There are some heavy themes described in this chapter, so be warned. I don't want to give them away, so I'll just say viewer discretion is advised. :P


THREE YEARS LATER

It was surprisingly easy, moulding his and John's lives back together. John had been married and divorced in Sherlock's absence, while Sherlock had spent the last three years taking down a vast criminal empire with less-than-legal means. One would think these experiences would have changed them both, but moving back into Baker Street together had felt like instinct.

There had been tears, when John had seen him again. There'd also been violence, starting with a punch and moving into a full brawl. It'd ended with them laughing and reminiscing about the last time they'd had a good fight in public. Molly had been witness to this, and had fretted over them before smiling nervously and giggling with them. The three had laughed and cried until their faces hurt from it.

Two weeks had gone by and after four kidnap attempts, seven mysterious packages, and a single break-in attempt which was a poor disguise to plant cameras, Mycroft finally made a personal appearance.

"Honeymoon stage over?" Mycroft said dryly upon seeing Sherlock moping on the couch.

Sherlock scoffed and didn't respond. John and Mrs. Hudson were content to just be in his presence and enjoy him being alive but he was already bored. He wasn't to leave the house until the evidence proving his innocence had gone through, and it was terribly dull. Sherlock almost preferred being dead.

Mycroft made a noise of mock understanding, "I must compliment you on your faked suicide. I'll admit even I didn't figure it out until the very prominent criminals started dying."

"Really, Mycroft?" a cursory glance was sent to the elder brother, "Three stone. For me?"

Mycroft's fake smile slid off his face for only a moment.

"Yes, well. That's what brothers do. Care for each other. Speaking of," he gestured, and his driver carried in a familiar battered case. It was of medium size and in the style of a duffel bag.

"You were forced to abandon your meager belongings in America some time ago, were you not?"

Sherlock sat up then. His gaze flicked to the suitcase, before focusing on Mycroft's expression.

"You went through my things," he said evenly, not giving a single sign of fear.

The driver had put the bag down and left with a final salute and a "Mr. Holmes" as a farewell. Neither brother noticed his exit.

Mycroft's face had turned cold, and Sherlock could see the shift to the most dangerous man in Britain on his features.. Both of them knew what this was about. Sherlock would never admit to the stab of fear he felt in his gut.

Mycroft broke their gaze first, looking down before shifting his stance slightly. His expression remained dangerously neutral, but this time he was looking anywhere but at Sherlock. He spoke plainly.

"I cared about Sherringford a great deal," Mycroft began without a hitch in his tone, "Certainly his death affected me a great deal, and it forever changed the relationship between you and I."

Neither brother had ever been good at speaking their emotions, as was clear when Mycroft refused to elaborate on that sentence, skipping to the point.

"I loved him enough to kill for him, but I love you as well," Mycroft was looking at Sherlock again, "I saw the cocaine in the bag right alongside the letter. I'm not-" and finally a break in his voice, "I'm not willing to lose another brother in order to avenge the first."

More than the 'I love you', this sentiment was the most proof Mycroft had ever given to show Sherlock that he cared. Their silence grew in awkwardness immediately.

It was broken abruptly by a door slamming downstairs. John burst through the door a moment later, freezing at the sight of Mycroft Holmes.

"Well, look who's finally decided to show up," the doctor greeted, smiling easily.

"John," Mycroft greeted, "I was just dropping off Sherlock's things. It was no small effort collecting them from New York City, though he's hardly shown his appreciation."

If Mycroft seemed icier than John remembered, John took no notice.

"Nonsense, Mycroft," Sherlock bounded from the couch to stand facing his brother, "I've always appreciated your interference in my life."

John snorted at the apparent sarcasm, hanging up his coat, but Mycroft knew different. This was the closest thing to 'I love you too, brother.' he was ever going to get.

"I'm afraid I'm very busy," he said, lips quirking only for a second, "I'll have to be going. John."

Mycroft dipped his head lightly at the doctor, shared a final look with Sherlock, and left without another word.

"So what did he want?" John asked, sitting in his chair.

"Obvious, John," Sherlock intoned, "He found my bag."

"Well, yeah," John was looking with mild curiosity at the bag, but continued, "He could have had that sent, though. What was he really after?"

Sherlock didn't answer, instead grabbing the bag and sitting down on the couch. He placed the bag on the coffee table, hands hovering over it. He didn't know what exactly he'd be asking of John, or even how to start. Now was as good a time as any.

"Did you ever read the article by Kitty Reilly?" he began, knowing the answer.

"Of course not," John looked offended, or perhaps annoyed at the abrupt change in topic, "If I ever wanted to know about your past, I'd want to know it from you."

Sherlock smiled. There was a difference between knowing by assumption and knowing for certain, and it gave him a light feeling to truly know John's faith in him.

"Ignoring the appalling grammar, and the obvious lie about me being a fraud, it is fairly accurate," Sherlock said, "I suppose most of it will be considered untrue once I'm proven innocent. The fact remains that there are now total strangers who know more about me than you."

John was giving him that look that said 'you're doing good with this feelings stuff, don't stop now', so Sherlock cut to the point.

"If you wanted to read it, or ask me things to know about my past, I'd give you permission. You've always had permission."

He couldn't even look at John now. John gave a sharp inhale, considering Sherlock. Sherlock still focused on his unopened bag.

"Sherlock, um," John said, "Thank you, really. I haven't even thought about that article in a couple of years now," he paused.

Sherlock wanted to say more, but just didn't know how to get there. John clearly wasn't sure where he was going with this.

"Does this have anything to do with why Mycroft was here?" John ventured.

Sherlock tensed up like a coil. He gave a slight nod, almost as if he was a guilty child forced to confess. He could hear John sigh.

"Sherlock, when you... died," John stumbled over the word, "I spent a lot of time thinking about times when I could've said things and I didn't. If you died, if it happened again-"

"It won't happen again."

"If it happened again," John repeated harshly, before softening, "I would have wanted to know what you were going to say. Right now."

"John," and just like that Sherlock seemed to unravel. He found himself rummaging frantically through his bag suddenly, speaking a mile a minute.

"I could have ended it sooner, John. Six months, and I found it. A storage room full of evidence," the CD, at last, but he needed the letter first, "I couldn't though. I couldn't use it. There was something... something... this!"

Sherlock brandished the letter dramatically, and turned to John, "If I had died, Moriarty would have killed you a year later, and he would have used this."

He offered the letter meekly to the doctor, who had been silent up until now. John looked at him as if he knew what was coming, what was on the piece of paper being offered. Sherlock knew he couldn't possibly.

It took only a moment to register. John didn't even read the words, only needing to recognize their shape, their configuration on the paper. He dropped it like a burning coal, letting out a strangled noise and bringing a hand to his mouth as if to stifle it.

Sherlock, expecting a negative reaction, had researched what a friend would do in this situation, and had found several relevant websites. He lifted himself quietly from the couch, as though trying not to frighten a deer. The detective made his way to John, sitting lightly on the arm of the chair. John was staring at the letter with an anguished look, and didn't seem to notice.

He sure noticed when Sherlock moved his arms to wrap his friend in an awkward attempt of a hug. John made a noise of distress and flinched violently. Sherlock pulled his arms into himself as John bent down, clutching his hair with his hands over his knees.

The detective didn't know any other obvious way of offering comfort. The site he'd checked had suggested giving his friend 'a great big hug' but clearly that wasn't the solution here. He moved on to the second suggestion, 'talk about the problem', as dubious as it sounded.

"There is a CD to go along with that letter," Sherlock spoke to his unmoving friend, "I thought it to be much like that Reilly article. Moriarty implied that it proved your innocence, and that was enough for me."

"I can imagine your restraint," John sounded disbelieving, though thankfully calmer.

"Whatever reason you had for killing my brother I can live happily with not knowing," Sherlock said determinedly, "The CD's yours. You can burn it if you like."

