A/N Last part! I tried to tie it in to "The Empty House" (the original story, that is), but I'm not really sure how I did with it.
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc.
He doesn't bother to question the impossibility of Holmes's return, mostly because a part of him knew it was going to happen all along. Sherlock Holmes is too smart—has always been too smart, too smart even for Jim Moriarty, and the idea that he could be defeated by such a direct plan was stupid, ridiculous. And, Moran reminds himself, Holmes is also selfish. Despite whatever fondness he may harbor for particular people, he's still a psychopath, or a sociopath, or whatever title he gives himself nowadays. He's not the sort of man to lay down his life for others, especially not others as mundane as Watson and Hudson and Lestrade. He's too damn clever.
But this… this just might be his one fatal slip-up.
Moran spends nearly an hour just selecting the gun for the job. Practicality isn't a concern—even after doing nothing for a quarter of a year, he knows weapons well, and he'll be able to blast Holmes's brains out with the most dysfunctional of guns. So he chooses the one he'll use on personal preference alone—chooses the one that will be the most satisfying to commit his final murder with. His final two murders, that is, because he hasn't forgotten the other part of his plan—as soon as he fires the shot, as soon as he sees blood fly from Holmes's lips and light evaporate from his eyes, Moran will turn the gun around, on the final victim, on himself, and pull the trigger.
Going out with his own gunshot. A final display of skill. It will be just as prideful, he figures, as it will be relaxing.
After a while—far too long, with anxiety ramping up to overcome the euphoria in the back of his mind as the seconds tick away—he finally settles on his weapon of choice. A Fabbri Over-Under shotgun—the most ridiculous thing he owns, undoubtedly. Expensive—he can practically feel the weight of tens of thousands of dollars in his hands as he opens its buckled wooden case, his fingers running over the sleek walnut-and-steel of the magnificent weapon. It's more expensive than anything he'd ever buy for himself, but it wasn't purchased of his own will—no, it was a gift, from Jim, back… before. Moran can still recall the smirk that twisted his boss's thin mouth when he presented the luxurious item, the words murmured under his breath—"Only a few are made every year. I ordered this one special—thought it was appropriate for the world's greatest sniper."
He sucks in a quick breath, squeezing his eyes as his fingers curl around the barrel of the graceful weapon. This is it. His revenge. Sherlock Holmes is the man responsible for Jim's death, and so he'll be murdered with a weapon gifted to Moran by the same man. It's perfect.
It really is a beautiful thing, too. The steel is swirled in subtle patterns of brown and blue, and the wood glows with a faintly golden warmth, radiating from the dark gloss. Of course, it's not the best for assassinations—a recreational gun at best—but he'll be able to make it work. He lifts it, balancing it delicately between his fingers like it's made of gold, when it's probably more valuable even than that, and carries it into his bedroom, which he hasn't touched in weeks.
The place is probably the cleanest in the whole flat, if one ignores the layer of silvery dust gracing every surface and giving it the overall impression of abandonment. It's bizarre—incredibly disconcerting, how the place can be so unfamiliar, so unreal when he's been only a few yards away from it all this time.
He paces over to the closet, throwing it open and removing one of the dark jackets hanging inside. It's long—practically an overcoat, though it comes to a halt before his knees. It's one of his most prized articles of clothing, not that he has many—and another of Jim's purchases for him. Made of dark, durable fabric, simple but tough, and with a conveniently sewn pocket on the inside, perfect for hiding an oversized gun, as he does now.
It's not until the gun is in place and the jacket pulled over his shoulders that he reminds himself he needs to be patient. Dashing out like this, with no plan—as tempting as it is, it's also stupid, and he can't afford to be stupid right now. This is his only chance at getting the revenge that he so sorely needs, and he's not going to waste it.
Think. He leans against a wall, breathing heavily—breathing heavily, just from a bit of excited heart elevation. Damn it. These months have allowed him to slip out of perfect control; he's less than fit now, whereas before he'd been one of the most powerful and agile men in the world. He's destroyed himself, with smoke and alcohol—smoke. Even now, his lungs ache for a cigarette, but he can't afford to cloud his mind with the dusty spices right now. He needs to think. Concentrate. He'll only have to make it through one assassination—one single assassination; he'll manage. And, after that, he won't have to worry about his physical or mental state anymore. He'll blast his own brains out, stop his heart before his drugs get the chance to do it for him.
CCTV, he reminds himself. Cameras. Jim has cameras focused on 221b.
So he paces to one of the laptop computers strewn about the flat—this one perched on a table in the corner of his room. It's still plugged in, and even after weeks and week of disuse, a small blue light pulses on the side, signaling that it's standing at attention, ready for operation. He wipes off the dust ghosting the lid, resulting in a backup of grey fluff against the side of his hand. It's hard to believe that the technology is going to be fully functional after being dormant for so long, but the screen glows to life as usual as he flips it open, clicking into the desktop. The operating system is top-notch, like everything else owned even in part by Jim Moriarty, and moves swiftly as he messes about with the connected and linked devices, finally locating the feed from the cameras in Baker Street.
A small, black-and-white video box flickers to life, and his breath flies from his lips, his eyes stretching wide enough for the light of the screen to reflect in them. There he is—there he is. Sherlock Holmes. Moran's stomach curls in repulsion at the mere sight of him—lying back on the couch like it's any other day, like three months haven't passed. He's clean-shaven, looking no worse for the wear after his absence. There's no sign of John Watson, which is probably good, because Moran's organs are rearing up in enough spite from the sight of the single man. It takes him a long moment to realize that his nails are cutting into the emaciated flesh of his palms.
How dare he? How dare Sherlock Holmes slip back into 221b Baker Street, looking as comfortable and regular as always, when he, Sebastian Moran, lies here in his flat, a starved, destroyed wreck—and Moriarty is called the villain, he and Moran are called heartless, when it's so clearly Holmes who is truly isolated from emotion, truly impenetrable, truly a monster.
You are less than human.
He doesn't know whether he's thinking to Holmes or to himself. He doesn't know much anything at all—the sight of the detective blinds and deafens him, so that all he can do is stand up, his legs shaking with excess adrenaline, stroke the cool form of the Italian gun under his jacket, and turn to the window.
It's late evening. He figures that he's far too energetic for that, but, then again, he hasn't really been going along with solar cycles lately, operating instead on his own sleep schedule that depended more on his alcohol intake than the position of the sun and moon.
He glances at the computer clock. Nine o' clock.
Two hours. That's what he promises himself. In two hours, he'll leave the flat, go to Baker Street. It's relatively unguarded, as he and Moriarty have found out from their ventures there—he'll be able to let himself up, break in with a simple enough lock pick. Then he'll go inside, shoot the detective where he sits, and turn the gun on himself, before the police can show up.
It will be perfect.
Two hours later, he's stepping outside, sucking in a lungful of the sharp, cool autumn air. It's entirely pitch-black, but he's used to that after months in darkness, and he sees as well as ever, the sidewalk before him illuminated dark silver. The gun's metal is warm against his chest, and he steps along purposefully, placing one foot in front of the other. He could call a cab, but Baker Street is within walking distance, and he wants every centimeter of this journey to be executed with his own power.
He checked the cameras again just before he left the flat—well, checked is the word; in truth, he never looked away, but in fact watched for the full two hours, barely blinking, his knuckles growing whiter and his breath coming faster with every second. Holmes barely moved an inch—only yawned once, turned over to go to sleep. Uncharacteristic, but of course he'd be exhausted, after everything. Even the small movements proved irritating, elevating Moran's heart rate, and now everything's boiling inside of him, fierce and powerful, and he's never been so ready to kill in all of his life.
The moon shines vaguely overhead, half-obscured by the London smog, but he pays it no attention. It doesn't deserve any of his attention, not when he has a much more powerful being to extinguish. His feet move steadily, and it's only perhaps half an hour later that he arrives at Baker Street's door, his ears and fingers numb from the cold but his inside already frozen, uncaring about the added chill.
He slips a lock pick from his pocket and sidles up next to the door, breaking into the door with a few swift motions. He casts a couple of glances over his shoulder, making sure that there's no one watching, no one to phone the police in suspicion. The streets are deserted, though, even more so than the usual at this time of night—or perhaps he's just forgotten what the norm is, as wrapped up in himself as he has been for the past few months.
Inside of the building is also dark and quiet, but several degrees warmer. His exposed skin begins to sting as the heat hits it, and he clenches his teeth together, refusing to acknowledge the pain. The door closes almost soundlessly behind him, and then he moves over to the staircase, carefully placing each foot in place. He doesn't make a sign as he loops around it, moving up to the door. His hands are shaking now, his breath coming just a bit too fast—this is it, he reminds himself with a spark of glee, this is it, Holmes has less than a minute to live, and he himself barely more… it's beautiful. Perfect. His lips curve into a smile, and the expression feels distant, foreign on his face. Wonderful, though. He feels alive, perhaps because he's on the very edge of his existence, and such a thing fuels him, fuels him as he moves closer to the door, slipping the gun out and assuming a firing grip on it, his finger just outside of the trigger guard as he ghosts into the room.
