-Chapter Seven: Tabula Rasa-
'And I told you to be patient,
And I told you to be fine,
And I told you to be balanced,
And I told you to be kind,
And in the morning I'll be with you,
But it will be a different kind,
'Cause I'll be holding all the tickets,
And you'll be owning all the fines.'
Before we had even gotten into the flat, I could tell something was wrong. Years of instincts did not go ignored. My blood was pumping so fiercely there was a faint high pitched noise ringing in my ears and my finger tips still burned with the feel of Sherlock's face, but I put it right to the back of my mind and focused on my well honed instincts instead. There was a coat hanging in the hall that wasn't Mrs Hudson's and voices coming from upstairs. They were not the soothing voices of happy people.
"It's Anne," Irene said, sounding only mildly concerned. More annoyed, actually. "She's supposed to be back at the hotel with Scarlett. God, can't she go an hour without seeing me?"
We made our way upstairs and into the flat to see that Irene was correct. Anne was sitting with Scarlett on her lap while Mrs Hudson was making tea in the kitchen.
"Oh, here they are dear," Mrs Hudson said to Anne, who turned to see us, relief all over her face.
"What happened?" Irene asked, while Sherlock hung back, taking in the hundreds of details I knew we were all missing.
"Someone came to the hotel, someone who frightened her. She grabbed the baby and came straight here. Mrs Hudson paid the cab," he said before Anne could explain.
"You can refund me, dear," Mrs Hudson said to Sherlock, levelly.
"Who came to the hotel?" I asked, sitting beside her, checking for any signs of shock or any potential injuries, but there were none. She had clearly had a fright, though.
She took a shuddery breath and spoke. "A man came to the door, he knocked and asked where the dark haired woman was. I said she was out and tried to shut the door, but he jammed his foot in it and wouldn't let me." She was trying to speak evenly, presumably so as not to upset Scarlett, who was happily chewing on her thumb. "He said I was to give her a message. He said...to tell you there's a jewel missing from your left earring."
Everyone turned to Irene, who put her hand to the offending earring and removed it. Sure enough, there was a single gem missing from it.
"What then?" I asked.
Anne swallowed. "I slammed the door on his foot, hard. He finally stepped back and I locked it. We waited ten minutes and then I grabbed everything I could and called a cab to here. Couldn't think of anywhere else. Mrs Hudson was kind enough to pay."
I looked to Sherlock; he was staring to his left where no-one stood. It was like he was looking at someone. He nodded as though someone said something and then took a breath.
"Short blonde hair, tanned, tall, well built, Caucasian, around forty. Do you know him?"
"Moran," Irene said irritably. "The one we were talking about last night. Obviously."
Anne looked a little hurt, so I patted her hand reassuringly. "Don't take it personally," I said with a smile. "Their minds operate in ways we mere mortals can't fathom."
She managed a shaky smile. "How did the meeting go?"
"Not great," I sighed. "The informants were, well. Shot."
"What time did this man disturb you in the hotel?" Sherlock asked suddenly.
"About an hour ago."
I frowned. "But that can't be right. If Moran was watching us, able to see Irene's earring then he couldn't have been at the hotel."
"It's unlikely the person who visited Anne was actually Moran. Probably a look a like to shake us all up. The shooter had to be Moran. The shots were too precise."
Scarlett started to whine a little, her face twisting up and arms stretching out in search of things I had no idea about.
"She's hungry," Anne said. "Irene, can you take her while I make her lunch?" Irene looked extremely put out at the suggestion. "Just for a minute," Anne reasoned, but still Irene didn't move.
Mrs Hudson peered around hopefully. "Ooh, could I have a hold?"
Anne stood and handed her over carefully with a tired smile. "Thank you so much," she said. "I'll only be a moment." Then she gave Irene a look of disgust. "So sorry to bother you. How inconsiderate of me to ask you to hold you own daughter!"
There was a moment of shock; everyone looked at Irene, who seemed fairly shocked but said nothing. It suddenly occurred to me that Anne was going to use the kitchen for something other than horrendous Frankenstein style experiments and I leapt out of my seat to warn her.
"Ah, you might want to use the other microwave," I pointed out, showing her the one I had bought and insisted Sherlock leave alone. "That one is used for...not food."
She used the good microwave, heating up the milk in the bottle. I saw her eyes were filled with un-shed tears and I felt ridiculously uncomfortable. Bloody Irene.
"Would you like some, ah...tea?" I asked finally.
"Yes please," called Sherlock and Irene without missing a beat. I rolled my eyes and made tea for everyone in silence.
"We should call Lestrade," Sherlock said quietly.
I looked up, surprised. "Really?"
"Yes. Something isn't right, it's just not...right. We're missing something. Something big. We should ask him if he's heard anything about Moran."
Irene was quick to cut in. "That's a mistake. Expanding the circle of people who know about it will mean getting people killed. I can't believe you'd even suggest it."
I would not tell her to shut it, I really would not. "But we know so little of him, Lestrade will have resources we don't," I said, instead of what I really wanted to say which would have been less than polite.
Irene rolled her dark eyes. "What do you really think he'll know that will be of use to us?"
"What do you know that's of any use?" Anne muttered under her breath, who was feeding a sleepy baby.
"Excuse me?" Irene asked, coldly. "My knowledge is vital."
My phone buzzed in my pocket; I guessed it would be Mary by process of elimination. To my surprise and slight horror I saw that it was Harry.
I was in half a mind to ignore it, when I noticed Sherlock staring at me. He had obviously deduced who it was calling me and gave me a small, wry smile. His face had felt so warm...
I decided to be brave.
"Hello Doctor Watson," she said with equal parts affection and sarcasm. I went to my bedroom for some privacy, dreading the contents of the call. "Sorry, have I interrupted something? Big important case?"
"No," I lied, closing the door behind me. "Not really. Uh, what's up?"
She sighed exaggeratedly. "Well," she began and my heart sank, if possible, even lower. "You know I've been with Jess for a year now."
Nope, had no idea; first time I'd even heard the name.
"Well, I sort of had a bit of a relapse, had a few drinks, you know nothing too bad. But anyway it ended up that I cheated on her. A bit."
A bit. Of course. "How do you cheat on someone a bit, Harry?" I groaned. "And why are you relapsing? The last time we talked you'd been spiritually enlightened!"
"Well," she said as if that was a sentence unto itself. "Anyway, we had a fight after she found out and I'm at a bit of a loose end. Did you want to meet up and have, er...lunch or something?"
"I can't right now," I said immediately. "I'm sorry, I know we haven't met up in a while but I just can't."
She scoffed. "I haven't even suggested a day, John. I'm your sister; you can make a little time for me."
I screwed my eyes against the forming of a new headache. "Harry, I'm really sorry but I can't just drop everything for you, especially when I've not heard from you in months."
"All the more reason for us to reconnect," she insisted. "Look, I know I didn't return your calls for a while it's just that I was really involved with Jess but now I'm free and we can..."
"NO!" I yelled suddenly, scaring even myself. "I'm not interested in seeing you Harry until you sort yourself out. You cannot just call me up when you're bored or you've fucked everything up!"
"Why not? You did."
"Yes, but you never answered!"
"I heard your voice mails, John. Sherlock this and Sherlock that. You should just admit that Mum and Dad produced two gay children instead of leading on Marion or whoever."
I exhaled hard, like I'd been punched. "It's Mary, and I am not leading her on."
"Sure. If you'd had business with Mary, I'll bet you could have – albeit grudgingly – found some minute scrap of time to come to see. But it's Sherlock, as usual and so of course everything else comes second."
"Harry," I ground out, forcing myself to stay calm. "I'm really sorry we haven't seen much of one another lately, but you know I won't see you if you're drinking."
"Don't even bother trying to pretend that's what it is. Just forget it, John. Forget all about it. I'm really sorry I even bothered you."
The line went dead and she was gone. I stared at the screen of my mobile for a few seconds, unable to believe how stupid I had been to even answer the phone. All she did was upset me, upset everything and everyone. Why did I think today would be any different?
Now I had the pleasure of returning to the other intensely awkward situation. I really couldn't wait for this day to end. Bloody women.
I was in the midst of one of the most restful sleeps of my life when I was awoken abruptly by the sound of something small but heavy hitting the floor. I had always been a light sleeper.
Years of survival instincts sprang in to action and I was moving very quickly, gun in hand, towards Sherlock's bedroom; my first port of call in any emergency. My heart was beating violently in my chest as I entered, gun raised and eyes sweeping the room for signs of disturbance.
There was nothing. No one but Sherlock in his bed, thrashing and moaning. He was clearly caught in a bad dream. He was muttering in a language I didn't understand, but it sounded like pleading.
Carefully, I placed my gun on a nearby chest of drawers and made my way towards him, saying his name very softly over and over again.
"Sherlock," I said in my most John-ish voice, if indeed there was such a thing. "Sherlock, it's all right. It's OK, just me. Sherlock."
He didn't wake. The muttering had turned into something else; Jesus Christ, he was crying. Actually crying. I noticed that his arms were on either side of the pillows, unmoving despite his struggles. As though tied down. I knew it was a bad idea to touch him; I knew that and yet I also knew how horrible it was to be trapped in a nightmare so I made the stupid decision to wake him by touching him.
My fingers had barely touched his shoulder when his hand flew up from the pillow and caught my wrist. I froze, idiotically taken by surprise and the force with which he'd caught it was astounding. His eyes opened, but there was no recognition upon seeing me. He threw himself out of bed, still holding my wrist so tight it felt like it would snap. Where the hell did all my army training go?
He was looking right at me with so much hatred and anger. "Plokhaya ideya!" he snarled. My back hit the wall and it knocked all the breath from my body. He snatched my other hand up and held them tight above my head and before I could think to stop him, his elbow came up and pressed hard against my throat.
Finally, something inside me woke up and realised I was in actual danger of being killed. My leg went to sweep his away but he countered it easily and my fear racketed up a notch, combined with an increasing lack of air. He slammed into my body, so I couldn't move to kick him or even struggled much.
"Sherlock," I gasped, starting to see stars. "Please stop!"
"Samozvanets! Vy ne on!"
"I don't know what...what that is, just please...stop!" I coughed, close to passing out now. "It's John!"
The hold lessened for a moment. "John?"
I seized the chance. "Yes, it's me! Please let me go, Sherlock!"
He didn't release me completely, but he pulled his elbow back so that I could breathe. I immediately succumbed to a coughing fit.
"John?" he said again, sounding confused. "I'm not...why are you here? You think I'm dead."
I forced myself to stop coughing as much as I could and sought out eye contact with Sherlock, who now seemed heartbreakingly confused.
"No," I wheezed. "You're home and safe with me in Baker Street."
He smiled sadly and shook his head. "You always say that, but then I wake up and it's never true. You should stop saying such things."
He released my hands and stepped away, assessing that I was no longer a threat but only because he now thought I wasn't real. "Sherlock, I am real. Touch me, listen to me!"
"Don't press it, John. We have so little time before they wake me. Won't you tell me stories of Afghanistan? Your voice is so soothing, it gives me strength."
He sat on the bed, back completely straight and closed his eyes. I went to him, dropping to my knees before him.
"Please," I said. "Look around. You're in your own bedroom, not...wherever you think you are. This is not a dream. You're home. With me."
"Oh John," he laughed. "You're such an idiot sometimes. I miss you so much."
I put my hand on his face. "Look, feel my hand. I'm real."
He turned his face into my palm with a sigh. "You're so warm."
"Yes," I said enthusiastically. "Very warm and very real."
"Except that John would never touch me like that," he pointed out. "John is very straight and likes to tell people all the time."
"Sherlock bloody Holmes, use your deduction thing and figure out that this is real!"
