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The animal inside (3/3)

BBC Sherlock fic
Rating: 15 (angst, swearing)
Spoilers: none
Earlier parts at http://marysutherland.livejournal.com/1616.html and http://marysutherland.livejournal.com/1977.html,
Summary: John is now an ex-virgin, but Sherlock's still a sociopath 

John had woken up in worse physical states than this one, but they had normally involved previous drinking or traumatic injury. He was incredibly dehydrated - sweat, or maybe just all the crying - and his limbs had been reconnected overnight with slightly too taut elastic, so he now had an intermittent tremor everywhere in his body, not just one hand. But once he'd showered and shaved and dressed - Sherlock must have brought in a change of clothes in the night – he decided he could function, if not normally, at least approximately like a human. He went into the kitchen and made himself eat a proper breakfast. You could always fall back on routines if you had no clue what to do next.

By the time he'd finished he could hear Sherlock in the living room, on his computer. As he went in, Sherlock closed the laptop abruptly - he was up to something, wasn't he? - and came across to stand in front of John.

He forced himself to look into Sherlock's eyes, make it easy for Sherlock to read him.

"You're not dead, you're not injured, you're not insane, and you're not even miserable." said Sherlock. "Welcome to the ordinary joys of the sexually active."

By the time John had worked out a response to that, Sherlock had already danced away, and was perched on the table beside his laptop.

"I was right, John, wasn't I, I was right? There is a normal animal inside you, and now you have choices."

John could feel the tremor start to pull his arms back. "Sherlock-"

"Sit down, you're making the room vibrate. That's better. We need to work out now what you do this evening."

"It's barely morning yet."

"Try to keep up. I'm tied up this afternoon, not literally, but after that there are two options. One is that now you know how you have sex, we find you someone to practise with. I know people who can tell you the places to go, and what to say, and how to dress-"

"No, absolutely not, no!" Was he really going to have to go through this all again?

"In that case, we're back to option two and we spend this evening drafting you a lonely hearts ad. I'd say the Daily Telegraph personal column is your best bet, but I can't remember if they take adverts from men looking for men."

"You want me to put an ad in the Daily Telegraph?"

"You wouldn't get on well with gay Guardian readers."

There was nothing worth saying, thought John, as he held Sherlock's gaze. If Sherlock couldn't work it out – how could anyone be that slow? – there was no point in trying to explain.

"Oh fuck!" said Sherlock abruptly, and for the first time it wasn't just for effect. "I've been over-confident, haven't I? Too clever by half, trying to solve all your problems at once. I didn't make last night meaningless enough, did I?"

He could scream, or he could swear, or he could try and make a joke of it, John thought, and only making a joke had any chance of getting them through this thing still sane.

"No, it wasn't meaningless." He managed a smile. He was good at smiling. "Quite animal though."

"Not tender or romantic, was it? I certainly wasn't at all romantic, and nor were you...or even gentle."

"The tenderness comes afterwards, you were right about that."

"Tenderness?"

"Definite hints of tenderness," said John. "Absolutely no romance though, a very clinical debauchment."

"Hints of tenderness? You have must an appalling low threshold, I'd say. I suppose it's from being in the army."

Now it's was John's turn for the next joke, the one that pushed the reset button, put their relationship – relationship? – back where it had been. And he couldn't think of what to say.

"John, I told you to go to sleep and I brought your clothes in. That's not tenderness, that's barely civil."

"The thing is, if...," John said slowly, and came to a halt. And for once Sherlock didn't interrupt, and even his fidgeting was reduced to keeping on looking at his watch. "If by...fucking another animal, you've satisfied your own simple animal needs, it's only natural, only human, to be tender then, just from gratitude. But if you don't have those animal needs, you feel nothing, why on earth should you show any tenderness afterwards to the animal you've let fuck you?"

And now it was Sherlock struggling for words, until he suddenly burst out: "Kindness to a dumb animal, because it's not his fault he's a poor dumb animal and wants to keep pushing the lever. And that's what I've done, isn't it? Shown you what levers to press?"

"Yes, but I don't have to."

"You can say that now, John, the animal's been fed and it's back in its cage. You don't need me right now, do you? You might want me, but you don't need me."

