Title: Long Way Down
Warnings: Angst, slash (can be read as gen), kidnapping, post-Reichanbach, Reichanbach feels, Sherlock/John (can be read as friendship), one-sided Moriarty/Sherlock, threatened Moriarty/John dub-con, character death, violence.
Word Count: ~4,600
Summary: John is kidnapped by a destructively bored Moriarty in an ill-conceived effort to draw Sherlock out from 'hiding' after The Fall. John POV. Part One of series "Five Times Someone Was Kidnapped (And One Time They Weren't)."
Disclaimer: I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.
One: Long Way Down
John licked his lips, and they didn't taste of sand.
This shouldn't have been as much of a relief as it was. It definitely shouldn't have left disappointment lingering in the lines of his tense
muscles and clenched jaw.
But a lot of things weren't the way they should be.
John steadied his breathing, adopting a calm inhale-exhale pattern to remind himself that even though he could feel the sun on his skin, this wasn't the desert, and he wasn't a soldier here. He was just John Watson again. Hard-working. Unassuming. Nothing more than that.
It took longer than was strictly reasonable for John to realise that being able to lick his lips at all meant he wasn't gagged, that he could speak or shout if he wanted to. He didn't, of course. Best to assess the situation first. But he could.
The blindfold was another matter. It was wrapped tightly, expertly. The fabric burrowed into his skin. John's vision would be of no use to him, but that was fine, yes, perfectly fine. He could work with that.
A breeze chilled the sweat on his forehead. The air was heavy with he scent of London's ever-present smog. He could sense no one near him, but that was no guarantee he was alone.
He wondered who it was this time.
An unknown hostile? Possible.
Mycroft, maybe? A little extreme, but John wouldn't put it past him. He had meant to return Mycroft's call the other day, he really had, but
surely if it was something important enough to kidnap him for, the man would have just sent Anthea. Or, you know, left a message. This was just a huge waste of tax dollars. John should really have a talk with him about that.
The fluctuating sounds of traffic were slightly muffled by the blindfold, but clear enough to recognize. He was close to a public area, but his kidnappers wouldn't just leave him out in the open, exposed, would they?
John flexed his fingers, finding them cold and numb, swollen from lack of circulation. He tugged at the thin but unyielding ropes binding his wrists and legs as he shifted side-to-side in the chair, trying to find the weakness in the design.
There was weakness in every design. Something small, usually—overlooked and exploitable, if only one had the patience to seek it out. Sherlock taught him that. If John leaned just a little to the right, there was some slack in the—
"I wouldn't move around too much if I were you," a familiar voice whispered near John's ear, leaving a puff of moist breath against his cheek that felt real but couldn't be. "It's a long way down."
It wasn't Moriarty. It wasn't. It couldn't possibly be. There was a body and John saw it and—
The blindfold came off with a flourish and John's eyes snapped open.
Moriarty blocked out the sun.
"Moriarty," John stated the obvious in an unintentionally hoarse voice.
All that time, all those months spent mentally rewriting that day and ranting at shadows, and he couldn't think of anything else to say. I hate you? I'll kill you? I sleep better when I dream about having put a bullet in your brain myself, you sick bastard?
"Johnny-boy," Moriarty returned with a flash of white teeth. "Been a while. No Christmas cards, no dinner invites, not a single phone call. Did I really mean so little to you?"
"You're dead," John informed him, a statement and a question and a threat all tied up in one seething yet calmly-delivered package.
"Oh come now," Moriarty started, leaning into John's space until his expensive cologne was overwhelming. "You didn't really believe that, did you? How quaint."
John glanced down, attempting to maintain some form of distance between them, and discovered both a pleasant lack of Semtex and a less pleasant scattering of red laser-sight beams across his chest. John considered the implications of this.
The threat of imminent death didn't suppress his instinct to claw his way out of the chair and beat Moriarty to death with his bare hands the way it used to. John strained against the ropes, only succeeding in making them that much tighter. He'd need a better plan.
Moriarty took a step back, his grin wide and slightly feral. "Just you and me up here—and a dozen strategically located snipers, of course," he said. "Don't be shy, though. They aren't listening in."
John sought out indications of where Moriarty's snipers were stationed amongst the tall buildings—if he could just work out what he was up against, sort it all out in his head, then maybe...maybe—when it suddenly occurred to him exactly where in London they were.
"Took you long enough to notice," Moriarty said. "I figured it might provoke a little nostalgia, remind you of all the fun we had together," he continued, pacing in front of John's chair. "Just trying to keep you entertained. We might be here a while, after all."
Here. It was here. This was the exact spot and Moriarty wasn't dead and what did that even mean?
Moriarty grinned at him, conspiratorially, like he and John shared a secret. There was an intimacy in his eyes that John just didn't know what to do with.
He looked away, tried to think, imagined slamming Moriarty's skull into the concrete until it cracked and spilled—but no, that wasn't helpful right now. A plan. He needed a plan.
John could hear them now, the people down below, walking and chatting and going about their lives. They had to be able to see him this close to the edge. A man tied to a chair on the roof of a busy hospital—that had to look suspicious, didn't it?
Perhaps if he could just get their attention, get somebody to call the Yard, then Lestrade could come and set up a perimeter and keep
Moriarty from escaping and...no, it couldn't be that easy. This was Moriarty, the devil himself. If John appeared to be in any position to seek outside assistance, it was because Moriarty wanted it that way.
"I'll yell," John threatened, testing the waters.
Moriarty only smiled condescendingly. "And someone might hear you," he agreed, rocking back on his heels. "But they won't help you. And I know you wouldn't want anybody getting hurt, would you, doctor? But by all means, go ahead. I have been so looking forward to hearing you scream."
John understood. He understood perfectly. Moriarty had placed freedom just beyond his grasp, because if he didn't give John hope, he couldn't delight in taking it away.
This was all a game to him. Always a game. Moriarty had already defeated his only rival and somehow walked away. And this was, what,
tying up loose ends?
John huffed and finally asked, "What do you want?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Moriarty's playful countenance shifted into one of derision. "Honestly, I don't know why he keeps you around. There have got to be thousands of more qualified sidekicks in this city. What makes you so special, Johnny? Why would he choose you?"
John didn't know the answer to that question, but he couldn't imagine why Moriarty would care, anyway. And yet, there was genuine curiosity in Moriarty's expression when he said it, as though this small question had been weighing on the mind of the criminal genius for quite some time and the answer still eluded him.
John took a closer look at the man towering over him. He appeared considerably taller from this angle, but then, that was probably the point.
He wore some fancy designer suit and polished shoes, just as John remembered him. But he seemed...different, somehow. Like his back wasn't quite as straight anymore. His suit was slightly too large for him, hanging off his already thin frame. The bottom hem of his left trouser leg was slightly frayed. He hadn't shaved since yesterday, at least.
Odd. This could mean...maybe it meant...something.
John wasn't like Sherlock. He wasn't fantastic, or amazing, or brilliant. He couldn't just look at someone and read their lives in the creases of their suits. And he tried, god, he'd been trying.
But John could see something else, something deeper, a cold desperation darkening the man's already dark brown irises. Something that looked suspiciously like loneliness. Was that even possible? Could the devil actually feel?
After a long, uncomfortable silence, Moriarty stepped back. He pulled out his mobile, holding the phone sideways and snapping a picture of John while John wondered what role he was meant to play in this particular sick fantasy of Moriarty's—and yes, it was bound to be sick. This was Moriarty. It was only a matter of time. The more that he thought about it, the more certain John was that the involvement of photography in any form did not bode particularly—
"There. It shouldn't be long now before Sherlock decides to come out and play."
Several seconds passed before John remembered to breathe. He couldn't help but ask, "I'm sorry, but you…you aren't serious, are you?"
"Why wouldn't I be? No one else is any fun to play with. It's been so boring, Johnny, I—well, I suppose you would know, wouldn't you?"
This couldn't be...no. This was bloody insane. He was insane. "Moriarty…"
"Shush now. Be a good little pet and smile for the camera."
Sherlock was gone. There was a body and John saw it, he pressed his fingers against its skin and found it empty...and yet, Moriarty wasn't dead.
The possibilities hit him all at once, bright and brilliant and excruciating.
For a moment he thought, maybe, and yes, and please let it be true.
But it wasn't.
He knew this.
He had been here before, and not just metaphorically.
John had stood on this rooftop nine times since it happened. Once for research, again for more research, a third time in a half-hearted attempt to cut through the denial at his therapist's request. And the rest, well, he had his reasons.
This was just part of the game like everything else. Moriarty wasn't a stupid man. He knew full well Sherlock wasn't 'coming out to play.' No. Moriarty was cruel. And this, this was cruelty.
And so they waited. His dead friend didn't make an appearance, and if John had ever held out a tiny bit of hope that maybe Moriarty wasn't just messing with him, well, he'd never admit it.
Though clearly delusional, even Moriarty had to recognise that this wasn't going to turn out as he had planned.
Moriarty feigned distraction, staring into the sky, alternately frowning and smirking, then glaring at John's perfectly innocuous white jumper as though it had personally offended him, all the while texting on his mobile.
Or maybe he wasn't feigning anything, and all this was just one more demonstration of madness, and Christ, this wasn't going to end well at all.
Moriarty was growing restless, but so was John. Just how long was he going to let this play out, pretending to wait for someone that they both knew would never come? Until John had finally lost his mind, too? He silently fumed until he couldn't take it anymore. This was too much.
"You're really going to make me say it?" John demanded.
Moriarty paused mid-pace. "Say what?"
John breathed slowly, evenly. "He's dead."
Moriarty rolled his eyes. "Don't be stupid."
John could feel the recoil in his muscles as another thread of control snapped. "I'm a doctor," he ground out. "I know when someone is dead. We buried him, for Christ's sake. Why am I even trying to convince you of this? You know he's dead."
Moriarty ignored him, texting on his mobile as though he wasn't concerned in the slightest. And likely, he wasn't.
This was ridiculous. He had to keep it together. All Moriarty wanted from him was a reaction. That was all the man ever wanted. A goddamn reaction. Moriarty had already taken enough. John wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
John schooled his features into indifference, corrected his posture, and stared straight ahead.
Within seconds, Moriarty was by his side, looking intently at John's face, pacing around his chair. John refused to acknowledge him.
In his peripheral vision, John could just make out Moriarty's manic grin.
He leaned in close again, too close, bracing one hand against the back of John's chair, and the other on John's thigh. His breath smelled of peppermint and ash. "I see you're still working that sexy-soldier angle. Looks good on you."
John's brow furrowed as he briefly reconsidered his strategy.
"Oh no," Moriarty said, "don't stop. I like that."
Right. Not so effective, then. Moriarty was decidedly undeterred from interacting with him, but ignoring the psychopath did have its own inherent benefits.
"Bet Sherlock likes that, too."
Despite himself, John's gaze flicked to Moriarty's before dropping quickly away. He stared at a grey vent on the other side of the roof with unwarranted intensity.
"Makes for all kinds of fun games," Moriarty continued. "Do you and he play soldiers? Brothers-in-arms huddled together in a trench somewhere, taking solace in each other's skin, sucking each other off like your lives depend on it. Sherlock does have such a pretty mouth. Or—oh! I know. You're a soldier trapped behind enemy lines, tortured for information and getting off on it, until the enemy finally takes—"
John didn't have to listen to this. He set his jaw, ignoring the words, the proximity, the pressure of Moriarty's hand rubbing his thigh.
Any reaction on his part would only be taken as encouragement.
Instead, John wondered what had become of the groceries he'd had in his hands before being swept off the street by aggressive strangers—and wasn't that always the case? Grocery shopping should not be such a life-threatening activity. He'd even started carrying his gun with him when he left the house, but, well, that didn't always help as much as he wished, especially when blindsided by thugs. The eggs were probably a lost cause. The milk might not have spoiled, but—
"Don't ignore me."
The outburst was expected. What John hadn't seen coming was the rather impressive backhand that followed, snapping his head to the right with enough force to give him whiplash and an instant headache.
Judging by the blank expression on Moriarty's face, he hadn't been expecting that either.
He stepped back, seeming both surprised and pleased with himself.
John was pretty sure this was the kind of thing Mr. I-Don't-Like-To-Get-My-Hands-Dirty usually left to his associates. They'd probably do a better job of it. Though John would still prefer a couple of master assassins beating the hell out of him to having to be within five feet of the man in front of him right now.
"Sherlock's ignoring me," Moriarty declared, as though this was a revelation, and not a pleasant one. Suddenly he was bouncing with energy, twitching and talking faster than John could follow, muttering, "...hate being ignored...fine, that's just fine...won't come out to play, then I'll make him regret it, yes...unless…oh! Oh, of course! Not impressed, Sherlock?" Moriarty laughed shrilly. "Clearly he needs a little more incentive." He turned to John and the mania melted into something focused and dark that made John's stomach drop. Moriarty reached into his suit jacket, pulling out a steel switchblade with one smooth motion. "Johnny, let's give him some incentive, shall we?"
Moriarty plunged the blade into John's thigh, tearing through his trousers, slicing through skin and into the muscle where Moriarty's hand had been earlier. John bit his tongue against the searing pain, cursing and curling in on himself instinctively as much as the ropes would allow. The entire left side of his body spasmed and burned. It hurt just as much coming out as it did going in.
John wondered fleetingly if this was meant to be some kind of punishment for not responding to his advances, or if Moriarty was just going to start stabbing at random and Jesus Christ, what the hell?
He forced himself to breathe through his clenched teeth, fighting back the nausea until the pain morphed into a dull throbbing numbness.
He had to think, had to focus.
Right. Blood loss. Arteries. Very important.
Should do something about that, yes.
With every nerve in his thigh on fire, it was difficult to determine exactly where the wound was, or, more importantly, its proximity to his femoral artery. Moriarty would know this, of course, and would have aimed accordingly, because even his most impulsive actions were layered with bad intentions.
The question that remained was whether Moriarty wanted to kill him quickly or slowly. John was banking on the latter. The pace of the blood blossoming through the thick fabric of his trousers seemed to support this theory, though it might not make much difference if he didn't get any pressure on the wound. Unlikely that Moriarty would be of any use with that, the sodding crazy bastard.
"Oh, he'll be so angry when he sees what I've done to his little pet!" Moriarty bragged, pacing excitedly once more.
"He isn't coming," John hissed. "God, what is wrong with you?"
"Isn't he adorable when he's angry?"
"Sherlock is dead!" The force of his own voice shocked him. John hadn't meant to shout. He couldn't afford to get emotionally invested in this game, but Jesus, it was far too late for that. There was no going back. He was all in now.
Moriarty had stopped pacing and just stood there, staring and wide-eyed, like John was the deranged one. This was Moriarty's fault. Everything was his fault.
For so long, he'd had all that rage and nowhere to put it, because Moriarty was already dead. But this...this changed everything.
Moriarty was going to die today. Permanently. John would see to that. All he needed was an opportunity.
Sherlock would have played the game and made it his own. Moriarty had to believe he was winning. That's where John's opening would be. He needed to see that John had been broken. He had to be convinced, and if it wasn't real, it wouldn't be convincing.
John needed to let Moriarty break him.
"You killed him," John accused in a controlled tone. "It was your fault. You did this."
That wasn't entirely true, and John knew it. He trusted that Moriarty would, too.
Oh yes, Moriarty was responsible. But that didn't mean it wasn't John's fault that Sherlock jumped. If he'd just been less of a fool, not
so bloody slow, he could have stopped him or intercepted somehow and—but it was too late now.
Sherlock was gone. As in: buried, decayed, never coming back. Yet some small secret part of him still held out hope that Sherlock would break through that door at any moment.
Maybe he and Moriarty had something in common after all.
Moriarty cocked his head like he just couldn't help himself. His smirk turned predatory. "You don't sound very convinced. Have you been blaming yourself all this time? Aw, how precious. And rightly so."
John's first order of business was to get out of the chair. If he was fast enough, accurate enough in his attack, the snipers wouldn't be able to stop him in time.
The blood loss was making him a bit woozy, and the edges of his vision were softer than he remembered, but he couldn't let that slow him down. John could barely flex his fingers now. He tried anyway, working up the dexterity.
If he couldn't break free of the ropes himself, then he'd just have to convince Moriarty to untie him, wouldn't he? Yeah. Couldn't be that hard, right?
"You turned out to be quite useless to him, didn't you? More of a liability, really."
The words slithered through John's mind, slipping and sliding and not quite catching on to his thoughts. They didn't cut like he needed them to, but Moriarty seemed to take John's furrowed brow and strained concentration as a sign of progress. Good. Let him do all the work.
"It's no wonder Sherlock didn't share his plans with you. Or take you with him. Stray dogs do get so tiresome after a while."
John blinked away the fog, squinting to regain focus. He slumped gradually in his chair, clenching his jaw so tight his teeth ached and refusing to make eye contact.
He could still hear the grin in Moriarty's voice.
"Now, don't pout," Moriarty instructed, taking John's jaw in hand and forcibly tilting his head so John would look up at him. "Sherlock doesn't want you anymore, but if you're a very good boy, I might just keep you myself."
John flinched at that, and it wasn't entirely an act.
"I would take much better care of you than Sherlock ever did. I certainly wouldn't pretend to jump off a building just to get away from you. What do you say, Johnny-boy?" he offered in a sweet, silky voice. "Prepared to earn your keep?" He released John from his grip and stepped back, his gaze appraising. John shifted uncomfortably, feeling exposed.
After a long moment of consideration, John stiffly nodded his head, his eyes focused on the ground.
He cleared his throat, and requested, "Untie me. Please."
"Ah, no," came Moriarty's immediate response.
John tried again, "We're surrounded by snipers. We both know I have no chance of hurting you. If you—I—please, just...just untie me."
Moriarty scoffed. "Why on earth would I do that?"
John ducked his head, his cheeks hot and stinging. But it wasn't shame he felt, of course. No, he was flushed from the heat—the sun beating down on him in his wool sweater—and from the adrenaline burning in his veins, forcing his heart to pump that much faster. Because this was a trick, a lie, nothing more. This was just playing the game.
In a rush of whispered breath, John offered, "I'll show you."
"What was that?"
A little stronger, he repeated, "If you let me, I will show you."
Moriarty raised an eyebrow. "Show me...?"
"Why..." John trailed off, meeting Moriarty's gaze through his eyelashes, head still bowed. John's tongue flicked over his lips in a gesture so minute it could easily be interpreted as purely subconscious. He broke eye contact abruptly. "Why Sherlock...kept me around."
The grin that spread across Moriarty's face was one of pure delight. "Ah, so that's it, is it? I always imagined that Sherlock preferred you on your knees."
The nausea was getting worse. The blood loss must have been more serious than he thought.
No matter. John could handle this.
John looked up at him, his expression earnest. "I can't feel my hands, could you—?"
Moriarty looked as though he was still deciding whether to untie him at all—imagining, no doubt, the look of shock and revulsion on Sherlock's face had he been alive to watch them, and comparing the risks with the sheer satisfaction of finding one more way to destroy the only
mind that had ever rivalled his own.
But his eyes said everything John needed to know. This was an opportunity for cruelty. It was in his nature. Moriarty couldn't resist.
He bent down and cut John's feet free with the same switchblade he'd buried in John's leg, drawing it out like John knew he would.
"Quite the little exhibitionist, aren't you?" Moriarty whispered into John's ear as he stood. "I did have my suspicions." He paused before finally moving on to John's wrists. "Do be well behaved, Johnny. I'd hate to have to start cutting parts off so early in our relationship."
Moriarty wasn't gentle. John gritted his teeth as the blade slid into his skin on its way through the ropes: a warning. Both their hands would be slick with John's blood now, simply because Moriarty was a sick bastard and wanted it that way.
"There. Good, very good." Moriarty stood, placing a hand on John's shoulder and motioning him up. "Now show me."
John followed his order, careful and precise in his movements despite the pain in his leg, turning to Moriarty and standing face-to-face. Moriarty smirked, his lips quirking up slowly on one side, leaving his countenance as unbalanced as his mind.
"Well, go on," he prodded. "Impress me."
John grabbed the lapels of Moriarty's suit jacket and proceeded to show him exactly why Sherlock kept him around.
He charged forward in one fluid motion and Moriarty stumbled back until the only thing keeping him from plummeting over the edge was John's grip.
John's hands were steadier than he felt. He held Moriarty at arm's length, and he hadn't been shot down yet, so things were going surprisingly well so far.
"This again? Really, John?" Moriarty laughed, but it was hollow. He seemed so much smaller now. Fragile, in the way most things were when dropped from great heights. "Surely you don't think you can walk me out of the building like this?"
"No," John told him. "I don't."
"Don't you know by now how this works? Go ahead," he dared. "Let go. You won't survive to tell about it, but then, there won't be anyone left for you to tell, either. I have eyes all over this city, dozens of fingers on dozens of triggers, and honey, I'm always watching. Everyone you've ever met, cared about, loved. Everyone. I'll take them all."
He said it as though it meant something. As though there was anything left to take away. But John understood now. People die. That's what people do.
In the end, he couldn't protect Sherlock. Not from Moriarty. Not from himself. But maybe he could make it up to him now. And maybe that would be enough.
John let go, and cherished the look of surprise on Moriarty's face.
There was no fanfare, no cataclysmic explosion, no tremor in the earth to mark the end of the world's only criminal consultant. The air barely parted for him.
Moriarty slammed into the ground with a dull thud as John watched.
He was half-certain he heard the shattering of bones, the wet sound of the shards piercing internal organs, but his own blood loss had reached a state of more than a bit not good, so he couldn't say for sure.
A red pool spread slowly across the concrete below, and this time he knew it was real since he was the one to put it there.
Why hadn't they killed him yet? What the hell were they waiting for?
John was breathing hard. He didn't know why. He felt fine. Calm, even.
John waited for the bullets, because he didn't expect to walk away from this. He didn't want to walk away anymore. It was too much, and he was too tired, and he was never as strong as Sherlock believed him to be.
His eyes remained locked on the man with a cracked skull bleeding out on the pavement as a small crowd gathered. John swayed slightly as the wind picked up.
He wondered for the thousandth time what it would feel like to walk off this ledge, to fall, to stay fallen.
He wondered what Sherlock felt, and his eyes drifted closed.
A hand slipped tentatively into his. For a moment John was convinced that a bullet had torn through his chest, ripping through flesh and bone and muscle, bursting out the other side.
But then he was still breathing. And so was the man standing next to him.
"Let's go home, John."