"But that's part of the hell, John. I always think it's real and it never is. I dreamed for almost a whole year that I'd escaped but I never did; it was all a dream."
My heart broke a little. "Please, come back to me. Don't stay there any more. Please."
He just smiled again. "It's my fault, John. I was so excited to think it was all going to be over soon. I was too cocky, too confident and I slipped up. They were waiting for me. I deserved to get caught. I keep thinking I can escape but they're clever. They keep me under with some kind of muscle relaxant. I'm paralysed most of the time, but not numb. They keep me blindfolded for long periods of time and they all speak different languages. I can't decide who the leader is, but it's someone who hasn't spoken to me yet, I'm sure of it."
"You can escape, Sherlock. You can and you have."
"If I escape, John, it's because they let me go."
I didn't even want to process that. "Please, please come back to me."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I don't think I'll ever leave here. Knowing you're safe is enough, though. A good reward."
"No it's not!" I insisted, pulling my hand away. "Nothing is worth you going through this! Nothing and no one!"
He tilted his head, childlike and lost. "You are," he said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "You are worth it."
I stared at him; dark curls plastered to his forehead with damp sweat; eyes so trusting and broken. Where was the man who had sought out danger and rebelled against boredom by shooting holes in walls? This man was little more than a lost boy, drowning in PTSD that I had ignored as much as possible.
The urge to kiss him took me utterly by surprise; so much so that I reeled back upon realising it. Every part of me longed to press my lips to his, knowing that it would help him but also knowing that was not the only reason I wanted to do it. My hands itched to tangle in his hair and pull him into me; have him so close, so close.
I averted my eyes from his and said, "Sherlock, I'm going to turn the lights on now, all right?"
Without waiting for him to reply, I moved to the switch and flooded the room with bright light. He tried to shield his eyes, but it was futile. I didn't go to him, I waited for reality to set in.
After a minute or so, it seemed to have done the trick. He looked around the room and at me, muttering to himself as he did. Cataloguing things, perhaps.
"Do you feel better?" I asked, ignoring how much of a ridiculous question it was.
He nodded. "Yes, I'm sorry John. I must be coming down with something, for such a severe dream to have taken a hold of me like that."
"Don't be sorry," I said quietly.
"Did I hurt you?" he asked, not moving from where he was sitting on the side of the bed.
"No," I said quickly. "Not at all."
"I truly thought it was a dream," he insisted. "I would never...it felt very real."
"You don't have to tell me," I said. "I've had my fair share of them."
"Well, I'm very sorry once more for ruining your sleep."
I knew I should stay with him, talk to him. He wasn't going to go back to sleep and I knew it. But I was a fucking coward and cowards are really good at running away from things.
So that's what I did.
The next day was, if possible, much worse. Sherlock was the furthest from himself I had seen him since that November. To make an already terrible situation even more terrible, he seemed hyper aware of where I was at all times and made certain that if I came close, he moved away. He avoided eye contact, muttered under his breath and seemed so on edge it was giving me a headache.
"For Christ's sake, Sherlock!" I blurted out the fourth time he skittered away from me when I moved into his personal space. "This is going to happen, you know. We live together."
He had flinched at my words, studiously avoiding looking at me. For the first time ever, I was supremely grateful for the doorbell ringing. I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself.
"Please," I said quietly. "Whatever it is making you crazy, please just put it on hold for now? When we're alone later we can talk about it or...or whatever you want. Just please be the Sherlock Holmes I know. For now."
His eyes locked with mine and I immediately felt like the worst person in the world. There was a single moment when I saw how wretched he felt; how trapped and lost he was within his own labyrinth of a mind. But the moment was fleeting and some sort of well perfected mask slipped over his features bringing with it a familiar, if entirely false, look of bored superiority.
It was Irene and Co. Baby Scarlett was not pleased by the sound of it; her shrill wails alerting everyone in the vicinity that there was an unhappy baby nearby. When I saw the obvious cause of the upset, I was surprised. Irene was carrying her.
Irene for her part looked flushed and unusually unattractive. She wasn't wearing much make up, her hair was in slight disarray and she seemed very put out.
"John," she said by way of a greeting. "Sherlock."
I was about to ask where Anne was when I saw her coming up behind, carrying a large bag.
"Hi, John," she greeted warmly. I returned the pleasantry, wondering what had happened.
They invaded the small space of Baker Street in a way that would normally be annoying, but the distraction was a welcome one. Sherlock was looking at Scarlett with a mixture of curiosity and fear while Irene was doing her very best to appease her daughter who was squirming and writhing with everything she had.
"Well," Irene said dramatically when it seemed clear that Scarlett was not going to settle. "I suppose you've made your point, Anne."
Anne gave a purposefully oblivious shrug. "What can you mean?"
"I mean to say that you've gone and made your point quite well enough now and feel free to resume your superior mothering duties when you're done polishing off a crown!" Irene snapped and Scarlett gave an even louder scream.
Anne rolled her eyes and moved to take the baby who after a few sniffles and hiccups, quieted miraculously. "It's your own fault for not having held her in a month," Anne rebuked softly.
Irene, clearly exhausted, flopped down into a chair. "Dear God tell me there's tea."
"What in the hell kind of experiment was that?" I asked incredulously, my ears still ringing from the cries.
"Anne said she was a better mother than me and that she wasn't even a mother. I defied her. It was all very tiresome. Babies are apparently an enormous amount of work."
"Who contacted you?" Sherlock asked suddenly.
Irene smirked. "Oh, so you are in there after all?"
"A phone call," Sherlock went on. "Late last night. It prompted the argument."
"The voice was scrambled, nothing familiar about the speech patterns. Just a warning. Stay away."
Sherlock rolled his eyes and I marvelled at his transformation. "How original."
"Have you had any luck with anything?" Anne asked, swaying Scarlett gently side to side.
"No," I said grimly. "Not that we've been looking really."
"I feel that we need a plan," Irene announced. "A good plan. A Holmesian plan."
"As opposed to what?" I asked.
"As opposed to a Watsonian plan the likes of, 'Everybody on the count of three!'"
I had a really good comeback, involving what an Adlerian plan would tantamount to and which part of her anatomy it would involve but I held it inside, certain it would offend Anne.
"I have a plan," Sherlock said. We all turned to look, expectantly. "We send in John."
I gaped, fishlike. "Eh?"
"John is our only link to Moran. We can expose him, get near him. We haven't played that card yet and it might not be too late to do so."
"He wouldn't fall for it," I insisted. "He knows we know."
Sherlock shook his head. "He'll still come. If nothing else, then it's at least confirmation of something solid we can take to Lestrade instead of assumptions."
"How would I even get in touch with him?"
"That nice bisexual soldier who is a mutual acquaintance."
"Sherlock," I said with a sigh. "Please think this through. This is a bad plan."
"A Watsonian plan?" Irene chimed in. We both ignored her.
"We have nothing else to go on. He will come if you ask. He couldn't resist being near, having some kind of inside view," he insisted wildly.
"Why? Why would he even need that?"
"Because I would!" he snapped suddenly, the façade cracking at breakneck speed. "If I was him, I'd take any opportunity to observe first ha..."
He froze, mid sentence. Actually, it wasn't just that he froze; it was that the entire world seemed to be on pause, such was the extent of just how perfectly he froze. Panic bubbled in my chest; I couldn't help but think he was having some kind of badly timed breakdown. His face was almost totally blank, except for the faint and ever increasing look of child-like disbelief.
"First...hand," he said quietly, stripped of his usual baritone. He exhaled softly like a punch in slow motion and his face came to life a little more, a shadow of horror creeping over it. Whatever the realisation, it wasn't good. My hands clenched and unclenched, trying and failing to be ready for whatever it was.
He turned and looked as though drawn magnetically to stare at Anne, holding baby Scarlett.
"You," he said, barely a whisper. "You're Moran."
Undisclosed Black Site in Poland.
Journal of Events catalogued by Lieutenant Selena Moran,
The decision to allow me to keep a diary seems arbitrary which can only suggest it is not. A new type of cruelty that has not yet presented itself. I will strive to record what I can while I can and maintain a record of my time here as a captive. The place my team and I are being held is a decommissioned black site somewhere in Poland. The signs are in Polish, at least and I know a black site when I see one. I am being held by James Moriarty and an impressively large crew who intercepted us on route to a recon site in Germany, details of which are and will remain classified. Moriarty made himself known to us upon capture and has indicated that the intel we possess is of value to him.
I am isolated from my team in a room with a small window, a bed with a blanket, a toilet and a sink. I have been here for three and half days and received food and water at semi regular intervals. I have been supplied toilet paper once. I have been allowed to keep my clothes and shoes. There was a pen and a journal on the bed. The pen is not an instrument I could fashion into any form of useful weapon or lock pick. The doors are old, dead-bolted from the outside in four places. The window to my cell is big enough that I can put my arm through it but nothing else.
Since my imprisonment and initial introduction to Moriarty, I have not been spoken to or seen anyone. I know this method. I know why I am being treated so well. As the only female in my team of nine, I will be used against the men to make them talk. They will not see me for days, then when they do I will have become accustomed to the good treatment and as such be unprepared for the sudden attacks that will take place in front of them. I will scream louder and beg more. They will not even ask for the intel at that point. They will torture the men for a few more days and then bring me back. This time the level of torture I receive will be directly related to my team. They will give them the option to hurt me themselves or continue to allow Moriarty's crew to do so. The first who offers to do so will be honed in upon as the weak link.
The tables will turn. I will be tortured, they will not. I will be starved, they will not. They will be treated well and I will not. They will see me in the same agony they were. The one who broke first will be made to torture me instead of Moriarty's team; the torture will indicate my death. He will break, we will all die.
Moriarty knows that I know this. This, above all else, troubles me.
Nothing has happened since the last entry; more of the same. It is like chess and just as boring. I find myself growing almost impatient for it to commence. The cell is cold and dull. I have no notes to leave; no declarations of great love or bitter regrets of not seeing Paris, which I did and it was overrated. Moriarty is incredibly short for such a supposedly powerful man. I posit that his shortness has forced him to over compensate in other ways.
Then again, there is no sure fire way to know that the short man was even Moriarty. He could have hired an actor, kept his identity anonymous. I would have.
Heard footsteps and voices, nothing distinguishable. Time is stretching on to the point where I am literally gearing up for some torture. Not normal, I know. Curious to see who will crack first. Andrews strikes me a sentimental man. Often smiles at me.
I wonder if Sebastian will cry when he receives word?
Torture commenced. Was dragged from the cell into a small kind of medical amphitheatre. Points for theatrics. Team seemed to have been put through methodical physical and sensory torture. Harlin couldn't focus very well and seemed confused; probable concussion. Hinton and Greaves were both bleeding from the ears, aside from more obvious injuries. Others were obscured from my view.
I was stripped and tied in undignified position and raped while being waterboarded. Passed out twice. As predicted, no questions asked. Andrews cried out a few times, as well as Harlin. Particularly disappointed in Harlin. Expect next session to continue as I previously laid out. Very sore and having trouble taking deep breaths.
Hands shaking less than I expected; at no point did I scream.
Still no sign of Moriarty. Unexpected at this point, would have thought he'd show up to gloat or create impact or something. Instead some lumbering thug left in charge of today's scene. Almost precisely as predicted. Session of torture and rape went on for four and half hours – someone went to the trouble of installing a clock – and all team were present once more. The torture is unvaried and unimaginative. Back has been whipped, skin on thighs and chest carved with carpet blade. Three fingers broken. Regular intervals of beatings. Rape is continuous and as such, loses it's impact after a while. Thug in charge is not professional. Moriarty should not have delegated. No one in my team volunteered to take over the torture, thus exceeding my expectation.
Handwriting is poor due to broken fingers.
Starting to suspect that journal is being monitored for reasons other than initially considered. Andrews broke first, like clockwork. Had to carve his name into the back of my right leg. Did so with hands shaking so badly that is looks like ANDBEUUS instead of ANDREWS. Back is definitely in the first stages of infection; feels hot and itchy. Broken fingers needs to be reset; have no way of doing so. In constant pain and internal bleeding has begun. Expect to survive five to ten days without medical intervention.
Await tomorrow's events with a baited breath to see if my work has indeed been plagiarised.
Andrews refused to torture me and was shot by thug in charge after a highly botched and feeble escape attempt. Was raped by the gun; screamed for the first time. Death and betrayal of country imminent. Suspicion that Moriarty is reading this journal confirmed. Left a hair caught between pages and this morning it was gone. Never heard him come in. Feel no rage, only pain and frustration at the methods of torture being utilised. So little creativity. Moriarty has only to ask.
Nothing happened all day. Heard nothing, saw nothing. Received food and milk. Baffling generosity; suspect guard may have soft spot for me. Recommend Moriarty kills him immediately as I will take extreme advantage.
Brooding over death. Regret surfacing, but not for typical reasons. Had really good idea about new torture method while trying to stay away last night. Regret at potential within me that will never see recognition on any level.
Moriarty came today. Dressed well, assuming did not hire actor and is still short. Confessed his thugs were not getting the job done and asked if I had any suggestions. I asked why he was not trying to extract the information from me directly and he laughed. Said that was not his preferred method of skinning cats. I suggested my method.
Moriarty has taken my advice. Forced Greaves to rape me while I screamed and cried and begged like I never have before. Think my acting was impressive. Greaves broke down and betrayed his country. Moriarty was present the entire time. The look Greaves gave me when he realised I had been acting was comical. I laughed and he tried to kill me. Moriarty shot him. His blood tasted of dirty pennies.
Moriarty shot them all. None of the thugs were present. I waited to be shot but it didn't happen. James took me to a medical room and gave me antibiotics, cleaned my wounds and set my fingers. He offered me a job. I had conditions. He accepted.
First condition was acted out almost immediately. Shot and killed every one of the thugs while they slept.
I feel almost bad destroying this journal. It seems to have captured a turning point in my life. Yet it must be done in order to ensure the second condition. Absolute anonymity and invisibility. James has a vision. I am happy to walk the path of his vision whilst being allowed creativity and autonomy.
I am certain Sebastian will cry when he hears that his sister was killed in an explosion along with her team. He always was a waste of a man.
There are moments of realisation that make complete sense. A singular moment when otherwise confusing and alien pieces click into place to form a perfect, cohesive whole. They are rare and almost miraculous; God stepping in to lend a hand to a difficult problem.
Then there are the other moments of realisation. Very much other. Moments when you see something and know it to be true, but cannot quite believe it. A completely rude awakening to a situation so entirely different to anything you could have pictured. A single moment when you believe yourself to be safe and then realise that you're not. The sinking feeling of missing a step in the dark. The acknowledgement that a situation can only be resolved by the worst option.
The realisation that Anne was not Anne at all, was that second kind. I wanted desperately to feel stupid, as though it had been somehow glaringly obvious. Only it hadn't been. There was no sudden, "Of course!" moment. I suddenly felt I had a deeper understanding of the phrase Out of the Blue. The true etymology depicted a plane falling from a blue sky. It was accurate, frighteningly apt. Seeing a falling plane, but having no way to know before about it before the moment I saw it.
John let out a groan. "No, Sherlock," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. Irene scoffed as though the very idea of lowly Anne being anything more than her glorified child minder was ridiculous. I was the only one to see the plane, thus far.
Not-Anne for her part seemed somewhat unruffled by the accusation. Part of me wanted righteous indignation; horrified denial and insulted sniffles. She stared at me, unblinkingly. Some long lost Nietzsche quote (a favourite of Mycroft's) resurfaced in my mind, suddenly pertinent.
'If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.'
She was an abyss. A total lack of emotion, of caring. No traces of sweet, put-upon Anne. Something else entirely.
I was very aware that she was holding the baby all of a sudden. The small, helpless baby. Another sledgehammer of realisation hit me; I shouldn't have said anything at all. Like realising all too late I should have moved out of the way when the plane was falling.
She knew I knew, I could see it. Still nothing from her. No shift in stance, no facial expression. Her clothes all said Anne. Everything I could deduce went towards creating Anne. I wished I could doubt myself but I could see it plainly now. I had called her out. There was no going back.
Perhaps John finally picked up on it. "Anne?" he asked tentatively. She stared at me for another long moment before turning to John.
"No," she said reasonably, as though correcting a well meaning child. "Not Anne. Well, Sherlock this is inconvenient timing but I suppose we'll have to make it work."
The silence was deafening. Irene stood slowly. "What is this? Sherlock?"
Anne glanced at her, not a trace of animosity or familiarity either. "You should sit, Irene. The shock might evoke a fainting spell."
"Shock of what? Is what he said true? It is...it can't be you."
The first flicker of human emotion crossed Anne's face in the form of a smirk. "Why? Because you picked the most pathetic, lonely little girl in all of Europe? Someone who loved children, had no one else and would worship the ground you walked on?"
"I would have known," Irene told her. "You can't be that good."
"Sit down, Irene."
"I don't want to sit!" Irene yelled.
"The sugar is green," Anne said as if commenting on the weather. I immediately caught the significance and when I looked to Irene, sure enough she had gone blank faced and silent. "Irene, sit in the chair."
Irene sat, calm and willing.
"OK, what the fuck is happening?" John demanded, an edge of fear lacing his usually steady tone.
"A kind of sleeper code," I explained warily, not once taking my eyes off of 'Anne'. "The chemical compound – she's perfected it to the stage that it can lie dormant until provoked by a single phrase or word, ingrained into the subject."
Her smile was genuine. "Bravo, Sherlock. So good to see a glimpse of the old you!"
I stiffened, pride prickling up my spine. "Sherlock? Seems a little friendly."
"Oh but we are friends, Sherlock. We've known each other for months. I spoke to you every day, used different languages – your French is some of the best I've ever heard. I've seen you in every shade of vulnerability and intimacy. You don't remember of course because I instructed you to forget, but surely that doesn't negate our friendship?"
A wave of nausea hit me hard, but I worked hard to repress it. "You. You did...that to me."
"Me? No. I haven't the hardware nor the inclination. That was the men I hired. I didn't even have to offer them extra to rape you, they did it for free. This is why I dislike muscle for hire," she said as though sharing a secret between friends. "Also rape is not a tactic I like to utilise too often as it loses it's momentum after a while."
Barely able to speak, I snarled, "Then why do it?"
She tilted her head, almost pitying. The answer was obvious to her and should have been to me, but it wasn't. "A test, of course. All a test. To see if you would remember me. I allowed you to recall certain aspects to lead you there, but not everything. You barely remember fifty percent of what was done to you. Some of the most traumatic torture I've ever seen inflicted and if anything was going to force it's way to the forefront of that brilliant mind, it would be that. Yet it hasn't. The compound works very well. I put Mary Morstan in your hands, having endured the same torture as you – what did you think that whole Ripper business was about? I even handed you the formula. Put it in your veins and you still didn't remember."
"This is bullshit. You are not Moran," John said suddenly, through gritted teeth. "I know Moran."
She turned fractionally to look at him, blinking slow and lizard like. "Yes, I am."
She interrupted John. "The Sebastian Moran you know is my idiot brother. I'm Selena Moran."
"You sent him to us," I said, my mind whirling. "Used the compound on him and set the whole encounter up."
"Yes," she said simply. "He finally came in handy for something."
There was a definite past tense hanging heavily in her words. "You killed him."
She smiled again. "Yesterday."
"Then, the shooter on the roof?" John asked.
"Me, of course. There are very few people who are a better shot than me," she said cheerfully. "Scarlett was so good the whole time, on the roof. She really does sleep through anything."
Just the mention of the baby was enough to racket the tension up a few notches.
""Why?" John asked after a few moments.
"A test," she said again, patiently. "If you create a chemical compound that can be used for purposes of mind control, who do you test it on? The greatest mind of our time. If anyone was going to break through it, it would have been you, Sherlock."
"That wasn't the only reason," I countered, trying to keep my voice neutral and failing. "It was personal too."
She paused, considering. "James," she conceded. "It was personal because of James."
John let out a snort. "Why? Did you love him?"
"He was perfect," she said calmly, with mild nostalgia. "He was my two way mirror. James meant never having to see or deal with anyone, never having to kill additional and potentially useful people. Now I have to hire people, have them see me and then kill them later. He was brilliant too. Such vision. Mechanical, unstoppable in almost every way."
"Almost?" I couldn't help but ask.
She sighed, but her eyes were hard and unflinching. "You. You were the iceberg to his God damned Titanic and we both knew it. Yet on he went, ordering more steam. I warned him often. Begged him to just kill you and be done with it. You see, I didn't need you then. I was testing the compound on the other top mind of the world."
"You were testing the drug on Moriarty?"
"Yes," she said. "Thank God I was too. I was in his ear throughout that whole rooftop incident, you know. There was a kill switch for the other snipers and he was going to use it. I could see it in his eyes, through my scope. He was going to call it all off just to be able to dance with you again. So I did what I had to do. I told him to put the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger."
The silence was ringing in my ears. John put up a hand.
"You're taking credit for killing Moriarty?"
"James shot himself at my request," she corrected. "There was a sleeper phrase I'd trained into him, an advanced kind of Pavlovian conditioning. It was for the best. His obsession with you was affecting his work."
It was of course the perfect time for Imaginary Moriarty to suddenly materialise out of nowhere.
'She's right, Sherl. I couldn't get enough of you.'
I went to great lengths to ignore him, but she smiled a little anyway.
"You still see him, don't you?" she said, eyes knowing and amused. "You used to speak to him while we were holding you. Funnily enough, he saw you towards the end too, all the time. God, if he was capable of loving something it would have been you. I was expecting him to start building a shrine to you at some point. It was bordering on unprofessional."
"So you killed him?" John asked again. I could tell he was trying to evaluate the situation as best he could.
This time she ignored the mistaken phraseology and John entirely. "I compared it to a firework once. I said his obsession with you was too bright, too loud and too fleeting and it would leave him blinded and disorientated. You know what he said? He said you weren't a firework, you were a nuclear bomb." She laughed and shook her head. "It was the beginning of the end. He had always been reckless, but this was different."
It was difficult to fully digest what she was saying. My mind was working hard to catch up with the latest discovery. Now that I knew, everything about her screamed too boring. Too dull. Too ordinary and far too easy to overlook. Too much effort put into the lack of make up and beige and grey clothes. Little red herrings all over her body, her face. Until now she had always held herself like she was trying not to get in the way. Now she had the same posture as John. Confident, straight back and assessing everything around her.
"Why are you telling us all this?" I asked after a few moments. It was a stupid question, with an answer I would potentially not like but I had to ask.
"I know," she said. "Such a rookie mistake to tell James Bond my entire evil plan without making sure he'd dead first. Except I'm not a rookie and your death is not my endgame. I'm still waiting to see if anything pops back into that head of yours. The formula must be foolproof, you see. I'm not a ninety nine percent type of person. One hundred or nothing."
"What are you going to do with it?"
She looked at John as though he was a silly two year old. "What won't I do with it? Slip it to the Prime Minister, to everyone in the United Nations? Pay for a TV advert loaded with subliminal messages and drop it in the water supply?"
"And then what? So you've got the world under your control, then what?"
