Title: Knight, Burning Bright
Character(s)/Pairing(s): John Watson/Jim Moriarty (pre-slash), Sebastian Moran, Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 5374
Warnings: Mild violence, mild gore
Notes: Written for rarepairfest 2013 and gifted to neverminetohold. From her prompts, I used 'rescue' and 'BAMF!John'. I have plans for sequels, but don't hold your breath. This is also my first fic for the fandom.
Summary: "Bloody hell, Watson," Moran rasps. "What are you doing here?"

"Strangely enough, that was what I wanted to ask you too," John replies wryly, stretching his left arm out cautiously and taking a closer look at the other man. "Punctured lung?"

Kidnapped during a case, John rescues himself and comes across an injured Sebastian Moran. Afterwards, Jim Moriarty changes his mind and decides that one John Watson isn't as boring as he first seemed.


It starts, predictably enough, with Sherlock and a case.

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John blinks awake to darkness. Confused, he tries to reach up and rub his eyes, but quickly discovers that he can't. That jolts him into full awareness, adrenaline kicking in as he attempts to figure out what's going on. It takes only a few seconds to put together that he's blindfolded and sitting upright in a chair, hands tied together at the back and ankles secured with rope. He draws a blank when he tries to remember what happened before this. It's only when he moves his head, and the dull pain on the right side of his skull flares up, that the memories come rushing back.

He and Sherlock had been tracking down a murder suspect, and had found the man hiding out at his sister's flat. Somehow, that had led to Sherlock deducing that the sister was part of a weapons trafficking operation, and god had that opened up a can of worms. Sherlock had gleefully proceeded to chase down various members of the group, working his way up the hierarchy while John ran after his flatmate and made sure he didn't get shot or knifed.

"Don't fuss, John. The trafficking ring is newly established and poorly-run, judging from the people they've recruited. This will be simple."

Famous last words.

Needless to say, the leaders of the trafficking ring hadn't been pleased to have Sherlock Holmes poking his nose into their affairs, and John distinctly recalls being hit over the head after he and Sherlock had broken into one of their supposedly empty offices. John hopes that Sherlock hadn't been caught as well, since the detective had been fiddling with something by the door when John had walked into the office.

"Hello? Anyone there?" he calls out half-heartedly. No response, not that he's expecting any. At least he hasn't been gagged, though that means he's being held somewhere his captors think no one else has access to. His coat has been removed, so his phone and gun are gone.

Right then. John tests the knots he's been tied with. Hemp or jute rope, and not brand-new, judging from the frayed fibre threads he can feel with his fingers. His ankle restraints are just a tad loose, but he'll need his hands free first. The ropes around his wrists are secured painfully tight, tight enough that dislocating his thumbs won't help, but when he twists just a little – yes. There's the tiniest bit of give that he thinks he may be able to work with. It'll be hell on his wrists and shoulders – oh, god, his shoulder – but he doesn't know anything about his situation, doesn't know whether Sherlock has also been taken or when his captors will be back. For all he knows he could just be left here indefinitely. Escape is his first priority. He just hopes there aren't any cameras in the room that will tip off his captors, or at least none that have a view of his back.

It's about three-quarters of an hour later, by his internal clock, when the rope finally loosens noticeably from the constant friction he had subjected it to. By then, he's sweating profusely, his blindfold soaked, and his hands are slippery with blood from where he'd rubbed his wrists raw. His head, wrists and shoulders are throbbing with agony, and he has to clench his jaw to keep from crying out when his left shoulder spasms.

Panting, he finally manages to slip his right hand free, and the easing of tension from his shoulders is a welcome relief. He immediately reaches to pull his blindfold off. The room he's in – a small indoor office, by the looks of it – is mostly dim, the only source of light a lamp in the corner. Carefully, he tugs the fraying rope off his left hand, grimacing at the mess of skin and blood. The knots around his ankles are easy enough to undo, and he spends a minute trying to get the circulation back in his body and work out the cramp in his shoulder.

The door, when he tests it, is unlocked. His kidnappers evidently aren't the brightest of the bunch; John's gotten in some sticky situations while on cases with Sherlock, and he's encountered security measures far better than this. Of course, he's not going to complain right now. Lifting the blinds on the window confirm that the corridor outside is empty.

