A/N: So... it only took me a few months to get this last chapter up :P
I know, I know, I'm a terrible person.
Anyway, thankyou so so much for everyone who read (or will read) and reviewed this story, and I hope the ending is everything you hoped it would be. Thanks to you, it's been amazingly fun to write! You guys are the best :D
Before the police had a chance to question him, Sherlock was in the back of yet another cab.
"Think harder," he murmured to himself, earning him an odd look from the driver. The killer had given him clues every step of the way, hidden away in a turn of phrase, in a detail only Sherlock would pick up.
Tapping his feet anxiously, Sherlock closed his eyes and went back through his memories, pausing and rewinding as though they were a video. People around the scene of the crime, the way the voice talked, the school…
"No!" exclaimed Sherlock, "no, no, no, no!"
"'Scuse me?" asked the driver. "Where is it you wanted to go again?"
"Oh, that's highly improbable! But I could have done it, I suppose, if I'd been so inclined…"
"Sorry?" interrupted the cabbie again. "Look, if you're not gonna tell me where you're going, you can get out."
"Oh, I know exactly where I'm going," replied Sherlock, pulling out his phone. "I'll have an address for you soon enough but first… the post office."
"Sorry, the post office? Which one?"
"Closest you can find to Baker Street."
In his six years of driving, never had Timothy Dreggle seen such an agitated man. He wriggled and huffed in the back seat, squeezing his eyes shut and opening them again in turn, muttering under his breath at an impressive rate. When they finally reached the post office, he barked a short order to wait in the empty carpark and jumped out of the cab.
Never mind that it was by now four in the morning.
The tall, pale man sat by the post office for the remaining hours of the night, waiting impatiently for it to open, presumably. Before he knew it, Timothy was asleep at the wheel, waiting in vain for his customer to return.
He awoke at nine-fifteen to the sound of a rattling door.
"Come on, come on, we need to go!" exclaimed the strange man, running a hand through his curly hair with a huge grin on his face. "I've got him now! The game is reaching its final stages."
"Wha… what are you talking about, mate?" asked Timothy, unlocking the doors so the man could climb back inside. "You're bloody lucky I'm desperate – you just asked me to wait five hours for you!"
"Yes, yes, I'll pay you whatever you want. I've got someone to see, places to be… Here's the address. Now shut up while I think. Approaching him… I'll have to be careful."
Sighing and rubbing his eyes, Timothy turned the key in the ignition.
Sherlock waved the cab off into the distance before walking up to the tall apartment building in front of him and ringing the bell.
"Hello?" crackled back a older, female voice.
"Hello, yes, I need to speak with your son," replied Sherlock.
"My son? Why?"
"It's to do with the recent death of his biology teacher… I'll only need a few minutes."
"I… alright, you can come up."
Sherlock walked into the building without any further ado, half-running up the staircase and banging on the apartment door.
"He's in his-" began the mother, but Sherlock had already gone through the kitchen and into the hallway, searching for the right room. Three doors later, he had the right one.
"Who the hell are you?!"
The teenager inside sounded terrified, bewildered.
"Oh, you can drop the act," snarled Sherlock, walking up to where the youth was sitting on his desk chair. "Ryan Cooper."
His face dropped to a calm mask in a second.
"So you found me," he said, smiling slightly as he looked up into Sherlock's face. "I was wondering if you would."
"Then tell me," breathed Sherlock, "now I know who you are, and what you've done… What's to stop me from killing you right here and now?"
"Because I'm like you," replied Ryan. "I made things interesting again. I know what it's like, being trapped in this ordinary, ordinary place with nothing to do and nowhere to be."
"So you had your teacher killed? Kidnapped my friend? Because you thought we were the same?"
"I wanted to see if I could beat you at your own game. And I could have, too, if I hadn't given you all those clues From the star wars reference to physically putting my face on camera. Come on, wasn't it all disgustingly obvious?"
"Of course, in the end. Hiding in plain sight, and only eighteen years old... But you've missed one tiny detail, one gapingly huge point. You took my friend. The one person I…." Sherlock trailed off, changing tact. "Did you really think we were the same? You are nothing like me. You are merely ordinary, no matter what you like to tell yourself. You are nothing. But that doesn't mean I won't deal with you."
"Well, you see, I rather think you won't," replied the teenager. "Because…"
He hit a button on the computer he was sitting behind, and seconds later, the woman from the intercom walked into the room, pressing what felt like a gun to the back of Sherlock's head.
"Because you thought I would assume this woman was your mother?" began Sherlock, "Despite the fact she let me in without knowing who I was, the difference in face structure, eye colour and quite frankly, the fact that she's wearing cufflinks? Her posture suggests military, but her hair's long, so she's been off duty for quite some time, or should I say… expelled from service? She must be expensive."
"That's all very impressive," replied Ryan, "but I'm afraid it's not going to change the fact that you're about to die."
He laughed manically, as if imitating a villain in a movie.
"Really?" replied Sherlock, raising his eyebrows. "Because I knew all those things the second I walked in. It was a simple matter of searching the flat, finding the gun and…"
There was a soft clicking noise as the woman pulled the trigger.
"… disarming it."
For the first time, the teenager's mask of serenity began to slip.
"The police are surrounding the apartment as we speak. Before I make your arrogant little life in prison a living hell, which I assure you, I have the ability to do, there's one last matter of business to take care of," hissed Sherlock.
Those were the last words Ryan remembered saying before blacking out.
John woke to the steady beat of his own heart, displayed on the monitor next to him. The bright, fluorescent lights were disorienting, and it took him a moment to realise where he was, to remember the events of the last few days.
He pulled himself up groggily and winced as he did, his wrists aching. As a medical professional, he knew it was too soon to be pushing himself, but he got up anyway, walking around the tiny room. There was a small table pressed up against the opposite wall, covered in get well cards from Sarah, Molly, Lestrade, Harry - even a large basket of fruit from Mycroft. He ran a finger over the presents and wishes, searching.
Of course, there was nothing from Sherlock.
John shook his head knowingly and climbed back into bed. He felt around on the bedside table for a TV remote, but all his hand connected with was a cold plate of grey-pink (he assumed) fish. Suddenly realising how hungry he was, John raked his eyes over the tray, ready to dig in to the first edible thing he saw.
Funnily enough, it was a mug that caught his eye.
A very familiar looking mug, in fact, and unlike everything else on the tray, it was very warm to the touch.
John grabbed the handle and put it to his mouth to taste the liquid inside - and was pleasantly surprised as fresh, hot tea spilled into his mouth. Feeling a strange material against the handle, John put the cup down to examine it more closely.
The more he looked, the positive he was that it was the same one, the same mug he had dropped the morning that he left, the morning he'd been… But something in the corner of his eye cut his thoughts short.
There, tied to the handle, was a small, handwritten note in familiar scrawl.
Happy belated birthday, John.