"Your brother...?"John spoke softly, "Christ, really? A relative, I'd assumed, but-"

John scoffed before chuckling bitterly. Sherlock watched him rise from the chair, noting unhappily that he seemed to stumble on his bad leg on his first step. John righted himself and rigidly crossed the room, putting some distance between him and Sherlock, or perhaps between him and the letter.

"I had to go and give a spiel about things left unsaid, didn't I?" he muttered, though Sherlock heard him clearly.

John turned toward his friend, "Yeah, I'm going to go into the kitchen and read that article. And have some tea. You-" his voice broke. He shook himself and continued, "You go ahead and listen to that CD. I've got a pretty good idea what's on there, and you deserve to hear why I k-killed your brother."

Sherlock didn't say anything. John gave a sharp nod like a salute, and walked into the kitchen, grabbing his laptop off the mantle on his way. The detective scrambled for his own laptop from his bag, less than a year old but battered already from travel. It still had a good two hours of battery life, and thankfully he had headphones. John clearly wanted to avoid the CD entirely, and playing it to the whole flat seemed detrimental.

Sherlock set himself up, hunched in one corner of the couch with his knees partially drawn up. The laptop sat precariously on his thighs, forced close to his body like a secret. In his impatience, Sherlock ungently shoved the earbuds of his headphones in his ears, causing them to sting, but ignored it. He popped the CD in finally and pressed 'Play All' when prompted.

Static. Three rings.

"Mm... Hello?"

Accent matching John's exactly. Younger and female. Harry.

"Put John on the phone."

The voice was that of a young child, but the distinctly adult-way-of-speaking confused its sound until it almost sounded like a woman. James Moriarty. The early years.

"Jesus, it's three AM."

"He's awake. Studying much harder than you."

"No need to be a bitch. Alright, hold on."

Shuffling noises and the clack of the phone being set down. A minute later another phone picked up and a new voice. John, sounding no less burdened than he did now. A damaged Watson, but this one had never seen the war.

"John speaking."

"Johnny, let's wait for your sister to hang up, shall we?"

"Who is this?"

"It's Jim!"

Silence for a moment, then a sharp inhale.

"Jim. From the letter? Jim Mor-"

"Ah. Wait for Harry."

John was breathing more harshly. The click of the other phone hanging up set him off like a gunshot to a race.

"Jim Moriarty? Bloody hell, you sound like you're ten. You got my-"

"So eager, John. Yes, I got your letter right here. I've also got a package. My little do-it-yourself kit for murder. Instruction manual included. You won't be caught, you won't leave a trace, and he'll never even know it was you."

Jim sounded like a television commercial. A kid advertising the next exciting toy.

"I-I have to do it?"

"Of course not, John. I could easily hire a trained killer to put a bullet in teacher's brain. Or cause an unfortunate accident on a street corner. But those things are expensive. They have a price. These things always have a price."

"So if I do it myself, I won't have to pay anything?"

John sounded almost calm. Danger stilled the tremors, it always has.

"Oh no, Johnny. There's always the consulting fee. But you are only in secondary. An honour student. That's what this call is for. I'm willing to offer a little... discount."

"What-" a swallow. Throat gone dry, "What kind of fee, then?"

"Still so eager to go through with it, even if you have to do it yourself."

Stronger this time, "What kind of fee?"

"See, this is how I can tell you'll be so interesting! And that's all I need, John. A little interest, some amusement. A cure for boredom."

Silence. John obviously didn't know what to say.

"Enough about me. This call is about you, after all, and your fee. So, let's have it."

"W-what? How? We're on the phone."

"That's all you need."

"What?"

"Oh, Johnny, don't get repetitive. Your story. That's your fee. Tell me exactly why you want Sherringford Holmes killed."

John was breathing more harshly again. He seemed to be holding himself in, preparing.

"Take your time, John."

Jim had lost his playful tones. The adult seriousness that fooled John's sister was back. He sounded comforting, voice soft.

"He uh... He... raped me," the words were spat out, "A-a lot. Six times before I sent the letter. It's more often now."

"And he threatened your family if you ever told, that's why you said lives were at stake."

"He said he'd start on my sister. She's only two years younger, just starting in his class."

"How brave of you John, letting him roger you to protect your little sister. She doesn't sound thankful."

A sad sounding scoff.

"So now you know. Is that it?"

"Hmm, sorry. I'm not convinced. You could be lying for all I know."

"I'm not. God, I wish I was."

"I'm afraid that's not good enough. Let's try this. Describe for me in detail... your first time."

John gave a short laugh.

"Really?"

"What's funny, Johnny?"

"No, it's not funny. It shouldn't be. It's just... he's gotten worse. Every time. That's why I mailed you. I realized that, eventually, he'd kill me."

"Oh, I see. So the first time was down-rights vanilla, you would say? Let's go more recent, then. Tell me about the last time."

"The last...?"

"If it helps, just think that it really will be the last time. I could have this package on your door in an hour, and you could do it tomorrow."

John was quiet for a long time. Moriarty seemed content to wait.

"Mr. Holmes teaches biology. I'm aiming to be a medic, for the army you know, so it first started when I asked for some extra tutelage. That's just the cover, now. W-wednesdays and Fridays after classes. It... it used to be just Fridays."

John's voice was becoming distanced, moving away from himself. Dissociation.

"He, ah, he ties me down now. Likes to see me struggle, but he can't hold me down and concentrate on what he's doing."

"Where did he tie you down?"

"On his desk."

John gave a shuddering breath.

"He used to use wax, but it's too messy. Now he wraps a wire around my... you know... and he has a wand with an electrode on the end. The electrical current between the wire and the-"

"I know what it does. Tell me how it felt."

"R-right. Well, it doesn't leave a mark, anyway, which is why he uses it. When he puts the electrode to me, it's like my entire body just... seizes up, out of my control. It hurts like hell of course, but so did the wax. But even after the wax I still had... my own body, you know? Control."

"How long?"

"I don't know. Twenty or thirty minutes, since he's usually done with me after an hour or so."

"What next?"

"After that, the shocks, it's like I can't feel anything. It's all hazy and numb. I know what he does, though. S-slicks me up and fucks me."

John's voice had heightened in pitch at the curse.

"This last time he brought me back. Put his belt... around me neck. I don't know if it's worse, being aware."

John's voice wavered on the last word. He breathed through his nose noisily. He was crying.

"It was so sudden. He choked me, and it was like turning a switch. I could feel him thrusting i-in-and-out-and-I-c-couldn't-breath-and-"

"John, John, shush, that's good. That's so good."

John was sobbing. Moriarty sounded ecstatic, barely able to contain it.

"You're right, John. He will kill you, and he'll do it soon. You're disgustingly brave, choosing to kill rather than die. You'll make a good soldier."

John wasn't listening. Reliving the experience seemed to have put him in a different place. He sobbed heavily. Moriarty sighed.

"The package will be on your door in exactly an hour. So that's... five-seventeen. Don't come for it until five-thirty. It's Sunday, so that should give you a full day to familiarize yourself with the instructions. If all goes well, Sherringford Holmes will be dead tomorrow."

"T-thank you..."

"How polite! It's been a pleasure doing business with you, John Watson. Take care!"

Click.

-
John had planned on setting up his laptop while the kettle boiled, and thus was surprised to find himself still leaning stiffy against the counter when it began to whistle. Mechanically he took it off the stove and began preparing his usual cup.

John glanced at Sherlock. His flatmate was on the couch, huddled as far into the corner as his long limbs would allow. Sherlock was oblivious to the world, hands covering his eyes in their usual steepled position, earbuds shoved in his ears. Focused totally on what he was hearing, without distraction.

There was a passing resemblance between Sherlock and Sherringford, much more so than Mycroft. The memory had faded over time, wounds perhaps not healing but scabbing over. It had been years. Other than the initial stab of fear when he'd first heard Sherlock say the name 'Holmes', the resemblance hadn't bothered him.

John sat with his regular after-work tea, opening his laptop but forgoing turning it on. He didn't need to start learning about all of Sherlock's skeletons with his own still banging around his skull. That letter, Jesus Christ, that letter had brought it all back.

The act itself had been easy, he'd done it before school, and by noon Sherringford had collapsed. They'd found traces of cocaine in his office, John had planted them, and the symptoms matched an overdose. Without the proper technology to do a thorough tox-screen at the time, the case was closed right then.

Even so, John remembered being terrified, in the weeks following. After three months with no follow-up, his sense of freedom crashed into him like a freight train. He went out partying with Harry on her fifteenth birthday and proceeded to beat her record for most girls kissed in a night.

Joining the army had been as effective as therapy. Half the men he knew in training had problems, perhaps not as deep as his, but they were all together in the same boat. When John was twitchy and violent in group showers, they didn't say anything, only made sure to keep their distance. It was that attitude that allowed him to feel comfortable again around men.

There had been bigger problems in Afghanistan, and it all helped to push those afternoons spent in rope out of his mind. The constant action was the opposite of being tied and blindfolded, unable to focus on anything but what was happening to him. John had found his place in life, the risks and the satisfaction of helping fellow soldiers driving out the demon that was Sherringford Holmes.

John hadn't feared the name 'Holmes', mostly because Sherlock was intriguing. He saved John from a dull and quiet life. When Sherlock had come from that building talking about Jefferson Hope and the name 'Moriarty' John's skin had tingled. A Holmes and a Moriarty. 'Too close' he had thought. But his limp was gone, tremors quelled. He took the risk.

The cup moved from his left hand to his right so he wouldn't spill. John clenched his hand for a futile moment, and turned on the computer for the sake of something to do. The Reilly article was easy to find, but he found he couldn't take in a word on the page.

John didn't notice Sherlock slipping into the kitchen and sitting across from him. He gave a small start when Sherlock spoke his name softly.

Sherlock was looking at the laptop, "You haven't read the article."

"No, I... was a little distracted," John said.

Sherlock's eyes moved down to his hands. They had the same hands, John only noticed now. He shook his head. Now was not the time to start noticing similarities.

"I wish you would, John," Sherlock started haltingly, "I feel..." he sounded surprised by the notion, "I feel like I owe you. I know so much about you, and this... this secret, it's just..."

He seemed to be having trouble with his thoughts, squirming slightly. John felt so fond of Sherlock in these moments, watching him work out his emotions.

"Anything you want from me, John," he tipped his head to the computer, "Any secret. I won't hide any of it from you. I owe you that much."

"Sherlock..." John was flattered, but this was too much, "You don't owe me anything. I killed your brother. Your family."

"Fuck him, I'd kill him myself," Sherlock seethed, finally looking at John. John had never heard Sherlock swear, "I'd make it slow. I'd make him suffer for what he did to you."

John wanted to tell him that that was too far, a 'bit not good', but there was too much between them for that. Instead he just got up and moved around their table. He put a hand on Sherlock's shoulder, prompting him to turn toward him. Then John wrapped his arms around Sherlock in a hug.

Sherlock hugged him back tentatively. When John pulled away, Sherlock had a confused look on his face. The kind of face where John knew he'd have to explain.

"Thanks, is all," John said, smiling, "And about the, um, secret sharing thing. I'll take you up on it sometime. Just... not now."

Sherlock still looked a little confused, but for the most part relieved. He smiled, and John noted his eyes lighting up, the shade of grey so different from either of his brothers. It made up for the facial shape, the cheekbones, the hands.

Sherlock jerked forward awkwardly, wrapping his arms around John. John didn't tense this time. He could handle this.

He had control.

END


Thanks for reading, and please leave a review even if you hated it. :) Concrit and britpicking welcome.