"You're not that bloody irresistible, you know, Sherlock!" John burst out, and couldn't help adding:   "And stop looking at me like that, I do not want you deducing things about me, and I am not currently your problem!"

"But you are still my problem, if I don't drive you away. I could, you know."

"Yes. Or you could also drive me to strangle you, and who knows, maybe I would find that a turn-on."

"You wouldn't. I'd know the signs by now if you did. The way to tell is-"

"Shut up and stop looking at your bloody watch!" But he knew he couldn't sustain his anger, that was too easy a way out, and besides they had to get things straight.  "Do you really want me to leave?"

"Do you know why I keep on looking at my watch?"

"I have absolutely no idea."

"Because at 8.53 I'm going to get an urgent message from Lestrade saying I'm needed over in Reigate, and to come immediately and alone."

"And you know this, because...because it's a fake message you fixed up just now, so you can get away from me. How exactly are you going to manipulate me if you tell me the details beforehand? That's not one of your better plans, Sherlock."

"I wasn't going to tell you, I was going to let you work it out after I was gone. And you would have worked it out, because although I call you stupid sometimes, you're not really and you would have got there in the end. And it would have reminded you just what a manipulative, uncaring bastard I was, and...and it still wouldn't have been enough, would it? To get you to walk away?"

"No, sorry, you'd need to do something a lot worse than that. Though I'd prefer it if you didn't, obviously. And you did say you were trying to stop being cruel." There were times when it was oddly easier to talk to Sherlock than anyone normal.

"But aren't I being cruel, an active force for evil, in letting you stay?"

John folded his arms. "I don't see it that way, no."

"But you have needs, and I can't...I really can't handle more scenes like yesterday morning." Sherlock said, and there was a rawness now in his voice. "And if I let you stay, how do I, we stop it happening again and again? All that emotion, that pain. I could hardly breathe, just feeling the waves of it off you, the chaos. How do you bear it, John?"

"Well I bear your bloody emotions, Sherlock," John snapped, "and there's a hell of a lot more of them. Yesterday was 37 years accumulating, so cut me some slack, will you?" He paused and added more slowly."I will go when I choose to, and not before, and if that irritates you, you can always resort to more bogus callouts. Or even just tell me the truth."

"If you stay, we'll have to figure out a way to deal with your needs, the animal inside you, so it doesn't drive you crazy."

"I can manage."

"Not alone. Between us we'll have to work something out."

The temptation was almost overwhelming then to ask Sherlock what he had felt last night, if he'd found any pleasure of his own. As he opened his mouth, Sherlock's phone went off. 8.53. By the time Sherlock had silenced the call, John knew he couldn't stand to hear the answer, whatever it was. 

"I could," he said at last, "try to tame the animal, the way you have." I've just discovered sex, he thought, and I'm already offering to try and give it up. I really do have crappy timing.

Sherlock's phone started ringing again. 8.56.

"Sherlock, what on earth are you up to?"

Sherlock looked up from the call. This one's not my doing. Lestrade needs me right now."

"Reigate?"

"Clapham. There's another body turned up in the Abernetty case, I expected it but not so soon. I have to go-"

"Alone?"

"No, but are you in a fit state to come? Will it help?"

He could almost certainly walk and talk at the same time. He wasn't sure he could walk, talk and not shake at the same time. "It's probably not a good idea."

"And I need..." Sherlock paused.

He had needs too, of course, thought John, just not ordinary animal ones.

"Go. It's fine, it's absolutely fine."

"We haven't solved this problem yet."

"Oh yes, we, you have."

"Think about it properly, John, when I'm not around. Don't decide now, work it out logically. There are other options. And then tell me, text me." Sherlock had pulled on his scarf and coat, but he hesitated by the door.

"Go!" said John. "I've had thirty minutes of conversation this morning and distinct hints of tenderness. That's surely above average for a meaningless encounter."

Sherlock grinned and hurtled out.

Once he was gone, John went and slowly, methodically, changed Sherlock's sheets and sorted out both their bedrooms, because if Sherlock was working with Lestrade, you should always be prepared for a drug bust. And then, because the least he could do for Sherlock was to see if any other option would work, he found the current copy of Time Out and started flicking through it. Not the clubbing section, but the personal ads. There were a lot of other gay men out there. Here was one with a GSOH and his own business, who liked cinema and running. But there was no-one advertising with a bizarre sense of humour and his own consulting detective business, who liked running into danger and the sound of his own voice. Animals might be interchangeable, people weren't.

He waited to send the text though, because he could be patient. And Sherlock needed space at this stage of a case, to observe, to analyse, it wasn't fair to distract him, maybe even to cloud his judgement.

***

He had, of course, overestimated how long the case would take Sherlock, and when he went to send the text there was already a message for him.

This evening: clubbing, matchmaking, staying in? SH

He texted rapidly back: Staying in. Pizza and non-romantic film. John , and braced himself. He didn't enjoy arguments via text, he couldn't use the tone of voice and the smile that were his only effective weapons...Here came Sherlock's response.

Planning to join the RSPCA. Someone has to take care of dumb animals. SH.

It took him nearly an hour to work out his reply, which was frankly ridiculous. But he had to show his gratitude, while leaving it unspoken, and also to make it clear what he was prepared to do...prepared not to do, not to try. At last he sent it: Will get beer, pizzas and DVD. We don't need any extra tissues or nicotine patches. John. He'd almost added or condoms, but there was an outside possibility that Mycroft was intercepting Sherlock's texts. He put down the phone; he was shaking again.

He'd got what he'd never expected, and even what he thought he'd wanted, and it hadn't solved anything. Poor bloody stupid John, the ex-virgin rat, he told himself. Finally gets through the maze and pushes the right lever and just gets himself trapped again.

But no, he thought, I may be an animal, but I'm not just one. A rat doesn't know what the lever does before it presses it, but I read the label on it. The one that says: 'Provides possibly death-causing thrills. No supply of love.' And I am not trapped in a box, I do have...options. I can walk away if I want to. It's just that today, I choose not to.

***

Much later that evening, after the film, when John had had just enough beer to get his nerve up, but not enough to make him do anything stupid, he turned to Sherlock, sitting across from him, and said: "Last night you said the exchange of sex for love was wrong, stupid. And then you did what you did." He was deliberately calm, drawing on the medical training that had taught him that some situations were too important to let emotions get in the way of what needed to be done.

"There's no contradiction." Sherlock replied. "I said offering sex to get love was manipulative: stupid, but manipulative. But you love me whether I sleep with you or not."

Arrogant bastard, thought John, arrogant, accurate bastard.

"No, John," Sherlock went on, "last night was an exchange of love for...I'm afraid I'm going to have to be brutally accurate here and call it pity."

John kept his voice neutral. "You slept with me because you were sorry for me? I see."

"Yes. Now a human, a complex, emotionally confused human, could get terribly screwed up about that fact. A simple healthy animal, however, would realise-"

"- that motivations aren't really important if the sex is bloody marvellous."

"Exactly." And then Sherlock smiled and added: "And talking of animal appetites, yes you can have the rest of my pizza. I know what you've been taking surreptitious glances at for the last half hour, I am a detective, you know."

And John grinned and reached for the slice, because even if you couldn't get exactly what you wanted, you could still enjoy what was on offer.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
mariole
Sep. 26th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, but it was very sad! Nice job.
birddi
Sep. 27th, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
This was totally in character. It HURT, but it was good. I know you only have one other person besides me reviwewing and that's silly because you wrote something movign and hard and absolutely good. It rips into you and the last scene kills. Absolutely hurts and my heart ached in sympathy for John, but also for Sherlock.

I wonder how this would play out over the long haul, my own desperate fondness for happily ever after - means that John finds someone who can offer him what he wants or Sherlock comes to the conclusion that it really isn't pity he feels for John, but who knows. ^_^ Great job all around.
marysutherland
Sep. 28th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
I couldn't find a way to get Sherlock and John properly together, given the initial configuration of the characters in this story, but I'm not keen on too much emotional masochism, or people being trapped in relationships. So I think that Sherlock was right in seeing his actions as giving John new options, and if you want this to have a happy ending long term, you have to presume that Sherlock will, after a while, surreptitiously find someone else for John to love and arrange for them to meet. John has obviously been capable of an emotional connection with other men before, and now he can manage a sexual connection as well. As a romantic, but also an animal, he's going to be happier ending up in a relatively normal gay relationship, even while maintaining a strong emotional tie to Sherlock. Whereas Sherlock has probably re-plumbed his emotional and nervous system to the extent that he can't unscramble it now and get turned on in normal ways. So Sherlock's plan B was right after all, it was just that he forgot that ordinary people take rather a long time to catch up with the solution he's developed instantly.
fieryredqueen
Oct. 3rd, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
You really handled this quite brilliantly.
volume1_page1
Oct. 18th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC)
This fic is a bit out of my normal reading area, but it was seriously good and I am really really glad I took a chance and read it :D
marysutherland
Oct. 19th, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - I don't know what your normal preferences are, but for most of the fics round here it's jokes, angst, angst with jokes, sex with angst, sex with jokes, and sex with angst and jokes. Plus a certain amount of libraries and obscure intellectual ideas.
random_nexus
Oct. 19th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
You did an excellent job on this.
I'm depressed as all hell, but that's actually a GOOD reflection on your writing skills. You portrayed the both of them excellently.

I so don't like this version of Sherlock, but it's probably closer to what they had in mind in the new show. Ah well. I'm a hopeless romantic and I know it.

:)

marysutherland
Oct. 21st, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'd say the majority of my stuff has a happy ending eventually, because I'm quite romantic as well. It's just that I tend to want my characters earning their happiness, and that never seems to come quickly or easily.
random_nexus
Oct. 21st, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
*nodding in agreement*
I don't think it should be too easy, either.
Nice that you're a romantic, too. *grin*

imhit
Nov. 16th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant, could really hear them! Really enjoyed it.
marysutherland
Nov. 16th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - I like writing dialogue for the pair of them, especially when I can get Sherlock going off at weird tangents.
kittysorceress
Nov. 16th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
This was so wonderfully in-character. Heart-breakingly so. I loved it.
marysutherland
Nov. 16th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Most of the time I have happier endings (I hope still in character), but this one just had to end like this.
nathcoelho
Nov. 17th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
sad, confusing sherlock, and a really good plot! ^^
love it
=)
warriorbot
Nov. 19th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
You painted John into a beautiful corner here"

"But there was no-one advertising with a bizarre sense of humour and his own consulting detective business, who liked running into danger and the sound of his own voice. Animals might be interchangeable, people weren't."

I'm glad you ended this the way you did - I think a happy ending would have sold them short.


Beautifully done.
ungalad
Dec. 4th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
You know, this is very good, but it's also heartbreaking. :((( I hope John finds another bloke to be happy with. Thanks for sharing!
fantomeq
Dec. 13th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
Really quite good. It's difficult to manage a hurt/comfort when one character is fairly insensitive, but you made it work, even without causing irreparable damage to John. Sherlock's willing to admit that he's not a good match for John while caring enough to try to solve his problems, both immediately and looking for a match for him.
marysutherland
Dec. 15th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
I rather like doing hurt/comfort fics where it's Sherlock doing the comforting (there are several other ones on the site), because I tend to feel that Sherlock needs to grow up and behave responsibly for a change. Of course, Sherlock's ideas of comforting people are not necessarily normal ones!
the_tire_swing
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
This is incredibly well written. You write their voices perfectly even though it does hurt a bit of what they say.
zevbaldwin
Aug. 6th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
Animals might be interchangeable, people weren't. - Excellent! Bravo, John! And author.
I think John will win this battle. Sherlock can talk about animals inside, but it was with John, he was having sex first after university. This is clear that the case of an overdose scare Sherlock. Sherlock saw the ugly side of his own and decided it would be easier not to have relations in general. Sherlock has convinced himself that he was cruel animal, sociopath. He clearly gave it to understand - "I know, but you...you want to," said Sherlock calmly, "And I can't give you what you need." Sherlock is concerned about John, sociopaths do not bother about people. Inside Sherlock just a frightened child, whose game ended in tragedy. He built a wall around themselves and not let anyone in, until John. Sherlock does not understand, but his wall is ruined. John will save Sherlock as usual. In the end, it's the work John makes better than others, - saving Sherlock from Sherlock .
Wonderful story.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )