Summary: Part 4 of the Invisible series. Moriarty is back, and this time, he's after John's gift. The only problem? He thinks it belongs to Sherlock. Yes, it's the Reichenbach episode, people!
Note: As always, I own nothing but my own plot-the world and characters belong to the BBC and Arthur Conan Doyle. I just like to play here. (Not beta'd or Brit-picked so all errors are entirely my own.
John stared at Sherlock's phone and swallowed hard. "So … this is bad, then," he finally said.
"A bit not good, yes," Sherlock agreed. He had waited until they were safely back at 221B and John had had a full night's sleep before initiating this conversation. He was afraid there would be yelling and felt it would be best for that to be as private as possible.
There were still signs of strain in John's face from his abduction in Baskerville, but the (rather excessive, Sherlock thought) 36 hours of sleep he'd gotten immediately afterward had done much to help him recover. John had still had the remains of a headache when they got off the train yesterday afternoon, but had ignored it. He hadn't told Mrs. Hudson of any of the events in Baskerville. "Long journey," was all he'd said to excuse his obvious exhaustion and the woman had merely tutted as he went directly to bed.
She could protest all she wanted, Sherlock thought with a surprising surge of fondness, but while she might not be their housekeeper, she was clearly more than just a landlady. She knew John had a particular fondness for her blueberry scones and had brought a plateful up for breakfast this morning. ("Just this once!")
"So, what do we do?" John asked.
"I don't know any more than you do at the moment," Sherlock told him, taking his phone back and politely ignoring the tremor in John's hand.
"No, he's useless like always. He let the man escape, after all."
"Wonderful. So soon we'll be looking back at … at Dartmoor as a pleasant holiday," John said, trying to keep his tone light but failing.
"Don't even think that," Sherlock said. "For all we know, you'll make it happen."
John laughed. It was a strained laugh, it was true, but still. "I don't think my brain can affect the future, Sherlock. I'm not a fortune teller."
"Maybe you are, John. How can we know? It's not like we've tested for it."
"Very funny," John told him. "Laugh all you like. I need more tea."
That was the end of that conversation, but Sherlock could tell John was concerned. Considering Moriarty's last act before being captured had been to threaten John with torture in a chair with painful similarities to the one John had been strapped to in Baskerville, concern was certainly reasonable.
Still, post-Baskerville, their daily life went on much as usual. They went on cases together, and John worked (boring) hours at the surgery. Lestrade sometimes looked askance at John while at a crime scene, but otherwise things were much the same.
There were experiments, of course. John threw himself into Sherlock's new battery of tests with enthusiasm (spurred by the news of Moriarty, no doubt). As always, the results were remarkable. They had tested John's ability to be invisible before, but now that they knew his gift was broader, they tested to see its limits.
John's gift affected perception, they decided—primarily a person's perception of John. When he didn't want to be noticed, he wasn't—but if he needed to be, he would be. Sherlock would always remember the look on Donovan's face when John somehow pulled her attention off Sherlock while she was in mid-rant. She had been going on and on, calling him a freak and other names (unprofessional of her, but not unusual), when suddenly she stopped mid-sentence and turned to look at John, calmly standing near the wall. He hadn't moved a muscle, but for a few brief seconds was the center of attention, calmly raising an eyebrow in inquiry at the circle of faces suddenly staring at him. Then he released his … attention? … and everybody went back to what they had been doing, except that Donovan had lost her train of invective and just flounced off in a huff. Sherlock had caught the subtle wink John gave Lestrade and the other man's gleam of amusement.
John Watson would never fail to amaze him.
The extra boost Dr. Stapleton's scanner had given John's gift had faded with his crippling headache, but John's range was still broader. It was as if his sudden need in the lab had stretched his conception of what was possible, and his gift had expanded to fill in the possibilities. The scanner had somehow stimulated John's brain to make it more productive, but he had worked so hard, it had caused it to essentially overheat. Now, he didn't have that extra edge, but he had the memory of impossible feats being possible, and so was still able to do them.
It made no logical sense, which drove the scientist in Sherlock mad, all while making him utterly enthralled at the possibilities. Apparently, if John Watson thought he could do something, he could.
Sherlock didn't know why that surprised him so much, really. Being capable and resourceful were two of the hallmarks of John's character, along with his basic decency and kindness. (How else could he put up with Sherlock, after all? Because Sherlock did know he was difficult to get along with.) John had gone through his entire life making things work. He'd adapted to his frankly barbaric childhood by developing this extraordinary gift. He had become a doctor to heal and joined the army to protect people, and even when he lost that profession to a sniper's bullet, he recreated his life to make things happen.
One thing was certain. Where John Watson was concerned, Sherlock was never bored.
"They'll turn, Sherlock. They always turn. And they'll turn on you," John told him with that special, pay-attention-this-is-important tone he had sometimes.
Sherlock just continued to examine the ridiculous hat with two fronts and ear flaps. "Why do you care? It's not like it affects you."
"Doesn't affect …? Sherlock …" John's voice trailed off as he verbally regrouped. "Of course it affects me, Sherlock. I'm your friend, remember? Not to mention helping you on cases. Not that the papers ever notice me."
"Nobody ever notices you, John," Sherlock told him with a smirk. "And you like it that way."
"Being invisible is not the same as being ignored, Sherlock—but, well, yeah. I think it's obvious that my first instinct is not to be noticed. My subconscious thinks it's safer that way—and it's not necessarily wrong."
Sherlock tossed the hat at John. "I don't see the problem, then. You're not being noticed which is as you like it, and I don't care if I am, so it doesn't matter."
"That IS the problem, Sherlock," John said, fielding the hat with one hand. "You don't care. But people who read the papers do, and they'll believe what the papers tell them. The press is notoriously fickle and if you're not careful, they're going to turn on you, and everyone else will follow."
"Sheep," Sherlock said with a dismissive shrug. "I thought you'd noticed, John, I don't care about public opinion."
"Oh, believe me, I've noticed. You don't care what other people think about you as long as it doesn't interfere with The Work, but they are not mutually exclusive, Sherlock. How long will you have work, do you suppose, if the press convinces everyone you're a fraud?"
Sherlock blinked, wondering how he had missed that connection, but then shrugged again. "It won't matter. That's the difference between us, John. You worry too much about appearances."
John just laughed. "Right. It's the man who happily fades into the background who cares about appearances, not the one who swans about in his long coat, drawing all the attention and then being obnoxious about it. Just … be careful, right? If everyone decides you're a fraud, it's going to affect me, too. Maybe just take a small case this week?"
Sherlock stared for a moment but then sat in his chair. John was obviously over-reacting. For a man who could essentially become invisible, John was far too concerned with appearances. He should know better than anyone how meaningless they were. Perception couldn't change reality, after all—not even with John's gift. Just because people couldn't see him, didn't mean he wasn't there. Sherlock had lived his whole life relying on his and only his opinion of his self-worth. He wasn't going to start worrying about public opinion now.
Though, he admitted, John's opinion mattered. And John was wiser about normal human interaction than he was. He supposed it wouldn't hurt to be unobtrusive for a bit. Hadn't he protested at the very beginning that it was hard to do his job while being recognized wherever he went? Maybe he would look at some of Lestrade's old cold cases until the fuss died down.
"You want me to do what?"
John's voice was icy.
"It's simple, John. Just distract the guards so they don't see me enter and then I'll do the rest."
"You want me to distract the guards at the Tower of London after they've just been robbed so that you can sneak in … when you've already beeninvited? I'm sorry, Sherlock, I hadn't realized you went insane this morning. I should just count my blessings it was a mannequin swinging from the noose in the kitchen, I suppose?"
Sherlock started to open his mouth to protest or argue, but John just shook his head. "No, Sherlock. Absolutely not. You're already invited, the guards are already upset enough, and I don't feel like going to jail today. Nor do I want to try to explain any of this to your brother. Let's just go in like normal people, shall we?"
Sherlock pouted but was forced to agree, though he grumbled about normal being boring as they climbed out of the taxi. In truth, though, he really wasn't such an idiot. He hadn't expected John to say anything else, he had just wanted to distract him. He had controlled it well, but Sherlock had seen the panic when Jim's text message came through this morning, inviting them to play.
Sherlock had never felt less like playing. Up until the events at the pool, he had been diverted by Moriarty's "game," but since the man had turned it personal and attacked John? It was no longer fun.
Nor could he afford to forget that dear Jim was holding a personal grudge at this point. Not only had they escaped him at the pool, they had out-maneuvered him in their second match which led to his arrest. There was no question he was going to come after them. The only question was after whom?
Was Moriarty going to focus on Sherlock like he had in the past? So that John was treated as a mere pawn? Or had he picked up on John's special talent?
If Moriarty had had cameras in the pool, or in his office during that last stand-off, he might have recorded proof of John's talent. John's plan for rescuing Sherlock by hiding Mycroft's team had been brilliant. Moriarty had not had a chance to see anything unusual before he'd been knocked unconscious—but what if he had video footage showing the team's sudden appearance? The tell-tale blur of John's gift in action? What if he knew about John's gift and wanted to take advantage? A man like Moriarty would never be able to let that go. He would want to use it, subvert it, by any means necessary.
Without sufficient data, though, there was no way for Sherlock to know which way this would go. Either Moriarty would come after him with John as emotional leverage, or he would come after John by using Sherlock.
Pulling up his coat collar as they pulled up in front of the Tower, Sherlock got out of the cab. One way or the other, the game was on.
John drew a deep breath before getting out of the cab.
Moriarty was back, and John wanted nothing to do with this.
It was ridiculous, he knew. Life with Sherlock Holmes meant things were dangerous. It was part of what he loved about his life. The adrenalin rush. The sense of living on the edge. The risk.
And yet … he still felt raw from the events at Baskerville. He still had nightmares about that damned chair Dr. Stapleton had strapped him into—the one that was only slightly saner and less terrifying than the nightmare Moriarty had built just for him.
He had no idea what to expect once they entered the Tower, but he had a feeling that it was about to change everything.
No, he really wanted nothing to do with this. What happened to ordinary criminals? Couldn't they just chase some knife-wielding maniac down a dark alley? Confront a banker who'd paid to have his wife strangled? A nice, ordinary serial-killer, perhaps? Really, he was feeling almost nostalgic for the serial-suicide killer cabbie.
Sherlock had paused at the entrance and was waiting for him and John pulled in another long breath. They'd come out on top each time they'd faced Moriarty before. He had to have faith that they would again.
He hated feeling this way. When had he ever allowed fear to keep him from doing anything that needed doing? If he started now, it just meant that Moriarty had won.
Besides, Sherlock needed him. What choice did he have?