Rose finished washing the last of the dishes and setting them on the drying rack when someone knocked on her door. Moriarty? No, he wouldn't knock. She crossed the living room and opened the door.
"Chinese?" John asked, sporting a wide grin as he held up two bags of takeout. Sherlock stood behind him.
"Sounds great," she said, giving him a smile in return.
She stepped aside and he entered, followed by the consulting detective. She was glad she'd rearranged the furniture in the living room before starting on the rest of the flat.
"Nice," John commented as he sat down on the blue overstuffed sofa. "Oh," he bounced a couple times, "comfy."
Sherlock flopped down in the armchair while John began laying out the takeout cartons.
"We weren't sure what you liked so we got a bit of everything," John said.
"It looks great. I'll grab some plates," she said.
She walked into the kitchen, opened the cupboard, and pulled out three plates. She hadn't been expecting the company, but she was grateful. Back on Pete's World she had friends, but she hadn't spent a lot of time with them since James died because they weren't just her friends, they'd been his too and she didn't want to be reminded about that day.
"John chose a bit of everything. I ordered the sweet and sour chicken and fried rice," Sherlock said.
"I love sweet and sour chicken," Rose exclaimed as she walked back in the room, just in time to see the smug smile on Sherlock's face as he eyed John. "But pork's great too and Chow Mein, you did get Chow Mein didn't you?"
"Of course," John replied, pulling out a carton while eyeing his friend.
She handed out plates and when Sherlock seemed about to refuse one she caught his eye.
"Do we have to go over this again?" she asked in that voice that used to make The Doctor tell her she sounded like her mum.
He scowled, but took the plate without arguing and began picking through the cartons. John just stared at him until Sherlock finally became irritated.
"What?" he snapped.
"It's just…I usually have to threaten to hide both laptops and your violin before you'll eat anything, at least, anything that isn't cakes. What does she have on you?" John asked.
John turned to Rose. "No, seriously, what do you have on him because I might be able to use it."
"I told him if he didn't eat I'd force feed him. We were sitting at a window booth at the time."
John burst out laughing, nearly dropping his plate.
"Oh, shut up, John," Sherlock snapped.
"I…I…" tears rolled down his cheeks.
Rose couldn't help joining in.
"John!" Sherlock insisted, but John continued to laugh.
"It's not that funny!"
"Yes," John said when he could finally form words. "It really is."
He wiped his eyes.
"Are you two quite finished?"
"Yeah, sorry," Rose apologized, even though she was still smiling.
She busied herself by filling her plate.
"So, how's the case going?" she asked.
"Case?" Sherlock inquired.
"Are you kidding? He had it solved before I got to the auction house. Probably only took him five minutes to figure out what happened," John said.
"Four minutes thirty-six second," Sherlock supplied.
"The painting wasn't actually stolen," Sherlock explained.
"It wasn't?" she asked.
"Never left the auction house."
"So, they misplaced it?"
"No, it would've been sold, but for a lot less than its actual value."
"Someone had wrapped the canvas of another painting, a less valuable painting, around the stolen one," John supplied.
"So the less valuable painting is sold, all legal like, and some time later they accidentally discover the stolen painting."
"Precisely. If the painting wasn't sold on the black market," Sherlock explained, sitting back with a satisfied smile on his face.
"Did you catch whoever did it?"
"Of course," Sherlock said, as if that should've been obvious.
"It was the owner's daughter and her boyfriend," John said. "He was her alibi, but because he didn't have any ties to the auction house they might've gotten away with it."
"Serves them right, peppermint licorice tea. Who drinks that?" Sherlock asked.
John gave a revolted shiver.
"No one I know." At Rose's questioning gaze he added, "There were traces of it on the canvas."
"All that in four minutes thirty-six seconds?" she asked. "Impressive."
She allowed the smug smile. After all, he recovered a stolen painting in less than five minutes. If anything deserved a smug smile it was that.
They ate in silence for a bit before Rose decided she better let them know about her little run in. She knew if she didn't say anything Sherlock was bound to figure it out eventually and she didn't want them to think she was keeping things from them.
"So, I met your…friend?...no, he's definitely not your friend, but nemesis sounds a bit superhero-ish, don't you think?" she inquired.
"Moriarty?" John and Sherlock asked in unison as they both nearly bolted up.
"Whoa," she said, trying to calm them down. She expected some kind of reaching, but not in the rushing to arms sort of way. "He's not in the room. Honestly." They settled back down. John was looking at her as if she might have some injury he hadn't assessed. Sherlock, on the other hand, was giving her the same look the Doctor got when he didn't want anyone to know what he was thinking. "I'm still here, see? Completely fine."
"Are you sure?" John asked.
"Yes. I'm fine. Really."
"What happened?" Sherlock asked in that calculating tone he got when he was trying not to betray any emotion.
"I ran into him when I was at the market, which, I know, wasn't an accident, but I'd seen him ahead of time so he didn't surprise me. First he pretended to have seen me at that restaurant with you, but then, I don't know, I think he must have realized that I knew who he was or, maybe he got board, but he basically told me he knew where I lived and that he'd been watching me."
"Watching you?" John asked.
"I already knew that. How else would he know where I was?"
"What else did he say?" Sherlock asked.
"Ms. Tyler," he insisted.
She rolled her eyes.
"Just the usual threatening to kill me sort of thing, but he was just trying to scare me."
"You don't know what he's capable of," John said.
"Between what the two of you told me I know exactly what he's capable of."
"And that doesn't frighten you?" Sherlock asked.
"Of course it scares me. I'd be an idiot if it didn't, but I'm not going to let him intimidate me. Moriarty might be a crazy psychopath, but in the end he's just a man. Believe me, I've faced worse."
"I believe you have," Sherlock replied in that voice that told her he'd figured something out.
"All right, that tears it," John said, tossing his napkin on the table. "Get your things. You're staying with us."
"I'm not going to let anyone make me leave my own place," she argued.
"Fine," he turned to Sherlock, "grab my things I'm staying here. Are you in?"
"John," she said, putting her hand on his arm. "I don't need you two protecting me. I can take care of myself."
"Maybe, maybe not. I'm not taking that chance."
"I have my sonic. If anyone comes in with a gun I can disarm them."
"Now, look-" John began, but was interrupted when Rose's phone chimed.
A text? Who would be texting her? Who could? She hadn't given her number to anyone yet. Whoever it was had to have mistyped the number, but she reached into her pocket out of curiosity.
"That's new," Sherlock commented.
"Yeah, there was something wrong with my other one," she replied, not wanting to get into the real reason she had to replace her phone, before reading the text.
You for his brother.
The Market 10:15
Jim Moriarty x.
The Market? He must be talking about the market where she ran into him. His brother? Whose…Sherlock. She glanced at the consulting detective. He was staring at her…no reading her. Observing. Damn!
"Who's that?" John asked.
"Oh, um…wrong number," she replied, stuffing her phone back in her pocket before John could see the text.
Moriarty was holding Mycroft. Sherlock's brother might be a pompous git, but he was her friend's brother, and family, even overbearing, overprotective brothers were still important.
Moriarty wasn't going to kill her. He could've done that already, but she wasn't quite sure why he wanted to trade her for Mycroft. The only thing she did know for sure was that she couldn't let John or Sherlock find out what she was about to do.
"Wrong number? On a new phone?" Sherlock asked.
"They probably typed the number in wrong," she said, shrugging the question off.
It was nine forty. The market wasn't too far off. It'd only take about twenty minutes to get there, less if she ran the entire way, but she didn't want to wait till the last minute. She had to get out of her flat, but after telling them about her run in with Moriarty it was pretty clear that John wouldn't want her to leave on her own.
"I understand that you don't want anyone to run you out of your place," John said, picking up where he left off before her phone interrupted him. "But if Moriarty's watching you then he might be targeting you. He did have someone take that picture of the two of you."
"I know you're worried, John, but I really don't think he's targeting me," she said.
She had a sudden thought to agree with him. Tell him she'd stay at their place, get them out the door, and then sneak out somehow, but Sherlock was still looking at her as if he was trying to figure out what was going on. She knew there was no way he'd believe she suddenly changed her mind. She almost sighed, but caught herself.
"Why else would he have accidentally run into you at the market?" He turned to his friend. "Sherlock? Help me out here."
"Wrong number?" Sherlock asked.
She almost rolled her eyes. He knew something was wrong. That she was hiding something and he wasn't about to let it go. She had to think of something and quick.
"People do get wrong numbers," she replied, trying to sound a bit irritated, but not in the I'm-hiding-something sort of way.
"Not often in message form."
"I've gotten one," John said and she could've kissed him.
"Really?" Sherlock asked.
"Yes, something about picking my dog up."
"You haven't got a dog."
"That's how I knew it was a wrong number."
"You boys can keep talking about wrong numbers if you want, but I'm going to go change."
"Change?" Sherlock asked.
"It's nearly ten and I was planning on going to bed early tonight. John, if you're going to insist on staying over you might want to bring a pillow down. I forgot to buy extras. I wasn't exactly planning on having anyone over," she said and then stood up.
"Okay. Right. I'll be back in a minute then," John said, standing up.
She could feel Sherlock watching her as she walked into her room and closed the door. She leaned her back against the closed door. He knew something was going on. It was only a matter of time, and probably not much, before he figured out who the text was from. She hated lying to them, but it was the only way she was going to save Mycroft and she'd already figured out that for all of Sherlock's talk he really did care about the people in his life.
She pulled her sonic out, pointed it at the door handle and pushed the button. Even with Sherlock's lock picking skills, something John told her about last night, he wouldn't be able to unlock that door. Of course if she made it home she'd probably find her bedroom door off its hinges, but some things couldn't be helped.
The basement window was small. She wasn't even sure if she'd fit. There was only one way to find out. She grabbed the side table, sat it under the window, climbed up, and opened the window. Then she grabbed the sill and pulled herself up. She wriggled through the opening. It was tight, but she finally managed to half wriggle, half crawl out of the window.
She stood up and bolted down the street, knowing that it wouldn't be long before Sherlock and John figured out that she was gone. She only hoped they would be able to forgive her, that is, if she ever made it back to her flat.
Thank you to all my brilliant readers!
If you have time reviews are always welcome. :)