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Histories (part 4/17)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (alcoholism, drug-taking, explicit femslash and slash, homophobia, swearing, vomiting)

Sequel to Birthday Surprise and Launch Off in which Molly gets together with Dr Harriet Watson, historian of eighteenth-century women and recovering alcoholic

Huge thanks to my beta Blooms84 for tackling this monster and making extremely helpful suggestions

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Parts 5 & 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9 & 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17

Summary: Harry's broken up with Molly, and she needs help from somebody.

4) Friday afternoon: Sherlock

Sherlock looked at the text, sighing. Trust this to turn up when John was away.

Broken up with Molly. I may be mad. Please help. HarWat

He texted back quickly:

Relate for the first. Psychiatrist for the second. I'm neither. SH

He settled down for a long argument. Harry never took no for an answer. But even so, he was surprised by the next text:

Need you to deduce if I'm mad. Can't work it out myself. HarWat

Now that, he thought, was a text worth investigating. Harry's problem was almost certainly trivial, but there was something about Harry herself that he still found intriguing.

***

When he got to her flat, she could barely talk, which suggested something seriously wrong. It took all of Sherlock's patience to extract the facts from her.

"So last night," he said at last, "Molly found six bottles of whisky in a cupboard in the living room of your flat. Bottles that you have no memory of purchasing."

"And Molly has left m-me, because she thinks I'm drinking again."

"But you said the bottles were unopened."

"Going to drink again. She...I couldn't say anything. I didn't know, I can't remember. Am I m-m-mad?"

"I need more facts before I answer that. The human mind is strange. So I need to see the bottles and then your bank statements. Do you know where either of them are?"

"The bottles are down here." Harry gestured  vaguely. "The finance stuff is in the filing cabinet in the corner. All sorted out n-n-neatly by M-M-M..." Harry's voice died out, and she collapsed in a chair. "I'm sorry," she added, as Sherlock picked up a bottle, "this break-up is killing me."

"Go in the bedroom and lie down," he replied. "You're miserable and it's distracting me."

***

Thanks to Molly's organisation, it didn't take him long. And it was going to be an interesting case after all, because if it wasn't Harry who'd put the bottles there – and he was sure now it wasn't – who had done? He just needed to check one or two more details, he might even be able to get everything wrapped up tonight. But when he went to find Harry, she was curled up in bed, asleep. He hadn't the heart...no, he had the sense not to wake her, because she'd be too dopey to appreciate his brilliance. She must be exhausted, he thought, to fall asleep like that.

He hurried away from the flat, clutching a plastic bag full of the bottles.  Evidence, of course, but it was also important to stop Harry doing anything even more stupid. His memories of watching her detox last year were still vivid, the sheer misery of it for her both her and John. He vaguely felt that he ought to be doing something more, comforting Harry in some way: was that what John would want him to do? But that was not his area at all: better to stick to proving Harry's innocence.

***

In the long ago days BW (Before the Watsons) Sherlock's life had all been so much simpler,  he found himself thinking in the taxi home. You couldn't have your relationships break up messily - like Harry's always did - if you never got into them in the first place. And that was the logical thing to do, because people, other people, were almost all stupid or nasty or both. Even the few non-stupid, non-nasty people he'd seen became so once they got entangled in a sexual relationship. The harsher side of his mother's character had been emphasized by her marriage. And Mrs Hudson, though she was far shrewder than she appeared, had been taken in for a long time by the malignantly nasty Joseph Hudson.

So when the unlikely event had occurred, and he'd met John, who was moderately bright and kind, and foolishly loyal, he'd known better than to try and complicate the matter with sexual activity. John might possibly enjoy that – he suspected John slept with men occasionally, given the condom brands he bought – but Sherlock certainly wouldn't. But he did study John particularly carefully, try and work out why he was the way he was. What pleased him, displeased him. Which inevitably, had brought up the issue of Harry.

Harry had been oddly hard to deduce – other than the obvious aspects of her being an alcoholic lesbian with a failed marriage - because John said so little about her. Sherlock had also realised that looking through John's possessions or e-mails got John unnecessarily worked up about privacy. So he had to wait until the evening in February when John had reluctantly gone off to meet Harry to discuss some of the practicalities of the divorce. Harry was incompetent, presumably, as well as being stupid and/or nasty (because John wasn't stupid or nasty and yet found her so hard to deal with). It had only seemed like kindness to find an excuse for John to leave the pub early, text him a message...

***

February 2010

Come at once. Urgent problem. SH

John's busy. Who are you and what's your problem? HarWat

Sherlock, and you shouldn't play with that phone, Harry. It's not yours any more. SH

I hear you play with it all the time. And that's not all you play with of John's. HarWat

Where's John? SH

Toilets. Been a long time. Perhaps he's having an argument with a condom machine? HarWat

Why would he? SH

You tell me, Sherlock. So what's your problem? HarWat

I'm bored.

You're boring.

You're drunk, Harry. SH

Yes, but I may be sober in the morning. But if you're bored *I* can help. HarWat

How? SH

Tell you about the solar system.

Not interested. SH

Tell you what Simon Sherlock was found guilty of in 1727 HarWat

More interested. SH

Sherlock, don't encourage Harry. Leave us alone please. Phone will be switched off as from NOW. JHW

***

By the time John returned, his stomach doubtless aching from mediocre food eaten under stress, Sherlock was a lot better informed about Dr Harriet Watson of King's College London.

"They shouldn't let Harry loose with a mobile phone," John announced, as he walked in, and plonked himself down onto his chair. "You know what, they shouldn't let her communicate with anyone at any point. Maybe an order of Trappist nuns would calm her down."

"Surely she'd seduce them all, in between undermining their faith? She strikes me as intellectually formidable. And why didn't you tell me she was a historian of crime?"

"I presumed you'd deduced that," said John. "In fact, I presumed you'd worked out everything you needed to know about my family within a week of meeting me."

"I had Harry down as something in IT, given the way she can still text accurately when drunk. Though I suppose I was partly right. She's been heavily involved in setting up the Old Bailey trials database, hasn't she? Which is how she 'd heard of a man called Simon Sherlock who was transported for stealing lead plate. No connection to my family, as far as I can tell."

"Oh God," John replied. "You're a Baileyite, aren't you? I should have guessed."

"What?"

"It's what Harry calls them. The amateurs who spend hours on the site, and want to read it at the weirdest times. The staff try to do updates at 2 a.m., and get complaints that they're thwarting someone's research. And they allegedly had a number of users on Christmas Day."

"I've never used it on Christmas Day," Sherlock retorted. No need to mention how much of Boxing Day he'd spent tracking patterns of theft. "But I have looked at it on occasions; it has some fascinating material. Why isn't your sister's name given as one of the contacts?"

"They removed her details after an...incident," said John.

"What happened?"

"She had a horrendous e-mail argument with someone about indexing, and she was barred from any direct contact with users of the database. And yes, that is what my sister is like. She can have a quarrel about indexing. She is more argumentative than you would believe possible, and she has absolutely no common sense. If you want to know about the eighteenth century, she's wonderful. If you want to know whether she's eating properly, or what her bank balance is, she's hopeless."

"I must meet her."

"No! She's a drunken mess who's wrecking her own life and everyone else's."

"She can't be in that bad a state if she's still publishing."

"The drinking's intermittent. When she's got a project on, she can just about stay sober. When it finishes, or something else goes wrong with her life, she gets hammered every night."

"Why don't you get on with her?"

"Because she's a drunken mess and wrecks people's lives."

"You told me you'd never got on with her. So, what was the problem before the drinking?"

John sighed. "She talks far too much, she's completely tactless, and she's cleverer than me and knows it. And just completely maddening in a little sister sort of way. Oh, and she also broke up my engagement. By sleeping with my fiancée."

"You were engaged?" He'd presumed that John's relationship failures all came fairly early on.

"To Clara. You were right about that one as well."

"But Harry didn't get together with Clara then, did she?"

"No, it must have been five or six years later, just came out of the blue. But how did you work that one out?"

"You said once that Harry and Clara had been together for nearly seven years, but you were planning to marry Clara. That's a young man's mistake, mid-20s. You'd have had more sense by the time you were 30."

"It wasn't a mistake!"

Sherlock should have realised that even John would get cross at this point, but someone needed to point out a few facts.

"Clara falls in love with a brilliant, impractical academic, and doesn't leave her even when she becomes an alcoholic. She's showering her with extravagant gifts and declarations of her love right till the end. Natural co-dependent, she'd have got bored with your self-reliance. Good job your sister broke it off, I'd have thought."

"Clara's a wonderful woman. You have no right to say things like that!"

It was interesting, Sherlock thought, how prone John was to putting women on pedestals. Explained a lot. But perhaps not something to bring up right now, especially as John's hand was already starting to shake.

"So did you tell her to leave Harry?" he asked instead. "As a doctor you'd have spotted the addiction early, I presume, and I can't see loyalty to Harry keeping you quiet."

"Yes, I did. Are you telling me that was wrong?"

"No, you were right, which means that Harry was too. Something seriously wrong with the marriage. Perhaps it was Clara driving Harry to drink?"

"Shut up!" John was on the point of storming off to his room, Sherlock thought, so he let the silence linger. Tried to look - not sympathetic, John wouldn't believe that – but at least innocuous.

"So why did Harry leave Clara?" he said quietly, at last.

"Because she's an idiot," John said wearily.

"Yes, but she's an academically-minded idiot. She'd have some superficially logical excuse."

"She said it was hard to stop drinking when Clara always wanted a bottle of wine. Which is deeply unfair, because Clara's not a drinker, she's just sociable."

"Whereas Harry, one assumes, can't hold her liquor. Not helped, I presume by the fact that she's tiny?"

"She is actually. Five foot nothing and all skin and bones.  How did you know?"

It was handy that he could still distract John with deductions, Sherlock thought. "Heredity suggests below average height, as does the emphasis on her being your 'little' sister. Forgetting to eat suggests skinny. And that level of belligerence, she must be over-compensating for something. You know, John, one of these days I really must meet your vicious mouse of a sister."

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
fengirl88
Sep. 19th, 2011 03:40 pm (UTC)
I like the opening exchange of texts, and the fact that Harry manages to send the one that gets Sherlock hooked, even in her weakened state. also enjoyed the reference to Sherlock's Boxing Day OBSP session (with or without liqueur chocolates...), and Harry's capacity to have a major row about indexing!
marysutherland
Sep. 19th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
You're still reading it! Somebody's still reading this fic - I thought everybody had given up, because it's just historians sitting around being miserable, and there's not enough hot mansex.

I imagine Harry as retaining the capacity both to send bizarre texts and to argue with other people even when almost every other faculty has been lost. And glad you're enjoying the return of the Old Bailey database- although it is, as will be mentioned later, at least partly responsible for Harry's drinking problem.

Your icon's slogan is wonderful, by the way.
sally_maria
Sep. 19th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
*looks guilty*

I'm certainly reading it, and enjoying it a lot - I tend not to comment part way through WIPs, for fear of being Jossed, but I didn't want you to think you were on your own.

Your Harry is a great character, and I'm wondering whether Mother Holmes can really be that bad.
marysutherland
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks for leaving a message - it's just that this is such a slow and complex fic that I thought everyone might have given up on it. I don't think there's anything completely off the wall that's going to come up in later parts, if you're worrying about that; I don't normally post a story till I've written the whole thing, at least in draft, so it should all hang together.

Glad you enjoy Harry - I do like writing her, as a historian myself, but I must admit that she does not appear at her best during a break-up. In fact, the whole Harry/Molly 'verse is basically one long exploration of why you should never get into a relationship with a historian.

As for Mrs Holmes, having one brilliant but anti-social son may be a misfortune, having two looks like carelessness. I'm afraid that Sherlock, at least definitely takes after her, as will be revealed.
2ndskin
Sep. 20th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
hey ms--I bet a LOT of people are actually reading this--or just waiting 'til most or all the parts are up. I've become that kind of reader too--I tend to much prefer waiting until all the parts of something are done. So I've no doubt once #17 is up, there will be tons of comments.
ununpentium
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Is there more? Just got to this point and was looking around for the rest :)
marysutherland
Oct. 28th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
I really need to put links to all the parts on every section, but haven't got organised yet. (I'll also put in on AO3 at some point). For now Part 17 has links to all the previous parts.
ununpentium
Oct. 28th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
thanks :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )