He was standing, dazed and soaked to the skin, outside the building that had once housed a very nice municipal pool and was now a shell being swarmed over by dozens of police, when the hand clamped over his mouth and he found himself being dragged backwards.
Moriarty, his brain informed him calmly. He tried to kick the man behind him, but that just meant he lost his purchase on the ground, leaving his legs flailing in the air. His attacker had also pinned his elbows down, leaving him unable to use his arms against him. John did bite at the hand over his mouth, but his teeth couldn't penetrate the thick glove his attacker was wearing.
He surprised himself by growling in frustration; it turned out he really, really wanted to hurt this man.
"Oh, shut it," the man grunted, and a second later, he was being heaved into a black car. Looking at a familiar back of a head. Anthea.
Oh, he thought, and felt the rage and terror transmute into mere determination as he lunged for the other door anyway. It opened just as he reached for the handle, and Sherlock came flying in. Their skulls collided, and John saw stars. By the time he was able to sit up, the two of them were sitting sandwiched between two very solid men and the car was pulling away.
"No," Sherlock said, pounding the back of the seat. Squashed against him in a seat designed only for three, John could feel the energy lashing through him. "No, no, no!"
"I'm to tell you," Anthea said brightly, "that the matter is not open for debate." Sherlock opened his mouth, and she went on, "Or negotiation."
"He has no right," Sherlock said with a snarl. "Moriarty is mine."
"I'm to remind you," Anthea went on, "that domestic terrorism is comfortably within his remit."
"Moriarty's no terrorist! He's a criminal!"
Anthea turned her head at that, and gave Sherlock a sweetly pitying look. "Sure."
"It wasn't Mycroft he tried to kill!"
"Speaking of which, I'm to ask you if he said anything that might have any bearing on other targets."
John tensed. Even he could see the point of that question: Mrs. Hudson, Angelo, maybe even Sarah if Moriarty's intel was incomplete. He watched Sherlock's jaw work as his fury battled it out with his own recognition of the situation. His leg, against John's, was actually trembling. He'd lost his shoes at some point, and his bare toes were digging into the floormat. "He threatened to hurt anyone I cared about. Which means," he added after a second, "that Mycroft should regard himself as in absolutely no personal danger."
"He says thanks," Anthea reported, "and trusts you'll be comfortable."
Sherlock shot John a sudden look that was halfway between hopeful and mad. "I don't suppose you picked up the gun."
John shook his head.
Sherlock hit the back of the seat again.
The location was a flat above a warehouse in Smithfield. It felt unused, decorated in a blank, masculine fashion--dark wood, granite countertops, black leather furniture.
Sherlock's first act upon entering the flat had been to spring across the sitting room and rip down the drapes. His hands yanked uselessly at the windows, which were obviously sealed, heavily tinted, and probably bulletproof. He spun on his heel and disappeared down the hallway. From the pounding noises that occurred a few seconds later, John decided that he was testing the security on whatever other exit the flat had, with no success. Shortly thereafter, he came back into the sitting room, dragging one hand through his hair, his eyes still darting around.
"Finished?" Anthea inquired.
John sighed and dropped onto the sofa.
"This isn't settled," Sherlock declared.
"Of course not," she said, again with that dismissive smile that she must have picked up from Mycroft. "He says I'm to tell you that the snipers have instructions to shoot unauthorized individuals entering or leaving. And that he'll come by for dinner tomorrow, if he can."
"His family sentiment would be a great deal more touching without the abduction aspect," Sherlock spat.
"Okay," Anthea said, the way you'd humor a madman. "Bye!"
As soon as she was gone, Sherlock turned to John. "We have to get out of here."
There was, surprisingly, a hint of uncertainty in his eyes. It wasn't like him to assume that John wasn't willing to follow him--or at least to act as if he assumed it. Fortunately, in this case, John was more than willing.
There was the stark humiliation of having been grabbed off the street, strapped to explosives like the world's deadliest teddy bear, patted on the cheek by Moriarty, called a pet in front of Sherlock. He couldn't deny that that had some part in what he was feeling right now. But that was so far from all of it. Moriarty had killed and killed and killed again, once when John had had to stand there and watch Sherlock hear it. There was no doubt in John's mind that he'd keep right on. He would have killed Sarah--oh, God, Sarah--if they'd been together when Moriarty had snatched him off the street. He'd certainly done his best to kill John.
And what he'd wanted with Sherlock--John swallowed. Technically, it might not have been sexual, but it was obscene, in the deepest, filthiest fashion. Keeping him awake for days, working him into an excited fit, sending him covert little messages (speak to me in your own voice, Sherlock had murmured, and it hadn't escaped John what sort of tone he'd used) to keep him stirred up, enticing him with the thrill of human lives in the balance
Moriarty had to be stopped, and it was John's job as much as it was anyone else's. More.
Sherlock's answering smile was wolfish.
All right, he said, spinning slowly to take in the room, must think.
He stopped and flung himself into one of the armchairs, templing his fingertips and stretching out his long legs and bare feet in a way that suggested a complete indifference to the laws of God and man. It didn't look at all comfortable, and it wasn't like Sherlock to let John have the most comfortable seat without protest.
"You're not feeling guilty, are you?"
"Guilty?" Sherlock turned him a surprised look. "No. Why?"
"No reason," John said, a bit embarrassed.
Sherlock kept looking at him. His lips parted, as if he were about to say something more, but then he gave an irritated glance around and burrowed himself deeper into the chair instead.
John watched him, trying to rack his own brain for a way out. But--dammit--the tide of adrenaline was receding as abruptly as it had come, leaving him suddenly hollow with exhaustion, perched precariously above the great fall. He struggled to keep his eyes open. Escape. Locked doors. Armed guards. Snipers. Mycroft--
"You can turn the lights off now," Sherlock said, in a peculiarly loud, distinct voice that John could hear, even far away as he was.
The hell I-- John thought, and then the room went dark.
Oh. Bugged. Probably every inch of the place, come to think of it.
Well, didn't that just make things easier
John went dark, too.
Three hours later, John woke to the sound of the telly turned up loud, grave-voiced newscasters going on about the "London terror spree." The lurch of hatred that provoked in his brain was enough to get him sitting up. There was a pile of blankets over him, and one tangled into the chair Sherlock had been sitting in. Sherlock was now crouched on the floor in the light the telly cast, the very picture of an insomniac mind, eyes remote, hair waving like some fantastic undersea foliage, a red mark on his cheek where it had been pushed into the chair. He was going through the contents of his coat pockets, sorting them and resorting them as if that would somehow make them more useful. It was a weirdly homey sight.
John pushed away the blankets and knelt down next to him. Slim wallet, mobile, keyring with micro-LED light and mini-multitool attached, handful of change, magnifying glass, lighter, pack of small glassine bags. Not the most promising makings for a prison break.
Sherlock gave him a look, up close, so serious that John half-expected him to pick up the magnifying glass and start using it on him. Confused, he protested, "I'm awake, I swear."
Sherlock frowned, opened his mobile, darkened the screen almost all the way, and tapped out, MH NOT WATCHING FEED PERSONALLY, TOO BUSY W/JM
John nodded, feeling slightly more optimistic. No doubt there was someone good on it, but they didn't know Sherlock. And they weren't a Holmes. There was, he was rapidly coming to realize, no substitute for that.
"I could do with some tea," Sherlock said. "How about you?"
"Uh, sure," John said. Sherlock gave him a look of Well? and John sighed and got up. Not the time for that argument.
The kitchen was modern and sparsely furnished, obviously not prepared for long-term occupation. John found the kettle, a couple of dusty mugs, and a depressing little box of tea bags, then turned on the gas. A few minutes later, he returned to the living room, where Sherlock apparently hadn't moved, except to press his fingers together.
"Good," Sherlock said, and set down the mug John had handed him without even taking a sip. He was practically vibrating with tension. He picked up his mobile again and thumbed out a text, then clicked "send."
"What--?" John said, before catching himself.
Sherlock handed him the phone. He'd just--twittered, John guessed it was called. "My kingdom for a doner kebab. 45 Charterhouse St. #bsi"
John switched over to the message app and jammed in, all thumbs, MORIARTY!!11!!
Sherlock smiled. NEVER COME, TOO OBVIOUS, BUT ELLEN WILL
Who the bloody hell is Ellen, John managed to keep himself from saying out loud.
There was a faint click, and a cool voice said, obviously over some kind of intercom, "If you've catering requests, you need only ask."
"Just checking to see if you were awake," Sherlock said.
"We're always awake. Do you need anything?"
"Morphine," Sherlock said, in a cold, off-handed voice, rising. "If my brother expects me to rot in here, he knows what he needs to provide."
John bit off a remark. Mycroft wasn't going to be complying with that request, so John didn't need to think about it, or how sincere it was. He still didn't like how it, and the tone Sherlock used, made his stomach lurch. So much more than it should have.
He got up and went to the window. He could see the street in the pre-dawn gloom fairly well, despite the tinting. Behind him, Sherlock said, "This tea is rubbish."
"Ask them for some milk and sugar," John said wearily. "They can throw it in with the opiates."
"Boring," Sherlock said. John heard him march into the kitchen, presumably to dispose of the offending tea. Shortly thereafter, there were the distinctive sounds of Sherlock rummaging through the cabinets, trying to find something else to drink.
That.couldn't be right, John realized. Sherlock was on a case, it was surprising he'd even asked for tea. Like the doner kebab, it had to be some kind of front, though God only knew for what. He forced himself not to look behind him at the kitchen. Instead, he remained at his post by the window, watching tensely until a girl in a bright red jumper appeared, only to be intercepted by a grim-looking man in a black suit.
Ellen, it turned out, was the homeless girl Sherlock had paid off during the bank case. Even from a distance, John could see that she was putting up quite a fuss.
"Food's here," John said.
"Ah," Sherlock said from the doorway, and tossed him the mobile.
On the screen, one word:
John flung himself behind the couch. Five seconds later, Sherlock landed next to him, wrapping his arms over his head.
Just as the stove blew out the wall in the kitchen.
Dust was still sifting down from the ceiling and the sprinklers were going off as Sherlock grabbed John's hand, dragging him upright silently.
John took a guess. "Sherlock! Sherlock, you idiot! Some help in here!"
"Watson!" a voice called. "Is Holmes all right?"
"In here," John said, coughing. "Sherlock's hurt!"
"Damn!" the minder swore, and raced in, only to be knocked cold by a mug full of tea. His colleague, who came in limping--probably a contribution by Ellen--put up a bit more of a fight, but it was two against one.
John could hear sirens in the near distance. "Don't we have to--"
"Snipers," Sherlock said tersely. "We wait."
The two firemen first in the door were easy. "Sorry, sorry," John apologized to them as he eased them to the ground. Sherlock was already stripping off their jackets and hats.
They made their way out past the other first responders, who threw them questions they just ignored. John half-expected to hear the report of rifle fire--Sherlock's jacket was so short on him you could see halfway up his forearm--but there was nothing. They ran a few blocks and stopped in a mews to shuck off the uniforms.
"Thank God we're out of there," Sherlock declared. "I didn't think I could wait another minute."
John had never heard him so fervent. He supposed the situation called for it. "What's the next step?" he asked, breathless.
"First things first," Sherlock said. He swung around to look at John, and then he had him up against the wall, kissing him hard, fingers digging so firmly into John's shoulders it hurt. He smelled of gas and melted plastic and all the rest of the aftermath of an explosion. He smelled like something that still might blow you to pieces.
"Oh," John said weakly when he released him. "Oh."
Sherlock was watching him intently. "I didn't fancy having this conversation with my brother listening in," he said.
"I...I appreciate your tact," John said, his cheeks heating to think of Mycroft's watcher, and the footage, and then Mycroft himself--
"Well?" Sherlock demanded, because it might have been the first thing--and wasn't that a miracle, in itself, like surviving not one, but two, explosions that had blown holes in the sides of buildings in the past twenty-four hours--but it certainly wasn't the only thing.
"Yeah," John said, and had to clear his throat. After you'd done your damnedest to die for someone, it was time to admit that there was more going on there than a shared interest in a leasehold. He put his hand on Sherlock's hip, pulled him a little closer. Realized that wasn't enough, rose up for another kiss. This one was softer; he'd even say reassuring, if he knew who was reassuring whom. By the time he was done, Sherlock had his hands locked against the small of his back. "Yes. All right."
"Good," Sherlock said, and that smile crept out, John's favorite, not the smug smile of superiority, or even the triumphant smile of discovery, but the rarest of them all--the slightly disbelieving smile that meant Sherlock was simply, genuinely happy.
He could have basked in that smile for days, but the sound of sirens recalled him to the present. "What are we going to do about Moriarty?"
"I...haven't the faintest idea," Sherlock confessed. "Yet." At John's startled look, he said, "I was distracted, you know. But now that that's settled--I'll think of something."
Having just survived an explosion, a kidnapping, and another, on-purpose, explosion, John wasn't really prepared for falling in love, either, but he reckoned it was the nicest of the lot. If possibly even more disruptive than all of the rest together. When Sherlock let him go, pressed a quick kiss to the corner of his eye, and ran off, he followed.