Trigger warnings: implicit non/con; brief violence/torture; general psychological anguish.
This took an agonizingly long time and absurd amounts of work, so I pray to God you guys like it! I considered splitting it into chapters, but it works better as one cohesive unit. So.
Canon-compliant until about a sixth of the way through, and then canon gets shot to hell. Also, Johnlock features strongly, but doesn't comprise the main plot.
Thanks so much to Lucy, a fabulous beta! I love you!
When Jim Moriarty comes to consciousness, his first thought is: I am lying on a sofa.
He stands and looks around the room. He absorbs as much information as is necessary. Stale cigarette smoke. Dim lighting.
His second line of thought is this: I am not who I want to be.
Third line of thought: I need a distraction. I need a distraction right now.
And that is how it begins.
Nearly four years later, one Sherlock Holmes finds himself pursuing Moriarty, whom he finds to be a man wealthier than any other the world over; a man who is a string of codes; a man who is a series of whispers down back streets from fearful mouths. And most of all: a man who really understands what fun entails.
Sherlock thinks he might be in love. (Though he's not sure what that should feel like, since he's never been in love with anyone but himself.) He is also, for the first time since long before uni, clean. And he has a friend—a friend who, against all odds, is kind, and good, and ordinary.
Sherlock is bizarrely content.
Moriarty, for his part, feels far from content. Sherlock's overconfidence disgusts him, offends him. (Intrigues him, fascinates him. Does the man really believe there is no one who can compare to his intellect?) Moriarty wants to annihilate Sherlock so thoroughly that the man's defeat will be on the lips of every person in England. Yes – Jim has goals to meet. Traps to set. Havoc to wreak.
But how to destroy Sherlock without hurting himself? After all, if Jim were to destroy Sherlock, what would there be to live for, really? What would exist besides his own victory?
Jim Moriarty, though, is never one to back down from a challenge.
First, though … first, the Game.
His mum always told him not to play with his food before he ate it. She would be so disappointed.
It is the eve of the Game, and Sherlock suspects nothing at all. He has just enjoyed a normal evening examining grime in his microscope, and it is now late into the night, and after briefly nodding off at his microscope, the man is at work once again.
"Sherlock? You okay?" John asks.
John narrows his eyes. His friend's hair is alarmingly neat, especially for so late at night. And he's still wearing proper clothes. "Why are you all dressed up?"
"Oh. Your dirt-examining thing, right."
"Thank you, John. A necessary clarification." The cold crystal eyes shoot a contemptuous glance to the door, and John lets out a slow sigh.
"No need to be an arse. You sure you're all right?"
Meanwhile, Jim Moriarty is experiencing the same dilemma: how the hell to get his closest acquaintance to leave him in peace. Eventually, he comes up with:
"How about a little incentive? If you go to my bed, I'll meet you there." Jim's voice is cheerfully seductive, and his acquaintance – too a soldier – flounders.
"You … bed?"
"Yes, yes." Jim spares a look from his work. Half a feral smile reveals glimmering teeth. "Bed. Go on in, get undressed, and we'll have a fuck in fifteen minutes or so. Good?"
Jim cocks an eyebrow and takes a closer look. Pupils dilating—always promising. His partner is eyeing Jim's face with a new light in his eyes. A little bit of shock, mixed with desire. The eye of sexual perusal. "And don't you worry," Jim says, with a wider smile. "I can hold my own."
"Fine, but I … why now?"
Jim turns back to the papers spread before him. "Because you're irritating me, and I need privacy for a few minutes, and I don't want a wank at this time of night, so out, get out."
A military turn, and a closing door, and then he's alone. Finally.
Jim lifts the pen to the paper. What will Sherlock's reaction likely be to this first part of the game? His other half is so predictable, sometimes.
Well, the woman will be crying, almost certainly. He's picked them all out beforehand, and the first is a weeper. Jim writes, "I'm not crying. I'm typing, and this stupid bitch is reading it out." His transcriber will be typing, in any case, and the words will be showing up on the screen in the woman's hand. Not like Scotland Yard will be able to tell the difference.
Jim whips out his phone, texts a man who owes him. Neil will be the typist tomorrow, will have a sheet of instructions from which he absolutely must not deviate. A nuisance—Jim wants so badly to be there in person for his date with Sherlock, but he has an engagement. One he absolutely cannot miss.
He reasons his way through a few more faux conversations. Fills up the paper with a pre-packaged game of wits.
Too bad Sherlock doesn't know how hopelessly outclassed he is.
Smirking, Jim checks the clock. He clucks at himself and stands, straightening his clothes. Far past time to get to bed for some recreational activity, if he wants to get any rest at all before the big day.
"If you're wearing anything when I walk in," he calls, "I will be more than unhappy."
Sherlock wakes up tired the next morning, and reading John's blog for the first time unlocks some great dissatisfaction deep within his chest. John is so liberal with his praise for Sherlock in person, yet on this infernal website: 'Startlingly ignorant.' Startlingly. It is cutting and unpleasant and Sherlock doesn't waste much time being angry about it but yes, he does let himself sulk for a little while, which he figures is the least he deserves for being publicly humiliated.
It is twice as unpleasant because he woke up in John's bed that morning, tucked up against the doctor's warm chest, his cheek snuggling into the hollow at the base of John's neck. (Woke up after having dozed off at the desk again. Dragged himself to a bed, didn't matter which. Happened to be John's. John seemed all right with it.) An agreeable start to the day, so rapidly undermined the instant he realizes what's going on with this stupid blogging business: a catalogue of everything he has ever said or done, spewed onto the internet through the lens of John's perception. Which is, apparently, not as rose-colored as he thought.
As for having shared a bed – however chastely it may have been – the clear and unspoken agreement is that neither of them will speak about it. John: evidently uncomfortable. Clears his throat roughly six times more frequently than normal and shifts his weight from one foot to the other at a three-to-one ratio as compared to yesterday. And as for Sherlock, he's frankly too irritated with John's jab to his pride to say or do anything even remotely affectionate.
And then the Game begins, and he has no time to waste on petty personal issues. Convenient. Good. That'll be that. (Maybe it was just once.)
The brushes with Moriarty: closer every time, and yet nothing concrete. Twelve casualties in that hospital. (Divorce yourself from feelings, Sherlock.) Always simple.
And John: "You find that easy, do you." Not a question. Oh, the disappointment, obvious from that first inflection, that first quaver of disbelief. Indignation. The righteous doctor.
A splash of Jesus, Sherlock, what's wrong with you; a hint of can't-believe-I-hugged-you-close-to-me-and-pressed-my-lips-to-your-forehead-twenty-four-hours-ago; a generous helping of what-are-you.
Sherlock does not feel apologetic. In fact, he does not feel much at all.
But later, with the sting of chlorine in his nose, pool water rippling alongside him, the red light bobbing on John's forehead … then Sherlock can't help it, can he. Sentiment. And he detests the little dark-eyed man before him for drawing out that thread of slipped control.
But he is fascinating, too, this manifestation of all evil. Delightfully and despicably camp, this man, this Moriarty. An act put on to terrify, to disconcert.
(I'm so changeable!)
Sherlock does not lose his cool. But Moriarty knows.
(I will burn the heart out of you.)
I've been reliably informed that I don't have one.
(We both know that's not quite true, don't we?)
And really, the whole time … it is obvious, isn't it?
(Well, no, don't be obvious…)
Too late, Jim.
The wide smile and the manic glint and the mask over it all and the that's-what-people-DO—
Sherlock's obsession has grown immeasurably deep already (two hundred and thirty-four seconds). He may feel for John, but he lives for Moriarty. All the man's words feel tailored to unsettle him, to shake him right from his core. And Sherlock enjoys it deeply and chaotically.
That night, Sherlock forces himself to sleep. But when he returns to himself in the morning he does not feel the least bit rested.
He is on the hunt.
That same night, after the pool, Jim Moriarty receives a call. Neil.
"Definitely attachment there, for that John. I could see it all over his face, even from where I was. Guess he's not used to hiding the fact that he cares."
"Don't you think I know that?" Moriarty says, voice a lazy slur. "You think I need your reports? I even planted cameras; I can go back and re-watch his face whenever I like. Whenever precious John's threatened, oh, John, poor John, pathetic. I expected better of him, you know. Almost." He brushes a hand through his dark hair, puts his feet up on the low table. "At least the Woman called on schedule. She can be … unreliable."
Neil chuckles through the phone. "So, when will you need me next?"
"Not for a while. No … not for a good long while. I've got plans to make. People to contact. Expect a call in a year or so. Maybe ten years. Maybe tomorrow. Stay on your tippy tip-toes." Moriarty licks his lips and hangs up and writes a careful email to Irene Adler (all electronic evidence of which he promptly destroys):
Careful with the Virgin. He's more fragile than he'd like to appear, and he's mine, and to damage his expected routine would compromise my schedule significantly.
Moriarty shuts the laptop and stows it back in its proper place. He stands. Straightens his suit jacket. Smokes a cigarette (or two (or five (or ten))). Unlike Sherlock, Moriarty does adore succumbing to vices. Not because of an addiction. Simply because he can.
When he walks into the bedroom, he croons, "Asleep already? That won't do."
The next morning, his lover wakes with bite marks up and down his spine. He also wakes alone: Moriarty has work to do, and, unlike Sherlock, is completely immune to sentiment.
"Oh, well done," Jim says, as he watches the tape. Sherlock really did exceed all expectations with this case. A layer of grime beneath the fingernails, all the detective had to work with.
