"Sire?" King Lestrade looked up at the mention of his title to see Sir Anderson and Lady Donovan standing just inside the doors to the council room. He gestured them in and returned his focus to the many maps and papers spread across the table. The two knights approached him, each looking both nervous but determined. The King put his head in his hands. They had always been two of his top knights, but he did admit they could be a bit irritating. He rubbed his eyes wearily. He had much on his mind, what with Moriarty's army due to arrive the next morning. He pondered sending Sir Anderson and Lady Donovan away, but instead he lifted his head.
"Yes, you two. What is it?"
The two knights before him exchanged glances, as if having a silent battle as to which would speak first. After a death glare from Donovan, the other pouted in defeat and took a deep breath before speaking:
"Sire, we have a problem we would like to discuss with you regarding Sir Holmes."
The King leaned back in his chair. "Listen, I'm sure whatever it is is really very important, but I'm sure it can wait until this whole Moriarty thing is over. I do have more pressing things on my mind at the moment."
"We just needed to tell you something. It will only take a moment, we promise." The King stared hard at the two of them, standing there in front of him looking hopeful. He sighed.
"Alright then, you have two minutes. What is it?"
"Well sire, you know all the stories that Sir Holmes is always going on about..."
"Yes, what about them?"
"Well we were thinking, that maybe those stories aren't entirely true." Anderson finished quickly, in a rush to get the words out. He and Lady Donovan stood and watched their King, waiting for a response.
"What are you talking about?" Said King Lestrade in disbelief. "Of course they're true. Why would he lie?"
"He's boasting." Said Donovan. "He just wants to make himself look like a hero. He wants everyone to look up to him and tell him how great he is. But the stories aren't true. They can't be. They're impossible."
"He's just a lair," Said Anderson, "who makes things up to make himself look good."
The king's eyebrows rose. Why were they telling him this? Certainly they knew he was very busy. "I understand you might be jealous, but Sir Holmes is a very trusted knight. I've seen him in action many times, and so have you. He may be arrogant and full of himself, but he is one of my most honest, loyal, and honorable knights."
"But he's not even a nobleman!" exclaimed Anderson. "I know Sir Holmes is a friend of yours, sire, but we have to entertain the possibility that he's making it up."
"Look at the evidence," Supplied Lady Donovan. "He's not a nobleman, so he talks himself up to prove himself. He is always showing off, but nobody has actually seen him do anything special. All of his stories take place when he is alone, so there are no witnesses to suggest that they actually happened. He's lying, about everything."
King Lestrade watched them, his eyebrows climbing ever higher towards his hairline.
"Why are you bothering me with this?" He asked. "I am very busy with preparing for Moriarty's army. They're bound to come by the morning, I have more pressing things on my mind than whether Sir Holmes is telling tall tales."
"But sire," protested Donovan. "What if this isn't the only thing he's been lying about?"
"What?" Asked Lestrade warily.
Donovan and Anderson exchanged glances, knowing that this next accusation would be met with much doubt and disbelief.
"What if," Donovan began, "He's lying about his true...intentions. What if he's working with the enemy? He could be using his status as Brave Knight of Camelot to pass unnoticed and help enemies into the city. He could be working with Moriarty, for all we know."
"You're not seriously suggesting he's a traitor?" Said Lestrade.
"We are, sire. He's just a liar and a back stabber who only cares about himself."
At this, the king stood up. "You will not speak of Sir Holmes in that way," he growled. The knights in front of him started, but held their ground. "I know you don't like him but that gives you no right to accuse him of betraying the throne. He may be arrogant but he is extremely loyal. You have no evidence to your accusations. Until you acquire some, you will leave this council room and never talk of Sir Holmes like that again."
The knights gaped at him, then bowed and exited the room. King Lestrade sighed heavily and sank back into his chair, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles.
How could they even suggest that Sir Holmes was a liar, let alone a traitor? His stories were annoying at times but that didn't mean they were at all untrue. He had seen Sir Holmes in action himself, out on the battlefield or in the training courtyard, displaying strength, skill, and intelligence far superior to his peers.
Lestrade remembered a time when he and Sir Holmes had been separated from the rest of the group and the two were forced to flee one of the largest wild dragons the king had ever seen. He had been wounded and weak, and the dragon was almost upon them. He lay on the ground and hid his face, bracing himself for the attack. But none had come, and when he looked up the dragon was lying on the ground, unmoving. Sir Holmes had sheathed his sword and rushed to help up his king. Lestrade had always assumed Holmes had slain the monster, but looking back, he hadn't actually seen him kill it. He had been weak and afraid. He didn't even know if the dragon was really dead. He didn't see a wound, just assumed that it was somewhere he couldn't see. He never looked back to check.
What if Holmes hadn't slain the dragon? What if the dragon was still for some other reason, and Holmes took the credit? What if Anderson and Donovan were right? And if they were, what if their accusations were true about him being a traitor as well?
No, that could never happen. Sir Holmes was loyal, he would never betray the King. He was a great man, surely he would never do such a thing. Even if he was lying about his stories, he would never go that far. But, Lestrade admitted, the stories were extremely far-fetched. And they were right, there were never any witnesses to confirm Holmes' words. Perhaps Donovan and Anderson were right...
As Lestrade went to war with himself, James was watching from just beyond the doors to the council chambers. He slipped away, unnoticed, grinning to himself. The king was beginning to doubt his most trusted knight, just as planned. As he made his way to his own chambers, he passed the knight's dining hall. Glancing in, he saw the knights talking and laughing loudly together, stuffing themselves and getting slightly drunk. In the corner of the room sat Sir Holmes, hunched over a small plate of food, alone. James smirked and whispered to himself.
Sir Holmes awoke with a start. He glanced around his chambers, body and mind on alert. It was the very early hours of the morning, and the sun was only just beginning to rise. At first he could not place why he had awoken so suddenly, but he knew when his eyes fell upon a folded piece of paper on his bedside table. Somebody must have come in and the closing door woke him up. Slowly he extended an arm to pick up the paper. It was yellowed. It had no address, simply marked with a seal bearing a magpie. Wonder rising inside him, Sir Holmes opened the paper.
East tower rooftops. I'm waiting. JM.
James. What the hell did he want? For a moment, he pondered not going. But after a moment's deliberation he got out of bed, pulled on his clothes and traipsed to the east tower.
When he arrived on the rooftop, for a moment he was blinded by the rising sun. He blinked and looked around him. There was James, sitting casually on the low parapet. When he saw Holmes, his face broke out into a grin.
"Ah, Sir Sherlock Holmes. How wonderful to see you. For a second I thought you wouldn't come. I thought you were a coward."
"I'm not a coward, I never ignore an invitation."
"I can see that. Well done, Sir Holmes, you're starting to prove yourself."
"What do you want from me?"
"Don't get impatient on me, Sherlock." Sir Holmes suppressed a grimace at the informal use of his name. James grinned.
"Ah, you don't like it when I call you that, do you? You want to be called the great Sir Holmes, the bravest and cleverest knight of them all..." He rose and stood to face the knight. "But of course, that is not what you are. You are just a man, a boring, ordinary man like any other."
"What makes you so sure?" Sir Holmes asked.
"Because you are only the great Sir Holmes when people believe you are. When they start to doubt you, your title is taken from you, and you are reduced to a simple, average person. Why, even King Lestrade himself doesn't believe you any more."
Holmes' eyes narrowed. "And that's your big plan? To make people believe that I lied to them?"
"Oh, no no no," James murmured. "It's not as simple as that. Your reputation will be ruined from now on, sure, but that's not all bad. You'll still be a knight, just a hated one. Or perhaps the King will remove your title and you will no longer be Sir Holmes. You would be disgraced forever, perhaps forced to flee Camelot in shame. But that wouldn't be so bad, would it? No, there's a worse fate for you."
Holmes waited, and when James didn't continue, he pushed. "And what is that?"
James grinned. "You will notice that I chose for us to meet on the roof. Not only that, but on the East tower, from where Moriarty's big scary army is coming. Oh look, there they are now!"
He turned and waved into the sunrise, and Holmes squinted in that direction. Along the horizon, a long line of men and horses appeared, wearing armor and brandishing flags. James turned back to face Sir Holmes.
"While they attack, I will be here, watching. I will give the signal, and during the battle they will all keep one eye on me, watching for instructions. I will be here, ruling over them, betraying the king for all of Camelot to see. And you know what?" He said gleefully. "You will be there too!"
Sir Holmes' face fell as he realized what James was saying. "You would frame me...make them think I was a traitor."
"You got it!" Said James.
"But I don't understand. I could just walk away from here, and fight alongside the rest of the knights. You said I had a choice, what kind of evil plan is this?" Holmes said.
"Ah, but you can't just walk away," James grinned even wider. "You see, your reputation is already ruined. I have already planted that doubt into the people's heads, and they already think you're the traitor. Word has already reached the king. If you leave this tower, nothing will be the same for you. Your reputation has already been ruined. Your choice is simple: Jump-" he gestured off the parapet,"- or don't jump, and confirm their suspicions. Walk away, you will be proving nothing."
Sir Holmes gaped at him. "Why?" He snarled. "Why are you doing this? Why do you care so much about my reputation?"
"Because, my dear Holmes, I was bored." James grin faded a little. "All my life I've been searching for distraction, trying to lead a more interesting life because I couldn't bear the dull, meaningless lifestyle that everyone else had. And then I heard a story about one of the knights of Camelot, a man who's bravery and intellect far exceeded everyone else's...I couldn't resist."
"Funny way of entertaining yourself," Holmes replied. James looked up at him.
"Isn't it just?"
There was a noise in the courtyard below, and James leaned over the parapet to see. It was King Lestrade and the other knights. They had awoken, been alerted that Moriarty's men had arrived, and were now preparing themselves for the battle. King Lestrade moved around them on his horse, barking orders.
"Time to make your decision, Sherlock," James said. "Look, they're already missing you."
The King was looking around nervously, craning his neck, obviously looking for someone. Lady Donovan said something to him, and Lestrade shook his head, continuing to search for his missing knight. Donovan followed, accompanied by Anderson. They appeared to be trying to reason with him, trying to convince him of something. The king sent them away with a rough gesture, and he and the knights rode from the courtyard and away from the castle.
"You see," Said James. "It's too late for you. They're convincing the King that you're a traitor, gone to conspire with Moriarty. Which you are, in a way. Sir Anderson and Lady Donovan. So gullible. Bless them." He turned his neck to look at Sir Holmes.
"Make your choice. Jump or don't jump."
"What if I pushed you? What if I killed you right now?" Holmes said.
"Then the knights and the king would find me pushed from the roof. Dear old James, so willing to fight for his King and for Camelot. We're both absent right now. Easily they could deduce that you killed me."
Holmes' face fell, mind working furiously.
"The clock is ticking, Holmes. Jump. Please?" He raised his hand high above him, preparing to signal to his army. "There's more to it, you know. There are too many of them. The King wasn't prepared for such a large army, he thought they were small in number. Of course, that was the idea. If you jump, I'll send them away. Camelot will be victorious, there will be no bloodshed. Don't jump, and they attack, and you can be certain that the knights, the king, and the citizens of Camelot will be slaughtered where they stand. What do you say?" James' face had fully lost it's grin, and he was now watching Sir Holmes darkly. "I'm waiting."
Sir Holmes' eyes were wide, and his jaw was clenched. He shook with anger, rage threatening to rip forth.
"You can't do this..."
Holmes took a step forward, and James' grin returned. Sir Holmes took small steps, making his way towards the edge of the roof. When he reached it, he looked down on James, eyes filled with loathing. James stared back, silently egging him on.
Holmes took a deep breath and slid his legs over the side, moving so that he was sitting on the edge of the parapet with is legs dangling in the air. There was a flagpole beside him, and he grasped it to steady himself. James looked up at him with glee, hand still raised in the air. Holmes looked after the knights, now obscured from view by the trees. They were small in number, and they would easily be defeated by Moriarty's army. the knight's could fight, but nobody, not even Sir Holmes could face an army like that. He thought of Lestrade. King Lestrade, who had been kind to him, knighting him even though he wasn't a nobleman, listening to his stories. Over the years Sir Holmes had known him, the king had been the closest thing the knight could call a friend. As he stared down at him and the other knights, he knew what he had to do.
"Okay," He said hoarsely, his voice barely above a whisper. "Okay."
As James looked on, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He held his breath for a moment, and time seemed to stand still. Then, in one swift, sudden movement, his arms reached out to surround James. Gripping the man for dear life, he pushed off of the side of the tower, and together, Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty plunged to the cold ground beneath them.
King Lestrade sat on his horse in front of his knights, facing the huge army on the horizon. He swallowed and straightened his back. His hands were shaking, and he gripped the reins of his horse more tightly to settle them. His whole body was trembling. He was afraid.
He could not see his knights from his position, but he knew that they too were frightened. None of them had anticipated an army as big as this. They all knew that none would likely emerge from this battle alive. This day would go down in history as the day king Lestrade was defeated, and Camelot fell.
The king closed his eyes. He was biding his time, not wanting to make the first attack. He would let the enemy come to them. The wait was killing him. Where was Sir Holmes? It wasn't like him to miss such an opportunity to show off. Unless Donovan and Anderson were right about him, as they kept insisting while the king was trying to ready the knights. They kept saying how he would never miss this, unless he was conspiring with Moriarty at this very moment. Lestrade had sent them away, and now was doing his best not to believe they were right.
It was odd, too, that James hadn't shown up. He had wanted so badly to fight for Camelot, and the time was now. That made his small army two knights short, one of them the most important knight of all.
Lestrade heard a shout and he opened his eyes. One of his knights was pointing to the castle behind them, up to the eastern tower. The king furrowed his brow and looked up, confused, and the other knights did the same. When he saw what the knight was pointing to, King Lestrade's jaw dropped.
Two figures were standing on the roof. From this distance it was hard to make out, but he knew who they were. Sir Holmes and James, his two missing fighters. James was standing tall, hand raised in the air. His head was turned to Sir Holmes but his body was out, facing the opposing army. As Lestrade watched, Sir Holmes moved forward. He let out a horrified gasp as Holmes sat on the edge, one hand at his side, the other gripping the flagpole. The way Holmes was sitting, it was almost as if...
Before the king had time to form a conclusion, Sir Holmes had gripped the other man and the two fell. Lestrade let out a strangled yell as he watched them go down, only seeing their descent for a brief second before his view was obstructed by the trees. The king and the knights stood frozen, not entirely sure what they had just seen. Then they seemed to remember where they were, and they turned back to face the huge army in front of them. To their surprise, the army began to withdraw.
The knights of Camelot watched in awe as the vast army left, without so much as crying out. They were silent as they left, and the knights stood frozen in shock until Moriarty's army had disappeared over the horizon.
For a second, all was still. Then the king heard his knights bellow a victory cry behind him. Relief swept through him- the army was gone, his knights were safe. Then he remembered what he had seen just before they left and he turned suddenly back towards Camelot.
He and the knights rode as quickly as they could back to the city. When they reached the courtyard, Lestrade ordered them to search the grounds and find Sir Holmes and James.
"We need to find them. Make sure they're still alive."
He galloped towards the base of the eastern tower. It was the tallest tower in the castle, he knew. Nobody, not even Sir Holmes could survive such a fall.
Lady Donovan reached them before he did, and he heard her shout as he approached. When he saw the bodies on the ground, his breath deserted him. He dismounted his horse and knelt beside them, trembling as he checked for life signs that he knew he would not find.
The two men were sprawled on the cobblestones of the courtyard, the body of James crushing the arm of Sir Holmes, where he had landed. Blood pooled around their bodies. Tiny rivers of red joined together and made their way away from the crushed forms. Their limbs stuck out at odd angles, and their jaws hung open, limp. King Lestrade's eyes roamed over the two men. His gaze fell upon the face of Sir Holmes. Blood covered most of it, gushing from the fresh cuts and gashes, pooling around his head like a halo. His strikingly blue eyes stared up at the sky, vacant of their once lively electricity. The King could sense hot tears forming in his own eyes. He blinked hard and stood.
"Are they-are they dead, sire?" Lady Donovan whispered. Her eyes were wide and she was King gave her a long, cold stare. She had doubted him, accused Sir Holmes of being a traitor. She had no right to grieve. Jaw clenched, he gave her a curt nod.
"Move the bodies. See to it that Sir Holmes receives a proper burial, one befitting of a knight," He ordered.
"And James, sire?" The king looked down at the other man. He frowned, thinking. Why had he been standing up there, with Sir Holmes? Why had his hand been raised towards Moriarty's army, as if in salute? Why had they army left when he fell? Why had Sir Holmes jumped, and taken James down with him?
These were the questions that burned in King Lestrade's mind, questions that would never be answered. There was something about James, that perhaps he wasn't the good and eager man he had made himself out to be. He would never know.
"I don't care. Bury him as well. Anywhere. Just move the bodies away from here." He tore his eyes away from the mangles, bloody bodies on the ground, unable to look at them any longer.
Sir Anderson rode up behind him, and the king heard his soft gasp. Lestrade didn't even look at him as he pushed past him towards the castle. As he walked, he avoided meeting the eye of anyone he passed and kept his head down, for he knew that the people of Camelot should never see their king cry.
AN: It's over! Thank you so much for reading! This is the longest fic I've ever written, so I would love it if you would review and give me feedback. Thank you!