These lads in their current incarnation belong to the BBC and not to me, and in their original incarnation to the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, may his name be blessed.
SHERLOCK AND JOHN – REBELLION OF ANGELS
Book One: ACCLAMATIONS
"The Doctor, the Detective, and the Irishman" - Part Two
(Author note: Part three has been delayed due to family medical. Ch. 19 has been delayed due to RL, but it is now finished and will post in Sept.)
WARNINGS: Psychological counseling. Kidnapping. Non-con drug use. Physical restraint and abuse. Torture. (I've written worse.) Memories of war and imprisonment. Betrayal. Cold-blooded murder. Self-doubt. Language. If any of these are a potential trigger for you, please skip this chapter entirely. I would never fault you for it.
"It is not the cold that makes me shiver."
Arthur Conan Doyle
Maggie clicks on the digital recorder, and then takes up her notepad and pen. She nods at John.
John leans forward, and begins to speak.
He walks away from Baker Street, happy to be shut of the case for a few hours, even happier to leave Sherlock behind, raving at bad telly. Besides, it's freezing in the flat. The explosion (Gas? Really?) did a number on their windows and the temporary coverings are doing very little to keep out the cold. He plunges his fists in the pockets of his coat and walks quickly as he can through the chill night air.
He thinks of Sarah, her pretty face and soft figure, chestnut hair and comforting – read sane - presence. He thinks of tea and biscuits and possibly the "time after that," they have promised themselves. He grins. With any luck, he will not be returning to Baker Street tonight.
That's when he notes the sleek car, a smooth slide of shining black paint, which reflects the yellow street lamps as it slowly keeps pace.
Shite. Can't a man visit his girlfriend for tea without being abducted off the streets of London for God's sake? His blood pressure rises and he momentarily thinks of texting Sherlock. And telling the detective what, exactly? That his brother is a dick and a royal pain in the arse?
"Not this bloody time, Mycroft Holmes," John mutters. He detours through a convenient alley in order to duck his pursuer. And looks up, stunned, as the car pulls into view, then swings into the end of the alley, effectively blocking his access to the next street over.
"Well, bugger," John says. His eyes narrow. He can just make out the driver's silhouette, although no facial features are discernible.
Damn Mycroft Holmes to hell anyway. And the horse he rode in on.
John stands, his arms held loose at his sides, and watches as the driver pulls into the alley a few more feet, then stops. The motor purrs. The back passenger door opens.
"Tell your boss to kindly fuck off," he calls. His voice echoes in the dank alley.
The man straightens and John sees his hand. It's twilight, nearly too dark to discern detail but the headlights reflect off the brick walls on either side. They lend an ominous glow to his surroundings. This, along with the interior car light, helps to outline the gun.
"I'm certain he'll keep that in mind," the man says coldly.
John frowns. The elder Holmes is maddening, but thus far, he has not resorted to using force.
He thinks of his gun, tucked away in his bureau drawer, and frowns. Naturally, he has come out without the weapon. Who in hell visits their girlfriend armed?
"I wouldn't, Dr. Watson," his accoster says. "He wouldn't like it. We're to bring you in undamaged."
The man takes two steps toward John and now John can clearly see the gun. The driver sits unmoving, a dark blur in the driver's seat.
"Get in the car, Dr. Watson. Make it easy on yourself."
John's posture straightens. He plants his feet farther apart and narrows his eyes to preserve his night vision.
"For fuck's sakes, I think your boss is getting a bit out of hand," he says. "And point that thing somewhere else. I have no intention of going anywhere with you."
The man lifts the gun. John cannot be certain of what type of weapon he holds. He is definitely certain that said weapon now points at his chest.
Not Mycroft Holmes then.
The elder Holmes brother's control issues know no bounds but there is no way the man would send an armed escort to pluck him off the streets.
Or would he?
The front passenger door opens and another large figure steps out and advances. John cannot see his hands and this fact frustrates the hell out of him. The driver sits, immobile, a third shadowy threat in John's vision.
"Get in, boyo," the second man says.
John's eyes narrow. He quickly runs through his options.
Behind him, the alley entrance and Baker Street. There is no way he's visible to Sherlock or anyone for that matter from behind, unless they step into the alleyway. And more to the point, he is not visible to any of Mycroft's security cameras. A fire escape by his side but he'd have to make a pretty good jump. He cannot possibly hope to out-leap a bullet.
The second man advances, gun held to the ready.
He gestures and John raises his arms, palms outward.
What the bloody fuck?
John gets in the backseat of the car. One of the large men sits beside him on his left side – his dominant side. Someone's done their homework, John muses. His heart rate has sped up slightly but so far, he's strangely calm. The other, still a dark silhouette, gets in front next to the driver. The driver neatly backs the car out of the alley.
He hears the click as the door locks engage.
Damn it to hell and back.
"Care to tell me where we're going?"
The large man in the front seat remains a blur in the dark interior. The rough voice orders him to "Shut the hell up, Watson, and do as you're told."
John frowns. The voice is … familiar.
But … no. Not possible.
It can't be. Not in the middle of Westminster, in the heart of London.
He rubs his palms up and down his worn jeans. Beside him the taller man shifts slightly but makes no other move. He could be alone in the back seat of the damned car.
John clears his throat. "I asked, where are we going?"
"Told Jim you wouldn't be able to keep your bloody mouth shut," the same rough voice says.
The man in the front seat half turns. Gestures.
Too late, John registers the movement from the man next to him and twists, ready to fight.
It's over before it starts. A sharp stab in his neck and John feels his grip on his assailant loosen, then fall away. Dimly, he's aware he managed to land a single punch. His hand stings.
"Stay away from Sherlock Holmes."
The warning rings bells even as he can't be bothered to remember who originally delivered it. He seems robbed of sight but sound returns, amplified and terrifying.
John is vaguely aware that he is being moved. Someone is manhandling him, moving his body. His head swims.
He's floating in a no man's land of harsh sounds and near suffocating heat. The sounds and heat are all too familiar. The pain is not. There's a pain in his neck and shoulder. More pain in his hand. A near encompassing pain in his skull.
Was he in a fight? If so, it's obvious he is not the victor here.
If he dies, Sherlock is going to be royally angry with him.
Something about this thought makes John giggle.
His senses reel. London falls away and he struggles with what he knows to be a stress attack, yet even that knowledge, too, fails, as he becomes lost in his own head.
He's not an unwilling passenger in a dark car, smelling of leather and oddly, vodka.
The night air is no longer cool and it's no longer night and no longer London.
And even as John struggles against the drug, grapples with his psyche, he feels himself slip into the all too familiar world of once-crisp uniforms, smelling now of sweat and petroleum jelly and fear; of eyes narrowed behind dark glasses, in an attempt to keep out the constant blast of sand and grit; his head swiveling this way and that, keeping his surroundings in constant view, constant vigilance. He registers the weight of his pack and the weight of his helmet and the feel of the weapon in his hands.
No. Christ, no.
Someone laughs. Again.
John's mind recognises the bark of a laugh. Oh, yes, he knows that voice, roughened by cigar smoke and too many cigarettes.
His weapons are taken away and he struggles to voice his orders to his subordinates – but no voice comes.
It's all in his head.
And what's in John Watson's head can be very scary, indeed.
The scenario shifts and changes, nebulous as his thoughts have become.
What in the hell did they shoot him up with?
Harsh words buffet him and rough hands jerk him around, force him to his knees, his back to the broken concrete wall. Unwilling, he goes down. The pain in his knees and his neck nudge him half awake. He listens to guttural words and broken phrases, spoken in a language he hasn't used since – he can't remember.
The single word is shouted to them. A threat and a promise.
Prisoner? He and his people? Where are his people? For that matter, where are his weapons and supplies?
John's head sags. He struggles to take a deep breath in the near suffocating heat.
Someone grabs at his face. Blunt fingers with torn nails push at his chin. The ragged nails draw blood. Sticky liquid trickles down his chin.
The merciless hand jerks his head up and the smell of gun-oil and human feces make him hold his breath and try to turn his head away.
God, this place is particularly rank. Rancid cooking oil and day-old meat. The acrid smell of urine and animal feces. And over and surrounding all of it, the copper tang of blood.
Still, it's familiar. He's at home here – or was.
Someone speaks to him, the rough voice urgent and far too close. Hot breath pushes the words into his face. He experiences overwhelming thirst. It's nearly unbearable. He tries to summon up enough saliva to swallow, but his throat muscles won't work. His mouth hangs open, slack.
Nothing is working. Nothing is as it should be.
"John. Really. A stress attack? I need you awake and aware."
The voice, honeyed, dark, loved, strikes through the fog and serves as an anchor.
He needs to wake up. He can't wake up. He's been drugged. Obvious. Some doctor he turned out to be. How in bloody hell did they -
God…where are his people? Amber was behind him and Tim. Mac was on point.
Murray was a klick behind with the others and they got separated on way to the FRV and how…bloody hell… how did that happen, and where is Bill anyway? He's going to shake the liver and lights out of him when he next sees the American.
This was to be a mission of mercy. Mercy. He wants to laugh. Needs to piss. Would kill – nearly – for a single swallow of water.
His chin is jerked again, the movement sharp. The single word cuts into the air around his aching head.
His head lulls again. Urgency makes him take a breath.
His people are prisoners. Amber. Tim. McKenny, Mac for short. Not supposed to happen.
He struggles to open his eyes. It's a battle but when he can finally see, it's to face Amber's wide brown eyes, fearful, as they stare into his. He tries to wink at her. Not sure if he succeeds. His cheek is swelling from the impact of someone's fist and he just now registers the fact.
It'll be all right. It's under control.
"God, you're a shite liar, John."
No. Wrong. The detective can't be here. He knows exactly where he is – Helmand Province.
The detective can't possibly be here.
Boots on broken pavement. Someone steps in between him and Amber and Tim and John can't keep his eyes open to save his life. And where is Mac?
The steps are heavy. Whoever it is, is a large man. John hears bits of broken mortar crunch under the boot heels. He struggles but his hands are bound behind him. Useless.
Utterly useless. His head swims.
"Captain Watson?" Amber's scared whisper wavers. He opens his eyes again in time to see it as she lifts her chin. Stares bravely right into his eyes. Then slowly looks up at whoever stands next to her. Her eyes widen.
Her voice is firm, but scared. God, he doesn't deserve Amber – doesn't deserve any of them.
They could have done so much better.
"I don't understand," she says.
Someone's voice. Clipped tones. Military. A voice he – nearly – recognises.
"No? Then allow me to explain. Your precious Captain Watson has led you into a tidy little setup. And I'm afraid I have to make a point here."
At the single shot, his body recoils, as if he is the one who has taken the bullet. A bitten off cry – Amber's? Jesus. His head lulls and his eyes close and he has never hated himself more.
A sharp cry. Then more sobbing. Then – nothing.
"You utter bastard."
Tim's voice. Good ole' Tim. Good on you, mate.
Someone stoops over him and jerks his head around and up.
"Kinem. Yes. You dig. You all dig."
A harsh laugh, joined by others. Then a grunted word. Just the one.
Tomorrow for what?
And then the heated whisper in his ear. "Sabaa. Tomorrow then. You wait."
And a fist drives again into his cheek, nearly exploding the bone. His head snaps back against the rough concrete behind him and he feels the sudden pain in the back of his skull as the impact splits the skin.
He bites back a cry.
Don't let them see you weak. Give them nothing.
Christ. Where in hell are they and what in hell has happened? Did someone just tell them they would dig their own graves – tomorrow?
John coughs. Once. Twice. He tries, but can't open his eyes. His shoulder throbs and his leg hurts like merry hell. There's a sharp pain in his neck. He tries to flex his hands. They are bound behind him.
He's in charge, damn it. This was to be a milk run. Nearly a training mission. Nothing else. They've been betrayed. Anger makes his head reel and he doesn't remember where they all are or what their mission and it's all been shot to hell and damn it – he's in charge!
Where are his weapons? His supplies? He struggles to open his eyes and look for them but cannot get his eyelids to obey him.
He tries again. Finally.
John's eyes open and he stares, uncomprehending.
Why is Amber slumped sideways like that, her brown eyes open and looking straight at him?
She needs to stop looking like that – all crumpled like a broken doll. She looks very uncomfortable.
Her eyes stare at him. He stares back.
Someone is shouting. Screaming obscenities but his aching head can't be bothered to make them out.
Is it him? Yes, he's shouting at whoever stands over them.
His fault. His fault.
One of his captors bend over him and laughs.
Man from Kandahar?
Jesus. H. Christ.
John knows only one man who goes by that description.
Hatred swells his chest and he tries to blink. Christ. Has he been crying?
Fuck this shite.
This isn't real. It hasn't been real for more than a year.
Then wake up. Reconnoiter. Take charge!
He shuts his eyes and takes a deliberate breath, this time without gagging.
The smell of day old cooking oil and foul meats and baked bread falls away, replaced by the clean scent of breath mints and a man's expensive cologne.
Someone leans over him. A finger taps at his chin.
John struggles to pull away.
The voice rises on the last syllable … the intonation of his name spoken like a child recites a nursery rhyme.
"Doctor Wat – sonnn."
The sounds of harsh grunts and heavy steps on broken concrete fade, along with the pervasive heat and dust and bits of dirt and sand that find their way into every crack and crevice. All. All of it fades, along with the overwhelming realization that someone has betrayed their position to the enemy. And Amber has paid the price.
It all withers and twists into ribbons, like London fog before a blast of frigid air.
He's not in Afghanistan. Those battles were fought.
He's – elsewhere.
Ella told him what to do and acting on auto-pilot, he does it. John gathers the limp rags of memory and forces them into the bound chest in his mind. Slams the lid and gives a vicious twist to the locks.
There now. Living nightmares locked away, kept until called for.
He hasn't been Captain Watson for a long time now. He's John Watson, M.D.
And he was on his way … somewhere? To meet … someone?
But…something is very wrong. He left someone behind and he can't quite remember who it was.
He tries to force himself awake and as he does so, dark brown eyes with their final accusing stare, give way to pale mercurial orbs and dark, curling hair. The amazing eyes look at him with an ironic expression.
John's mind jerks him nearly awake at the same time his jagged breaths jerk his body upright.
He's not in Kandahar. Helmand Province is a world away. He's in a different hell now.
He's with Sherlock at the water's edge and now Mycroft has walked up and together, both Holmes brothers turn and look at him with expectation. And mild derision.
John's breath hitches. Wake up, you idiot!
Christ, you're such a wanker! Wake up for bloody sakes!
He vaguely feels it as his body is lifted and carried.
He's sat upright and his wrists bound behind him. His legs are bound to a chair.
He's a rock clinging to the edge of a waterfall. Water rushes over and around him, surrounding what's left of his strength and any minute now, any second, he's going to tumble and fall and Sherlock and Mycroft and the other man will see. The person who has come into the room and even now stands next to him. They'll all see and bear witness to the fall of John Hamish Watson.
He grasps at the rocks, but they're wet and his palms slide along their length.
His hands begin to lose their purchase.
Any moment now…any fucking second…
His fingers slip.
Childish words spoken in an unfamiliar voice.
John comes to slowly, aware that something is very, very wrong.
The headache makes itself known before anything else. Dull. Pounding.
Unbidden, a small groan forces its way from his dry lips and he stops trying to raise his head. He doubts if his shaking neck muscles will support its weight at the moment.
Second realization, his wrists are bound behind him. This accounts for the ache and pull in his shoulders and across his upper back and the resulting smaller ache in his lower spine. His body has slumped forward in his bonds while he was out.
His soldierly instincts kick in automatically. He's been here before.
Take inventory first. Deal with the pain later.
Cautiously, he takes a deep breath, while the slow roiling in his gut warns him not to make any sudden moves if he doesn't want to see his last meal.
He keeps his eyes shut as he extends his awareness. Head - horrific. Eyes closed, Watson. Don't need any light in them just yet.
Chest and stomach muscles – sore. As are his fingers, as he flexes them to get the circulation going. He must have fought his captors. Good. He hopes he broke their heads for them.
Heart rate – much too slow for the situation he finds himself in.
Thought processes? Too damned slow by half.
He's been drugged.
"Obvious, John. Really, I'm a bit disappointed here." The deep baritone rings with sarcasm. John winces.
Then Sherlock claps his hands and the sound rocks John's aching head. He gasps aloud.
Shut up, Sherlock! You're not even here!
John attempts to shift his feet and realises his ankles are bound to the chair beneath him. There are more bindings across his thighs. And this has caused the strain in his thighs and calves, as he has obviously struggled while unconscious.
Rotten headache, general malaise, vile taste in his mouth, desire to vomit his guts up?
Definitely drugged. And bound. Really, he should feel flattered.
And oh God, he is going to bloody well kill Mycroft Holmes.
Now for it. John takes another cautious breath, and slowly opens his eyes.
Cruel light nearly blinds him and he blinks, then narrows his eyes against the vicious glare.
A blurred figure stands a few feet away.
John blinks again and cautiously opens his eyes a bit wider. The man comes into focus, but just barely. He stares at the slight figure with confusion.
His head throbs with ungodly pain and he strives to keep still, hoping lack of movement will ease the ache. He feels himself slip. Damn it, he's going under again and he groans with the knowledge.
Drugged. Kidnapped off the bloody streets. Bound to a chair. Not Mycroft Holmes. Still. Where is the bastard when you need him? Mycroft and his damned surveillance cameras and all his agents?
John's aching brain puts two and two together and realization washes over him in an ice cold wave of terror.
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
He's the fifth bloody pip.
"Doctor Watson. Hello again. So glad you could join me at last. It's going to be a glorious evening, don't you think?"
At the unfamiliar voice with its soft Irish lilt, John lifts his throbbing head and strives to focus on the figure in front of him. The man appears to be John's height but that is all he can make out. The other man gradually stops wavering in his vision and begins to resemble something human.
John notes the suit, but his eyes won't focus properly and he can't for the life of him discern the color. It might be dark blue. Pale skin. Not as pale as Sherlock's, but close. Dark hair. Trim cut.
And that's it. God, he's shite at noticing details when his mind won't come online.
The intense interest in the dark eyes. Color? Uncertain, John lets it go. Dark brown? Perhaps, black?
Both his headache and his blurred vision serve to keep his gaze narrowed. He shakes his head slightly, impatient to have his vision clear. The movement causes him to wince and he doesn't repeat the experiment.
The man smiles. "With us at last, Doctor Watson?"
John's heart rate quickens.
The slight figure. The voice. Impossible. Molly's boyfriend? What was his name? Jim. That was it. Jim … something. Harmless, forgettable, gay Jim? He's the one who kidnapped me?
In answer to John's confused thoughts, the trim figure straightens slightly, then dips his head with a sly grin. It's a mockery of a bow. He looks up at John deliberately from under dark lashes.
"James Moriarty. Hello." he says. He wiggles fingers at John and the ex-soldier would swear on a stack of Bibles that the voice holds sincere amusement.
It can't be. Jim? Molly's Jim. Wait. If Moriarty is here ...
"Molly," John says. Or tries to. The name comes out as a harsh croak. His voice is wrecked and his throat is as dry as if it's been roughened with sandpaper. He tries to swallow and winces.
"Excuse me? Barely heard that. Molly? Oh, she's undamaged and altogether, shall we say, not in the know," the other man says. He tilts his head, small sparrow regarding an interesting insect. His dark eyes spark.
"Were you worried about our Miss Hooper? And in your current predicament? Adorable. I assure you, she's fine. Oh, other than waiting around the theater for her erstwhile boyfriend." He consults a slim watch and shakes his head. "Whom, I am afraid, is now a confirmed no-show."
Moriarty shrugs. "Aw, well. Another evening spent with feline companionship and an Austin novel, I'm afraid. Sucks to be Molly. But no. No, no, no. She's quite unharmed."
The man's odd sing song intonations bother John more than the ex-soldier is ready to admit.
Moriarty looks at John with intent. The former soldier blinks and is happy to note his vision seems to clear a bit. The little man seems genuinely pleased with something and John cannot possibly fathom what it is.
His aching head wrestles with his situation as his swollen wrists strain against their bonds. Handcuffs? Metal, yes. But the cold metal is too wide to be standard cuffs. John stops tensing his hands and allows his wrists to go slack. What energy he can muster, he will undoubtedly need soon enough.
He takes another cautious deep breath, in an aim to self-medicate. Good. His stomach has settled a bit. He lifts his gaze to the man in front of him. If James Moriarty is at all affected by the cold blue stare that has had insurgents piss in their pants, he doesn't show it.
Moriarty simply shrugs.
John blinks at the movement and his vision clears a bit more. The suit is definitely designer. Dark blue. Bespoke. Not a word he was familiar with before he began co-habiting with a certain consulting detective. Hell, Moriarty's haircut alone probably cost double John's weekly salary. He files this all away in case Sherlock asks. That is, assuming he survives the night.
"I really must apologise, Doctor Watson. You had other plans this evening, albeit predictable and just a tad on the boring side. However, I suspect they did not include being drugged unconscious and kidnapped off the streets of London."
Moriarty shrugs again, a mere lift of the slim shoulders.
"What is that truly pedestrian phrase? Oh, yes. Shite happens."
Yes, I had other plans, you little shite. I was heading to my … Oh. God.
His thoughts must show all too clearly, as Moriarty shakes his head. The smile has morphed into a thin-lipped grimace.
"Ever the gentleman. Doctor Sawyer is quite unharmed, Doctor Watson. Although I cannot speak for her displeasure at being ignored. And no phone call, either. Tsk, tsk. Oh!"
He claps his hands. John flinches at the sudden movement.
"I have it. Perhaps the ladies could form a support group, my Doctor Hooper and your Doctor Sawyer. Doctors stood up by brilliant consulting criminals and washed up ex-soldiers." He smiles and John catches a glimpse of white teeth. "You never know. Could catch on."
John's eyes narrow. Fucking bastard.
"Neither of the young women in question play any part in my plans, other than Miss Hooper, and she's served her purpose. But kudos to you, Doctor Watson, for thinking first of the fair damsels in our little fairy tale."
"Fairy tale." His voice is a harsh croak and the simple act of speaking hurts.
If it is not enough he's chased after Sherlock while the consulting detective solved the damn pips, he's had to put up with Sherlock's supposition that the person responsible, the very man who stands in front of him now, is apparently as brilliant and easily bored as his flatmate.
And as insane.
That was Sherlock's construct.
And here stands the reality. In the flesh.
Moriarty cocks his head at John.
"Exactly. And every fairy tale requires a good old-fashioned villain, right?"
Moriarty tilts his head to the other side and John hears the faint crick as neck muscles pop. Then the master criminal smiles again, his hands in the pockets of his tailored jacket.
The smile never reaches his dark eyes.
"But I'm remiss. How's the head? All achy? I do apologise for the enthusiasm of my men. There are times I have to rein them in. You'll feel right as rain soon enough. Promise."
Eyes narrowed, James Moriarty considers John. John feels his skin prickle under the intense scrutiny.
"We really didn't have much of a chance to talk, did we? No matter. You were kind enough to acknowledge my existence, whereas Sherlock…phew! He's something of a prat, your boyfriend, isn't he?"
He's not my boyfriend, John says. And then realizes in horror he hasn't said the words aloud. His throat is so dry it causes him pain and his brain isn't working right. His thoughts are still muddled. Whatever they shot him up with in that damned car isn't wearing off near fast enough and John temporarily wonders if he has been permanently affected.
But then common sense takes over. He was able to speak a few words just moments ago. He's been drugged. His throat is dry, his head feels like the back end of nowhere and his voice is shit. Again, drugged. He's a doctor. He recognises the signs. Whatever this is will wear off.
In the meantime, dear Lord, he would sell his soul for a drink of cold water.
He takes a deep breath and concentrates on the idiot in front of him.
Data. Facts. He can hear Sherlock in his head. Get me data, John. I cannot make bricks without clay.
He finds the imaginary voice comforting, although bossy. Else he'd tell the lanky git to get the hell out of his head.
After first pointing out that the very master criminal he has been pursuing stood two feet away and Sherlock never suspected it.
He wonders how the detective will take the news.
Moriarty claps his hands again, then rubs the palms together. John's eyes focus as he takes in the man's odd mannerisms. Sherlock will want to know it all later. If I get the opportunity to tell him.
He tries not to think about that for the moment.
"Now then, Doctor Watson. Or John. May I call you John?"
Moriarty smiles. John has seen sharks at the London aquarium with warmer smiles.
"Shall we begin?"
His dark eyes rake over John's bound form. The ex-soldier feels naked, exposed. Close to the feeling he experiences when Sherlock glances at him and deduces every thought he's had for the past 24 hours.
He coughs again, his lungs trying to rid themselves of the remnants of the drug. He desperately needs water.
Well, he's still alive. And with all of his appendages, so far. Can't hurt to ask.
Nothing ventured and all that.
"Water?" John whispers.
"Ooo, Where are my manners?" Jim whirls to the table behind him and picks up a carafe of clear liquid John did not notice earlier. He pours it into a small plastic cup and holds it out to John. Then grins and shakes his head as if he just realises that the doctor's hands are bound behind him.
Jim comes close to John and says, "I'll be mother, shall I?" Then bends over to hold the cup to John's lips.
John hates that the man is so close. He hates that the dark eyes – he can see now that they are near black – stare into his and that he can count the evening's stubble on the small chin. This close, he can smell the man's after shave. This scent is overly sweet. Cloying. And as far away from Sherlock's familiar spicy scent as possible.
At the sudden thought of the detective, John's chest aches.
The plastic rim of the cup tips against his mouth and John feels his gorge rise as Moriarty's fingertips brush against his dry lips. But his throat feels like the floor of his company jeep. He swallows the cold water, as it's offered.
"There's a good lad. More?"
Just drink it. You might not get more for a while.
John shuts his eyes and takes a second hasty swallow. Too close. The idiot is too damn close. A second scent washes over John as he shakes his head and tries to pull back in his bonds. Shampoo? This scent is disturbingly familiar?
For fuck's sake. It's the exact same smell as Sherlock's bloody expensive shampoo. Same. Exact. Scent.
Under other circumstances, John might find this fact extremely funny.
For some reason, it terrifies him more than anything that has happened this evening.
Moriarty pulls back with the glass and tilts his head quizzically.
"Aw, tummy still a bit queasy? Sorry. We'll hold this for later." He turns to set the glass down on the table. Then he turns to face John and leans back against the table, his hands gripping the edges.
"Now then, John, my precious, what shall we talk about?" He bends his head slightly in order to look John more or less directly in the eye. "Ideas? Preferred topics of discussion?"
How about the way I am going to snap your skinny little neck for you first chance I get?
John coughs once, twice, then shakes his sandy head.
"What – " his voice is nearly back, rough but back.
"What am I doing here?"
Jim clucks his tongue at John, clearly disappointed. "John, John. Just when I had hopes for you. You know what you're doing here, my dear Doctor. You're nowhere near as bright as our Mr. Holmes, but you've been right at his side as he dances around London, solving my little puzzles. You're my next – my last pip, as it were."
Jim leans in and John tries not to flinch as the smell of peppermint washes over him. "Doesn't that make you feel so special? It should."
John frowns at the childish intonations and the seemingly innocuous conversation. But this man has had Sherlock dancing on a string for days and he's not fooled one bit by Moriarty's act.
Give this man nothing.
"Just wanted to hear you say it," John says out loud.
His voice is back but his response comes out as a low growl and Moriarty raises an eyebrow.
"Bit testy? Well, I can't say I –" he leans over and shouts in John's face "BLAME YOU!"
John startles, a frown line between his dark blue eyes.
This man is literally insane.
Jim sighs and straightens, his hands in his pockets. John now thinks of it as his default posture. He wishes it weren't so close to Sherlock's.
Has Moriarty already texted the detective about John? Is John even meant to survive this night?
It's possible that Sherlock has no idea about John's predicament – yet.
John wonders how long before the detective even notices he is missing. Maybe he will never notice until it's much too late. I told him I was going to Sarah's, after all.
"Cat got your tongue, Doctor Watson? I have oodles of questions to ask. Let's see, where to begin? Let's start with the obvious, shall we?"
Go ahead and ask Sherlock's plans. You'll get nothing. Better just shoot me and be done with it, you loon.
John tries to straighten in his bonds. The pain in his arms and hands make him wince.
He tries to mentally and emotionally prepare himself to be shot or blown to hell and back. He can do this. He can.
He can do more, he will do more, if it will save Sherlock.
Jim glances at John, obviously amused. John wonders if his thoughts show so clearly on his face. Or if Moriarty is as good as Sherlock is at deducing his thoughts.
The criminal straightens up and begins to walk slowly around John. John tries to turn his head in order to keep the mad man in his sight, but there is still a hot pain in the side of his neck and his neck muscles cramp at the effort.
He sighs and drops his aching head.
Jim is at his left now and John feels the merest ghost of breath against his cheek. The other man leans in. When the voice comes, it's an intimate whisper, directly in his left ear. John tries not to gag at the cool breath against his cheek. Moriarty smells of peppermint mouthwash. And Irish Breakfast tea.
The two make for a stomach-churning combination and John tries not to flinch at the close contact.
"Do you ever stop to think, Doctor Watson, just exactly why Sherlock keeps you around? I do. Admittedly, it's been a bit silly buggers. Passes the odd moment now and then. Nothing overly taxing, I assure you. But when I am supremely bored with life, when Sherlock is being just a bit slow on the uptake, I ask myself, exactly where does our good Doctor John Watson fit in to Mr. Holmes' life?"
Same question I ask myself.
Moriarty straightens. "Puzzles the hell out of me, John. Tell me, do you feel the same way? No. Don't tell me. I can see that you do."
Nearly every day. Then he looks at me … when the current puzzle isn't enough of a distraction … he looks at me with those damn grey-green eyes, as if he cares. As if I'm something pretty marvelous. As if I'm a puzzle to unravel … his and his alone.
And I don't know what the hell to do with that.
John says nothing. He controls his breathing and works at tensing and relaxing the muscles in his legs, thighs and feet, in order to bring some circulation back into his bound limbs. He leaves his hands limp as Moriarty is nearly behind him now and would easily see his movements and might put a stop to them. He flexes his stomach muscles.
Anything, any movements at all that will help bring his muscles back online. Give him something to focus on other than the blithering idiot who stands next to him.
Give nothing away. Keep at it. Listen. Listen, for God's sake.
If Moriarty means to kill him this night, how long before Sherlock finds his body? But that cannot be the plan, right? All the other hostages had a chance. As long as Sherlock solves the mystery, he has a chance.
And if he dies tonight, just how pissed off will Sherlock be when he finds his blogger's dead body?
John tries not to think of the old woman. He tries not to think of the look of utter devastation on Sherlock's face when he realised he had failed. And someone else paid the forfeit.
If I die, will he give my corpse the same detached attention he gives all the others? Will it mean more to him, because it's me? Will Molly Hooper do his autopsy? God, he hopes not. He hopes Lestrade would insist that someone else take care of it.
Sweet Jesus, he needs to get a grip. The damn drug hasn't worn off nearly as much as he hoped. John feels small beads of sweat pop out on his hairline.
"You're just a bit too introspective, John. I like my chosen victims to at least pretend to show interest."
At that, Moriarty snakes his fingers onto John's scalp, gathers a quick handful of soft hair - and yanks. Hard.
At the sudden pain, John winces. He stops short of gasping.
Deep breaths. Flex. Release. Be ready.
"Do me the courtesy, Doctor Watson, of extending a comment now and then. It's polite and shows you're invested in the conversation. Did your mother never teach you manners?"
John takes a breath. "At least I had a mother," he mutters.
It's a mistake. He knows it's a mistake the minute the words leave his mouth.
Moriarty's slim fingers dig into John's scalp, scratching the skin. His head is jerked back even further, a fact he didn't think possible.
It's agony. John feels the muscles in his neck pop. He tries to relax but his neck and shoulders begin to shake uncontrollably. The strain is nearly unbearable.
"Look at me, Doctor Watson."
Impossibly, his head jerks backward even more.
"Now," the voice growls into his closest ear.
John opens his eyes and stares into the dark ones, upside down, a scant few inches from his own. If the fuck intends to pull his hair out by the roots – or break his neck - he's doing a damn good job. In his current bound position, his chest aches and the pain in John's head flares. Bolts of agony shoot through his forehead.
He can't move.
He's going to be sick.
Mad dark eyes stare into incensed blue ones. Moriarty gives John's tawny head a determined shake.
"Are you listening to me, John?"
The ex-soldier gasps. "You have my undivided attention."
"Most excellent, Doctor Watson."
He releases John's hair and the soldier tilts his head forward in sudden relief.
Moriarty gives John's head a pat. Dog owner petting his dog.
"Where were we? Oh yes. Do pay attention, my dear. Daddy has questions. Try to formulate interesting responses."
He seems not to notice as John tilts his head gingerly from one side to the other, in a bid to work out the pain.
Talk all you want, you loon. In fact, keep talking. All night, if possible.
Sherlock is bound to notice something's amiss sooner or later. Maybe...just maybe...Sarah tried calling the detective to report John's absence. Not likely. But it's something to think about.
More likely, she's just pissed.
Jim moves around him and John tries not to tense up. He stares ahead at the metal table with its lone carafe of water and plastic cup. There's something else that lays there. Small. Black. John can't make it out. But he has a bad feeling about it.
He thinks again of the old woman. I don't even know her name. I don't know any of their names, including the little boy's. And Sherlock never bothered to ask. Because their names were unimportant to the puzzle.
Bet Greg Lestrade knows, though.
At the thought of the little boy, John's gaze turns cold. This bastard was going to blow a kid sky high in order to play a damn ruddy game with Sherlock Holmes. A few moments of terror and that kid's life is going to be hell for years to come. Years of nightmares, waking up in the dark, alone and screaming. Hope his folks get him to someone and fast.
John is very familiar with waking up in the dark, alone and screaming.
Should have walked away when Sherlock asked if caring was going to save them. Should have. Didn't. I can't walk away from him. I killed for him and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I'll kill this daft bugger, the first chance I get, that's for sure. If I die here, tonight. Well, that's fine. But I'm taking this mongrel with me.
He'll do anything, risk anything, to keep this bastard away from Sherlock. But he's beginning to wonder if he'll get the opportunity.
"How's the injection site, John? Still stings, I bet." Jim clucks his tongue. John ignores him.
He and his damn feelings for his bloody flatmate. He can't seem to turn them off. Even here, now.
And this is where your feelings, your 'caring lark' get you, Johnny boy. Right here. In this damned chair. With another madman walking around, spouting nonsense.
Stop the pity party. Pay attention. Sherlock needs you to pay attention.
Moriarty trails one languid hand over the back of John's neck, then insinuates a fingertip under his shirt and tugs it sideways. John shudders at the intimacy of the contact. He struggles to keep his breathing even.
The soft voice is too bloody close by far and John's hackles would rise, if he had them.
"Hmm. Quite the nasty bruise here. I really should have a word with my people. But then," he lets John's shirt go, "I imagine you did put up a bit of a fight. It's what soldiers do, am I right?"
Moriarty leans in. "Should I call you Captain Watson, rather than Doctor Watson? I should have asked, rather than assumed. Aw, well. No matter. Where were we? Oh, yes. The enthusiasm of my men."
I'll show you Captain Watson, you utter freak of nature. Just keep talking. Every minute gives Sherlock more time.
Moriarty jerks John's shirt collar again with a sudden vicious yank, nearly ripping the worn cotton, and most deliberately presses his thumb to the injection site.
He keeps pressing. Hard.
John winces, but keeps his eyesight front and center.
I am going to blow this man's head off. And I'm going to do it for myself, not for Sherlock. Not for the other victims. Just for me. And that little kid.
