take this as a friendly warning, my dear. Back off..." His voice was low and teasing, no colder than some child playing a game. Of course, that was exactly what he was, in a way. "Although... I have loved this, this little game of ours. Playing Jim from IT, playing gay- did you like the little touch with the underwear?"
"People have died."
"That's what people DO!" A shock wave seemed to run down Sherlock's spine at the last word, which wasn't just spoken, but screamed, shouted, bellowed, so that it was flung back off the tiled walls in a million shattered fragments that pierced his skin and eardrums. A glint of Moriarty's true identity showing through the glassy-smooth surface that he was projecting, twisting and flashing briefly before sinking down into the dark, hidden depths. The echoes faded, and he was casual again, staring placidly at Sherlock, waiting. My move.
"I will stop you," he declared, and they were the truest words he'd ever spoken. The four simple syllables rand with promise, a dark oath, a swear that he wouldn't rest until its fulfillment.
"No, you won't," was the matter-of-fact, rather nonplussed response. The smile had vanished from Moriarty's face, and now he simply looked unimpressed, almost bored.
Sherlock couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't ignore the third factor in this equation, the third person in the triangle of tension that hummed through the moisture-infatuated air. "You alright?" he demanded of John, his eyes focusing on the blond-haired band without letting his gun hand waver. He needed some sort of signal, something to show that his doctor, his blogger, his John had some sort of consciousness independent of Moriarty. But there was no reaction. A heavy swallow, an intensified stare in the direction of the wall, but nothing else.
Moriarty, looking amused, entertained, tilted his whole frame to the side, watching Sherlock over John's shoulder. "You can talk, Johnny boy, go ahead," he remarked teasingly, his voice- Irish, the detective's slowed logical mind suddenly noted- weaving around, now high, now low, never staying in the space of one octave long enough to be caught.
There was an eternal pause during which nothing changed, and Sherlock was struggling to comprehend just how bad of shock his companion must be in to act so completely unresponsive- where's a blanket when I need one dashed over his mind like a brief splatter of rain before it was ripped away by others, more important, absolutely vital knowledge- John had nodded.
The relieved exhalation that flowed out from between Sherlock's slightly parted lips was difficult to mask, but he managed to emit it silently enough. Some fragment of the John Watson he knew was still there, hidden beneath the numb exterior he was swathed in. But how long would it be there? And then, suddenly, the whole world was thrown out of proportion. Everything else was microscopically insignificant. Everything except for John. Get him out. Save him. Primal instincts. Even as he knew how bad the decision he was about to make was, it didn't matter. It didn't matter.
"Take it." He jabbed the memory stick, one which could determine the fate of the country, towards Moriarty's smirking face. A hollowness consumed his stomach as soon as the words were out of his mouth- hundreds, thousands of lives were right there, exposed, vulnerable, unknowing, and he was about to turn them all over in order to rescue the single one that mattered. As wrong as John surely would have deemed it, he didn't feel the slightest whisper of regret. This was his choice, and his hand was steady, not shaking a millimeter.
"Ooh... that. The missile plans," the psychopath breathed. His voice was light, taunting, like a schoolgirl with a juicy secret. He slunk closer, the soft steps of a hunting panther, and plucked the small plastic rectangle from Sherlock's fingers with a quick, neat movement. He brought his lips to it gently, a tiny brush of welcome- or, as was proved moments later, of farewell. "Boring. I could've got them anywhere." His wrist flicked up, and the memory stick was only halfway through its arc into the waiting pool when the stillness was shattered completely- John had lunged forward, his arms closing around Moriarty's chest, his face pale but set and his eyes blazing. The sniper's beam that had been dancing over him was now on them both as he jerked Moriarty's head back, crying out.
Something sudden and powerful lurched inside Sherlock, something situated above his stomach and inside his ribcage, as John's wide, frantic eyes met his. Those words were the first that had been uttered in the doctor's own voice since he'd entered the pool, and they were enough to ensure that he most certainly was not going to run. He couldn't, not now. Because running would mean leaving John, and, as prudent as that may be, it simply wasn't going to happen. It would tear him apart, to abandon the man who was offering so much to him- and it shouldn't. He was supposed to be beyond this, above it, never restrained by such pathetic matters. But that didn't change the fact that he was stuck here, chained, trapped from all around. He wouldn't be leaving the pool without a resolution, and this, right here, was far from one.
