It’s a frosty January morning, and Jim Moriarty is sitting on a roof, looking down at London with disappointment. He’s been planning Sherlock’s fall from grace for months. Correction, he’s been planning it in one way or another ever since Carl Powers died. It’s the culmination of everything he’s ever done. It’s his masterpiece. And now…
Last night, he received a text from Molly.
SH is planning to fake his own death. Should I continue to assist him? Fall to proceed as planned?
He’d taken a few moments, staring at his mobile’s screen, to remember to breathe, before responding.
Maintain cover. Keep me posted.
Then he’d thrown his phone against his bedroom wall hard enough to crack the screen. Sebastian had stirred in bed.
“Time t’ go?” Seb had slurred. Jim had placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Not yet,” he’d replied. “Waiting for a text.”
He’d sat in the dark for what felt like ages, staring out his window with the same dark expression that was on his face now. If Sherlock wasn’t prepared to walk hand-in-hand into hell with him, that was fine. Let him pretend to be dead. The world would still think he was a fraud, his friends would still mourn him, the sun and moon and all the planets would still turn, and Jim would move on. Now, on the hospital roof, his phone beeps with an alert from Molly.
SH making his way to roof. Everyone in position and good to go.
Jim smiles bitterly, cracks his neck, and selects the appropriate background music. The Bee Gees ring out in the morning air, jangling and tinny. Showtime.
Three Months Later
Between MJN flights and van jobs, this is Martin’s first day off in nearly a month. He lays in bed, counting damp spots on the attic ceiling. He’s certain there are two new ones. Without anything to keep his mind occupied, Martin thinks bitterly about Swiss Airlines, about the job he turned down. The potential new life that he abandoned so that his coworkers at MJN could keep flying. He thinks about Teresa, and about 20,000 a year, and being part of a real, proper company.
For the first week, he’d felt good about his decision, really good. Like a sort of martyr. Dear old Captain Crieff, who ignored his own ambitions so that his colleagues could keep their jobs. As it turns out, however, being a martyr means long flights and hard work and all the things about his life that were small and mean and miserable, only now he knows that they were avoidable. It’s the ‘keeping his mouth shut’ thing that has been the hardest. Whenever Douglas makes fun, or Carolyn ignores his opinions, or even when Arthur accidentally implies that he’s a bit of a clot, Martin has to bite back his words. To tell them now would just make them pity him, which is not something he’s particularly interested in.
The phone rings, shaking him out of his self-pitying stupor. It’s the landline, meaning the caller either his mum or someone with a van job.
“Hello, Icarus Removals?” he asks, deciding to chance it.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end has an Irish accent. “Listen, I’m terribly sorry to call on such late notice, but I need some boxes taken to London this afternoon and every other van service I’ve called has been fully booked. Is there any chance you’re available for the job?”
“One moment, please,” Martin mutes the phone and curses vehemently into his pillow. Of course he’s available, and it’s not as though he can turn down the money. “Yes, I believe we have an opening this afternoon. What’s the address?” The voice on the other end of the line chuckles softly, and gives him an address that is blessedly only fifteen minutes away. Martin arranges to meet the client in an hour, and then hops into the shower.
“Thanks for this,” Jim says, handing him another box of files. “I’d have taken them myself, only my car’s broken down and I’m stuck here.” The voice on the telephone has turned out to belong to a short, overly cheerful man with soft brown hair and dark eyes. Martin’s initial impression is that Arthur has a secret half-brother that no one knows about, until Jim mentions his degree in astrophysics. After that, Martin is pleased to find that Jim has a passing knowledge of meteorology as well, and they start chatting about the storm that’s supposed to blow in within the next few hours.
“Listen,” Martin says, “if you need to be in London tonight, I can give you a lift in the van.”
“Would you?” Jim asks. “I don’t want to be any trouble! I can pay you extra, if you like.” Martin waves him off, lord knows why. He’s enjoying Jim’s company. It’s been ages since he’s had a real chat with someone he doesn’t work with. It’s been...well, since Teresa, actually.
“No, it’s fine! Honestly, I could use the company,” he says. Good job, Martin. That didn’t sound lonely and sad.
