Title: Coming Full Circle
Characters: Sherlock, John, Moriarty
Word Count: 2100 (21 drabbles)
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for The Great Game, AU, literary license with medical facts, general Jim!creepiness, some reference to violence and death
Summary: Moriarty had John for almost six hours between his abduction and the showdown at the pool - more than enough time to implement a Plan B for his escape should Sherlock call his bluff with the fake bomb vest.
A/N: Written for Challenge 022 at watsons_woes.
The muscle weakness of botulism characteristically starts in the muscles supplied by the cranial nerves. A group of twelve nerves controls eye movements...drooping of both eyelids, loss of facial expression...as well as difficulty with talking...The weakness then spreads to the legs...may be experienced as dyspnea (difficulty breathing)...postural hypotension (decreased blood pressure on standing, with resultant lightheadedness and risk of blackouts)...
- from Wikipedia's entry about the symptoms of botulism poisoning, caused by clostridium botulinum toxin
He really should not be surprised.
But then, he had previously viewed John Watson as a nonentity, a minor detail in the grande scheme, a superfluous presence trawling along in the wake of a brilliant genius. Sherlock. Hm yes, Sherlock. He and Sherlock are binary stars, dancing carefully around each other in an orbit made of equal parts admiration and antipathy; two queens on a chess board, flanked by so much needless but handy-to-have backup.
He had thought John was a pawn in the Game, nothing more - until he finds it harder than he'd anticipated to abduct the man.
During observation of his quarry, Sherlock's live-in bodyguard/secretary/personal assistant/keeper appeared to be one of those harmless people who just screamed ignore-me-because-I'm-not-a-threat. In retrospect, that itself should have been a tip-off to him - because Sherlock would never tolerate a fool, would have no patience with an idiot. Sherlock's light is supernovaic, eclipsing all around him, and John melts into the darkness of that eclipse as if he is no more than a shadow himself, cloaked in tolerant longsuffering and an amiable camaraderie.
But as any child with a healthy fear of the dark can tell you, shadows hide dangerous things.
No one, not even a frantic war veteran, can fight long against the soporific effects of sodium pentothal, and once his (barely-competent) subordinates finally ram the needle through the struggling man's trouser leg it is a simple enough matter to retreat with their hard-earned prize, before Sherlock's denigrating busybody of an older brother perceives their illicit activities.
He knows enough about medicine to know he cannot afford to dose the doctor with more than a few milligrams, if he wants John mostly coherent for the night's activities; but he had not quite counted on an ex-soldier's desperate instincts for self-preservation.
Sebastian seems to think the whole thing is utterly hilarious.
"I could've predicted that, if you'd got off your high horse long enough to ask," his lieutenant observes with a smirk, after Clay reluctantly brings the news that the minions Jim had sent to take John a dinner tray were now dead, and the guard outside is sporting a badly-broken wrist. "You've got a trained soldier in there; you don't send a couple of idiots at him through the only doorway to safety."
He hurls his teacup against the wall with a shriek of disgust, only setting Sebastian off again.
Briefly he contemplates letting Sebastian toy with Clay for his incompetence, but decides against it; there will be a better time to rid himself of another idiot. Besides, he has more important priorities now, two hours before the rendezvous Sherlock has so predictably set up.
He needs to ascertain whether or not John had consumed his proffered dinner; because if not, then he would simply be force-fed the sandwich, which just so happens to be laced with botulinum toxin.
Surely Sherlock will appreciate the irony; it is a rather neat little nod to their first fateful meeting, is it not?
It will be just so amusing, for John to be unable to tell his master what had happened until too late, and to then watch Sherlock's beautiful mind run through the possibilities until settling on the correct one.
He is more than slightly disappointed that his gleeful storytelling provokes no reaction whatsoever.
"Such a dim little man you are," he muses. "Why on earth does Sherlock keep you around, I wonder?"
"I stop him from being an idiot, like arranging to meet you in a deserted swimming-pool," John drawls, before Sebastian shoves him into the back of the waiting car.
The bomb is a fake, of course; even he is not so foolhardy as to risk Sherlock suddenly pretending the dramatic hero and bringing the building down around them. But it needs to look good, and look good it certainly does - he will relive the memory for weeks, recalling the look of utter betrayal on his opponent's face as John steps out from a changing cubicle, decked in fake Semtex.
All this, just to introduce himself in person to the man who's monopolized his thoughts for months. After all, such a momentous occasion deserves something a bit...special, doesn't it?
Prior to Sherlock's arrival, he's delighted to see that Plan B is already working. Perhaps John is less able to fight the toxin due to already being drugged, perhaps the concentration was higher than anticipated. But whatever the case, the doctor's eyelids are already drooping, his movements less coordinated.
"I give you, mmm...ten minutes before you start feeling a bit woozy on your feet, so you may want to lean against a wall if you get the chance," he offers helpfully.
If looks could kill, Jim would be missing several vital organs; but they cannot, and so he only laughs.
John follows his instructions to the letter and gives no indication anything is amiss except for a constant struggle to blink his eyes, Sebastian informs him through their earpieces. Certainly, John is not foolish enough to try anything particularly heroic, until Jim makes the mistake of stepping in front of him.
How the man can move that quickly with blood pressure plummeting and paralysis slowly seizing voluntary muscles, Jim has no idea - but it is in that instant that he realises John Watson is not simply an annoying detail in this business, not just a pawn in the Game.
Sebastian has his back, as always, and he was never really in fear for his life because John had no way of knowing the bomb was a fake. Had he known, Jim holds no doubt that his neck would be broken without mercy before he has a chance to laugh about being outwitted by a small, tetchy ex-soldier who belongs to that dreadful percentage of the population who are only able to use eight percent of their brains. Sherlock's little friend is not to be toyed with without serious advantage, and he takes note of the fact for future reference.