Steeling himself, doing his best to ignore how his whole body is aching and how his wrists are still dripping blood, he silently lets himself out. It's obvious that he had been moved to a different location; the corridor stretches out in both directions to occupy much more space than the office they had first broken into. On a whim he goes left. It leads to a dead end, but he's almost certain that Sherlock hadn't been captured with him since all the rooms he checked on the way are empty. His coat, gun and phone are nowhere to be found. In fact, the entire place is empty aside from the furniture itself. He doubles back.

His run of good luck ends when, after turning a corner, voices drift out of a room just ahead, the door ajar and bright fluorescent light flooding out.

"Fucking hell, Wilton, it's not even a very big shipment! You promised delivery two days ago!"

"I know, and I swear we'll get it to you by the end of the week. We've just run into a wee problem, that's all."

"What kind of problem?"

"Nothing, nothing, just having a few manpower issues. Here, mate, let's have ourselves a drink…"

The voices grow quieter as the two men move further into the room, followed by the clink of glasses. Wilton is the name of one of the trafficking leaders that Sherlock had uncovered, and the other man sounds abstractly familiar, but he spares only a moment puzzling over it before shaking it off.

Since there's no other way to go other than past the door of the occupied room, he prepares to run. If he's lucky enough for the occupants of the room to be facing away from the door, then he's in the clear; if not, then the men chasing him will face a nasty surprise immediately after exiting the room, because John's not dumb enough to continue running down an open corridor and present his back as a target to be shot at.

His plans are thrown out the window when there's a sudden bang of a gunshot from the room, which in this enclosed space is almost deafening. It's swiftly followed by sounds of a scuffle, bodies colliding heavily against furniture and flesh impacting flesh. Before John can take advantage of the distraction to sneak past, however, the fight ends almost as quickly as it started, with the unmistakable sound of a person's neck breaking. In the eerie silence that follows, broken only by muttered swearing, John edges forward and glances around the doorjamb.

A red-haired man in his thirties is sprawled on the carpet, head twisted at an angle and eyes staring sightlessly, a gun lying abandoned close by. The other occupant of the room is hunched over on the floor, hands pressed against his chest, bleeding and cursing breathlessly.

John blinks. The man is blond, hair military-short, in his early forties. He's dressed in a sharp black suit, and John can only see the man's side profile, but something in the tall, powerful build nudges at his memory. It's only when the blond growls out another profanity that it clicks.

Colonel Sebastian Moran, a military sniper who had served in Afghanistan with John. The man had been part of another unit, but John had once saved his life after being called out for a medevac after an IED explosion. The last he knew, Moran had left the Army just before John's discharge. What the hell is he doing here?

His left shoulder chooses that moment to cramp again, and he can't quite swallow his pained groan as he clutches at the doorjamb for support, which just aggravates his wrists. Jesus.

Distantly aware that Moran has pulled a gun and is aiming it at him, he stumbles into the room anyway and drops gracelessly to the ground, his shoulder screaming at him. By the time it stops cramping and his vision has stopped greying out with pain, Moran has lowered the gun and gone back to pressing a hand against his injury, face pale and drawn as he slumps back against the wall.

"Bloody hell, Watson," Moran rasps. "What are you doing here?"

"Strangely enough, that was what I wanted to ask you too," John replies wryly, stretching his left arm out cautiously and taking a closer look at the other man. "Punctured lung?"

Moran nods jerkily. He's inhaling and exhaling slowly and deliberately, but gasps harshly when he shifts, blood-stained hand braced against his wound slipping momentarily. The wet noise as he breathes in doesn't sound good at all.

One part of John sees a gunshot wound on a former comrade. Another part knows that the former Colonel is some kind of criminal; a mercenary, most likely, if John extrapolates from Moran's skill sets in the Army and the mention of a delivery from a weapons dealer. He had, just a few minutes ago, snapped said dealer's neck.

But he wasn't a very nice man.

"Moran, stop moving," he orders, mind blockading the pain he's in and falling into the familiar role of a doctor. He sweeps his eyes around for something he can use. They're in what seems like a lounge, a door on the other side of the room presumably leading to another office, or perhaps the pantry. The room is much more lived-in than the others, but he's not about to go rummaging around for the possible existence of a first-aid kit. Takeaway boxes on a coffee table catch his eye; he reaches out and snatches one of the plastic bags tossed carelessly on the carpet and knee-walks over to Moran.

"Watch it, Captain." But Moran lets him close, blinking too rapidly in the way that means he's trying to stay conscious.

"Stop talking, you're pulling air in through the wound. Now breathe out." When Moran does, John seals the folded plastic bag against the injury. "Press here, both hands."

Moran is far more disoriented than he should be; he's not bleeding too profusely, so the bullet still lodged in his chest didn't hit anything vital. John examines his pupils and reaches around to check his skull, earning another stream of profanity. As he suspected, Moran has a concussion, probably from hitting his head against something during the short-lived fight with Wilton.

"You got a mobile?"

"Yeah, but –" Moran pauses to catch his breath, collapsed lung and blood loss taking a toll on him. "I have a car downstairs. I know a doctor who can patch me up, I can drive there."

This particular brand of stubbornness is unbelievably familiar, reminding John of all the soldiers he'd treated in Afghanistan, each insisting that they were fine, that they were fit to return to duty despite broken bones or shrapnel fragments trapped in flesh. John himself was like this after being shot, and he's aware of the irony as he tells Moran, "Don't be a pillock, you're in no condition to walk, let alone drive. You need to patch that lung up, ASAP."

"S'not fatal, Watson, and you know it. I've got half an hour at the very least." Moran rests his head gingerly back against the wall, face twisted with discomfort. "Look, just get my phone out from my pocket and make a call for me. Someone will come pick me up."

Sighing, he digs in Moran's expensive-looking suit jacket for his mobile, pointedly ignoring the several concealed blades on his person. Wanting this day to be over already – the phone reveals that it's only been some three hours since he was knocked out – John follows the other man's instructions and dials someone in his contacts labeled 'Boss', holding the phone up against Moran's ear.

The conversation is short and clipped, Moran reciting an address John doesn't recognize and dropping several phrases that are obviously code words.

"Are you going to kill me? Or have me killed?" he asks resignedly when the call ends.

"What? No, why the fuck would I do that?" Moran looks genuinely surprised, like the thought hasn't even occurred to him.

"Because I know you killed Wilton?" John tilts his head towards the cooling corpse just a metre away. "And I know your name and face?"

Moran considers him, and for a fleeting moment he doesn't seem like a man slumped over on the floor with a chest wound and concussion, but rather like a dangerous feline crouched and ready to pounce. He's acutely aware of the man's muscled frame, but before a physical confrontation can ensue, the warmth bleeds back into that green-eyed stare, and John relaxes.

"Don't be daft, Watson. I haven't been hired to kill you, so why should I?"

"So that means you would, if you were paid to do it?"

Moran's face twitches oddly. "Probably. It's my job, after all."

"Pays well, does it? Being a contract killer, I mean. Can't say I envy the occupational hazards, though." John nods at the blond's abdomen.

Moran scowls darkly at the dead Wilton. "Arsehole had more guts than I gave him credit for. Tried to off me before I could do the same to him."

John knows he's a little screwed up, because giggling at crime scenes with Sherlock? That's just not on. But here he is, sitting next to a sniper who's admitted he may kill John for money in the future, and all he feels is the impulse to burst into laughter. Christ.

The other man prods John's foot with his own. "There's a landline inside you can use. I'd prefer you not use my mobile, I'm sure you understand."

John heaves a sigh, and uses a nearby chair to pull himself up, the action jarring his wrists and tearing open wounds that had started to clot. Hissing, he closes his eyes and flexes his fingers, not moving even as he senses Moran shifting behind him.

He's been expecting it and doesn't resist when Moran slides an arm around his throat from behind, cold barrel of a gun pushed into his side. In usual circumstances, he would have fought, but John believes Moran when he said that he wasn't planning to kill him. Not today, anyway.

"You're a good one. You really are," Moran rumbles behind him, voice strained. "Wish things were different, but they are what they are and we've both picked a side."

The arm tightens, cutting off his air flow, and John's vision begins to dance with dark spots as he struggles instinctively.

"Sorry about this, Watson, but it'll make things easier for you to explain to the coppers later on."

When John wakes up again, it's to shouts of "Police!", doors slamming open, and Sherlock calling his name.

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In hindsight, it's obvious. The pool and the snipers. Moran used to be a military sniper, is now a mercenary, and has a 'Boss' which implies a long-term employer. The suit he was wearing had probably been Westwood.

Mycroft confirms his suspicions when he turns up at the flat with several files containing evidence that Sebastian Moran has been working for Jim Moriarty for the past year and a half, and has even become something like a trusted lieutenant.

John makes tea, conflicted. Sherlock, dragging dying cat noises out of his violin as he glares at his brother, follows him into the kitchen.

"Don't be dull, John. It wouldn't have made a difference if you had known."

"I could have knocked him out."

"You would have tried," Sherlock corrects. "He was armed, you were not. Both of you were injured, but he is stronger and heavier than you. The odds of you winning that fight were not in your favour."

"Ta very much for your confidence in me," he retorts.

Sherlock plays a final screeching note and puts his violin down in favour of the cup of tea John offers. "You're welcome."

"Tea, Mycroft?" He ignores the dark look Sherlock sends him for giving Mycroft a reason to prolong his stay in the flat.

"Thank you, but I really must be going." The elder Holmes stands and straightens his suit. "Do be careful, won't you, John?"

Usually Mycroft says that to his brother, not John. "What? Why?"

"In the past three days since you encountered Sebastian Moran, interest in you from an unknown party has risen exponentially. Someone has accessed your records, including your military service records, through untraceable means. My people have discovered and removed several pieces of surveillance equipment from your workplace."

A frisson of apprehension runs down John's spine. "You think it's Moriarty?"

"There's no hard evidence, of course, but it would seem so." Mycroft smiles calmly, twirling his brolly idly. "You have no cause for concern, John. I've already assigned a security detail to you. They're very discreet, you'll hardly notice them."

"I – Mycroft, that's nice of you, but – "

"You're very welcome. After all, my brother does throw such a tantrum every time you're kidnapped, so let's try to avoid that, shall we? Good day."

John snatches the cup out of Sherlock's hands before he can lob it down the stairs after his brother's retreating back.

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What happens the next day is no one's fault, really, though Sherlock would probably point fingers at Mycroft. Objectively, the blame would be split between John, Sherlock, Mycroft's people and Jim Moriarty.

Towards the end of his shift at the surgery, John had turned his phone to silent and locked it in a drawer after one too many texts from a bored Sherlock. When he was finally ready to go home, he'd grabbed his phone but hadn't checked it until he was already a block away from the surgery.

Thirty-nine texts from Sherlock. One text and two missed calls from Mycroft. He opens the text from Mycroft.

Remain in the surgery after your shift. I will have a car pick you up. Do not leave the building until Anthea escorts you out personally.

MH

John stops abruptly. The text had been sent ten minutes ago.

"Watson." The familiar voice comes from behind him.

Scotland Yard hadn't managed to locate his coat, phone and gun, which is perhaps both a blessing and a curse. He'd bought a replacement mobile, but hadn't yet gotten around to getting a new gun through the black market, so his hands are achingly empty as he turns to face Moran, also dressed in a smart suit today.

"Moran. How's the injury?" John asks politely, eyes flicking to the road as a black car pulls up next to them. His hopes are dashed when Moran doesn't react other than to shrug stiffly.

"Healing." Moran examines him with keen eyes, no doubt checking for concealed weapons, then tilts his head towards the car, looking genuinely apologetic. "Get in, won't you? I really don't want to make a scene."

John hesitates, contemplating making a run for it, but there're too many innocents on the streets and he doesn't want to test Moriarty and Moran's opinions on collateral damage.

He's expecting to be taken to another location, but what he finds when he gets into the back of the car is Jim Moriarty grinning at him. John very nearly throws himself back out, but Moran slams the door shut from outside and the locks engage on their own. A few moments later, the car purrs into movement and John is alone next to the consulting criminal.

"Hi!" chirps Moriarty cheerfully.

John folds his arms and doesn't react, dividing his attention between the streets outside and the man next to him. Out of the corner of his eyes, he can see Moriarty pout before sliding closer to him, expensive fabric of his trousers whispering softly against the luxurious leather seat. John has to focus resolutely on not showing how close proximity to the madman is making his skin crawl, but he's sure that Moriarty knows anyway.

"Are you still mad at me about the pool, Johnny? If I apologise, will you talk to me?"

Without thought, John's head snaps around towards Moriarty and he finds himself answering without meaning to. "Apologise? You strapped me with explosives and threatened my best friend's life, and you expect me to, what, forgive you when you apologise?"

Moriarty looks delighted at his outburst, dark eyes roaming over his face with avid interest. "I never said anything about forgiveness. But I did get you to talk to me, didn't I?"

John feels like he's the test subject of an experiment, something that Sherlock does to him occasionally when he's between cases and doesn't quite feel like poking at body parts. John responds like he does to his flatmate – he refuses to be a pushover.

"Point for you, then," he says sarcastically. "You do realise that Mycroft Holmes is on your trail right now?"

"Hmm. Mycroft Holmes. The Ice Man." Moriarty doesn't seem very concerned. "Very, very clever, but no interest in playing at all. You know how it goes, all work and no play makes Mycroft a dull boy. He may as well be a statue. Booooring."

"You're underestimating him."

"Maybe," the genius says agreeably with a singsong voice. "But first he has to fix the whole of London's CCTV systems which I've crashed. He didn't quite expect me to move so quickly. But enough about him, I'm here for you."

John can't help the sinking sensation in the bottom of his stomach and the hair rising on the back of his neck. Having Jim Moriarty look at him like he's doing now, with that dark interested gaze, is very low on the list of things he wants to happen to him. Even at the pool when he was being loaded with Semtex, Moriarty had regarded him with a sort of shallow condescending attention, very different from the way he's watching him now. Like he's an actual human being and not just another toy.

"Sebastian had such nice things to say about you after what happened. Did you know he was one of the snipers at the pool with his sights aimed on you?" queries Moriarty.

John glances automatically at the partition separating Moran and the driver from them. He had suspected.

"He didn't like it, tried to have me reassign him. He still did it in the end of course, that's what I pay him for. I did a little digging afterwards, found out about you saving his life in Afghanistan. Very noble of you, Doctor." Moriarty smiles, as bright as it is fabricated. It's getting easier to pick apart the genius' expressions; the liveliness in his features isn't entirely real, but it isn't entirely false either. He wonders how long Moriarty's good mood will last, when the almost friendly vibe surrounding the man will evaporate and be replaced with that spine-chilling aura of madness.

"It was part of my job. I was in the RAMC," he points out tersely, keeping his mind clear on what he needs to do. Moriarty is, in his own words, changeable. If John plays along with whatever is going on here, he has a chance of getting out of this unscathed.

"But you're not now. Tell me, Johnny boy, what would you have done a few days ago if you had known Sebastian was one of mine?"

John shrugs, looking out the window again to try and figure out where they're heading. Momentarily distracted when he realises they're not too far away from Baker Street, he jumps when cool fingers encircle his right wrist. Jerking his attention back to Moriarty's pleasantly mild countenance, he has to struggle not to pull away despite the sudden rush of adrenaline triggering his fight or flight instincts. Instead, he tries to project calm indifference, but Sherlock's always said that he's a bad liar, so he doesn't know how well he succeeds. Besides, Moriarty can probably feel his pulse racing.

When it's clear that the other man is still waiting for his response, John swallows and forces himself to speak. "I'd probably have tried to knock him out, take him in for questioning."

Moriarty gives no outward indication of whether he thinks John would have been able to beat Moran. "Would you still have treated his injury afterwards?"

He frowns. "Of course."

The genius blinks at him, rubbing his thumb idly across his pulse point. John had only removed the gauze around his wrists that morning, the skin beneath still pink and tender. Shivery sensations travel up his arm from that small movement. He finds himself making eye contact with Moriarty and holding it, the dark-eyed gaze strangely captivating.

"What if it had been me?"

"What?"

The animation in Moriarty's face drains away like a mask slipping off, leaving behind serious features and intense eyes. His stare is magnetic, and John can barely breathe, the atmosphere in the car having thickened into something unfathomable.

"What if you walked into that room and I was there? I've been shot multiple times and am bleeding out. I'm unconscious, I'll die without immediate medical assistance. What would you do?"

John imagines it. Imagines Moriarty collapsed in front of him, blood pumping out of him from various wounds. It's the madman who plays with human lives like chess pieces, discarding them as he sees fit. John is both a doctor and a soldier, and it would be so easy to put a bullet between his eyes, or just wait and let him die from blood loss.

But there's a difference between shooting someone who's actively trying to kill you, and shooting someone who's already down. At the pool, with the threat to him and Sherlock, he had been more than ready to snap Moriarty's neck or have him go up in flames. John can make excuses about how dangerous Jim Moriarty is, but in the end, if faced with him wounded and unconscious? He knows the first thing he'd do, and it won't be shooting him.

Moriarty reads the answer on him before he can verbalise it, thumb stilling its back-and-forth movement briefly before resuming. The genius cocks his head to the side, studying him, before glancing away and rubbing at his lips contemplatively with his other hand.

Free from that heavy stare, John sucks in a breath of relief. His heart is pounding from something more complex than fear, and his hand is warm where Moriarty still has a gentle grip on him. Oddly, the urge to pull away has faded. Instead, it's almost…comfortable. It's not that Moriarty has managed to lull him into a false sense of security, because John will never make that mistake, but rather, his instincts tell him that the consulting criminal is holding his hand for the sake of holding his hand, with no sinister motives behind it.

