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The animal inside (1/3)

BBC Sherlock fic
Rating 15, angst, swearing, slash, implicit cruelty to rats 
Spoilers; none

Prompted from http://sherlockbbc-fic.livejournal.com/575.html?thread=374079#t374079, with John as virgin and Sherlock experienced.

Being a male virgin at 17 was statistically about average. Being one at 27 was unusual, but might be explained by strong religious principles or unusually late development. Being one at 37, thought John, made him a good case-study for a psychology journal. The fact that he was gay should not have changed the outcome significantly, not in 21st century London, anyhow. But he did, at least, have the partial excuse of the really crappy timing of his life.

He'd just started secondary school when the big AIDS scare had happened, all those adverts with 'Don't die of ignorance' in huge letters across them. Who'd have wanted to believe they were gay then? He'd spent so much of his adolescence and early twenties telling himself that if he could just find the right girl, a sympathetic girl, he would be able to do it with her, it wouldn't end in panicked disaster.

And when he had finally accepted what he was, well, not accepted, but at least diagnosed, there was still nothing he could do about it. Dared do about it. He did not want to take even a small chance of dying nastily of unusual opportunistic infections. He could list the six most common symptoms of AIDS, any medical student could, and he didn't want any of them. Even once people had learnt to protect themselves and the new drugs meant HIV was no longer a death sentence, there were still two huge barriers for him. He was a doctor, and they would not let surgeons with HIV operate. And he was a soldier and the army kicked you out if they found you were gay.

But of course, he was kidding himself that it had simply been these sensible, even rational, reasons that had kept him a virgin. He didn't want hedonism even if he was gay, since he was gay. He wanted someone he loved to sleep with, but he had somehow been born a gay without gaydar. The men he'd fallen hard for had all been straight, unbendably straight. And all the while John was involuntarily giving off waves of heterosexuality. How else to explain how he kept on having women fall for him?

Not all women, of course, he wasn't vain enough to believe that. But there were certain types of women to whom he was weirdly irresistible. The emotionally volatile, often frankly unstable girls at university, who had recognised instinctively his ability to reassure and care for people, but hadn't yet realised that you could separate sympathy from sex. And later the women who wanted to comfort him, have him tell them his sorrows. They could sense that something was going on inside him, even if none of the men he wanted could. But how could he tell these kind, patient women, who wanted to give him love and tenderness, that what he would really like was some good tips on seducing men? By the time it had dawned on him that he should ask Harry for that bit of advice, she was drinking too much to stay reliably silent. And he could not have stood the pity in Clara's eyes if she'd known that he was a virgin.

So even though they'd allowed gays in the military for ten years now, he hadn't come out. It would have been doubly hard to, once he'd perfected his camouflage. He'd become the hopeless idiot who lusted after women, but somehow always did something too crass or ridiculous at a key moment and turned them off. But that didn't worry his friends, because old John would always be up for it if you wanted a bawdy night out when you were on leave.

You could get away with doing, not doing, a lot of things if you were always just that bit more sober than your friends. And the point about prostitutes was that they were interested in money, not sex, and were prepared not to touch you, at least if you offered them enough. Though there had been that god-awful time in Bangkok...When he'd told the woman, girl almost, she'd offered to find him a ladyboy instead. For a moment he'd been tempted, but then he'd known not to. It would screw his mind up even further, he'd end up the world's first bisexual virgin.

And by then, of course, the war had started, and all thought of finding someone had left him. It was bad enough to see your comrades die and know about the grieving partners they'd left behind. How much worse to see your lover die, or know that your own death would destroy someone else's world? There was no room for that kind of sentiment now, not for him.

By the time he'd got back to London, it was too late for him. No, it had always been too late for him, he was going to be celibate for life. But it was survivable: he'd survived worse things. And when he died they wouldn't be able to tell from the autopsy what he was, what he was not. He was already automatically falling into the same old concealing pattern of unsuccessful relationships with women. The ones where he'd always somehow move just slowly or clumsily enough that she would get bored and dump him, before he slept with her. Failed to sleep with her.


It would have been OK, well, survivable, if he hadn't met and fallen in love with a man who wasn't straight. Unfortunately, Sherlock wasn't gay either. John had been so conscious of hashing up his side of the conversation at Angelo's that he hadn't really taken in the full implications of Sherlock's comments then. He'd even briefly kidded himself that if he could just work out the right moves to make, he might be able to seduce Sherlock. But he'd been an idiot, he realised now, anyone but an idiot would have picked up on the signs that Sherlock was celibate too. Only he was happy about it.

At least Sherlock was an equal opportunities asexual: as prepared not to sleep with men as with women. For a time, John had indulged himself a little: occasionally, he looked at Sherlock for a little too long, or collapsed laughing against him, or stumbled against him when he was tired enough to make such a slip seem plausible. Sherlock wouldn't get turned on, so it needn't get out of hand. He probably wouldn't even notice.

Except that morning, John had pushed it too far. When they'd just come home and got into the hallway, Sherlock had suddenly grabbed John and started dancing around, yelling something about having worked out now how the butter proved that Tom Abernetty was innocent. Only somehow, it had ended up not with Sherlock holding John, but John holding Sherlock, and even through Sherlock's elation, John felt him abruptly recognise the difference. Sherlock froze, and John's hands dropped to his side. And then Sherlock turned, and without a word, went upstairs.

After a minute or so John followed him. Running away from a situation was never, could never be an option. Besides, if you'd done something really outrageous, sometimes if you simply denied it had happened, people could be fooled into not trusting their own senses. It was one of the techniques confidence tricksters used.

Sherlock didn't get taken in by confidence tricksters. But sometimes, even if someone knew you'd crossed way over the line, they'd be prepared to say nothing further if you kept quiet. It was a tactful way of dealing with an impossible position.

Sherlock wasn't tactful. It was painful when he tried to be tactful. But, nevertheless, John went upstairs and into the flat, and sat down in his chair, and reached for the remote control, because he had absolutely no idea of what else to do. Sherlock was in the kitchen, John could hear him, banging around in there, up to something. Maybe this was his way of trying to be tactful, waiting till John had remembered how to...behave. He could do this, if he was just more careful to avoid getting close to Sherlock when he was happy and his guard came down. Where the hell was some psychosomatic pain to distract you when you needed it?


He realised how far the thing had gone when Sherlock came back into the living room and held out a mug of tea to him. He took it wordlessly, fumbled with the drink, and finally forced himself to look up into Sherlock's steady, analytical gaze. The pain in his head grew ever greater in the silence, and at last he had to say something.

"I'm sorry," he said despairingly. "I didn't mean to."

"I know, but you...you want to," said Sherlock calmly, "And I can't give you what you need. Which means-"

"-that I need to learn to control myself better. "

"No, it means that you have to go out to a gay bar tonight, pick someone up, and fuck yourself senseless."

"I can't!"

"John, this is London. There are tens of thousands of people out there in the city right now looking to fuck someone tonight, many of them gay. One of them, at least, will be happy to do it with you."

"I don't want that!" John yelled. He closed his eyes, but he knew that tears were leaking out of them.

"Then what do you want, John, and why can't you find it?" It was a question, not, thank God, the start of an argument.

"I am a virgin!" John forced out, "a fucking virgin!"

Sherlock's voice was clinical: "Why?"


It all came out then, twenty years of pent-up pain, garbled, incoherent, dragging emotions out from himself till his guts hurt. And Sherlock...sat cross-legged on the floor beside him, didn't touch him or say anything, just passed him a box of tissues and listened. He didn't ask questions, he didn't interrupt to say he knew the answer already, and he didn't even tell John he was being boring, even though John knew he was saying the same things over and over again. At last John ground to a halt; only then did Sherlock scramble up, go into the kitchen and return with a packet of chocolate biscuits and a glass of water, both of which he plonked in front of John.

"Have a biscuit," he told John, and when John didn't respond immediately, demanded: "Eat some of the bloody biscuits, before you pass out. We can't sort this out unless you're conscious."

John took a biscuit, several, God he was hungry, and it might stop him trembling. He suddenly remembered an evening at university, in his second year, when he'd comforted someone like this. He could see her now, Lisa, with her sweet smile and her messed-up mind. But of course, he realised now, she'd been absolutely normal compared to him. He looked up at Sherlock, who was leaning against the mantelpiece, watching him, decoding him.

"Is there anything more you need to tell me?" asked Sherlock.

"No." John's tongue had run down, there was nothing left to say. He supposed he should do something, not just sit in this chair for the rest of his life. He supposed he should...

"Go to bed, John." said Sherlock.

"What? It's..." he started vaguely at his watch. "2.30 pm".

"And you're exhausted, and I need to think. Go. Now! Even if you can't sleep, just go and lie down and try to make your mind go blank, I can't do this if you're distracting me by suffering!"

John did what he was told. And as he lay on his bed, feeling like a man who'd done a twenty-mile route march, at least his mind wasn't circling round now, trying to get out of the trap of his own body. It was too late for that now, there was nothing more to be done.

Part 2 at http://marysutherland.livejournal.com/1977.html


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Poor John! D:
I loved reading this, please continue!
Sep. 1st, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
this nearly made me cry - you've written it so well, it would be really easy to turn this into a humorous fic but it's really emotional so far and I can't wait to read more.
Sep. 2nd, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
awww,john \o/
that was adorable, I hope there'll be more!
Sep. 2nd, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
"Eat the buscuit! D:<" Lol I can't wait for the next part.
Sep. 2nd, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
Aw, John. ((hugs))
Sep. 2nd, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
Both touching and intriguing. I'm really interested to see where this will lead! Hopefully you won't keep us waiting too long. :)
Sep. 2nd, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
This is so well written and the characterizations are amazing. Eagerly awaiting more!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 8th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I think I've got the timing right on this, because I was working it out quite carefully. I'm taking John as 37 in this, so born in 1973 (and therefore 12/13 when the 'Don't die of ignorance' AIDS campaign was going in 1986). The ban on gays in the UK military was stopped at the end of 1999 (hence the line: 'even though they'd allowed gays in the military for ten years now'). But John would have been around 26 or so by then, and hence could plausibly already have been in the army for several years under the old rules. I think they have army medical cadet schemes which start at 18, so he might even have been officially entering the services at that kind of age, and had a number of years of repression.
Nov. 17th, 2010 03:35 am (UTC)
omfg! poor john!! T______T hope he can get sherlock for himself! but really.. i was sad for him!
Aug. 6th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
How interesting!
Apr. 13th, 2012 03:14 am (UTC)
You, good sir or ma'am, made me laugh. A lot. John's suffering doesn't distract me: It amuses me. That line made me laugh for a good two minutes, chuckling again repeatedly when I thought back to it every few moments until I had to return here and write this comment. Just... "I can't do this if you're distracting me by suffering!" is something Sherlock would say. Absolutely in character. And I love it.



P.S. Also? "Equal opportunities asexual." L.m.f.a.o. That is all.

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )