I don't own Sherlock or the BBC. Obviously.
An idea that's been rattling around in my head since the Series 1 closer. John and Jim's relationship to one another never quite got explored the way I wanted.
Around his neck and shoulders, crushing downwards, his collarbone and spine aching from the awful burden. He's been told to stand still and be quiet, but he wants to groan like a piece of wood under too much pressure, to buckle to his knees, to let the black swirling fear take him.
All around him, under the miles and miles of sweaty heavy furry coat that smother him, he can feel whirring, clicking, humming, the deadly mechanisms clinging all around his body, strange creatures, each with its own strange heartbeat. Burrowed beneath the coat they sleep and purr and wait for one word, one command.
Sherlock's outstretched hand, holding up the memory stick like he's offering it to god, slowly sinking down as he turns. Sherlock's face, surprise, confusion, a hint of fear creeping into his eyes, one of the most human expressions he's seen on that face. Sherlock in the blue, shifting light of the chlorinated water.
And then, from the smallest of the devices on his body, the black one in his pocket, through the long, spiraling wire that snakes up under his shirt and into his ear, a voice.
What had the old lady said?
Doctor John Watson wakes suddenly, with his eyes opening wide and a sharp intake of air through his nose.
After a long moment, he closes his eyes again, slowly unclenches his muscles, lets the air back out in a long, exhausted exhale. One wrist comes up to rest on his sweaty forehead, and he lies silently in the dark for a few minutes, just breathing.
Finally he mumbles to himself, "Ok, John, tea," and opens his eyes.
One fluid set of events; John sits up, clearing his throat, running his hand through his sweaty hair, and swings his legs over the edge of the bed, and sees James Moriarty sitting in the corner of his room, and John's eyes open wide, and Moriarty holds up one fingers, smiling his apologetic, slanted smirk of a smile, and John tenses his whole body, his hands coming to rest on either side of him so he can push himself up, and in his high, mocking croon, Moriarty says, "You've got something on your shirt, Johnny," pointing.
John freezes, and then almost winces with frustration, as oh, god, not this again passes over his face. Slowly, he looks down at the small red point flickering on the front of his white sleeping shirt.
"Now, don't get out of bed or call out or anything pointless," says Moriarty, still smirking. He keeps his voice quiet. "I've got a whole evening planned."
John stares for a few seconds, his chest visibly moving in and out as he pants but his breathing silent. Then he carefully moves back to the wall at the head of his bed and sits against it, drawing his legs up in front of him, his eyes never leaving the man in the tailored charcoal suit.
The sniper's laser glides silently from his chest and across the wall like a phantom spider and then disappears.
"It just takes one tiny blip of red light," Jim remarks.
The two men regard each other in a long silence.
Moriarty raises his eyebrows. Putting his hands on his knees he leans in towards John. "You can talk, you know," he stage whispers conspiratorially, widening his eyes and nodding.
John takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. "'Talk,'" he quotes.
Moriarty opens his arms, wide and generous. "Be my guest."
John opens his eyes to look at Moriarty levelly. "Sorry, I thought it was like last time," he says. "When you threatened to blow me up if I spoke out of turn."
"Ah, yes, last time," says Moriarty. "You played your part so well, you know, so helpless and scared, really had him frantic." At the other man's expression, he puts an offended hand on his chest. "Well, I had good fun. I'm just sorry I had to excuse myself before things could really get going."
"Catchy ringtone you've got," John says.
Moriarty's eyebrows rise with a look of pleased surprise and he lets out one short laugh. Then, almost immediately, he leans forward, his hands folding in his lap, his smile small and dark and his hard eyes looking straight into Watson's. "You're making jokes, but you're shaking all over," he says. "That's interesting."
John pauses, then takes hold of his knees with his hands, then sighs in frustration when he fails to stop himself from trembling and lets go. "Why are you here, Mr. Moriarty? What are you planning to do?" He asks, his voice made of fear behind impatience behind controlled tones.
The annoyance that flashes behind Moriarty's eyes is so hot it's almost rage, but he keeps smiling.
"And that's boring, Dr. Watson," he says. "He hasn't rubbed off on you a bit, has he? You'd still take up time with questions instead of just working it out for yourself."
In a manner that suggests practice, John simply waits.
Moriarty waits too.
They sit looking at each other again. The silence is long and heavy.
"Do you want to know why he chose you?" Moriarty asks out of the blue.
John frowns, then shakes his head a little. "Sorry, what?"
"The world is just buzzing, doctor," Moriarty says emphatically, "with ordinary people who can't keep up with him, milling about, being loud and stupid and getting themselves killed regularly, and he's kept to himself all these years, so why now? Why you?" Moriarty sits back and smiles smugly at John like one child relating a riddle to another.
John looks back at him steadily, and says nothing.
"I've read your blog," Moriarty continues after a long pause. "The way you write about him is so charming, calling him a genius, saying he's impossible to live with but, oh, brilliant just the same. Such a fanboy."
"So he keeps me around to fawn over him, then?" John raises his eyebrows and almost smiles, but it's not a particularly happy expression. "You really do think I'm his golden retriever."
"No, Dr. Watson," says Moriarty. "I think Sherlock Holmes longs for two things, and one of them is home, and you've finally given that to him. Maybe you'll never be able to think like him, but you're home and, oh." He shakes his head, eyes trained on John. "Mm, he needs you, now that he has you."
John blinks. His face tries to give nothing away, but his Adam's apple bobs as he swallows.
"So what's the other thing, then?" He asks after a moment, the sarcasm in his voice a little forced. "That Sherlock Holmes longs for?"
Moriarty's smile spreads wide and slow and long across his face, almost dreamy, almost sneering. "A challenge," he says happily.
John pauses, and then a bitter laugh breaks through, uncontrollably, and he tilts his head back against the wall and rubs at his eyes with his fingertips. "Ok, yes, and that's you, right, Jim?"
Jim's smile is surprised and delighted. "Yes, John, that's right," he says, like a teacher shocked by a student's progress.
John tilts head back down to look at Moriarty, hands coming back down to rest by his sides. "I'm too bloody tired for this," he announces. "I'm too bloody tired to hear about you two being locked forever in the struggle of insurmountable genius against insurmountable genius, or, God, whatever it is you do. If you think I'm interested in being a pawn in some convoluted game of-"
Moriarty groans, "Oh, the chess metaphor. No one ever gets it right. No, you're not a pawn, pawns are dispensable to the both of us, pawns are the bodies I leave for him and the people strapped into explosive cars. Random and weak and there are too many for them to matter—"
"They matter to—" John tries to cut in.
"Each other," Moriarty finishes. "And you were one of them, and then you started mattering to him, and then he started needing you, and now that I know what you are I know how to win."
"And what am I?" John's voice is challenging, fearful.
Jim leans back and crosses his legs and folds his hands in his lap, head tilted. "Well, what are you, Johnny?" he prompts.
Another long silence.
John shuts his eyes and sighs. "I don't know," he says.
Moriarty's eyes flash with dangerous irritation, and this time he outbursts, "The king! You're the king, you're the thing he's trying to protect most of all, and you're the key to the whole game, and one day, I will get you in the just the corner I need you in, and then I'll have him."
John mouth hangs slightly open, and he can't hide the fear in his face.
Moriarty smirks. He sits forward. "It just takes one tiny blip of red light," he reminds.
After a few moments, John turns away, stares at the wall, shuts his mouth and swallows. "Well, that's very impressive, Jim," he says.
John continues to stare at the wall. He hugs his legs. "Why have you come to tell me all this?"
Jim stands up. "Oh, I've got a terrible habit of playing with my food." He walks to the open window and pauses. "You'll tell him all about this, won't you, dear?"
John turns, eyes fierce. "No."
Moriarty smiles beatifically. "Perfect," he declares, then puts a foot up on the windowsill. "Well, Johnny, thank you for having me. It's been an absolute treat."
John starts to shake his head, slowly. "Just leave us alone," he says, voice tight with anger and fear and confusion and despair.
Jim raises his eyebrows and gives a sympathetic pout. "Not comfortable with a love triangle, John?" His expression changes and he's grinning, malevolent, a child. "You're in one."
He steps out of the window and falls into the dark.