"How fascinating, Doctor Watson. I think I'm starting to understand what Sherlock sees in you."

That…is not good. Not good at all. Moriarty started a game involving bombs and hostages with Sherlock, the only person he finds 'interesting'. What he will do with someone he deems 'fascinating' doesn't bear thinking about. John's hands coil into knots unconsciously, posture tensing.

"And out comes the Captain." Moriarty hums and tugs John's hand onto his knee, tracing the ragged lines of pink skin and nudging insistently until his fist uncurls. John lets him, leaning just that bit closer to the other man and focusing. What's the best way to go for the gun he can see concealed under his suit jacket?

The genius rolls his eyes playfully and releases John's hand, fingers trailing lingeringly over his. "Oh, don't be like that, Johnny. We were having such a nice chat."

"Well, we should have tea and biscuits next time. I'm a tad sick of being kidnapped, to tell you the truth." John regrets the words immediately after they leave his mouth; Moriarty lights up, beaming.

"I would love to."

Oh my god, John thinks, did he just accidentally ask Jim Moriarty out on a date?

The exaggerated enthusiasm on Moriarty's features lightens into something milder and somehow more genuine, lidded eyes observing him. "You're all fire and diamond-sharp edges, John Watson. I wonder if I would hurt myself trying to get close."

He has no idea how to respond to that disconcerting statement, but fortunately the car chooses that moment to slow to a halt, doors unlocking with a click. John recognises the buildings outside; they're two blocks away from Baker Street.

"You're letting me go?"

Moriarty smiles serenely at him. "Of course. We're seeing each other again, aren't we?"

"I…suppose," he replies cautiously, not knowing if a negative answer will cause the doors to lock again.

"Oh, and take this before you go, Johnny." Moriarty bends and retrieves a pastel blue box with a cheery red bow on the lid from beneath the car seat, placing it directly on his lap. "Go on, open it."

He's prepared for a box of ears or a bomb with a timer, but all he finds inside is a green coat, a bronze key and –

"Is this my Sig?" It is. There are the tell-tales scratches that he knows as well as the back of his hand.

"It wasn't too difficult to track down. A knight needs his sword, after all." Moriarty shrugs. "Your mobile was smashed, but then you've already gotten a replacement. The bloodstains in the coat couldn't quite come out, so I bought you a new one."

He can tell just from running his hands over the fabric of the coat that it's probably branded and ridiculously expensive. "I don't actually need –"

"The key leads to your last gift, I'm sure Sherlock can help you figure it out." Moriarty interrupts him, pulling out his phone. Tapping away at it, he looks displeased at whatever he reads there.

"It's very generous of you," John picks his words carefully, sensing that Moriarty's mood has taken a nosedive, "but you don't have to get me gifts."

"To be honest, the last one is more about me than you, but I thought you would appreciate the gesture anyway." Moriarty flicks his eyes up, and John nearly flinches at the manic gleam present there. It's the touch of madness that had been in full force at the pool but non-existent here in the car until now. It turns an average, unassuming-in-appearance man like Moriarty into someone lethally dangerous. "It shouldn't surprise you that I'm a rather possessive man. I don't like other people touching my things."

Like someone has flipped a switch, the knife-sharp edge of menace vanishes, replaced by that false cheerfulness. "Now off you go, and take care of that shoulder of yours. I'll be in touch!"

It doesn't even occur to John to use his gun against Moriarty until he's standing on the pavement staring at the black car driving off, clutching a gift box in his hands.

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The key leads to an anonymous motel room, where two corpses are seated upright in chairs. They're blindfolded, ankles tied to the legs of the chair and hands together behind their backs. The rope is made out of hemp and slightly frayed. Their left shoulders are dislocated.

"George Collins and Paul Brace," Lestrade reads aloud from the IDs laid out on the carpet. "Aren't they –"

"The remaining two members of the weapons trafficking ring John and I dismantled several days ago," Sherlock confirms, eyes darting over the bodies. "They escaped, most likely to another country, before we could capture them."

The wrists of both men are a gory mess, the white of bone peeking out.

"Cause of death was blood loss from the wrists, caused by the friction of rope repeatedly grinding into skin and flesh, but also helped along by a blade wielded by another party."

John's mobile beeps with an incoming text. He reaches for it with numb fingers.

Tea tomorrow at 3pm?

JM