A/N: Just to note; all quotes (except the glaringly obvious) were either taken from the show, or from John's blog. I was very meticulous!

Also...Sherlock does not belong to me. If it did there would probably be way too much fanservice and no one would watch it anymore lol.


~xXx~

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

~xXx~


Bored. God, he was bored.

Sherlock checked his watch, marking it as the sixteenth time he'd done so in the past half hour. The minutes seemed to be dripping around him like stale molasses, slow and confining. He was stuck in them, and it was a trap he couldn't seem to escape.

Two weeks. Had it really been only two weeks since the fall? It felt like longer. God, it felt like years.

Admittedly, he had been surprised that the aftermath had affected him so profoundly. Sure he had expected a certain amount of…irritation that he couldn't go home—be in an environment he was used to, surrounded by the people he knew etcetera—but never anything quite like the acute pain that he was experiencing now. This was foreign. This was alien. This was way too close to human. There was a strange sort of discomfort in his chest, not unlike the discomfort he sometimes experienced when eating takeout after a period of case-induced fasting. But it was deeper somehow—less corporeal and more psychological in its orientation. It troubled him constantly.

It took him less than four seconds to deduce that John was at the strange twisted epicenter of this discomfort. His face—the expression Sherlock had seen on it as John had collapsed over the body he'd thought to be his—seemed to be burned into his mind's eye like an over-exposed photograph. It was bright and glaring and always there. Every thought Sherlock had seemed to circle back to it. But why? Why could he not shake that look? Sherlock let his eyes fall shut.

He'd made a mistake somewhere along the way.

The fall. No. Stop. Rewind.

The lab at St. Bart's. She's dying, you machine! Sherlock blinked, frowning. Fast forward.

No. Friends protect people.

Friends. Rewind. Oh God, it was you! You locked me in that bloody lab! No, farther back. Sherlock, it must have—No! Farther back still.

Listen, what I said before, John, I meant it: I don't have friends. Sherlock's heart gave a peculiar jolt. I've just got one. Baskerville. Stop. Sherlock's eyes opened and narrowed as he steepled his fingers beneath his chin. Whatever this was, it had happened in Baskerville.

The Baskerville chemical compound had proven to be extraordinarily intriguing. John hadn't noticed him taking samples before they'd left, nor had he noticed the extra experiments he'd created around it in their kitchen. Then again, the doctor had often said he'd preferred Sherlock's chemical explorations to finding spare body parts in what he considered to be "inappropriate places". Sherlock still didn't understand why margarine tubs weren't a perfectly tolerable place to keep spare fingernail clippings.

Off topic. Focus.

Over the last few weeks, Sherlock had managed to develop and focus the chemical into something he deemed very useful. He'd been able to reduce the compound into each of its most basic forms; a gas, a liquid, or a solid powder pill. Of course, at the time, he'd never thought he'd actually need to use any of them. But once Moriarty's plan had come to full fruition in his mind—oh how he did love life's little ironies.

It had been a backup plan of course; a plan that he would only put into action if the worst were to happen. He had hoped…but that didn't really matter now.

Setting up the call from Molly about Mrs. Hudson had been easy, and paying off the cabbie that picked John up from the flat to place a hidden gas pod in the back seat of his car even easier. Simple. Mundane. Exploitation of a ridiculous emotion, and a meaningless sum of money placed into the right hand. Straightforward. Dull.

The phone call to John however—the phone call that had been so very necessary to John's expectation of his death—that had triggered something in Sherlock that he'd never before experienced.

Though the occasions were few and far in between, Sherlock was not so proud that he couldn't admit there were times when he was, in fact, wrong. Usually it was about things he didn't much care about—things that had to do with, what he had often derisively referred to as, the squishy sciences. They'd never mattered to him. Why should they have? He'd understood the chemical process behind their workings, and anything else beyond that had always struck him as rather useless. A weakness, in fact. Irene Adler had taught him that much was true.

But this wasn't about emotion, it was about doubt.

He'd seen it hundreds of times. Thousands. Maybe more. It was the expression people tended to wear when they figured out just how different Sherlock really was. He'd been sure…he'd been so sure he'd seen it in John's face those last few precious hours they'd spent together in their flat. After all, Moriarty had set it all up so perfectly, why shouldn't John doubt him? John was normal, wasn't he? Sherlock knew the boring, tedious way that normal people thought. He didn't understand it, but he knew it nevertheless. Normalcy was no match for a mind as cunning as James Moriarty.

The phone call—that had been the inception of his mistake. Sherlock had known that he would need a way to cement John's doubt. After all, John had done so much for him. Good, noble, decent John—the only person who Sherlock had ever allowed to truly see him. Sherlock had recognized that John was the one that needed to be protected the most. John didn't deserve the burden of bearing Sherlock's cross after he died. He was just one soldier, and Moriarty had already turned the war against them. So Sherlock had lied. He'd told John that everything had been a sham—that it had all been just one big fantastical illusion. He'd wanted John to know that it was okay to believe Moriarty's fairy tale.

His mistake: he'd thought John was normal.

But John wasn't normal. He wasn't even close.

Sherlock didn't know why he'd never seen it before. But there, standing on the edge of the roof with John's voice soft and worried in his ear, oh, how he'd seen it. Sharply, and with a stark sort of clarity that seemed to explode in his mind like the final pieces of a puzzle coming together, the picture bright and blazing before his eyes. The confusion, the admiration, the integrity, the trust, all of it open and bared upon his expression, laid out like a map for Sherlock to read.

John would never have believed the lie, not even if Sherlock had given him the most foolproof argument in human existence. He was stubborn like that. It was one of the qualities Sherlock loved when it convenienced him, and hated when it didn't.

Everything after the call had been easy. He'd thrown Moriarty's body off of the building, knowing that John would be expecting to see him falling and therefore, thanks to the Baskerville chemical, would see him falling. And the matter of finding a second body to substitute as his own wasn't hard to take care of. They were at a hospital after all, and St. Bart's at that. He and Molly had been able to procure a corpse with enough likeness to Sherlock's that they were able to doctor it up rather convincingly. So when Moriarty's body had been brought in from the street, they'd had the two bodies they needed, and no one who knew either of them well enough to know the difference. No one who would've bothered to check at least. Molly had been nervous about that bit, but Sherlock had known that John wouldn't check the body. And he hadn't. That had only left his brother, but fortunately—and predictably—he'd sent Anthea to do his dirty work for him.

Now John was out there, alone and still believing that Sherlock had died for nothing. For nothing. And Sherlock had made yet another mistake: he thought he wouldn't care.

God, he did care though. He did. It was annoying.

Here, sitting in one of the four safe-houses he'd procured in London over the last ten years, he was supposed to be planning out his next step—figuring out where the next great game was. That's what mattered most after all. That's what had always mattered most.

So why was it that now, all he could think about John's face, broken and wet with tears as he checked Moriarty's body for a pulse? Why was it that all he could hear was the way John's voice had sounded the last time he'd spoken Sherlock's name? This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He'd lived without the doctor easily enough before.

Easily? No, that wasn't quite right.

Baskerville. Something had changed in Baskerville. Or maybe it had been there before. Had it been there before?

His thoughts were broken by the sound of a parcel dropping through the mail slot. It landed on the tiled entryway with a muffled thud, and the gears of Sherlock's mind abruptly shifted and began to turn.

The package was small—no longer than the length of his hand—but the loudness of the landing suggested heft. So it was solid. But the sound hadn't hinted at anything metal or plastic. The material was soft, and probably somewhat pliable. That ruled out a number of things. Then there was the way it had hit—firmly, with no hint of misbalance. The object had symmetrical measurements. So, something small but with reasonable heft, made of soft material, with symmetrical measurements? Book then. Most likely leather-bound.

Sherlock threw himself out of his chair and made for the door. That was rather strange though, wasn't it? Someone sending a book here? This flat hadn't seen the likes of human life in years—he'd been sure to let the homeless network knew exactly who it belonged too. He hadn't wanted any squatters. Wrong address then? That seemed most likely.

