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Hiding In Plain Sight

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John Watson didn’t have an easy start in life. An alcoholic father (who’d regularly use his fists to “maintain discipline” as he called it when he was drunk), a mother who (perhaps, he later muses, wisely) decided that her children weren’t worth the trouble of protecting them, and a big sister who started to go down the same path as their father around the same time she could spell the word “booze”. 

He was determined that this wouldn’t stop him from reaching his goal. He didn’t know, however, what exactly this goal was until he turned twelve, found a medical (or psychological, he can’t really remember now, he only keeps the important stuff, it doesn’t matter anyway) text book and discovered what he was.

Looking back now, he can say that he always felt strangely empty; blame the fists of his father, blame his normally detached mother, blame whatever strange immortal being you want desperately to believe in, but that’s how it was. He didn’t cry when he was once again lying on the floor, bleeding, his ribs cracked, his father still shouting. He didn’t smile or laugh when he got a bike for his birthday (even though Harry almost screamed her head off in a jealous rage, as their parents had simply forgotten her birthday a few months before, and John simply hadn’t cared enough to acknowledge it) or when he played with his so-called friends at school; in truth, he would have preferred to spend his time alone, but while he wasn’t hurt emotionally by the beatings he got, he certainly could do without them on a physical level, so he humoured his father who would never have allowed one of his children to be a “freak” (even John will later admit to himself that his reaction to stumbling upon Harry kissing another girl was quite amusing) and made sure to appear as normal as he could.

The things he really enjoyed weren’t really things he could share with his “friends”, however. He didn’t think they’d appreciate a nice fire the way he did; how the flames slowly consumed a park bench, later (after he’d had enough practice) many a small shed, at first only tasting the material, then slowly growing stronger, finally turning into a blaze, the sparks that flew up in the night sky, the bright orange drifting into the eternal blue. 
They most likely wouldn’t appreciate the dying screams of a mouse, a bird, a cat, a dog either, they way the animal tried desperately to escape, the panic in its eyes, the blood that flowed over his hands, giving him the feeling of control, of being the center of the creature’s universe that he so craved, and how its heart would at first be beating frantically, then slower, and slower, and slower, until it’d finally stop and there’d be peace and contentment, for a while, until he’d need to go hunting again.  

He was smart – taught himself to read at three, though, again, he couldn’t show this at home, and he instinctively decided he didn’t want to stick out at school – and so he soon figured out what he didn’t have that other people seemed to have all the time. Emotions. Not that he really minded – most of the time, caring seemed to be a disadvantage more than anything else, and at least he’d never be held back by concern or love or hate (he supposed he should have despised their parents, like Harry did, but he never could bring himself to spend any energy trying, he didn’t think it would be worth the trouble) or any other useless feeling.

But after a few days in reception – days in which he’d certainly noticed the worried looks  the teacher send his way, and the fear and mistrust in the eyes of the other children when he simply sat by himself in a corner – he decided that he would need to make an effort.  He had not discovered arsony or animal cruelty yet – that didn’t happen until two years later, when he was seven, an afternoon he still remembers fondly – but he felt that it wouldn’t be good to stick out as “the boy who doesn’t like anybody”.

So he was nice, he was pleasant, he learned and constantly reminded himself when it was right to smile, to laugh, to cry, to be understanding, to be angry. Hence his “friends”. And hence the fact that by the time he was twelve and discovered the truth, nobody would have believed him (if he’d decided to tell anyone, that is). He was the “good boy” from a “difficult background” who’d somehow managed to “pull through”. His father stopped beating him and concentrated on his sister, his mother didn’t care, Harry hated him for it (but, then again, she’d just turned fifteen and discovered alcohol for herself, so she probably didn’t suffer too much). He’d been perfectly content to live without a label, as long as nobody suspected him.

And then he decided that he needed to pursue a career eventually, one that would allow him to keep up his charade and fulfil his needs at the same time, and doctor of medicine, perhaps even surgeon, was the obvious choice. The satisfaction of cutting and the goodwill of his fellowmen all in one. Blood and honour. Perfect.

So he started reading every medical text book he could find in the library close to his home (thank God they lived in London and not in a small country town where everyone knew you; the librarian kept giving him strange looks) and in one of them, on his twelfth birthday, he found the word.

Psychopathy.

Intrigued, he did some more research and found several checklists. He read about famous criminals, business men, even politicians, all of them psychopaths, all of them like him. And then he knew.

So he was a psychopath. Or a sociopath, the words seemed to be interchangeable for some. But the word itself didn’t really matter to him. What mattered was what it entailed.

 And this brought along a whole new idea. He’d never really cared about the law – obviously – but until now the idea of a criminal life had never occurred to him. Of course, it sounded like much more fun than an ordinary life as a doctor. But he didn’t want to go to jail; it would be so boring. So no criminal life for him.

Unless... unless he would never have to go to jail. Unless his crimes would be undetectable, so that nobody would ever get to him. What if... what if he didn’t commit crimes per se, but arranged them? He’d be a spider – in the middle of his net, knowing everything, planning everything, and yet invisible until his victims had already caught themselves in his net. Then he’d be there. And nobody would suspect him.

Of course he’d need an alias. First of all, he didn’t think that “John Watson” would easily install fear in the hearts of men. And he couldn’t allow the risk of somebody ever hearing his real name.

In the end, he decided to use French, a language he’d learned (without anybody knowing) since he was nine, because he loved the habit French people had of making everything sound more elegant than it actually was. After he’d decided that it was easy; “La mort” – death, the reason was obvious – “Rire” – laugh, after all, who’d ever suspect him, and he’d never cease to be amused by this fact – and, finally, “L’art” – art. Put it all together, add a “y” to make it sound more English, and you had “Moriarty”. He liked the way it sounded. For the first name, he simply went with James – it wasn’t necessary to be a show-off in every detail, after all.

At first – from twelve to fourteen – he kept to his school, arranged drug deals, exam scams, now and then the blackmailing of a teacher, that sort of thing. It was unbelievably easy to get in touch with the right people, once you knew where to find them – and John was good at finding people. Other people found him. But nobody at school ever suspected nice, kind-hearted John Watson.

He had fun. Maybe he would never have thought of committing murder, of crossing the line once and for all, would have stayed a “normal” psychopath who arranged comparatively small crimes.

And then 12-year- old Carl Powers came to school. John had never been self-conscious about his size – you grew or you didn’t, so why bother? – but Carl took one look at him, two years older and several feet smaller, and decided that bullying John Watson was the most hilarious thing in the world.

In truth, it was a fatal mistake.

He ignored the taunts, the jibes, everything, for about six months; it wasn’t that hard, Carl only came to London for swimming tournaments and the training (which John’s school was proud to give any “promising youth”) beforehand, so he didn’t spend much time in the school anyway (and when, he was mostly in the pool).

And then Carl hit him. Just once. But he did it in front of one of the only two suppliers who actually knew who John was (a mistake he’d never repeat again, but it had been his first transaction), and that was potentially bad for business. So Carl Powers had to go.

John already knew the right people. And he knew all about toxins. He also knew about Carl’s little problem with eczema. Getting the Clostridium botulinum wasn’t difficult either – after all, John knew the right people. So he waited. Waited for the right moment.

Which came surprisingly fast. A tournament took place in the school – of course Carl was there, he was the big star, after all. When he was busy with training the day before the race, John put the poison in his eczema crème. Then he waited.

He hadn’t expected Carl to die in front of everyone, himself included, but it was certainly a good show. And while everyone tried to save little Carl, he snuck back into the locker room and took his shoes, because they were a piece of evidence and because he wanted a souvenir. Because as soon as he had seen Carl seizing up, he had had an epiphany.

He liked killing. He enjoyed a good murder. And he would take his little enterprises to a whole new level.

So he did. By the time he was eighteen, he was controlling several drug labs and one gang of robbers – and still working on his web. Of course, he entered St Bart’s and became a doctor – he still needed a good cover story, and once only a little bit of truth is in it, people will believe every big lie – but all the time, he was becoming what he’d always wanted to become without being aware of it.

The spider.

When he was nineteen, his parents died within months from each other. He, the good son, saw them buried in the right fashion, while Harry, the awful daughter, was too drunk to understand what was going on. He even managed to cry – but then again, by this time he was excellent at faking what he didn’t feel.

He had relationships – not many, he still had to be the responsible, good man looking for “the” woman so he could have a house, two kids and a dog – although he did end them after a while, claiming she hadn’t been the one, when in truth, even the sex (his only pleasure that wasn’t forbidden by society) had started to bore him. He needed to change his partners frequently to still take pleasure in sexual intercourse, but managed to hide this fact.

After his medical training, he pretended to join the military, so that his friends wouldn’t wonder what had become of him when he went underground to build his web once and for all. Of course he showed up in all databanks as a soldier – he knew who to ask. And so, when Mike Stamford paid him a drink in a pub one night “because he was going on his first tour”, he was actually celebrating the fact that for once, he could be alone.

In the next sixteen years, Moriarty became a whisper, a whisper that every criminal in London – and soon in England and beyond – had heard at least once. He arranged crimes, although he never met anyone in person these days. Just his voice over the phone. And the visit of a professional hit man from South America (or another country far away) if the bill didn’t get paid. Sometimes he told the police just for the fun of watching people who’d thought themselves safe getting arrested. Sometimes he killed people who hadn’t paid with his bare hands. Again, just for fun. But nobody (at least if they were still alive by the end of their and John’s transaction) ever saw his face. And nobody ever got to him.

And then, at 39, he realized he’d done it. He’d become the spider, he controlled almost every crime that was committed in London, as well as the majority of crimes committed in England. And all without the police, without the government, without a man like Mycroft Holmes even (oh, how soon he’d realized who truly controlled the UK, takes an Ice Man to know an Ice Man apparently) suspecting that someone like John Watson pulled all the strings.
He had nothing left to do.

True, he could try to do the same with the rest of Europe, the rest of the world, but it was nothing new. It seemed boring.

He needed a new game to play.

And then he stumbled upon a man, or rather a man stumbled upon a few crimes arranged by John. A man who, without suspecting that the spider even existed, still managed to seriously inconvenience John by the middle of February, when he’d only learned of his existence on the fourth of January.

 Interesting. Novel. He needed to make a good plan. Think about this.

How he’d at first make the man curious, then, if it turned out he was as interesting as he promised, play a game. A great game.

Just two players.

Dr. John Hamish Watson and Sherlock Holmes.  

Chapter Text

John starts collecting information about Sherlock Holmes. The first thing he tries is Google.

He finds his website, “The Science of Deduction”. Aside from the fact that there are several indicators that Sherlock may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“Interesting cases only please”, “I observe everything” – then again, John can’t very well tell someone they’re too self-obsessed, to be honest), it doesn’t disappoint.

 If this man turns out to be as good as he claims – and, as he has so far solved three murders, four robberies and one case about a stolen pearl hidden inside one of six busts, all of them arranged by John and practically unsolvable, he seems to be – he could be the best distraction John Watson has yet encountered. Better than crime. Better than sex. Better than being more clever than everyone else, perhaps.

