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The rain was persistently falling on his face. Fat, heavy drops, choking him in the sharpness of the mountain air.

What a dream had he seen! Exciting and whimsical, so much more fragrant than life.

He coughed. A twinge of pain at the back of his head. A dream…? He thought. Was it truly a dream he saw?

No. That must be wrong, for reality had always been better at coming up with the impossible. Nothing trumps the thrill of mundane miracles that colour our lives with such splendid shades of blood and disease. The most delicious treats were always waiting for him on the border of his dreams and reality, beckoning him into another form of insanity that nobody around him cared to understand.

His wrist was itching. His wrist was itching, and the man chained to him was spread out on the ground a few paces away, entirely motionless and quiet as midnight.

With aching limbs, he crawled towards Sherlock Holmes.

Then, he understood the noise. Then, he understood the fat raindrops too.

“Wretched man,” he commented, kneeling above him. “You wretched, wretched man.”

He lifted his free hand above his lips: Holmes was barely breathing. The ground under him was tinted ever so slightly darker than anywhere else.

Something was too peaceful about Holmes’s face, such peace when Death pays an early visit and lulls its undeserving victims to an endless slumber.

“Wretched man,” Moriarty repeated himself. “You steal my empire as your last bow, and think about stealing my final enjoyment too? Yesterday you were better off dead, but today you must live.”

Moriarty looked around. In the deafening curtain of the waterfall, no man’s cries would carry. Below them, an inferno was foaming, hungry for flesh. They could have fallen into the open mouth of hell, if it was not for what he must assume was blind chance.

Holmes’s cape was wet and clung to him heavily like molten iron.

With a sigh, Moriarty ripped the corner off and pressed the wet cloth to the side of the man’s head. When he removed it to check, blood barely tinted the garment. So, he was not leaving that fast, then.

A concussion? Maybe. Did this ruin that clever little head of his? That would be a shame.

The cold was biting into his bones, and he felt eaten. Turning his head around, he was looking for a way to escape from here before the sun would go down.

Holmes moved his head to the side and his eyes fluttered open for a second.

“There you are,” Moriarty purred. “No! Do not move. You hit your head very hard. I said do not move.”

As Holmes did not seem to cooperate, he had no other choice but to pin him down to the ground, with more effort than he thought he would need to exert. Holmes was now looking up at him, deciding whether he would need to fight for his life for the second time today. Moriarty’s thighs kept him securely in place.

“Relax,” Moriarty told him, answering to the look in his eyes. “I do not need you dead yet. Not now that you thieved all my fun.”

“Get off me.”

Moriarty rolled his eyes and repeated in a mocking tone. “Get off me? No way. You must stay still.”

He watched the thoughts crossing Holmes’s mind, fiercely but without any of the usual panic he was used to seeing. The cold was now making his lips tremble to the point where smiling was difficult.

Man wants to live the most when he lost everything because the thrill of getting it all back makes his blood flow more than anything else. Now here they were, having lost it all. Nobody could prove that it was not only the two of them in the whole world. Yet, he was still cold.

Holmes was exceptionally docile under him, which made him think. He always liked to misbehave, fiddle with plans, show off, only to prove that he was the smartest child of the bunch, as if overeagerness bore love and not disdain.

“Do you know your name?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

“Do you know mine?” Holmes’s lips twitched ever so slightly. “I’ll take that as the right answer. Do you know how we got here?”

“Irene…”

Moriarty shook his head and rattled his chains. “No. You.”

He might have been angry earlier, but Holmes was right to kill the both of them. What would they do without each other? Win!? Winning without raising the stakes higher and higher each time meant nothing. It was just a fancy position to be stagnant in.

No. Once he experienced this, he knew he could never go back to the tedium he called life before. Winning is nothing against these cockroaches. He never wanted stardom before he met Sherlock Holmes. Until then, he was comfortable enveloped in his spider web, pulling all the strings from the shadows.

“You are cunning,” he said, rattling the chain again. “You’d only clasp this around my wrist, not yours.”

Holmes, although probably barely conscious, was still firmly holding onto the other end. His gaze glided across the chain, taking in the whole view.

“Grotesque; is what you called it,” Moriarty mused.

“Pardon?”

“Although you must be just as grotesque as I am.”

Holmes’s gaze also ran across the chains, then rested right in Moriarty’s eyes. He saw a question in there, and a throbbing headache from landing down here.

“What is the best way to get to know someone intimately?” He threw the chain across Holmes’s chest. “Be the only one who possesses them in the whole world.”

He twirled his wrist around as if he were showing off a new bracelet, and not the heavy handcuffs adorning it. Here’s him, being possessed by Holmes. What could be more exciting than this? A physical bridge between the two of them.

“If you died with your only match in dreams and intellect, you should be happy. That is what you thought. Pretty grotesque yourself.”

“I knew I had to make a sacrifice.”

“Sacrifice?! Don’t make me laugh. Living on without me should be the ultimate sacrifice you make on the altar of justice.”

He could feel Holmes’s body tense up under him, in protest. “I lived on fairly well before I met you.”

“But after? You should never be the same.”

What was there to deny? Great minds clash and the dust left behind is the glory that creates the rest of history. Jeanne Baptiste Greuze, discarded in his dark study. Only one thing left to care about…

“Get off me,” Holmes said again.

“I like it here. I should be happy if you do not move at all. Your head must be aching.”

Holmes nudged him slightly. “I will not ask again.”

But Moriarty was already grinning in anticipation, before even feeling the push that was coming his way. The next moment, Holmes was above him, the chains heavily falling between them, barely avoiding his face.

“Wretched man,” Moriarty said, but his lips curled into an indulgent grin.  

They kept rolling on the ground until the chains were constricting around them like an iron python, thinking only about the kill.

Moriarty exhaled with a teasing edge in his voice. “Genius. Now you truly made it our world only.”

There was nothing left to do in this world for him other than enjoying the place where some well-placed chains forced him to be.

Bringing death to half the town was worth the prize. They had been alone in industrious London as much as they were alone here, under a curtain of water that separated them from reality. He was close enough to feel Holmes’s heartbeats against his. Finally, he felt content with excitement. A first for him.

Here, he held no grudges and had no ambitions. The exact opposite of his private study at home, surrounded by the faces of people long gone. Empty moments before the final act unfolds were precious like those teardrop-shaped stars in the sky.

Maybe they should have spent more time together like this, at leisure, in the dislodged jaws of Death.

“I cannot let you live,” Holmes told him.

“Why, you stole my empire already.”

“You will rebuild, given the chance.”

Moriarty smiled at him. “How flattering. But I refuse to die without you.”

“Shall we then?” Holmes’s eyes were inviting. Sincere.

At this moment, he must have thought himself not a detective, but a self-proclaimed hero. It was almost adorable, as he put on these airs. Moriarty sang his answer.

“No, I changed my mind from earlier. I do not want you dead.” After a second of silence between them, he added. “And, I refuse to die without you. Should you have forgotten, you hit your head very hard. Do not make hasty decisions in this condition.”

Holmes gently untangled the two of them, but held his end of the chain firmly, although he met with no resistance. Now that they were apart from each other, their teeth started chattering from the cold. He replaced the ice with fire in his bones as he exhaled slowly.

“Tell me, Holmes, what did you think about my letter?”

“It was of bad taste,” Holmes answered, forcing a stoic tone on himself.

That surely sparked the fire. He turned towards the man. “So you liked it? Did your heart skip a beat?”

Holmes’s gaze wandered from his grin to the chains, then back at Moriarty.

“No.”

“How disappointing. I imagined it would.” He tilted his head. “I thought, what a beautiful message: I see you. I know what you hide in the depths of your heart, more than anyone else in this world. And… I also very much would like you to stop.”

Holmes pressed the corner of his lips into a weak grimace.

“For a moment, I did think killing you for that would change anything. Then, I realized the mistake on my side.”

He watched the emotions lurk and change in the corner of his mouth and the black of his eyes.

“Some emotions are splendid, you must admit.” Holmes raised an eyebrow. “… the ones I invoke.”

“Feelings have quality, not all are of equal standing."

But they were. No matter which way, if a person has the ability to move your heart, they also have the ability to hold it between their palm and fingers until it beats no more.

Holmes thought he could deny his own heart and it would dance on his command. But that is where Moriarty knew he was better. Refuse what your heart desires and when the point of no return comes, it will twirl you around like a marionette. But live to the whims of your heart and once you find the greatest match there is, nothing will stop you from soaring the sky. The lack of denial liberated him from the chains of shame and useless self-restraint.

Now that he found someone worthy to soar the sky with, he wanted to live more than ever.

“I see you know plenty about that,” Moriarty teased.

“Why, would you consider yourself a connoisseur?”

He tilted his head as an answer.

“I happened to hear a word that you were not the most ideal lover.”

Moriarty’s lips twisted into a smile. “Gosh, this Irene Adler will say anything to make others feel pity for her, will she not? She fell for me, honest mistake. But her mistake, nonetheless.”

But Irene was not here. What she said, spun up from thin air, also did not matter. 

“Were you not lovers?”

He stared at Holmes’s face for a while, reading beyond the question itself. What is it he wanted to know? There were so many answers.

“What does it change if that is how we knew each other. Do you feel left out? … Irrelevant?”

Holmes did not answer, only pulled his chin inwards, which was the most pleasing reply he could have ever given. Was a smart man as Holmes himself truly in the prison of self-denial? No matter what airs he put on, in the end, he wanted to possess, all the same. And hearts too, of all things!

“You really loved that thing, didn’t you?”

“Thing?”

He pretended to think for a moment, for the effect. “Miss Faulkner.”

“Thing…” Holmes repeated again, tasting the word in his mouth.

“Was she brilliant like you? Was she a simpleton like your doctor? Did you like that she was hanging on your every word like you were some kind of a god?” Holmes tried to avoid any expression, but his face betrayed him. “Oh, she did. You get excited when people fawn over you like that.”

“I do not.”

Moriarty rolled his eyes. “I am grateful to my brother, for building me this empire, so I can have my queer little fun. The queer little fun he would never understand. But when I look at him, he built it out of convenience not out of love. Or worship.”

He could read the question in Holmes’s eyes. Why, does it matter to you at all then, who loves you and who doesn’t? Was not trying to rule the world of crime fulfilling enough?

“I suppose it is not beyond me to wish for someone who I can see eye to eye with.”

The cold turned Holmes's lips pale, as he was wandering in the reserves of his mind, trying to come up with the right answer. That made him want to laugh. All this time, they had been finding the best ways to impress one another, when being here, like this, should feel like the most natural thing in the whole world. No restraints. No showing off.

Why was the situation still so riddled with the need to look perfect? Whatever he thought must have already crossed Holmes’s mind. Hiding that would be so foolish, and so human. He bit a smile into his lower lip.

“But you know that too… Tell me, did you not enjoy our little contest? One day you were in bed, bored out of your mind, and the next, your head was spinning from all the most vicious crimes in the world, arriving at your doorstep.”

“It was the most stimulating, yes. The most stimulating days of my life,” Holmes finally admitted. Then, he looked down on the ground and his expression turned solemn. “I really cannot let you live.”

“Even if you would never be bored again, as the game would never end?”

Because the game would never end.”  

Moriarty nodded. Still trying to be the most excellent child of the bunch. What a terminal disease, trying to look something you are not, impressing the god of justice as if he even existed. He moved closer to Holmes, dragging the chains with him.

“We could have all the fun in the world.”

“We really cannot.”

That was confession enough.

Kneeling between his legs, he looked straight into Holmes’s eyes and let the seconds waste away there, unchecked. When he saw Holmes allowing the same thing to happen, he pressed forward just enough for their lips to graze. His lips were cold, and he did not move at all, but that never bothered him.

“Are you sure?” Moriarty asked, brushing their lips together as he spoke.

“I am sure,” came the answer, but Holmes did not bother to move away.

He kissed him now, but not with the gentleness he previously had until he had two hands secured on his waist, pulling him closer, giving in. That was the most delicious feeling in the world.

“Well giving me a little more time cannot hurt,” Moriarty purred, and did not leave space for an answer.

It was just a minute. Maybe an hour. He let it happen the way he imagined it, that first time they met in his study. That time he was right for not killing Holmes. He knew that the world, including the detective, could not run away from him anyway. A shame they would have to wait until they can do this again.

Lifting the chains above them, he threw his arms around Holmes’s neck, pulling him in.

Maybe Holmes was a liar. Or perhaps even the greatest detectives have a blind spot while enjoying an illicit kiss too much. The way the handcuff hit the back of his head was quick but precise, bordering on heartless.

“You will be sleeping for a while,” Moriarty said, as he laid him down on the ground. “I told you, I refuse to die. But, thank you for forgetting your own handcuff, you made this much easier.”

He stole one last kiss from his cold lips, before taking his leave. It would be a shame if Holmes had to forget this lovely moment they shared. 

The sun was sinking down with an orange tint in the clouds, as he watched the sky and dropped his chains deep into the hungry jaws of the inferno below them.

Not a soul was around anymore. The cool May wind felt freezing as it hit his damp clothes, urging him to leave. It might take a little while, but just like tedium, broken thumbs heal before the year ends.