The thumb relents and John grunts with relief.
Now the hated voice with its strange intonation is in his right ear. John can't help comparing the mad bugger's voice with its odd sing song to Sherlock's honeyed baritone, which he would give anything to hear right now.
"You know, John, I've watched the both of you together for some time now. And it has puzzled me no end just exactly what our boy sees in you? I mean, we all have to have our hobbies, our little distractions, Sherlock as much as the next man. But, seriously, John. A former soldier, with PTSD and a limp?"
Jim straightens and reaches out to brush along John's hair. His fingertips linger over the curve of John's ear. Jim's fingertips are cold steel.
And when in hell did he start thinking of him as Jim?
John steels himself not to cringe. He does not rise to the bait but continues to stare straight ahead and lets Moriarty's words wash over him.
What is the small black object just slightly behind the water glass? He frowns as he tries to ID it.
"But maybe it's the blonde hair, hmm? Could it be my favorite consulting detective has a thing for golden hair and blue eyes, no matter the rest of it?"
My detective. John clinches his teeth and remains silent.
Do not react to anything this piece of shit says. Or does.
Moriarty is at his side. John feels the huff of air against his cheek.
"Or is it the uniform? They say all the ladies love a man in uniform. Do you haul it out of mothballs and wear it around the flat, Johnny boy? Medals, too? How many are there in that box you keep hidden from Sherlock, John? Two? Three? You're quite Queen and Country, you know. I imagine he finds that adorable. As do I."
Four, actually. And how in bloody hell does he know about Granda's box?* The sickening thought that the madman has actually been inside 221B causes his jaw muscles to tense. He swallows several times in an effort to relax.
Show some sense, John, the Sherlock voice in his head drawls. Your military career is easily researched, after all. As for the box, he's guessing. Give him nothing.
A slow murderous intent rises as Moriarty keeps taunting him. I will kill this idiot rather than let him have a chance at Sherlock.
Meanwhile, do not rise to his bait. Sooner or later, he has to release him, if only to wire him to explode, as he did with the other hostages.
John begins to plan. Up until now, he has made few responses to Moriarty, preferring to let his captor do all the talking. Maybe it's time he joins in the conversation, useless and crazed as it is.
James Moriarty is, of course, as mad as a hatter. And most probably a genius, as Sherlock has commented.
But that's okay. John knows genius. And madness. He lives with it on a daily basis.
He clears his throat and adopts a casual tone of voice. Then tilts his head slightly in an attempt to bring the mad man into sight.
"Aw, James … may I call you Jim? You might want to come round here where I can see you. Makes it a hell of a lot easier to keep up a conversation."
And then Moriarty is there. Close. Too close.
He leans in and John curses as a small tongue swipes sideways across his right cheek.
"What the bloody fuck!"
He recoils and his hands clench in their bonds. His stomach churns.
Dead. And before the night is out.
John begins to plan as his brain, finally, seems to come back online.
Moriarty laughs. "Oh, Johnny boy. I just had to find out, you know? Besides, we have a few hours to kill yet, before my rendezvous with Sherly."
"Sherly," John mutters.
"Too familiar? Excuse me, Sherlock, I meant, of course. But how to make the time pass more pleasantly before our little meeting? I abhor being bored, don't you?"
Sherlock swivels in Lestrade's chair. Steeples his long fingers in front of his lips. "I can't be the only one who gets bored."
John shakes his head slightly at the vivid images. Not for the first time, he wishes he has Sherlock's ability to delete things.
Wait. What did the crazed fuck just say? "...before our little meeting...".
He's already contacted Sherlock? Does that mean that Sherlock is aware that John is the fifth pip? Or has that not happened yet?
Jim is back in John's vision now. He stands in front of John and the two men stare at each other. John does his best to ignore the cooling wetness on his cheek and keeps his eyes fixed on the criminal.
No murderous psychopath is going to get to him. He's faced down the Taliban.
But you lost that battle, John.
"You are not allowed to take up Sherlock's time in this manner, John. I know you're just a pet and can't really help it. I mean, cute and all, I'll give you that. And I've no doubt, under certain circumstances, distracting. But Sherlock Holmes is meant for greater things. You have to see that I cannot allow his momentary interest in you to hinder him from our little game."
And there it is, John thinks. All of his inner doubts in a nutshell. It's taken a madman to point out to him what he's known all along. John Watson is not good enough for Sherlock Holmes. He'll never be good enough. Should their relationship ever actually evolve into something more than flatmates … he'll never be more than a temporary distraction, at best.
If even Moriarty can see it...
Something of his thoughts must show on his face, because Moriarty smiles sadly.
"Oh John. Have things been as bad as all that? It's clear I've been a bit lacking in the uptake." He shakes his head and actually "tsks" at John.
"It's not Sherlock, John boy, it's you. Gone and fallen for our Consulting Detective, have we? And Sherlock hasn't reciprocated your feelings? Still holding out hope?"
He leans back, his palms flat on the table top behind him, and crosses his ankles.
"Or has that ship sailed, John?"
"Fuck right off with that," John growls, momentarily forgetting his determination not to respond to anything this lunatic throws at him.
"Sorry, John. No can do. But, hold on a mo'."
Moriarty reaches into his pocket and withdraws a slim mobile phone. He holds it up. Silent, John looks back at him.
What basket of monkeys has he fallen into?
"Just a quick one, John. Oh, don't look like that. It's not for Sherlock. No, no, no. That will come later. This one's for my personal gallery. No worries, my dear. You're in good company."
John hears the faint click, then Moriarty drops the mobile on the table surface behind him. He regards John with nearly sympathetic interest.
"How do you feel now, John? Better? Eyesight cleared up? Headache nearly gone? I imagine your hands and wrists are all tingly. Pity. Can't be helped, though."
Jim leans in to John and takes a deliberate sniff. John glares at him.
"I must say, John. I think you've been in that charming getup for more than one dance. We must do something about that shortly."
Jim tilts his head at John. "Speaking of bathing, John, can you swim?"
"Going to drop me in the Thames, then?" John says. The longer he plays along, the longer he gives Sherlock to figure out what's what. That is, if Moriarty hasn't already called him.
And if Moriarty hasn't contacted Sherlock, as he is beginning to suspect, well -
John's the one who told him he was going to Sarah's, that he wouldn't be in for tea. The detective will probably make the logical assumption that John plans on spending the night. Sherlock will know nothing of John's capture until he's wired for sound.
And rigged to explode.
Until Moriarty's made the call to the pink phone. And that may not have occurred yet.
Maybe. Just maybe, if he keeps Jim talking … if he can be enough of a diversion, if he can make Jim actually lose his temper, he might injure John – or kill him outright.
And that's the end of the fifth pip. He'd have to find another, then, right?
John tries to dispassionately consider whether that would be better or worse for Sherlock. Most definitely worse for whoever Jim goes after next.
It's not going to do a whole hella' lot for me, either.
No. He has to hang in there. For Sherlock's sake.
"Oh, John. John. Give me credit for more imagination than that, dear boy. The Thames? On such a freezing night? You might catch your death!" He shouts the last word at John and John's eyes widen.
John takes a breath. Another.
Okay then. Here goes nothing.
He tilts his head at Moriarty with interest, in an attempt to mimic the criminal's own body movements.
John chooses his words carefully, speaks slowly, in a serious tone of voice, as if imparting vital information.
"You know, Jim, what we would put on your chart if you were brought into my ward?"
The black eyes narrow at John's words. He watches as the criminal's hands clench in the pockets of his trousers.
"James Moriarty. BSC."
John smiles winningly at the other man.
"That stands for Bat. Shite. Crazy. Just in case you're unfamiliar with Army medical terminology, Jim."
The movement is lightning fast and John sees it coming but has no time to brace himself. The blow rocks his aching head. A red haze clouds his vision and he shuts his eyes against the pain. The second blow follows immediately after and catches him on the other side of his skull. This time, John doesn't even try to breathe through it.
He just manages to lean to the side before he heaves his stomach contents onto the cement floor.
Then the criminal leans over him, as the rigid fingers of his hand dig into John's thigh, directly over the sight of the phantom pain that kept John limping, in agony, for months. John's stomach muscles clench in agony.
"Someone really needs to teach you some manners, Doctor Watson," Jim says coldly.
John coughs to clear his throat, then lifts his head. The pain in his skull has awakened and all he can do is squint through the agony at the mad man in front of him.
"You and whose army?" he says grimly.
James Moriarty smirks. "Funny you should bring that up, John."
His phone is in his hand before John registers the event. The criminal's nimble fingers fly over the keypad. Then he drops the phone in his pocket and regards John. "I'm afraid you're no longer a distraction, Doctor Watson. And I have more pressing engagements."
Somewhere to his far side, just out of his range of vision, a door opens. John registers the sound of footsteps. Not quiet ones, either. Boots. Someone else has entered the room.
The pain in his skull reaches a crescendo and John's head reels. At the same time, he feels himself begin to lose consciousness again. He fights it for all he's worth.
Stay awake, for fuck's sake. Stay aware.
"You are beginning to bore me, Doctor Watson. And I abhor being bored."
He raises his voice and speaks over John's drooping head.
"Sebastian? Any ideas?"
"You know me, Jim. Always got ideas."
"Excellent. He's all yours, until I need him again."
John's eyes widen at the smoker's timbre. It's the same individual who sat in the front seat of the car that picked him up off the street. The same rough voice that he last heard in a bombed out concrete shelter, standing over them all. Over Amber.
The same voice he expected to go to his grave hearing.
Not possible. No.
But a brilliant man once told him, once you eliminate the impossible ...
Someone leans in. The large frame effectively blocks off Moriarty from his swimming vision.
"Captain John H. Watson. Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. Long time no see."
That voice. He last heard it over a year ago. No, longer than that.
The man from Kandahar. The very same individual John swore to track and kill, first chance he got.
John raises his aching head. He'll be damned if he loses consciousness in front of this traitorous swine.
He opens his eyes to stare into the murderous blue gaze he thought to never see this side of hell again.
His voice comes out as a pained croak and he hates that. Hates showing any sign of weakness in front of this man.
Scratch that. Not man. Monster.
Moran grins. "Excellent. I was afraid Jim had gotten a bit carried away. He does that, at times."
John registers the movement as Moriarty walks to the door and out of John's vision. He tosses his phrases out with a clear ring.
"Enjoy yourself, my dear. But remember – I need him intact."
Jim puts his hand on the door handle. "And nothing must show."
His tone of voice is bored. He could be discussing the washing up.
The door shuts behind him.
John is left alone with the traitor of Kandahar.
The two men stare into each other's eyes with murderous hatred.
Moran smiles. He takes out a knife, military issue, then leans against the table and begins to idly clean his fingernails with the tip of the blade. He addresses John in the same rough tones that filled John's nightmares for months.
"Jim has his moments, but frankly, I'd thought he'd never leave," he says.
"Cracking," John whispers.
* John was awarded five medals, as mentioned in THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF JOHN WATSON. The fifth, after he and Sherlock had been together as a couple for a while. At the time of this chapter's occurrence, he had four.
All Thanks go to my wonderful friend and beta: SHERLOCK'SSCARF, who took on the daunting task of overseeing 10,000 words at the eleventh hour. Any remaining errors are my own.
If she hadn't stayed with me through thick and thin, through the numerous lengthy emails, the phone and text bull sessions, the depression and subsequent apathy, this chapter would not have happened at all. Thank you, Sweetheart! You are truly amazing. And if you haven't read her latest updates for A HOLE IN THE WORLD, please go read now and please let her know what you think.
I have other Thanks but they are waiting for Ch. 19.
A few readers have contacted me to ask Why? Why the pool scene, why now, with all that John and Sherlock have going on, why even go there? When Ch. 19 posts, in a couple of days, I believe all your questions will be answered. At least, I hope so.
Thank you for hanging in there with me, as I worked through some truly daunting depression and the after effects.
Ch 19 is now scheduled for Sept. 2014 posting. I am very sorry for the lengthy delay but an extreme family emergency - medical - took precedence.)
Thank you again.