His eyes find the shape of the couch almost immediately, and the long form stretched across it—barely visible in the blackness of the drawn curtains. Damn, so he won't be able to see the look on Holmes's face… then again, though, he doesn't intend to let the detective know what hit him. He'll die in his sleep—something about that prospect is bitterly satisfying, even more so than if Holmes was aware of his own demise.
He steps closer, his feet soundless on the floor. The nose of his gun dips forward, and he raises it slowly, not having to line his eye up to it—he's a meter away from Holmes, not even; this is the easiest shot of his life, and the most satisfying, as well. The contours of the weapon are lithe and sleek under his fingers, his heart hammering against his ribcage, and then he's doing it, applying his finger to the trigger, pressing down lightly, delicately, beautifully.
The blast is deafening, and his heart jumps in perfect synchronicity with it.
His eardrums throb, and he knows that Watson must have been awoken by it, if he's even here, and probably Hudson, downstairs, and this is it, he has to turn the gun on himself before there's time for him to be caught, to die in a much more inefficient and tedious way.
But first he's going to touch the body—just touch it, feel the blood, the triumph that will surely come with the hot, dark liquid. His feet carry him forward, even as he hears footsteps on the stairs, surely Watson or Hudson or even someone else, someone from the street—did he lock the door behind him? He can't remember now—and he's reaching out, for—
Fucking pillows, that's what it is, because when he draws his hand back, it's full of feathers, and he feels like he might scream, or fire a shot into the windows for the pure satisfaction of shattering glass, because god fucking damn it, Holmes one-upped him, again, again, and his legs are folding underneath him even before the shouts fill his ears, the lights flip on and a voice is demanding that he lower his weapon.
Three months ago, he could kill every damn policeman that's suddenly filling the room without a second thought. But now his insides are soured with defeat and lethargy, and the gun practically pulls itself from his hands, clattering to the ground, just in time for somebody to come up behind him, grasp his wrists, pull them behind him and click handcuffs around them. He hasn't felt the metallic bite of cuffs for years and years, but it's as familiar as if he was last arrested minutes ago. He lets his head fall, spitting on the ground in pure anger and watching as his saliva splatters the grip of the gun, which is resting innocently on the floor, as flawlessly formed as ever.
"Anderson," a quiet, demure voice murmurs, right up next to his ear. It's deep, velvety, and far, far too familiar. "Or should I say Mr. Moran?"
He can't form words, so he snarls instead—a low, animal noise deep in his throat as he looks up, meets the cold, smirking eyes of Sherlock Holmes. The detective moves to stand in front of him, looking down with incredibly frustrating calm.
"I would have thought you were beyond that," Holmes comments, folding his hands behind his voice. "A video loop, tricking James Moriarty's right-hand man? Embarrassing, almost."
"Don't tease him." London accent—Lestrade's voice. "Get him on his feet, let's go."
"Oh, but you have to give me a moment," Holmes replies with a chuckle. "It's been so long, hasn't it…? I will admit that you did a spectacular job of fooling me… Anderson, what a lovely disguise. Perhaps I just wanted to believe that there were idiots all around me." He begins to pace, and Moran's head drops again, so that all he can see are the finely polished shoes, striding back and forth, back and forth. "There were, I suppose. I still came out on top, don't you forget that. Wishing to avenge your lovely boss… sorry that I just couldn't quite afford for you to succeed. But did you really think I'd miss such an essential part of Moriarty's web? I know much more than you ever suspected, you poor little man."
"Leave him be. We're going." A hand grips Moran's wrists, forcing them painfully together, and heaves him to his feet. He stands with his shoulders slumped, still not looking up, refusing to respond. To hell with you, Sherlock Holmes. To hell with you.
"Perfectly fine, yes, off with you. Enjoy prison, Mr. Moran, if that's what they so choose for you…"
And then he's being turned around, pulled forcefully off, tripping over his own feet. His head is light, but he manages to keep walking, not speaking, not struggling. He can't believe this. He can't believe that his final attempt, his final assassination, was thwarted. And not only was Holmes's life spared, but also his own, god damn it, now he's going to have to live, and if he is going to jail, then they're going to keep a horribly close eye on him, they won't let him have weapons… he'll find a way, he will have to. Because he's not living. Not anymore. Not after this.
The wind whips his face as he exits, and the blare of a siren fills his ears—maybe it's been there all along, muffled by the walls of the house, but his mind isn't fully functioning right now; it's not his fault if he's missing obvious things.
It's not his fault, it's not his fault, it's not his fault…
Nausea, rising deep up inside of him. His legs are shaking by the time that someone's shoving his shoulder, forcing him into a police cruiser, and he slumps against the door, staring out into the street, into the dancing reflection of red and blue and white lights on the rain-stained road.
He has failed, and it's over now.