“Well,” Jim says slowly, “Maybe there’s another way I can repay you.” He leans against the van and grins, biting his lower lip. Martin nearly drops the box he’s carrying. Jim is very clearly giving him a once over.
“I, um. Ah,” Martin stumbles over his words.
“Can I take you out for a drink?” Jim asks. Martin sets the last box down in the back of the van with a very precise and solid thunk, and then stares at Jim. Oh god, Martin. Oh god, don’t be useless, his brain supplies.
“Yes?” he replies. Jim tilts his head.
“You don’t sound convinced,” Jim says.
“No! I mean, yes, I am convinced. I mean, we can go out if you like!” Martin stands there, awkwardly aware of having too many hands and no idea what to do with them. He shoves them in his pockets. Jim raises an eyebrow.
“Would you like it?” he asks. Martin nods emphatically. Jim grins wider, and the effect is slightly unnerving. He looks like a cat who’s just cornered a canary. “Great! Shall we go?”
The first half hour is quiet. Martin keeps his eyes on the road and tries not to make a tit of himself, but as is always the case, this effort means he doesn’t say anything at all. Jim hums along with the radio. Raindrops start to splatter against the windshield, so Martin turns on the wipers.
“If you want,” he says, desperate to make the situation less awkward, “there should be some cassette tapes in the glove box. You know, if you’re getting tired of the radio.” Jim makes a noncommittal noise and rummages through his hideously outdated collection of music.
“You like the Smiths?” Jim asks, holding up ‘The Queen Is Dead.’
“Oh yes, most of the time. I have to be in the right sort of mood.”
“I know what you mean. Driving in your car, I never never want to go home, ” Jim sings, slightly off key, and glances over at him. Martin blushes. Jim keeps looking through the tapes. “ To die by your side, is such a heavenly way to die- Ah! Found something! ” He holds up Queen’s Greatest Hits triumphantly, then pops it into the stereo. Freddie Mercury’s voice fills the van.
“So, are you moving?” Martin asks, nodding towards the file boxes in the back.
“Me? Ah, no. I live in London. The files belong to a client. Or, well. Ex-client.” Jim’s hands drum animatedly against the dashboard. He never seems to stop moving. “He’s not going to need them anymore. You know how it goes.”
“Oh, sure.” Martin has no idea ‘how it goes.’ “I mean, what do you do?”
“I’m a Consultant,” Jim says, and somehow Martin can just hear the capital ‘C’ in that word. It sounds very big city, very professional. Martin is vaguely jealous. “You?” Jim asks, and it takes a moment for Martin to understand what he’s asking. “When I googled you I found a website for MJN Airlines that has you listed as a pilot, but here you are running a van service. Unless Crieff is a more common name than I thought?”
“No, no, this is- just a side job,” Martin says. “On my better days I am, in fact, a pilot.”
“Aren’t you a bit young to be a pilot?” Jim asks.
“Aren’t you a bit young to be a Consultant?” Martin retorts. He’s starting to get very tired of that question. Jim laughs, full-throated, throwing his head back. It’s more attractive than Martin expected. The tips of his ears burn.
“Good, very good,” Jim says. “Well put.” In the silence that follows, Freddie implores the universe to send him somebody to love. Martin tries to focus on the road, but he’s smiling a bit. This is how normal people talk to other, better-looking people, isn’t it? A bit of banter, some discussion of music? He can do this.
Jim tips him generously when they’re done unloading the boxes, and then, finding himself without any spare notepaper, writes his number on Martin’s hand with a permanent marker. Martin thinks it may have been a ruse, considering that they are surrounded by boxes filled with paper. He doesn’t mind. It’s a nice ruse. Jim’s hands are soft, and warm, and Martin is acutely aware of how long it’s been since someone touched him when Jim grabs his palm with one hand and presses the marker firmly against his skin with the other.
“Call me,” Jim says quietly. They’re still standing very close, and Martin can feel Jim’s breath on his skin.
“Yes,” Martin whispers. “I mean, yeah, yes. I will.” He swears he can feel Jim’s eyes following him as he gets in the van and drives away.