He stooped down, sweeping up the package with one hand. One firm squeeze with his fingers informed him that he had been right—it was a book. Turning it over, he looked down at the label. His brow tightened. It was addressed to him. Just his name though, no street or city or zip code. Hand delivered then? Sherlock glanced up at the door, momentarily considering checking outside to see if whoever dropped it off was still there. Instead he peered through the peephole, and was unsurprised to find his stoop barren. With an annoyed huff, Sherlock turned back to the parcel, his eyes dissecting it. His name had been written with a fountain pen. .5mm 14 carat gold tip—obviously expensive. Unfamiliar handwriting, but most likely male. No return address. The envelope itself was made of thick yellow paper, and the corners were still stiff and showed only minor hints of dirt, so it had been bought recently. Either that or it had been carefully preserved for some time.

Satisfied that he'd inspected everything worthwhile, Sherlock turned the parcel over and peeled back the sealed flap. He then flipped it on its side and held out his hand. A small leather-bound journal fell into his palm, and the detective allowed himself the barest of triumphant smiles.

Slowly he made his way back down the hall towards his chair. He thumbed the pages of the journal carefully. Thick paper and genuine calfskin leather, slightly worn around the edges, so not new. He pushed back the cover. No sign of any branding or copywrite, though the craftsmanship suggested mass marketing. He turned to the next page. Someone had obviously—Sherlock started, and the journal flew from his hand like a hot coal. Heart springing into his throat, the detective stumbled backwards, very nearly losing his balance. The journal landed on the wooden floor with a loud thump that seemed to resonate in Sherlock's ears like a gunshot.

He stared at the journal. It wasn't possible. It wasn't.

His limbs seemed to spring back to life in a blink. Scrambling forward, he plucked up the journal and opened it once more. But no. The words were still there, glaring at him with the same ferocity the person who wrote them used to.

~Property of James Moriarty~

Holding his breath, Sherlock turned to the next page and began to read. And once he started, he couldn't stop.

Hello, sexy,

Have you missed me? I'll bet you have. I'll also bet you're wondering why you're receiving this marvelous little gift from me, especially considering the fact that if you're holding this, I'm quite undeniably dead, and you're quite annoyingly alive.

Funny, the little games life plays with us, hm? Too bad I hate to lose. Did you think I wouldn't plan for this? I bet you did. Oh, how I would love to see the look on your face right now—I bet you look positively edible. Just thinking about it makes me a little giddy. It almost makes it okay that I'm dead.

But it's not okay, Sherlock. It's really not. You've been a very bad boy. You didn't listen to what daddy said, and now he's going to have to punish you.

So we're going to play one last game, you and I, and this time I'm going to make you listen. I'm going to be sending you three journals and three bodies over the next three days. And if you're a good boy, on the fourth day I'll reward you with a very special gift. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I would be very excited if I wasn't—you know—worm food.

You have two jobs. One: find the connection. This part should be easy for you, Sherlock. You're a smart boy after all, and I know how you love to show off that big brain of yours. Two: find out what it means. And this is where you mucked it all up before, darling. This is where you MISSED MY POINT. Once you find it though, then you have my permission to die.

Do try your hardest for me now. I'll be watching closely.

You'll find the first body at 292 Sarsfield Rd. Hurry along now, Sherlock.

Eternally yours,

Jim

Sherlock turned to the next page, only to find it blank. So was the next, and the next. He quickly thumbed through the remaining pages to make sure the rest of the journal was empty before resuming his seat in his chair and setting it aside. He couldn't afford to overreact. He needed to think. Sherlock closed his eyes, his mind turning.

Possibilities.

One: The journal was a fake, and the body was a trap.

Two: The journal wasn't a fake, and the body was a trap.

Three: The journal wasn't a fake, and the body was real and waiting to be examined.

Two seemed the most likely. The writing had shown the same speech patterns as Moriarty, and the correct sort of graphology for his particular form of psychosis. It was understandable that he would have…planned for what had happened to him. It was understandable that Moriarty—Sherlock slammed his fist on the arm of his chair, baring his teeth with a furious growl. No! This wasn't how it was supposed to be! Moriarty was supposed to be dead, and stay that way just like every other proper corpse! Sherlock had won, hadn't he? That's what this had all been about: the game, and it was over now. Over. So how could they still be playing? It didn't make sense. And even worse, Moriarty knew—Sherlock glanced at the journal again—he knew that the detective couldn't resist the bait. A dead body sent to him from his greatest adversary from beyond the grave? How could he not go?

With another growl, Sherlock propelled himself up from the chair, grabbing his coat, scarf, a spare artificial beard and prosthetic nose, and headed for the door.