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He’s Not Paid Enough to Deal with This Shit

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Part 1

It wasn’t enough that John was shot in the line of duty and rewarded with mandatory therapy. It wasn’t enough that he limped about London with no purpose and no job; he had to be kidnapped as well, kidnapped and brought to an underground car park. He didn’t even rate a motel.

A man with an umbrella was posing in the deserted car park, standing with his legs crossed in front of a lone chair. He looked like he would be irritating, John could just tell.

“Have a seat, John,” said the man, who had presumably given the orders for John to be stalked by CCTV cameras and public payphones before being shoved into a black, chauffeur-driven car.

John limped up to him, glaring all the way. “You know, I’ve got a phone. Very clever and all that, but, ah, you could just phone me. On my phone.”

“Our conversation is much too important to be conducted over the phone.” The man gestured with his umbrella. “Your leg must be hurting you. Sit down.”

It sounded less like an invitation and more like a command. John hadn’t been very good with commands since his medical discharge from the army. “I don’t want to sit down.”

The man eyed him for a second. “You don’t seem very afraid.”

“You don’t seem very frightening.”

He earned a laugh for that. “Ah, yes, the bravery of the soldier. Bravery is by far the kindest word for stupidity, don’t you think? But perhaps I need someone with that quality in this position.”

John’s patience was rapidly eroding. “What position?”

“The position I’m about to offer you.”

“I could be wrong, but people usually introduce themselves before they offer someone a job.”

“How interesting. I’m Mycroft Holmes.”

“That’s enlightening.”

Mycroft gave him a disapproving look. “I hadn’t finished. I would like to offer you a job…as my doctor and assistant.”

John took in the suit, considered the seemingly abandoned car park, and remembered his own career. He came to a conclusion.

“I’m not interested in your offer, sorry.” He turned around and limped quickly towards the car that brought him here. John might be bored, but he didn’t come back from serving his country to sew up the criminals of London just because it was difficult to get a good job now.

“I’m willing to offer a meaningful sum of money for your services.”

Mycroft sounded disconcerted by his quick departure, but John wasn’t turning around to check. “Goodbye!”

He wasn’t sure the driver would take him anywhere after he walked away like that, but he got into the car anyway, because the cab fare back to his place would have been astronomical. Surprisingly, the black car took John back to his dingy, empty flat. On his bedside table, there was a stack of papers and on top of that, a letter written on plain but heavy paper. Definitely expensive. The handwriting was elegant, a flawless cursive.

 

Doctor Watson,

You have an intermittent tremor in your left hand. Your therapist thinks it is post traumatic stress disorder. She thinks you are haunted by memories of your military service. You should fire her. She’s got it the wrong way round. You were under stress for the entirety of our interview, but your hand was perfectly steady. You’re not haunted by the war, you miss it.

I hold a minor position in the government, but as my assistant, I can guarantee that you will have no lack of danger in your life. Enclosed, you will find a copy of the contract which includes your remuneration should you accept my offer.

Mycroft Holmes

 

Fucking Mycroft Holmes. How did he manage to have the letter delivered before John reached the flat?

He flipped through the contract for an hour, thinking, ‘This is stupid. This is completely crazy.’

# # # # # # # # # #

Maybe that was why he took the job.

# # # # # # # # # #

John met Anthea the next day when she briefed him about his new position at his new desk. She had the rounded stomach of someone who was about six months pregnant, and during the entire twenty minutes she took to explain the duties of his role, she never once looked up from tapping furiously on her phone.

“You used to be Mycroft’s assistant,” he said on a sudden hunch.

“Yes,” she confirmed with no fanfare.

There was a short pause — she didn’t stop typing — and she sounded vaguely irritated when she continued, “You will also be required to do daily check-ups on my condition.”

John stared. “Your condition. Meaning your pregnancy.”

“That’s what I meant, Doctor Watson.”

“I’m not an obstetrician.”

“I’m well aware since I was the one to help narrow down the list of replacements. I am seeing an obstetrician monthly. But Mycroft also requires that I have a basic daily check-up that any general practitioner can conduct, and he prefers someone on his regular payroll.”

“Ah,” John understood now. “Mycroft requires. He’s being a paranoid arse about this.”

“Yes,” she said, with the faintest hint of a smile.

A terrible thought occurred to him. “Wait, Mycroft— And you?”

The smile widened. “Yes.”

John was horrified. Mycroft had spawned. As if the world needed more of that umbrella–wielding lunacy in it. “Right. I’ll just… Get to work.”

Anthea nodded. “You’ll be fine.”

He would feel better if she had looked up from her phone to say that.

# # # # # # # # # #

The next time he saw Mycroft, which was an hour later, he said, “I hope you don’t expect me to fill in for other child-bearing responsibilities in Anthea’s absence.”

“I will keep you informed on that matter,” Mycroft replied in a sedate tone.

John glared and brought him burnt coffee in retaliation.

# # # # # # # # # #

One of the first things John did was to write up step-by-step instructions on how to conduct a proper job interview before handing it over to Mycroft for his perusal. There were no kidnapping, deserted car parks or stolen therapy notes anywhere on that list.

“But ours worked out so well,” said Mycroft.

“If I had my gun with me, it wouldn’t have,” replied John honestly.

# # # # # # # # # #

As Mycroft’s personal assistant, John spent a lot of his time reviewing surveillance cameras, standing beside Mycroft while looking mildly threatening, reporting the suspicious behaviour of the ministers and their minions, filing, performing daily health checks on Anthea, reading foreign news, reminding Mycroft of his meetings when the computer beeped, and filing. Did he mention filing? Maybe he didn’t actually do that much filing, but it felt like it sometimes.

John suspected that he wasn’t really fulfilling the role of a personal assistant, because Anthea was still doing her old job, only she was doing it from home, or a café, or a park. It seemed like she had taken her enforced maternity leave as an excuse to keep on organising Mycroft’s life, but from places with better décor or ventilation than the office. John would be envious if he wasn’t terrified of Mycroft’s colour-coded calendar. She could have all the lovely scenery she wanted, so long as John didn’t have to keep track of the hundreds of meetings, appointments and people who were essential in his new employer’s life. As it was, he already felt overly dependent on his new work mobile for all the messages and alerts that he needed to keep Mycroft from missing an important meeting that would result in Britain being sold to the Russians or something. 

He suspected he was only given filing to do because Anthea hated filing even more than he did.

“You’ve been doing very well here, John. Give yourself a bonus,” said Mycroft over his newspaper one day.

“Anthea finally talking to you again?” said John with no sympathy.

Mycroft turned the page. “I’m reconsidering that bonus.”

John took notes as he read over the report on his desk. “I know Anthea’s latest food craving.”

“Make it a ten percent pay rise instead.”

“That’s very kind of you.”

# # # # # # # # # #

“I think you can leave the cane behind today, don’t you?” said Mycroft, one day when they were preparing to use photographs of a minister’s infidelity to blackmail him into behaving.

Only at that moment did John realise that his heavy limp was getting better. The limp came back in full force on the quiet days when John was going crazy from all the filing and mundane office gossip, but he barely limped when he accompanied Mycroft to bizarre places for mysterious meetings and in the face of powerful, potentially disgruntled people.

He didn’t bring the cane to the blackmail party.

# # # # # # # # # #

Three weeks after John started working for Mycroft, he stopped an assassination attempt.

“I’m hiring new security guards,” John said as he tied up the failed assassin. “You have the best of England running around outside doing your work for you, but you hire green recruits for the security guards on this floor. You’re insane.”

“But Anthea will be so bored when she comes back,” protested Mycroft, dusting crumbs from his tuna and lettuce wholemeal sandwich off his lap. He paid no heed to the screaming clerk standing nearby.

“She can terrorise the guards as a new hobby,” said John. “You don’t pay me enough to deal with idiots.”

# # # # # # # # # #

The next day, John was sent to the police station to deal with the biggest idiot of all.

He stopped talking to the constable behind the counter when said idiot was led out by another policeman.

“I see my brother had to find himself a new underling after knocking up his last one,” said Sherlock Holmes, a tall man with messy dark curls and sharp grey eyes.

John stepped back to let him approach the counter. “Yes, but I put a ‘no knocking up’ clause in my own contract.”

That earned him a surprise side-glance before Sherlock went back to signing the police forms for his possessions that were taken away during his stint in a holding cell. When John had found out that there was another Holmes running around London, he had been horrified. Bad enough that Mycroft was procreating, here was another full grown one carrying the same loopy genes. John was braced for all manner of strangeness.

Once Sherlock was done, John led him outside to the black car that had become his usual mode of transportation. “We’ll take you back to 221B, Mr. Holmes.”

John had suggested to Mycroft that he drive himself, but that had fallen on deaf ears so he had his own driver too.

“Call me Sherlock; we can dispense with the formalities,” said Sherlock as he settled his long limbs in the car.

John smiled. “Alright. I’m John Watson, but you can stick with John.”

“I know,” said Sherlock with a smirk as he started reading something on his newly reclaimed phone.

Mycroft had displayed his own deductive skills with offhanded comments like, “I see you went for coffee with Miss Witherspoon from Level Three. I would advise you against starting a relationship with her as she is actually a closeted lesbian.” But even Mycroft couldn’t deduce someone’s name by looking at them.

“Have you been breaking into your brother’s systems again?” asked John; he’d been briefed in full about Sherlock’s habits by Anthea when she’d sent John to pick him up.

Sherlock huffed in irritation. “I didn’t need to. All I did was use my eyes and read the release form you had filled out.”

The mater-of-fact tone and simple explanation had John blushing lightly in embarrassment. How stupid of him. Of course Sherlock would have seen the form when he was signing his own at the counter.

Sherlock continued in that same bored tone, “Afghanistan or Iraq?”

“What?” asked John in surprise.

“Which was it? Afghanistan or Iraq?”

“Afghanistan,” said John, reconsidering the chances that Sherlock had hacked into Mycroft’s systems after all. “How did you—”

“What I would like to know,” said Sherlock as he clasped his hands together. “—is why an army doctor, recently invalided home from Afghanistan, is now working as my brother’s assistant.”

John sighed. “Did your brother distribute my therapist’s notes to all his family members then?”

Sherlock looked at him for a moment in vague confusion. “No, but if he did, I’m sure it would be filled with boring details on why your limp is psychosomatic.”

This was getting unsettling. “Then how do you know all that?”

“I don’t know, I see.”

Fantastic. This Holmes brother loved being cryptic as well.

Sherlock continued, “The haircut, the way you hold yourself, said military. Your face is tan, but no tan above the wrists, you’ve been abroad but not sunbathing. The limp’s really bad when you walk, but you don’t ask for a chair when you stand, like you’ve forgotten about it, so it’s at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the injury were traumatic, wounded in action then. Wounded in action, suntan, Afghanistan or Iraq.”

John was amazed. “How did you know I was a doctor and not a soldier?”

A flicker of a smug smile crossed Sherlock’s face. “On the counter at the station, there was a post-it note with a scribble saying Zovirax cream. It matched your handwriting from the form you filled in to bail me out, and had obviously been given to Constable Gresham who likely regaled you with a detailed account about the painful lesion on his thumb as he does everyone. I looked up Zovirax on my phone and it’s over the counter medication to reduce the symptoms of herpetic whitlow. A diagnosis, a prescription, and taking into account your time in the military, doctor it is.”

It took a few minutes for this to sink in. John was astounded.

“That,” John started, blinking in surprise. “—was amazing.”

It was Sherlock’s turn to look taken aback. “You think so?”

As if as Sherlock needed to ask. “Of course it was. It was extraordinary. It was quite extraordinary.”

Sherlock looked away. “That’s not what people normally say.”

“What do people normally say?”

“Piss off.”

John grinned at the frankness.

After a quiet minute, Sherlock said, “Sometimes, they also throw me in prison for that.”

That earned a chuckle from John. “But you got thrown into prison for withholding evidence this time. Not very nice to help investigate a murder but not share the evidence.”