The internet is, of course, only one source, and it’s just the beginning. He’s spent his whole life in London, and knows that the word on the streets can be far more valuable than any other information.

Of course he gets as much information as he wants (it’s certainly good to know that Sherlock has a homeless network – it would have spoilt his fun if one of them had found out someone was after the “great detective”), but in a way, he’s sorry for it. He’s sorry he doesn’t get to draw the information out scream by scream, tear by tear, blood drop by blood drop, like he used to do. He rather enjoyed the torture. But since everyone knows his name – or rather his alias – by now, they sing like a bird as soon as he calls. Thank God he has his new distraction, otherwise he would have had to start killing randomly – and he never does things at random. It leaves him feeling out of control.

So Sherlock Holmes is not only the brother of Mycroft Holmes – he should’ve known, what are the odds of two so interesting individuals not being related? – but has also had problems with drugs. Never completed a course at university either, it would seem, just dropped out of life, more or less, for five whole years which he spent mostly high on cocaine. Until his brother got him clean, something Sherlock despises him for. Apparently the good Mr. Holmes gets bored easily too.

Now, Mr Holmes is 35 years old, has been clean for about eight years, and set himself up as a “consulting detective”. From what John can glean, this means that the police turn to him “when they’re out of their depth, which is always”, his contact in Scotland Yard (of course he has a source there, every good spider needs to know what the flies are up to) tells him.

Actually, he has to admit it is a good title. Maybe he should start calling himself a “consulting criminal”. It certainly has a nice ring to it.

Another thing they agree on: Sherlock Holmes considers every crime fighter in their great city an idiot. John is fairly sure not one police man knows anything about him or even suspects he exists, not even DI Greg Lestrade, who he considered to be a possible danger for a short time (the only police man who ever had that honour). Coincidentally, Lestrade is the one who consults Sherlock the most (as before mentioned, the man has some brains – not much, but certainly more than his little helpers at Scotland Yard). They’ve known each other for about five years, ever since he arrested Sherlock when he found him prancing around a crime scene, telling him how the victim was killed. For a moment, Lestrade seems to have thought Holmes committed the crime – but then he realized his potential or something like that (John, who has never had a similar revelation about a human being, can’t really understand this) and now he calls him in quite frequently.

Aside from him, and an old lady called Mrs. Hudson whose husband was executed because of his help in Florida three years ago and who he visits regularly (must have been a great marriage), Sherlock Holmes is alone.

He doesn’t have any friends.

And that is when John Watson has the best idea he’s had in years, probably the best idea he’s ever had.

Sherlock might be better at deducing people’s life stories – this was never a thing that particularly interested John, therefore he hasn’t really practiced or tried, but he supposes he could soon be just as good as his new little playmate – but John looks at people and knows what they want.
And as he looks at Sherlock Holmes – he has finally started to follow him around, now and then, and his appearance, tall, slim, with a mop of unruly dark curls, doesn’t make this very hard, John is naturally careful not to be seen (not by the consulting detective and not by the security cameras his brother keeps pointed at wherever it is Sherlock is headed) – he sees loneliness. He sees someone who has never had a friend in his life, like John, but unlike him, bothered by this fact.

Sherlock Holmes wants a friend.

Perhaps he should give him one.

He could of course just play another psychopath-versus-genius-game with Sherlock and kill him in the end, like in so many movies and books people apparently love to watch and read. He would probably enjoy it too. But, after all, what would it be but old news? A repetition? No, he wants something novel. Something that will occupy him for weeks and months, something that will destroy Sherlock Holmes completely (he was rather proud of the case with the pearl and the busts, he wants his revenge), but only after he’s had his fun with him.

He will be Sherlock’s only and best friend and worst enemy all in one.

He has to build up a persona that will allow him to befriend Sherlock Holmes, of course. But this turns out surprisingly easy – he is a doctor, after all, and since he has every proof that he’s a soldier (not even Mycroft Holmes would know he never saw a battlefield – except the one in London), and what better companion for someone who solves crimes for a living?

But he needs something more, something that will catch the man’s attention and maybe bring out a little pity (he doesn’t believe the man’s a sociopath. Sociopaths don’t help little old ladies and give homeless people far more money than their information deserves. There’s a heart in there somewhere, just well hidden).  What about a war injury? Brilliant. So, he invents another tour in Afghanistan – just takes a phone call, these days, isn’t it sad – and is “invalided home” because of a wound in his left shoulder. He takes a small, uncomfortable apartment – one can’t afford London on an army pension – and, because he’s right in the middle of inventing a new life and has a lot of fun, he decides he has a psychosomatic limp that he needs to see a therapist about.

He lives this life for two months (apart from the occasional phone call, he can’t just leave his web alone, not even for someone interesting). His therapist, Ella, is a nice enough woman, he supposes, but definitely not good in her job. He thinks you should recognize a psychopath who has killed 73 people single-handedly, even if he is good at pretending. But he doesn’t really complain. All part of the game.

Then he has to have something to pretend Harry is still alive; he killed her two years ago, after she’d tried to borrow money again. He was particularly annoyed that day, but in the end, he was sorry. Plus, he shot her clean between the yes, so she didn’t suffer. She had it coming anyway.
 He thinks her wife Clara – thank God, he’d been on another tour when they married, at least for once he hadn’t had to act like he cared about his sister – was even relieved when she never showed up again. Didn’t even file a missing person report, now that he thinks of it.
 Nevertheless, he buys a phone, scratches it with coins, makes sure his hands are shaking when he plugs it in, has “To Harry Watson” inscribed on the back. Might as well give Sherlock something to deduce.

What remains is the difficulty of casually making Sherlock’s acquaintance. He ponders this for some days, then a stroke of luck happens.

By this time, he has hacked into the security system of Bart’s, simply because Sherlock spends a lot of time doing experiments in the lab and charming the grey mouse of pathologist to get access to bodies. Luckily, John is good in the art of lip-reading, and he soon notices that Mr. Holmes seems to tolerate his old friend, Mike Stamford, who’s teaching at Bart’s now, if he remembers correctly (he’s kept in touch with him loosely over the years in order to hold up his cover story). He wonders if this could be a good opening for him; get Stamford to introduce him.

And then Sherlock tells Stamford about a flat Mrs. Hudson would allow him to move into, but still can’t afford, even with a special deal. It’s when he asks “Who’d want me for a flatmate?” that John has another epiphany.

He will not only be Sherlock’s best friend, he’ll be his live-in one too.

He loses no time and bumps into Stamford the very same day. The man has a routine like clockwork, goes for a coffee through the park near St. Bart’s everyday at 10.30 am. John only registered this because he told Sherlock at least five times on different days “I’m going for a coffee” at 10.25 and returned at 10.40 with a Starbucks coffee. And the way to the nearest Starbucks is through the park. Now John is rather glad he noticed. It makes things much easier.

He pretends not to recognize Stamford at first, to make it look real. It works perfectly. The guy is so sad that John got shot, he even buys him a coffee. And he immediately responds to his “Who’d want me for a flatmate?”

“You’re the second person to say this to me today.”

And not ten minutes later, he’s in the lab and makes sure Sherlock hears his declaration how everything has changed. He can even show him his phone. It seems fate is on John Watson’s side today.               

He sees the deducing look, and when Sherlock asks “Afghanistan or Iraq?” he responds appropriately confused.

He hasn’t had that much fun in ages.

The Game is On. 

Chapter Text

John didn’t expect Sherlock Holmes to offer him a place to live immediately, but it’s certainly not inconvenient that it happens. He still has to be confused and maybe a little disturbed, he is normal as far as the detective is concerned and has to act like it, but seeing someone clever fall for his tricks for once is exhilarating.

Stamford must be a bit of a sadist, he muses while Sherlock tells him his fabricated life story (he must admit, he is positively surprised that he noticed the little scratches and the alcoholism of dear departed Harry, and nobody, not even John, could realize that the nickname stood for Harriet). The only reason he notices is because he can see Mike’s expression in the corner of his eyes and his old friend looks far too happy about something that could be traumatizing if the story was true. And because all he says after Sherlock has told him about 221B Baker Street and winked at him (interesting... could it be that Mr. Holmes is attracted to men? This would open a whole new world of possibilities) is “Yeah, he is always like that.”

He certainly must remember Stamford’s little... preference. Could be useful someday.

Of course he stays in character; goes “home” and looks Sherlock up on the new, clean laptop he bought for the occasion (from what he can gather, Sherlock has no respect for private property, and he doesn’t want him to stumble upon some of the more.... interesting information he has on his other laptop once they start living together).
He writes about the meeting in the blog Ella told him to write (God bless her, little useless woman; she makes this much easier and more fun for him) and decides to keep writing; after all, wouldn’t it be lovely if Sherlock Holmes came to have a fanbase because of John Watson’s blog entries? Oh the wonderful, wonderful irony.
Then he decides he’s going to have even more fun and creates accounts so that Harry and an invented army buddy named Bill Murray – who shows up five minutes later in the records of John’s tour, he is always careful with the details – can post comments on his blog.

Afterwards, he calls up several associates and arranges a bank robbery he’s already been paid for by the director of the bank (why do people have to keep using other people’s money to pay their debts?); you simply can’t run a criminal empire just by having fun.

It gets only better on the next day. Mrs. Hudson is even more motherly than John imagined her to be (seriously, a little more and she’d start spoon-feeding them, and considering Sherlock’s weight, that’s maybe not such a bad idea), the flat looks very comfortable, and his new flatmate is every bit as chaotic and loud and weird as John wants him to be.

John does what he is expected to do and stares at the chaos and the skull and doubts Sherlock’s abilities (when he actually desperately hopes that the detective is as good as he seems to be, he doesn’t want this game to be over soon, he is enjoying himself way too much).

And then Lestrade shows up and asks Sherlock to assist in the case of the strange suicides – wait a moment.
Right, he almost forgot about good old Jefferson Hope, the man with the aneurism who he convinced that money would go to his kids for every murder he commits (he has put money in a fond for every murder that has been confirmed, thought, he usually keeps his word, if the other party does the same, and that seems to be the case here). He did it more out of boredom than anything else – he still enjoys a good murder – but he was rather impressed by Jeff’s game of chess, it was a very elegant method. And, if he remembers correctly, he even warned Jeff about Sherlock.
So the very first case Sherlock is going to solve under John’s supervision is one John arranged. This couldn’t be more perfect if he’d planned it himself.

But apparently things are about to get even better (he thanks whatever supernatural being is sitting in the bottom of the earth and helping his evil plans). Sherlock asks him to accompany him, even though John thought he’d have to earn his trust slowly at first, and maybe in one or two months...

But no. He accompanies him from the start. And he gets to annoy Lestrade and tell Sherlock the cause of death (something he knows very well, as he also gives Jeff the pills) and he can start gushing about the man so that he will be flattered (not that that’s hard – “modest” doesn’t seem to be a word Mr Holmes is very familiar with).

But that’s not the best part. Oh no, the best part is that after Sherlock storms off and John acts like he’s feeling really really sorry for himself, Sgt. Donovan (she’ll never be a risk, he’s known this ever since his first glance at her file) warns him. Actually warns him. Because Sherlock Holmes is a psychopath and will one day kill somebody. If only he could laugh. This is delicious. This is wonderful. He wants to cherish this moment forever.

But the whole “Sherlock is a murderer”-thing has a nice ring to it. Maybe he can use that one day, at the end of the game. Donovan would certainly love to believe that.

Then, as if he hasn’t had more fun today already than in the last five years, he gets kidnapped.

By Mycroft Holmes. The Ice Man himself. He looks bigger in real life than on screen; John has never met him in person before.
Posh, polite and cold as always, with all the false information John has had put in the system for the last twenty years. And John can make him trust the dear army doctor simply by refusing money. He must really care about his brother. Another very useful information.

Sherlock texts and he comes immediately, of course. Both brothers have to trust him after all, so that he can play his game.

Sherlock wants him to send a text to Jeff (idiotic, really, he thought Mr. Hope would notice somebody slipping a phone in his pocket). However, John soon realizes what this is really about. Sherlock wants to cure his non-existent psychosomatic limp. So be it. The man is a walking cliché, really; heart of gold beneath the ice.

At least the dinner at the Italian restaurant is very good, and it’s something new to John to be treated to a meal not because Moriarty made a phone call, but because someone feels he owes John’s “date”.

He tries to flirt; Sherlock rejects him, so he switches his tactic. Mr. Holmes is apparently a virgin, possibly asexual. A pity, in a way. John has slept with men before and enjoyed it, and Sherlock isn’t that bad looking. Plus, it would have added a whole new level to the game. But he’s happy to be the best friend too, so it’s all fine.

They jog after Jeff’s cab; John recognizes him immediately, though Jeff has (naturally) no idea who he is. Sherlock gets it wrong because he focuses on the passenger, but it’s a natural mistake to make, so he’s not disappointed. Oh, and apparently he pickpockets Lestrade now and then and John is allowed to keep one ID. Nice. That will be useful one day.

“Nothing, just.... Welcome to London.” And he makes Sherlock smile. Yes, the game has begun. And John Watson is playing well.

They arrive home only to laugh some more, he gets his now-even-more-useless-than-before-cane back and then they discover the drug’s bust that is going on.
Sherlock storming up the stairs gives him enough time to send a quick text to Jeff – “Sherlock Holmes. Tonight. Twice the usual amount”, which of course means, kill him tonight and your kids get twice as much money as they normally get – from the burn phone he keeps hidden in his jumper (he has instructed Jeff to throw his own burn phone away after every text and phone call, so they won’t find it on him). He expects him to show up in the next ten minutes. 

In the meantime, John is having the time of his life. Not only has he to act shocked at the revelation of Sherlock’s former habits, no, he has to remember his invented near-death experience too and Sherlock turns to him in order to understand human behaviour.

“Not good?” “A bit not good, yeah.”

On the contrary. So very, very good. The search for the phone tells him that Mr. Hope is going to show up any moment now.

He does, Sherlock goes with him, of course, and Lestrade asks him about Sherlock. He could tell him everything about the consulting detective, but why should he? Maybe one day, if he’s very very lucky, Lestrade will find out the truth: Sherlock Holmes is a good man. And John Watson is a bad one.

Not tonight, though, tonight he runs after Sherlock and shoots Jeff, who apparently tells Sherlock about Moriarty with his dying breath (this is excellent; now he doesn’t have to think of a way of making the detective curious. This is wonderful. He decides to give Jeff’s kids another payment, just for this wonderful parting gift).

Oh, and Mycroft shows up again and upgrades their surveillance status (of course he hears, he is not yet out of earshot, this is fabulous, now he has to be extra careful, for the first time in years; it’s wonderful to have something at stake again).

John Watson thinks that this may be the best day he’s ever had in his entire life.

After they’ve eaten, and he’s sitting in his new room (upstairs) and has just completed his first blog entry about the case, he decides to have even more fun and sends Sherlock an e-mail from one of his many fake accounts: “Dearest Sherlock, a Roman Emperor will help you work out what this means:
DSPCWZNV T LX HLENSTYR JZF xx”. It means “Sherlock, I am watching you” and with the Roman Emperor he means Caesar, not even worth mentioning, but he figures why not keep it simple at first?

This day has been wonderfully complicated an exhilarating and funny enough.

He enjoys his game. And it has only just begun.

Chapter Text

Days go by. John and Sherlock get to know each other (well, at least that’s the expression; Sherlock is convinced he knows everything important about John – and he’s right if one doesn’t consider the whole “controls London criminal underworld” thing important – and John is sure he knows everything about Sherlock, though the man continues to amuse and surprise him.)

John – who’s never really had to explain to anyone where he’s going and what he’s doing (no surprise there; his mother lived in her own world, his father and Harry were happy as long as he put a bottle in front of them, and he’s always been careful never to live with any of his sexpartners, or girlfriends, as they’d liked to call themselves) – has to make up stories, and convincing ones at that, so that Sherlock and/or Mrs. Hudson and/or Mycroft never suspect and/or wonder about anything. It’s novel and it’s fun, and he soon learns which of the seventeen steps from the flat creak and how best to navigate himself out of the window of his room (of course he can climb, he had a few narrow escapes in his early days as the spider).

Dear dead Harry is a good excuse too, if he wants to “officially” leave the building, and he makes sure to now and then yell into his phone and pretend she’s drunk again (maybe she is, if there’s a heaven and they have a wine cellar, who knows?). In a way it’s ironic, he muses, on one of his “visits” when he’s actually just slicing open the wrists of a foreign business man who decided to try bargaining when John demanded his money (make sure it looks like suicide if you don’t want any complications, and when it’s about foreign businessmen, even he doesn’t want problems; Mycroft Holmes can indeed be very very annoying, something he and Sherlock agree on): Harry is definitely more useful to him now than she ever was when she was still alive.

Note to himself: make certain Clara will never file a missing person report. Could cheer him up when he’s down, making her disappear.

At the moment, however, he’s enjoying his game. He is actually enjoying it more as the days pass, making sure Sherlock eats and sleeps (always the concerned doctor), having tea and watching telly with Mrs Hudson (he thinks that, had his mother been like her, he might actually have turned out a fairly decent bloke, and then cringes from the thought because it sounds utterly boring), and meeting Lestrade in the pub now and then (the poor man seems convinced he’s Sherlock’s saviour and will turn him into a better man; he lets him cling to this illusion because it’s amusing and, despite himself, he still respects the DI in some way). 

Big Brother pops in now and then, of course, or more often, kidnaps John; if only he knew who’d killed the three diplomats last years, it would make the meetings even more interesting, though not necessarily more fun, because having someone like Mycroft Holmes trusting John is a joke in itself.

The idea to get a job is born in the moment his card doesn’t get accepted in the supermarket, and he doesn’t have to act this time, he’s always hated this bloody chip and pin machines, and he remembers that he can’t really use the money he has while he’s playing the game, because then probably even the little grey morgue-mouse (he doesn’t remember her name, just her infatuation with Sherlock) would realize something’s wrong.

Luckily, he doesn’t spend the whole morning thinking about this (that would be dull, dull, dull), because, although Sherlock doesn’t take the case of the missing diamond (isn’t he sweet as he tries to hide the evidence from the fight), he gets an email from an old “friend”.

It’s a pity about the diamond really, seeing as it’s in the stomach of a goose right now, but that’s Sherlock’s bad luck. John has enough fun when he realizes who their new client is (he should, he’s helped him embezzling money from the bank for years), and once again thanks his stars that he never revealed his identity to anyone (well, except a few people who can’t really talk anymore).

He recognizes the code immediately and decides he has to get in contact with General Chang this evening. Why hasn‘t he been told the Black Lotus has a problem? How stupid of her; he could solve it, whatever “it” entails, in an hour most likely.

But at first he lets Sherlock do his magic and grins to himself as he wonders how long it’s going to take the detective to figure out it’s an old Chinese number system.

Of course, the one who is threatened turns out to be Eddie Van Coon – really, John hopes it wasn’t just a threat, if Van Coon did anything stupid; after all, John was the one who arranged his business trips for the Black Lotus. To his delight, he is in fact already dead, and to his even greater delight, Sherlock notices it wasn’t a suicide, doesn’t see the tattoo though, because this annoying Sergeant won’t let him have a closer look. Oh well. There’ll be enough time.

In the meantime (Sherlock most likely won’t even realize he’s gone out, he is like that when he’s thinking, a personality trait that certainly comes in handy when John has to solve certain problems), John goes job hunting and is successful. He actually gets the very first job he applies for, and, even better, he can flirt with his rather pretty new boss. Sherlock still seems to be completely asexual (yes, that is a pity, John freely admits this to himself), but John would now and then like a little sexual intercourse.

On the way back he makes contact with the Black Lotus; the Empress jade pin is missing and they don’t even know if Van Cook or Lukas took it; he certainly would have expected more from the General. Well, at least John has his fun.

He comes home to find that Lukas has been taken care of as well, and Sherlock and he have to dash off again. Even Dimmock has to admit that he has a small problem of unsolved murder now, and Sherlock finds a library book, and in the library, John finds the dead-man-code. He knows how the Black Lotus works, so he knows where the most likely place for the graffiti is.

His day gets even better when Sherlock needs help and in the end John gets arrested. He wishes he could laugh, just for a little bit, because the irony of him sitting in a police station and only being threatened with a ASBO is just too much.
Once more on the way back, he makes sure the General understands that he doesn’t want Sherlock Holmes killed. Under no circumstances. Then his whole game would be over. And he’d have to destroy the Black Lotus organization just to make a point, and that would be dull.

By the time he gets there, Sherlock has worked out the two cases are connected (seems to be a bit slow today, the connection is way.too.obvious, but he enjoys Sherlock dancing around) and he sends John to Scotland Yard.

Because John doesn’t want to run pointlessly around London, he writes the address of the Lucky Cat down in Lukas’ diary in the journalist’s handwriting and promptly bumps into Sherlock on the way there.

Thankfully, thinks get more interesting once Sherlock finds out about the number system; breaking into a flat and leaving John to stand stupidly outside while he’s almost strangled to death and John can rant and rant and rant, now that certainly makes up for John’s disappointment in him. He whole-heartedly forgives him not having caught on about the connection earlier.

He is still disappointed in the General though; writing the message down where everyone can see it – and it’s not a very difficult code to crack. Well, at least he gets to dance with Sherlock (and the detective really wonders where the rumours come from?) and see him speechless. He must remember to achieve this more often; his expression is priceless.

Later, they find Soo Lin Yao; even John is impressed, she is certainly good at hiding, but because he is still a decent business associate, he lets the General know where she is. Plus, it makes for a good chase.

At least she’s told Sherlock that it’s a book code, and John has always enjoyed reading, so after convincing Dimmock (with help from the little morgue-mouse, isn’t it practical to have a pet?), he spends most of the night doing exactly that, after he’s made sure that the London A-Z isn’t in any of the boxes (that was quite clever of him, if he says so himself, taking a book that’s not really considered a book by most).

One can’t hold it against him that he falls asleep after the third patient with a cold, though; nobody knows, of course, but by the time Sherlock got the case he’d already been awake three days because he’d had to close a deal with a Russian drug syndicate, and those Mafia bosses love to take their time. He gets a date out of it, however, so he won’t complain.

And not only that, but Sherlock tags along (acting exasperated is one of the most amusing ways of acting, he loves that he gets to do that a lot) and is maybe a little jealous (no, he’s not yet given up hope, if he could feel hope, that is, the detective is too good looking). And he gets a fight out of it and just when he thinks the greatest fun is over for the night, he is kidnapped.

And the General mistakes him for Sherlock.

Oh Brave New Game, that has those glorious moves in it. He will never get tired of reliving this memory, he’s sure.

John noticed the Black Lotus trailing after them, sure, but he hadn’t realized how wonderfully, beautifully, amusingly stupid they were. He must remember this: every time someone wants to build up an international smuggling ring, check their IQ first. May save some trouble, if Sherlock Holmes isn’t there to make things fun, that is.

Of course they save the day, and of course Sherlock later finds the hairpin (John isn’t surprised it was Van Coon, would’ve found out it was him if he could have been bothered to think about it; those City Boys, their fingers always in someone else’s honey pot, eh, Sebastian?).

And just the way the Black Lotus paint their warning sign “detective” in front of their door – oh joy, joy, joy. He suspects he may never get tired of this game.  

 In the evening, he chats a bit with the General and makes sure she won’t ever be stupid again. After all, there are a lot of criminals, and the Black Lotus can easily fill the gap. He’s sorry he can’t do it in person though; he would’ve loved to see her face.

He also makes a few comments on his blog as Bill Murray, Harry and Anonymous (because he just loves being sneaky and weird sometimes, he can’t help it).

While he’s at it, he sends Sherlock a new coded message: “Hi Sherlock, SOMNEHCCGTEKOTYRIMOOLAIGU. You'll never find out who I am. I live off the grid. Cheers xx“. This is a form of grid cipher and means „I am coming to get you”.

And he truly lives off the grid – he lives off it because he lives very visible on it, simple as that.

He then begins to plan his next move. Maybe it’s time for Sherlock to meet Moriarty.

Yes, that sounds like good idea. One that involves more moves than one, in fact, but why not?

He’s always ready for more fun.

Chapter Text

At first, John thinks about keeping it simple: A good case, and after Sherlock has supposedly solved it, John stepping out and revealing the truth. And then watching Sherlock’s life – because, let’s be honest, it’s John, the good, dear army doctor who has made their flat a home, who’s made sure Sherlock lives to see another day, who’s made him open up, so even though they haven’t known each other that long, John Watson is an important part of Sherlock Holmes’s life – crumbling to pieces before his eyes.

But then he realizes...

Of course it would be fun, seeing Sherlock break in front of him, shocked, speechless, unable to comprehend what was going on, at first not believing, then wishing he could continue not to believe, the truth, maybe he’d even beg and cry. But what then? John has enjoyed the game so much, is still enjoying it (only yesterday, he got to rant about an experiment in the fridge that was carried out on the hand of a John Doe who was not a homeless man who’d died from heart failure, as the morgue-mouse believed, but had in fact been a south African hit man who’d failed to carry out John’s instructions, so he’d given him a bit of his favourite poison, good old clostridium botulinum).

So why end it? He doesn’t want to go back to the emptiness that was filled up by a nice murder now and then yet. He wants to keep playing. But he certainly wants Sherlock to meet Moriarty...

And then he has an idea. A wonderful, glorious, beautiful idea.

An actor. Small, unknown, sure, but good nonetheless. Someone who can portray the usual psychopath everyone, including Sherlock, expects when they think about Moriarty (and John knows Sherlock has been collecting information about Moriarty ever since Jeff told him his alias, and while he hasn’t been able to find out a lot – John is that good at covering his tracks, he really is, why should he be modest – he knows enough to suspect a tiny bit of the truth. Which is still more than enough to expect your typical, sadistic, slightly boring-because-it’s-so-common psychopath).

It’s surprisingly easy, finding this actor. It happens when John isn’t even really looking; in fact, he’s just playing his role and watching crap telly why Sherlock is mumbling to himself in the kitchen about the hand (oh, how he squirmed when he felt the poison take effect, what a lovely sight it was). After three fathers who are not really their children’s fathers (which is annoyingly obvious, most of the time you just have to look at their respective pictures) he switches to a children’s programme, because he quite likes the simple good-versus-bad fairytale formula the shows portray (he’s always had a thing for fairy tales, particularly the villains).

And then he sees him. The storyteller. Richard Brook. He tells stories (not hard to guess, really), and watching the programme, it’s hard to believe his career will ever take off. But there’s a certain gleam in his eyes and a certain manic quality to this slightly creepy smile of his (must be giving the children nightmares; John suspects he’d have enjoyed the programme quite a lot as a child, but that doesn’t really say good things about Richard Brook now, does it). He will be perfect as James Moriarty.

Of course, John doesn’t show up at his house in person – he hasn’t done something like this in years, except to kill, but that’s not the goal here – but contacts him via his agency. He’s surprisingly stupid (very good for John, less good for Richie) and believes John his little cover story about the game he’s arranging for a friend who loved detective stories. Maybe the excellent payment has something to do with his eagerness to believe it.
He doesn’t need to know that before the end of the day, John has had his whole life story deleted. He doesn’t want Sherlock finding out who Richie is before the game’s over.

Once he’s found Richie, it’s time to think about the case. But wait... maybe not one case. Maybe a string of cases. More moves, more fun, after all... But not usual cases, no, only cases arranged by John who are strange and exciting... And an ultimatum. He needs an ultimatum for every single case.

Now, what would scare Sherlock Holmes? Apart from failing to solve... Oh, right. Stupid of John. Failing someone, of course. The consulting detective has a heart big enough for the whole city (even though he’s done a good job hiding it so far, it’s just so obvious; he cares about John, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, even loves his brother, one can tell by the way he looks at them), and should he learn that his brain was the only thing that could save a human life... The perfect combination of his pride and his big, caring heart to ensure he wouldn’t stop until John wants him too.

The first case he is going to let Sherlock solve is a no-brainer. Carl Powers. Where John began. The murder that put him on the right track. That made all this possible. He’s a little bit sad he’ll have to give up the shoes, but knowing Sherlock, he’ll most likely keep them anyway, so it’s not like John will never see them again.

Of course, he’s always kept a list about people who’d make good innocent hostages; no crime boss who wants to be able to look at himself in the mirror should go without one of those. He chooses a woman who lives in Cornwall and has two of his men kidnap and prepare her – all they have to do is explain the rules and put the explosives on her.

After this (and after he’s put the shoes in the basement flat and the letter in the strongbox in the flat opposite 221B), the only problem is how to get out of the flat in time for the explosion. Thank God Sherlock decides to put a head in the fridge and starts talking about the blog so John can act all grumpy and hurt and leave and go to Sarah’s. He still hears the explosion, of course, he’s not that far from Baker Street yet, but he pretends he doesn’t.

To his disappointment, she only gives him the choice of the lilo or the sofa, so he chooses the sofa because he knows it’ll hurt his back and his cover story will once again be proven. But he still thinks she should be a little more willing to put out, after he’s saved her from a gang of Chinese smugglers.

Naturally, he storms in the flat the next day, panic written all over his face, and it’s good that he does, because now Mycroft trusts him more than ever (delicious, simply delicious). Oh, so he’s lost the Bruce-Partington-plans. John has known about them for months, has even looked at them now and then (he has his contacts, so why not use them, after all) and while they’re good plans, he decided some time ago it wasn’t worth the time or the effort. If he needs money, he can think of several possibilities to get it that would be infinitely more fun. But solving the case for Mycroft? Now, that definitely sounds worth his while. Plus, he gets to chastise Sherlock about sibling rivalry (he’s entitled to it since he ended his rivalry with Harry years ago).

They find the box and the envelope and the phone (he’s become quite good at changing the appearance of phones). They get the message (he’s always loved stories about secret societies, so why not use one of their symbols?). Sherlock immediately recognizes 221C and they find the shoes John’s carefully preserved all this years. 

The woman calls and does a good job at reading out her lines under stress (maybe she’d have made a good actress too). As usual, Sherlock is delighted with the case and pretends not to care. As if John buys that for even a second. He very much enjoys acting shocked about Sherlock’s behaviour, though.

Then the morgue-mouse – oh, Molly’s her name, Richie told him, he’d asked him to start to date her, but act gay all the time, it’s incredible she hasn’t caught on by now, to be honest – and “Jim” come in and Sherlock, to John’s delight, crushes Molly’s heart once more. He loves devastated expressions on people’s faces. They make his whole life worthwhile.

Sherlock has to humiliate him once again, of course, but he amuses himself with wondering how Sherlock would look if he told him all he knew right now.

Just when he thinks it can’t get better (that happens a lot when Sherlock Holmes is around, maybe he should play the game a little longer?), he finds out that Carl Powers was Sherlock’s first real case too. Oh the undiluted joy.

He meets with Mycroft; by this time, he knows this was a job done by an amateur, he’s checked with his people, if someone tried to sell them, he’d know about it. Oh, and Mycroft would probably know about it too, the man is not as idiotic as the rest of the World, he reminds himself.

He comes back to find Sherlock has identified the poison. He’s impressed; he thought it’d take him longer. He’s told his people to monitor the website, so the woman calls immediately and because she did everything right, she gets off. Except for the mental scars. That can’t be helped.

Sherlock seems to have as much fun as John, which pleases him. In his way, he’s fond of the detective. If only he’d enjoy sex too.

Next message; Ian Monkford. This time, the victim, a man from London, stands in the heart of the city. More at stake; Sherlock loves this city, and John knows it.

He’s quite enjoyed setting up the deal with Janus Cars, so he’s a little disappointed how quickly Sherlock solves it. Maybe he shouldn’t have given him the tip. It’s worth it seeing Sherlock lying to Monkford’s wife, though.

He asks Sherlock if it could be Moriarty who’s behind all of this. Sherlock seems very happy with the idea; John could shout from the rooftops how much fun he has at that moment.

Third Message: Connie Prince. He knew Sherlock wouldn’t recognize her, and he helps him out gladly. In a way, he even wants the houseboy caught, because while the money was good and he always enjoys using botox (fond memories), he quite liked her show. Of course, he does what Sherlock asks him to do and plays the idiot once again. 