"Well done," Jim murmurs again, more to himself this time. He gives himself a pat on the back. Good fun, this one. Sometimes he considers covering all his tracks, making it impossible for Sherlock. But what would be the fun in that? Sherlock knows Jim is capable of an unsolvable murder. He's had it done once or twice (he would never do it himself; so messy! so fussy! – but all right to plan, certainly).
No; his and Sherlock's love affair stems from the dangled line; the bait-and-hook. The tantalizing treat that is the scent of lilac perfume masked by turpentine, or a hair of an eyebrow drawn on with a single careful stroke, or any number of other tiny purposeful missteps. Clues. Deductions waiting to happen. And Jim allows them because oh dear God does he love to watch.
Jim loves Sherlock, after all. The man never, never disappoints. And sometimes he catches a minor detail Jim left uncovered. Those are the special moments. (The special something.)
Jim has his own lover, of course. But he is jealous; something in him desires Sherlock's affection and appreciation. Moriarty's possessive side, after all, is his only side.
John, that funny little man. If he weren't so thoroughly stupid, he could be Moriarty's undoing. He could ruin everything.
But he is thoroughly ordinary. Nothing to worry about at all.
Jim pauses the tape. He's been watching so closely, reliving Sherlock's days in his nightly viewing sessions. Like a lovesick teenager.
He flicks his cigarette out the window, frowning at the last arc of the glowing ember. It's become somewhat of a habit, hasn't it? How annoyingly Sherlock of him, to have a habit he can't turn on and off at the flick of a whim.
Going to the sink to wash his hands, Jim resolves to make the switch to nicotine gum sometime in the near future. He feels, for once, a step behind Sherlock, who quit cold turkey almost a year ago … and Jim doesn't like thinking of it that way.
In fact, he shouldn't think of it that way. It is not a competition, this smoking thing.
He and Sherlock, after all, are not inextricably tied. Not if he doesn't want them to be.
Jim brushes his teeth quickly and hurries down to the street. Two in the morning: It is time to meet his co-conspirators face-to-face for the first time. Time to start the countdown to the Fall.
Later that night, he calls a security guard at the Tower. You will receive a text from an untraceble number.
The bank. From an untraceable number.
The prison. From an untraceable number.
And then Jim plans out the physical tics. The cues. The tricks! Sherlock will eat it all up, the trail of false leads.
And then … then the truth will be revealed. To his own amusement, Jim finds himself almost nervous. This is the end for them both, after all. And after such a blow to his pride, Sherlock will stop his heart without a second thought. Jim is sure.
"I'm an actor, I'm on DVD," says the man with the scruffy hair, and God, he's good. Sherlock's mind almost derails into rage the second he realizes what Moriarty is doing. It is perfect. Utterly, terribly perfect, the way he's set this all up.
From there on it is inevitable, the lead-in to the Fall. Except that Sherlock confides in the quietly unassuming Molly Hooper, to his shock and hers alike. (Why not John? He's stolen kisses. You've stolen quiet glances and tried not to hold his eyes. Trust seems imperative.) But it's Molly—ever-competent, ever-downtrodden Molly—whom he chooses. It's enough to truly surprise himself.
Oh, John, this will break you.
And then the rooftop. And it all comes together.
"Were you convinced, then?" the man asks, a hopeful little grin on his face. "Believe I was Richard Brook?"
"Richard Brook. Reichenbach. The case that made my name. Clever."
"No one else seems to get the joke," the man mumbles. "So, did I get you? Almost start to wonder whether I was real, did you?"
Sherlock assumes that's rhetorical.
The expectant silence drags on, filled with the bite of wind.
"Well?" comes the whisper, as the man stops by Sherlock's shoulder. "Well, Mr. Holmes? You convinced yet?"
"What are you talking about?" Sherlock bites the words out. Pointless line of discussion. Some sort of psychological play? Silly. Doesn't Moriarty know who he's dealing with?
"How do you feel, Sherlock?" asks the shorter man, withdrawing a little. Giving Sherlock a little space. (Thank God.)
"What do you mean?"
"I … it has been a while since I slept. Relevance to the topic at hand?"
"Oh, it is startlingly relevant." Audible flapping. Two dark coats in the choppy bite of the breeze. "Sherlock, darling, my name isn't Richard Brook."
"No, it's Jim Moriarty, which we both know, so stop wasting my time and get to the point."
"It's not Jim Moriarty, either."
Sherlock nearly snaps, This isn't fun anymore, it's stupid! He has to breathe words out syllable by syllable: "You are Jim Moriarty. We have bigger games to play than the one you've lost before even beginning."
"And Jim knew," says the man opposite Sherlock, "that you would have trouble believing what I'm saying. So he's pre-recorded a bit of a presentation for you." He flourishes a hand toward the concrete ground. "Care to take a seat?"
When he draws a hand-sized video-camera from his pocket, Sherlock starts listening properly.
A disproportionate sense of dread creeps up Sherlock's back. He sits. Not-Jim sits too. Turns on the camera, goes to history, presses play.
When the image starts – when the man onscreen lifts his head to stare into the camera's lens – Sherlock's head spins.
"Hello, there," says the man on the screen. "My name is Jim Moriarty, and it's very nice to meet you, Sherlock. Very, ooh, very nice indeed, such a pleasure to make this video for you. I'm hoping this has all gone as arranged. I'm hoping you're where I'm thinking you'd go! Bart's rooftop, am I right? Tell me I'm right. Of course I'm right."
The man on the screen has dark hair. He is pale. He has a baritone voice and piercing green-blue eyes. He has cheekbones like cliffs. He is sitting in 221B Baker Street.
The man on the screen looks just like Sherlock Holmes but for the fact that he holds himself differently. No calm demeanor, no composure. And no excitement of the chase, either. It's a manic, darting energy, manifested in every line of his cock-eyed limbs. The tapping fingers. Every so often, the straightening, the adjusting. Moments of calm amongst the chaos.
Not Sherlock Holmes at all.
"Invented all the crimes, you see," he says, pointing to himself. "Jim Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes. One and the same. I did it for you, you know. But this man here beside you, my assistant, my face in the public eye, said I should have the decency to tell you what I've done before you take the leap of bad faith." Those long fingers rub together in a normal man's expression of glee. (Moriarty's expression of gloating.) "Sherlock, dear, dear Sherlock, I don't think you understand exactly how careful I've been. I've been sleeping in your flat for years now. I've fooled with your equipment, slept in your bed. And anything one hair out of place, I knew you'd notice it. Good thing I'm you, then, isn't it? Good thing I know how to cover my tracks. So even our brother doesn't notice." A smile spreads across the man's mouth and Sherlock feels like he might throw up. With his own face before him, twisted in that maniacal grin … his lips twitch, wanting to move to match the image. But he can't complete the smile.
"Let's talk about my first work," says Moriarty, and just like that, the grin is gone. "Carl Powers. Nasty piece of work, that boy. Did you catch the glances he gave you, Sherlock? I did. Catch him sniggering behind his hand? That entire team of his, showing up from their school for that competition, laughing at the skinny little swot you used to be. Of course, they laughed at a lot of people, so you probably didn't care." Moriarty's lip curls into a snarl. "I did. And I gave you a hint, you know. I told you he laughed at me, so I stopped. Him. Laughing. Thought you might put the pieces together, but I'm glad you didn't."
He gives a quick shake of his head. "The first night I stopped being subconscious and started being conscious, I fixed him. Just one night, Sherlock; that's all it took. Carl Powers dead. I wasn't so good at covering my tracks back then — no wonder you were suspicious. The shoes. Obvious, really, but I did want a keepsake. You know where they were all those years?" He lets out a frantic-sounding giggle. "Under the floorboards in your room, that's where."
"And next … you thought my dear employee here was me. No. Wrong. Wrong. Tell me, Sherlock, how does it feel to be so alone?" The recorded voice drops to a whisper. "You thought someone else understood what this boredom felt like, what real excitement was. You thought you had a kindred spirit, didn't you? Too bad. No one understands. No one except me, and you are me. Don't you see? I've done this all as a gift for you. For us. I get what I've dreamed of: more power than my brother ever had; the satisfaction of an ambition fulfilled; no boring life waiting around for others to do something interesting. And since I can't get rid of you, I've even pandered to what you want, Sherlock. You want something to be as interesting as I am. So I've obliged."
A slight pause, and he says, "I know you're wondering how. The answer is that you haven't been sleeping, Sherlock. Not much. Maybe an hour or two every other night. But it's been this way for years and years. You thought it was a withdrawal symptom, the exhaustion."
The man leans toward the camera, a gleam lighting up the curve of his eye. "It's not a withdrawal symptom," he whispers. "It's me. Jekyll and Hyde; Holmes and Moriarty. You fall out of consciousness and I take over. For years, your tiredness has been residual, left over from the time I've spent making my name … and meanwhile you've been wishing you had that cocaine back. Wanting to flood caffeine into your veins every second. And the nicotine … you need the energy, don't you? Sorry about that. But the result's been worth it, you know: Jim, the consulting criminal. Far more glamorous a life than the consulting detective will ever lead, and d'you know, it's easier from my end. Breaking things is always so much easier than putting the pieces back together." He releases a belabored sigh. "But it's annoying, sometimes, so annoying. I've had to keep myself removed from the commoners, all the little people. No one ever gets to me, Sherlock. Because they might figure it out if they did. They might figure out that I am you."
He leans back from the camera and steeples his fingers under his chin. Sherlock can't help but draw in a sharp breath. Too familiar a gesture. Horrifying.
"It is fun, I'll admit," says Moriarty, "watching you solve the crimes I set up for you. You always do well. I love that about me, don't you? Always living up to expectations." A mad chuckle. "But I knew this was the one thing you'd never guess. You trust yourself too much. You would never, ever guess that your greatest enemy was something in you. Whenever you thought you drifted off, lost a few hours to dozing at the microscope … those were my hours. I owned you, understand? I still do, really. I. Own. You."
Moriarty raises one eyebrow. "Oh, and now you're wondering about John, how he didn't notice. Well, there was the sex. And I did tell him that if he ever mentioned it in daylight, he could consider it immediately and ruthlessly truncated. I saw you sometimes, you know, on the tapes. Kisses for John in the kitchen. Darling. Really darling, but Sherlock, oh, we've been so much further than that, he wants so much more than that. Now that he knows what it tastes like." A sinister grin stretches the corners of his eyes, and he leans back in his chair.
"And the answer is yes. Yes, I did bug our flat so I could monitor you. Not much fun, though, after a while. You get predictable." A contemplative silence. "You complain a lot, did you know? Sherlock the complainer … and you're childish, really, petty and childish. And you're boring and you're petulant and you don't take nearly enough control!" On the last word, he slams his fist onto the table. It rattles.
Moriarty stands. Paces around the table, which holds the microscope. "You put it all on me. I had to take all the initiative," Moriarty snaps. "I love you, Sherlock, but damned if I don't hate you. If you'd just taken what you wanted – if you had just … but no, it doesn't matter, does it? Not anymore. I'm here now, to do what you were never brave enough to do. I'll handle it. I am your good side."
Moriarty leans against the table, folding his arms. "And by the way, no, there's no way out of it. No, you can't hocus-pocus me away, Sherlock. As long as you're alive, I'm alive. And I've grown bored with it all. Didn't take much, in the end, did it? Ruining you. Though I suppose I've got a fair advantage, living inside your head without you knowing."
He checks the door and adds in a conspiratorial tone, "By the way, I think you may be a bit crazy. You might want to see a doctor."
And that's when John opens the door. The sight of him is a bolt to the chest. Sherlock can't breathe.
John approaches the man leaning against the table, places a gentle kiss on the back of his neck. "Making some sort of video?" he asks, voice crackly with sleep. "At this time of night? God, Sherlock, you're bloody mad."
"Why are you up, John?" Moriarty says, and a shock of irrational fear electrifies Sherlock's fingertips. Get away from him, John, he thinks, even though this has already happened, Jesus –
"Nightmare," John says.
"Oh. I'm sorry," says Moriarty, and it's never been more obvious that what's coming from those lips is an utter insincerity. But John doesn't seem to notice. He looks surprised at the sympathy, but grateful. Thirsty for affection from the man before him.
Sherlock isn't blinking. He isn't even quite sure his heart is beating.
He watches himself – this Moriarty, wrapped up in his body – pulling John forward. Kissing him deeply. Touching him with unbridled desire. Wrong. Wrong. Moriarty almost had John killed.
A few minutes pass before John slips back up the stairs to his bedroom. Moriarty turns back to the camera. Kneels before it. His face practically fills the screen. "Convenient little cameo there!" he says brightly. "Hope you enjoyed it. He is so affectionate, you know. Like a puppy, that one, but better in bed." Slight crease in the brow. "Well, I'm assuming. Don't know much about dogs in bed. Though John is somewhat of an animal, isn't he? Normal people tend to be."
Another too-bright smile, and Moriarty straightens up. "That's enough to be getting on with. I trust you to figure out how I managed each individual case by yourself. Simple, really, once you know the truth. Because you do know yourself well, Sherlock. You know yourself very well, and I am you, only I'm who you should have been. I am you on the interesting side. The side of the angels who are long, long-fallen."
A hand stretches out for the camera. "Night, love," comes the whisper, and then—darkness.
Sherlock sits in a daze.
Not-Jim stands and takes the video camera with him. "You'll jump, now," he says. "And if you don't ... well, you've arranged for your friends to die if you don't. And you know you'll just end up hurting them again if you keep that mind of yours alive."
The choice laid out before him.
Sherlock starts to wonder if it wouldn't be better if he did hit the pavement, did send shards of bone through his brain.
His head whirls and he puts his phone back in his pocket. He was recording everything, capturing Moriarty's big reveal. But it's useless now. Sherlock lets not-Jim walk away unscathed. It doesn't matter, after all.
Suddenly he wants to cut his own head open. Excise the part of him that's done all this. And this isn't a case of dissociative identity; no, the symptoms are quite different. It is truly Jekyll and Hyde, his darker side clawing its way to the surface.
And Moriarty wants to consume him, or, at a lack of ways to do that feasibly … he wants to destroy them both.
Dear God, how did Moriarty cover his tracks so well? There was never anything a fraction out of place in 221B. Years, this has been going on. Years. All for the entertainment of a madman.
Sherlock is not familiar with guilt.
Soon it will be the most familiar feeling he knows.
"Tell anyone who'll listen," Sherlock says into the phone, his voice practically a whisper. "I made up all the crimes. I'm a fake."
John denies it.
A tear dangles off Sherlock's chin and flies into the wind.
He leans forward. Topples. And the rush of the Fall lights something on fire in his chest.
His mind gets control of itself again as he crashes into the back of the truck.
How long can I go without sleep?
No. Wrong question to ask. Sleep: inevitable. He needs some sort of restraints.
Shortly after Molly smuggles him out of the morgue, he sends a text to Irene Adler.
May I borrow some of your equipment?
Give me a good reason why you'd need handcuffs or a whip, Mr. Holmes, and maybe I'll consider it.
"Who're you texting?" Molly's sitting at her kitchen table. She fidgets, her hands cupped around a mug.
"Molly, I need to warn you of something, as I'm staying under your roof and you'll likely be the first witness to this." That's all the lead-in she gets before he tells her everything. He wishes he had Moriarty's camera to corroborate his own story, but no matter.
She says nothing in response. She looks at him as if he's gone mad.
"Molly?" His hands clamp down on her shoulders the instant she tries to rise. He looks her in the eye. "I need you to answer a question. How long have you known me?"
She flounders for a second. "… six years?"
"Do you think you could tell the difference between me and someone pretending to be me?"
"Honestly. Tell me honestly."
"I don't know."
"Then I need you to trust me. This is what will happen. Listen very closely."
When Moriarty next wakes, he is angry. Sherlock didn't do it. The coward. He's still alive.
Strange. How can he live with the crushing shame of being a fake? Moriarty had calculated … from how much Sherlock cared about everyone's opinions – John's opinion, mostly, but others' too; Lestrade's, Ms. Hudson's … and, of course, his own inflated ego …
He should be dead. He should have killed himself from the sheer humiliation of it.
Then Moriarty realizes that his hands are locked together. Handcuffs. And he's chained to a bed so tightly he can hardly wriggle. Compromising position indeed.
He laughs. This is how it'll be, then. Sherlock trying to fight off the media, and trying to fight off his own conscience, now that he knows the papers are telling the truth. And simultaneously trying to fight himself off.
Anyway, if Sherlock wants the slightest chance of getting a lead on his organization, he'll need Moriarty's cooperation. And cooperation isn't something Moriarty is willing to give.
Moriarty doesn't doubt Sherlock often, but he doubts him now. That sliver of humanity Sherlock possesses will cripple him, and then he will kill himself, as he should have hours ago. How many hours ago was it? How many hours has Moriarty lost?
He takes a sniff of the air. Glances around. Molly Hooper's place, obviously. Moriarty's never met her before, only heard John talking about her. (Neil's mentioned her a few times, too; when he was masquerading as Moriarty he even pretended to be interested in the girl.) But Moriarty has caught a whiff of her perfume after those Christmas parties.
Maybe she'll let him out. She must've been the one to put him here, after all … so she's privy to some information. How much is yet to be determined.
"Molly?" he calls. "Molly –!"
She arrives almost at once, wide-eyed, hands in the pockets of her nightgown. "Y-yes?"
"Thank goodness, took you long enough." Moriarty shifts on the bed, speaking in Sherlock's quick cadence. "These handcuffs are dreadful, if you could loosen them a notch and –"
Molly takes a sheet of paper from her pocket and checks it, giving Moriarty a glance.
Moriarty gives an overdramatic sigh, rolling his eyes. "It's me, Molly. It's Sherlock. Don't waste my time trying to analyze whether or not I'm myself at the moment. I really do just need these to be refastened; something about this angle makes them bite."
Molly approaches the bedside, still eyeing him carefully. "Do you need anything?" she says.
Is the woman an idiot? "Yes, as I've said repeatedly, I need you to –"
And Molly Hooper takes a large can of hairspray out of her other pocket and whacks him on the temple.
Moriarty barely has the time to think, Well, that was unexpected, before he's swimming into unconsciousness.
Sherlock wakes up. "Molly!" he says loudly.
She opens the door, cheerful smile on her face, frying pan in hand. "I knocked you out last night," she says. "It was sort of … satisfying, you know?"
"I gathered from the acute pain in my forehead. Could you let me out?"
"Do you need anything?"
Sherlock nods. "Four eight one nine."
Molly bustles to his side, places the frying pan on the bedside table, and unlocks his handcuffs. As he sits up, she gives him a furtive glance. "Worked like a charm," she says quietly. "He tried to convince me he was you. I could sort of tell, though. It was creepy."
"Yes, thank you for the update," Sherlock says, rubbing at the lines pressed into his wrists. Molly's jaw tightens, and she gives him something as close to a stern look as he's ever seen pass across that kind face.
She yanks the chain from his ankles. He winces and swings his legs over the side of the bed. "He didn't tell you anything, did he?"
"Didn't get much of a chance."
Sherlock stands and rolls his shoulders. Cracking sounds ripple down his back. Terribly uncomfortable position, albeit necessary. "Hm."
He heads to her bathroom and showers quickly, pulls the change of clothes from the bag he packed, and dresses. By the time he enters the kitchen, Molly's finished eating her breakfast.
He winces in the light, his temple pounding. Molly has quite the arm, apparently.
Several possible avenues from here. Initially, he'd planned to pursue Moriarty's network without a word to anyone about his falsified death. Not even John. It would have been for their own safety, really.
Now, though … things are different.
Sherlock sinks to Molly's uncomfortable canvas sofa to think.
Telling Mycroft? Abhorrent concept. He's tempted not to breathe a word to Mycroft until he's righted his wrongs.
(Sick rush of pride, that his alter ego has fooled his brother so thoroughly for so long. And that's when Sherlock considers that yes, perhaps he should be on Mycroft's side, because to endorse Moriarty's actions even the tiniest bit …)
"Sherlock." Molly's voice, tentative and quiet. She sits on the sofa next to him.
He starts. "What. Oh. You."
"Need any breakfast?"
"No, quiet is the only thing I need."
"I'm off to work, if you … I'm gonna go, okay?"
"Mm," he says, already sinking back into his thoughts. And suddenly that sick feeling from the rooftop recrudesces. Invasive. For so long, without his consent or knowledge, Moriarty has been in control of his mind and body. (Though at least he has not shared his heart, what little of it there may be.) His mind, good God. The sanctity of it, violated …
He lets out an involuntary noise, digging his fingers into his hair.
"Sherlock?" Molly says, but her voice is somewhere far away and easily ignorable.
He closes his eyes. Brow creased, teeth gritted, he releases a quiet noise not quite human.
It would have been easier to kill himself. Definitely.
Mycroft … he's never cared for or about his brother's opinion, but he's always been aware that Mycroft knows him. To admit this possession will change everything. Mycroft will no longer know him, not really. Sherlock will be as divorced from Mycroft as every other citizen in Britain.
A miserable concept to consider, as Sherlock is all Mycroft has, and he knows it. (God knows Sherlock wouldn't do half the things he does if he weren't fully aware he could get away with it.)
Mycroft is already so unfeeling. What would this do to him?
Ms. Hudson … she would be terrified. Wide eyes laced with fine wrinkles. Awful to picture.
Lestrade: horrified, disgusted. He would try, but he would never truly be able to separate Sherlock from Moriarty in his mind. And that strange beast, friendship – it would be killed in its tracks.
Anderson; Donovan: vindicated. Sherlock would want to murder them. (Consciously. No change of personality necessary.)
London would never trust him again. He would be psychotic in the public eye, though that's not true. Psychosis? That's not it. While conscious, he has his mind, he has to have his mind, it's all he has – except –
Sherlock makes another involuntary noise.
A hand on his back. He nearly casts himself forward in the sudden desire to get away. The idea of someone touching him – John touching Moriarty, deceived, believing in Sherlock so fully – hideous. "Off," he snaps, "off, get off me!"
"Okay, yeah." Molly stands and holds her hands up, brave concern in her eyes. "Sherlock, please tell me what's happening. You're staying here, I need to know."
"John," he says. "John." He can't articulate it, can't say anything more. John will take it to heart. John will feel ill and idiotic and taken in and betrayed. He won't be able to look Sherlock in the eye.
It's not my fault.
(Yes it is; you should've worked it out.)
John won't blame him, will he?
Will Sherlock be able to fix it?
"You said you weren't going to see him," Molly says quietly.
"That was before I found out the single most crucial piece of information ever concealed from me. Startlingly, there may be a small difference in my mindset now." Sherlock is well aware of how spectacularly unpleasant he is being. He doesn't care.
Molly stands. Dons her white coat. "If you need help, text," she says, and goes.
Sherlock gets a cab to Baker Street.
It's been just over twenty-four hours, and John wonders how long it takes for someone to start hallucinating due to sleep deprivation. After all, he hasn't slept for a minute. And John isn't generally one to deny his body its basic functions, but this … he can't help it. He can hardly blink without seeing the wound slashed from the rooftop to the pavement by the knife of Sherlock's body.
Overnight, the shock turned from physical to emotional, but it's not yet mental. John can't do a thing but sit there huddled in his clothes from two days ago and wonder if there was ever a time he was not sad and when he did not feel severed somewhere low in his chest.
Then Sherlock walks in. Whole. Unscathed. Hair not sodden with blood; eyes not stilled or glazed; body not crumpled or bloody.
John lets out a hollow laugh. "Suppose I should sleep, then," he says. "Thought it took a couple of days to start seeing things. Odd."
"John," the vision of Sherlock says, and John frowns. He didn't think hallucinations could make any sound. That's the visual and the auditory being fooled. Does that make any sense?
"John. Are you all right?"
"Oh, good," John says, his expression clearing. He's definitely hallucinating. The real Sherlock wouldn't ask anything like that unless they'd both been recently threatened at gunpoint.
"Does that mean yes?"
"I'm just a nutter," John says. "You can stick around and wait for the madness to set in a bit more, if you'd like. I can't sleep, so these are only going to get worse, I imagine –"
"John, shut up. It's me. You're not hallucinating, dreaming, or in any way mentally unsound. Do you hear me?"
John wouldn't be listening, except that Sherlock's hand has fastened around his forearm. Dreadfully solid. Horribly real.
John gapes at him. And suddenly he's out of his chair (how did he move that quickly? he has no bloody idea) and staggering back into the kitchen. His hands grapple for the table, his face pales, and his heart – his heart – "You were dead," he says. "You were dead, I saw you, I saw –"
"You saw what I wanted you to see, John, please."
"NO, YOU WERE LYING DEAD ON THE PAVEMENT!" He lurches. Exhaustion and an overload of unexpected information. A flood.
It is then that his mind chooses to fully grasp what it means that Sherlock is dead. (A most importune moment, really.) He turns and grips the table and breaks into hysterics while the object of his misery stands a mere ten feet away. "Stop it, just stop it, you died, you can't be real –"
"John." Sherlock approaches the shuddering doctor. "Listen to me. Things have … things are different. I need your help, Doctor Watson."
Bitterness burrows through John's core. Unfair for this … not Sherlock, can't be Sherlock. Whatever it is, not fair for it to use that voice against him, soft and silk, intimate. He spares a glance over his shoulder. Red eyes and blue irises aim up at Sherlock's face. But only for a second; hurts too badly. He looks back at the table and salt water splashes atop it.
Sherlock stops inches away. From where he stands, he can feel the raging heat of John's body, as if every drop of misery in the man's body is exuding fire. After a moment of indecision, Sherlock swallows his reservations and slips his arms around John from the back. Folds the shorter man into a tight embrace. Fastens his fingers around the muscles of John's arms.
John's shaking, and Sherlock feels it beneath his own skin, somehow. Feels John's misery leaching the resolve from the marrow of his bones. Suddenly he wants nothing but to curl up around John in a dark room and whisper, it's okay, it's going to be alright, which is a lie, but he wants it nevertheless.
So potent, this compassion. Even the tiniest shred of it, the tiny shred Sherlock possesses. It is on fire, a simmering metal splinter not to be ignored.
Sherlock tucks his head into the crook of John's neck, his lips pressing against warm rough skin. He listens to the keening of his best friend's weeping. Such an unfamiliar and unpleasant sound. Every inch of Sherlock aches. "John," he murmurs. "It's me, John, I'm here, believe me, I'm real."
"You bloody great bastard, I do believe you. Jesus Christ, how could you do that. How could you do it. How did you." John turns and seizes Sherlock about the waist and Sherlock thinks his ribs might crack and crush to powder from the pressure. But John's tears drip hot over his collarbone and Sherlock can feel his lips against the top of his chest through the starched cotton of his shirt.
"John, I need to tell you something, please," he chokes out.
When John lets go, Sherlock thinks he might collapse.
The words come slowly and painfully. "I need you to help me stop Moriarty."
"It'll be violent."
Sherlock's lips thin. John doesn't understand. Not yet. "You'll need to … to hurt me, John."
A long silence. "What? Hurt …" John shifts in place. "I don't understand. Why –"
"Let's sit." Sherlock retreats, moves to his chair. Curls his hands over the armrests. "Please. Sit."
John sits opposite him, every movement guarded. He's wary again. Not good. When I tell him … Sherlock already knows the pale horror he'll see.
He considers lying.
He considers fleeing.
Instead he says, "I am Jim Moriarty, John."
Clear amusement in the response, tinged with relief: "Oh, God, this business again. What are you trying to get at, Sherlock –"
"Please, listen!" Sherlock makes his voice crack, but it doesn't take too much effort, to be honest. It might have cracked even without his help.
John falls silent. "I … okay."
"I've been thinking for the last … for a long time that I've been getting five, no, five and a half hours of sleep a night. But whenever I think I am going to sleep, something else … something wakes up in me, John. It's some sort of manifestation of what I've repressed, some thing that will do anything to have power. It's not me. It's Jim Moriarty. But he is me, John. He is … he's locked up inside my head, he's …"
He can't go on. The look on John's face is an astringent and Sherlock's vocal cords have shriveled to nothing.
"You're mad," John says. "Sherlock, I've lived with you for almost two years now, don't you think I would've noticed if –"
"No, John, I don't, because he has an intimate knowledge of all my inner workings, a knowledge that's extensive enough that he has pretended to be me so convincingly that even I didn't know he existed until he filmed himself speaking to a video-camera and had his henchman show it to me on the roof of Bart's."
"Are you joking?"
"Do I joke?" Sherlock says sharply.
