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05 October 2011 @ 05:54 pm
[fic]: mistaken for strangers  
Title: Mistaken for Strangers

Author: epistolic

Rating: M.

Word Count: 8,088.

Genre: Romance/Angst.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: Six months ago, a bomb went off in central London and Sherlock scented blood. Sherlock/John, Sherlock/Moriarty, slash, One-Shot.

A/N: Birthday-fic for atavistique! I hope you have a lovely one, my darling ♥

Feedback = love forever, as always! ♥


--
Mistaken for Strangers
--

Reichenbach was Sherlock's move.

It took them a while to get to that quiet point above the London skyline, and for a long while Sherlock hadn't thought they would. Jim wasn’t the sort of person you expected to disappear. Jim was the sort of person (monster) to make entrances, to get into forbidden places, to dig deep.

Jim was wearing the suit he wore to the funerals of people he’d knocked off personally, the slim tie a stripe down his chest.

"Sherlock," Jim said, purred. He had his hands in his pockets.

"Moriarty," Sherlock said, tilting his chin up. Jim's dark eyes were focused hot on his face and the evening air was cold as a stone when he breathed. All around them the city stood at a standstill.

Jim looked to the side like he was expecting someone, but John didn’t come.

--

Six months ago, a bomb went off in central London and Sherlock scented blood.

John followed him in those days because that was what John did. Quiet, sure, dependable John. Sherlock got them into near-fatal scrapes and John more often than not made the whole thing worse, but at crucial moments John saved Sherlock's life, multiple times, and on some indescribable level that registered. Somewhere in the great mind of Sherlock Holmes he realised that John was an antidote. John was a life-line, an act of mercy.

They leapt around London on a wild goose chase and then not a week later, they were standing on the fringes of a swimming pool, and Sherlock had no fewer than three sniper sights pointed at him, and that was that.

They blew the pool up and it was all very spectacular and John got blasted backwards into a concrete wall and suffered multiple fractures.

Sherlock got thrown six metres and landed funny. His shoulder did something strange, which later he would reflect upon and determine, from a second-to-second analysis of the pain, was a dislocation. He got several long, nasty burns. His wrist snapped.

He also cracked his head on something so the last thing he saw was Moriarty's lizard smile, but soon even that was swallowed up by the roaring flames and then he was out, gone, completely vacant.

--

Before all that happened – exciting as it all was, though John would later tell him, bloody deranged – Sherlock was on the trail of some quick-witted lady thief who had made off with several paintings from a dowager's collection, which, admittedly, was a bit pedestrian, but the alternative was a case Mycroft was shoving at him and, well. Mycroft.

John was with him and Sherlock was lost somewhere in his head. They were in a taxi heading towards the apartment of a prominent Cabinet Minister's mistress and it was raining, John's bad leg was stiff, his fist was clenched white-knuckled on his knee. He hadn't complained yet.

Sherlock looked across at him, snuck a quick glance and looked away. "You're upset."

John said nothing. John's silences were louder than any scream; he wasn’t the type to raise his voice.

“There is going to be a very delicate scene when we arrive,” Sherlock said, fixing the clasps on his leather gloves, “so if you have something to say, you had best say it now before people start shooting at us.”

John made a dry, disbelieving sound. “Yeah, right.”

“You doubt we’re going to be shot at?”

“I doubt whatever I say is going to make any difference.”

“Well, that’s true,” Sherlock admitted. His mind was torn in two directions and it was frustrating him – the case, John, the case, John, the case. “But you’ll feel better once you’ve said it anyway.”

John made a thumping noise against the interior of the car door with his knee. “You are so – ”

“Correct?”

– impossible,” John said, and there was enough real anger in his voice to swat everything else in Sherlock’s head right out of orbit. Sherlock looked at him, blinked. Really looked at him. “You’re a pain in the arse and you’re going to get us killed one day and you do not go off again without me, do you understand? I don’t care what genius reason you have for it – or harebrained reason, rather. You do not.”

Sherlock stared at him, genuinely perplexed for a moment. “It never bothered you before.”

“You’ve never been shot before.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock said scathingly. “Of course I’ve been shot before. Multiple times. This one just skimmed my arm, you’ve seen me far worse.”

“And is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“It should,” Sherlock said.

John’s hand twitched on the cab seat. “Well, to nobody’s big fat surprise, it doesn’t.”

For a second, Sherlock almost reassured him. John was like that, he needed reassurances. John, so good at following orders, needed to hear from Sherlock’s mouth that everything was alright because – and no-one knew why it was this way, it certainly made no sense – he trusted Sherlock, in the way a soldier trusted, blindly. Sherlock did not hurt; Sherlock most definitely did not die. The illusion had to be preserved. In some distant, unattached way, Sherlock understood that John would give his life to preserve that illusion. The most dangerous of John’s weaknesses.

“You’re no use to me like this,” Sherlock settled on finally. “I can’t carry you in my pocket at all times.”

“I just don’t like it when you – ” John groped for a moment, trying to find the right words, brow creasing with the hopelessness of the situation “ – keep things from me.”

“I’ve always kept things from you. As you’ve kept things from me.”

“I’ve never kept anything from you, you’ve never given me the chance.”

“And I’m meant to be in your debt for that?”

“Sherlock, for Christ’s sake,” John started heatedly, working himself up to the argument. “I don’t give a damn that you can tell me exactly where I’ve been or what I’ve done just by looking at – the creases of my shirt, or my shoelaces, or the back of my right hand, or – whatever.”

“You’ve certainly found issue with it bef– ”

“What I care about,” John cut in – actually physically cutting in, hand scything through the air and almost hitting Sherlock’s wrist – “is you not trusting me enough to let me help you. I want to help. You don’t get to make the decision about whether something is too dangerous to involve me or not – that’s unfair, I can damn well decide that for myself, I’m an adult.”

“You’d say yes no matter what,” Sherlock pointed out. “It wouldn’t matter what I asked of you, that’s just who you are. I could ask you to jump off the nearest block of flats in the name of a case, and you’d do it.”

“But you wouldn’t ask me that.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

Sherlock looked across and John was staring him down with those heavy grey eyes like he was trying to run Sherlock over, knock the ground out from under his feet. The taxi swerved; for a wild moment Sherlock thought he’d succeeded. But then the world righted again. John was just John.

“No, you wouldn’t,” John said, but then the taxi pulled up and they were off, thankfully, an adequate excuse.

--

Jim Moriarty was a bag full of tricks no-one in their right mind would dip their fingers into.

For two months after the pool, nothing. And then suddenly like a trick of the light Jim was sliding into the seat opposite Sherlock’s in the staff dining hall of St Bart’s. He was wearing a tight-hugging shirt in a strange shade of mauve and his posture was all wrong, dipped and awkward. Playing a role then.

“Is this seat taken?” Jim said; his voice was meek but his eyes were bright as coals.

Sherlock, right wrist still clumsy with a fork, watched mutely as Jim sat down. Sherlock’s mind was racing. There were two bodies upstairs that Molly was holding for him on account of some interesting dental work. They were scrubbing the corridors – the whole place stank of hospital-grade disinfectant, everything was a shade too white, it hurt to look at the linoleum floor. Jim’s nametag read James Morrissey, IT. Jim’s foot bumped Sherlock’s ankle under the table.

“Word got around that you dislocated your shoulder,” Jim said, bending over his lunch tray. Soup. “Heard about what happened on the news – lucky no-one was hurt, eh? Well. Hurt any worse.”

For several minutes, terse silence as Jim spread his napkin and ate.

“How’s John?” Jim said finally in the same insignificant voice. “How’s his fractured femur? Compound, wasn’t it? Good thing it didn’t rupture an artery, that would’ve been messy.”

“It did rupture his artery.”

“Good.” Jim peered up at Sherlock, a sudden flash in his smile. “That he’s alive, I mean.”

There was no sign that Jim had been hurt at all. He had a tiny graze by his jaw, the sort that could’ve been put there by a cat or by fingernails, but no scars or bandages. His eyes had a predictable sleepless look. His shoulders seemed to be in working order and all of his fingers, pale, long, were steady and did not jar like Sherlock’s wrist did every now and then. There was no stiffness in his neck or spine. Indignation rose up in Sherlock like a cresting wave – an icy, breathless fury.

“Don’t be silly,” Jim said, without looking up from his plate. Suddenly, he sounded bored. “All the security cameras are in working order. I check out perfectly clean.”

“I wasn’t going to hit you,” Sherlock said coldly.

“No, that’s not your style, is it?”

“And this isn’t yours,” Sherlock countered. “So what are you doing here.”

“Returning lost property.”

“I haven’t lost anything.”

“Think carefully now,” Jim said, lifting a brow, and for a blind second the bottom of Sherlock’s stomach dropped out. “Oh, don’t be predictable, it’s not your lapdog. Been there, done that. Here.” Jim’s hand disappeared under the table and reappeared, as smooth as a card trick. “This belongs to you.”

The memory stick made a cheerful, clattering sound on the scratched white tabletop as Jim rolled it out of his palm. Like it was a die and Jim was hoping for a lucky six.

Sherlock eyed it. “What – ”

“You know my penchant for collectibles. I would never have just left it there.”

“All that trouble, just to return this to me.”

“Well, you went to the trouble of finding it in the first place, didn’t you?” Jim leaned in, role slipping for a second. “You fascinating creature, you took me by surprise. I hadn’t thought for a second you’d be stupid enough to bring me the real plans. Otherwise I would never have thrown the fruits of your labour away like that, how insensitive of me. I would’ve shown you a little more appreciation.”

“I’m in no need of your appreciation,” Sherlock snapped.

“No, I suppose not. How did your brother react, when he found out?”

“That you hadn’t succeeded in killing me? Elated.”

“You didn’t know I’d throw it away,” Jim said, tipping a dark head in faux curiosity. “I could’ve kept it. Come on, Sherlock, don’t tell me you hadn’t factored that into your considerations. What would you have done if I’d made off with those plans? I could’ve had the entire Secret Service scrambling.”

“And my brother would’ve had you killed.”

Jim blinked, then leaned back with a laugh. “What a terrible evasion of the question. Try again.”

Sherlock didn’t answer. He stretched out a hand and scooped up the memory stick. Dead and useless after spending half an hour, maybe more, at the bottom of a London swimming pool.

Sherlock had given a large amount of professional thought to drowning and had decided it was rather a wishy-washy way to go. Given a choice, Sherlock would go out on a bullet. He’d often wondered what John would choose but John thought about that sort of thing in a different way and it was hard to tell; John would probably tell him to stop being morbid and to clear out the fridge, the gall bladders were starting to stink.

“The great Sherlock Holmes, a national traitor,” Jim was saying. “How delicious. You didn’t tell John either, did you? You lied. Because you knew he’d believe you.”

The memory stick dug into Sherlock’s palm and he pushed his chair back.

Somewhere downstairs, an infant was wailing. Left there temporarily while his mother went to get a cup of tea, she’d disappeared from his sight for no more than a minute, but even a minute to him had constituted betrayal and he would not be consoled.

The entire hospital rang with it.

--

Truth be told, John was not all that fascinating. Sherlock set things on fire and singed holes in the upholstery with acid and put bullet-holes into the wall.

John put up with it.

On their second case together there was a lot of running around and a lot of pausing for John to catch his breath. Sherlock wasn’t quite used to stopping for someone else. But John needed to eat, needed to sleep, someone needed to get groceries when halfway through the week they ran out.

They made progress (or, rather, Sherlock made progress). The last night was a cool one and John’s breath came out of his mouth in great puffs of smoke, like a dragon’s. The bad guys were operating out of a mangy dockside by the Thames, the river scent high in the air, the water pitch black in the dark and sluggish, and between the two of them – Sherlock was still adjusting to the sound of that, the two of them – they kicked down doors and did some hasty apprehending. Lestrade arrived just as Sherlock was mid-monologue about how to tell apart particular brands of red paint. John looked bewildered; he was constantly grinning.

Back in Baker Street Sherlock claimed the sofa while John claimed the armchair, and John did that thing where he blew on his tea before he drank it, hands cupped perfectly around his mug.

Sherlock was the type to guard victory close to the chest, because it was what he lived for. But then suddenly, without any warning, out of the blue, he thought how wonderful and novel it was being able to share victory with someone else.

--

Of course, with Jim, there was no sharing.

Sherlock hadn’t wanted John to come but after the pool incident, John gave him no room to protest. There was still a conversation looming between them about that which neither had breached. Sherlock was simply glad John had decided to let it alone – for now.

“Where are we going?” John asked, a familiar refrain. He was leaning rather hard on his walking stick and Sherlock had to tailor his own strides shorter.

“Ascot.”

John’s eyes followed a passing cab. “Are we walking the entire way?”

Sometimes Sherlock had trouble telling whether John was joking or not. He had a fairly straight-forward humour – the humour of the every-man, dealt bluntly and without any change in expression. It was amazing that there were still things John could hide from Sherlock, but there it was. And then of course sometimes John just asked stupid questions that left Sherlock wavering over whether to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He supposed John meant those sorts of questions as a roundabout compliment. Sherlock Holmes was on such a different plane to the rest of the world; nothing was surprising, and if Sherlock had said yes, they were walking to Ascot, John’s leg be damned, John would have nodded and left it at that.

“No,” Sherlock said instead, drifting towards the curb to throw out an arm. “We’re taking a cab.”

John hummed, following closely. “Do you think it’s him?”

“Too early to tell. Not enough facts to formulate a theory yet.”

“Has his signature all over it, though.”

Sherlock gave John a sharp look but John was busy checking the road for stray bicycles; Sherlock had a propensity for barging thoughtlessly into traffic. “Signature?”

“Well, it’s messy, isn’t it? And it’s been months since we got out. He hasn’t made a single move yet.”

“Hmm,” Sherlock said.

The case this time was a young businesswoman with three small children, who’d suffocated the two youngest (both daughters) calmly in their beds while the father was out playing a morning game of squash. Then she’d driven her oldest to his primary school, dropped him off at the gates, and in full view of the entire street methodically driven her car headlong into a passing truck. Normally, Sherlock would have written it off – human madness, so common, so excessively boring – but the fact that the woman had left her husband a note, all numbers, covering an entire page; that left a deep thrumming at the base of his spine, made his pulse pick up. It was a disaster, and Sherlock loved disasters, especially the coordinated ones. It was all very exciting.

Inside the cab, Sherlock laid out his usual agenda: John to see the husband, pick up any useful information. Sherlock to the scene of the suicide. People’s memories changed, grief had a way of twisting facts – it was imperative to get to the husband as soon as possible.

“Wouldn’t it be better, then,” John started. It was stuffy in the cab and John’s voice sounded unusually flat. “I mean, if it’s so delicate – ”

“Absolutely not,” Sherlock said, already peering out of the window. “A crime scene that size right at the door of a public school? We’ll be lucky if it’s not already torn to pieces. And with that level of media coverage.”

“Right. But Lestrade’s probably set up road blocks already.”

“Road blocks,” Sherlock repeated contemptuously, as if the very thought offended him.

John sighed. “He is trying his best, you know.”

“Then he’s not trying hard enough. This is your stop.”

