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Histories (Part 7/17)

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, Part 4, Parts 5 & 6, Part 8, Part 9 & 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17

Summary: From London to Alnwick, the Watsons are really not have a good weekend...


7) Friday evening: John

It was half-past eleven before the train limped into Alnmouth, and nearly midnight before John got to Threeways Farm. It wasn't a farm anymore, but it was still set at the end of a long muddy path. But he'd remembered to bring a torch and Mycroft had warned him that he needed to go round the side, not try and get in the front door.

Mycroft hadn't, of course, told him anything useful about who or what was inside the farm. Whether it was a haunted house, and if so haunted by whom? He was fairly sure that Mrs Holmes was a widow, although divorcee was an outside option. And she had to be rich and posh and keen on rural life. But she could be anything from a duchess to the local witch. Or just possibly both. Still, no use worrying about the possibilities in advance. Time for action. 

When he knocked, there were two different pitches of hysterical barking from inside, so he wasn't entirely surprised that when the door was finally opened, something shot out and tried to lick his face. A dopey, gangly beauty that could only be a red setter. He fended it off determinedly, hoping as he did so that he wouldn't accidentally tread on the small dog yapping loudly in the darkness at his feet. Then he smiled politely at the tall, thin, gray-haired woman who was now staring at him critically from the doorway. She opened her mouth and announced: "Sit! Stay!"

Her voice was so commanding, he had the momentary urge to obey himself. The dogs – the other was probably a Jack Russell  – subsided. He stuck out his hand; the woman didn't look the kissing type. More like someone who could rule half of Northumberland with a rod of iron. Still, he was her guest, wasn't he? She couldn't hang him up in a torture chamber immediately.

"I'm John Watson," he said. "I'm sorry I'm so late, Mrs Holmes, I hope you got my messages."

"Please call me Grace," she said, with an unexpectedly warm smile that reminded him shockingly of Sherlock. "You had engine failure, I gather?"

"Yes. I'm not quite sure how they fixed it, but I suspect sellotape and string was involved."

"You must be exhausted. Come in," she said. "Have you had something to eat? Don't mind Barney and Amber, they don't bite. Well, Barney can give you a bit of a nip, but he's too small to do much harm. Do you like dogs?"

"Yes," he said, and gave Amber a quick pat, at which she tried to lick his ear. "I've eaten on the train, thank you very much."

"Down!" said Mrs Holmes - probably to Amber. "Then I'll just show you to your room. You're in the blue bedroom, it's quite comfortable and it's got an en-suite."

He'd been half-expecting one of those ancient bathrooms where you couldn't get hot water after 10 o'clock at night without a month's notice.

"That would be lovely, Mrs...Grace."

"Follow me then, it's just at the back, so the scullery staircase is easiest." She led him through several large and dimly lit corridors and rooms, while he concentrated on memorising the route. The blue bedroom was extremely blue, but it had a radiator and what looked like a very comfortable bed.

"Thank you so much," he said, "I'll be fine now." What on earth had Sherlock been panicking about? Why had he let his own imagination run riot?

"Breakfast's at eight," she said, smiling. She turned to go, and then suddenly looked round at him again. "I must say," she added, in her firm, bright, upper class voice, "you don't look like a poof."

Oh shit, he thought, as she disappeared along the landing.

***

Of course, thought John, as he started to unpack, if he was more like Sherlock, he'd have had a snappy comeback: "Do your research, please, Mrs Holmes. I'm not a poof, I'm bisexual." But in his experience, that was really not something it was a good move to talk about.

Which was why, of course, it had been Harry who'd used the term to him first, because you could always trust Harry to aim for accuracy over tactfulness. It had been when he'd come home for the holidays the first Easter of medical school, full of plans for what he and Ian Patterson were going to do in the summer. Harry had listened to him surprisingly patiently, and then abruptly asked:

"John, do you think you're bisexual?"

"What on earth are you going on about now?"

"You're in love with Ian, aren't you? You can't stop talking about him, and when you're talking about him, you're so thrilled. Like you were with Janice and then Katy Forester. So m-maybe you're bisexual, which means-"

"I know what it means, thank you. Whereas you have no idea what you're talking about." She was seventeen, and she was still such a child, even though she thought she knew everything.

"I read a book-" Harry protested.

"Yes, of course you did. Real life, Harry, is not like books."

"I read a book," Harry said doggedly, "about Alexander the Great. He had a wife, several wives, but the p-person he really loved was Hephaestion, one of his generals. Just because you fancy women, sleep with women, it doesn't m-mean you can't fall in love with a m-man."

"I'm not in love with Ian. We're friends, I admire him."

"You have a photo of him with his arm around you."

"He was being annoying. Made a change from him making bunny ears in photos."

"So why did you keep that one?" She grinned up at him in triumph, and he'd lost his temper then.

"Harry, maybe you should spend less time fantasising about my love life," he'd retorted, "and more sorting out your own. If you took your nose out of a book and dressed up a bit, you could get yourself a boyfriend. Or at least some friends."

She didn't say anything, just walked away, but he knew she was near crying. He'd apologised the next day, but it was a long time till he could get the conversation out of his head, however much he'd tried.

***

She'd been right, that was the stupid thing, he had ended up sleeping with Ian, even if their relationship hadn't lasted long. And then he'd gone back to dating women, partly because it was simpler. It had hardly encouraged him to explore the other side of his sexuality when he'd seen how his parents reacted to Harry coming out.

Harry, of course, had gone the whole hog, and come out at Oxford the first time she'd slept with a woman. Well, after also rapidly giving herself an entire crash-course in gay literature. She was probably the least sexually experienced and the best-read lesbian in the whole of Oxford, and definitely the most irritating. Harry's conversation had been alarming enough when she was a virgin, to John's way of thinking. It was absolutely terrifying once she was interested in sex as well as politics, religion and the meaning of life.

He should have been more sympathetic to Harry back then, shouldn't he? He'd tried his best, but he hadn't properly understood what it was like to be on the receiving end of that sort of prejudice. So what would Harry do faced with Mrs Holmes? He felt sure if he phoned her, she'd give him a detailed lecture on five possible approaches to dealing with homophobia, with helpful historical examples.

Oh God, he was being ridiculous, wasn't he? He could sort this out for himself, he didn't need Harry's help. And she would be fast asleep by now, anyhow. In fact, what he needed to do was to go to bed, because it was past midnight and he was shattered. Time enough to deal with Mrs Holmes in the morning.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
fengirl88
Sep. 22nd, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
She was probably the least sexually experienced and the best-read lesbian in the whole of Oxford, and definitely the most irritating.

oh dear, poor Harry and poor everyone else...

looking forward to seeing how John copes with Mummy.
marysutherland
Sep. 24th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
I suspect John may be projecting his irritation with Harry onto everyone else: he is rather biased where she is concerned. Admittedly I do imagine John and Harry's childhood as rather like mine, in which I trailed after my big brother incessantly, assisting and impeding him in equal measure, while intermittently getting furious with him on obscure matters of principle.
kalypso_v
Sep. 22nd, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, well, I suppose Harry would go for Hephaistion (aka the Historical Character I Would Most Like To Have Been, despite the typhoid). Annoyingly, I can't use the Hephaistion icon as it's only on Dreamwidth, where I have about forty extra slots.

I like Mycroft's idea of the essential information for the visit. Grace isn't a Percy, is she?
marysutherland
Sep. 24th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
You have a Hephaistion icon? That is impressive. And when and why exactly did you decide you wanted to be him? I would admit that I wouldn't want to live in any era prior to the 1970s, but then I always presume I would still be a female with rotten eyesight and not much maternal instinct.

Grace isn't a Percy, that I know of; it will be revealed later that she is actually a transplanted southerner (mainly because I wasn't sure I could do appropriate dialect for anywhere north of Birmingham). But terrifying upper-class women are terrifying upper-class women all over this land, and she's an amalgam of the chatelaine of Hulne Priory, whom I met briefly nearly twenty years ago, and the sister of an earl whom I know.
kalypso_v
Sep. 25th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
I wanted to be loved that much. Whenever I first read Fire from Heaven, I suppose.

Ambivalent about Percys since trial of Anne Boleyn, so probably a good thing if Grace isn't one. But thanks for reminding me that I need to find out whether I can see my godmother, who is tall, thin, grey-haired and the sister of a (deceased) earl, though not particularly terrifying, when I visit Oxford next month.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )