“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,
and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay
Author note: Part 5 of the "No Heart For Me Like Yours" series. This story contains quite a few spoilers for the rest of the series, so it would probably make much more sense to read the series in order, as it tells how John and Sherlock got to this point.
This chapter could not have been written without the help of two marvelous fic writers, abundantlyqueer and AfroGeekGoddess. Thank you both so much for your ideas and feedback on the character of Moran and his backstory. You are both amazing.
Enormous thanks to my incomparable beta reader/editor/mentor/friend, Skyfullofstars. I can’t believe how much time and effort you put into encouraging me, despite everything going on in your life. You are the best.
Disclaimers: Sherlock belongs to Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock Holmes originally belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I own nothing. This makes me very, very sad.
Warnings: Sherlock/John. Slash, slash, somewhat graphic slash. Major, major spoilers for Season 2.
Trigger warnings: Suicidal ideation; references to previous abusive relationship, non-con, sexual assault.Please read and review!
Chapter 12: Shine Through Tears
“Just as hope rings through laughter, it can also shine through tears.”
― Maya Angelou
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to persuade Mrs. Hudson to pack a small bag and join us. All I need to do is tell her (in whispers) that there is imminent threat from a sniper, and Sherlock and I want her to come with us to keep her safe. I explain the surveillance situation, and our cover story of a night out. She immediately begins gathering things into an overnight bag. I leave her to it, and dash back upstairs.
As I step back into the flat, Sherlock comes out of the bedroom, his posh leather hold-all in his hand. For a moment, I can’t seem to get enough air. He’s wearing the purple shirt and jeans, along with a supple, black leather jacket and a pair of black brogues, and he just looks so gorgeous, so…Sherlock. If he weren’t still sporting those ginger locks, I’d have a hard time believing he was ever gone.
He steps forward, closing the distance between us. He raises a hand to my face, tentatively cupping my jaw in his palm. His eyes are focused steadily on mine.
His voice is a bit unsteady. He’s asking so many things with that one word; forgiveness, readiness, permission to kiss me. Without breaking eye contact, I nod once. He closes the distance between us, and his lips meet mine.
His lips are so soft, so warm against my own. I sink into the kiss, and feel Sherlock’s arms slipping around my waist to pull me closer. As my hands slide up his back, I open my lips in response to the tongue that strokes along them. Sherlock’s body is so solid and strong, despite his too-prominent ribs, and it feels amazing against mine. We deepen the kiss, tongues sliding and twining, arms pulling each other closer, tighter. The whole world could fall away right now, and we’d never notice…
Okay. We might notice.
We break the kiss, and Sherlock, without looking away from me, growls, “Go away, Mrs. Hudson.”
“Sherlock!” Mrs. Hudson and I both speak at once, in the same scolding tone.
He looks back and forth between us, then mutters, “My apologies. I meant; could you please give us a few more minutes, Mrs. Hudson?”
Her expression softens a bit, but she merely remarks, tartly, “The car is here. I thought you two were taking me out for the evening.”
“We are,” he sighs, releasing me and picking up his hold-all again, “and we should hurry, if we want to beat the evening rush.”
The three of us descend the stairs. As Mrs. Hudson and I are shrugging into our coats, Sherlock suddenly gasps, “Oh!” and makes a grab for the shabby anorak that he wore in Dartmoor.
“Sherlock, really, you’re already wearing a jacket, and a much nicer one than that tatty old thing,” scolds Mrs. Hudson.
“I just need some things from the pockets,” mutters Sherlock, as he begins to transfer bits of paper, his magnifier, a small drawstring pouch, half a dozen zip ties, his lockpick kit, a pair of nitrile gloves, and several other small items into the pockets of his leather jacket.
This small task completed to his satisfaction, Sherlock pulls out his mobile and sends a text. A moment later the text alert chimes, and he regards his phone with a mixture of irritation and satisfaction.
“Mycroft’s agents are giving the all-clear – all possible vantage points for a sniper to target the front door are secure at this time. We should move quickly, regardless.”
So saying, he opens the door and hustles the three of us into the waiting black car, Mrs. Hudson in front with the driver, and Sherlock and I in back with Mycroft’s assistant.
“Anthea” reluctantly raises her chocolate-brown eyes from her Blackberry long enough to give us a small nod and an even smaller smile. Sherlock rolls his eyes in return.
“What location has my overbearing prat of a brother chosen for our retreat?” he asks.
“A safehouse in Knightsbridge.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow at her, and he growls, “Whose safehouse, exactly?”
“Why do you bother asking questions when you already know the answers, Mr. Holmes?” she replies, with a cool smirk.
“That insufferable arse,” Sherlock grumbles.
Everyone is silent for a bit. Finally, I can’t stand the silence any longer, and I decide to ask a question that has bugged me since the first day I met Mycroft’s insufferable assistant.
“So, ‘Anthea,’ may I just ask – what is your real name?”
Her eyebrow lifts to an amazing height.
“Why on earth do you ask?”
“Because you told me, the day we first met, that your name was Anthea, and the way you said it…it just didn’t sound real. When I asked if it was, you said no.” I shift to turn a little toward her. “If we are trusting you with our lives, then it would be nice to know your real name.”
An actual smile, albeit still a smug one, appears on her face. She should really smile more – it makes her appear much more human.
“My real name…is Anthea.”
I sag back against the seat in irritation, and she reaches out to pat my hand.
“It actually is Anthea, Doctor Watson. Anthea Elizabeth. Always has been.” Her lovely smile widens, and I find myself smiling in response.
Suddenly long, artistic fingers aggressively twine with mine, and Sherlock shoots a possessive glare at Anthea. I can’t help but laugh out loud as I squeeze the hand of my mad, jealous boyfriend.
The car stops in front of a gorgeous row of terraced houses in Knightsbridge. The driver opens the door for Mrs. Hudson, then the back door for us. We are urged indoors by an agent in an extremely well-tailored suit. He gestures us into a beautifully-appointed drawing room, where we sit down. He disappears toward the back of the house. I take the opportunity to gaze around at the tasteful surroundings.
God, even the furniture gives off an air of self-satisfaction.
Which is why it shouldn’t surprise me at all when Mycroft strolls in.
“Ah, Mrs. Hudson, how do you do?” Mycroft bends over her hand in a courtly gesture. She smiles politely, but the expression on her face is certainly nothing like the pleased one she gives to Sherlock on the rare occasions that he hugs her. It is quite clear which Holmes brother is her favorite.
Mycroft turns to me.
“And Doctor Watson, so nice to see you,” he says, with a supercilious smile. “I trust you are enjoying the return of the prodigal? Bit of a surprise, wasn’t it?” There is a humming ring in my ears, and I feel myself clenching up.
Abruptly, Mycroft is reeling backward, and my knuckles are burning.
Christ, I just punched the British Government.
Mycroft regains his balance, and with astonishing composure, massages his jaw. He gently brushes off Mrs. Hudson’s concerned exclamation, then remarks, “You have a remarkable left hook, John. In the future, if you need a sparring partner, might I suggest your lover? My brother was awarded the Full Blue for boxing at Cambridge.”
“Shut up, Mycroft,” snarls Sherlock. The brothers lock eyes in a steely duel of pale irises. Mycroft looks away first.
I finally recover my ability to speak.
“Both of you, shut up,” I snap at them. They turn to me with identical amazed expressions. I would laugh at the resemblance, but I’m still in shock at my own loss of control.
“Mycroft, at some point you and I are going to have a discussion about the ethics of letting someone grieve needlessly, when you have the power to stop that grief.” His eyebrows arch, but I continue, “However, there is a more imminent threat that we need to focus on at the moment. I need time to discuss strategy with Sherlock – alone. I imagine Mrs. Hudson would like to settle in, as well.”
Mycroft steps back with a smooth beckoning gesture.
“Quite right. Mrs. Hudson, you’ll be in the other bedroom on the first floor, beside mine. John and Sherlock, you will be right upstairs. There are two bedrooms – make what sleeping arrangements you like.” He escorts us all toward the elegant staircase.
“Why are you staying here as well, Mycroft?” I ask, feeling irritated that he’s insinuating himself into the situation.
“It’s my house, John – I live here,” he replies smoothly.
To my surprise, my bag from the trip to Dartmoor has been retrieved from the hire car, and waits on the landing of the top floor of Mycroft’s enormous home, alongside Sherlock’s violin and rucksack. It’s a relief – I hadn’t thought to ask to stop at my bedsitter for a change of clothes.
Sherlock and I stand facing each other on the landing. Neither of us is willing to be the first to broach the bedroom situation. Do we share? Should we sleep apart?
Can I bear to be apart from him, even now? Especially now? And yet…I need time to sort out my feelings, and sharing a bed will be too tempting.
Apart it is.
Sherlock is fidgeting with something in his pocket, which seems to have become a nervous tic for him.
“John – thank you for not punching me like that,” he murmurs, looking down at his feet. “I know you must have felt the impulse to do so.”
“Sherlock,” I say, reaching for his hand, “I couldn’t have punched you, no matter how much part of me wanted to.”
“Why? You’ve punched me before,” he objects. “When we were on our way to meet Irene Adler, you punched me spectacularly hard, in fact.”
I flush, remembering Miss Adler’s comment about the placement of the punch. “Somebody loves you…if I had to punch that face, I’d avoid the nose and teeth, too.” She recognised my feelings for Sherlock before I did.
“We were just friends and flatmates then, Sherlock. A romantic partner is different. I hope I will always have enough self-restraint to resist domestic violence.”
Sherlock flashes me one of his rare, crooked smiles. “Always the chivalrous one, John.”
“Shut it, you wanker.” I turn to pick up my bag. “Shall we investigate the room situation? And then we need to get down to business. We have a psychopath to capture.”
Sherlock picks up his rucksack and violin case, juggling a bit to hold them along with the leather hold-all he’s already carrying.
“Whatever you say, Captain Watson.”
The larger of the two bedrooms has a cosy pair of armchairs in front of the fireplace. After depositing our bags in the two rooms (with a mournful look from Sherlock when I informed him that we were sleeping separately), we sit together before the fire. The fireplace has been adapted for gas logs, and a cheerful blaze jumps to life at the touch of a switch.
“This is lovely,” I sigh, as I stretch my feet out toward the flames. “I wonder if Mrs. Hudson would let us fit our fireplace for gas? It would save us humping buckets of ash down to the bins.”
“A natural fire is much warmer and more aesthetically pleasing,” he replies. “It’s worth the extra effort.”
“How the hell would you know?” I snap. “I do all the work. God forbid that you should ever clean the fireplace – I’ll bet you don’t even know how.”
Sherlock shifts irritably in his chair.
“Are you ready to tell me about Moran?” he asks, changing the topic.
“I thought you were going to tell me about him! You’re the one who has all of the information.”
“No, no, no, John – are you ready to tell me why you reacted like you did to my mention of his name?”
“He’s…he’s the reason I became a combat medic,” I explain. “In fact, you could say that he’s the reason I was in a position to get shot.”
That certainly gets his attention.
I start to explain to Sherlock about the Afghan family that Moran shot down, but he shrugs that information off as inconsequential.
“I already know the reason for his dishonorable discharge and murder charges, John. It doesn’t explain any link to you.”
“It would if you’d listen, you impatient git. I had a surgical patient, a little girl who was gut-shot by a British sniper. I lost her on the table. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I felt like I had to do more than just sit and wait for patients to come to me. So I requested a transfer to working on the front line as a combat medic.”
Sherlock is staring at me, those silver eyes glittering with intensity.
“So, wasn’t he court-martialed?” I ask. “There’s no way they let him off without a mandatory life sentence.”
“No, he disappeared. You were hardly going to see that story make it to the press – they would have been baying for blood.”
“Let me guess – Dear Jim, please fix it for me to avoid several consecutive life sentences.”
“Something like that, yes. Moran’s his own man, however. It would be a major error to think of him as Moriarty’s lackey.”
Sherlock sinks further back into his amazingly plush armchair, steepling his fingers together under his chin.
“You’ve always insisted that I’m not a sociopath, John. However…”
“You’re not a sociopath, and there’s no such thing as a sociopath anymore,” I interrupt him. “It’s an outdated term, and quite vague. We’ve had this discussion a million times, Sherlock…”
“…However,” Sherlock repeats, sharply, “sociopathy, psychopathy, antisocial or borderline personality disorders – call it whatever you like, it’s an apt description of Sebastian Moran. The man has no sense of empathy or compassion for others, and will manipulate anyone and everyone to achieve his own personal gain. He’s the perfect assassin for someone like Moriarty.”
“If he’s only out for his own gain, then why is he still hunting you? If Moriarty’s dead, he won’t be paid.” I pause to think about it, then ask, “Oh – were he and Moriarty very close? Is that why he’s still pursuing you?”
“Close to Moriarty? Hardly.” Sherlock snorts. “There’s only one person in the world that Moran is close to; his spotter, Ronald Adair. As a marksman, you probably know more about the partnership between a sniper and his spotter than I do. Adair is the only person Moran lets inside, and even that relationship is based on mutual advantage rather than sentiment.”
“So why is he still pursuing you?”
“Moran knows that I know he’s out there, available for hire. He’s simply looking out for his own self-interest now. Moran worked for Moriarty because he liked the lifestyle that Moriarty provided, not out of any sort of loyalty. He’s extremely dangerous, possibly as dangerous as Moriarty, for different reasons. Moriarty was unpredictably insane, but Moran – well, Moran is as ruthless and cold as a crocodile.”
“Then it sounds like we need to remove him from the criminal population,” I remark. Sherlock offers a wolfish grin in reply.
Sherlock has gone downstairs to talk to Mycroft. I can’t stomach seeing Mycroft yet, so I remain in my room upstairs. I grab my laptop and begin a search for Sebastian Moran. Despite the news stories about the murders he committed in Afghanistan, there isn’t much background on him.
Let’s see… third-generation British Nigerian… raised in a life of upper-class privilege … parents both extremely successful, wealthy professionals… attended officer training at Sandhurst… renowned for his marksmanship in the army… drafted into the SRR as a sniper.
Special Forces doesn’t exactly broadcast information about its officers, so there isn’t much information beyond that point.
And then I find an article listing the names of his victims, accompanied by a photo:
UK soldier faces war crimes trial
Colonel Sebastian Moran, a British soldier, is facing war crimes charges as well as criminal charges in connection with the deaths of Akhoond Mirwais Jan Wazir, an Afghan religious leader, his wife, Shaista Wazir, and their children; Aisha Wazir, age 6, Mohammad Wazir, 5, Senzela Wazir, 3, and Mirwais Wazir, 2.
Moran is from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment of the United Kingdom Special Forces. He is the most senior officer to be charged with an offence during the military action in Afghanistan.
The murder charges faced by Moran were brought under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and will be tried as war crimes. Moran will be tried by British court martial, not at The Hague.
I gaze at the photo of Moran that was used with the news articles, of Moran when he was promoted to colonel. Aesthetically, he’s a handsome man, with very dark, almost ebony skin, almond-shaped eyes set beneath strong, arched brows, a broad nose, high cheekbones, and a strong, determined jawline. However, the focused, steely gaze in his photo makes him look every bit as dangerous as Sherlock described. I shudder at the utter ruthlessness in his unsmiling expression. Moran looks like an incredibly dangerous man, as cold and coiled as a snake.
I didn’t know the name of the little girl when I tried and failed to save her in that operating room. I only knew a tiny bit about the circumstances of her shooting, and the massacre of her family. The news stories I saw afterward were thin on details. At least I finally know her name: Aisha Wazir.
I want this maniac taken down, and I’ll be glad to be part of the team that does it. I want to do it for Sherlock, for Mrs. Hudson, for Lestrade, and for the countless others that will be lined up in his crosshairs in the future if I don’t.
But, most of all, I want to do it for little Aisha. I owe her that much.
Chapter 12 Author’s note: I borrowed the handsome face of the incredibly talented Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje for my Colonel Moran headcanon. Hopefully he won’t mind. He’s one of those skilled actors who can simply become the many different roles they play, and I could so easily picture him playing a cold, ruthless killer like Moran.