“The police are idiots. If they hadn’t arrested me and confiscated the suitcase, I would have the murderer in hand by now. As it is, we’ll have to wait until they strike again.”

John frowned. He remembered reading the details of the case in the surveillance notes on Sherlock. “This is about the so-called serial suicide cases.”

“Not suicide. Murder,” said Sherlock with disturbing relish. “A serial murderer who chooses their victims entirely at random.”

“Are you telling me someone is just picking random people off the streets and murdering them while making it look like suicide? What would be the point?”

“It’s not for nothing. This serial killer is brilliant, and the brilliant ones are always so desperate to get caught. They want to be in the spotlight and have their genius recognised, even while telling themselves that no one will ever figure out that it’s them. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know who their victims are. It’s enough that they have our attention; the public their avid audience, the police their loyal, ever-following fanclub.”

“Right,” said John, raising his eyebrows at the undeniable excitement in Sherlock’s voice.

Sherlock said, as if thinking out-loud rather than talking to John in particular, “All of his victims disappeared from busy streets, crowded places, but nobody saw them go. Think!” The sudden exclamation was punctuated by Sherlock dramatically throwing his hands up. “Who do we trust, even though we don’t know them? Who hunts in a middle of a crowd? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go, and can pick random people off the—”

He stopped abruptly, like he was struck by lightning. He turned around and stared at John with wide eyes. “You said that they pick random people off the streets.”

“Yes, that’s what they do, isn’t it?” said John in confusion.

“You, John Watson, are amazing!” exclaimed Sherlock, before toning it down. “You might not be the most luminous of people, but as a conductor of light you are fantastic. Of course that’s who the murderer is!”

John stared. “You know who the serial murderer is?”

Sherlock grinned like a madman. “Not specifically, but I know what they do, and how they get their victims.”

“What do they do?”

“You said it yourself! They pick random people off the streets. A trusted person who can pick up anyone they like from the streets without a question, a thousand of them going unseen in the middle of London,” said Sherlock. “It’s a cabbie.”

“I— I would have never thought of that.”

“It makes perfect sense!”

Their car stopped, and the driver turned around. “We’re at 221B, sir.”

Sherlock opened the car door and practically leapt out. “I have to call Lestrade. There must be some way we can lure the murderer out.”

John nodded, feeling a little superfluous at the moment. “Right. You go and do that. But stay out of trouble.”

Sherlock bent down and looked into the car. “You could come with. To keep me out of trouble, I mean.”

“I still have other things to do,” said John with an apologetic shrug, even though he had no idea why he was being apologetic for doing his job.

He wondered if he imagined the look of disappointment on Sherlock’s face. “Very well. I’ll see you around, John.”

He closed the door and walked towards 221B.

“Back to the office, sir?” asked the driver.

John turned around and agreed. “Yes, please.”

What a whirlwind. It had only been a twenty minute car ride, and he felt like his world had been shaken and turned around, with everything in it skewed by just a few degrees. One short encounter with Sherlock Holmes was definitely an adrenaline rush.

He considered the fact that Sherlock was getting close to the trail of a serial murderer, a clever one at that, and called up the surveillance team to ask for them to report hourly on Sherlock’s location and status. The increased scrutiny could last until this case was over.

“Do you want a report right now, sir?” asked Jefferson.

“No, I know he’s at 221B. I just dropped him there,” said John, wondering at the quality of the agents Mycroft employed if they had to ask such silly questions.

Jefferson replied, “Yes, sir, but he went into a black cab right after you dropped him off. He didn’t even go into 221B.”

“A cab.” Sherlock got into a cab right after realising that the serial murderer was a cabbie. It might mean nothing, of course. He could be going off to see Detective Inspector Lestrade. Except Sherlock had said he would call Lestrade. He could be going somewhere else by taxi. It didn’t have to mean anything.

Gut instinct told John that it did mean something.

“Dammit. Give me the route of the taxi and tell me where he’s going. Don’t lose sight of the car,” said John, even though there were few places in London which weren’t monitored by a camera of some sort.

“Yes, sir.”

Those bloody Holmes brothers.

# # # # # # # # # #

On the day John met Sherlock, he took aim from a window and shot a murderous cabbie for him. 

# # # # # # # # # #

Part 2

“We’ve got nothing to go on,” said Lestrade with a shrug when Sherlock had asked about the shooter who had taken out the cabbie.

Sherlock gave him a knowing look. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”

Lestrade sighed, as if it was a great burden to have Sherlock do all the mental work for him. “Okay, give me.”

“The bullet they just dug out from the wall is from a handgun. Kill shot over that distance from that kind of weapon, that’s a crack-shot you’re looking for, but not just a marksman, a fighter. His hands couldn’t have shaken at all, so clearly he’s acclimitised to violence. He didn’t fire ‘til I was in immediate danger though, so strong moral principle. You’re looking for a man probably with a history of military service…” There was John, standing unassuming among all the people scuttling about. Something tickled at the back of Sherlock’s mind even as he continued speaking,“…and nerves of steel…”

He was describing the very man he was looking at. There was John, standing military straight, but managing to look like a harmless little man among the flashing police cars.

Sherlock reined in his words. “Actually, do you know what, ignore me.”

Lestrade was taken aback. “Sorry?”

“Ignore all of that. It’s just the— the shock talking.” It was a pathetic excuse, but he really had much more interesting things to think about right now. Lestrade tried to get more out of him, but Sherlock was too distracted to tolerate all that nonsense now. After minimal fussing, Lestrade wrangled a promise out of him to go down to the station the next day. Sherlock walked towards John, who was looking around casually like he couldn’t fathom what had happened here. It was utterly remarkable. No one at all realised who they had in their midst, that this small man in his cuddly sweater and old jacket was the calm sharpshooter they were looking for.

Sherlock greeted him with a compliment. “Good shot.”

But John seemed determined to play the unassuming passer-by. “Yes, must have been, through that window.”

“Oh, you would know,” said Sherlock, unwilling to let this go. When John only cleared his throat and looked away, Sherlock had a sudden flash of realisation that the events of the night were not of the norm at all for most people. “Are you alright?”

John looked up at him with a steady gaze. “Yes, of course I’m alright.”

“You have just killed a man,” prodded Sherlock.

“Yes, I— It’s true.” John paused. “But he wasn’t a very nice man.”

Sherlock smiled at the understatement, turning to walk away from the crime scene. “No. No, he wasn’t really, was he?”

John kept by his side. “And frankly, a bloody awful cabbie.”

That surprised a laugh out of Sherlock. “That’s true, he was a bad cabbie. You should have seen the route he took me to get here.”

“I did. The surveillance team complained a lot.” He laughed as well at Sherlock’s look. “Oh stop, we can’t giggle here. It’s a crime scene, stop it.”

Sherlock grinned, exhilarated by this shared moment. “You’re the one who shot him, not me.”

It was at this point where Mycroft ruined it all by stepping out of the black car they were walking by. Sherlock hadn’t noticed the car, his full focus had narrowed down to John. It was ridiculous. Of course John would have told Mycroft, and of course Mycroft wouldn’t be able to help but stick his big nose into this. 

“You’re having a good time, boys,” said Mycroft, in that irritating, high-handed manner of his. “I see you have cracked another case, Sherlock. How very public-spirited. Though that’s never really your motivation, is it?”

“How do you bear this continuous nagging every day, John?” asked Sherlock, shooting Mycroft a venomous look.

Mycroft smiled smarmily. “John is it now? Well, John works for me. We have an amicable relationship with minimal nagging.”

John muttered, “Except about bad security guards.”

“No one wants to listen to your prattling, Mycroft,” snapped Sherlock.

Mycroft sighed. “This petty feud between us is simply childish. People will suffer. And you know how it always upsets Mummy.”

I upset her?” Sherlock was incensed. “Me? It wasn’t me that upset her, Mycroft!”

Mycroft looked to John with an exasperated expression. “He’s always been so resentful. You can imagine the Christmas dinners.”

“I don’t really want to, thanks,” said John with a roll of his eyes. “Look, how about you get back in the car, Mycroft, before Sherlock bursts a blood vessel. It would be a shame after all the effort I took to save his life.”

Sherlock grumbled, “Yes, go away, Mycroft. Be sure to lay off the cream rolls for dessert. It looks like you’ve been putting on weight.”

“Losing it in fact.” Mycroft stepped back into the car with a huff. “I suppose I’ll be seeing you around, Sherlock. Let us go, John.”

“In a minute. I want to talk to Sherlock about a security issue,” said John, before closing the door for Mycroft. “Did you need to bring up his weight? He’s been trying so hard with his new diet.”

Sherlock glared. “You can go and comfort him then, if you’re so worried about that.”

John sighed. “I’m more worried about what Anthea will do to me if he does start fussing about his weight again.”

“Well…” Sherlock was feeling strangely chastised, but refused to feel guilty about what he said. Much. “What security issue?”

“You were going to take that damn pill, weren’t you?” asked John, getting to the root of the issue he obviously wanted to discuss.

Sherlock shrugged the matter off. “Of course I wasn’t. I was biding my time. Knew you’d turn up.”

John raised his eyebrows. “No, you didn’t. That’s how you get your kicks, isn’t it? You risk your life to prove you’re clever.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

Sherlock had to smile at this. It wasn’t often that anyone would dare say that to his face and with such ridiculous affection too. “You better be off so that Mycroft can interrogate you on what happened tonight.”

“As if as you care what Mycroft wants to do,” said John, but he walked to the other side of the car. “Don’t confront anymore serial killers tonight, Sherlock.”

With that, his little guardian angel of a sharpshooter slipped into the car, and Sherlock was left to wonder when he would get to see him again.

Also, he needed a ride back to Baker Street now. He didn’t like riding with the police, so he would risk serial killer cabbies and get a taxi then. 

# # # # # # # # # #

Sherlock couldn’t understand why it was so hard to forget John. The way he looked so unremarkable, yet had such strange, hidden depth; it was intriguing. How did Mycroft convince such a man to work for him? John was surely bored by the type of work Mycroft had him doing.

He would find out.

# # # # # # # # # #

- How quickly would you say a body starts rotting in the desert? SH

- how did you get this number?

- Answering a question with a question is bad form, John. SH

- And I picked your pocket on the street. You should be more careful. SH

- are you seriously asking an ex-army medic with combat experience about bodies in the desert?

- Not good? SH

- little bit not good

- about eight hours during the day, longer at night. depends on humidity at the time

# # # # # # # # # #

- You did get shot though. SH

- ???

- In Afghanistan, do keep up. You did suffer an actual wound. SH

- yes, the shoulder

- I knew that. SH

- no you didn’t, bloody liar

- The left one. SH

- lucky guess

- I never guess. SH

- yes you do, i haven’t forgotten the pills in the serial murderer cabbie case

Was that flirting? Was John actually flirting with him? Sherlock didn’t know how he felt about that. His body was just transport, and he had been neglecting his physical needs for years. It would complicate things to get involved with John, to have John’s compact body available to him anytime he wanted. He would be able to find out what John was like underneath those sweaters, memorise the shape of his scar. Would he let Sherlock trace the lines with his fingers, maybe with his tongue—

Hm. Yes. Complicated.

Alright, and he hadn’t found out how bored John was as Mycroft’s assistant. He was building up to that.

# # # # # # # # # #

- what’s the fastest way to irritate mycroft without bringing up his weight?

- Rearrange all his pens or ties so that they’re no longer coordinated by colour or type. SH

- worked perfectly. ta! i owe you one

- Your lack of capitalisation is a blemish on the world. What did Mycroft do to you? SH

- he worked overtime four days in a row which meant i had to stay back too and read anthea’s complaints over texts

- He’s a slavedriver. You should quit your job. SH

- what would i do then? not much call for a surgeon with an intermittent tremor in his hand

- You could be my assistant. SH

- i’ve seen your bank account. you can’t afford me.

Damn Mycroft’s access to government funds.

He was also unsure how he went from thinking about John’s boredom while working for Mycroft to trying to lure him away. He should get back to that.

- What do you do as Mycroft’s assistant? SH

- if i tell you i’ll have to kill you

- Is that in your contract? Seems a bit extreme, even for Mycroft. SH

- D: we need to do something about your total lack of pop culture

John was definitely flirting with him, that minx.

# # # # # # # # # #

- you haven’t left the flat in six days. what are you eating?

- Did Mycroft list my ongoing health in your contract too? SH

- no but he’ll be very difficult to work with if he worries about his brother passing out from starvation alone in his flat

- Rubbish. I’m hardly starving after three days without food. I have gone without for much longer. SH

- why are you without food???

- As you said, I haven’t left the flat in six days. Food ran out after three. SH

- why don’t you go out and buy some??!!!

- Boring. SH

- Everything is boring. SH

- I wish I could actually starve in three days. SH

- BORING. SH

- i’m sending a care package over

- I don’t want it. SH

- too bad

# # # # # # # # # #

John obviously cared for him. Sherlock felt warm in the pit of his stomach.

Must be hunger.

# # # # # # # # # #

John obviously hated him.

He had sent a care package with Mycroft.

There was a lot of bantering and bitching to-and-fro before it was revealed that Mycroft had not only brought food, but also a case file that he wanted Sherlock to read over.

“I can’t spare the time,” said Sherlock, declining out of habit. He hardly ever agreed to do any of Mycroft’s bidding. It was a pathetic attempt to draw Sherlock into his world, into a more reputable side of business. A more reputable and utterly boring side of business. There was more than enough Holmes wasted on that already.

Mycroft sighed. “Never mind your usual trivia. This is of national importance.”

“How’s the diet?” needled Sherlock, feeling a pang of guilt when he remembered that John would bear the brunt of Mycroft’s insecurities.

Fine,” said Mycroft. “Let us get back to the matter at hand.”

Sherlock fiddled with his violin. “If you’re so keen, why don’t you investigate it?”

“No, no, no, I can’t possibly be away from the office for any length of time, not with the Korean elections going on. Besides, a case like this would require…legwork.” Mycroft said the last word like it was an unimaginably disgusting notion.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “You can send your own peons to do your legwork for you.”

Mycroft watched him with considering eyes. “No, I don’t think they will do. However, I will be assigning John to this case. Not full-time of course, but I’ll expect frequent updates from him so he’ll have to liaise with you in person very nearly daily, I imagine.”

Sherlock’s hands froze for a fraction of a second, but that brief moment was enough of a tell. “Why would that interest me?”

“Come, Sherlock. You expect me to believe that you bombard him with text messages for no reason at all? The man giggles over a new one every hour like he’s back in secondary school, and I can see that you are no less affected. Surely having a reason to speak face-to-face can only be a good thing.”

John giggled over his text messages? Which ones? When he was sharing his deductions of people in Mycroft’s office based on details John supplied? When he was sharing the results of his experiments regarding the coagulation of saliva in a corpse? That was a clever one. John was probably impressed. Maybe John would be impressed if he saw in person how Sherlock solved a case.

Sherlock knew that Mycroft was playing him, but it was so difficult to care when there was the prospect of seeing John without needing a flimsy excuse. He could share his deductions in person, and see the way John was impressed, maybe hear him say that Sherlock was amazing again.

Sherlock attempted to appear detached. “If you’re going to stay here and nag until I give in, you might as well leave the file and go now. I’ll look at it when I have the time.”

He didn’t need to look up to know that Mycroft was smirking.

# # # # # # # # # #

The file was about the Bruce-Partington plan—a missile plan, how creative, yawn—which was top secret of course. Naturally, they had some low level flunky carting it around London on a USB stick, and the man had got himself killed, with the USB stick missing now. Sometimes, Sherlock despaired at the intelligence displayed by the people around him.

He was certain it would be an easy mystery to solve the moment he put his mind to it.

# # # # # # # # # #

Then, the block of flats opposite 221B blew up.

# # # # # # # # # #

His time was completely taken up by the far more fascinating case that started with five beeps from a familiar pink phone. John turned up a few times in person, asking for an update on the Bruce-Partington plan. But Sherlock was busy, and he roped John into holding things for him, or fetching his mobile phone from the coat he was wearing while he was using a microscope. They were all very important things he couldn’t have done without. John was amazingly reliable that way. Sherlock wanted to pay his full attention to John, expand his recent burgeoning thoughts and speculations, but the case filled his mind. Looming at the back of all these intricate cases was the dark, shadowy figure that had made an appearance with the serial killer cabbie: Moriarty.

# # # # # # # # # #

They were having a quarrel. Sherlock was astounded that he cared enough to keep replying.

- Will caring about them help save them? SH

- no

- Then I’ll continue not to make that mistake. SH

- you find that easy do you?

- Very. Is that news to you? SH

There was no reply for twenty minutes, and it was twenty minutes that ate at his brain. He should be concentrating on the third beep, trying to solve this murder. But all he could think about was that John wasn’t happy. He had made John unhappy. There was no reason for this conclusion. A lack of reply in a text message conversation could mean anything. John was working after all; he could be busy with some nonsense task or other for Mycroft.

But Sherlock knew that wasn’t the reason. John never missed a reply without telling Sherlock he was going away to do something else. He knew what this was. Sherlock wanted to leave it as it was, because he couldn’t change, not even in the face of John’s anger. He was what he was. He couldn’t help himself from writing another text.

- I’ve disappointed you. SH

- excellent deduction

Strange how John was praising him again, but it wasn’t what Sherlock wanted to hear this time.

- Don’t make people into heroes. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them. SH

- not making you out to be a hero. just a good man.

Sherlock had no idea what to say to that.

- have to go now

With that, Sherlock was relieved of his need to respond. He didn’t know why, but it still took longer than expected for him to get back to the case instead of thinking about John’s parting words.

# # # # # # # # # #

He had solved it all. He had beaten Moriarty, as he knew he would. The case of the missing Bruce-Partington plans were solved easily enough as well, unraveled the very moment he went to visit the victim’s family. John had been impressed when Sherlock had handed over the USB stick containing the Bruce-Partington plans, and had listened avidly to Sherlock’s deductions. After the rocky moments during the case, they were finally on good terms again. They parted with grins and more bantering, and then Sherlock went back to 221B with plans on how to leave again without being spotted by John’s surveillance team.

