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The Return
The Return
by Lady Shelley

MAJOR Spoilers for The Reichenbach Fall.  If you have not seen this episode yet, really don't read this until you have.

This is my version of what happened next and how things are resolved.

This was written February - March 2012 and I'm sure once series three airs, this will be in the realm of AU.

Dialogue from the episode written by Steve Thompson.

There is a companion story to this told from Sherlock's point of view in the works.


Prologue

"It's all true."

"What?"

"Everything they said about me. I invented Moriarty."

John stood in the rain and watched the water slowly diluting the blood.

"The newspapers were right all along. I want you to tell Lestrade. I want you to tell Mrs Hudson, and Molly. In fact, tell anyone who will listen to you: that I created Moriarty for my own purposes."


Someone was talking to him.  He could hear the voice, gentle, coaxing.  He just stood in the rain; and watched the blood rinse away.  Some part of his mind registered the cold and the wet as well as the pain in his left shoulder where he'd hit the pavement after being run down by the bicycle.  A larger portion, simply didn't care about the weather or the ache.  

"It's a trick, just a magic trick."

"Keep your eyes fixed on me. Please will you do this for me?"

"It's what people do, don't they? Leave a note?"

John's world bounced between chaotic noise and absolute silence.  In the noise there were people talking to him, moving him under the shelter of a roof, wrapping a blanket around him.  They were anonymous hands, hands that worked in the hospital, hands skilled at dealing with grieving family members. These people didn't know him, didn't know the man who had just …

In the silence he watched Sherlock fall, his arms spread, coat flapping behind him.  John tried to freeze the images in his head.  Stop them before they reached the inevitable end.  Before he saw Sherlock's bloody head and body on the pavement.

"John? John!"

John came back to the noise to find Inspector Lestrade standing in front of him.  John looked up at the inspector but didn't speak. He didn't know where the inspector came from, didn't know how long he had been standing there, and he didn't really care.

"John, come with me.  We need to get you checked over and out of the weather."  Lestrade reached a hand forward to guide John into the hospital.

"No." John stepped away from the offered hand. These hands did know him, and Sherlock.  These hands belonged to a man who had tried to arrest Sherlock, who believed the lies.

"What do you mean no?" Lestrade asked.  "John you're in shock.  You need to get inside and out of this wet."

"No," John said shrugged out of the blanket and stepped back out into the rain.  

"Please will you do this for me?"

"Leave me alone, Inspector," John said quietly.

"John." Lestrade tried again.  "You need .."

"No!"  John swung around on the inspector and in a flash was not a man mourning his friend but a very angry soldier.  "I said, leave me alone!"

They stared at each other a few moments more until Lestrade relented and stepped back. "If you won't come inside, will you at least let me drive you home?" he asked somberly.

John turned back to the pavement.  The blood was mostly gone now, just a faint pink in the gutter.

"Where is Sherlock?" John asked still watching the water.

"They took him," Lestrade stopped.  When John glanced at him, he swallowed and said, "They took him down to the morgue. Do you …"

"No!" John almost shouted.  "No," he said again, though more softly this time.  "A ride home is all I need, thank you." He rubbed at the ache in his shoulder.

Before climbing into Lestrade's car, John looked back at the walkway one more time.  The rain had done it's work and all the blood was gone.



Chapter 1


The first week was a blur.  The funeral.  The friends with their sympathy.  The press with their accusations. John was numb.  He had seen death before, death of friends even.  Deaths he could not prevent. This time, though, John simply could not think.  If he closed his eyes, he saw Sherlock standing on the roof of Barts, Sherlock falling.  He could still feel the lack of pulse under his fingers. 

He went to see Ella a few times, but she couldn't help.  As with his return from Afghanistan, her  calm demeanor and soft platitudes were not what he wanted or needed to hear.  He didn't want to talk about Sherlock, he didn't want to see her reaction to his friend, the fraud, especially when John refused to believe the story himself. After three sessions with her, he didn't go back.

He started taking walks around the neighborhood and through the surrounding parks as a way to burn off his grief and, he could admit to himself, the anger of Sherlock committing suicide in front of him. He noticed he was more aware of the people around him and smiled faintly at the idea Sherlock's mantra of observing not simply looking at people was rubbing off on him.  He didn't try to guess much about the people he saw, but he was more conscious of them and he was surprised at the number of homeless people he saw within the few miles walk he took almost daily.  He supposed some of them had known Sherlock, but he didn't want to explain over and over the man they knew was dead.  He figured they would either read it in a scavenged newspaper or once they realized Sherlock wasn't going to have more work, they would wander away from the area. 

Mrs Hudson tried to help.  He would come home from walks to find tea brewing or a meal warming in the oven.  He had to remind himself she was grieving as well; she had known Sherlock for much longer than himself.  He would sit with her and listen, or they would share a meal.  He would be polite and murmur the correct phrases, but eventually he would leave her and return to the empty flat. He had always dealt with things alone. He would deal with this in the same way.  It had always worked in the past.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ten days since Sherlock died; John couldn't help himself that he started the day counting how long it had been.  He'd done the same thing after his parents died, counting the days, wondering when the pain would lessen.

John moved mechanically though the morning.  There were things he needed to get done: food shopping, cleaning, he would need to see how much money he had in his account. Thinking of money, he suddenly realized he also needed to look for a job.  He and Sherlock had been splitting the fees for Sherlock's cases for the past year.  With no more cases came the need to find a clinic that would take him on. He decided to look in on a couple of nearby medical offices as he walked to the park and see if they had any needs, even part-time hours would help.

Two hours later he was back in front of the flat more depressed than ever.  No one it seemed was hiring at the moment and John now had the added weight of over-due bills and no rent money on top of the grief and lingering anger. 

He was ready to ignore the two police officers standing in front of Speedy's when one of them asked, "Mr John Watson?"

"Doctor," John corrected.  "Doctor John Watson.  What can I do for you?"  John stood on the pavement in front of the stoop, keys in hand.  He didn't recognize either of the men from any of the cases he and Sherlock had helped Lestrade solve.

"Doctor Watson, we need you to come with us and answer some questions," the same officer stated in an official tone.

John assumed the questions had to do with Sherlock and Lestrade's cleared cases.  He  wondered if the inspector's cases would all now be reviewed thanks to Sherlock's involvement, would he be suspected of engineering those cases as well.  So he was surprised when the officer continued, "We need to talk to you about Richard Brook."

John's face changed completely from open, polite interest to closed, cold and hard.   "Oh, him," John said flatly.  "What about him?"

"We have a witness who says you threatened Mr Brook," the officer explained.

John shrugged.  He knew Richard Brook was really James Moriarty, and that no one, especially the police wanted to hear that at the moment.  It would be a toss up if they took John in for questioning about Brook's disappearance or John's own connections with Sherlock's supposed scheme if he brought the subject up.  "Is this witness Kitty Riley then?  The so-called investigative reporter?" John asked sarcastically.

The two officers exchange a look and became less cordial. "You admit to knowing Ms Riley and Mr Brook, Doctor?"

John ignored the question.  "I don't have anything to say about either of them."  he said bluntly  and started to move toward the door to the flat. He wasn't in the mood to deal with more of Moriarty's charade.

This was the wrong thing to do.  As soon as John tried to take the two steps up to the door, one of the officers was in front of him with a hand on John's chest. 

"Mr Brook is missing, Doctor.  You need to come with us and answer some questions.  Now."  The officer turned and his partner led John to the waiting car.

John knew better than to try to shrug off the light grip the man had on his arm.  Instead he resigned himself to the inane questions he would be asked.  His smiled wryly as he got into the back of the police car thinking Sherlock would have felt the same way.  John promised himself he would do his best to be more polite than the consulting detective.

Four hours later John was sent home.  Kitty Riley had done her best to impress the police that John must have done something to Brook either because of grief or a need for revenge. He was reasonably sure the police no longer considered him a suspect in the disappearance of Brook.  John had tried, against his better judgment, to explain the connection between Brook and Moriarty but when he admitted he had no proof, the interrogation moved on to other topics. 

He was only mildly interested in the fact Brook had 'disappeared'.  John assumed since Brook was really Moriarty, it made sense for the man to vanish as soon as Sherlock was dead.  There was no reason to continue the charade any more; Moriarty had succeeded in what he wanted he would simply fade back into the criminal underworld.

And the weeks passed.  He wasn't as numb any more, he'd stopped waking up each morning counting days since Sherlock's death.  He could sleep a few hours each night.  After a month he decided to do something about the flat and started packing away Sherlock's books and papers.  He didn't throw anything away, not even the equipment Mrs Hudson had threatened to send off to a school; just boxed it and stored it in Sherlock's room.  John wouldn't think of it any other way and politely refused Mrs. Hudson's hints he move from his room upstairs into the bedroom on the same floor as the rest of the flat.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John sat in the flat staring at the fire. Another day, another disappointment.  He had been trying to find a job working in a clinic for weeks with no luck.  He never realized until now how much of Sherlock's limelight spilled had over onto him.  John had always thought he was invisible when the press wanted to discuss Sherlock's cases.  He would try to soften some of Sherlock's more abrasive comments, and he was caught in a few photographs; still he thought himself invisible, hidden in the shadow of Sherlock's fame. He was apparently wrong. The first few medical offices he applied to refused to even speak to him, either hanging up the phone or asking him to leave the premises while threatening to call their security staff. John was even more offended by the other response, the refusals tinged with curiosity.  Office managers, even medical ones, wanted to know 'the truth' while he sat waiting to speak to someone.  He walked out of more than one office when the questioning had more to do with Sherlock and his cases, than his, John's, medical expertise.

However, after two months he needed to find work.  He suspected, though he couldn't confirm it, that Mycroft was paying his bills.  The few pieces of mail that came to the flat were polite and happily stated he was paid in full and there always seemed to be money in his account for food and other necessities.  A part of John was grateful that someone had thought to deal with reality while he mourned, but he didn't want to be in Mycroft's debt any longer.  He had another interview the following day with a small medical practice several miles from the flat; the commute would involve the tube and a two mile walk everyday.  He hoped it was worth the travel expenses and extra time.

The next morning John sat sipping at his tea reading a book when he heard a ring at the outside door and a few seconds later, footsteps climbing the stairs to the flat.  Carrying his cup into the sitting room, John was surprised to see Detective Inspector Lestrade hovering at the door.  The same Detective Inspector Lestrade who had arrested Sherlock for attempted kidnapping.  Lestrade who seemingly believed Sherlock was a fraud.

"John," Lestrade said glancing hesitantly a John.

"Greg." John's tone was flat.  Not rude, but not his usual pleasant tone either.

John wasn't sure what sort of reception Lestrade was expecting and a part of him didn't really care.  His interview was in an hour and he was going to have to leave soon or miss it.

Lestrade made a tentative step into the flat and when John didn't say anything, he took another step.  John waved the inspector toward the leather chair and waited to hear what he had to say.

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner," Lestrade began.  John shrugged and sipped his tea.

"I'm also sorry I'm not here socially …"  Lestrade stopped again.  When John still didn't react, Lestrade continued, "There's been a murder."

"Sherlock was the detective, Inspector.  I doubt --"

"No, it's not like that," Lestrade interrupted.  "Do you know a man named Ronald Adair?"

John sat in the chair across from the inspector.  "Ron Adair?  Yes, we were in the Army together, I don't know him all that well.  We were stationed together for a few months, then he was transferred.  His family is well off and they pulled some strings to get him sent home. The last heir to the family wealth so the story went at camp," John answered with a wry smile.

"He has photos of the pair of you," Lestrade said.

"Oh I'm sure there are a few pictures of him around here somewhere as well.  We got along fine for the most part. We shared some laughs, played more than a few games of late-night poker and did our best to make a war zone tolerable, " John explained. "What's Ron done then, killed someone?"

"No.  He's the death." Lestrade hesitated.  "I'm sorry for --"

"Don't," John said sharply.  "Don't say you're sorry for his loss."

John realized his reaction had little to do with Ron and everything to do with Lestrade's apparent lack of trust for Sherlock.  For a split second he was seeing the flat from months ago, when Lestrade came to arrest Sherlock.  Lestrade telling John to stay out of things or he would be arrested as well. Then John shook himself and was back in the present with Lestrade sitting across from him looking apologetic.

Lestrade seemed to realize it as well as he didn't react to John's tone, he merely continued, "John, it was murder.  Your friend was shot in the head with a high power rifle through a window of his house.  I wondered if you would come down and well … "

John set his cup on the table next to the chair.  "He was shot?" John asked.  "Why?  Ron could be an idiot but he wasn't a trouble maker or criminal."

"That's one of the things we're hoping you can help us with, " Lestrade said.  "Will you come?"

John glanced at his watch and sighed.  There was no way he was going to make it to the clinic for the interview.  He noticed Lestrade watching him and stood.  "Give me a minute to change, Inspector.  Then I'm all yours."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John watched the inspector as they drove out of central London, he could see Lestrade was nervous about something.  He'd started to say something to John as they stepped out of the flat, but stopped when John wandered a few steps down the block to drop a coin in the cup of one of the few resident homeless near the flat.  The man had been there off and on for a couple months now, even though most of the rest of the 'homeless network' had faded back into the tapestry of the city.

As John walked back to the waiting police car, he saw the questioning look on Lestrade's face. He didn't say anything until the car was moving through the London traffic.  "Military jacket, Inspector.  Could have been me."

Lestrade didn't say anything, but John could tell the panhandler wasn't the reason for the glances and tapping fingers of the police detective.

"Where are we going?  Your office is in the other direction, " John asked watching the traffic around them.

"Crime scene.  I need to check in with the teams there and find out if they've learned anything new," Lestrade answered concentrating on the traffic and not meeting John's eye.

When Lestrade pulled into the long drive up to the Adair house, John knew what Lestrade's problem really was.  Sergeant Sally Donovan and Anderson were standing by the front door.  He should have known they would be at any crime scene involving Lestrade.  John sat stony-faced in the car even after Lestrade stepped out and started to walk toward the house. 

Lestrade John could almost forgive.  He hadn't wanted to arrest Sherlock and was forced into it by his superiors.  Donovan and Anderson were a different matter.  They had willfully acted, believed every possible bad thing they heard about Sherlock and let their petty jealousies rule.  He was tempted to get out of the car, walk back down the drive to the road, find a cab and go home.  A larger part of him decided he was not going to let the pair of them win any more victories and when Lestrade turned back to the car to see where he was, John opened the door with his face set. 

John walked up to the house behind Lestrade pointedly ignoring Donovan.  He could tell she had a scathing remark to pass on, but either the look on John's face or the presence of her boss stopped her. Anderson was already back in the house, presumably in the room where Ron had died.  John noticed several of the men and women called to the scene were staring at him, some with open curiosity, others with equally open hostility, and once again he was surprised by the number of people who seemed to know who he was and his relationship to Sherlock Holmes.

Walking through the front door, John discovered the interior of the house was of a grand scale, the entry way was two stories high and airy with a long hall and several doors leading off into other areas of the house. John glanced into a few rooms as he passed them and saw large windows and spacious rooms. The decor was tasteful, though, without the ostentation John was expecting for a wealthy man's home.  Lestrade was striding down the hall and John hurried to follow him through another one of the doors.

When John entered the room he found more police and he was surprised to see Sally already there, talking to Anderson apparently telling him John was in the house. John assumed she had found a short cut through the house in order to get to the room ahead of him.  They both stopped whispering and stared at John when he entered. Anderson stood just inside the room with his arms crossed, giving every indication of disdain at the doctors presence at his crime scene.  John was sure Anderson felt he was well shot of John once Sherlock was gone.  When Lestrade turned from speaking to one of the other techs, Anderson's demeanor changed as he stepped forward to report to his superior.

Anderson opened his mouth to report his latest findings, but Lestrade beat him to it.  "Everyone out," Lestrade ordered to everyone in the room ignoring Anderson and gesturing toward the door. The techs in the room immediately started to pack their cases and left without a word. 

Anderson was not to be put off however and he tried again to capture Lestrade's attention. "Sir, don't you want to know..."

"Not right now, Anderson. I need to room," Lestrade cut across him bluntly. John noticed Sally glaring at him, John, as if he was personally insulting the forensics specialist. 

When Anderson started to protest, Lestrade glared at him pointedly and waited for him to collect his gear and leave the room in Donovan's wake. Lestrade closed the door on their mutual tongue clicking as John saw them again hissing at each other before the heavy oak door cut off his view. 

With Donovan and Anderson gone, John walked around the room, he was careful to avoid the area where Ron's body had obviously lay and to not touch anything.  The room was a sort of office and study combination.  There was a large desk made of expensive-looking wood in front of a picture window and two walls were lined with book shelves. The window looked out onto a large, lush lawn with a copse of trees about a quarter of a mile away.  Old money, John reminded himself as he stared out the now broken window.  He was surprise to see the hole was small and the glass pane still in the frame and not shattered on the floor.  Fast and a small caliber John realized. 

Glancing back at the desk, John noticed the papers strewn about the surface.  He cocked his head to read them and saw they were statements of income and a few bills; the amounts listed were more than John made on his pension several times over. He did some quick math and realized the income was no match for the outflow however.   Turning away from Adair's book keeping, he saw several pictures lined along the desk, one of them a photo of two men in desert fatigues, arms around each others shoulders and grinning at the camera.  John had the same photo in a box at the flat.

John left the desk and walked over to the book shelves and surveyed the titles.  A wide assortment of fiction and non-fiction filled the shelves.  Some of the books were classics and looked to be first editions. He had a flash of memory of working through the night with Sherlock to find a book used by a Chinese gang as the key to a code and squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't understand why Lestrade had brought him out here.  He didn't know Ron very well at all, really,  just the stories men told each other about home. How was he supposed to help with a murder investigation?

John moved away from the books noticed Lestrade watching him. He stopped moving about the room and waited for Lestrade to speak.

"I'm sorry about them, John," Lestrade said nodding toward the closed door.

Turning to face the inspector John said nothing.  He had expected nothing less from Anderson and Donovan as soon as he saw them standing at the door of the house.  He was aware of Sally's sniping attitude toward Sherlock, she had even taunted him, John, while Sherlock was being arrested. While seeing both of them again was a surprise, his reception was nothing new.

John turned to look out the window at the lawn.  He could see police combing the grounds for evidence, no one looked like they were finding much though. John asked quietly, "Are you really?  Sorry I mean?"

"Of course I am!  Their behavior toward you -- "

"No, I don't mean Anderson and Donovan," John explained still in a low tone.  "I mean about Sherlock.  Are you sorry?"  John's face was pale as he watched Lestrade.

Lestrade glanced back at the closed door behind him.  Turning back, he said decisively, "Yes.  I am.  I'd known him a lot longer than you, John. I know he was good at what he did.  The best, even.  He was not a fraud.  He didn't deserve that kind of death."

John stared at the inspector a few seconds more, then nodded once and relaxed. He was glad to know the inspector, his friend, also accepted that Sherlock was a good man wrongly accused.

John looked over the room again, eager to move the conversation on from the awkward silence that had fallen between them. "You're sure this was a rifle?" John asked pointing toward the window.  "Something that small I'd expect to come from a hand gun."

Lestrade looked at the notes he'd made from the initial call.  "Yes, according to the officer on the scene there was a small caliber slug pulled out of the wall," Lestrade looked around.  "There." he pointed to the hole in the wall just to the left of the door frame.  "We'll need an official call from ballistics, but it looks funny.  Wrong shape for a hand gun, anyway."

John started to ask another question when there was a knock at the door.  Lestrade opened it to find Donovan standing there.

"Sorry, Inspector," she said glancing at John.  "The press finally got wind of this.  We've got both TV and print outside the gate wanting an official statement from the officer in charge."

Lestrade ran a hand over his face and through is hair.  "Great. Just great," he said.  "John come with me.  I need to get the paperwork done at my office and I can drop you back at Baker Street on the way."

"Inspector, I don't think --" John began.

"Sir, is that really," Sally said at the same time with another pointed look in John's direction. 

"Enough, both of you."  Lestrade walked out of the room.  John hesitated for a few seconds then followed the inspector with Donovan bringing up the rear.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John sat in the darkened flat and let the silence wash over him.  The trip with Lestrade had gone from bad to worse once they left the Adair house and Lestrade met the press.  John had wanted to blend in with the rest of the milling police crowd and wait in the car while Lestrade dealt with the usual questions, but he never had the chance.

Somehow several journalists and a few cameras had made their way past the police cordon and met Lestrade a few feet from the front door.  As soon as he was spotted, John was bombarded with questions about working with the police and his relationship with Sherlock. Lestrade was also grilled on why he was allowing such a person as John near a high profile case when he was either deluded by or in collusion with the former consulting detective. John had no desire to see a newspaper or turn on the TV to find out what they were saying about him now. 

By the time John got back to the flat, he was exhausted and didn't even remember he'd had an interview that morning until he checked his phone and found a message from the clinic stating the position had been filled by another applicant.



Chapter 2

As summer slowly changed into autumn, a new pattern of normalcy was evident at Baker Street.  John had on-call work at two different small clinics near the flat so he was busy at least part of the week at one or the other of them.  The patients weren't much of a challenge to diagnose or treat, but he was paying his own bills and no longer surviving entirely on the charity of his mystery benefactor. 

John was also in regular contact with Inspector Lestrade, meeting once every week or so at the pub for a drink.  They started getting together soon after the Adair case went cold.  Lestrade, John felt, needed someone to talk to that was outside the police force and John was at least someone who knew a bit about Greg's world and could sympathize. 

Sitting together in a booth near the rear of the pub Lestrade said, "There's been another one."

"Another one?" John asked.

"Another shooting, like your friend Adair.  Same weird bullet, same sort of impossible shot.  That makes four total counting Adair in six months."

"And you have no leads, nothing to go on?" John asking flagging down the bartender for another round.

"Oh, we have leads.  I can tell you exactly what the bullets are made from, I can even tell you they are home-made rounds.  They aren't of a standard caliber though so the gun itself is impossible to trace as we don't know what we're looking for." Lestrade sighed.  "The press is starting to have a field day with this on top of everything else."

John grimaced at the mentioned of the newspapers.  He hadn't really read one since Sherlock had died.  He didn't want to read what they were saying about his friend at the time of his death and after a month or so of avoiding news all together, he was out of the habit of regularly checking.

"Everything else?" John asked.

"You must be the only person in London not out for police blood, John,"  Lestrade said passing over a copy of The Independent dated the previous week.  "Something has stirred up the nest for the criminal element.  We're getting more anonymous tips about things like thefts and we're also getting an increase in bodies, though most of these are solved pretty quick. Gang rivalries make for quick work. " 

John took the paper and glanced at the headline proclaiming the successful arrest in the Molesey theft case while further down the page there was a smaller story on the death of yet another low level mobster in the city.

John glanced up from the paper to ask, "How do you know this isn't just normal, everyday stuff?"

"I just know," Lestrade replied.  "The tips are coming in too quickly after the crimes are committed for it to be an innocent bystander.  Hell, we got one for an art gallery while the thieves were still inside!  Something has upset the balance. And while we're making more arrests, all the press can see is a crime wave in progress."

John drank his beer and stared into space.  "Speaking of cases, did you ever get anywhere with the kidnapping case?" he asked after a few minutes. He didn't have to specify which kidnapping, they both knew it was the Bruhl case.

Lestrade rubbed a hand over his face before answering, "It went cold.  The kids were back and safe. The parents were happy with that and weren't eager to pursue it.  And well …"

"Everyone thought they had their kidnapper sorted when Sherlock died," John finished for him. 

Lestrade shrugged but didn't say anything, they both knew John was right as far as the police and the press were concerned. They finished their beers in silence.

Walking back to the flat together, John stopped long enough to drop his regular coin in the homeless man's cup.

"Isn't that the same man I saw months ago?" Lestrade asked.

John glanced back at the man in time to see him remove the coin and secrete it away in a pocket of his coat.  He shrugged and replied, "Yes, the same man.  Sad really.  I tried to talk to him a few times but he just sinks further into his coat shaking his head and won't look at me."

John noticed Lestrade eyeing the man now with more suspicion.  "I could run him in for vagrancy you know," he said.

"Let him alone, Greg. He's not hurting anyone and the people around here are used to him.  He doesn't harass people or anything."

"Still," Lestrade said. 

"Good night, Greg," John said trying to distract the inspector. 

"Yeah, 'night," Lestrade said with a small wave.

John watched Lestrade give the homeless man one last suspicious look and walk off down to the corner where he'd left his car.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sitting alone in the flat John thought about his conversation with Lestrade and his response, or lack of one to the press after Sherlock's death. After staring off into space for a few more minutes John went to the kitchen to put the kettle on and then he did something he hadn't done in months: he logged onto his blog. He had once told Sherlock the blog was the reason the detective had many of his clients; reading through their many cases again it was obvious John's writing was more about Sherlock than himself.  So much for using it as therapy, he thought wryly.  He stared at the screen for several minutes before deciding what to actually write, then he began:

If there is anyone out there still checking this blog, I thought it was time to say something about my friend, Sherlock Holmes. The news would like you to think he was delusional. The press is wrong. James Moriarty is a real person, one of the few people I would say is truly evil.  I know, I met him and was terrorized by him. I know the newspapers have a very different idea on Sherlock and Moriarty, and I know that version is the lie.  Every case that you've read about on this blog really happened.  Sherlock solved those cases, he was not a fake, there was no magic trick.  He observed.  He often said it was a skill anyone could learn but few bothered to try.  For his efforts to bring criminals to justice, he was branded in the press, and by some members of the police, as a fraud.  Since no one is listening anyway, I can state here, in my own little part of the internet that I know the Richard Brook you've read about in the papers is really James Moriarty.  I know it, and I will find a way to prove it as well.

London is a little less safe now that Sherlock is gone.  My friend referred to Moriarty as a consulting criminal and I'm sure you've been reading the papers and know about four deaths at the hand of a mysterious shooter.  Four people killed, and no one seems to know who it was.  Well I know two things: Moriarty is involved in this too, and the one man who could prove it is dead.

John stared at the computer screen and what he'd written.  It was time to find Richard Brook and prove to everyone that he and James Moriarty were one and the same.


Chapter 3

After a few days of dead ends, John began to wonder how he thought he would be able to prove the relationship between Brook and Moriarty.  His online digging revealed both an IMDb and Wikipedia page for Brook listing various credits and other information. All of it seemed factual enough, but John knew any of those entries could be edited even if the credits were fake. Then it hit him, Brook had bragged the shows he made were all on DVD.  Some checking at the library showed all five series of Brook's storytelling program were available for check out.  Needless to say he was surprised.  He expected the DVD story to be as fake as the rest of it.

"Mrs Hudson!" John called down the stairs. "I'm going out."

He walked to the local branch of the library and once there double-checked the computer for the DVDs.  He found what he was looking for and checked out the lot. He was sure the librarian gave him a few strange looks seeing a grown man checking out so many children's programs.

Back at the flat he popped the first disk in the player and found himself staring at Moriarty's simpering face. The man played his role well, John thought.  Very different from the madman John remembered from the pool. His voice was softer and smoother.  He seemed to enjoy all the children in the audience and even sang and danced with some of them.  John was more than a little ill at the display. 

He watched several episodes in order, then started skipping around in the five years worth of material.  The format was the same throughout: "Richard" would start with a cheery hello and welcome everyone in the audience and those watching at home into his story-telling house.  There were usually two stories each episode along with a song of some sort.  Brook was the only one on-camera, no celebrity guests; just Brook and an audience of children.

John didn't notice any repetition of content, nothing that looked like it was recycled from another episode and he was starting to get frustrated.  He knew Brook was an alias.  He knew Brook and Moriarty were the same person and yet, here was five years of a children's show proving him wrong.  The stories were straightforward fairy tales and homilies, and the songs the same sort of repetitive singing children enjoy.  No original material as far as John could see, so no writers to worry about.

He started yet another disk when he finally saw it.  This disk was from the fifth and last series.  As the camera panned to the children in the audience, John noticed several kids he had seen before.

"They look exactly the same," he said out loud.

"What was that, dear?  I didn't hear you."  Mrs Hudson bustled into the room and glanced at the TV.

"Hmm? Oh sorry, Mrs H, I didn't realize you were there," John apologized standing to greet her.

"Why are you watching a children's show, John."

"Just trying to prove a point," John answered.  "Actually, I could use a second opinion if you're willing."  John pulled the other chair around to face the television and invited her to sit down.

John changed the disk in the player and came back to his own chair.  "This is a children's series geared toward younger kids, think five, six, seven years old,"  John explained.

"All right," she said hesitantly.

"Look at the kids as the camera pans the audience.  Do you see the boy wearing the green shirt?" John asked as he paused the playback.  "And the girl with the pigtails in the pink dress."

"Yes, they look like good kids."

"Yes they do." John smiled.  He got up and replaced the series one disk with the one he was just watching from series five.  "OK, now here is the audience again."  John froze the image on the screen.  "There!  The same boy and girl. They are wearing different clothes, but they still look like young kids!"

Mrs Hudson looked intently at the screen before nodding. "Yes, I think you're right.  They should be ten or eleven years old here and they still look five or six."

John was ecstatic as he got up to remove the disk from the player.  "I need to talk to Lestrade," he said with a grin.

Mrs Hudson looked slightly confused. "What did we just prove?" she asked.

"Mrs Hudson, we just proved that Sherlock was not a fraud."  John kissed her cheek as he went past, grabbed his coat and left with the DVDs in his hand.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"John, this doesn't prove anything," Lestrade said once John had tracked him down in his office the next day and showed him the footage from the children's show. 

"Of course it does," John exclaimed.  "Look, this Richard Brook claimed Sherlock had hired him to steal the crown jewels and everything else.  He claimed to be a children's presenter and Sherlock was forcing him to play act as Moriarty to feed Sherlock's delusion, right?"

"Right," Lestrade replied leaning back in his chair.

"Don't you get it? He filmed all of these over the course of months, not years.  He forged all of the copyright material for pressing the disks and had an instant alias. Brook is as much Moriarty as I am John Watson."  John stopped pacing and sat in the chair across from Lestrade.

"John, this may prove Brook isn't all he says he is, it doesn't do anything to disprove his allegation Sherlock paid him to act a part."

John sighed and sank back in the chair.  "Isn't there anything you can do with this?" John asked.  "Doesn't it at least give you enough to look at his life at all? Anything to show Sherlock never hired him to do anything?"

Lestrade ran a hand through his hair and glanced out the window at the officers working various cases, including the serial murders.

Lestrade said. "Brook is still listed as a missing person and you … well you are considered a person of interest in his disappearance."

John sat in his chair and said nothing.  He'd thought since no one had bothered with him since the initial questioning, the matter had moved on.  A last gift from the madman then, John thought.

"John, I'm sorry, really I am," Lestrade said.  "There's nothing I can officially do."

"Yeah, I know." John sighed and picked up the disks to return to the library. He was almost to the door when Lestrade spoke, "I'll try to do some checking.  Off the record, and let you know."

John turned back to the man behind the desk, nodded once in appreciation and left.

He wasn't surprised to see Sally watching him as he left the office and walked toward the lift.  As he glanced behind him, he saw her walk into Lestrade's office and he could easily imagine her demanding an explanation of why John had been there.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He had the cab drop him at the library to return the DVDs.  The librarian again gave him odd looks as he checked in the disks he had only checked out the day before. He would need to find something else to convince Lestrade there was something the police could do about Brook.  The fact he was also still considered a person of interest in the case was a little disconcerting.  In a way it confirmed one else was actually trying to find out the truth about Brook and Moriarty being the same person. 

John walked back to the flat deep in thought.  He didn't want to admit, even to himself, that he didn't know what to try next, the DVDs had seemed the strongest link in his chain.  His blatant taunting of Moriarty on his blog hadn't done anything either. He figured if nothing else there would be some sort of veiled threat made in the comments area for his last post.  All he found there were Mike Stamford and Harry voicing concern John needed to move on; there had been nothing to show Lestrade he had hit a nerve with the consulting criminal.

He almost missed the envelope balanced against the rail of the stoop, brown paper with a red seal.  John froze.  It looked exactly like the envelope he picked up six months ago full of bread crumbs.  He glanced up and down the street to see if anyone was watching him, the only person paying any attention was John's homeless man who was staring at John and the envelope.  When he noticed John looking at him, the man quickly looked away, also glancing up and down the street and at the building across the street.

John turned back to the stoop and bent to pick the envelope up when his world exploded.  He felt a deep, burning ache in his head but didn't have time to register the pain as he had also been tackled from behind.  He hit the ground hard with someone on top of him; the combination enough to knock the air out of him. He was vaguely aware of hearing something that sounded like a car backfiring.

"John!" a voice shouted at him seemingly from a great distance.

John found it hard to think, the pain in his head was, if possible, increasing as someone pressed against it with something soft.  He was on his back now looking up at the sky and a face looking down at him, one hand holding a cell phone, the other holding a cloth to his bleeding head.

"John, you need to stay awake, there is an ambulance coming," the voice told him.

John glanced again at the face staring down at him and decided since the man watching him was obviously a figment of his imagination, he could be ignored.  He let the encroaching darkness flow over him instead.


Chapter 4

As John sat in his hospital bed in his private room two days later, he wondered if it had all been just his imagination.  The doctor has told him he'd been very lucky.  The bullet only grazed the bone and didn't penetrate very far at all. He also had a couple of bruised ribs from his rescuer landing on top of him.  He just assumed the head wound had caused him to see who he thought he'd seen. 

When he was shot in Afghanistan he didn't remember having visions of dead friends.  And yet one of the few clear memories he had of the shooting at the flat, was seeing Sherlock kneeling over him.  It didn't make any sense, and so he kept that bit of information to himself.  He didn't need Ella psychoanalyzing why he was hallucinating about his dead friend when he was hurt.

Lestrade had stopped by the day before to drop off some clothes and other essentials.  He also told John about the investigation of the shooting. With nothing else to do with his time, John replayed their conversation in his head trying to see if he could learn anything about why someone had decided to kill him.

"The shooter had been in the Camden House Building across the street," Lestrade said. "And you have officially moved to the head of the case load as a result."

"Why is that?" John asked.  "I would think your serial case was the top of the …" John stopped.

He watched as Lestrade pulled an evidence bag from his pocket and held it up for John to see.  "Same weird bullet, John. You are now the only known victim of this guy to survive."

"I wouldn't be if someone hadn't knocked me out of the way," John replied.  "Anything on who it was?"

"Nothing," Lestrade answered.  "Paramedics confirm there was a man with you when they arrived at the scene, but by the time they had you in hand, the man had disappeared. Witnesses couldn't give us much a a description, either. Youngish, dark hair is the only thing anyone seems to agree about.  Some said he was wearing a coat, others thought it was a heavy jumper. People don't like getting involved in police business, John.  Your good Samaritan will probably stay a mystery."

John had almost said something at that point about Sherlock, but decided not to.  The look of pity John imagined on the inspector's face was enough to hold his tongue.

"What about the envelope?" John asked.

"Envelope?  We didn't find any envelope at the scene," Lestrade replied glancing back through his notes.

"it was there, Inspector.  Just like the ones from the Bruhl kidnapping, brown with a red seal."

"Sorry, John.  It wasn't there by the time the police arrived." Lestrade only stayed a few minutes more.  A nurse appeared and shooed him out so the doctor could have a look at John's head.

Looking back on the conversation didn't help John figure out why he was now the target of a serial killer. He had expected a reaction from Moriarty, certainly; some kind of personal threat. Having John shot from across a street didn't seem in Moriarty's style of taunting before killing. John thought it was obvious the envelope had been placed on the stoop in order to get him to stop, making him a stationary target. He pushed the call button for the floor nurse; he wanted to go back to the flat and find that envelope and figure out why someone had decided to kill him.

By late afternoon, John was cleared to leave the hospital with a prescription for pain medication and an admonition to take things easy for a few days. He again made his way back to the flat, and as he stepped out of the cab, he noticed the blood stain on the walk a few feet from the door.  Someone had tried to clean off the blood, but traces were still there. Ignoring the sight as best he could, John unlocked the door and went inside. 

Mrs Hudson was thankfully away visiting her sister, so John didn't need to explain either why he hadn't been home for two days or his appearance.  Hopefully by the time she was back, at the end of the week the bruising and the bandage on his head would be gone and he could explain away any remaining injury with a careful lie. He didn't want the landlady worrying about him more than she already did.

As he walked into the flat he was surprised to hear movement in the kitchen.  When a man walked out into the sitting room carrying a cup of tea, John froze.  It was Sherlock.  Standing in their sitting room as if the past six months had never happened.  He felt dizzy and was grateful for the hands assisting him to sit on the sofa.

"Sherlock?" John asked confused. "But … you …" The man standing in front of him was whole, no blood.  His clothes were as impeccable as ever and he looked well fed for a change.

Sherlock started to speak when John interrupted, "What the hell?  I saw you fall, You made me watch you fall, damn it!" His astonishment was quickly giving way to anger.

Sherlock again started to speak, "John, I needed …"

"You needed. You needed!" John felt his voice rising and tried to calm down.  "What exactly did you need to do that making me watch you jump off a building solved?"  John asked in a stiff, angry voice. His head was pounding and he reached up to try to rub away the ache.

"I needed to protect you," Sherlock said calm in the face of John's anger. "Weren't you the one who told me 'friends protect people.'"

John just stared, speechless, his anger draining away with those five simple words. He picked up the cup Sherlock had placed on the table in front of him.  After a few swallows of tea, John set the cup down and  asked simply, "How?  How did that … watching … how?" John looked up at Sherlock.

"I miscalculated, John. I'm sorry," Sherlock said sitting in the desk chair and facing the sofa. "Moriarty had men with orders to kill Mrs Hudson, Lestrade and you." Sherlock glanced out the window.  "I thought I had the situation under control, then Moriarty killed himself rather than call off his dogs. Jumping off that roof was always plan B.  Once that plan was in play, you had to believe I was really dead or the you would have been killed."

"So Moriarty is dead, then," John said. "You're sure?"

"Very sure.  He blew the back of his head off.  I had him beat. Right up until then, John," Sherlock exclaimed with what John felt was far too much enthusiasm.

John now understood why no one responded to his taunts in his blog post. He also realized he'd spent days searching for a dead man. A tiny, more ironic part of John's mind wondered if he, John, would now be arrested for Brook's death.

"I had the evidence," Sherlock continued assuming John was listening. "I had his hands tied as far as his threat to you and the others. And then." Sherlock stopped. "He shot himself. He was the fail safe.  Unless he told the snipers to back off, they would kill you the second I was out of their sight. The only thing left was plan B."

John was about to ask how Sherlock had survived the jump and where he had been for the past six months, when the door downstairs opened and John could hear footsteps pounding up the stairs.

"John!" Lestrade called as he walked into the room. "Why didn't you tell me … Holy mother of …"

Sherlock stood as Lestrade started to speak. "What the bloody hell are you doing here!" Lestrade exclaimed.

"I live here," Sherlock replied as if stating the obvious.

"Live here?  Sherlock, you're supposed to be dead!"  Lestrade moved into the room and stood by the fireplace.

"Rumors of my death, Inspector."

"Rumors!  Sherlock, I was at the funeral." Lestrade threw his hands in the air exasperated.

"Yes, well, it's a good thing I'm not dead. Four unsolved murders in six months won't do, Lestrade. Though I will say you handled the Molesey incident with less than your usual ineptness.”

Lestrade shook his head and moved sit in the chair by the fireplace.  "Well four and a half if you count …" Lestrade jerked his head in John's direction.

Sherlock paced back and forth between the chair and the sofa muttering to himself.  Lestrade and John exchanged looks before turning to watch Sherlock's manic movement. 

"Yes!  That must be it, has to be," he exclaimed.  "I can tell you who your murderer is, Inspector, but I don't know exactly where to find him."

"You can," Lestrade answered sarcastically, rising from his chair. "We've been working this case for months and you can solve it in five minutes?"

"I can solve part of it in five minutes," Sherlock replied.  "I know the who: Sebastian Moran."

"Who's Sebastian Moran?" John asked.

"He was a sniper in the Army.  One of the best there was.  He was dishonourably discharged however when he started taking out enemy targets without the all clear from his commanders," Sherlock answered.  "Now he's a hired assassin, one of Moriarty's go-to people and, if I'm not mistaken, he was the one who had orders to shoot you six months ago outside Barts."

"What was that?" Lestrade asked startled.

John answered shortly, "Sherlock jumped off the roof of Barts to protect all of us from Moriarty, Inspector." Turning his attention to Sherlock, John asked pointedly, "And how do you know all of this about Moran?"

Sherlock stepped over to the sofa and sat on the table facing John, both men now effectively ignoring the inspector. "Mycroft, of course."

"Mycroft? Mycroft knew you were alive? And he didn't bother to say anything to me?" John asked his temper flaring again.

"I explained this, John.  You had to believe, really believe I was dead.  The slightest change in your behavior, no matter how well-intentioned, could have ended with both of us dead if Moran or someone else in Moriarty's organization found out. Mycroft was one of only two people who knew the truth.  I had to tell him because I needed him."

John leaned back against the sofa cushions.  He noticed Lestrade watching the pair of them like a hawk.  "You needed Mycroft," John stated unable to believe what he had just heard.

"Yes.  He was able to get me information.  He also found small things for me to do, problems to solve.  Mostly, though he was able to find out what I needed to know about Moriarty's organization."

"So why was Moran targeting our four victims," Lestrade cut in.

"They were problems for other people.  Moran was hired to kill them," Sherlock explained giving Lestrade an impatient look.   Turning back to John, he continued, "Your friend Adair? How much of a gambler was he?"

"He played well enough," John said thinking back to long nights of small stakes poker waiting for their next assignment.  For a moment John thought he could taste the dry desert air at night, could hear the sand rattle against the plywood and sand buildings in some nondescript town. He shook himself and continued, "He could supplement his pay when he had to playing cards."

Sherlock nodded and after giving John a quick glance said, "I suspect he played cards with the wrong people, Inspector.  He was accused of cheating and was killed to get his winnings."

Lestrade didn't look convinced.  "That sounds too far-fetched, Sherlock. This isn't Victorian London any more.  People don't get killed for winning a few games of poker."

"This wasn't some pick up game on an Army base, Lestrade," Sherlock retorted impatiently.  "The men he played with counted their winnings in the hundreds of thousands and Adair must have been playing for weeks.  The family money was gone or at least going fast.  Whether he was actually cheating or not doesn't matter.  He was suspected and then he was killed. Moran isn't cheap to hire, it had to be people with both a lot of money and a lot of motive."  Sherlock nodded at John.  "He was playing to keep up appearances.  Your other victims will have some sort of similar story.  Moran was the shooter, certainly, but he was paid to kill them."

John sat in silence digesting what he had just heard.  "Who was the other person?" he asked suddenly changing the subject.  Lestrade looked confused, but Sherlock seemed to know where John's mind had leapt.

Sherlock didn't answer right away and John focused his attention once again. 

"Who was it?" he asked again.

Sherlock sighed. "You aren't gong to like it, you know," he said matter of factly.

"Who was whom?" Lestrade asked and was ignored by both John and Sherlock.

John simply stared at Sherlock, his mouth set and waited.  After a few seconds of stand-off, Sherlock said simply, "Molly."

John was speechless.  Lestrade had caught up however and was not.  "Molly?  Molly Hooper the medical examiner at Barts? The same Molly who you embarrassed at the Christmas party last year? She knew you were still alive?"

"The same," Sherlock stated.  "She was the obvious choice.  She had the access I needed and more the to the point, no one, including the two of you, bothered to ask her anything about it." Sherlock was smug.

John decided to drop the entire subject of Sherlock survival.  He would get the whole story later. Instead he asked, "So how are we supposed to find Moran, then?"

Sherlock grinned.  "Oh that's the easy part. After he shot at you, John, I'm sure he saw me with you waiting for the paramedics. He knows I'm still alive.  And he knows I was the last person to see Moriarty alive.  He's going to want to correct his mistake.  All we need to do is give him the right sort of bait."



Chapter 5


"So how do we go about finding this sniper," Lestrade asked. 

"Luckily, I haven't been idle these past two days," Sherlock answered bluntly.  "As soon as Anderson and the Forensics team left, I went to study the room across the street where Moran had waited for John to come home."

"How did you," Lestrade began.

"Know which room to check?  Observation, Inspector.  I was standing only a few feet from John when he found the envelope.  Typical he only looked to the side, up and down the street, he didn't bother looking behind him."

John sighed at the veiled insult. "Hang on, what about the envelope? Are you saying you have it?"

Sherlock went to the desk and shuffled through some papers and eventually came up with the brown envelope with the red seal John picked up from the stoop. There was dried blood covering one corner of the paper.  "He's not nearly as clever as Moriarty, John." Sherlock opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to John.  The paper was a picture of John standing outside the flat. Judging from the clothes he was wearing in the shot, John figured it must have been taken the day he went to the library.  The photo was covered in lines and numbers.

"These are ranging angles," Lestrade said looking at the picture John passed over to him.  "This Moran was working out the best position to shoot from."

"Precisely, Inspector.  John, you were never supposed to see that picture.  It was a message to the police, not you. Moran was going after you personally, not a contract from someone else.  Not the best idea to taunt criminals in a blog when they know where you live. Some of them may actually read it." 

"So you knew where this sniper was," Lestrade said getting Sherlock's story back on track.  "What, did you find the envelope first and then leave it there for your friend to walk into a trap?"

"Of course not, Lestrade," Sherlock said and John thought he sounded hurt by the accusation. "As I was saying, John only looked up and down the street. I, however, was more thorough and checked the building across the street as well. Doing so, I saw the open window and the glint of sunlight reflecting off the scope of Moran's gun.  It is a rifle by the way, the barrel was custom made to fit a small, high velocity round. As soon as I saw the gun I ran toward John. I didn't know about the envelope until I saw it in John's hand after he was shot."

"You what?" John asked jerking forward on the sofa.  "The only person I saw paying any attention was a homeless man."

Sherlock just stared back at him.

"You have got to be kidding me," John said with some heat.  "You've been sitting outside the flat for months!  Sherlock, why didn't … never mind, just never mind." John walked back to the kitchenette to start more water boiling.  He needed something to do with his hands to keep himself from throttling Sherlock. Six months John thought Sherlock was dead only to find out the man had been sitting mere feet from the flat panhandling for spare change.

"As soon as Anderson was done mucking things up," Sherlock continued as John walked out of the room, "I went over everything in that room and found dried mud and a few other things I could use to find out where Moran was hiding."

"Sherlock that was an active crime scene!" Lestrade exclaimed.  "You can't just go barging in as you like."

John walked into the kitchenette and stopped.  Sherlock had obviously found the storage boxes packed with his microscope and other paraphernalia.  The kitchen table was buried under the scope as well as assorted burners, test-tubes and papers with notes scratched on them. 

Sherlock came into the room behind him to pick up one of the notebooks.  John set down the still empty kettle, followed Sherlock back into the sitting room, his curiosity overcoming the anger. He watched as his flatmate handed over his findings.  Lestrade glanced at the scribbled pages as Sherlock started to explain, "I don't have access to the equipment at Barts at the moment, so this will have to do," Sherlock stated.  "The mud I found is clay from near the river, the chemical tests I could do show traces of engine oil and rust so boats or ships. There is also crushed vegetation matching plants that grow in the east side of the river but not the west, narrows things further." Sherlock was searching on his phone while he spoke. A tiny part of John's brain wondered how Sherlock had paid the bill the past six months. "All of that plus traces of concrete and evidence of toxins leads me to think Moran is somewhere in the warehouses south of the O2." Sherlock triumphantly flipped his phone around to show Lestrade an image of the familiar O2 complex on the screen.

"That still leaves a lot of warehouses to search," Lestrade pointed out.

"I said I couldn't be exact. I should have added it's an abandoned warehouse, Inspector.  One that still has either power or a way for him to tap the city's power grid easily.  One that is still intact and one where he could convert it to live in with transportation nearby." Sherlock was again tapping away on his phone. "In other words, here."  Sherlock showed Lestrade and John an address on his phone for a block of warehouses.  Now all they had to do was find the right one.

"Come along John, and bring your gun." Sherlock bolted out the door, grabbing his coat on the way and a few seconds later the outside door opened.

Lestrade rolled his eyes.  "You'd think I wasn't coming along the way he talks," he said as John got the gun from the small lock box on the desk. 

"John, the cab is here, come on!"  Sherlock shouted from downstairs.

"Or that I have a police car," Lestrade groused as he followed John down the stairs and out to the waiting cab.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sherlock had the cab stop at the end of the block of warehouses he suspected Moran to be using.  John and Lestrade were looking at the long rows of abandoned buildings and John wondered where they were supposed to start looking first. 

"OK, we're here, now what?" Lestrade asked with impatience. 

"Now we investigate, Inspector," Sherlock answered strolling down the nearest row.  "We need to look for a building that still looks used.  Recent tire tracks or footprints, obvious access to power or …"

"A new lock on the door," John interrupted pointing to a door.

"Exactly, John!"  Sherlock exclaimed hurrying over to examine the door further. He then glanced at the doors to either side of the one John pointed out.  "This is the one, it has to be.  What are you doing?"

John turned to see Lestrade dialing his cell phone.

"I'm calling in back up, Sherlock.  We're going to need help searching this place." Lestrade took a step away to complete his call.

"You can't do that, Inspector." Sherlock stepped in front of Lestrade. "You call in back up and Moran slips away and we lose him."

"Sherlock, be serious," Lestrade said.  John noticed, however, he did put his phone away as he spoke.  "How are we going to search this whole building without the guy knowing we are here looking for him."

"Simple. We aren't going to search.  We're going to walk right through the front door.  I said we needed the right sort of bait, well .. "

"No," John said

"John," Sherlock started to say.

"No, Sherlock.  That's suicide."  Lestrade flinched at the word. "It is and you know it," John continued.  "No."

Sherlock moved back to John's side.  "We can do this, John.  We go in right now and stop him."

John stared up at Sherlock's face.  He knew he wasn't going to change his friend's mind, he could either help or walk away.  He just hoped Sherlock realized what John thought of his plan to use himself as bait.

"Fine. We do it your way."  John turned away and pulled out the Army revolver from under his coat while Sherlock started picking the lock on the door. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John took one look at the interior warehouse and grimaced.  It was a perfect shooting gallery for someone as adept as Moran.  Lots of nooks and crannies for him to hide in and shoot them from a distance.  Well, shoot Sherlock from a distance, anyway.  Sherlock had thought his plan elegant, just walk into the sniper's trap and walk out with Moran in hand for Lestrade. 

The warehouse might be abandoned as far as the owner was concerned, it was obvious however that someone was using it.  Crates and boxes were stacked around the space, the light was dim and John could see the office in a far corner had been fitted out with a bed, and other necessities.  As soon as the three of them entered the warehouse, Sherlock moved off on his own toward the area Moran was using as a living space, John and Lestrade also split up to better cover the area and John hoped they spotted Moran before Moran spotted Sherlock.

"Sebastian Moran," Sherlock called into the dimness surrounding them and John shook his head.  So much for surprise.  John crept around stacked crates trying hard not to think of his time in Afghanistan when his unit did the same creeping through insurgent-controlled villages.

"Sebastian," Sherlock yelled again.  "I know you're in here."  The sudden crack of a rifle shot stopped John in his tracks.  He held his breath waiting to hear Sherlock either moving or talking. 

"Moriarty is dead, Moran," Sherlock stated a few seconds later and John started to breathe again.  He softly moved in the direction he thought the shot had come from. 

"There's no one left to pay on any contract for killing me, so why bother."  Sherlock had moved position as well, John thought.  Hopefully he wasn't standing in the middle of open ground while he taunted a sniper. Another shot cracked through the air, this time opposite where John was searching.  Moran must have spotted Lestrade.

John peeked around another obstacle and spotted the inspector peering around a crate.  He saw John and pointed to an area between them and up.  John nodded he had got the message and slowly started to move parallel to where Lestrade thought Moran was hiding.  John stopped long enough to check the opposite direction and saw Sherlock crouched behind a stack of boxes as yet another shot rang out. The piles of crates were proving to be a mixed blessing after all John thought.

Moran must have realized he couldn't target Sherlock from his current position as John saw him start to move in his, John's, direction.  He quickly stepped behind the nearest stack of crates and waited.  As Moran passed by, John tackled the man at the knees and they both went down with John mostly on top of the sniper.  Before he could take advantage of their positions, Moran rolled quickly to one side and dislodged John by shoving him up against a stack of crates, sending John's gun flying into the dimness. John let out a groan and hiss of pain as his bruised ribs were further punished by Moran hitting him but he did manage to keep a grip on Moran long enough for Lestrade to catch up and pin Moran to the ground. 

John sat with his back to the crates his side throbbing with a new sort of pain and watched as Sherlock rounded the corner and helped Lestrade restrain the sniper.

"The only thing I can't understand is why," Lestrade said as he cuffed Moran's hands behind his back.  "Like you said there was no one to pay him, so why go after the pair of you now."

"One of the oldest reasons in the world, Inspector," Sherlock said.  "Power."

Moran glared at Sherlock and finally spoke, "What do you think you know," he growled.

"Oh, I think I know quite a lot, actually," Sherlock answered in his element of solving puzzles and John admitted, showing off. "For example, I'm fairly sure you decided to shoot John," Sherlock pointed back at John still sitting on the floor. "Because he started digging into Moriarty's alias. You knew Moriarty was dead. In fact you've been counting on the inevitable power vacuum to take over his operation.  John might have upset your plans with his investigating so you tried to stop him.  It was easy enough to set up.  You knew where he lived, you knew about the brown envelopes because you were the one who kidnapped the Bruhl children and left the clues before. You knew he would be curious if he found another one and that would be your chance to get rid of him."

John saw a glint of recognition in Lestrade's face. "All the anonymous calls reporting crimes," Lestrade said.  "I knew there was something going on, we could never pin down which group was trying to take over. And this is our kidnapper as well.  Nice to get that case wrapped up, too."

Sherlock stretched on his toes and moved to stand next to John.  "Exactly, Inspector.  Moran here thought he could fill Moriarty's shoes.  All he would need to do was prove himself worthy of the title and everyone would fall in line.  Once he saw me in front of the flat, he realized killing me would solidify his position."  Sherlock stared down at Moran.  "Too bad you aren't nearly as intelligent as you boss.  It was pathetically easy to find you in the end.  Moriarty would have at least made it a bit of a challenge."

John thought this last comment was too much.  Evidently Moran felt the same way as he suddenly lunged at Sherlock, forgetting he was handcuffed and Lestrade still had a grip on is restraints.

"Sit down," Lestrade growled and gave the cuffs he was holding a hard jerk that knocked Moran off his feet. "Now I'm calling for backup," he continued in a conversational tone to Sherlock. He yanked on the restraints again to get Moran up and moving toward the door already dialing his phone.

John slowing started to climb back to his feet when Sherlock reached down and took his arm to help.  "Are you all right," he asked quietly.

"Fine," John lied as his ribs complained. Seeing Sherlock continue to stare at him, John admitted, "Ribs hurt, might have cracked one this time." John started walking toward the door and wanted nothing more than a cab to take him back to the flat. "What about you?" he asked to deflect Sherlock's gaze.

"I'm fine, he missed both times," Sherlock said with a smile.  "Snipers only have a certain range they can cover from any one area.  I could estimate the range of his rifle based off the measurements of the photo of you in the envelope.  Once I knew where he was, it was a simple matter to stay just out of reach."  John heard the smug tone of voice and shook his head.  It never occurred to Sherlock that it was pure luck Moran had missed with the first shot.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John was sitting in the back of an ambulance when yet another police car arrived.  He watched as Sergeant Sally Donovan got out followed by Anderson and his forensics kit. Sally paused long enough to give John a piercing stare, then they both hurried into the warehouse. John's wicked grin at the surprise waiting for them both turned to a hiss as the paramedic probed as John's chest. 

"Yes, sir, I think you're right, it's cracked," the paramedic announced. "Good news is it doesn't feel fractured to me so I don't need to run you in for an X-ray."  The paramedic made some notes on his clipboard.  "You know the drill?" he asked glancing up at John.

John nodded. "Rest, deep breathing, pain meds," he replied.

The paramedic made a few more notes and said, "Let me just take a look at that dressing on your head and then you're free to go."

A few minutes later, John put his shirt back on and carefully stepped out of the back of the ambulance just as Sally came streaking back out of the warehouse and confronted John.  "So the freak isn't dead then," she said snarkily.  "I should have known."  Her face was red and blotchy as if she'd already been yelling at someone for several minutes.

John took a couple of steps away from Sally before he tried to answer.  He was sore and tired, he really didn't want to deal with Donovan's attitude at the moment.  "Sergeant Donovan, I was as surprised as you," he said moving another step away from her and toward the street. He hoped using her title instead of a casual use of her name would help her get the hint and leave him alone. 

Instead, she tried to close the distance between them only to find Sherlock standing in her way.  John didn't realize he had followed the sergeant out of the warehouse.  From Sally's reaction, she was just as surprised.

"As professional as ever I see," Sherlock said calmly his hands in the pockets of his coat. "What does yelling at John solve after Lestrade already told you and Anderson to drop the subject?" Sherlock's voice was becoming sharper and more clipped as he spoke to her.

Sally stepped back sputtering.  "Leave it to you to fake your own death," she sniped at Sherlock to get the last word and started to walk away.

"I think Inspector Lestrade is waiting for you inside, Donovan," Sherlock countered just to make sure he had final say and John could easily hear the bite in his tone now. Spinning around to face John and also dismiss Donovan, Sherlock said in a more companionable tone, "We're free to go, John.  We need to get back to the flat.  You look awful and I need to unpack my books and papers.  And what did you do with the rest of my equipment?"


Epilogue

Two days later, John was dozing on the sofa while Sherlock puttered on his laptop.  The sun was just starting to set when John heard the downstairs door open as he drifted in and out of sleep. He was just letting himself doze again when he realized no one was coming up the stairs.

Mrs Hudson was back from visiting her sister.

John sat up quickly and his face when white as much from the pain of the sudden movement as the realization the landlady didn't know Sherlock was back from the dead. 

"John, you're going to hurt yourself if you do that again," Sherlock drawled from his chair. 

"Sherlock, she's home." John took a deep breath and waited for the waves of pain to subside.

"So I gathered," Sherlock answered completely nonplussed.

"She's home and she doesn't know you're … not dead." John couldn't believe Sherlock wasn't getting this.

Sherlock put down his laptop and glanced at the door.  "She will know soon enough. She's coming up here to regale you with stories of her trip."

John carefully stood up from the sofa and waited  He tried to stand straight and not curl protectively around the cracked rib.  He wasn't sure what sort of reaction he could expect from their usually unflappable landlady, he just knew this was going to be a shock.

"Whoo who, John are you put here," Mrs Hudson called as she climbed the stairs.  She walked in the sitting room and stopped. She turned from John's hunched over stance to Sherlock both now standing silently watching her reaction. 

"Oh … oh my dear boy," she said softly and John could see tears in her eyes as she moved toward Sherlock and hugged him.  John watched a surprised look skate across Sherlock's face before he returned the hug.

John grinned as she then stood back from the hug and slapped him in the arm.  "Oh how could you do that to us, Sherlock? Thinking you were dead and gone all this time." She wiped her eyes on a handkerchief. 

Seeing John's smile, she turned on him, "And how long have you known about this, John Watson? You couldn't phone me and let me know?"  She moved over to the sofa and John could see she was ready to hit him as well when she stopped short. "What's the matter with you, John?" she asked her voice changing from mock anger to concern.

"It's nothing, Mrs Hudson, just a cracked rib." John did his best to sound his usual self.

"A cracked rib, another two bruised and a gunshot wound to be precise," Sherlock added helpfully.

Mrs Hudson gasped and immediately started fussing. John glared daggers at his flatmate as Sherlock ignored him.

"When did this happened," she asked trying to force John back onto the sofa.

"A few days ago," John confessed sitting down again.  "Really, Mrs Hudson, I'm fine, you don't need to worry about anything."

Mrs Hudson stepped back and John could see tears again. 

"John, you made Mrs Hudson cry," Sherlock accused coming up behind the landlady and he let her hug him again.

"Me? You … oh I give up." John leaned back on the sofa crossing his arms over his chest.

Mrs Hudson blotted her eyes again and said, "We need to do something special to celebrate, a nice dinner out I think." She bustled off muttering about changing her dress.

John sat on the sofa and stared at the corner of the fireplace.  There was still one question left and he wasn't sure what he wanted the answer to be. 

"Spit it out, John," Sherlock said.  "It's obvious you've been worrying at something for the past day and a half.  Shall I ask it for you?"  Sherlock sat on the table in front of the sofa. 

"What now?" John finally said. "Moriarty is dead.  Moran is in custody.  What now?"

"There's more to the criminal world than just Moriarty, John.  I'm sure a city like London can come up with all sorts of interesting problems in need of a consulting detective."

"So, you're a consulting detective again.  Just like that."

"I've never stopped."  Sherlock stood and waited for John to join him by the door.

"Are you still willing come along?" Sherlock asked handing John his coat.

John smiled. "Whenever and wherever you like."

FIN









Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 March 2012 )
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