Laughter came from Moriarty, twisted and ragged as he flung his head back, not even bothering to strain against John's grip. "Good," he gasped, his neck twisting around as he gazed almost casually up at the ceiling. "Very good." His voice had lost the light, playful quality of before, replaced by a low, rough caliber. This was the voice that belonged to him, the voice of a monster, a taunting bogeyman. The type of voice to haunt the dreams of anyone, no matter their age- because it carried with it a primal fear, an urge to get away, to get away from this monster and its horrible rasping snarl that threatened blood.
"If your sniper," John hissed back between heavy breaths, not loosening his grip, "pulls that trigger, Mr. Moriarty, then we're both going up."
His words were painful, somehow- because his voice wasn't meant to overlay Moriarty's like that. More than anything, Sherlock wished that he could just get John out of here, let the confrontation be between himself and the consulting criminal. The middle of the battlefield was no place for a doctor, especially not one this damned devoted. If only he could realize that in endangering himself, he was only pushing their fates closer to the edge... which he was, because the more he considered the situation, the faster Sherlock's stomach churned with immaterial desperation. Don't. Don't risk it.
"Sweet," Moriarty murmured, his tone calmer again. John gave a particularly harsh jerk on his neck, but he didn't react in any way but to let a bit more of a growl creep into his next words. "I can see why you like having him around... then again, people do get so sentimental about their pets." The laser swam up and down the front of his suit, wavering. Either an incompetent sniper or a teasing one- and, knowing Moriarty, it was probably the latter. "But... whoops!" He half-screamed the last word, and, as if on cue, the laser disappeared entirely, whipping out of sight. Sherlock realized what was happening before it did, and yet it was relief rather than dread that crept through his veins as it struck him. "You've rather shown your hand there, Dr. Watson..."
John's face changed, and then he was stepping back, holding his arms out as if in surrender. Sherlock didn't need any other indication to confirm his suspicion that the laser was now darting between his own dark curls, forcing the doctor down into the trap that the detective was already stuck inside.
"Gotcha," Moriarty giggled.
There was nothing that either of them could do now- nothing that involved running, anyways. Moriarty wanted this to play out completely, and so it would. Unless Sherlock found a way to escape. That was the only choice left, really- escape. The wheels in his mind began to spin faster and faster, sparks of anxiety flying off of them, as Moriarty wasted a moment straightening his suit front. "Westwood," he commented, frowning a bit as he dusted it off rather sarcastically. When Sherlock didn't bother to reply, his face cleared, and he continued as though nothing had ever interrupted his original train of speech. "Do you know what happens if you don't leave me alone, Sherlock? To you?"
Don't use my name, he thought suddenly, angrily. You don't have the right. I never said you could. It was a childish thing to become concerned with, though, stupid that he should so detest the two syllables when uttered with the Irish psychopath's tongue, so he replied simply, easily. "Oh, let me guess, I get killed." That was one thing about murderers- their intentions never varied.
"Kill you?" Moriarty's abnormally white teeth were bared in an exaggerated grimace, as though the very idea was repulsive- repulsively dull, as his next words confirmed. "No, don't be obvious- I mean, I'm going to kill you anyway, someday." He rolled his eyes, brows drifting upwards, and Sherlock struggled to ignore the faint twist in his stomach at those words. Moriarty sounded so confident- there wasn't the smallest measure of doubt in his voice. He was going to kill Sherlock someday, and even if he denied it on the surface, the detective realized this, processed it, accepted it, even. Someday. Even if Sherlock managed to kill Moriarty, things would circle back, somehow. He would die, eventually. And this man, in some way or another, would be the cause of it.
"I don't want to rush it, though- I'm saving it up for something special. No, no, no, no." He shook his head back and forth, the words coming in a quick, light fashion. His eyes, though, were fixed on Sherlock's- penetratingly dark, and cold, colder than anything material. "If you don't stop prying..." The pause in his steady flow of speech seemed to last for much longer than it really did, and his stare flickered down momentarily, before his pupils locked on Sherlock's again. "I will burn you." A quiet, black velvet promise. "I will burn... the heart... out of you." The chilling, hissing rasp on the enunciation of heart was reptilian, ice-blooded and absolutely mad.
"I've been reliably informed," Sherlock replied evenly, "that I don't have one."
"But we both know that's not quite true." An indulgent smile curled Moriarty's lips, exposing his teeth again, like a hungry predator. Reflexively, Sherlock's eyes shifted in John's direction. He wasn't even sure what prompted the movement, just knew that he suddenly needed the blonde man securely in his sight, as if such a thing would somehow ensure his safety. John's eyes were still wide, desperate, almost pleading. And yet he wasn't so much as shaking- in fact, his body was perfectly still, frozen.
"Well, I'd better be off." Moriarty glanced to the side, an almost benign expression settling over his soft features. For all purposes, he could have been talking about something as innocent as a business meeting that he was late for. Sherlock couldn't hold back the explosion of relief that shot through his veins, though he managed to keep his face carefully wary, to not alter the aim of his gun in the slightest. "So nice to have had a proper chat," he drawled.
"What if I were to shoot you now? Right now?" Sherlock wasn't sure why the words were coming out of his mouth- after all, didn't he just want Moriarty to leave? He was intrigued, though, however reluctantly, by the movements of this nemesis. He genuinely wanted to know the answer to such a question- and if he left without it, it would burn at the back of his mind, itching and insatiable. Normally, he could predict others' movements, but Moriarty was a wild card- even more impulsive than the ones who had completely lost their minds. There wasn't any semblance of order to his chaos.
"Well, then you could cherish the look of surprise on my face." The psychopath's visage twisted, his jaw dropping, shifting into a coldly humorous mask of faux alarm that, moments later, returned to his familiar snake's grin. "'Cause I'd be surprised, Sherlock, really, I would... and just a teensy bit..." His voice grew as thin and pale as the spun handle of a wine glass, a perfectly enunciated word that sent involuntary chills down Sherlock's spine. "...Disappointed."
Surprised and disappointed. That told a whole story right there- and an immensely valuable one, too. Moriarty didn't want to lose Sherlock- didn't want to lose the perfect, icy figure that he'd painted of him. He had high expectations of him, which he probably did of few other people—perhaps no other people. Sherlock was his ultimate opposite, his arch-enemy, and chances were that he didn't want to get rid of him in all that much of a hurry. This was good—beneficial. They had a chance. If Moriarty was at all reluctant to dispose of such an interesting toy, that gave the toy an opportunity to make its escape from the final act.
"Then, of course, you wouldn't be able to cherish it for very long." Moriarty began to turn away, his eyes still fixed on Sherlock as his slim body shifted, making for the door in an overwhelmingly casual manner. "Ciao… Sherlock Holmes," he murmured, the words rich and clearly savored in his mouth. He began to lope away, and as soon as he was a safe distance from John, Sherlock began advancing towards the frozen doctor. His gun remained pointed steadily at Moriarty's retreating back, and three final words slipped from his lips, a countdown to when he'd let himself go, let the tension burst.
"Catch… you… later."
"No, you won't!" Moriarty trilled easily, and the door banged shut behind him, leaving everything still. The pounding of Sherlock's heart seemed to be finally catching up with him, his lungs rapidly squeezing in and out and leaving a rough franticness inside his chest. Still, he forced himself to stay still, struggling, in case it was a bluff—but then it didn't matter anymore, whether or not Moriarty was coming back to shoot their brains out, because he couldn't do it, just couldn't stay calm for another second.
The gun dropped to the floor, and he was lurching forwards, on his knees, arms reaching for John and words pouring out of his mouth. "Alright?" Hands fumbling, ripping at those explosives, freeing John, whose heavy breaths were now filling the previously empty air. "Are you alright?"
Sherlock was standing up now, reaching around and sliding his hands under that awful parka, pulling it off of the doctor's back, ignoring his weak protests of "I'm fine, Sherlock…" Throwing it away, watching with twisted pleasure as it skated across the tile floor, as if it could feel pain—and if that were possible, he would love every last bit of its suffering, the suffering of the thing that had dared to hurt John, to scare him, to threaten him. No. No, that was too much. Too much. Never again.
"Sherlock!" John mumbled again, his voice gaining strength. Sherlock straightened up, watching him intensely. The low light in the room was burning too brightly, everything outlined in stark sharpness. John's chest heaved as he stared at the wall, his lips parted and his eyes wide. Sherlock stood still for a moment, delayed adrenaline lighting his nerves, then scooped up the gun and scampered towards the door, unwilling to let himself believe that Moriarty was really gone, that they'd both truly escaped with their lives. The hallway outside seemed clear, though, and he only allowed himself a moment glancing up and down it before a stumbling crash brought him back into the pool, where John was on the ground, hunched up against a locker and staring at the ceiling. Keep breathing, Sherlock thought abstractly, running the cool barrel of the gun along the side of his head and welcoming the icy relief that it brought to his overheated skin.
"You okay?" John murmured.
"Me? Yeah, I'm fine, fine." He wasn't thinking, just allowed the words to flow out of his mouth, fill up the silence. After all, he couldn't afford for John to be concerned about him; things were bad enough the other way around without the additional level of stress. He continued to pace, unable to hold himself still, mind whirring without really latching onto anything. They'd have to leave, he told himself vaguely, get out of there, go back home… but for now, he let himself move back and forth, working off the excess energy that had built up over the past few minutes, trying futilely to calm himself down. He had never imagined that John would be stolen… it made everything much, much more dangerous when Moriarty had harnessed his only vulnerability—one that he hadn't even realized he had. They'd have to be more careful next time. Something like this couldn't be allowed to happen again.
If a single move had been different, we might not have made it…
"That, uh… thing, that you did, that you did, that you…" Sherlock muttered, waving the gun absentmindedly. He gave a small cough, and his formerly blurry voice came out clearer for the next few words. "Offered to do, that was… good." Good was an understatement. He couldn't get out of his head that feeling when John lunged forward to save him, held Moriarty back… it was indeed good, but frightening at the same time, far too powerful. Scary, the idea that his flatmate would do such a thing to give him even the tiniest chance of survival…
"I'm glad no one saw that…"
"Hm?" Drawn from his thoughts, Sherlock glanced down towards John, lowering the dark weapon to give the doctor his full attention.
"You… ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool, people might talk."
"People do little else." He couldn't hold back the smile that crossed his face then—a wide, genuine smile, of euphoria, almost giddiness, because John was okay, he was alive, they were both alive and they were going to make it out. The future would probably bring more dangers, but for the moment, all that mattered was that they could make it out, go back to the flat, relax, perhaps make a cup of tea and think things over, know that next time, Sherlock would have to be far less reckless…
His body, for once, seemed to process things before his mind. A cold, slippery solid seemed to have found its way into his stomach, and it took him a full second to associate it with the flickering red dot that had materialized on John's shirt, dancing tauntingly, vaporizing all of the hope that had so tentatively formed in him. John's eyes widened as he caught sight of it, and he shook his head slowly, blindly denying the impossible unfairness of it.
"Sorry, boys!" Moriarty's high-pitched tone was revolting, and Sherlock didn't meet his eyes, just watched the pool water, fury burning inside of him as a door from the other side of the room clanged shut. "I'm so changeable! It is a weakness of mine, but to be fair to myself—it is my only weakness. You can't be allowed to continue…"
Sherlock's eyes flickered down towards John, who gazed back up at him silently. He could practically feel both of their hearts beating far too fast, working desperately to keep them ready, prepared, able to keep on breathing. Thoughts flew across Sherlock's mind, half-formed plans, until one finally held steady, burning with the tiniest, most desperate hint of possibility.
It just might work.
"You just can't."
It would require John, though—he would have to understand, have to think fast. Please, you can do this… just think, think, please, John, you're smart, I know you are, look at me, can you see what I'm asking of you…?
"I would try to convince you, but…" Moriarty emitted a low chuckle. "Everything I have to say has already crossed your mi-ind."
He stared at the doctor as hard as he could, hoping that his expressionless face could convey the plan that was bright in his mind. They only had seconds, tiny seconds during which he could get across the thing that he needed John to do so desperately. The deep blue-hazel eyes that he was so familiar with glinted for a moment, and John's chin dipped in a miniscule nod. It could have meant anything, but Sherlock had to hope that it was expressing what he hoped it did. Otherwise, there was nowhere to go.
Just this once, John, you fantastic idiot, please know what you're doing.
"Then possibly my answer has crossed yours." Internally preparing himself, Sherlock turned around, raising the gun again and pointing it directly at Moriarty's pale face. The psychopath smirked, giving his head a slight tilt, but not moving the dark pits of his eyes from Sherlock. The detective breathed in slowly and shifted the gun, moving the point down until it was fixated not on Moriarty, but on John's discarded bomb jacket, which lay on the floor where he had thrown it, the explosives gleaming dangerously in the low light. His heart was beating faster and faster, and his mouth was abnormally dry. John, I need you for this… I need you to show me that you know me as well as I think you do… his finger tightened on the trigger, and Moriarty's eyes blazed darkly at him. If anything goes wrong, the last thing I'll see are his eyes.
Nothing could afford to go wrong.
This was it.
Not shifting his stare in the slightest, Sherlock fired.
Everything exploded in a blaze of light and heat, the likes of which he had never been previously capable of imagining. Though his eyes had immediately slammed shut in reflex, they still burned bright white, a deadly, blinding flare, and every bit of his skin seemed to be on fire—creeping, deadly, acidic fire. His lungs ached furiously—they were aflame, too, then, everything was, he'd been wrong to trust John and it was too late now, too late, the light was fading and he was drifting… drifting quite literally, and his head throbbed from an odd pressure on his ears.
Not daring to think what he so desperately wanted to, Sherlock forced his eyes open, and immediately had to squeeze them shut when they were confronted with a blurry sting of chlorine. He did it. He actually did it. John had been thinking quick enough—he must have jumped forward just before Sherlock fired, otherwise there was no other way that they could have made it… amazing, that was what it was, just simply brilliant. Sherlock felt almost giddy despite the water flowing into his windpipe, which he hastily slammed a lagging hand over his nose and mouth to block. Everything was swirling, with no sense of direction, and the only thing he had to hold onto was John, whose warm, solid body he suddenly became conscious of, pulling it to himself tightly with his free arm. His legs kicked wildly, and, to his relief, his feet scraped against what must have been the side of the pool. Navigating as much as he could in the chaotic water, he managed to right himself, fingers brushing against the rough foundation. Almost there. A few moments later, his head finally broke the surface, just as his lungs seemed ready to tear themselves apart from lack of air. He groped at the edge, gasping in air and coughing when he found it full of smoke, and glancing around frantically, taking in as much of their surroundings as his throbbing eyes permitted. "John," he gasped, then gave a long, hacking cough, adjusting his position to drape his whole arm onto solid ground. Though his vision was far from clear, it seemed as though most of the walls had collapsed completely, the ceiling caved in at the far end of the pool but still somehow managing to hold itself up over where they were, casting a low shadow. Hardly anything was recognizable, being mostly reduced to smoky piles of rubble. A few fires were alight, but the generous puddles slopping over the destroyed sides of the pool guaranteed that they would be extinguished soon enough.
Sherlock took another deep breath, blinking water out of his eyes, and glanced down. His heart seemed to jolt.
John was hanging limply from his arm, head still submerged.
Without speaking, without hesitating, without so much as breathing, Sherlock jerked him upwards, sliding his arms other the other man's, thrusting him forward to safety. John slumped forwards, water streaming from him, and Sherlock pulled himself up over the edge of the pool, trying to ignore the suddenly massive pounding in his head.
Maybe you were wrong. Maybe you didn't both make it.
Maybe the moment it took for him to save you cost him his life.
The very thought sent a horrible stabbing pain straight through Sherlock's chest, but he didn't give it the time to hold him up. He was busy tilting John's face towards him, brushing strands of dark, wet blonde hair out of closed eyes, positioning his free hand on the soaking chest and feeling for some, any trace of a heartbeat. He tried to hold his shaking fingers more still, to defy the overwhelming crash of my fault my fault my fault that consumed his mind like a tidal wave. He pressed down harder, refusing to listen to the chilling knowledge that there was nothing, that there was nothing at all and it had to be from the water, from John hitting it too hard, wrapping both of his arms around Sherlock as he jumped so that he wasn't able to block out the rush… perhaps the initial impact had knocked him out, even, and by the time that Sherlock had dragged them both out it was too late… too late, always too late. Things were slowly down, and despite the raging fire that roared at both ends of the pool, the loudest sound in the world seemed to be his own breathing, in, out, in, out, mocking the still lungs of the one who lay before him.
Sherlock's stomach cinched, and suddenly he was moving again, breaking out of the frozen posture that he found himself in, moving his hands, placing two fingers below John's chin and tilting it upwards, using his free hand to pinch his nose shut, leaning down and, heart banging in his chest as though it wanted to beat for both of them, pressing their lips together. He managed to pull a full breath of air together just long enough to blow it into John's mouth, willing it into his lungs, praying to a God he'd never believed in that it would work, because this was the one thing in the world that couldn't happen, John being gone. This had to work. It had to.
John, hold on, please, please just do this for me…
It was a struggle to force himself to pull away, even knowing that it was an essential maneuver, because he couldn't bear the thought of taking away the one aspect that could possibly fix everything, possibly save John—a tiny, pathetic fragment of a strand of hope, but still something, still something… something to hold onto in the insane cyclone that was wrapping itself around him. His internal clock ticked out the seconds that he had to hold back, and it seemed to take far too much time until he was ready to spring forward again, start the process all over… repeat, back, forth, breathe, hold, over and over…
John started breathing all at once, his chest suddenly pulling in as his lungs convulsed. Sherlock stumbled backwards, poised on his knees with his fingertips brushing the slick floor, watching with wide, unsure eyes as the blonde doctor was consumed by a sudden spasm of coughs and turned onto his side, choking out water, inhaling gasp after gasp of air.
"Sh-Sherlock…" he choked to the ground. It wasn't a question, not even an explanation, just a beg, demanding the detective's presence like a starving man would cry for food. Sherlock didn't hesitate, but pushed himself forward, taking John's shoulders and lifting him as gently as he could, so that they both half-lay on the destroyed floor in a puddle of water reflecting the raging flames that had covered the partially existent ceiling in a thick swathe of smoke.
"What…" John's hazel-blue eyes flickered around the scene, and they slowly darkened with horror. "Oh, God, we made it, we… you…" They found Sherlock again, wide, wondering. "You saved me…?"
"You saved me. Now shut up. We're not out of here yet." Standing, Sherlock roughly pulled John to his feet, gripping him close and half-carrying him through the fiery wreckage. The smoke was growing heavier quickly, the flames apparently not as tamed by the water as he'd been expecting. There was really no reason to the chaos that was the destroyed building, and so it was that he found himself wandering more than anything, eventually bringing a dripping sleeve to his mouth and nose and covering them as he hunkered down, gratefully letting the moisture waft through his sinuses, somewhat dispelling the cracked dustiness. Just a bit farther, surely. The entrance to the building was near enough, it can't be completely—
At just that second, a gust of fresh air flew into his face, and the searing whine of a siren arched through his awareness. He squinted into the fire-lit darkness, and managed to locate multiple fire trucks, among which a pair of ambulances scrambled like bugs, along with a police cruiser, out of which immediately stepped Detective Inspector Lestrade of the Scotland Yard. Holding John a bit tighter, he started forward, before his legs gave unwillingly and he found himself on the ground, shivering in a pile of charred brick, watching with oddly bleary vision as the gray-haired man hurried over, his eyes wide with concern.
"Sherlock?" he asked, sounding rather as though he couldn't believe the sight his large, dark eyes presented him with. "And… John, too? Bloody hell, what are you doing here?"
"We're the reason for all this, Detective Inspector," Sherlock hissed through gritted teeth. John was faintly struggling to free himself from his iron grip, but he refused to let go, not yet ready to part with the thing that had so nearly left him forever.
"Sherlock…" John's fingers attempted to pry Sherlock's off of him, but the detective refused, squeezing as tightly as he could. With a small sigh, John finally gave up, leaning back against Sherlock's chest and relaxing ever so slightly as Lestrade stared down at them incredulously.
"Moriarty happened," Sherlock explained simply, calmly. "He had snipers. He was going to kill us. Our only option was to…"
"Blow up the building?"
"It was a pool. We survived."
"The architecture bloody well didn't!"
"No one cares," Sherlock growled slowly, "about the architecture. We both got out alive… barely, but we did. That's what matters, isn't it?"
Lestrade folded his arms, then gave a slow, reluctant nod.
"Good. Now get one of those shock blankets."
"I'll get two," the policeman sighed, turning to lope away. Sherlock frowned, about to protest, when John gave a particularly heavy shiver in his arms. He glanced down, the frustration instantly melting from his face to make way for a softly concerned expression that somehow didn't feel wrong whatsoever.
They had done it. After all that, after everything, they had survived. Moriarty was gone, almost certainly killed by the explosion… it was over.
"Th-thank you," John whispered through suddenly chattering teeth.
"You… you saved me."
He took a deep breath, ready to protest, but before he could do so John turned, reaching up, looping his arms around Sherlock's neck and pressing his face to his shoulder and initiating a series of small chills radiating from the point where his lips brushed the detective's sopping shirt, pulling him in close, just holding him there. Sherlock hesitated uncertainly for a second, ridiculously self-conscious, then allowed himself the tiniest of relieved sighs and an invisible smile, hugging back as hard as he could manage.
We made it. This time, we both made it.