She laughed. "Yes, that won't be enough, will it? The power, the money, the control. The world really is not enough."
I sneered at her. "No loftier ambitions?"
"For what? To change the world or let it burn? No. I'm a pragmatist. I like being the puppeteer. That'll do wonderfully for me."
"You're sick," John snapped. "What you've done...you're worse than Moriarty."
Baby Scarlett gave a sniffle and threatened tears. Selena shushed her and lovingly kissed her head. I was uncomfortable to notice that it did indeed reassure her. What had she and Irene been arguing about when they'd arrived? How Scarlett more or less thought Selena was her mother and Irene was not.
"Much," she said solemnly. "Much worse. Because if you make a move, try to go for the gun hidden nearby I'll not only snap this little baby's neck in half but I'll speak a phrase while I do so and you John Watson will be responsible for raping Sherlock Holmes to death."
My blood turned to water and I heard John choke a little. "Jesus Christ," he gasped. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
She grinned a little. "Wrong with me? Oh John that's a little rich, isn't it? You think you're the paragon of virtue and goodness? You think Sherlock could even contend? The both of you have the most twisted little relationship I've ever seen. Made James so jealous," she added thoughtfully. "You know how much he loves you, John? I know you do. He's so in love with you that he's lost a part of himself in the process. And you? You know you're in love with him too. You know it, deep down. Everyone can see it but you. So you hurt him, deny him."
John took a step back; his legs hit the sofa and he stumbled, righting himself at the last moment. "That's not true," he said in a lifeless voice. "I love Sherlock, I really do but not like that."
His answer only seemed to further amuse her. "Oh come on, John! Look at him! Tall, dark and broken – who can resist that? The most brilliant mind in the world, so much intelligence and insight. He can deduce people to the bare bones within seconds, see through almost anything. He fights crime, he pretends not to be a hero and he's suffered...my God how he has suffered for you! You should have heard him calling out your name while he was being torn into. All that...and you're not in love with him?"
"No," he breathed.
She tutted and shook her head, readjusting her grip on Scarlett. "You're lying, John. Why wouldn't you be in love with anyone who fits that description? Let alone the fact that he's your best friend; you two are soul mates, you live to run through the dark streets with him! He makes you feel important, makes you laugh, makes you feel alive!"
"He doesn't really love me!" John shouted suddenly. I turned to look at him at once, but he studiously avoided my gaze. "He's not really in love with me," he said much quieter. "He can't be."
"Why not?" she asked. "Because sociopaths can't love?"
"He is not a sociopath!" he fairly snarled. "He just can't love me. It won't last, even if it's real which it can't be. He doesn't love me. Why would he? He's..." he paused and looked at me, his eyes a little too bright. "He's incredible. Amazing. Like you said, the greatest mind of our time. How on earth can he seriously love me?" He paused and then shook his head. "And anyway, for the last time – I'm not even gay!"
I wanted so badly to speak, but the words were caught in my throat; stuck there like a dry pill.
"Oh John," Selena said with that same mock sadness. "Such a low opinion of yourself. If only there was a benevolent deity who could make all those pesky insecurities and barriers melt away. Oh...wait!"
I could not contain my horror at her subtle suggestion.
Her stare was calculating. "Can I not? That sounds like a challenge."
"It's not, really," I rushed to say. Where had all my great bravado gone to? My cool façade in the face of danger? I was a disgrace.
"Would it be the worst thing?" she queried, a definite threat in her tone. "I can make everyone happy."
"All right, that's enough bullshit!" John shouted, causing Scarlett to flinch and burst into loud tears. "I've had enough of all you people messing around with our lives! You know what makes you happy? The sound of your own voice!"
"Irene," she said quietly. "Go to the kitchen and take out a sharp knife."
John made as if to move in Irene's direction, but I stopped him by grabbing his upper arm. "What are you going to do? Have her stab us?" he yelled, while I held him back.
Selena smiled. "Oh, John. You're such a straight forward man, aren't you? Honour and truth, it's really quite the picture. You think you can save the world." She then looked at Irene and said, "Stab yourself in the leg. Hard."
Irene swung the small but sharp knife down just above her knee and pierced her own flesh and bone. She let out a horribly strangled scream, but remained mostly expressionless.
I stared at the scene before me, crippled by inertia. Selena looked very pleased, as though a dog had performed a complicated trick.
"Well done, Irene. Now, if I say the word jump any time after this, stab yourself in the heart." Irene nodded like a puppet. "In the meantime, sit down and don't move."
The blood pouring from Irene's leg wasn't as bad as it would been had she hit an artery but it was still bad; pulsing down her leg like a heavy, red tap. I could feel the Doctor within John itching to tell her to put pressure on it.
"I confess, that was cathartic. Do you know how revolting it was wriggling around in bed with her the whole time? Ugh, that woman needs some serious therapy. I might make some adjustments to her, if she survives of course." When neither of us said anything, her expression came over serious again.
"You're risking lives by testing me," she said, gently shushing Scarlett. "Hmm, she needs her nap. I wonder if I could put her down without some tragic attempt at heroics? I can shout the J word a dozen times before you've even pulled back the hammer on any gun. What do you think?"
John relaxed a little and I finally released his arm. "Do it," I said brusquely. "We won't try anything."
She tilted her head and smiled. "There's a word for you two, you know. More than one actually, for many scenarios. But there's one I like most. A single word that will wipe your minds back to the day you were born, leaving you both as drooling vegetables for life. I've been coming into the flat and planting subliminal messages in your brains while you sleep. The compound alone isn't enough, of course. It requires conditioning. Sherlock has such terrible nightmares. Well, you know that, John. That night I woke you up by knocking over a mug downstairs you rushed in and saw it for yourself, first hand. God, that was interesting! The way you two talk when you think you're alone."
When neither John nor I took the bait, she said, "Well, can I put her down in your bedroom,
I nodded and she backed into the room, watching us both carefully. She sat on my bed, keeping the door open with one foot so she could see everything. Eight different plans rushed to my head, but all of them resulted in Irene dying.