This time, the game gets much more fun when the old, blind woman (oh yes, make him care, care, care) starts describing Richie’s voice. There’s a reason he let Richie handle her: Soon, he’ll realize he doesn’t exist anymore, so to speak, and then, John needs to have him under his control. So he made him an accomplice. Practical and elegant at the same time.

And then 12 people are dead, and he has his best fight with Sherlock yet.

“Just so I know, do you care about that at all?”

“Would caring about them help save them?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll continue not to make that mistake.” Oh, you’ve already made it, Mr. Holmes, and you continue making it. You just don’t admit it to yourself.

“Don’t make people into heroes John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.” Oh, you are, a hero, my dear; the hero of our little fairy tale.

He must remember to tell Sherlock these two things one day. His face will be priceless.

And... Alex Woodbridge. He actually was a rather poor guy, and John would pity him, if he could, but– well... anyway, he should’ve stayed away from stargazing. Not healthy.

 John is nice and collects information about good old Alex, while Sherlock breaks into the gallery (oh, why isn’t he allowed to see? It must be great). The fake Vermeer... he loved that case, but more for the whole let’s-show-the-professors-they-are-idiots than for the money, so it won’t hurt him to let Sherlock have that.

The Golem (he’s used him a few times in the past, but his method is a little too obvious for John’s taste) almost kills Sherlock; he will deal with him later. Nobody will ever hear from him again, that is sure.

This time he uses a child for the countdown, and Sherlock barely makes it. Oh, the joy in Sherlock’s eyes when he figures it out – does he really expect that no one will see the relief behind it? Well, apparently, no one except John does. People are idiots.

Now Sherlock knows Moriarty is behind all of this, and this brings the game to a whole new level, though John is still looking for the memory stick because he promised Mycroft. Has to have been the almost brother-in-law. No other suspect there. Sherlock sees it the same way, so they go and get him.

It’s cute how Sherlock tries to lie to him; of course he knows he hasn’t given Mycroft the memory stick yet, his contacts tell him the panic in the office hasn’t abided.

He uses Sarah as an excuse to get out of the flat and get kidnapped – since not even his own people know what he looks like, it was easy to tell them to get a certain Dr. John Watson – though he would’ve preferred not to get knocked out. So unrefined and dull.
He expected that his people would have to send Sherlock a message to come to the pool, but the consulting detective has beaten him there for once. Well, he does like to be surprised from time to time, otherwise he wouldn’t have started this game to begin with.

Sherlock’s expression when he steps out... wonderful. The doubt, the fear in his eyes. It’s just an indication of what is to come, and for a moment, he thinks he should let the bomb drop, but then he realizes he still enjoys this way too much, so he lets Richie have his fun.

Though Richie doesn’t really have fun... not anymore. By this time, he’s realized what’s happened, and John has had one of his people explain to him that Moriarty owns him now. He was shocked, but right now he does as he’s told. And that’s all John needs. He’s even started making Richie the official Moriarty face. People might want to know who they’ve been afraid of for all these years. Only John’s people know that their master is still an invisible spider and not the little scared actor.

He puts on a good show too, acts according to John’s script, and John enjoys it immensely. Sherlock is afraid, very, very afraid, but hides it well.

John originally planned to reveal himself before Sherlock shoots the bomb or does some other stupid and self-sacrificing thing. But he’s still a little sad it’s over; he almost wishes he could’ve played longer...

And then Irene Adler (though John doesn’t know that, yet, of course) calls Richie (John must’ve done a better job at telling people Richie’s the real deal than he realized). He must tell Richie he needs a new ringtone – really, now, that’s hardly psychopath worthy – then again, it fits his role...

Thank God, Richie is a master of improvisation, and John has made sure that he knows to stop the performance immediately if something unexpected happens.

“Wrong way to die.”

And so the game is still on. Sherlock even makes him tea, because John looks so “shaken”, and Mrs. Hudson fusses over them. Mycroft reprimands Sherlock, Lestrade and Stamford make sure they’re okay, Molly tells them about her break-up with Jim.

Later, he checks out Irene Adler. Interesting. Could be their next case. And it would annoy Mycroft. And, most important of all, amuse John.   

Oh yes, he’s happy he can play a little longer. He’s got time – his criminal empire pretty much runs itself by this point.

And he has a few other tricks up his sleeve.

Chapter Text

Turns out that Irene Adler isn’t going to provide their next case after all, because while the information she has is worth a lot – codes from Mycroft’s office generally are, the man is too important for his own or his brother’s good – he’s not really sure what it means. John’s always been good at reading people’s wishes, and he can crack a code once he knows how the message was encrypted, but he doesn’t know what to do with this.

Idea: let Sherlock do it for him. Let Sherlock betray his brother. John has time, after all – this is the first thing he’s heard of a new plan of Mycroft’s, and the good old perfectionist never plans something less than six months ahead, another reason Sherlock is much more amusing.

He also decides to keep the photos of the Royal Highness back for a while; he tells Irene Adler to get more and even more explicit ones, because he has to be sure Mycroft will turn to Sherlock for help, and Big Brother only does that when he’s particularly desperate. Or too lazy to get up from the sofa in the Diogenes Club (do they really think nobody knows about that? They certainly don’t try to hide it). But the second option won’t do in this case; even Mycroft Holmes comes when the Buckingham Palace calls.

That doesn’t worry him though, because for the first time in a long, long time, he is actually enjoying himself. Of course, he sent an anonymous e-mail to Sherlock right after the pool – “I am coming to get you”, this time in the pigpen code – but that’s more for show than anything else; right now, he is content to keep living as Sherlock’s best friend and flatmate. Oh, and take care of his business in the night and whenever he can slip away. He should never have stopped leading a double life after university; it’s a wonderful distraction.

He continues to pester Sherlock about sleeping and eating, he keeps awake on danger nights, now and then Mycroft talks to him about his brother – really, in a way it’s sad they never got over their differences, they would be a fascinating team to fight – and he takes Sarah to New Zealand (he’s been upgraded from the sofa, at least). The sex isn’t that good, in fact, it’s unfair of her to have held back for this long for such a normal experience, so he breaks it off after their holiday. There are plenty of other potential partners in London (except, it’s still a great pity, for Sherlock).

There’s the case of the Tilly Briggs cruise; there’s a case with a melting laptop (John has quite a lot of fun watching the face of the technician who’s holding it while it melts); there’s the case where Sherlock “borrows” a bus full of tourists so he can follow a suspect without being observed (John realizes two important things during this case: first, Sherlock can actually drive a car, who would’ve thought, and second, he looks even better as a bus driver, and he curses once more the detective’s asexuality – really, what’s the point of being born human if you don’t have fun with your body every once in a while?). Mycroft takes care of the charges, like he took care of John’s ASBO (he was appropriately grateful, of course, but he could have taken care of the problem a lot more quickly).

Summer comes and goes, and they are busy; John especially loves the case of the Geek interpreter, because when does a man get to dress up like a ninja nowadays, if not to fight for a comic book geek? The speckled blonde certainly has her charms too, of course, but her stepfather was rather stupid; if he’d only asked John – he knows which poisons don’t leave traces and marks on the skin. Pity too, she was rather pretty.

Along comes the dead man in the car booth, who was supposed to crash in Mycroft’s plane, as they find out later; the shame on Sherlock’s face when he realizes he has no idea, the comments on the blog, John’s secret delight at once again knowing everything without anybody suspecting – it’s delicious, just delicious.

His blog actually makes Sherlock kind of famous, something John hasn’t foreseen, but which delights him nonetheless. Hatman and Robin... Thank God for overworked news reporters.

He’s a bit disappointed he’s not there for the aluminium crutch, but the voicemail Sherlock left on his phone makes up for it, because he can’t help it, he isn’t asexual, and he has a thing for the detective’s voice. Plus, the sex he gets out of the date he spent the entire case on (Sherlock seems to be getting faster, must keep in check, don’t want to get caught after all this fun) isn’t bad either. He goes through a string of girlfriends, in fact, Sherlock doesn’t seem to mind, though, as long as John is available.

There are other cases too, some of which John arranged especially for Sherlock’s benefit, because he can’t let him forget about Moriarty, now, can he. After all, he’s supposed to be his archenemy (number two after Mycroft, but still... the man’s got too many enemies and too few friends, even if John counts himself as one of those for the time being). Richie’s doing surprisingly well; he does as he’s told, because he doesn’t have a choice, and yes, now and then John has to threaten or drug him, but that’s just to be expected. He has his people keep Richie in a bunker with every comfort available; he can’t allow a clue to walk the streets of London. So it’s no wonder neither Sherlock nor Mycroft manage to find Moriarty, really.

By the beginning of September, he’s almost forgotten about Irene Adler, he’s having too much fun to think about every little criminal that crosses his path. But then she contacts him again, and this time, it’s not only worth a lot, but also immediately useful. He won’t get better pictures.

So he uses the information. The pictures are... certainly nice to look at. He has a lot, and he means a lot of fun looking through them; her Royal Highness never looks that happy on television. Doesn’t hurt that he hasn’t had sex for a few weeks either; he’s still trying to get anywhere with Jeanette (really, what happened to women who like to put out?).

Mycroft doesn’t get the pictures a moment too soon; John is standing in the middle of a field with his laptop, a really annoyingly stupid policeman next to him, freezing and waiting for Sherlock to finally realize this “murder” was an accident, when they’re both brought to Buckingham Palace.

He makes sure Irene Adler gets to see Sherlock in the sheet (he really does look delicious, John will give him that). He thinks she’ll find Sherlock... irresistible, considering she seems to find brainy incredibly sexy (it’s a pity he can’t meet her, the sex would probably be fantastic).

They tell them why they’re here. Act shocked, act shocked, act shocked... if only he could laugh. Well, at least he and Sherlock got some laughs out of Mycroft’s annoyed face. 

“Sex doesn’t alarm me.” Mycroft’s answer is... interesting. So he is a virgin. No, not a virgin.... The Virgin. Sherlock has certainly earned his own nickname by now.

He wishes he could thank Sherlock for stealing the ashtray by taking care of the nickname, but alas, Sherlock seems quite content with his celibate life.

Of course, Sherlock is convinced he can find and get the phone on his very first visit. John loves his plan, adores every minute of it; after all, he can hit Sherlock (but don’t hit the teeth and/or cheekbones, Sherlock’s too good looking for that, and the way Irene Adler interprets his actions... priceless) and see him dress up as priest; Irene Adler’s body is quite nice to look at, too, while he’s at it.

Oh, and apparently Sherlock values John’s life more than secrets of the state or anything else. Good. Excellent, even.

The man is also quite amusing when drugged, and he’s thankful Lestrade films him. Lestrade is a good friend to Sherlock, he’s realized by this time (he brings the man home in a police car and asks no questions); Sherlock simply doesn’t realize it.

Isn’t the new tone of Sherlock’s phone lovely? John could look forever at Sherlock’s embarrassed face every time he hears it, and now and then, when he can pinch it, he checks the phone for the messages. It’s sad Sherlock doesn’t know how to flirt back (the again, if he did, John would’ve done other things with him in the night than trying to make him understand the rules of Cluedo).

Life goes on, cases go on, John kills a few young wannabes who thought they could take over his enterprise. Oh, the hopefulness of youth. Now and then, he checks in with Richie; by now, the man is desperate and hopeless, so does everything he’s told. He doesn’t even need to be drugged anymore. Well, more drugs to sell.

He still enjoys Sherlock’s company, Mrs. Hudson’s fussing, Mycroft’s occasional kidnappings, and Lestrade’s and Stamford’s pints in pubs. Somehow, killing someone and disposing of the body is way more fun when you have to pretend it never happened in a pub less than an hour later.

By Christmas, the Americans are after Miss Adler, and because he still loves the sound on Sherlock’s phone, he helps her fake her death. He doesn’t think Sherlock will be really fooled; as is turns out, he is. But that’s part of the game. And he loves the music Sherlock composes because of her death. It’s a little like the pieces he plays when he (as far as Sherlock’s concerned) sooths John to sleep after a “nightmare”. Usually, John is at his laptop or out on the streets when he does that, but he makes sure to record the performances.

The end of Jeanette comes quickly and, on his side, with some relief. The sex wasgood, her constant nagging less so. If only Sherlock had realized she kind of looks like a female version of him.

Also, one day, when John’s really really bored, he might set up Molly and Lestrade on a date. Could be interesting.

Irene Adler has him kidnapped the same way Mycroft loves to do it – elegant, but a little dull for John’s taste. She apparently thinks they are a couple (how cute, she is the jealous one for a change; John, for his part, while he knows about Sherlock’s big heart, doesn’t think the consulting detective has ever been, or will ever be, in love, he simply doesn’t work that way).

He still has Richie maintain contact to Miss Adler as Moriarty, so it’s quite easy to tell her to let Sherlock crack the code. And, as the man is a walking computer in some ways, he manages it with ease. So this is what this is all about – Mycroft Holmes is now equipping flight with dead bodies. Dear me, Mr. Holmes, dear me, didn’t think you had it in you to be so macabre. John’s impressed. This is a very, very elegant solution. Well, if John hadn’t found out, that is.

He’s told Richie what to do, of course, once Irene Adler texts him, so Mycroft Holmes is plunged in despair.

Sherlock saves the day in the end, which John is actually happy about, because he still prefers The Virgin to The Woman.

He’s a little disappointed in Mycroft; seriously, the man doesn’t know his beloved little brother flew to Afghanistan and back to save a dominatrix? He must be getting old.

“What might we deduce about his heart?”

A lot, my dear Ice Man. He cares too much. He loves you more than you deserve. He actually loves me because I’m the only best friend he ever had. He loves Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade too, and he cares about Molly. And that’s why he’ll always be on the losing side of the game. Because I.don’t.care.at.all. I just want to have fun. And I take what I want.

He doesn’t say any of this, naturally, and gets rewarded with the mental picture of little Sherlock with a pirate hat. Oh the joy imagination can bring.

He still tells Sherlock that she’s in a witness protection program; it’s his role after all.

And he loves every minute of it.

Chapter Text

Thank God for Henry Knight.

Not “Thank God” in the way he tells everyone who might read his blog: John actually likes a bored Sherlock, the way he shoots the walls, refuses to eat and sleep, tries (emphasis is on “tries”) to quit cigarettes and becomes even more unpredictable than usual. Plus, seeing Sherlock read out the little girl’s mail begging for help might’ve been the highlight of the week, if Henry hadn’t shown up.

Not “Thank God” because Sherlock can’t find the cigarettes hidden behind the skull (sometimes, he wonders where Sherlock got it from, could be an interesting story, but probably not, considering Sherlock’s goody-good heart beneath all that icy-virgin-I-don’t-care-about-anyone-behaviour). John actually enjoys the days when Sherlock suffers from withdrawal, and luckily, Mrs. Hudson assists him in hiding the cigarettes and paying off everyone who might sell cigarettes to Sherlock (with Sherlock’s money, of course; John himself still has only a little money on the side, he simply couldn’t explain where he got all his “consulting criminal” money from, either Sherlock or Mycroft would notice he wasn’t truthful), or someone would realize how much fun he has causing Sherlock to go through withdrawal.

Not “Thank God” because Richie has suddenly taken a turn for the worse, and John has to use torture and his worst threats to keep him in check; he’s used to the necessity of controlling his employees with every method imaginable, and Richie may be a good actor, but he’s also a sad, pathetic, rather stupid human being. Really, John doesn’t mind keeping him alive, though he gets on his nerves sometimes; it was a brilliant idea to make somebody else the face of Moriarty; he just wishes Richie would recognizes the opportunity John gives him, of being so much more than a man. Isn’t that what every actor longs for? He’ll never understand ordinary human beings – so fascinating, but so incredibly dull at the same time.

Not “Thank God” because there are more danger nights when Sherlock’s unemployed. Seeing Sherlock struggle through a night full of old cravings and new temptations, refusing help, almost crying out for some release for this great mind of his (and, more importantly, only the little virgin won’t admit it, that big heart of his) – John will never get tired of that, especially as Mycroft Holmes of all people chooses exactly this time to thank John for “the support” and Lestrade organizes another drug’s bust, just to keep up appearances, not knowing that the man who’s responsible for most of the drugs that find their way into London is standing right beside him.

And to think he needed Sherlock Holmes to realize how wonderful a game a double life could be. John should’ve thought of this years ago; maybe he’d never have got tired of his lifestyle. He’s certainly not tired of the game, which is weird, because normally he tires of everything after a few weeks. Except of being Sherlock Holmes’ best friend. And murder, that is.
He’s rather amazed nobody realized that Sir James Walter was murdered; he’d have thought Mycroft would notice that some of the honoured deceased more... sensitive papers were missing (silly man, really, right now, he could enjoy his retirement on an island instead of lying in his grave, but that’s the thing about patriots: they just aren’t ready to betray their country, no matter at what price). John actually thought this murder would be his and Sherlock’s next big case. But that’s not the reason to thank God for Henry Knight, either.

No, rather it’s “thank God” for Henry Knight because Sherlock’s solved the case of Black Peter far quicker than John thought he would. Then again, who could foresee that a consulting detective would decide to spear a pig with a harpoon? Looking back, John is a little cross with Sherlock: why didn’t he tell him about it? It must have been a truly great sight. And he was very proud of the Black Peter Case – investment banker who’d made himself a name as a “pirate” of sorts because he always chose the path of the greatest resistance, and made good money out of it, a rival paid John to ensure he’d never earn another cent again, and John had thought it fitting that a pirate should meet his maker after the impact of a harpoon. He should really have learned not to underestimate Sherlock by now. But the detective continues to surprise him, which, come to think of it, is not a bad thing at all. John would rather be surprised than bored.

And he’s pleased with Henry Knight and his “hound” (that got Sherlock’s attention, so John doesn’t have to invent a reason that he should take the case, which is a relief; Sherlock can be quite stubborn at times). He’s always been curious about what goes on in Baskerville; and if not even John has been able to get a source in this lab, it means something. There has to be something there – as he’s learned long ago, if you can imagine it, somebody’s probably out there who’s doing it right now.

Of course, it can’t be a big killer dog; that would just be way too impractical on the battlefield and offer little to no new scientific breakthroughs. Everybody who understood a little science could do that; John could probably do it, Sherlock could surely do it, Mycroft has most likely already tried it and rejected the idea (God knows what the more psychopathic Holmes – he can’t be a real psychopath, he cares to much about his brother – does or rather orders people to do in his spare time, when he’s not reading the papers in the Diogenes club).

But that it’s not a killer dog (in a way, John is glad, because while he remembers his childhood diversions fondly, he wouldn’t be able to do that with a killer dog sponsored by the government) doesn’t mean it’s not something equally brilliant or weird or stupid but amusing. So he’s glad Sherlock decides to take the case.

He’s been in Dartmoor quite a few times over the past twenty years, it’s a great way to get rid of unwanted bodies, but he’ll never get used to its beauty.
He’ll probably never get used to Sherlock’s driving, or the simple fact the detective actually can drive, either.

The pub in the village is surprisingly comfortable, though. He’s sorry too he can’t get a double room for him and Sherlock (the only reason the barman tells him is because he asked if there was one available), he still wishes he could change that whole virgin-label, but he’ll take what he can get.

Then the tour guy shows them the footprints – so someone must have let a giant dog loose on the moor, his bet is on the two Brothers Grimm in the pub, why else would they need so much meat in a vegetarian restaurant? But at least Sherlock decides they need to break into Baskerville (even John had no idea he nicked Mycroft’s card; oh, Big Brother is certainly not amused).

By the time they’ve managed to piss off half of the best scientists in Britain, find Dr. Frankland, who is actually supportive (always suspicious, the supportive ones), and intimidate the mother of the girl whose rabbit started glowing in the dark, Sherlock has decided to bring Henry out to the moor and watch his mental breakdown. Good thing John enjoys watching mental breakdowns, or Richie would’ve died weeks ago.

Turns out, John doesn’t really get to witness Henry’s breakdown, because he gets lost (stupid woods, he’s always felt at home in cities) and then distracted by the weird morse code he picks up. He idly wonders what the code means while he’s searching for his best friend and their client; can’t very well be the ghost of a prisoner who escaped from the prison that used to be there over hundred years ago and died on the moor, now, can it.

At least he gets to treat Henry (the man is a wreck, his therapist seems to be even more of an idiot than John’s) and watch Sherlock slowly disintegrate over a whiskey. So Sherlock doesn’t have friends. Always the little drama queen. This certainly makes up for the disappointment with the morse code though (seriously, they couldn’t find a room?).

It’s a pity Frankland shows up when he does; he quite likes the looks of this Louise Mortimer. Oh well...

The next morning, Sherlock actually apologizes to him (doesn’t he look cute when he tries that?). And Lestrade shows up. For a moment, John fears Mycroft has finally realized which game they’re playing, but his fear is unfounded.

Except for the fact, of which he is informed minutes later via text, that Richie has been captured by Mycroft’s men. Why did he have to escape? John will have to punish his men severely once he’s back in London. At least he’s instructed Richie to keep playing his role and demand information about Sherlock, should he ever be captured, and the fool is way too scared of John not to follow his orders.

So he was right about the pub owners. Of course he was. He finds it funny Sherlock tries to drug him with Henry’s sugar, though; first of all, it’s too random, second of all, it would be too difficult to sneak into Henry’s house and dose every new sugar he might have bought the day before.

But this means he gets to have his own mental breakdown, and it’s delicious; he’s never had one of those before, in fact. And the way Sherlock acts... Glorious. Just glorious.

Then, Sherlock finds out about the sugar (finally) after having blackmailed Stapleton, and he remembers the H.O.U.N.D. experiment, something John actually read about, years ago, but didn’t think it worth his while to remember because he thought the experiment had been aborted. So it seems that he and Sherlock both were wrong, in a way.

And then there’s the chase over the moor and Frankland’s death and he gets to lecture Sherlock about the feelings John’s never felt in his entire life. Like terror or sympathy.

And the next day, he can do it all again.

“Sentiment?”

 “Sentiment”.

To top it all of – Richie’s been let go, and his people captured him immediately afterwards. The game is still on.

Time to plan the next move.

Chapter Text

A few weeks after the Baskerville case, John decides to make the ultimate move. Win the game once and for all. And to make this happen, after all he’s done in the past year – well, there is only one way to make it all even better.

Destroy Sherlock Holmes.

Not as in “kill him” per se; that would be easy and uncomplicated, and after all the amusement the detective has given John in the past months, he deserves a truly great and epic end. Tragic. Unforgettable. And wonderfully funny (for John) of course.

He must destroy his life, personality, dreams, his soul. He must crush the consulting detective until there’s nothing left than a memory – a memory that’s tainted as well, because having your enemy meet his end in a way that turns him into a hero – now that wouldn’t be satisfying at all.

So John has to destroy what Sherlock values the most – his reputation. The man has an ego the size of Europe, after all, and having people doubt his intelligence – oh, it will be wonderful. And, while we’re at it, he’s going to make him care even more – threaten the people he values the most.
John himself (oh, the irony). Mrs. Hudson (the mother he never had). Lestrade (though he doubts the DI knows how much he actually means to Sherlock).

At first, he thinks about simply destroying Sherlock’s reputation and then revealing himself and watching the consulting detective break. But – as before – he begins to question if this would be so much fun at all. What if John, instead, became the only one who still believed in Sherlock?

Of course, this would mean not only destroying his reputation but turning him into a – a criminal (thank you, Sally). Have Lestrade, of all people, arrest him. Watching the one man Sherlock (and John too, for that matter, in a way, it’s a pity Lestrade never wanted to join the other side, he could’ve used a man like him) thinks of as a good policeman starting to doubt in his friend.

Mrs. Hudson, naturally, will never believe any part of a lie that makes Sherlock not appear like the hero she sees him as. But, then, mothers never count in a situation like this. They are supposed  to love you and believe in you, that’s what mothers do (well, not John’s mother, he most likely wouldn’t be here if she had been like that, but there’s always an exception to the rule).

 And Mycroft? Oh, he won’t be able to help Sherlock, not even as a moral support, because there’s too much bad blood between the brothers, which is sad, because they could have been wonderful enemies – they could have been unstoppable together. Oh, and because they love each other very much, obviously, but John doesn’t know much about that, so he’ll settle for the “could be wonderful enemies” excuse.

Wait.

Didn’t he tell Richie – and didn’t Richie still swear, after a few hours of torture (there has to be punishment if you want to hold up discipline; the torture wasn’t done by John personally, Richie still doesn’t know and will never know what he looks like), crying and bleeding, that he followed John’s instructions – only to talk about a few minor of John’s operation (which John explained very carefully to him, in case Mycroft ever got his hands on Moriarty, now, wasn’t that clever of him?) after Mycroft had told him Sherlock’s life story? After he’d got information about the consulting detective? Mycroft fell into John’s trap.

And John learned long ago that people will believe any lie, as long as there’s enough truth in it to make it seem plausible. Now, if he wants to make people believe Sherlock is a liar and a fraud, he needs to build up the big lie carefully, with a basis on truths – on Sherlock’s life story. And when that happens – once the story is out and everyone believes it – there will only be one person responsible for Moriarty’s knowledge of Sherlock’s life story.

Mycroft Holmes. He will have betrayed his brother. He will have destroyed the brother he cares so much about.

That might be john’s best idea yet. God, is he happy. He is so deliriously, unbelievably, unmistakably happy, that even Sherlock notices he’s in a very good mood and actually comments on it – but, seeing as they’re unusually busy with the Reichenbach case, and the John he knows is an adrenaline junkie, it’s only to be expected –

Reichenbach.

Reichenbach. John’s German is a little bit rusty (he still prefers French), but in English, Reichenbach means –

Oh joy. Oh, thank you, fate, if you exist, from the deepest bottom of John’s not-existing heart. He can’t believe it.

Richard Brook is going to be Sherlock Holmes’ downfall. Because it won’t be John who hired him after all. It will have been Sherlock. Oh glorious day. 

That only leaves the public. Turning them will be easy, oh so very easy. He only has to get the story in the papers – and he’ll surely find a journalist who’s ready to bring down the hero.

Because that’s what Sherlock’s become; the Reichenbach case, and their next cases, make him more and more famous. He still hates the hat, though (John thinks he looks rather... adorable with it, an adjective he borrows from Mrs. Hudson.

Which gives John more than enough reasons to tell Sherlock to keep a low profile. He knows the detective won’t do as he’s told, he wouldn’t have said so otherwise. But playing his role is still fun.

He wants Sherlock not only to be chased by the good guys, however. No, having both sides go after him would be infinitely more fun. So he slowly, very slowly, begins to spread rumours about a code he – Moriarty – possesses that can crack any security system in the world, and tells everyone who will listen that there’ll soon be a demonstration they can’t ignore.

Though there is a small problem: He’ll need Richie for the demonstration.

And Richie – so nice and easy to handle a few months prior – shows signs of the beginning of a mental illness (or maybe it’s just mental disturbance, John can’t really be bothered to look it up) after his escape from John, capture and release by Mycroft, subsequent recapture and torture by John; really, now, this young actors of today – they don’t know how to take anything. But he’s either depressed or manic and sometimes talks to people who aren’t there and one day politely asks if he can go now – if that doesn’t mean he’s crazy, what does?

While John ponders over this problem, he realizes: He can get rid of Sherlock Holmes and Richie all at once. A big climax, and the two foes who’ve destroyed each other – gone. How wonderfully dramatic.

So he calms Richie down and tells him that the next assignment is going to be his last. Not that Richie knows it’s going to be his very last, of course, but it ensures he does a she’s told and gives a wonderful performance at the Tower (John almost envies him there for a moment; who doesn’t want to pose with the crown jewels once in his life?) and sends the right texts to the Bank of England and the Pentonville Prison. Isn’t it wonderful to have men everywhere? These particular men have been in John’s employment for years – he’s always figured he could one day steal the crown jewels, if he happens to be very very bored.

 After that, he only has to make sure Richie walks – which is annoyingly easy, really, you’d have thought somebody would notice how impractical it is for jurors to have television. The trial gives him Kitty Riley, though, so he tells Richie to go and talk to her - if it’s necessary sleep with her – tell her the story in any way that’ll make her believe him.

After he’s paid his little visit to Baker Street, for which John has once again written the script. He needs Sherlock to know Moriarty’s plan, he needs him to believe there is a code, and he needs him to believe that Moriarty has somehow managed to sneak a camera in the flat (maybe when he put this video on his blog almost three months ago, of Richie snooping around 221B; Sherlock wasn’t at home, John watched from a distance to make sure Richie left no traces). Of course, it’s John who put this camera there this morning.

This time, John has Richie wearing a microphone so he can listen to the little tea party. He hasn’t been this amused in at least a week.

Though it’s not as good as Mycroft telling him “I screwed up, so please look after my brother” in a way only Mycroft can. Thank God John remembers to make a scene; he’s known about the Diogenes Club for so long he automatically wanted to use signs instead of words when he was more or less escorted through the front door, but that could have made Mycroft suspicious.

Then he has the children of the American Ambassador kidnapped – really, you’d have thought such an expensive boarding school would keep a better eye on its precious charges – and, before they get even a bite to eat, they are trained like pavlovian dogs: pictures of Sherlock, films, his voice, then a particularly brutal scene of one of the many tortures John has always been careful to film (you could never identify him, if the film fell into the wrong hands, of course, but it’s nice to have something to watch when there’s nothing on the telly). He’s glad he read A Clockwork Orange at school.

It’s wonderful to see Sherlock smile once more because children have been kidnapped – and to reprimand him for it. In fact, John thinks he will actually miss this.

Naturally, it’s Sally Donovan who begins to doubt and before long, Lestrade has to do what he doesn’t want to do and arrest Sherlock. John makes sure he’s arrested as well – wasn’t hard, just hit the highest-ranking policeman you can find – but being handcuffed together is an added bonus. He hopes Sherlock likes the little touch with the graffiti.

By this time, he’s brought back Richard Brook, and so they meet him at Kitty Riley’s house, and John shouts and Sherlock is so wonderfully convinced he knows what’s going on, but he doesn’t.

John does what any best friend in this situation would do – he searches, finds and accuses the culprit, the man who’s responsible for all of this. But because he can’t very well shout at himself in a mirror, he reduces Mycroft to a sorry mess. Oh, this is priceless. The Big Brother himself desperate – John will cherish this moment all his life.

By this time, he’s brought his snipers in place, because he has decided running Sherlock is not enough: he wants him to destroy himself. He is going to force him to commit suicide.

And Sherlock seems to know the end is near. Do he and Molly really think he can’t hear them? They’re in the same room... Well, it’s going to end soon anyway, so John doesn’t car that Sherlock acts stupid. As soon as Sherlock sends the text, Richie has to call John so he can leave, and he does. He is a good actor after all; sadly, he won’t see another day.

Before he leaves, though, he and Sherlock have their big final scene – a fight, of course, it has to be dramatic. Yes, Sherlock can be a machine – the problem is only that he is like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz, there is a heart beneath the metal. And it’s his downfall.

He goes to look how his killer’s doing at Mrs. Hudson’s (always have an alibi) and leaves again. Over his microphone, he can hear what’s going on. It’s the best play he’s ever heard, and he enjoys every minute of it. He hasn’t told Richie that the gun contains real bullets instead of blanks, but once Richie finds out, he doesn’t have to think about it anymore anyway.

And then Sherlock calls John – which he hasn’t participated, but boy, does it feel good – and jumps. He falls and he falls and he falls, and John gets hit by a biker (he always preferred cars; all or nothing, walk or drive), and he takes Sherlocks’ pulse and it is over.

The Game is Over and John has won.

He still plays his part, though, going to his therapist, hating Mycroft, blaming Lestrade, crying with Mrs. Hudson. But he has to admit that he, in his own way, misses Sherlock. He was the best distraction John ever had.

So the tears at Sherlock’s grave aren’t that fake after all, because John cries for himself a little, and that’s the only tears he’s ever known.

Then he sees Sherlock. Just out of the corner of his eye, and it’s more a shadow than anything else – but John knows what he saw. So Sherlock managed to fake his own death. He’s impressed. And happy because this changes everything.

Sherlock will most likely try to bring down Moriarty’s empire – so he shall, John won’t stop him, a spider can always build a new web.

And then, when Sherlock comes back and expects his best friend, he’ll find his worst enemy. John will wait and then he will triumph. And it will be delicious.

John Watson is, right now, the happiest man in London.

The Game is still on.

Chapter Text

It takes three years for Sherlock to return; years in which John continues to visit his psychiatrist, looking miserable (he does have to use make up now and then, however, because honestly, no one has yet managed to look pale when he actually has the time of his life pretending to be what he is not, no matter how good an actor he might be). 

Years in which John leads, by most standards, a normal life, and even he must admit that it is refreshing. He eats, sleeps, goes to work (at another clinic now, because a person who could feel would probably not work at the place where he’d watched his best friend take his own life), watches a lot of telly. He gets married too – Mary is a nice girl, the sex is good (and continues to be good, which is in itself a surprise to John, no woman has held his interest for more than four weeks until now) and he figures that it would make sense to normal people, the grieving widower slowly moving on. Not that he really is Sherlock’s widower – he’s still rather cross with the detective for living a life so awfully celibate. And Sherlock’s alive, of course. He mustn’t forget about that.

It takes Mary a whole year to come to her senses; while nobody might suspect that he’s a psychopath, after a while people always seem to feel that something’s amiss. They don’t think he’s to blame – they never do that – but, still, they usually prefer to keep him an acquaintance rather than become close friends with him. Except for Sherlock, that is, but then again, he gave Sherlock and the world his best performance to date in the eighteen months he was close (as close as John can get to another person) to the consulting detective.

What he wants to say is: Mary leaves him. Eventually. Naturally, he isn’t sad because he can’t be sad. The sex stopped being good about six months into their marriage. Plus, it gives him even more opportunities to play the poor, sad army doctor who’s left alone by everyone.

Mrs. Hudson calls now and then and tries to feed him, make him tea, that sort of thing. He knows she doesn’t have the heart to let the flat again – which is a good thing because where else would Sherlock and he want to live?

And he’s decided that he will live together with Sherlock again.

 He didn’t make this decision out of the blue; rather, slowly, very slowly, a new plan began to take place, after he’d realized that his life was infinitely more fun with the detective around. John knows what he’ll do once Sherlock returns.

But in the meantime, he is the sad, poor, lonely doctor.  He makes a big show of finally forgiving Lestrade (and really, the poor man is at the end of his wits, almost begging because he feels so guilty). But then again, the DI has enough on his hands with the inquiry why he trusted a fraud – though John doesn’t doubt for a second that Mycroft will take care of it, which he does.

He occasionally meets Stamford for a drink, Stamford who still tries to be supportive, but can’t hide his secretly sadistic side properly, because eventually, they always end up speaking of the Fall – as John’s so-called friends have dubbed it so he might suffer less when it is mentioned.

Now and then he meets Molly and enjoys watching her squirm; it didn’t take a genius to find out who Sherlock had asked to assist him in faking his death, she is the morgue-mouse for a reason, and still infatuated with Sherlock, for that matter. So he not only gets to see her guilt, but also her jealousy, because she (like everyone else) is clearly convinced he and Sherlock were more than friends (if only, but he intends to change that through the plan he has for Sherlock’s return).

He takes his time with Mycroft, though. He hasn’t forgotten that the older Mr. Holmes seriously inconvenienced him now and then in his plans – Mycroft’s not stupid, after all, he just has his Archilles’ heel, like everybody else (except John), and this heel was his brother, and John found it. Or him, to be precise.

During the first few kidnappings Big Brother arranges after Sherlock’s Fall, John stays silent and just looks at him contemptuously. It’s only after months, when he gets the distinctive feeling Mycroft is about to break, ice is not diamond, that he starts to talk to him again. And he makes him wait for John’s forgiveness. Oh, those delicious moments when he senses Mycroft thinks it’s about to happen, and then it doesn’t.

He waits until the first anniversary of the Fall to forgive Mycroft properly and by then the man is in such a state, he almost cries from relief. Mycroft Holmes almost crying. Wonders will never cease. He must remember to share this with Sherlock, once everything else has been dealt with.

 And because John’s puppy dog eyes are still irresistible apparently, Mycroft’s assistant, who’s never really spared him a glance before and whose name he still isn’t supposed to know (of course he does, but likes to call her Anthea anyway, it just sounds so aristocratic), decides to... console him. In a special way. John must remember to share this with Sherlock, too; he’s sure the consulting detective will be quite as amused as he is.

But nobody can totally change his personality and/or lifestyle – John wouldn’t even if he could, as a matter of fact – and so this normal life includes checking which parts of his empire Sherlock has now brought down (he didn’t expect him to start in South America, but he doesn’t mind) and now and then slipping out in the night to earn money or commit a murder – he still needs those, there’s nothing, aside from using Sherlock Holmes a s a part in his game, that he enjoys quite as much as a good murder – and, well, without Sherlock, Scotland Yard certainly doesn’t solve nearly as many cases – now, really, DI Lestrade, three undetected murders just won’t do.

He still misses Richie, there were some upsides to have a face to his name, and the man was a brilliant actor, if of unsound mind. 

On the other hand, now that Moriarty is dead, he has to find new ways to intimidate people or commit crimes or Mycroft will catch on, and John has always enjoyed finding new ways to do anything. Plus, he’s not bored anymore by his criminal endeavours – not when he finds new and exciting ways to hide them every day.

Occasionally, he spends time building up a new persona – a new ultimate foe for Sherlock. An old friend of Moriarty’s; he decides to call him Moran (he still has a thing for the whole “la mort” idea, and he loves the way Moriarty and Moran sound together).

He does this because he knows that if he only manages to make Moran seem enough of a threat – and he takes care of that, and ex-military man without a conscience (oh, the irony), living in the same city as Sherlock’s best friends, what could be more threatening? – Sherlock will save him for the last, and he will want John’s help for bringing him down.

And it happens according to John’s plan. He’s been expecting Sherlock to show up soon, after he took care of John’s last network in Russia; once he’s done that, John kills a nice, honourable young man by means of a new, long-distance rifle, so Sherlock will think he knows that Moran did this and can now return home.

He’s not expected him to look so bad, however. The consulting detective has lost even more weight (how unfair, John has to keep his weight in check by exercise and diet plans), looks pale and there is this haunted and sad expression in his eyes... well, some people can’t handle the killing, and Sherlock’s heart is just too big for his own good.   

After John has melodramatically fainted, cried, first hit and the hugged his best friend, Sherlock tells him he expects Moran to try to kill him tonight, so all they have to do is lie in wait in the abandoned house opposite 221B (it’s been abandoned ever since John had the one flat explode at the beginning of The Great Game, as he called it on his blog).

And that is when John finally, finally sets his plan in motion. Because it’s not Moran who shows up, but a homeless man from Sherlock’s network (the things people will do for money – even come to an abandoned building in the middle of the night to meet a stranger) the detective remembers well. So after they’ve knocked him out, Sherlock stares at the man, and then wants to raise his hand to give Lestrade – who’s of course waiting in the street, the good, faithful man, God bless him – the signal. John stops him.

“Don’t”.

“Why not?” Sherlock asks, and for once he is truly confused and doesn’t know what’s going on. John takes his expression in for a moment, and then he says: “Because that’s not who you were expecting. That’s Shinwell Johnson, who’s assisted you in your cases in the past, because he knows where all the small-time criminals like to spend their time. He also knows every prostitute in London, which is always useful.”

Sherlock stares. “John – how do you...”

“And something else. Moran isn’t coming. He doesn’t exist.”

“But – that’s impossible...” Sherlock can only stare. Oh, how John loves this moment.

“And Moriarty never existed either. Richard Brook, however, did exist. He was hired by the person who was behind it all. He was hired to give a face to an organisation of twenty years’ standing.
This person killed Carl Powers, and several others. This person ruled his criminal empire until he was bored and decided he wanted to be someone else... The only friend of the World’s only consulting detective, to be exact.”

He sees the comprehension dawn in Sherlock’s eyes (he is smart, John will give him that), and also the panic, and the plea for all this to be a dream. But he’ll never wake up from this dream. Never.

“This person’s name is John Watson. And he’s standing in front of you, Sherlock... The best friend you ever had. Your worst enemy.”

Sherlock is desperate, grasping for straws. “John, no... that can’t be, that’s...”

“Do you really want to insult my intelligence and yours – I see you are already solving the riddle, putting the pieces together – by asking proof at such a moment? No, it’s not my time to prove anything. It’s my time to tell you how things will be between us, from now on.”

Sherlock’s almost crying by now, and staring at John like people usually stare at aliens in movies. John knows his voice has gone cold and his face has assumed the expression it always has when he’s not acting – the expression of tranquillity, at peace with himself. He continues.

“We will be what we always were; the consulting detective and his faithful blogger. Now and then, we will solve cases I’ve arranged – that’s not to be avoided. You will never tell anyone about me. First of all, nobody would believe you – you almost didn’t, a minute ago – and secondly, if you do... Mrs. Hudson will be dead, Lestrade will be dead, even Mycroft and Molly” – Sherlock jumps at the mention of their names – “Yes, I know you have a soft spot for them as well, who do you think I am? Will be dead, before you can even finish the sentence. Think about what I’ve done until now, Sherlock, and you know I am right. Oh, and just so you know: The same thing happens if you kill yourself or try to fake your death again. I’m impressed, by the way; didn’t think you could fool me. But you did. Once. It will not happen again.
Oh, and one last thing... If I chose to... bring our relationship to a new level...” – his eyes rake up and down Sherlock’s body, making Sherlock more than uncomfortable – “you will not resist me. So, you do as you’re told, and nobody gets hurt. And we get to spend the rest of our lives together, isn’t that nice? So, do we have a deal?”

He sees Sherlock looking for a way out and failing to find one – because there is none, simple as that – and then, he nods. John almost doesn’t see it – it’s quite dark, and it’s only a small nod – but it’s enough.

“Good. Call Lestrade.” Sherlock – most likely because he’s in shock, and who can blame him – does as he’s told. Lestrade takes “Moran” away – and he will be tried and sentenced as Moran, John has made sure of that – they give Mrs. Hudson the shock of her life, and then they are home.

John has Sherlock under his control, and he enjoys it. He’ll never enjoy something as much. Later that night, he takes hat he’s wanted to take for a while now. Sherlock lets him, he has no other choice.

And so life goes on. Sherlock acts the way he’s always acted, John told him to. They solve cases, they lie to Mycroft, John makes Sherlock eat and sleep. Sherlock never contradicts him anymore, which is a bit of a disappointment, but the fear and hatred he reads in his eyes more than make up for it.

John has to climb down the wall no longer if he wants to meet or kill someone (by now, he’s started to build a new web). He simply tells Sherlock he’s going out. Afterwards, he tells him exactly what he did.  Sherlock has to be silent and obey. Even if John wants to do... other things with him. He has no choice.

John is happy.

Life is wonderful. They are Dr. John Hamish Watson and Sherlock Holmes, and they will continue to be partners in crime – now in every meaning of the word.

John has won the ultimate game – one he can continue to play.

Forever.