John got out muttering, a single bent shape in amidst the flow of people down the sidewalk. He vanished into the crowd almost immediately – nothing special about John Watson, if he forgot about limping, to distinguish him from the rest of the world. Sherlock mulled on that for a second. He supposed the woman – Leslie Howard, running a small distribution business in central London, thirty-two – had had nothing special about her either, except for the fact that she’d murdered her children and then thrown herself in front of a truck. It still gave Sherlock pause after all these years, a fundamental truth that time and time again still managed to surprise him; how it was that, with such seeming ease, ordinary people were capable of such extraordinary things.

--

John came back sometime in the late evening.

Sherlock was scrunched up in his armchair staring at the opposite wall. His mind was wrapped in a dull white fog that would not recede. Beneath the fog, though, buried inside it, was a frantic whir of activity and Sherlock took several minutes to realise that John was sitting on the sofa two metres away with his head in his hands.

Immediately, alarm. “What is it?”

John said nothing. His hair was a wreck so he’d spent some time carding his fingers through it. His shoulders were speckled with rain, one collar wedged distractedly underneath the neck of his jumper.

Something in Sherlock calmed again, like suddenly getting his breath back.

“Difficult afternoon, was it,” Sherlock said.

John sucked a huge breath of air into his chest and blew it out like a rhino. “You can say that again.”

“Anything of importance?”

“He cried a lot. Does that count?”

“Depends,” Sherlock said. It was still raining outside and the water hit the windowpanes with heavy, thudding sounds. “Anything about her behaviour in the last few days? Any strange phone calls, letters, emails? Unusually quiet, unusually loud, that sort of thing. Had she been on any business trips?”

But John had gone silent again, clammed up and taut. Something had hurt him. There was something deep inside him that he was grappling with in his quiet, steady way and he needed time.

--

Sherlock spent long hours in the months after the pool pondering over his nemesis. He had not expected Jim to just appear. That was probably why Jim had appeared, on a blustery morning two weeks before Leslie Howard woke up to murder her two young daughters.

John was out buying milk. John seemed to do nothing but buy milk nowadays, used it as an excuse to go out and walk slowly down to the shops, frustrated with his weakened femur and the age-old twinge in his knee.

Sarah had given him time off work but John wanted none of that.

“Everyone keeps babying me,” he’d snapped, glaring at Sherlock like it was somehow his fault – which, Sherlock supposed, the entire thing rather was.

I’m not babying you,” Sherlock had pointed out. Sniffed at the newspaper. “Also, we’re out of bread again.”

When Jim slanted himself into Sherlock’s doorway Sherlock had five nicotine patches stamped onto his arm and everything felt sharp, every colour much too bright, every line with razor edges. Jim moved with a kind of sloping grace that John didn’t have. There were cars grumbling down the street outside and Jim’s suit jacket was snug around his waist. He looked narrow – like he could slip away at any moment.

Sherlock didn’t sit up, but his entire body tightened; Jim’s cologne was stifling.

“Cosy little place,” Jim said. Sherlock stayed sightlessly staring at the ceiling. “I don’t understand why you bother to share it, you could surely afford it on your own.”

“Surely.”

Jim reached out and traced a finger down the frame of a painting. “My, I do like this.”

“You can have it.”

“Oh, can I?” Jim took a step back, pretended to survey it with greater scrutiny. “Did you paint it? Such delicate brushwork, especially around the mandible and the nasal bones. Did you use a reference?”

Sherlock turned his neck. It hurt a little to look at Jim from his spot on the couch, but Sherlock was not about to get up. On the wall the painting glared down with empty eye sockets and bared, bony teeth.

“A friend,” Sherlock said. “Executed in the United States.”

“I wasn’t aware you dabbled in portraiture. You have talent, Sherlock.”

“Why, are you interested in a commission?”

Jim tapped his fingernails over the frame, then perched on the edge of the sofa near Sherlock’s feet. He was smiling. Sherlock resisted the urge to draw his knees up – Jim was too close, Sherlock had that little warning voice in his head most people got before they burned their fingers on a hot stove.

“You’d like to paint my skull, would you,” Jim said conversationally. “Hang me up on your wall. How quaint.”

“I’d settle for just hanging you, actually.”

“Sherlock, blatant threats are boring. Especially if you can’t carry them out.”

“Watch me.”

“Oh, I’m watching you, you needn’t worry about that.”

“What’s it like,” Sherlock said suddenly, flicking his gaze back to the ceiling, “being so desperate for someone else’s attention? Paying all these little personal visits. Don’t tell me you’re lonely.”

“Of course I’m lonely,” Jim sang out. “That’s the default explanation for everything, isn’t it? Can’t get inside his head, he must be lonely or going plain nuts. Or both! Imagine.” He settled a hand on Sherlock’s ankle. “But really I’d been hoping you’d have a better analysis. Don’t disappoint me, Sherlock, there’s a dear.”

“Two months ago you were trying to kill me,” Sherlock said flatly.

“I’ve re-evaluated.”

“On what basis?”

“Well, you’re much more entertaining alive than you are dead. Dead bodies are lovely, but they’re so…” Jim trailed off for a moment, fingers ghosting briefly up beneath Sherlock’s trouser hem, taunting. “Inanimate. I’d hate to pick you off and then decide I haven’t had enough fun with you yet, it’s usually too late when that happens.”

“You do realise you’re just giving me a chance.”

“I like chance,” Jim said. He took his hand back, straightened up and almost immediately sound came back to the room, like crashing through galvanised glass. The rush hour sounds from the open window; the groan of the piping. “I’ve a marvellous gift for bending it in my favour.”

“You and me both,” Sherlock said.

From somewhere downstairs came the irregular babble of Mrs Hudson’s television. It was a banal sound and blankly impersonal. They could’ve been in a diner or in a prison cell; Sherlock’s senses felt raw and overwhelmed, it was difficult for him to differentiate between any two things, it was all a mess.

Jim rapped absurdly on the doorjamb as he exited, whistling a tune that Sherlock didn’t recognise.

--

And so the case had fallen into Sherlock’s lap and Leslie Howard had gone and smeared herself over the road, and somewhere within it all, Jim Moriarty was trying to prove a point.

Everything was suddenly precarious. It was as if Sherlock had his fingers wrapped tightly around one end of a string and had to drag something out by it without snapping the thread in half. Lestrade kept badgering him. That was one thing Lestrade was good at. Sherlock told Mrs Hudson he would not pay another day in rent if she let Lestrade over the threshold of 221b again, but Mrs Hudson had always had a soft spot for Lestrade, and Lestrade knew her favourite brand of tea.

John was quiet. Unusually quiet. Danger symptom.

“What does he want?” John said one evening – said it like it had exploded out of him; he even looked appropriately surprised. “Why’s he doing this? He’s not even trying to kill us anymore.”

“You sound disappointed.”

“No, I’m not – Sherlock,” John said, exasperated. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“I don’t know what he’s doing. But he isn’t trying to kill us, no.”

“But it is him? This whole – business.”

Sherlock clasped his hands and put them under his chin. Mrs Hudson, back when she hadn’t known him well, used to think he was praying whenever he did this.

In the next few days they ran all over the city with the old sleepless fever. The numbers, Sherlock was certain, stood for something but what, what, what. Sometimes they looked like telephone numbers; sometimes like pin codes. John ran up their telephone bill and eventually fell asleep beside the receiver, snoring faintly.

Meaning, Sherlock thought – there had to be meaning. Without meaning, logic was just dust.

Sometime in the second week they were picking their way through an empty construction site when John just sat. It wasn’t his knee. John was a soldier and he kept things inside him but suddenly, now, the gates were open, something had snapped, all the water was coming out to flood the downhill villages.

“She wasn’t insane,” John said. He was talking to his feet, like he was trying to command the earth. “That was the main thing, she wasn’t – there was nothing wrong with her. Clinically. According to the husband.”

Sherlock stared at him. “Of course there was nothing wrong with her.”

“No, but – don’t you get it?”

“What are you talking about?” The sun was setting and Sherlock was losing patience. “John.”

“How does anyone do that? I mean, I’ve done things that I’m not very proud of, but that was war, and – how does anyone kill somebody that they love?” And then, abruptly lost: “I just don’t understand.”

“She was forced to kill them.”

“The note, you mean? But you don’t know what it says.”

“I have a rough idea.”

John looked away. The wind, rising briskly, forced him to squint his eyes and his hair kept flying about.

“It was like she just got up one morning and decided she’d kill them,” John said finally. “Do you think that deserves its own special category of madness? Do people even become mad that quickly? Overnight? I just can’t – ”

“People do all sorts of things when they’re pressed,” Sherlock said, thinking of the rows upon rows of numbers, military-straight. “I suppose Moriarty just knows how to press.”

“But do they have to be pressed? Don’t you think it’s possible – ”

“No.” Sherlock glanced impatiently down at his watch. He had a contact in Sussex Gardens that he needed to see about the type of printer ink the note had been left in. John’s every-man kind of conscience had to be acknowledged but never indulged. “We’re losing time.”

The sun dipped underneath the horizon; John sat for a moment longer, mouth twisted in thought, and then he levered himself firmly back onto his feet.

--

Perhaps, truth be told, John was fascinating.

It took Sherlock some time to alight on the reason but when he did, it was stunning. It was so obvious.

There they were, the two of them, back against back and taking on the world. Sherlock was all flash and he was immediately unique because no-one who ever met him ever forgot him, though that didn’t necessarily mean that they liked him. Sherlock went around collecting human body parts in jam jars and inventing new ways to evict the neighbours. He never liked the neighbours, whoever they were. Perhaps he was just tired of humanity. Or perhaps he was just a prick. Either way, Sherlock was the kind of person you wanted on your side, but then not really, because he was capable of a spectacular amount of damage.

People often forgot John’s name. There had to be a million John Watsons in Britain alone, all lined up and ready for inspection in the phone book. But this John Watson was different. John met Sherlock and was ready to defend him within an hour, ready to kill for him within a day. Perhaps John was what Sherlock called him every now and then – an idiot – but in any case it had been nearly two years since Sherlock had plucked John out of his hum-drum life and still John was cleaning up the living room floor, screwing on light bulbs that Sherlock shot out, packing ice around plastic bags of intestines. Still, when Sherlock said Come on, John said, Alright, let me grab my coat. Still.

There was perhaps a word for that kind of loyalty; Sherlock was afraid to say it. But nonetheless there was a grain of gold buried deep inside John Watson and it set him apart, a loyalty that made him a better man than Sherlock Holmes could ever find it in himself to be.

--

Two years ago Sherlock helped a woman put her husband onto Death Row.

The day of the execution was an unusually hot one and Mrs Hudson had the kettle going. Back then there were blinds on the windows of her cramped little living room, and the light spilled in geometric patterns across the tea set and the old-fashioned typewriter. Whenever the blinds fluttered it was like the whole room was moving; the shadows all jumped places, hovered, then returned once the wind had settled.

“Tea?” Mrs Hudson said, and slid a cup and saucer neatly to Sherlock’s elbow.

“Thank-you.”

She caught him looking at the typewriter. “Oh, it’s just some silly nonsense for a woman’s magazine. They want my story, you see. Apparently they’re willing to pay quite a lot, but young people nowadays, they all have ridiculous deadlines. I don’t think I’ve ever been this rushed in my entire life.”

“He’s not even dead yet,” Sherlock noted. “They sure move fast.”

“Like vultures.” Mrs Hudson smiled warmly at him.

“I hope I don’t have to remind you – ”

“I’ve read enough romance novels in my time,” Mrs Hudson said, settling down into the armchair opposite him cosily. “Don’t worry, dear, I’ll feed them something sensational. It’s what they’re after, anyway.”

For a while they sat in silence. Sherlock wasn’t quite sure what he was doing there; he kept noticing little things. She’d moved one of the statuettes on the mantel. She’d also wiped down the windows. All the photographs of her husband had been removed, replaced by pictures of a childhood dog.

“You’re not married, are you?” Mrs Hudson said at last. She was watching him over the rim of her cup.

“No.”

“Pity.”

Sherlock raised his brows – there was an irony in hearing that from a woman who’d just ensured her husband’s death sentence. “No, not really.”

“I don’t regret marrying him, you know. He was a lovely boy when I first met him. All the girls wanted him, he looked so good buttoned-up in his uniform, with all those shiny buttons.”

“Mmm.”

“He was always good to me. He never beat me or anything.”

She was trying to tell him something, that much Sherlock knew. Usually Sherlock didn’t care about human motivation because he’d seen such a wide spectrum of it and it was all predictably dull, but Mrs Marjorie Hudson had given up a husband that she’d loved and she hadn’t done it for the usual reasons. By all rights, Lestrade was meant to be sitting here. Sherlock didn’t go around cleaning up after cases. But Sherlock leant on intuition as much as he leant on intellect and his intuition had led him to this clean little flat with its handmade Spanish lace on the walls and the shadows that would not stay put.

“I did love him,” Mrs Hudson said, “I loved him a lot. But I had to turn him in. You understand that, don’t you, Sherlock? You’re so good with people, you probably understand why I did it better than I do.” Her hand fluttered to her hair, an absent-minded movement. “Oh, it’s all so silly. I’m too old for grand passions.”

“You gave him up because he killed nine people.”

She blinked at him. “Was it really that many? Goodness.”

“So that wasn’t the reason?”

She shook her white head, kindly, and Sherlock’s lungs seized up. Sherlock had a gift for tasting truth before it had even presented itself.

“No-one thought Toby was going to kill anyone, he was so harmless. Your regular type. You know I still get phone calls from his colleagues telling me they don’t believe it, that the police have everything wrong! Some of them even tell me they’re going to help get Toby out, they tell me they’ll testify.” Her pale hands, folded primly in her lap, were bright against the deep navy of her twinset. “Poor dears. Sometimes I think Toby just woke up one morning and thought he’d do it, just like anyone might wake up one morning and go out for a walk without planning it, or get a glass of juice, or that sort of thing. Something natural, something you just can’t help. Something inside you, you see. And me – I just woke up one morning and thought I had to turn him in.”

“That doesn’t explain anything,” Sherlock objected, eyes narrow. Suddenly and without reason, he felt desperate. “People don’t just do that. There must’ve been a trigger. A troubled childhood, a broken family, unsatisfying personal relationships. Something.”

“Oh, Toby was very healthy,” said Mrs Hudson, looking genuinely offended for the first time that morning.

“Nobody just sets out to kill someone without a motive.”

“I gave Toby up to the police without a motive, dear.”

“No,” Sherlock said. “No, that can’t be it. It doesn’t make sense. There’s something else.”

Mrs Hudson didn’t contest it. Several minutes passed, in silence, except for the tick of the clock on the wall.

Eventually Sherlock drank his tea and left. There was no point in him staying; Mrs Hudson had said her piece. The tea was stronger than he liked it, Mrs Hudson insisted on seeing him to the door, the sun outside was glaring hot as a furnace.

“I owe you a favour,” she said as he kissed her on the cheek. “I forget a lot of things, but I won’t forget that.”

“I won’t either,” promised Sherlock.

He stood on the curb and hailed a taxi in his usual imperious bark. The heat was making him sweat already. He looked back for a second to Mrs Hudson’s door before the cab pulled up and she was watching him with a strange pity on her aged, worn face, projected clear across the several metres of pavement between them.

Something rose up in Sherlock, an unprecedented frustration. He bundled himself into the taxi and left, blindly, giving the driver the wrong address.

--

According to Sherlock’s contact in Sussex Gardens, the printer ink on the note did not match that of any of the three printers Leslie Howard had at home. Nor did it match the one she used at work.

John stood in the kitchen in bare feet and said, “He’s been playing with us, hasn’t he?”

John still had that worrying look about him. It was late evening now and neither of them had eaten dinner. This didn’t bother Sherlock much, but it bothered him that John hadn’t made for the fridge yet. Instead John was parked there by the kitchen table and he looked out of place next to Sherlock’s beakers and flasks, the one human thing amidst all that dead equipment, the dim light brushing his hair.

“Yes, John,” Sherlock said eventually.

“She didn’t write that note.”

Sherlock dragged a fingertip across his lip – his thoughts were all over the place. “No. The numbers never meant anything, they were simply intended as a lure. Or as a distraction.”

“A distraction from what?”

“From the real reason Leslie Howard killed her children.”

John was getting impatient. When he got impatient a bullish look often settled over his brow, made him look stormy. “Which was what, Sherlock? Did he make her do it?”

“No.”

For a moment John was stunned into silence. His fists clenched and unclenched, a movement he probably wasn’t even aware of; John was full of tiny revealing tics, open as a book, and right now Sherlock saw that he did not understand. Sherlock wasn’t sure he even understood it himself, it was all very confusing.

Was that the reason why Jim had chosen this puzzle? Jim had started small, a cabbie who’d killed for love, a smuggling gang who’d killed for revenge, Jim himself, even, for revenge probably. Little Carl Powers. Every crime had had a basis in human nature and up to this point everything had been explainable. What was the problem, then? Where did all of this lead? A woman who’d arisen one ordinary morning and taken up a pillow to her children – what did it all mean? Was it a taunt? Sherlock’s hands were shaking – they never shook. The lamp by the couch shone straight into his eye. It was late, so late, there wasn’t any traffic on Baker Street, everything silent as the grave. John silent. There had to be something. Sherlock’s mind was galloping at a hundred miles an hour. That’s the default explanation for everything, isn’t it? Can’t get inside his head, he must be lonely or going plain nuts. Or both! Or neither. Sherlock held his breath, this part was crucial, he could hear nothing else. Think, what did Jim Moriarty want. A connection. Jim wanted them unified, wanted the both of them partial to the same insight; that was key, because Jim saw the two of them as above it all, having seen too much of humanity to fall prey to its failings. Jim, in his warped way, was trying to educate him. Leslie Howard – the entire thing hinged on her, what was it about her that Jim was trying to emphasise –

And then it hit him.

He sat up so quickly that he lost his balance. John was there in a second, precious, reliable John, with the frayed edge of his scarf brushing Sherlock’s nose as he stooped down to steady Sherlock’s elbows.

“Hey, are you alright – ”

“I have to go out.”

John blinked at him, puzzled. “What, now? It’s almost one.”

“Have to take care of something, now’s as good a time as any.”

Sherlock moved to push himself up from the couch but John’s arm was in the way and he ended up grabbing John’s wrist instead. Almost immediately, he let go. John’s skin was warm and he was right there and suddenly, mind still raw from all his deductions, Sherlock felt overwhelmed. Concern was furrowed all over John’s face. John’s breath was tickling Sherlock’s cheek and Sherlock thought, looking up at John and with fresh knowledge inside him, this is why you are special. This is why, unknowingly, I ended up choosing you. It was no coincidence.

“I want you to stay here,” Sherlock said finally. His voice came out shaky and breathless; he had to stop and clear his throat.

John frowned, already beginning to reject the idea. “Where are you – ”

“Like I said, I have to take care of something. It’s nothing dangerous, I promise you, I’ll be back in a moment.”

“Why can’t I go with you?”

“Because I need you here. I’ll call you.”

“Sherlock.”

A hot urgency burned at the back of Sherlock’s throat. “Please, John.”

Sherlock never said please. He could probably count on one hand the number of times that word had left his mouth and each time had been a trap. Sherlock didn’t make requests – he issued commands, and they were met. Every time, John had met them. Even now John would say yes because it was what John did; it was simply how John loved. There was a sharp dart of hurt on his face and he was probably still thinking of the last time Sherlock had betrayed him, understood it was happening again. But it couldn’t be helped. There were very few people in the world Sherlock cared about, and it was better for a man to be betrayed than for him to be dead.

John opened his mouth and, for a very brief second, they were the closest to something new as they’d ever been. The living room lamp was blinking, blinking. Time stopped.

Not now, Sherlock thought, and got up.

--

And so, Reichenbach.

“Did you leave him at home?” Jim said. Jim was smiling in a way that showed his teeth; there was nothing about him that suggested he’d been called there on short notice, his suit was so tidy. “Is he guarding the fort?”

It was gusty up where they were. The wind found its way into Sherlock’s collar and bit with little teeth all down his spine. The hotel was neutral territory, lit sideways by a swinging industrial lamp on which someone had scrawled, in green pen, EXIT – there was even an arrow pointing roughly towards the fire escape. It had been strange watching Jim emerge from that tiny door, unfolding out of it like a cardboard cut-out.

“I didn’t call you here to talk about John,” Sherlock said. “I wanted to talk about you.”

Jim tilted his dark head coyly to the side. “Oh, do go on then. My favourite topic.”

“You wanted an analysis.”

“I wanted you to paint me my portrait, yes. Is it finished already?”

Sherlock said nothing. Jim was several steps away and Sherlock had chosen this place for the fact that there were no clean sightlines from the neighbouring buildings – all lower by at least a storey – it was impossible to place snipers. Jim hadn’t made a fuss, he probably liked the idea of an ultimatum.

“Did you like little Leslie? She was a treat, wasn’t she.” Jim edged a step closer, face warped for a moment by the swaying light. “I picked her out especially for you.”

“You can’t claim credit for a murder you didn’t arrange.”

“Murder-suicide, darling. And it fooled you, though, didn’t it?”

“Hardly.”

“Don’t lie.” Sherlock watched as Jim skirted the fire escape. “Lying is naughty, Sherlock, and it won’t get you anywhere. You’ve been legging it all over the place with John these few days, investigating. I have pictures.”

“Business must be going rather slowly if you have time to look at pictures.”

Jim laughed, eyes lighting up for a second. “Not slowly at all, it’s nearly Christmas! People always want their crimes fixed up before Christmas – have to have a clean slate for the New Year, that’s when everybody gets a fresh start! Clean consciences, New Year’s resolutions, that sort of thing – I will not kill my brother-in-law or rape the serving girl at the bakery next door.” He paused, brought his arm up to adjust a cufflink, false modesty. “No, Sherlock, business is going very well.”

“So you’re bored, then. Is that why you set this case up? I can’t imagine you set it up to ease my boredom, that’s much too generous.”

“Don’t be unfair. I can be generous if I put my mind to it.”

“But this wasn’t your arrangement, so don’t bore me with theatrics. Why did you point me to this case?”

Jim looked up at him from three metres away. Sherlock was taller by almost a head but it didn’t show, they were equally matched in all things. For several days after the pool Sherlock had been unconscious and Jim could’ve killed him then. But Jim hadn’t, and so the two of them stood on the rooftop of a dingy hotel in the middle of nowhere. John was probably still in the living room where Sherlock had left him. Probably pacing. When John paced he favoured his good leg just slightly and the sound was often uneven, but only to Sherlock’s ears. It was there whenever John ran as well, like that first time chasing down Jefferson Hope in a taxi, dashing down alleys and leaping across rooftops right behind Sherlock like the two of them were cartoon heroes. John following without hesitation.

So that was the answer, finally, Sherlock thought. Leslie Howard had not killed her children because she’d been forced to. Deep within the recesses of the human mind there was a dark place, always, which needed no prompt. Betrayal was ingrained in every soul – men had written poems about it, the entire New Testament, it was nothing foreign. There did not have to be a reason for everything. Humanity wobbled along in relative chaos and people did things that did not make sense, because they were people. Jim Moriarty understood that; perhaps that was why he did what he did, out of a bone-deep contempt and out of the realisation that even if Jim Moriarty did not exist, the world would not change. Humanity would stay the same.

Sherlock understood this all with the clarity of someone who has been shielded from the truth for some time. John, Sherlock Holmes’ only blind spot; the only exception to the rule, extraordinary in that betrayal had never occurred to him. Sherlock never needed to look behind to see if John was there, because John always was.

Unless Sherlock asked him not to be.

Jim had closed the gap between them, only a step away. His hand reached out to adjust Sherlock’s coat. For a moment he curled his fingers underneath the cloth, touched his knuckles to the suit jacket underneath, an intimate gesture.

“I see you’ve worked it out,” Jim said. His eyes were dark and something like fascination was stirring within them like a great sea beast.

“Does that surprise you?”

Jim laughed. “No, not at all. You’re thinking of John right now, aren’t you? Well, we can’t have that.”

Jim’s mouth was warm and he kissed with a certain kind of cruelty, all fire and force, but his eyes were closed in an unexpected gesture of trust. Perhaps he believed the two of them untouchable, unified now in common knowledge. In kinmanship. They were not so different at the basest level of things. Sherlock twined his hands into Moriarty’s suit lapels and thought of John sitting at home by the telephone; thought of the ledge barely a ruler’s length behind Jim’s back, so low as to be easily tripped over. Thought of the painting of a skull still in his living room – he hadn’t moved it.

The sky held a smattered expanse of stars. It was very cold. Sherlock readied himself to push, for in the end the two of them were both just men and all men had the capacity to be betrayed.

--
The End.
--

A/N: My first Sherlock/John! Funnily enough, I actually started this fic intending to write Sherlock/Moriarty only and then somehow John just inserted himself into the fray, how bizarre. But what a John thing to do, honestly. Always getting himself involved. Tsk tsk.

If you enjoyed my work, please do feel free to friend or to check out my other Sherlock fics!



[There is now FANART for this fic, by the ever-fabulous atavistique!]
 
 
 
Ev / Letha: andrew_stareatavistique on October 5th, 2011 09:23 am (UTC)
Oh. My. God. I swear it took me twice the usual time to read this because I just HAD to feel every single word soaking into my brain. This is - I'm rendered almost speechless - the deperation, the chaos, the almost tangible tension between your Sherlock and John (though I reckon you did manage to turn it into Sherlock/Moriarty in the end - albeit unrequited?), it's like a hurriance just passed through, and my mind is a jumble of snippets from this fic, my ears still ringing from the force of it.

I loved the little backstory with Mrs Hudson. And "There was perhaps a word for that kind of loyalty; Sherlock was afraid to say it. " ASDFGHJKL; ALL THESE FEELINGS I CANNOT EVEN DESCIRBE THEM. And the mother who killed her kids - Jesus, you just had to write that in, didn't you? It just pulled the whole thing in that much closer, like Sherlock and his personal tragedies were just within reach all this time, in real life... asdfghjkl;

OMG I'm flailing so much I actually knocked over a bottle of water, lol...

ALL IN ALL. THIS IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER. I LOVE YOU AND WILL RETURN TO SOME SEMBLANCE OF HUMAN LIFE AFTER MY THESIS IS DONE IN A WEEK. <3 <3 <3
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
Oh Ev, thank-you so much, I can't even begin to express how happy your comment made me ♥ I'm so very glad you liked this, I'm sure I was in a really muddled mindset when I wrote it, I'd just finished reading TTSS and /o\ ALL THE COMMON THEMES /o\ I'm so sorry ahaha! Yes, it was unrequited S/M at the end ♥

I couldn't help it, that story - I just had to put it in, I just had to. There was no way I could leave it out, it just affected me on such a strange emotional level... I'm glad you liked it ♥

NOW GO AND DO YOUR THESIS AND I HOPE EVERYTHING IS OKAY ♥ ♥
Ev / Letha: sherlock_smileatavistique on October 6th, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
Augh I really must read TTSS after this is done - my list of "Stuff To Do After This Fucking Thesis Is Done" has about ninety items on it now > __ <

I know how you feel, and I like how you integrated it... This is why people who have a broader range of life experiences make better writers, and this is why my stories are always so bland.

YES MY THESIS MY FUCKING THESIS IT'S ALWAYS THIS FUCKING SHITTY THESIS. Sorry but I am like so sick of this thing I want to barf every time I think of it asdfghjkl; but I will be a good girl and finish it ; __ ;
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 7th, 2011 08:29 am (UTC)
YOU MUST YOU MUST EV IT IS AMAZING AND YOU WILL LOVE IT ♥

What, Yvonne, what are you talking about, your stories are bland?? I AM INSULTED. Because I have never read writing as lush as yours, as full of sensuality, it is almost like every word you write tastes like dark dark velvet, everything you write is wonderful, DON'T SAY THINGS LIKE YOUR WRITING IS BLAND OR I WILL GET ANGRY >:(

OKAY I WILL STOP BEING STUPID AND DISTRACTING YOU NOW GO BACK TO YOUR THESIS SHOO

Ev / Lethaatavistique on October 7th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
Bleh pretty words is all they are. My writing is like a bubble, it looks pretty but there's nothing substantial inside, and if you prick it it'll explode into nothingness... I just never seem to "get" the characters or their relationships like you do :/

Okay back to planned contrasts...
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 8th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
HEY

HEY

Ev, you're a psychology student! If anything, I know you get the characters much better than I ever could, I'm like an outsider looking in through a window. You have so much more knowledge than me about the human mind and how it works! Your words aren't just pretty, your writing is not just like a bubble, there is loneliness and earthiness and everything about it is emotional, your writing is lovely! So please don't say that about your own work, because I love it so ♥
Ev / Lethaatavistique on October 8th, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
Haha darling, you overestimate me... I may know all these theories and crap and I can dissect your personality within an inch of your life, but I don't absorb that personality and make it my own, like you do. Every time I think "how would such-and-such character act in this situation?" I draw a blank... it's like I can think what others think, but I can't feel what others feel, and that's a huge disability as far as writers go, especially for fanfic writers - unlike OCs, established characters should be understood before being written, otherwise everything goes off the rails.

Really, I'm not being modest or anything, this is coming from years of being disappointed in my own writing. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it shows I at least still have good taste. But yeah, I'm still trying to work out how to make myself become the character, instead of making the character talk and feel like me.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 8th, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
LALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU ~~~~

No but honestly now, I don't really think you have to necessarily understand a character before you write them. I'm actually personally a very spontaneous writer - I rarely plan something before I write it, and I never plan a characterisation, I simply just let it happen. And actually in the few times I've tried to plan something, it ends up terrible. Perhaps that's what's stoppering you - just let the character reveal him/herself to you! Watch the show/read heaps and heaps of fic and eventually they just talk to you. Really! There's no thinking or analysis or anything like that involved, for me, at least, so I think you don't need to necessarily feel what they feel or any of that - just be a faithful scribe and write down what they whisper in your ear ;D especially Moriarty, he'll certainly whisper in your ear, after a while he'll be all you think about, really. (Sometimes he is such a pest.)

(...now I sound like I'm schizophrenic or something)
Ev / Lethaatavistique on October 8th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Hm, that's probably true. I'm just so used to analysing everything and taking them apart and putting them back together. If I were an actress, I would be a method actress, because the only way I could become someone else is to internalise their most basic beliefs and motivations. I can't do the thing where I have to think of similar life experiences at all.

Oh, Moriarty is ALWAYS in my head. He is the one exception I have no problem channeling, because psychopaths don't act on their feelings, they act on carefully balanced cost-benefit analysis of situations and people. He's basically you and me with our emotions removed and our intelligence increased to six standard deviations above the mean.

most excellently twisted: Holmes - Blue Johnfanbot on October 5th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
Very powerful. You get in Sherlock's head very well.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
Thank-you very much! I'm so happy you liked it.
oh, my beautiful idiotrosa_acicularis on October 5th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:50 am (UTC)
And thank-you very much for taking the time to read and comment, I'm a huge fan of The Anatomist so it means a lot to me ♥
Laria: Silver Foxlaria_gwyn on October 5th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
O.M.G.

Mel, what did I just read? That was incredible. That last scene, that last sentence. Perfection. The insights into everyone, oh gosh, you nailed everything. I don't even have words, darling, this is simply lovely.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
Oh, Laria, you are always too good to me, I cannot believe you took the time to read this silly little fic of mine ♥ Thank-you so much for your kind words! :jumps on you in glee:

Nonsensical Whatnotterist: SH - BBC - Jim Sees 1st Fanfic - Merandom_nexus on October 5th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
This was excellently written. I'm still figuring out what I think, but I hate not leaving a comment, because I know how much I enjoy getting them on my own fics. You portrayed them all rather well, I think, and although I wanted more at the end (happy ending junkie here), I appreciate the form of the ending you've chosen. Very well done, really, very!

ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
Ah, thank-you very much for your comment! It means so much to me that you took the time ♥ Yes, actually I was a bit hesitant leaving it on such an ambiguous ending, but then I felt like it fit the point I was trying to make with the story, so I left it the way it was. Thank-you so so much for your kind review, darling! ♥
Practically everyone islindentreeisle on October 5th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
I loved this. It worked fantastically well, so bittersweet, and I loved your use of language. Amazing.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 6th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Oh, thank-you! I'm very, very glad the fic worked for you ♥
Solrosansolrosan on October 6th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
This is one of the best portraits of Sherlock and Moriarty I’ve read (and I’ve done it twice already). It was just marvelous! The feeling you set for the story was so appropriate and the John-Sherlock dynamic is so telling…good thing you let John interfere!
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 7th, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)
Thank-you so much! I'm still relatively new to Sherlock and John, so it means a lot to me that I didn't botch it up completely ♥ Thank-you for taking the time to read and comment, darling, that's so kind of you and I'm glad you enjoyed the fic!
panopticaapanopticaa on October 7th, 2011 04:07 am (UTC)
well, to start with, i think you're the only writer who could convince me to venture into a fic listing sherlock/john as a pairing! that makes me sound narrow-minded, but really i've just been scarred by the diminishment of moriarty's character that i've repeatedly found in fics that include the pairing. but, as it's you, naturally that was nowhere even close to being a problem, and it's actually really, really fantastic how you balanced the two dynamics without doing a disservice to either. seriously, it's not anything i've ever seen accomplished before. i know your other fics have kind of done away with the john problem through his absence, so it was amazing to see your sherlock/moriarty unfold while fully taking john into account.

and, oh. that ending. god, that hurt. but in a gorgeous way. i was so moved by it i actually just read the last bit aloud to my sister and my voice was wavering with emotion as i got through it. everything from the intimacy of him adjusting sherlock's coat and the way he closes his eyes as he kisses him just destroyed me, knowing what was coming. and then the reveal...so subtly and MASTERFULLY done. those closing lines have been reverberating in my head since i read them, and it hurts so good.

ugh, i'll just never be over how brilliant your moriarty is. that brief description of him as "a bag full of tricks no-one in their right mind would dip their fingers into" is just perfect. you manage to convey so much with so little, which is a hugely essential component of what makes moriarty so great and endlessly fascinating. he's as alluringly terrifying as he is on the series but there's always a vague beckoning towards something recognizably human that just guts me every time. particularly here.

anyway, i think i've rambled on long enough. this is gorgeous, truly. i ache all over.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 8th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. Honestly, I never know how to reply to your comments - they are so amazing, and they fill me with such happiness and flail, that I feel like anything I say won't be sufficient to communicate how genuinely happy you make me. ♥

Thank-you for taking the chance on this fic - I was a little confused as to what pairings to list for the fic, since technically it's all a huge mess because it's Sherlock's brain, haha, so I'm really grateful you read it even though it had some elements of Sherlock/John in it. ♥ And I'm so glad you liked my interpretation of Moriarty! Even as I write him I have no idea half the time what's going on inside his head, he just does things and says things in my head and I dutifully put it down on paper. (That sounded weird... but that's just how I write /o\) The last scene gave me a lot of trouble so the fact you enjoyed it makes me all giddy ♥

Thank-you again for everything, for all your support, darling! Your comments are just pure love, thank-you ♥ ♥
shinodabear on October 10th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
I take a tiny little break from LJ and what happens? I miss this. Oh, I miss this this brilliant thing.

The final scene has got me. Subtly is your strong suit, soft little details that resonant paragraphs later. (The portrait of the skull for instance. I adore that thread here.) I love the way this piece is bookended by Reichenbach; it feels as though the middle section is a breath between the pause. And you craft a killer atmosphere. But you know this.

Also? John. I think he has a tendency to get thrown to the wayside (and I'm guilty of doing that myself, I know); it's difficult to balance John-Sherlock-Moriarty. But, of course, you've handled it so nicely. John as just as well-presented as Sherlock and Moriarty; I'm glad you let John insert himself into this.

Bravo. Well done.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 11th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Oh, darling, wow. Thank-you so much! sdnfyg8sdigfysdi guh, you make me blush every time, thank-you, I'm so happy you liked this! I had a lot of trouble working out how to get the final scene across, so the fact that it worked for you just makes me the happiest person ever. ♥

John! How do I even express how difficult it is to write John. I never quite know his standing with Sherlock - never quite know what it is in him that draws Sherlock to him. In that aspect, the Sherlock/Moriarty dynamic is much easier because it's obvious why Moriarty is interesting to Sherlock. But John? It's always so hard for me to work him out, and this fic was just one take on that, so I'm very thrilled that he didn't come across as a two-dimensional character, because those are my biggest fears /o\

Thank-you again for taking the time to read this, and to give me such a kind comment! You're much too lovely ♥
shinodabear on October 12th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
John. What can we say about John. He is the most difficult out of everyone, I think, because he's so ... dark and screwed up and "normal" and innocent at the same time; he's a bastard, too,but he looks normal and wears cozy knit jumpers so that you don't know. (His "damn my leg!" outburst in Pink? Really telling.) I like to think that this is a lot the appeal Sherlock sees in John. The doctor who's a crack shot, who doesn't blink at shooting a not very nice man. I've grappled with his character a bit on my last rewatch and he *is* quite fascinating. A lot more subtle than Sherlock and Moriarty and that's a very scary thing. Everyone trusts John, don't they?

The Sherlock-John dynamic is a tough one to parse out, but really quite fascinating.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 31st, 2011 10:45 am (UTC)
Oh my god OH MY GOD how late is this reply. I've been plagued with Internet troubles for a while, having relocated to Shanghai for the moment for a medical elective, so I haven't been physically able to reply to this until now... I do hope you'll forgive!

Hmm, the point you've just made is definitely very interesting. I'd never thought of that about John before. I never saw him as a dark character, although naturally - as you pointed out - there has to be something dark in him, something that makes him miss a war rather than run away from it. I don't find him automatically arresting, in the same way that Sherlock or Moriarty can be, so it takes longer for me to figure him out. But I think what you've said is definitely a very intriguing take on John's character and I would read the hell out of that.
shinodabear on November 1st, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
No worries! I understand being busy, believe me. At least your brand of busy is interesting! Enjoy Shanghai!

I don't find him automatically arresting, in the same way that Sherlock or Moriarty can be, so it takes longer for me to figure him out. -- Exactly. I get that. I was talking the other day about how Sherlock/John is okay -- I can get how people like the pairing -- but it's hardly ever interesting to me because they're frankly kinda boring? I like a more .. . twisted dynamic. Can it be done with them, sure. You just got to read it in that light.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on November 7th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
Yes, you've pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. I don't really feel Sherlock/John, to the same extent as I feel Sherlock/Moriarty, because in the Sherlock/John dynamic the only real interest comes from Sherlock while John is simply there as a sounding board or a method of contrast. I've only read a few Sherlock/John fics, and they have been exemplary, but for some reason I feel like I've already read all of them - which is stupid, because obviously every writer brings a different thing to the table, but somehow I can't help my feelings all the same.

I'd actually even find John/Moriarty more fascinating than Sherlock/John, because John/Moriarty has the extra element of betrayal to it that I think would be utterly fascinating.
Staceyivory303 on October 12th, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
Wonderful. Until now I don't think I've read anything remotely approaching Sherlock/Moriarty and now I'm wondering why on earth not because this was amazing. As others have said, the last scene especially really packs a punch.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 31st, 2011 10:46 am (UTC)
Oh, thank-you! You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that you took a chance on this fic, despite never having read Sherlock/Moriarty before - it's such a wonderful ship (although I may be a bit biased haha, I love it so), so I do hope you will read more of it in the future! Thanks so much for your lovely comment! ♥
iilyda on October 20th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
So I took your advice and got sucked into the BBC Sherlock world. ^_^ Dear God but I love it so much now. And now you're making BBC Sherlock fics! *squeals with joy* This was just... ah! Reichenbach, and Sherlock, and Moriarty, and Watson, and beautiful prose, and *squee*. And you included an end to the series' cliff hanger!!! There is not enough love. I am hanging on your every word, and every time I find another one of your fics I shriek and flail my arms like a ridiculous fan girl. MORE! I am addicted to you and your magnificent writing! :3 <3
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 31st, 2011 10:49 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so so glad you decided to give Sherlock a go! It's a marvellous series, isn't it? I don't think I've ever been so instantly beguiled by a TV series before, it just grabbed me and wouldn't let go! Plus the fact that you are reading my Sherlock BBC fics too just makes me so happy, I almost can't contain myself. Thank-you so much! It means a lot to me, and I'll definitely keep writing if it makes you happy, darling! ♥
ze_zebraze_zebra on October 24th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Darling M, I could not have asked for a better incentive to watch Sherlock. I love the characters' complexity... quietly spectacular work. Different to anything you've written so far, slightly more detached, a bit grim but just as captivating.

That scenes with Mrs. Hudson: fantastic! One of those pivotal moments which can only fully appreciated in retrospect. And how Sherlock could (choose?) to be so blind to so many (uncomfortable) truths.


(♥♥♥ for ever and ever! Missed you.)
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on October 31st, 2011 10:53 am (UTC)
Oh darling, you haven't seen it yet? You absolutely have to see it! It is truly amazing, the acting is superb and the script is so inspiring, it's like every time I watch it again more plot ideas just explode into my head. And yes, I was trying for something else with this fic, the style is a bit different, isn't it? I think I rather like this style, I'll keep it for a while hopefully.

I'm so thrilled you enjoyed this, darling, as I'm always thrilled and surprised each time you take the time to read and comment on my work - the fact that something of mine is something you deem worthy of your attention just makes me all warm inside, thank-you so much for all the love!! ♥ ♥ ♥
ze_zebraze_zebra on November 9th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
SUPERB IT IS (right you were).

You know, sleek is what comes to mind. I really, really like this style - I feel it conveys perfectly the whimsical gloom (cough, cough) of the series. Ok. So I wouldn't make a good critic. Never mind. You are my fav M. Wish I had more time: I still have to catch up.
But what I really feel like saying is THANK YOU for all the good pieces you wrote - the last year and a half was not so good. You made it better.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on November 17th, 2011 10:56 am (UTC)
Hahaha, oh darling, you'd make a wonderful critic, every time I read a review of yours it makes my head spin with happiness! You have no idea what it means to me to hear that I'm your favourite - really, no idea at all, you are just so lovely! ♥

It's my privilege, really, that I could've helped in just the tiniest way to make your last year and a half better. I'm sorry to hear it wasn't so good! If ever you need anyone to talk about things, you know that you can always PM me, I'll always be here to listen ♥ ♥
Becca the Wonder Penguin: Sherlock // John and Sherlocksunnyrea on November 10th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
hmm very interesting, this did not go the way I expected. I'm not sure what I expected but there you are. I like the way you write Sherlock. You write him as crueler than most other but not insanely so, just an edge more distaste for the world and ire toward John. You do a really good job though of combining his care and dislike of John together, not quite my own view of his personality but you make it work so that I believe you.

You're always so lovely! Wonderful read!
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on November 17th, 2011 11:10 am (UTC)
Haha, in some ways this fic didn't go quite the way I expected it to either, but funnily enough the middle part of the fic was what surprised me rather than the ending - the ending I'd planned for from the very beginning. I'm very glad you like the way I write Sherlock, I don't know why it is but I find myself only able to write from his POV! I've tried writing from John's and even from Jim's but it's never worked out. Thank-you so much for taking the time to read this, it means such a heap to me, thank-you! ♥
shadowfireflame: Sherlockshadowfireflame on February 19th, 2012 05:36 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. I'm reading this after Season Two has aired, and I'm just stunned at how much you correctly predicted from that season.

But more than that, I love your characterizations of Sherlock and especially Moriarty. Each interaction between them is perfectly charged to be on the knife’s edge between perfectly normal and extraordinarily chilling.

Also, the case that they have to work out is very cool and mysterious.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on February 19th, 2012 09:14 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, thank-you! It's always tricky writing fic for a TV series (I'm mostly used to writing for movies) because as soon as something new comes out, it might mean something completely different for your characters, so. Thank-you! ♥

The case I used in this fic was actually based on a very similar one that happened in Brisbane (where I live) not very long ago. ♥

Edited at 2012-02-19 09:15 am (UTC)
Dessie Octavia: Sherlock: Know When You Are Beatendessieoctavia on April 12th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
That is darkly beautiful.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on April 16th, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
Thank-you, I'm very happy you liked it!
Vivianmorphineeden on May 31st, 2012 01:23 am (UTC)
Again I'm fascinated and hurt by your story. The way you structured it was brilliant and as shinodabear already pointed out the little details are adorable.
But the heart of your story (at least for me) is again that it hurts. It makes my heart ache, because I mourn for Moriarty. Reading Sherlock's thought and following his thoughts and actions is dark and it got me totally. And he "betrays" Moriarty, whom you always portrait mad and fragile at the same time. It's like, he should be the one in power, the one able to betray - but then, suddenly, he is weak, he trusts. And is betrayed. This madness and obsession and need always get me. You do your job very well.
Moreover this triangle is so intriguing. John is a very interesting character. He's like "nothing is as difficult as simplicity". I always tend to forget that he has been in war. And what that might have done to him and that he misses it (or missed until he met Sherlock). What danger might mean to him and what Sherlock is for him in that context.
And of course the Sherlock/Moriarty dinamic. Uh.
You do all that so perfectly.
When I read your texts I always doubt myself while at the same time it encourages me to go on.

ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on June 1st, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
Oh Vivian, wow, thanks so much! I barely know what to say in response to this comment. I really wanted somehow to show how vulnerable Moriarty can be despite everything - how easy it is to betray anyone, criminal genius or not, once the heart gets involved. So thank-you! You are once again the sweetest; and don't doubt yourself, I'd love to see you write something! I'm sure you'd be splendid!