# # # # # # # # # #

The thrill of the game had kept him going throughout, without further thought. But he remembered too well John’s disappointment and his silence over the phone when Sherlock showed him his darker, colder side.

So Sherlock had gone back to the beginning. He was at the swimming pool where it first started, where Carl Powers met his untimely demise. It was supposed to be a full circle, and he was going to end Moriarty’s schemes where it had all begun.

Except it was all wrong.

Moriarty was Jim. Jim from IT. The gay man with his underwear showing, who was dating Molly but hitting on Sherlock.

He had been played. And worse.

Moriarty grinned, head swinging from side to side as he looked around in glee. “You chose the perfect arena for our showdown, Sherlock. But your timing could be a little better. Your pet isn’t ready yet, you see. He can be such a workaholic.”

Sherlock’s heartbeat was pounding, speeding up as the implications sank in. He still had time, he did. He pulled out his gun, a weapon he’d got from his less savoury contacts. “I imagine you would be expecting this as well then.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” exclaimed Moriarty, clapping his hands together. “You don’t want to end this party too soon, do you? Before the finale? Your puppy isn’t here!”

Sherlock had his phone out with his other hand, and he was dialing John’s number. Moriarty only grinned, prancing a few steps nearer, while singing, “It’s no uuuuuse, Sherlock. He won’t be answering!”

It rang out. Sherlock slipped his phone back into his pocket, gritting his teeth against the urge to throw it against the tiled floor instead. “What have you done?”

“I just ordered for him to be dressed up a little. Spruce up his boring dress sense, you know? He has to look spiffy before the last showdown after all!” said Moriarty, spreading his arms wide.

“I could kill you before he arrives,” said Sherlock, finger tightening on the trigger. He had never killed anyone before, but he felt like he could destroy Moriarty without a single hesitation.

Two red laser targets scattered across the floor before coalescing on Sherlock’s chest. Moriarty smiled. “Just a little incentive to curb your trigger-happy urges. I have men in place. If I die, you’ll die, and they’ll make a call and your dear John Watson will go kaboom.”

Sherlock took a deep breath. “You won’t let us leave alive in either case. What if I just shoot you anyway?”

Moriarty mimed a look of surprise. “Then you can cherish the look of surprise on my face. Cause I’d be surprised, Sherlock, really, I would. And just a teensy bit…disappointed.” He smiled, almost gently. “But I don’t think you will. You wouldn’t be able to cherish it for very long. And John wouldn’t know what was going on, would never even wake up from the little slumber he’s in. You wouldn’t get to struggle futilely for your last stand.”

“You could be lying,” said Sherlock. “If you had John, he would be here now.”

“As I said, you organised to have the party too early. John works longer hours than just nine to five, my dear,” said Moriarty with a moue of annoyance. A loud, irritatingly preppy song interrupted him. He rolled his eyes and slumped, pulling out his phone. “Do you mind?”

Sherlock growled. “No. Not at all.”

Moriarty answered the phone with an irritated sigh, before perking up immediately. “Yes. I see, so you have him? Very good. Send him in once you get here,” chirped Moriarty with a demented grin before ending the call. “The finale is about to start, Sherlock. Isn’t this sooooo exciting?”

# # # # # # # # # #

Part 3

Two months and two assassination attempts on Mycroft ago, John wouldn’t have stood a chance. But now, when a burly man stopped him to ask for directions with a car idling not far behind, he was on red alert. The moment the man made a move to grab him, he kicked the man’s legs out from under him and kneed him in the face. He grabbed the needle the man was holding behind his back and jabbed it in his neck. Another man leapt out from the car and pointed a gun at him. John slowly raised his hands and kept still. This second man approached slowly, but the moment he was distracted when he stopped to prod the unconscious man with his foot, John shoved his weapon aside with one arm while slamming a fist into his chin.

He had to wait ten minutes for one of his attackers to come around. What a waste of time. He used five of those minutes to search the car his attackers were using and found a vest full of explosives.

When his first assailant woke up groggily, it was to a gun pointing pointblank at his forehead.

John smiled grimly. “You’re going to call your boss back and tell him that you have me. Then, you’re going to take me to wherever he is.”

# # # # # # # # # #

It was a right mess, and of course, Sherlock was in the center of it all.

“You’re doubling my pay for this,” he hissed into the phone, annoyed that Mycroft was forcing him to give a status report when he should be busy rescuing Sherlock.

“You’ll get it,” Mycroft spoke with unusual speed. “Now, listen. With at least two snipers on the first floor and Moriarty on ground floor with Sherlock, you can’t move in with only two people for back-up. Wait another ten minutes, and you’ll have an entire team with you.”

John rolled his eyes, creeping closer to the back entrance. “I know that. I’m the one who told you that. But we don’t have ten minutes. Moriarty is going to be suspicious if his men don’t turn up now, and who knows what he’ll do to Sherlock if he suspects the game is up. We’ve already delayed too long.”

Mycroft inhaled sharply. “If you enter too soon without disabling all of them at the same time, you risk Sherlock’s life as well.”

“You’ll just have to trust me to do my job,” said John, before turning the phone off. He was probably going to pay dearly for that.

Only Ramos, Jones and Lee were close enough to respond immediately and arrived at the destination at the same time as John. The other team was en route, but John had run out of time after scouting out the place and the people inside it. Lee had to remain in the car with the two captives and as a look-out, in case anymore of Moriarty’s men arrived. That meant he only had Ramos and Jones to go in with him.

He turned to Ramos. “You have more field experience than I do in situations like this. You’ll be taking the lead on this one.”

Ramos nodded. “We need to take out the snipers first without the hostile on the ground floor noticing, so we’ll be moving upwards. I’ll take point, and Jones will be in the rear.”

With that said, she headed for a window John had jemmied open earlier. John had combat training and had experience in special units, but the majority of his years had been spent as an army medical officer. Ramos on the other hand had breathed and lived in situations like this since she joined the army. There was no questioning that she was the better person for this.

They slipped in through a window at the back of the building. This was a place used for swimming practice and local competitions. The swimming pool was on the ground floor, and the building was an open area all the way to the roof, three storeys above. It was designed so that people could stand in the corridors of the upper levels and watch the activities going on in the pool. Based on his initial scoping of the building, and the angle of the laser targets on Sherlock’s chest, there had to be two snipers on the first floor. 

The window had been picked for its proximity to the staircase, and they went up the stairs on silent feet. Fortune was on their side as one of the snipers was standing with his back to them outside the staircase. He had a rifle trained downwards. Ramos signalled at Jones to take down this one, and she signalled for John to go left while she went right. With only three people in the team, they had no choice but to split up in an effort to clear the whole floor as quickly as possible.

Even as John was moving away, Jones had grabbed the man from behind, disabling him silently while pressing the rifle against the rail so that it wouldn’t drop to the ground in a clatter of noise.

John kept close to the shadows, walking fast with his body bent low so as to make a smaller target. They had to move quickly now. It was possible that someone could have noticed one laser target disappearing when Jones had taken out his target. Jones was smart enough to get the laser back in sight, but that momentary disappearance could attract attention.

The acoustics in the open space of the building were amazing. Over the thrum of adrenaline, John could hear Sherlock’s voice, and another that had to belong to Moriarty.

“Take it.” He could hear Sherlock saying, which was stupid, because it meant Sherlock was letting Moriarty come close to pass him something. Why, why, why?

“Oh, that. Missile plan,” Moriarty’s voice was sibilant in the silence. John clenched his teeth as he crept forward, eyes looking out for any other snipers. Either Sherlock had taken a copy of the Bruce-Partington plans, or he was faking that he had it downstairs. After all the trouble he had gone through, John was surprised Sherlock would hand it over so easily to Moriarty. What was the game plan?

Moriarty’s voice suddenly echoed. “BORING! I could have got them anywhere.”

There was a splash as something hit the water. Well. If Moriarty had just chucked the plans into the pool, that solved one of John’s problem. Thank God for villains who were completely barmy.

“What do you want then?” asked Sherlock, echoing John’s own thoughts.

“Do you know what happens if you don’t leave me alone, Sherlock. Do you?” asked Moriarty in a low, sing-song tone.

Even from another level of the building, John could detect the boredom in Sherlock’s voice. “Oh let me guess. I get killed.”

John mentally swore, not because Sherlock had said something stupid as usual, but because he was looking at the figure of an unexpected hostile. During his initial recon, he had only seen two laser targets on Sherlock, and had hoped that it would signify only two snipers present. This section of the corridor was directly above where Sherlock and Moriarty were standing, so there was no way this sniper could have had a target on Sherlock. He was looking in the direction of the main entrance on the ground floor, his own rifle held loosely in one hand.

He would have to be taken out of course. It was a good thing he didn’t have his rifle up and aimed, because John had no idea how Jones had managed to disable his own sniper without the rifle dropping down to the ground floor. Jones must have an extra hidden arm or three.

The conversation below them continued. “Kill you? No, don’t be obvious. I mean I’m going to kill you anyway some day. I don’t want to rush it though. I’m saving it up for something special. No, no, no, no, no… If you don’t stop prying, I’ll burn you. I’ll burn the heart out of you.”

Moriarty was such a crazy fucker. And he would burn nothing out of Sherlock, not if John could help it.

“I have been reliably informed that I don’t have one.”

Oh, Sherlock.

The sniper John was staring at propped his rifle against the railing to root around in his pockets for something. It was the opening he needed. John padded forward on silent feet and immediately put the sniper in a chokehold, pulling his body back from the rail. The man struggled, trying to dislodge his tight grip, but John kept his arm in place, moving his face to avoid a headbutt. John muffled a few grunts of his own when he was elbowed repeatedly, but he didn’t have to tolerate it for long. With his air supply cut off, the man’s struggles soon grew feeble, and he slowly slumped in John’s grip. John held the position for a few more seconds to make sure he wasn’t faking, before letting him go.

“Oh, we both know that’s not quite true,” Moriarty sang out. “My men are having your heart gift-wrapped and hand-delivered right now!”

Wait, but John was the attempted-kidnappee earlier. Moriarty was talking about him?

Fuck, he didn’t have the time to think about this. John was preparing to move on down the corridor when a shot rang out. It came from somewhere to his right. Ramos. Another two shots rang out, and then there was the sound of glass shattering. John’s mind went into overdrive. If Ramos was down, the sniper could take out Sherlock where he stood. But even if the sniper was down, then Sherlock was still in the presence of a psychopath downstairs.

“This is against the rules!” shrieked Moriarty.

John had run out of time.

He estimated Moriarty’s approximate position from that shriek, and vaulted over the rail. It was only one storey down, and he landed on his feet, before tucking into a roll, body moving with the momentum. His estimate was perhaps a little too good, because he collided with someone, and they fell to the ground in a tangle. His head slammed against the tiled floor, and pain spiked through it. When he twisted his body against the one tangled with his, he came up face-to-face with a grinning maniac.

“Hello, pet,” said Moriarty.

Then he stabbed John in the stomach.

“John!” shouted Sherlock, but John didn’t have time to look at him.

He grunted in pain, and circled his hand around Moriarty’s wrist, because Moriarty might be a criminal mastermind, but he wasn’t a soldier. Moriarty’s hand loosened around the handle, and with a harsh squeeze from John, Moriarty let go entirely in surprise. John pulled the knife from his gut, reversing its direction, and slipped the knife between Moriarty’s ribs, stabbing upwards in a smooth, lightning-fast strike.

Moriarty was right. He was wearing a look of surprise, and John was cherishing it.

But not for long.

John shoved Moriarty away and stumbled to his feet. He hit another body with a thud and was about to struggle, when he felt long arms enfold him and recognised the voice in his ear.

“John! John, are you alright?” asked Sherlock, panicked.

It was possibly the stupidest thing Sherlock had asked in his life, and John was never going to let him forget that. If he survived.

John hauled on Sherlock’s arm, yanking him towards the exit as he stumbled as quickly as he could. The pain in his stomach was starting to radiate outwards, and his hand was already slippery with blood. “I’m not alright, I just got stabbed, but we have to get out of here; there could be others. Back-up is coming, Jones should be coming soon, but Ramos might be down. Lee can provide more back up outside. I have a gun, pull it out for me.”

His words were running into each other, and oh, this wasn’t good, because his head was spinning and the pain was receding. Those were bad signs.

When they reached the side-exit, Sherlock shoved him against the wall and pressed down on his shoulders. The light pressure had him sinking to the floor, legs feeling like they were a million miles away. The adrenaline was draining away, and he was going into shock from the sudden blood loss, he knew, but there was no time for this.

“You need cover,” he gasped up at Sherlock who was crouching down beside him.

“Shut up, I need to stop this bleeding, and I think you have a concussion,” said Sherlock, sounding lost despite the certainty of his words. “We just need to wait another few minutes, because you wouldn’t have come in without calling for more back-up and they can’t be far off. Mycroft has people everywhere.”

John stared at him. “ETA six minutes. Or maybe five now, I’m not sure.”

He wasn’t tracking very well, his medical mind whispered. This wasn’t good. How good was Moriarty’s aim? Gut wounds weren’t usually fatal with quick medical attention, unless they got infected, and that was possible, the terrorists didn’t exactly sterilise their weapons, and it was hard to get immediate care in the warzone…

“John! Stay awake! You can’t—”

“Sherlock,” he whispered. What was Sherlock doing here?

“Stay with me!” commanded Sherlock. “You have to stay with me.”

John’s vision swam, and he closed his eyes. He whispered, “Sorry.”

# # # # # # # # # #

John woke to the sound of beeping machines. His body floated in the familiar bliss of painkillers, and he thanked God for modern medicine and drugs. Then he slowly pried his gummy eyes open. He was in a hospital room, no surprise. The grey eyes staring intently at him from not very far away were more of a surprise. His hands twitched instinctively, and he realised that Sherlock was holding one of them. Before he could blink, a cup with a straw was held in front of him, and he sipped the cool water obediently. It was wonderful against his dry tongue and scratchy throat.

“You’re not allowed to do that anymore,” said Sherlock with a glare. His dark curls were a riotous mess, and his usually immaculate suit was wrinkled. The effect was surprisingly becoming.

“I’ll send all the criminals a memo,” said John hoarsely.

Sherlock frowned. “You be sure to do that.”

“Are you okay?” croaked John.

“You’re— You’re completely mental. You’re the one in a hospital bed with a gut wound and a concussion and—” Sherlock stopped at the look John was giving him. “I got shot in the arm by one of the snipers. It was only a flesh wound, but I dropped my gun. Before Moriarty could do anything, you bowled into the scene and needlessly endangered your life. I could have taken care of myself. I’m excellent at hand-to-hand combat.”

Sherlock sounded incensed, and he was obviously implying that John was less excellent at hand-to-hand combat, but John didn’t really care. After the words ‘only a flesh wound’, all John was hearing at this point was ‘blah blah blah’. He had saved Sherlock and stopped Moriarty, so that was good enough for him. 

“You’re not listening to me,” sulked Sherlock.

“Why should I? You never listen to me.” A thought occurred to John, and he rubbed his face with his free hand. “The others? Ramos and Jones?”

“They’re alright. Ramos was shot, but it wasn’t critical. She shot the other sniper as well, but he got away by jumping out of the window. She said she recognised him, and she’ll debrief you later,” said Sherlock, repeating by rote obviously.

The sniper must have been good to have got a hit on Ramos and escape as well. John wondered if he would have survived if he had gone up against the sniper instead of Ramos.

But John was in a hospital with a gut wound and Sherlock Holmes was holding his hand, all other things could wait, now that he knew his people were okay.

John squeezed Sherlock’s hand. “So…your heart, hey?”

Those ridiculously bow-shaped lips turned down. “I can’t be held responsible for what psychotic criminals say.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping that being someone’s heart meant extra benefits. Like kisses after being sta—”

Sherlock swooped down and kissed him hard. It was clumsy and edged with desperation, but it was the best thing John had felt in years. He ran a weak hand through Sherlock’s messy hair, humming with satisfaction.

“Please don’t sexually harass my employees, Sherlock.”

Sherlock pulled back, a small smile edging his lips up despite the appearance of his arch enemy. He opened his mouth, but John beat him to it.

“I’m officially on sick leave, Mycroft. And if you don’t want to see me snog your brother senseless, then you might want to go away in the next three seconds,” said John, not taking his eyes off Sherlock’s growing smile.

When he heard Mycroft moving off with a huff, John pulled Sherlock down into another kiss. This one was a lot smoother, slicker. He pulled back a few minutes later to admire Sherlock’s reddened lips with some satisfaction.

“I think working for my brother is too dangerous. You should consider quitting,” said Sherlock, only sounding mildly breathless.

John raised his eyebrows at him. “I think if you cut back on your clandestine meetings with criminals, I would be a lot safer.”

Sherlock bit his lower lip — not John’s, which was just unfair. “Maybe if you were around to stop me from these bad impulses...”

“I don’t know,” said John. “I rather like the perks of working with the government.”

Sherlock leaned down, murmuring against John’s lips. “Let me show you some of my perks.”

It was cheesy as hell, but John smiled. He didn’t have to tell Sherlock just yet that his position with Mycroft was only temporary, lasting until six months after Anthea’s pregnancy. There was no way Anthea wouldn’t have her old position back by then.

It wouldn’t hurt to keep Sherlock on his toes though. Just for a little while longer.

# # # # # # # # # #

- You can always tell a good Chinese place by examining the bottom third of the door handle. SH

- no you can’t. you’re bloody making that up.

- I can always predict the fortune cookies too. SH

- stop lying!!!! :O

- Come out for dinner and I’ll prove it. SH

- pick me up and you’re on

- I’ll be there at 7. SH

# # # # # # # # # #

THE END