But as it stands, John does not know the bomb was fake, and so Jim proceeds to leave Sherlock with a cosmic mental impression he will not soon forget. Sherlock is out of his depth for probably the first time; facing his alter ego at long last. The poor fool really thinks his pretty face and borrowed gun cause Jim's retreat; it is rather pathetic, actually, and amusing.
Sherlock has no way of knowing that Jim's mole inside NSY has just reported in his ear that a Anti-Terrorism team has been mobilised for their location and are currently en route.
He waits just long enough for Sebastian to pack up and bring the car 'round, and then re-enters the pool. It is time to implement - or rather reveal to an adorably oblivious Sherlock - Plan B.
His initial lighthearted greeting stutters to a halt when he sees that apparently John has been running on adrenaline for the last hour or so; the toxin has obviously spread now to the respiratory system. Sherlock is having a very quiet, very logical freak-out, while his pet doctor has all but collapsed to one side, back propped against the wall and breathing shallowly.
"Did you really think I would take you on alone?"
He grins affably. "If you're referring to your charming sibling, Sherlock - then no, I know better."
Sherlock's eyebrows twitch. "Then you also know I won't allow you to leave again."
"Oh, but you will," he replies, rocking on his heels with affected carelessness. "You will, you see. Because you and I, Sherlock - we're both so, soooo similar, but there's one teensy little difference between us."
"And that is?"
"Mm? Oh, just that I don't care if my underlings stop breathing while I'm talking to someone," he says innocently.
Hiding a smile, Jim watches as colour that Sherlock doesn't have to spare drains suddenly from his face. The detective whirls around on the clammy concrete, and John looks up at him with what he probably thinks is a brave game face but in reality is a paralysed, heavy-lidded look of semi-conscious fear.
He really should leave now (Sebastian is swearing at him to stop being melodramatic and get in the car) but he cannot help but remain to enjoy his experiment's results.
A successful experiment; he has forced Sherlock to display his Achilles' heel, and with very little effort.
Sherlock is crouched before his flatmate in an instant, and there is a dull clatter as the gun falls to the concrete. John's obviously fighting the toxin, with probably the last vestiges of energy he has, but it's already spread and whatever words he tries to force past a paralysed throat are choked into nothing more than an airy gasp for breath, and then another. His hands flutter feebly toward his throat.
"John! John, can you hear me?"
Jim sees true terror begin to rear its head in the doctor's eyes as he starts to slump onto the cold floor.
"Carl Powers," Sherlock says flatly, lowering John to the floor with one hand behind the limp head.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he inquires with admiration at his own handiwork, as Sherlock gently arranges the doctor in the recovery position. "Completely silent and relatively quick way of getting rid of those annoyingly ordinary people that clutter up our lives so. After all, you reinvented the pool; I reinvented the toxin - and here we are, full circle. I rather thought you'd appreciate the poetic justice, Sherlock."
Sherlock's voice is dark, eerily calm, as he looks up and voices a single question. "Why."
"I've no intention of ending the Game today, Sherlock," he answers matter-of-factly. "We've only just begun, you and I - do you really want the fun to end so soon?"
Sherlock's mobile is already at his ear, which is somewhat surprising. "If I stop the ATB team will you let an ambulance get through?" he asks, with a desperate sincerity that Jim had not been counting on; perhaps this experiment was not as successful as he'd anticipated. The fact that Sherlock thinks his organization powerful enough to actually prevent emergency services, however, is certainly something to file away for later.
"I have no personal grudge against your pet, Sherlock," he answers with a careless go-ahead gesture. "I would hurry, though. We both know what happens to most victims of botulism poisoning if left untreated for long."
Sherlock darts a panicked glance at John, who peers helplessly at him through barely-slitted eyes. Still on one knee, he swings round as the phone connects. "Call them off, Mycroft," he snaps with deadly coldness. "Just do it! I'll explain later." Sherlock lowers the mobile, pockets it, and then looks up. "What do you really want, Moriarty?" he then asks in a low tone.
Sebastian by this point is silent in his earpiece, and he suspects his lieutenant has done the intelligent thing and bailed. He grins at the thought, because it's just leverage to keep the man in his employ.
Sherlock, self-centered fellow that he is, of course thinks Jim's smile is directed at him, and edges a little closer to John (whose hands are still twitching feebly, does the man never give up?). "Well?" he demands.
"I only wanted you to call off your dogs, Sherlock," he answers, smiling at the ridiculously easy way he shook that granite facade to its foundations.
"I don't require outside help to catch you," Sherlock snaps back, the words whiplike in the damp air, and he indicates the pool with an encompassing gesture. John chokes out something that sounds suspiciously like a derisive snort, albeit a weak one.
"Noooo, you don't," he agrees placidly. "But you will have to find me, Sherlock. Or do you want to chance chasing me, and coming back to find your precious colleague dying of respiratory failure?"
"Innocent people have already died because of you," Sherlock says, eyes flashing. "I doubt John will be pleased if I let you walk away."
John's legs spasm jerkily. Sherlock glares, obviously debating whether to chase him or let him run.
Rolling his eyes, he vents a dramatic sigh. "You were far more interesting as a sociopath, Sherlock," he mourns. "The Game's no fun anymore when you start caring about removing pieces from the board."
There's a sudden explosion and a concussive force slams him into the concrete of the wall behind him. He stares numbly at the blood soaking his expensive trouser-leg, and then looks up, unmitigated shock etched on his features.
Finger frozen around the trigger, John gives him a twitch of triumph.