Title: Nursery Rhymes
Timeframe/Info About This Fic: Set a few months after The Great Game, but before Reichenbach Fall. I had wanted to make a set of three or so oneshots about Moriarty "burning" the heart out of Sherlock, so maybe? If I did continue with the idea, this would be the first component.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock BBC. This is purely for fun.
Authors Note: Yeah, I write Sherlock now too xD I really hope my characters are relatively in character. I'm always afraid I'll mess 'em up first time I write with them.
Err... please enjoy...?
He was having difficulty focusing on the situation at hand. He didn't have to be a doctor to know that the crowbar blow to the head he endured right before he lost consciousness—How long ago was it? Hours? Minutes?—wasn't the best for his cerebral cortex. However, being a doctor made it all better, he supposed, because he was able to blurrily diagnose himself. His head didn't feel concussed, but then again, one could never be too sure when it seemed like he or she was staring up at the cracked, damp floor of the warehouse.
John tried to think through the deep pulse in his temple that ached with every rattled breath. His eyes were still competing with his tipsy stomach to see which organ set had the ability to win an Olympic award in the most somersaults. In order to control his sickening vertigo, the doctor squeezed his eyes shut, letting out a small gasp as tiny pins equipped with tiny lengths of thread laced their way through his sensitive eyelids and temples. Although he quite enjoyed the darkness his closed eyes provided, the sharp tingle was not appreciated. John slowly pried his dry eyes open, grateful to note that finally the world had stopped spinning.
The warehouse was dark. It took John a moment to let his tender eyes adjust, only taking in the occasional shifting shadow. His brain cleared after his eyes did, causing him to sluggishly wondering how he was able to see shadows when there was no light present. He still wasn't able to figure out why, and resorted to searching his other senses to grasp his current situation. He briefly considered that the shadows may have been his kidnapper lingering to observe, but when his much too loud breathing was the only sound in the dark room, John dismissed that as an option.
The most obvious thing that Doctor Watson was feeling was the sharp headache that continued to pound his thoughts and the various, muted aches around his body. His left knee smarted every time he shifted on the cool stone floor. Various bruises—most of them fresh, he noted with a twist of his chapped lip—littered his body and his arms felt like they were on fire from what he guessed to be tiny little cuts spanning from his shoulders to his wrists. He tried to adjust his sore shoulders, but they were bound behind him tightly. The light jingling sound the binds made told the doctor he was chained to the wall. Cold steel cuffs grated against the delicate skin around his thin wrists. He winced as he tried to slide them away from the chaffed skin, but the handcuffs were a size too small—obviously handpicked with care in order to cause John as much pain as possible.
That explains why my shoulders were sore, the doctor tried in a light tone. As well as the rest of my body.
John sighed loudly, forcing his dry throat to swallow. What I would give to get a drink of water… Feeling his eyes to be recovered as well as they could be, he looked around the lonely warehouse again, searching for something to help him. Most of the shadows had disappeared—either proving that John had suffered some sort of minor complications from the blow to his head, or whoever may have been in the room before left.
However, based on the low humming to his direct left, Watson realized with a drop in his stomach that whoever was in the shadows a moment ago hadn't left the room. As the humming trilled dementedly above him, Watson suppressed a chilled shudder as the fine hairs on the back his neck rose. Whatever his abductor was humming, it was faintly familiar. John wracked his sore brain to figure out the melody, but his scouring was interrupted by an even more familiar chuckle. The doctor's veins ran with ice, as if ice cubes were stirred in his blood.
John strained against his cool chains, trying to catch a glimpse at the madman who had him tethered to some godforsaken warehouse wall. The army veteran was unable to see Moriarty completely, but he was faintly aware of a warm flickering light by the madman. The orange glow that the light cast on its surroundings revealed what John had assumed. He was in fact in an abandoned warehouse. A shuddering breath caught in his throat when he finally got a good look at what was causing the darker shadows. At least three wood-slatted crates were distanced about seven meters away from the doctor in a rough semi-circle. Resting on top of each of the decaying tops was a shapeless blob of dull gray clay connected haphazardly to various wires. John blinked rapidly; he was having a horrible sense of déjà vu from when he was strapped to one of Moriarty's makeshift bombs a few months ago. Clearly the madman hadn't lost his fixation with making things go "boom."
John swung his gaze back to Moriarty just in time to see the man and the flickering orange light move towards the center of the room. Slowly his wide eyes settled heavily on something in the middle of the dark room. After another moment of sluggish thought, John finally realized with a slightly start that it was a stubby white candle in front of him. His forehead scrunched up in confusion as he tried to search Jim's slightly gleeful face.
"I'm so glad you're finally awake, Doctor." The man's voice trickled down into an interesting mix between glee and faux ruefulness. "It would take away all of the fun of the game if you weren't awake to hear the stakes," the sly grin stretched further across James Moriarty's face.
Something about the way Moriarty said the word "stakes" made John shiver. However, he suppressed the tremor that threatened to wrack through his body with a nervous swallow. "What do you want, Moriarty?" The doctor demanded, trying his best to glare at the man in front of him without any hint of fear.
"We both all know how good our mutual friend is at solving riddles, but that's become so boring." Rolling his eyes to the ceiling, Jim shrugged good-naturedly, as if he had finally become uninterested in a game he had been playing. John finally realized with a start that the orange flickering object that was providing light was a long red candle. John's gaze darted from the red candle in Moriarty's grasp to the shorter, fatter candle resting on the floor. Now the doctor noticed that three loops ran from the back of the white candle, rigging the candle to the three homemade bombs around him. John ripped his eyes from the white candle and back to Moriarty.
The criminal consultant was smiling a sickly sweet smile at the retired army doctor. "Have you figured it out yet, my dear doctor? I know your brain is nothing compared to mine or our mutual friend's, but surely you must be somewhat of a smart man to be acquaintances with the great Sherlock Holmes." John clenched his teeth, a muscle in his jaw spastically jumping.
"What do you want, Moriarty?" he repeated.
Instead of answering the question, James bent over and lightly touched the flame of the red candle to the pale, waxy wick of the white candle. Instantly, the flame jumped with a sizzle, and soon another yellow glow filled the room. Immediately the newly lit flame began eating away at its wick and wax.
"Shall we let Sherlock know where you are? He's probably worried sick about his little pet—you've been gone for almost three days." Setting the red candle down, Moriarty rummaged in his expensive suit pocket for a moment before extracting an older, slightly scratched phone with a disconnected battery. John's phone. The genius put back in the battery pushed the on button, and for a moment the only sound to be heard was the shrill, bright beeping of the phone starting up.
"I had to turn it off, you see. If I didn't, Sherlock would have already found you, and then our game would be ruined, because," Moriarty licked his dry lips, "Big Brother Mycroft likes to cheat." Jim glanced down at the recent messages. "15 messages in voicemail? Sherlock must be very worried about his pet." John's eyes narrowed sharply. Jim deftly punched in Sherlock's number with his thumb and hit "speaker." After one ring, Sherlock's tinny voice sounded on the phone.
"John? Where are you?"
For some strange reason, John almost had the stupid urge to cry. Hearing Sherlock's voice, albeit disconnected and distant, caused a daub of his fear to ebb. He stared at Moriarty, waiting for the madman to speak. Since the three had already been introduced, he assumed that he was no longer needed to serve as a mouth.
"John isn't able to talk at the moment. Can I take a message?"
There was a short pause, then "Moriarty."
"This is he," the sociopath grinned. He was enjoying this.
"What have you done to John?" Sherlock demanded. John wasn't sure if it was just because of a bad connection, but it sounded as if Sherlock's voice was shaking. "Where is he?"
"He's fine—aren't you John?" Silence. "You can speak, doctor," Moriarty sounded slightly annoyed. He waved John's phone around by the restrained doctor's face.
"I'm fine, Sherlock," John grounded out a moment later.
"Are you hurt, John? What has he done to you?"
Watson was about to answer, but Moriarty pulled the phone back. "Let's not waste time here, Sherlock. It is such a valuable thing to be burning." A wicked smile pulled on the corners of the man's mouth.
"What do you want, Jim?" Sherlock's voice was low and dangerous.
"I have a few nursery rhymes for you. If you're a good boy and heed them, you might be able to get your doctor back."
There was a pause, then a quick "Go on."
"I've changed the wording a bit, but maybe you'll recognize a few of these. The first one goes as follows: Sherlock be nimble, Sherlock be quick. The good doctor is chained by the candlestick."
John shuddered at the twisted children's rhyme, and he was fairly certain that his friend over the phone was equally repulsed.
"That's a poorly rewritten nursery rhyme for children. What do you expect me to deduce from it?"
Moriarty's face darkened, and John's gut turned sharply. If he wasn't chained to a wall in a room with something highly explosive as well as three crates of C4, he would have groaned at his friend's response. I wish you didn't insult his poetry skills, Sherlock.
"Will this help you 'deduce' a bit faster?" In a quick movement, Jim picked up the red candle and took a step towards John. Spotting an open slice in the doctor's ripped pants, he tilted the red candle over the hole. Slowly, the sizzling crimson wax drizzled off the candle and onto Watson's exposed skin. The doctor drew in a sharp breath with his teeth clamped together. Moriarty held the phone close to John's mouth in order to let Sherlock hear his friend's weak whimper as the scalding wax ran like blood into a preexisting cut.
"What are you doing to him?!" Sherlock's tinny voice echoed through the room. He sounded enraged, his voice uncharacteristically colored with emotion.
"Nothing permanent," Jim replied with a smirk, straightening up, but still refusing to release the candle from his grip. John let out a shuddering breath as he tried to divert his mind from the fire lancing up and down his leg. He dully focused on the white candle a few feet from him. Already, over a third of the candle had melted down. Less and less of the wick was visible. A slow bead of ivory wax traced its way down the thick side of the candle, landing in a small pool at the base of the candle. The moment the bead touched the cool concrete of the warehouse floor, it hardened into a shiny, smooth disk.
John pulled himself back into the current action just as Moriarty was delivering another riddle. "Hickory dickery dock. Sherlock's against the clock. When the wick is gone, so will be John. Hickory dickery dock."
"Tell me where he is! These riddles are pointless children games."
James shook his head, disappointedly. "Tsk, tsk, Sherlock. If you can't follow the rules, the other players have to pay." He leered gleefully at John, who had another sinking feeling that Sherlock's retorts were going to cause him pain.
Instead of dribbling wax on John, the criminal consultant completely skipped the middleman and pressed the burning flame against the doctor's neck for a brief second. However brief, the sharp, jolting pain and the unbearable aftereffects of his scalded nerves caused the chained man to scream. Even after Moriarty had pulled the horrible weapon off of John's charred skin, the doctor was still trembling from shock. The disgusting smell of burnt flesh nearly made the man gag. When he tried to swallow another scream, the pain from the burn in his neck only made things worse. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and glared at Moriarty through tear-filled eyelids. The pain made his head giddy, and he was almost grateful for the chains to keep him upright.
"Do you promise to play by the rules now?"
A choked out "Yes" was all John could hear through the phone. He could hazily picture Sherlock pacing frantically across the creaking floors of their flat, absently tearing dark curl after dark curl out.
James Moriarty sounded pleased once he got Sherlock's swear of compliance. "After I tell you my last little rhyme, and if you can figure out the story, then I'll let your friend tell you where he is." He waited for something to confirm that Sherlock was listening, but carried on after a moment's pause. "Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. The warehouse is on fire, and the doctor shall burn."
Fighting through the beginnings of shock that were invading his senses. John noted dismally that the nursery rhymes got increasingly darker. He focused his bleary stare on the phone, as if Sherlock would suddenly jump from the speaker pad.
"I take it you've figured out the story. Even someone as ordinary as your little military doctor would have figured it out by now." Moriarty smiled not unkindly at the bound army veteran.
"I have. You have managed to rig up explosives to a simple candlewick. Somehow you've been able to calculate the life of the candlewick or have been able to create a candle with your desired time length. The fire will eventually completely consume the wick, creating a sort of deadman switch where the bomb is nearly unstoppable. Therefore, a time to detonate must be established. However, a wise trigger man always prepares for the worst and the best case scenario in deciding a time, so you've used a time that is of medium amount. Not too long, not too short. My guess is on the longer side, so you would have guaranteed time to escape, yet still carry on this lengthy conversation which provided nothing but a perfect opportunity to track Doctor Watson's phone." Sherlock sounded slightly triumphant—the way he did after every time he used his analysis skills to crack something tough.
John didn't like the smile that rose on Moriarty's face. "Impressive. I wonder by which nursery rhyme you had it all figured out. Probably by the end of the second one." A grunt on the other side of the line affirmed Moriarty's prediction. "However, your lengthy attempt to create a diversion was futile. No doubt you're now staring at the results produced by whatever software you stole from your brother to track signals. I can safely assure you that we are not in Ulm, Germany." He paused. "I hope you caught the joke."
"Ulm resides on the Danube River, also known as the 'Great Mother' river. Also in Ulm, Germany is the tower of Geese Gate. Mother Goose. Clever." Sherlock's words were dripping with sarcasm. "I played your game—now tell me where John is."
James pouted slightly. "The game is no fun when you don't play along." John tensed slightly, but relaxed when the consulting criminal shrugged again. "Oh well. Fair is fair, I guess." The madman reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of starch white paper. On it, scribbled in neat handwriting, was the location of the warehouse. Watson strained his eyes to read it. He was only fifteen kilometers from the flat that Sherlock and he shared. John's gaze darted back to the relatively ignored white candle in the center of the room. He could only guess he had been talking to Moriarty for thirty or so minutes. Already the candle was two-thirds gone. There wasn't even a quarter of an hour left until the wick would burn down and the warehouse would go up in flames.
"Here, Doctor Watson. Tell Sherlock just where you are," Moriarty grinned. In that second, John finally realized how crafty and how insane the madman before him was. If he told Sherlock the location of the warehouse where he was imprisoned, the world's only consulting detective would arrive just in time to see the setup of the trap before the warehouse would combust. No doubt the moment the location of the warehouse left John's lips, Sherlock would be in a cab heading towards the warehouse within seconds. Moriarty intended to use John as the ultimate bait to kill Sherlock, relying on powerful emotions such as John's fear and Sherlock's desperation to guarantee their deaths.
"John? Where are you?"
John glanced back over to James. The consulting criminal was waiting patiently for John to decide his friend's fate. Suddenly, a deep font of courage ran through John's veins. He was probably going to die, but that didn't mean Sherlock had to as well. Staring stonily into Moriarty's dark eyes, John lied.
"The warehouse is in Newham." Moriarty's eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed dangerously. John was afraid he was going to correct him or torture him again, but the consulting criminal remained silent.
"Newham?" It was a good half-hour away by cab. "Where in Newham, John? Talk to me, please."
John thought for a moment, trying to remember a street the last time he was in Newham. All he could remember where glimpses from the past Olympics. "Beckton."
"Are you sure?"
John's gaze slowly slid towards the rapidly shrinking candle. There was a huge, white pool all along the bottom where the base had once been. "I'm sure." As if it were a second thought, John added a "hurry" to spur Sherlock faster to the safe house.
"Stay on with me John—are you hurt?"
John glanced back to Jim, but the man was already stepping back into the shadows. By the candles' unforgiving glow, John thought he saw James mouth something, but he couldn't be sure. He turned his attention back to his phone, resting right beside his left knee. Moriarty must've put it there as he left, but John didn't notice the action.
"John! Are you there? Are you hurt?"
The doctor swallowed painfully, the stinging burn on the outside of his neck still smarting. "I'm…fine. Moriarty's gone."
"I'll be there soon—just hold on. Everything will be alright."
John watched the flame in the little white candle sputter. It was starting to drown itself in the hot wax it was producing. It sputtered again, but then it started to hiss as it found a new length of the wick to consume. John sighed, chastising himself for allowing the brief hope in his heart to believe that the flame would put itself out. Moriarty was too intricate and meticulous in his plots to ever allow for error.
Sherlock was still talking on the other side, but John only heard every other word.
"What? Oh, sorry," Doctor Watson paused for a moment. "I think an hour," he lied again. There was less than a centimeter left of the wick. It was bound to go any moment.
"I'll get there just in time. Everything will be alright."
"Just keep talking to me, John. Do you know where in Beckton the warehouse is?"
"Sherlock, I have to te—"
"This would be so much easier if you could tell me where the warehouse is. Surely Moriarty must have said something that would have given you a clue. Even if you don't know, tell me everything he said, word for word. Maybe I'll be able to catch somethi—"
"Sherlock!" The dark-haired man on the other side of the line immediately stopped talking. "I…lied. I'm not in Beckton. I'm not even in Newham." John could faintly hear the sound of shouting and car brakes. It sounded as if Sherlock almost caused the cab driver to crash. .
"Was it a trick by Moriarty? Tell me where you really are, John. Hurry!" Sherlock sounded frantic now. "Where are you, John?"
"I'm not going to tell you where I am, else you'll try to find me."
"But you have an hour left. I could have found you easi—" There was another pause as Sherlock broke off. "You lied about that too." It was a statement more so than a question.
"It was the only way to keep you away." John's eyes were burning, but he didn't know why. He was supposed to feel happy that he was about to die heroically. He defied Moriarty's plan, and saved Sherlock's life. He should not have been crying.
"Would you please tell Mrs. Hudson thank you for everything she's done. She truly is a saint. Thank Lestrade, Mycroft, and Molly for me too."
"Oh, and would you mind telling Harriet what happened? Who knows—you two might hit it off." Something in John's voice cracked and he held back a small sob. "Be sure to ask her about the story with the goat feed and the silver spoons."
"I will," Sherlock's voice was quiet and tiny.
"And Sherlock? Even though you were absolutely the worst flat mate I've ever had," John paused to hiccup, trying to disguise it as a laugh. The flame was completely hidden in the pool of semi-dried wax. All he could see was a faint yellow glow above the pale, sickly candle. John breathed out deeply through his nose and closed his eyes.
"Thank you for being my best friend, Sher—"
"Thank you for being my best friend, Sher—"
The dark-haired detective stared down at his phone in complete shock and sorrow. "John…?"
He waited for that last syllable, but it never came.
Sorry for that stupid, sappy, cheesy ending. Hopefully you guys like it :D I even did my research on European geography. Not bad for an American teenager, huh?
Thank you so much for reading! Comments and critique are greatly appreciated.