"Well, yeah, someti –"
"I wouldn't. Not about this." Sherlock exhales, shakes his head, rubs his temple with an index finger. "No, John, this is far from a joke."
"But … all right, let's say there's another … another half of you. Why would he …" John waves a hand at Sherlock. "This other person. Why would he tell you at all?"
"He says he's bored; he wants to die," Sherlock murmurs. "But he wants me to do it. He wants me to kill myself out of guilt and shame."
"All right, do you hear yourself? This is insane, Sherlock!" John's on his feet, now, every trace of confusion or amusement gone from his features. "Stop it. You're saying there's been someone else in this apartment, someone who's had it in for the both of us, the entire time I've been living here? That's bloody scary, Sherlock, so just cut it out. And you don't have Dissociative Identity Disorder, I'd know if you did, believe me. I've seen it. It's not like some switch you throw on and off, it's something no one can control."
"I know I don't have Dissociative …" Sherlock closes his eyes. How to make John understand? "Jekyll and Hyde, John. As soon as I am gone from consciousness, Moriarty rises, and … I can't explain it, which is irritating enough, but he's covered his tracks so expertly that … well, I need to extricate information from him somehow." He meets John's eyes again. "You need to get it out of him. Which means you'll have to hurt him."
"Hurt you. I don't … what are you playing at?"
"Prove it. Prove it to me."
"I can't prove anything using information I don't know. Don't you understand? I don't know a single thing he's been doing. Until I saw the tape I didn't even know that you and I, that we had –" His voice chokes, his mouth snapping shut of its own volition. He waves a hand and tries again. "That we'd …"
John pales. "Christ, don't say that. Don't say that to me."
"You just have to trust me, John. You have to trust me. Please."
John sits down hard. He won't look at Sherlock. "You're serious, then. This isn't some sort of experiment or bloody psychological … something."
"No, John. I am perfectly serious."
They both stare at the ground for a while. Sherlock glances at John every so often. He looks sick. Almost exactly as pictured.
"We can test him out, first, if you'd like," Sherlock says. "I stayed at Molly's last night. We had four code numbers planned ahead of schedule, and when he couldn't recite th–"
"Sherlock, wait. Please just hang on. Are you telling me that this … the other you, he's the one I … ?"
Sherlock gives silent confirmation in a flicker of his eyes.
John feels bile rise in his throat. "Oh God help me." He gets to his feet. "You don't know anything about it. You don't remember it. Jesus Christ, and I thought you –"
Sherlock knows how that sentence would have ended. Thought you cared about me.
Sherlock stands. Approaches him. But John won't look anywhere near his face, as expected. Sherlock knew this would happen, damn it all – "John." Sherlock tilts John's chin up until their eyes are locked. "I'm telling you now, all right?"
"Telling me what?"
"I do care about you. Immensely. Immeasurably."
The puffy pouches beneath John's eyes seem miles deep. He looks haggard and destroyed. "It wasn't you. … I can't handle this."
"You handled years of war. I am one man. And if I weren't here, you would be handling my death and I'm sure you would be doing it magnificently. This, of all things, you can manage."
Just when Sherlock is about to turn away, John tilts his head up and presses his mouth to Sherlock's. The smooth unyielding taste of him makes Sherlock's eyes shut and the breath catch at the top of his nose. He savors it for a second before breaking away.
"Please," Sherlock breathes. "Please. I'll prove it to you. We'll plan this out."
John rests his forehead against Sherlock's chest and links his arms around his friend's lean torso. Feels the shape of him. Familiar. "God. All right, you bloody madman. All right."
When Moriarty's eyes open, John's hand flies up from the criminal's forehead.
"John," Moriarty says softly.
"Shut up," John says. "Don't say a word to me."
"I said not a word!"
Moriarty inspects his bound limbs. "Well, if you're expecting me to use body language –"
With an overdramatic sigh, Moriarty obliges, lapsing into silence. Sherlock's going around blabbing about this to everyone he knows, then, is he? Interesting choice; and goodness, but Sherlock is proving himself a mite unpredictable. (Fun!)
Moriarty knows Sherlock won't tell Lestrade; that'd get him institutionalized. And he won't tell Mycroft for the pure shame of it. But honestly, the last person Moriarty thought Sherlock would want to tell was John.
Good John. Trusting John. He must've been horrified.
Moriarty looks over and realizes there's a riding crop in John's hand. "Adler," he says. "That's where I got all this, if you were wondering."
"You," John says through his teeth, "didn't get any of this. Sherlock did."
Moriarty sighs, turns his gaze back to the ceiling. Yes; it'll be best to adopt as many of Sherlock's mannerisms as possible. John won't want to hurt Sherlock. The more he mirrors him, the more of a safeguard he'll have against –
Then John slams the riding crop across his chest. Feels like a white-hot brand searing across his abdomen. No warning at all.
"Oh, God," Moriarty grunts. "Please, no. John." He finds himself glad that his torturer has a better nature to appeal to. Neil had to submit himself to Mycroft's team of … persuaders. Comparatively, John should be relatively –
"Fuck!" The second time is even harder, right on the soft spot of his shoulder.
"That's –" Whack. "for –" Whack. "making –" Whack. "him –" Whack. "jump!"
John puts down the riding crop and punches Moriarty clean across the face. Panting, he runs a hand through his hair. "And that's for jumping."
Moriarty allows himself a half-second of panic. John is enraged not just with him, but with Sherlock. Of course he'd be angry, the faked death, the deception. All his delusions about John's sense of mercy trickle away, and Moriarty steels himself.
"You're going to give me a lead," John says.
"I'll die before I do that," Moriarty says quietly. "Such a shame; killing me will be quite the loss for you."
"You've never experienced more than a bit of pain. I know you, I know Sherlock – I know – Sherlock's –" John reddens and waves at Moriarty's long half-naked body. "Not a mark on him. You."
"I know what my body looks like, John." Moriarty darkens his voice, raises one eyebrow. "No need to remind me. "
"Quiet," John mutters, his face turning from red to a rather alarming shade of crimson.
Moriarty's lips quirk up at the corner, and John's entire face flushes. "Stop it," John snarls. "You're acting like him. You're trying to look like him."
"Ooh, good. Figured that one out quickly. Good, John."
"Shut u –"
"You always want to hear that from Sherlock, don't you? Good. Well-done. Clever of you. But he never says it, never says a thing like that, does he?" Moriarty's voice is almost sibilant, a reptilian croon. "All you want is his affection, his approval. I know. I understand, John. I've seen the tapes, seen the glances you give him when you hope he'll be pleased with you. Just a bit sad, isn't it? And it's just too bad he's too emotionally disabled to give you any sense of security, any proper reassurance that he won't just leave … won't just go and jump off a –"
This time, John's knuckles crack when they hit Moriarty's face.
Moriarty sucks in a sharp breath, forces himself to acknowledge the facts: Irritatingly enough, John is correct. Moriarty has so much experience with pain in the abstract, pain in the theoretical. He reads about it constantly; watches it happen; expects others to be resilient to it. But pain, his own pain? Practically unthinkable. The most Moriarty has ever experienced is residual soreness from Sherlock's shenanigans. And John, dear John, always let him take control. Not much in the way of sexual pain there, either.
Well, it shall be an interesting experience.
"Shame, isn't it, that you can't gag me?" Moriarty smiles slowly, his eyelids lowering. "I bet you wish you could."
John reaches down to the floor. When he surfaces, he's holding a whip. At its tip is a metal hook.
John's face, as ever, reveals him. He looks ashen. Almost green, actually.
"Give me a name," he says. "A place. Anything. I can make it stop."
"Stop?" Moriarty chuckles. "You haven't even started."
He regrets his words instantly. John's arm lashes out, and then blinding pain is rushing down to Moriarty's toes. Rising up to swirl in his cheeks, tear at his eyes. He doesn't even know where John's hit him for a second.
"I … I can make it … stop." John breathes heavily, his brow an accordion of furrows.
Warm blood trickles down Moriarty's torso. He never imagined true pain felt like this. Whistling and twinkling and pure and his whole body is a live wire waiting to be connected again and –
A sick-sounding smack. The second blow unhinges him. Moriarty lets out a deep agonized sound, the sound of pride being punctured.
Moriarty is halfway through mentally applauding his choice of employee – Neil is a saint to have hardly said a word through a month of this – when John lashes him again.
He screams instinctively and shamelessly. (Besides, he's read that strong vocal reactions can provide catharsis during torture sessions. And with this torturer, maybe it'll evoke enough empathy to make it stop.)
"John," he gasps. "Please. Please, stop."
"Every time you say a word that's not helpful, I'll hit you again. So that's … what, four?" John picks up the riding crop again.
Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam.
Moriarty bucks against his constraints, spattering the bedsheets with startlingly crimson blood. He babbles. "John, please, this isn't you, look what he's turning you into. Look what he's asked you to do after all this, after he lied to you! And you're going to have nightmares about this, I know you are, and it's not as if you don't have enough nightmares—and please just remember I'm the one who's been helping you through those nightmares, John, it was me, I'm the one who cares, I'm the one who loves you –"
"Fuck. Fuck!" John's voice cracks. The crop hits the ground with a clatter and John stumbles back. He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes, as if attempting to press back tears.
"I do," Moriarty says, lying with desperate conviction. "He's never said it. I have. I'm saying it now. Listen to me." He's pushing his advantage, this low sweet baritone. "I am in love with you, John."
John's mouth is an open gash, weeping soft gasps. "Stop it — you, you lying bastard, stop –" He hunches over, fumbles for an instrument, any instrument. Staggers forward. Brings it down on Moriarty's chest.
"John, you're hurting me –"
"STOP!" John throws himself at Moriarty, seizes him around the neck. And just as Moriarty meets John's eyes, they snap shut again.
Moriarty's own vision starts to cloud. Excellent. Good night.
He passes out.
When Sherlock wakes up, he is cradled in John's arms and swathed in bandages, clean sheets, plasters. John – rumpled hair, baggy eyes – looks like he's had the mother of all nightmares, and it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out, either.
"John?" he says quietly.
John looks down at him and starts to cry.
Sherlock doesn't know what to do. He considers moving, but the wrapping around his chest: obvious implication that any motion would have the potentiality to induce extreme pain. What else to do to console John, then?
"Erm," Sherlock says, helpfully.
"Code, give me the bloody stupid code," John says, his voice thick.
"Four eight one nine." Sherlock tries to sit up straighter and winces.
John reacts instantly, his careful hands skimming the front of Sherlock's chest. "No, stop. Careful," he says, breathing back his tears. "All right, look — it's bad, okay? I split the skin, had to put antiseptic here and here. I erm, actually. I stitched it in a couple places."
"Good. Did he say anything?"
"Damn." Forgetting John momentarily, Sherlock stares at the wall opposite. If there were any chance that Moriarty had hidden or left something about the flat … used a computer, maybe, and not deleted … no, he wouldn't make such an amateur mistake.
Sherlock looks back at John to ask him something and promptly forgets what he intended to say. John's face …
"You look terrible."
"No, don't take it like –" Biting off the end of the sentence, Sherlock lets out a sigh. He moves a tiny bit closer, careful not to wince or react to the quiet bloom of pain in his chest. "What happened? What did he say to you?"
"What, you can't deduce it?"
Sherlock hesitates a second to see if John will retract the suggestion. He doesn't. Sherlock barrels forward. "He psychologically attacked you, of course. Possibly triggered war memories, but probably not. Likely something more close to home, something invasive. Having to do with your family?" Sherlock watches John's face for a second. "No, that's not right, is it. Something you can't say, or you would have said it already. Something you can't bring yourself to repeat …" Sherlock trails off, ashamed that he's hoping John will fill in the blank. He should be able to deduce it, he really should, given that Moriarty is him. But, he supposes, that is also quite a good reason that he should be able to deduce little to nothing specific. Neither he nor Moriarty would want to be predictable.
"It's all right," he says, after a while. He goes back to examining his fingers. "We don't have to talk about it."
John says, "Can I … may I just …"
Sherlock looks up at him. At the despair in that good-hearted man's face. "Honestly, what is it?"
John leans forward. Touches his lips to Sherlock's. Carefully weaves his right hand with Sherlock's dark hair, feels the solidity of the roots, traces Sherlock's collarbone with his left index finger. "You're hurt," he mumbles. "I'm sorry. I hurt you."
"I told you to," Sherlock says, bewildered. What on earth is going on?
John kisses him again, and for a moment they lock tight against each other, warm skin against hot tongue against slick teeth. John pulls back, rests his forehead against Sherlock's, and says, "I just need … I need …"
John's hand finds Sherlock's and squeeze. "I need you, please, Sherlock."
"Well, I'm here, aren't I." Sherlock slips a careful arm around John's shoulders and pulls him in. John curls up small, huddling against Sherlock's side, and Sherlock rubs his back. Kisses the top of his head.
He needs to get to the camera he installed under the desk opposite them. He needs to watch that recording.
"He might've … he might've said one thing," John says. "I think – he was screaming, I can't be sure, but I think I caught him off-guard, and he screamed out something that sort of sounded like 'Neil.' It's not much, but …"
"Neil? The name?"
"Interesting." Sherlock's mind scrolls through a few Neils, but he wouldn't know the man, would he? That would be extraordinarily careless of Moriarty. "That's enough for our purposes. Shall we start phase two?"
"Y-yes, course." Still looking miserable, still red-faced, John uncurls himself from Sherlock's side and slips from the bed. "I'll … I'll leave you to get dressed, then. Right. Bye." He shuts the door behind him.
Sherlock exhales slowly, rubs his eyes, runs his fingers over himself to examine which spots are the most tender. A couple of swollen bruises on his face … and his entire chest is a bloody mess. Inconvenient, should he need to make a quick escape, or do any sort of vigorous physical activity, really.
Sherlock coaxes his body out of bed, walks gingerly to the desk. He pulls out the camera and rewinds to the start of the recording.
John's first action: brew tea, and make it strong. But he doesn't think he can make tea strong enough for this situation. What's he done to Sherlock? His friend can barely move without hurting himself. After all this, he should be getting bed rest, not running around bloody London trying to stop Moriarty's plans.
John closes his eyes, kneads his forehead. His feet tap an uneven tattoo on the kitchen floor. God, if Moriarty hadn't been so bloody right about everything … because it's true: John does think about how nice it'd be if Sherlock were affectionate, doesn't he? Yeah, all too often. And even a little kindness wouldn't go amiss. Sherlock did use to brush his arm sometimes, place a hand on a shoulder or let his leg rest against John's in a cab ride. But he never instigated a single kiss, and John thought that was because he saved it all up for the nights, or something, he doesn't even bloody know what he thought. He was just so glad … he never wondered, and …
Thirty-one times. (Every position imaginable.) How did Sherlock not see it? Not smell the sex on John's body the next morning, not see how flushed his cheeks were whenever he looked at … how did he not realize …
But then, Sh – Moriarty was always clean, wasn't he? Too clean. Suspiciously so. Changing the sheets the same night. Showering immediately afterward. A puff or two of John's air-freshener …
He's never that clean about anything. I should've guessed, should've deduced, should've –
John spills the tea and curses. Stares at the spill for a second before mopping it up with a ragged tea towel.
Then Sherlock barges into the kitchen, a tiny camera gripped in his right hand. John puts the pieces together instantly. "You didn't – you filmed –?"
But he doesn't have time for much more, because Sherlock strides to him, discards the camera on the counter dangerously close to the tea, and kisses him. His arms slip around John's back, hug him close, and after what feels like an hour of breathless dizzy insane disproportionate euphoria, Sherlock disengages. Moves his lips to John's ear, where he whispers, "He's lying, John, he's lying, everything he said is a lie."
John tips forward. His head fits perfectly into the hollow of Sherlock's neck, and John can feel his own heart in the strangest places. Cold at the tips of his hands. Scorching hot through the arches of his feet. Racing at a breathtaking speed to the erratic rhythm of a name. Sher-lock, Sher-lock, Sher-lock. "What … what do you …?"
"I love you, John. So much that I expected you would infer it, which in retrospect was something I shouldn't have left up to that sort of unspoken –" His hold tightens. "Is it true?" he says, John's hair brushing his cheek. "What he said about you. Wanting me to say. Things."
"He's you, and you're right about everything, what do you bloody think?" John's words are muffled, but they seem to pierce right into Sherlock's chest cavity. He aches. Strange human reaction –
"Why would you need – or want – my approval? I don't understand."
"You don't understand much, do you?" John says, closing his eyes. Sherlock's pulse gently taps against his cheek, and suddenly he feels giddy and ridiculous. "As usual, Sherlock, you see, but do not observe."
Sherlock's dark laugh rings. "Stop. These are serious questions. Do you really require my praise? Are you actually afraid I'll leave with no warning? This is foreign information to me."
"You did leave," John says. "You did. No warning at all. You jumped off a building."
Sherlock stiffens. "But he was going to have you killed, he was going to –"
"But you knew, didn't you? And you didn't tell me beforehand, did you?" John says, and he leans back. Disentangles himself from the embrace. He stands at attention, eyes burning. "No, because that's always how it is. You don't think I'm good enough to know anything. You don't think I can handle it. And you have no idea how awful it was, thinking you were dead. Because you've no idea what it's like, to have that happen to someone you care about."
And I wasn't going to tell you for far longer, either. God knows, it might've been months. Years. Sherlock folds his hands tight behind his back. "I … am sorry."
"Sorry." A disbelieving laugh. "Sorry. I didn't even get a proper goodbye."
"Well, what would you have possibly said with the time for a 'proper goodbye'?"
He doesn't realize how awful the question is until John's face crumples.
Sherlock reaches forward. Places a hand on John's arm. "No. That wasn't. You don't have to."
"Yeah, well. Let's just get on with the plan," John mutters. He starts to turn away, but Sherlock's grip tightens. Spins him back around.
The blue-green gaze is clear. Sharp. "John."
Sherlock doesn't say anything for far too long. John shifts uncomfortably.
Finally, Sherlock blurts, "You're everything I have."
"I …" Surprise-shock-suspicion flits across John's face. "But you. I … what? What about the work?"
"The work is a part of me. Where I go, it must follow. But you. You are …" Sherlock struggles. "You are the only thing I … there is nothing else for me. Nothing. I am my brother's obligation and my landlady's tenant; I am my Detective Inspector's employee and my …" His lips purse together for a split instant. "My mother's disappointment. You are the only person in the world, do you understand, the only person to whom I am simply myself."
John stands rooted and wordless.
Sherlock runs a hand through his hair. "And God knows if I ever withhold information, it's because I've grown accustomed to having no one who could possibly give a damn. Before … this, you. Before."
The silence gives their gazes grip. Neither can break the hold for fear.
"All right," John says helplessly. "And I … you probably know, but …"
"Sometimes reassurance is necessary." Sherlock's eyes flicker down to John's hands. He lifts them as if to weigh them in his slender palms. "Tell me. Please."
"I love you, too."
Sherlock's fingers tighten on John's hands, and he looks up with an almost manic gleam in his eye. "Then let's go. We have a killer to catch."
John lets out a startled laugh, but he heads for the door.
How often has Mycroft Holmes told his brother that caring was not an advantage?
Mycroft sits before his fire in an empty house made of dark wood. Much like every other night. And yet it is not every other night; the world has changed. Without the difficult child, the constant irritant, the obsessed scientist, the rebellious teenager, the eternal paradox, the capable man, the brilliant mind, the little brother that is Sherlock, Mycroft is carved of something hollow and painful.
Mycroft realizes his one tie to his own life has been severed. He is queen and country entire, now, completely and irreversibly. Sherlock would have disdained it so, this service to millions of ungrateful unknowing citizens. He never quite understood need, Sherlock …
Mycroft steeples his fingers and lets out a deep sigh. The fire flickers.
It is ash when the morning draws itself over the sky. And Mycroft … Mycroft is still awake, and he feels as fragile and volatile as the gray embers fluttering up the chimney's spine. Absurd and laughable, some disdainful part of him says, but he does not have the heart to reattach himself to his mind.
But the moment as his phone buzzes, his heart retreats to live deep in his body, buried beneath layers of propriety and duty.
Think Moriarty might've left something in 221B. Looks like some sort of contact. Says 'Neil.' Think you can do anything with it? –JW
Mycroft would very much like to bring Moriarty to some semblance of justice, even if he is dead. A contact is an excellent place to start.
Any other information? –M
A long pause before the response. Not exactly shocking. Watson is hardly the speediest of typists.
No, looks like that's it. –JW
Mycroft gives a gratuitous sigh, rolls his eyes. Not much of a lead, is it? Does the note have any writing on the other side? -M
Actually yeah, says 'EMDR' in pen. Don't know why he'd have a note for that though if it's the EMDR I'm thinking –JW
Mycroft agrees. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. EMDR, a medical treatment for past trauma. An intentional jab at John, perhaps? Although no, if it were a purposeful message, why would someone called "Neil" be relevant? More likely, as it's used as a treatment for … certain other disorders, the note would be Moriarty's own. Actually, given Moriarty's probable psychoses …
EMDR: used in treatments for Dissociative Identity Disorder, increasingly.
The seed of an idea is planted.
"Mycroft should be getting our surveillance fixed … now," Sherlock says, checking his watch. "He'll blame Moriarty's post-murder cleanup process, though it was mine, of course."
"You sure this'll work?"
"Electroconvulsive therapy is often used to treat –"
"I'm a doctor, Sherlock, I know about Dissociative Identity. But I'm quite sure you don't have that. This other … you, it's bizarrely obsessed with your normal self, and –"
"No denying, though, that it is similar."
John's mouth twitches. He looks away. "Yeah, well. Sorry. I just can't take you seriously in that hat."
"Mycroft's security cameras, John. Citywide. Wide-brimmed hats are the best chance we have. Also, stop walking like a soldier."
John sighs and adjusts his own hat. "You still haven't told me how shocking yourself is supposed to –"
"Your conversation with Mycroft. Easily deducible. He'll assume Neil is an alternate personality of Moriarty's; thus, he'll be led to search for men who look like Moriarty whose names are Neil. Eventually, he'll come across our Neil, whom we know was the one masquerading as Moriarty because Moriarty had a clear mental association between torture, which his body-double suffered, and this Neil man. Within two hours, Mycroft will have found records of this Neil fellow and will have determined through medical records that he has no history of Dissociative Disorder. Rather, he will realize that Neil is in fact only Neil, and that your text was bizarrely specific and nonsensical, and that it was unlikely that Moriarty should be careless enough to leave anything in our flat, and that he should not have been interested in the subject matter as much as who was sending it and why, and he'll realize that really it seems a lot like something I would text him were I to want to tell him something with subtlety, and he'll know that I've faked my death and that I wanted him to have Dissociative Identity Disorder in mind when he next saw me."
John lets Sherlock's satisfied silence sit there for a minute before clearing his throat and saying, "Why couldn't you just go to his house and tell him?"
"No, no, more efficient this way. Mycroft's many organizations will be busy tracing every line of connection between Neil and the rest of the world as soon as they know of his existence. They'll have a nice head start by the time I electrify myself into unconsciousness."
"By the time – what?"
"I think that'll catch my brother's attention when he walks in, don't you?" Sherlock gives a dry smile and opens the door to the pool. It looks strangely ordinary in daylight.
John looks around. "Why are we –"
"Large amount of standing water. And Mycroft's had it under surveillance since the two of us nearly died here. Convenient." Sherlock tugs a battery from his pocket, followed by a few dangerous-looking wires. "Oh, don't give me that look. I've used them before."
"What, to knock yourself out?" John leans against the wall. "You know what, don't answer that. How many volts –"
Sherlock sighs. "Voltage has little to do with the power to stun a man. Amperage, on the other hand … well, just don't worry."
"Not exactly doing much to reassure me, are you?"
"Please, John. You know putting others at ease is rarely my first priority."
Two hours later, Sherlock pulls off the heavy overcoat and the hat, turns to the camera swiveling down at the pool, and gives it a cheery wave. John joins him, though he's not keen on removing his ridiculous clothes. It's cold as hell.
Fifteen minutes later – ("Goodness, Mycroft, you are getting slow, aren't you?") – Sherlock lets out an exasperated sigh and says to John, "The camera's identification number is 9938840."
John texts Mycroft the number, along with Come alone. Sherlock strips to a pair of swimming shorts and lowers himself into the pool.
"It's bloody freezing," John says, rubbing his hands together. "No idea how you're in there."
Sherlock half-smiles. Rather endearing, isn't it, when John tries to mask blatant worry.
Although yes. It is bloody freezing. Hurry up, Mycroft.
He lines up the wires and the battery. Footsteps clack toward the locked pool door. There we are.
"Nice of you to join us, brother dear," Sherlock calls, cuffing himself to the pool ladder. He slides the key across the floor to John, who pockets it. "Having Mycroft Holmes at my beck and call is quite the experience, I must say. Do come in."
Sherlock meets John's eyes, half-smiles, and connects the circuit as the pool door bursts open.
John grips the handle of his gun and breathes out a prayer.
The crackle of electrocution rattles off the tile. Mycroft's umbrella clatters to the floor with it.
Sherlock slumps against the wall of the pool, his arms splayed over the concrete in preparation for his weight.
For once, Mycroft Holmes has no words.
When Moriarty wakes up, he is completely disoriented. What the hell has Sherlock done? Why is he chest-deep in pool water that's got to be ten degrees at most? Why is he handcuffed to the metal ladder? Why did Sherlock shock himself with this ridiculous wire-battery setup? It's like something from primary school.
And at the pool. The Pool. Why here? Why is Mycroft here? Why is John standing there in a stupid hat?
Deduction. Quick. Deduction! His reaction needs to be natural –
"Do you mind, Mycroft?" he says smoothly. "We were in the middle of something."
Twitch of a facial change. (Not Mycroft, of course; John.) Incorrect answer.
Too late to remedy it.
Sherlock hasn't told Mycroft. Obvious; Sherlock would never tell Mycroft, and Mycroft would never want Sherlock to stoop to simply telling him anything outright. But that doesn't matter, because Moriarty's given it away.
He curses mentally. He's not used to thinking on his feet. Not used to anything but a calm awakening … dammit, dammit.
"So, this is our problem," John says to Mycroft, waving a hand at Moriarty. "I suppose you've figured it out by yourself."
"Of course," Mycroft says, stooping to pick his umbrella back up. He moves to John's side and surveys Sherlock with the greatest of suspicions. "I must remind you that my brother displays few of the symptoms of –"
Moriarty's teeth chatter rather audibly. "May I get out of this pool?"
"You're handcuffed to the ladder, but if you can maneuver yourself out, go right ahead," John says. "Wouldn't want Sherlock to freeze to death because of you."
"What on earth have you done to your chest?" Mycroft says, with not concern, but mild distaste.
"Got attacked by a soldier." Moriarty aims a dirty glance John's way.
Mycroft gives John a look that borders on appalled.
"Sherlock asked me to. It's how we got the name," John says quickly. "Neil. He screamed it. Didn't mean to, I'm assuming."
Mycroft is quiet. His silence seems to fill up the enclosure, dull the sunlight. "Oh, dear," he says. "You've … you've done this all very well."
It takes John a minute to realize that he's speaking to Moriarty.
Mycroft takes a step forward, a light crease forming between his eyebrows. "The first incident, at this pool … my brother's youth. I suppose it saw your formation."
"Good start, good start," Moriarty says, grappling his way out of the pool. He shakes his hair, which curls down over his pale forehead, moss over marble. "What do you plan to do now, Mycroft? It'd be awful if news of this got out, somehow, wouldn't it?"
"Oh, but if it did …"
Moriarty shrugs and winces. "This does hurt rather a lot, doesn't it," he muses, running a fingertip along the red lines on his torso. "Well done, John."
John's teeth grit. He says nothing.
"I shall supply you with sedatives," Mycroft says, turning back to John. Something deep in his gaze is disturbed, irreparably so. "Every night, you shall administer them to this … creature as soon as he appears. I am correct in my assumption that he awakens as soon as Sherlock falls unconscious?"
"Yeah." John doesn't bother to ask how the hell he figured that one out. "But what if he gets knocked out some other time, and I'm not there? What happens if –"
"Sherlock has excellent control over himself."
"Irene Adler drugged him once, remember? If anything like that happened again – he doesn't need more than five minutes to record a video confessing everything and upload it to the internet."
"Constant surveillance," Mycroft says. "As a precaution."
"Heavens. What a way to live," Moriarty says, with a crooked leer. The other two ignore him.
"We must ask whether or not a confession would be to his advantage." Mycroft casts a glance at Moriarty, who's plucking at one of the sutures atop his ribs. Mycroft's lip curls. "He's put so much … effort into that façade he created. Richard Brook. The story he's created … would he voluntarily ruin –"
"He could pretend to be Sherlock. Say he faked his own death and that he made everything up. And then –" John's throat cuts. Hold on.
Moriarty wanted Sherlock dead. Moriarty wanted this case closed permanently, sealed with Sherlock's blood. They won't be able to trust him for a single second — if he ever has the opportunity to kill himself, he'll take it. And there are so many ways.
No; Moriarty doesn't care about his own life at all. He wants to win, and to win, Sherlock's got to be dead. The last page of the story … the end.
Moriarty is looking for a way out.
John hears the low chuckle and the splash as if through a heavy pane of glass. As if slowed and stilled by some constriction in his head.
A plane darts over the window of sky above and its whine rings off the disturbed surface of the water. Half a breeze wisps across his cheek. Everything is mollified in John's trance, his shock.
"Sherlock," John breathes, and then the realization slams into him all at once and he throws himself forward.
He rips off his coat and crashes into what feels like liquid ice. It encases him, tears every shred of warmth from his skin.
He forces his eyes open against the sizzle of chlorine and Moriarty's face is one inch from his. A manic grin fixed in place. Blue-green eyes sharpened by refracted light. Not Sherlock's eyes at all.
With frightening, inhuman speed, Moriarty's spindly fingers drag up through the water and wrap around John's neck.
John's mouth flies open instinctively. He kicks out, but Moriarty's bare body slips out of the way, unencumbered by cloth and shoe.
John pushes, shoves at the water. Tries to surface. But Moriarty's weight anchors him.
Something in his mind recalls the specifics of drowning. Many people imagine it's like falling asleep. In reality, the storm of water against the delicate lung tissue will feel like being crushed from the inside out. Blinding pain.
John begins to panic. It must have been a full minute by now. His brain is roaring in oxygen-deprived protest, and the fingers gripping his windpipe show no hint of relenting. The water will be his tomb, his clothes a cotton-lined coffin.
Quick, John – something he could say or do to take Moriarty by surprise, anything – but no, any attempted act of violence would not startle the man; nor would a show of affection.
Oh, Jesus, I'm going to die here.
Then something wooden jabs down through the water. Clips Moriarty's temple.
His grip loosens, and he floats mid-water, his cheeks relaxing from that grin.
John thrashes his way back to the surface. Comes up with a screaming gasp.
He forces himself straight back down. Sherlock. Sherlock. The man's mouth is open. John can practically see the water rushing down his throat, filling him as if with molten lead, just as lethal –
John fastens his hand around Sherlock's wrist and grabs the ladder. Yanks with far too much force. His shoulder screams.
When he surfaces, Mycroft grips him by the upper arms and hoists him soaking from the pool. Didn't know he could even lift five pounds, Jesus, John's vision is swirling, and Mycroft is wrangling his little brother's body from the water, now, with some panicked herculean strength, and Sherlock's pale limbs are crumpled and limp, no grace, no energy, no anything.
Everything is quiet. So quiet it hurts. Buzzing, whining with quietude.
John fumbles the key to the cuffs from his pocket. Mycroft snatches the key, twists Sherlock from the cuffs and sprawls him out on the tile.
With thoughtless efficiency, John's hands slam down on Sherlock's bandaged chest. One. Two. Three. Wake. Up. Now.
"An emergency," Mycroft says faintly into his telephone.
Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.
"Someone's nearly drowned."
John pinches Sherlock's nose shut, parts the immobile lips with two fingertips, and breathes down Sherlock's throat. Come on, breathe, breathe –
As he leans back for another breath, Sherlock moves.
John's hands go into a tremor. His thoughts shut down and he says weakly, "Oh thank God," and he sags back to the tile, taking Sherlock's pulse again. Feeble. Sluggish. But it's there.
After a silent second, Mycroft says, "Never mind. We won't be needing help." He lowers his phone to his side and kneels carefully by Sherlock.
"Sherlock?" John says.
"Ow," Sherlock mumbles.
John closes his eyes and lets silent relief swim around him. Thank God.
Mycroft breaks his calm: "Thank you very much for bringing this issue to my attention." In one smooth glide, Mycroft sweeps Sherlock's body up and stands. "You shall see him again in –"
"What? No," John says. "I'm not just leaving him like this."
"I daresay you've done quite enough, Doctor Watson."
John's lips thin at the unpleasant emphasis. He gets to his feet. "I'm coming. Try to stop me."
"I'm afraid that –"
"Want John," Sherlock croaks.
Mycroft's mouth freezes half-open. After a second, his jaw snaps shut, and he gives half a nod.
John trails after the two siblings, slips into the back of Mycroft's car, and they drive away. Sherlock's eyes are open. They do not leave John's for a second.
"I'm afraid the single solution is your cooperation," Mycroft says, lighting the fire.
Sherlock snuggles against the plush sofa, bundled in so many blankets he looks like an amorphous blob. "Cooperation," he mutters, as if he's saying a word considerably more indelicate.
"Please, Sherlock," John says. Sherlock casts him a glance and goes back to looking into the fire, his bottom lip pouting out slightly.
"In fact," Mycroft says, "I can think of no better solution to this dilemma than to keep you under a constant watch, with sedatives always on hand. Can you, Sherlock?"
John barely conceals his surprise that Mycroft asked for Sherlock's opinion. He checks Sherlock's expression. Surly, brooding … vulnerable?
"Mmm," Sherlock says. "Moriarty has suggested that his manifestation is a result of my suppression of certain facets of myself. Perhaps psychotherapy could remove him altogether?"
Mycroft's mouth creases in a tight smile. "Any therapists of yours would need significant therapy of their own following the experience, I'm sure."
"I could do it," John blurts out. The brothers give him twin looks of utter disbelief. "No, I'm serious," he says. "It's talking, isn't it, really? I can talk. And we both know no one has a chance at getting through to you if they're made out to be some sort of … authority figure." (John very carefully does not look at Mycroft.) "I mean, we could try. Trying to bring Moriarty's network down, well, I'm guessing you're going to insist on handling that now. So the two of us, we've got time. You know, while the press simmers down."
A curt nod from Mycroft. "And meanwhile, as a precautionary measure …"
"Yes, yes," Sherlock says. "We'll suffer your constant watching. Though I hope your employees aren't expecting us to censor ourselves."
John grins. "Yeah, if Sherlock's got anything to say about it, they'll probably just be hearing the word 'bored' half the time."
"Their experience is none of your concern," Mycroft says. "Do attempt to maintain a low profile, both of you; remain at Baker Street whenever possible, John. And Sherlock, as you are supposedly dead, remaining at Baker Street without exception would be ideal."
Sherlock's child-sulk face turns to his dark-brooding-sulk face.
John snorts. "Doesn't matter, he never leaves except for cases anyway."
Sherlock scowls and retreats further into his blanket cocoon.
"The sedatives will be at your apartment when you return," Mycroft says. "Good evening."
Life carries on in a bizarre facsimile of normality for the next weeks. Sherlock forestalls the psychotherapy, although he suggested it, and John does not resist the delay. He simply reminds Sherlock that they've got to do it sometime, if he doesn't want the rest of their lives to involve this close watch.
Because he knows it's just as unpleasant for Sherlock as it is for him, the constant feeling of being stared at and analyzed. Rats in a maze.
But more unpleasant for Sherlock is the knowledge that he can't trust himself.
He cannot fathom having nearly murdered John. Glass pricks his heart whenever he considers the notion.
So he will bear the load and creep slowly toward the goal. Every evening, he will pander to John's absurd sleep schedule and come to bed at ten o'clock; he will lie down, anticipate the unpleasant touch of the needle. He will hold close to John as he slips out of consciousness. And in the morning he will wake up with another puncture mark from Moriarty's sedation. He will do this because he must.
Yet he will feel at rest. Eight hours of sleep a night – sickening; wasteful, and yet it has its advantages. During his waking hours, his mind does not feel like a locomotive roaring down a teetering track. It is a sleek purring engine on a smooth road, well-oiled and under control. (He does, of course, miss his former state of being; as much as this is pleasant, the other way was better. More exciting. More stimulating.)
And in the days to come, as the name Sherlock Holmes slowly trickles from the public consciousness, Sherlock will appreciate all that John does for him. (Digging up old, unsolved cases from the records while Lestrade's busy. Bringing photographs of bodies from Molly's morgue.)
And Sherlock will begin to speak.
Sometimes, at certain recollections, he will feel something stirring in him, a sensation he had long since passed off as human weakness. (Quiet irritation toward everyone at uni, the way they treated him. Anger at an absent father, humiliation at the hands of an older brother, no one cares, Sherlock, frustration and jealousy at a cold manipulative mother, no one cares.)
Small minutes of careful dialogue at first. A memory here, a coaxed word or two there.
It will come to feel almost natural.
And one day, he will recall too much (drugs and pain and the anger the anger the hatred!) and he will split at the sides with emotion and John will hold him as he lets loose everything he's held inside for decades.
He will collect the pieces of himself.
He will realize that he feels hatred and weakness and rage and anguish like every other human being; he will realize that he is no less for his emotions, and that these human things can be controlled through acknowledgment rather than denial. He will realize that someone does care about the way he feels, and that someone loves him, and that someone will listen; he will realize that the ability to express rather than suppress is not to be disdained. He will realize that angels fall every day; he will realize that these broken imperfect souls are angels nonetheless.
Thank you very much for reading! Please do drop a review, I'd love to hear what you think.