Scarlett thankfully had been tired and after only a few minutes of Selena sitting with her, she fell asleep. When Selena returned, there was something very different in her stance.
"Much better," she said and this time the coldness was clear. "If you wouldn't mind keeping the noise down, I'll happily allow John to bandage Irene's leg."
It needed it. Irene had turned very pale and the floor beneath her was covered in blood.
"I need my medical kit," John said. "It's on top of the fridge."
Selena smiled. "If the medical kit turns out to be a gun, bear in mind the word that turns you both into dribbling veggies only has one syllable. I know you're fast, Watson but you're not that fast."
Watson. There it was. John picked up on it too, I was certain.
"Where did you serve..." he asked as he pulled down a green medical bag. "Moran?"
It seemed she had been expecting the question; nothing in her body language or expression suggested anything to the contrary.
"I was UK Special Forces, Reconnaissance Recruit. Lieutenant. I served all over, but trained up North."
"You and Sebastian were in the army," I said, my mind whirring and clicking as it pieced things together. John knelt in front of Irene and began to work. She didn't flinch or react when he took the knife out.
"We trained together, yes. I advanced ahead of him, though. UKSF. He preferred to stay with his friends." She sneered at the word; it spoke volumes to me, though I was hesitant of red herrings.
"How did you become involved with Moriarty?" I asked carefully watched for more giveaways.
She grinned. "He put an add in my local shop window."
I narrowed my eyes at her, for the first time properly able to deduce little things about her posture, speech and stance that I had not been able to see while she was holding the baby.
"You've been working with him for a long time, though," I said with growing confidence. "You're used to working alone, accustomed to control."
"Since 2007," she told me. "But that's child's play. Tell me how I met him?"
It was nowhere on her body, in her tone. It had to be something, though otherwise she wouldn't have asked. It was not forthcoming. She knew it.
"Some incentive?" she offered. "Tell me how I met him, or I'll wipe the memory of John Watson from John Watson. Ten seconds."
Something icy and iron-like gripped my heart; ten seconds, oh God. Nine, through the army, her training, through Sebastian, no! Seven, hired by Moriarty as a mercenary, no that couldn't be it or she wouldn't be asking. Four, has to be interesting, relevant, something I would know...
"He held you captive!" I blurted out, just as she said, "One."
She clapped gently. "Nothing like a little pressure to bring out the best in us all."
"He held you captive, and you ended up working for him?" John asked tightly, bandaging Irene's freshly cleaned leg. "That makes no sense."
"Little in this world does," she said with a shrug, but she hadn't taken her eyes off of me. "You know, I'm a little concerned about your state of mind, Sherlock. I'm wondering if the compound has caused this little breakdown?"
John gave me the smallest of looks and I pretended I hadn't seen it.
"I'm fine," I hissed.
She was looking me up and down now, measuring me up. "No, you're not. I thought it was a little post traumatic stress, you know? After effects of going back on drugs to save those poor girls. Perhaps even depression, but now I'm starting to think it's more than that."
"You think maybe you're mind control drug did something to his mind?" John muttered. "Genius."
"You think so too, John?" she asked. "Hmm, it needs pursuing."
I was starting to feel light-headed. The last time I had had this little control over any situation, she had been there too, only I still could not recall her...only the worst parts. My fingers were numb and I was shaking. She was a shark and I was a human swept out by a rip tide. She circled and observed, in no hurry because I had no way of escaping.
"I think we'll have to test it a little more," she said softly. "I can't have the Prime Minister going loopy."
"You're not going to test it on him," John said, standing up slowly. "Leave him alone."
She laughed. "And what? Test it on you? Hardly a fair test. No, I'm sorry my darlings but it's going to need more testing."
This was the moment I had to do something. She was going to make me forget, cause the death of that Sherlock Holmes who knew who she was. It was unspeakable. I had to kill her, somehow.
"But," she said a little louder than before. "I'm going to give you some options."
"Don't do this," said John. "Don't."
"I will," she countered. "But you can decide some things if you like."
I ground my teeth and said, "Like what?"
That horrible, generous smile was painted all over her face. "How would you like to be brave again, Sherlock? Forget all that nastiness up North? Become, as Irene said, Holmesian once more?"
I said nothing, but she could tell it had made an impact. Her smile was even more shark-like, having sensed blood. "How about having John be madly, obsessively in love with you?"
"You can't do this to us," John whispered. "Please, don't."
She went on as if John hadn't spoken. "Yes, I think that'll make for the quite the improved experiment. I'll see if anything filters through, without the interference of trauma. We'll try love on for size and see how that registers."
"Know this," I said in a miraculously even voice. "I will find a way to remember you and when I do, I'm going to rend you apart."
"Perfect," she said to me. "Let the certainty fill you up. I need you to do your very best to remember, to punch through it. Put this away somewhere in your mind and don't let what's about to happen touch it."
"You don't have to do this," John was saying, but it sounded faint. "Please, leave him alone, he's been through enough!"
She came very close to me, staring at me unblinkingly. "Is if frightening? I imagine it's like facing death, head on. But then you do it all the time, Sherlock. You delete things, don't you? Well so do I."
"I'll remember," I swore violently.
"You'd better, because if you don't then I'm going to kill John. I'm going to make him die in the most undignified, painful way possible. You have one month to remember, Sherlock. If you don't come to me within the month, John is dead."
I slammed my eyes shut, running as fast as I could into my mind palace. The basement, where I kept all my worst memories...everything that could hurt me but could never be deleted, so I locked it away. I had to get there before...
Well, I hope this went down well with everyone. I actually had this idea long before HLV aired so I hope no one thinks I drew any inspiration (or plagiarism) from it. I'd had this planned for a while. This chapter was tricky to write, but at least it done and posted. I promise that it's going to become more centred, too. I hope you enjoyed, at least.
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