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Histories (Part 12/17)

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 7, Part 8, Part 9 & 10, Part 11, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17

Summary: Even Sherlock's finding this weekend a strain now...

12) Saturday: Sherlock



All this talk about a 24/7 society was rubbish, thought Sherlock, swigging yet another cup of coffee. Oh, he might be prepared to work through the night to solve Harry's little problem, but the letting agents he needed to contact next weren't going to be open for another two and a half hours. Didn't they realise that people might be interested in details of their tenants at 6.34 a.m.?

He couldn't do anything else on the case for the moment, not till Shinwell Johnson got back to him. And Shinwell didn't get up till 10 a.m. on weekdays, let alone after a typical Shinwell Friday night out. If criminals and ex-criminals could keep such odd hours, why didn't letting agents? Unhelpful of them. It meant he had too long to sit around thinking about things. Like how quiet 221B was without John.

It was far too early to phone John, and he probably still had his phone switched off anyhow. He should have said something to him, shouldn't he? Told him he knew he was going to Alnwick, and he would come with him. Except...except he couldn't bear to be there and see his mother push John around, and John just taking it, not fighting back.

And to have what they felt for one another cheapened, laughed at. His mother would doubtless regard their relationship as just one step up from a sordid bit of cottaging, two men who couldn't control their own warped desires. She couldn't understand what John meant to him. He'd found it hard to understand it himself, at first. It was odd that it had been Harry who'd worked it out, given how much of a disaster area her relationships were. But, of course, Harry was incredibly well-informed on the theory of relationships...

***

April 2010

He'd seen Harry a few times at the hospital in the aftermath of the swimming pool explosion, pale, sometimes sober, but more often halfway to being drunk. Drunk or sober she'd looked daggers at him, and he'd been surprised when he got a text from her. A very peculiar text:

Have you read Alan Bray's The Friend? HarWat

Not my area. SH

Come and discuss it tomorrow. My place before 10 a.m.

***

Harry only started drinking mid-morning, he suspected, so he turned up at Vauxhall at 7.30 am. He found her in her pyjamas, her breakfast abandoned because she'd remembered a reference she needed to check. He made himself coffee while she scribbled notes, because he didn't want her distracted when she eviscerated him verbally. At last she came and sat down at the kitchen table.

"Sorry about that," she said, "I...there was something about N-Newgate  I n-needed to check." She stared in slight surprise at the remains of her breakfast.

"It's fine, Harry," he said, smiling. He could tell she was psyching herself up to say something really outrageous, so he decided to short-circuit her. "Do you want me to tell you how you could kill me, because though I'm sure you've got inventive ideas, they're unlikely to be practical?"

"I don't want to kill you," Harry replied, looking up at him. "Well, n-not m-much. N-not anymore."

"You don't?" he said. "Even though...I, erm, blew up your brother?"

"I talked to John," she said, which sounded ominous. "He said you only blew up the explosives once he'd agreed. He agreed to being blown up, which m-m-made m-me want to kill him, which means I can hardly blame you for n-nearly killing him."

Now was not the time to point out the flaws in her logic, Sherlock thought.

"But what I n-need to kn-know is," said Harry doggedly, "is M-M-M...the bomber dead? Really, p-properly dead?"

"I'm sure that Moriarty is dead, yes." He wasn't lying in words, only in emphasis. That Moriarty was dead. He needn't tell her the possibility of him being a front man, or of other members of the organization taking over from the boss. "Jim from IT is dead."

"You're absolutely, definitely sure?"

"DNA samples from the body at the pool match those found at Molly's flat."

"M-M-Molly? Oh, she's the woman who told the police about M-Jim."

"She's a pathologist at Barts. Jim became her boyfriend in order to spy on me."

"The p-poor woman.  Is it worse to find out that you're boyfriend's a m-mass m-murderer, or that he's a dead m-m-mass murderer?"

"Molly's tougher than she looks, thank goodness. She'll get over Moriarty."

"You're a heartless sod, aren't you, Sherlock?"

"You know me too well, Harry. If I've reassured you that John's safe, and you don't want to kill me, is there anything more we need to discuss? Surely you've got a day's heavy drinking to fit in?"

She went white at that, but she didn't bite back, just looked at him thoughtfully, as if he was a particularly obscure manuscript. What the hell was she up to?

"I n-needed to talk to you," she said abruptly, "because you're n-not entirely a heartless sod, are you? Have you read Bray's book?"

"I told you, not my area."

"But you looked it up, once I'd m-mentioned it?"

"Study of medieval and early modern passionate friendship between men. I'll take it that it's historically accurate, and I'm aware that the phenomenon is recorded in numerous other cultures."

"Still exists today," Harry said, glaring at him. "You and John. P-pair bonding, I think the psychologists call it. It's a recognised phenomenon."

"Harry, don't talk about science, you just show your ignorance."

"I'm n-not ignorant about John," Harry said. "He's been in love with you almost since he m-met you."

"What on earth makes you think that?" She didn't sound drunk.

"His blog."

"That thing? John doesn't reveal much other than his inability to write an analytical account of a case."

"Sherlock," she said confidently, "Do you know what I do for a living?"

"Sit around and talk about sex and crime. Nice work if you can get it."

"Read what p-people have written. And work out the subtext, what they haven't written. It's n-not always easy if it's someone from 200 years ago, and you've n-never met them. This is John, who I've kn-known all my life. I've read what he's written since it was 'the cat sat on the m-mat'. I miss things in conversations,  sometimes, get distracted. But if John writes something and I can read it, re-read it, I've got him n-nailed. And the way he wrote about you, I kn-knew straight away how he felt."

"Yes, John is in love with me," he said. It probably wasn't worth trying to bluff Harry. "And so?"

"John told me what happened at the pool."

"He was concussed. His memory of that night is likely to be scrambled."

"I kn-know about evidence, Sherlock. I asked M-M-Mycroft, found out he had tapes. He confirmed what John said. John grabbed Jim, so that you had a chance to escape, but John would have died. Greater love hath n-no m-man than that he lay down his life for his friend."

"John loves me. We've established that."

"And you didn't run. Greater love hath no m-man than that he says: 'N-n-not without you'."

"My reflexes were poor," he replied smoothly.

"Is that your best excuse?"

"Greater stupidity hath no man. I nearly got us both killed."

"Surely to you love and stupidity are p-pretty much the same thing?" she said, and she smiled at him.

"The logic of that statement is entirely defective."

"Doesn't m-matter," she said. "The heart of it's right. You and John are friends in Bray's sense. Though if you're going to share a tomb, like some of his examples, I'd p-prefer it if it wasn't anytime soon."

"Thank you for today's historical analogy," he said, oddly disconcerted that Harry, of all people, had worked the thing out. "I don't think there's anything useful I can say about the matter, and there's definitely nothing useful you can say."

"OK," said Harry, determinedly. "We're not talking about love, so let's talk about sex."

"Harry, why on earth should I talk about sex with you? I mean, obviously, not sex with you, that's a horrifying thought, isn't it?"

"Yes." She grinned up at him. "We don't fancy each other at all, so we can keep this strictly impersonal."

"You are strange sometimes, Harry." She looked about twelve in her dark blue pyjamas. A twelve year old boy. Her face a washed-out version of John's strength, and those ridiculous glasses, you couldn't take her seriously. Till you heard her talk.

"I m-may be strange, but that's irrelevant. The important thing is that you realise Alan Bray's friendship m-model, p-p-pair bonding won't work nowadays. If John's in love with you, how does he get sex?"

"That's surely his business."

"One n-night stands, casual sex, n-not good for him. But how does he find someone to be with, maybe even m-marry, when he's in love with you?"

"Such friendships have existed for centuries, as you've pointed out."

"Not when your spouse, your p-partner is supposed to be your friend as well. When you're meant to love the p-person you keep on having sex with. P-people used to m-marry for dynastic reasons, didn't n-necessarily expect love m-matches, sharing the whole of their life. But I wouldn't get involved with someone in love with someone else. Don't kn-know many p-people who would."

"You don't know what you're talking about," he said. "You've read too much and you don't understand about real life. John simply finds someone who wants sex with no strings attached."

"John gets attached to p-people. He's very loyal, even when p-people behave shittily."

"Then he learns the unimportance of sex, its irrelevance."

"He's not good at P-Platonic relationships. I don't cope well being celibate, nor does John."

"Your urges have nothing to do with this."

"But what John wants is everything to do with this. He's in love with you, he'll end up wanting to sleep with you. P-probably already does. So can you p-please either m-make him stop loving you or sleep with him?"

"Are you drunk?" he asked, because it was something to say.

"As it happens, n-no, but that's not the p-point. The p-point is, am I logically incorrect? Is there a m-missing option?"

Saying you shouldn't poke your nose into other people's business would be hypocritical. Detectives and historians shared that, at least. Easiest to follow her own bluntness.

"I'm not interested in sex."

"Have you tried it?" she asked seriously. Trust Harry to ask something like that. But he recognised the need to have facts to analyse.

"Yes. With men and women. I did not enjoy it."

"M-maybe you weren't doing it right. Or your p-partners weren't."

"Your scientific knowledge is so lacking that you've probably never heard of the phenomenon of asexuality." He said it matter-of-factly; he didn't want her pity.

"Might explain why some m-monks found celibacy quite easy." Of course, Harry in full-blown intellectual mode didn't let sympathy get in the way of an argument. "But I also kn-know from p-personal experience," she went on, "that enjoyment depends heavily on the p-partner involved and techniques."

"Harry, you should stop right now, for everyone's sake."

Something in his tone must have registered, because she did fall silent, but she was still looking at him, with an expression that said: OK, prove me wrong. And...he wanted data, didn't he? He always wanted data.

"You told me once John was a very good kisser," he said at last.

"I didn't, did I? Was I drunk at the time?"

"Fairly out of it. Is that true and how do you know?"

"Janice Wilson in my class told m-me. She was 14 and John was 16. I suppose she m-may not have had m-much evidence to compare, but he's had 22 years of practice, so he's p-probably even better now."

"What else were you going to tell me?" Harry looked at him guiltily, but said nothing. Oh, God, he was being slow, wasn't he?

"John's had male lovers before?"

"He's been in love with at least one other m-man. And I expect it got physical. It does quite quickly with women he likes. So if you wanted...but I'm n-not saying you have to."

"I thought you were?"

"I m-m-made a mistake. I thought it would help and I got it wrong. I'm n-not good at helping John. I just m-make things worse when I do."

"Do you call what you do helping John? You know what you're doing to him?" It was unfair, under the circumstances, but something might get through. "The divorce, your drinking upsets him." He remembered something else: "And you stole Clara from him in the first place, didn't you?"

"N-no. It wasn't like that."

"What was it like, then?"

"I'm n-not telling you."

"Why not?"

"Because it doesn't m-matter n-now. I got it wrong and I p-paid for it, and Clara and John as well. But it's in the p-past, it's all over n-now. And I am n-n-not talking about it, so p-please don't ask."

Four plausible explanations for her behaviour then, a couple of other less likely possibilities, but he couldn't get any further now. He'd work it out eventually, once he got more data.

"I'm sorry," Harry said into the silence.

"For what?"

"Even when I'm sober I say the wrong things. Forget what I said."

"I already have. You wanted to check that Moriarty was dead, because you're worried about your brother. The rest is history. Do you understand?"

She nodded, and he swept out of the room. But he wasn't entirely sure, for once, who had won that encounter. 

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kalypso_v
Oct. 6th, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
Ah, so there's a history to Sherlock and Harry offering each other relationship counselling, and she started it!
marysutherland
Oct. 10th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
There's a history to everything with Harry - I think advising Sherlock is just a development from her normal aim in trying to help John. Which, as has been demonstrated, she occasionally manages not to foul up completely.

I think Sherlock only gives Harry relationship advice because she's foolish enough to ask him for it occasionally, and robust enough to endure the inevitably painful results.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )