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Histories (16/17)

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 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 17

Summary: Someone has to keep an eye on Harry while John's off enjoying himself in Northumbria. And Fate seems to have decided it's Sherlock's turn.


16) Sunday: Sherlock

Sherlock had never seen the point of Sundays. He knew the theory, of course: a chance for people with humdrum work to escape it briefly, to enjoy themselves. But it was frankly irrelevant to the rhythms of his own life, the highs and lows of cases and stagnation.

But John liked Sundays, and there was something oddly satisfying about Sundays with John, even when there wasn't a case on. Not just the lingering in bed, but the restfulness of it, because for all his craving for thrills, John was also good at taking things easy, unwinding not just himself but Sherlock. A lazy Sunday afternoon with John was just what he fancied right now.

Right now, unfortunately, John was in Alnwick, probably being humiliated by his bloody mother, and he still hadn't got Harry's case sorted out. He knew the answer but he couldn't prove it. Six million people in London, sixty million in the UK, but it shouldn't be taking so long to find the one man he wanted. And there was a countdown on this case as well, even if not a fixed number of hours. If Harry was left for too long in this depressed state, she would do something stupid; he recognised self-destructive urges when he saw them. He should go over to Vauxhall at some point, even if he didn't have a complete solution for her yet.

***

Sherlock knew he was right when he turned up at Harry's flat that evening. It wasn't just that the circles under her eyes were twice as dark as they'd been on Friday. Her flat was at once too tidy and not tidy enough. She'd started sorting things out and then given up in despair, rather than being distracted by work as normal. He sneaked a look in the kitchen, and saw nothing but a couple of mugs waiting to be washed up.

"When did you last eat?" he demanded.

"I had some breakfast. I bet that's m-more than you did."

"I'm not the one who does stupid things when I'm hungry."

"Is John going to be p-pleased when he gets home and finds you haven't eaten today?"

"All right," he said. "Order a takeaway, we'll both eat something and then we talk."

***

It was only once they'd both worked their way through a pizza that Sherlock announced: "If you thought about it, Harry, actually used your mind for once, you'd realise that you can't be responsible for the whisky in your flat."

"I couldn't remember. I don't kn-know what I did."

"I said your mind, not your emotions. How would you have obtained those bottles?"

"How?" She gave him a baffled stare across the kitchen table.

"Mechanisms. You may go round in a state of stupor, the rest of the world doesn't. It was Ardbeg whisky, thirty pounds plus a bottle. No purchases of that size on your credit card, no large cash withdrawals. How else could you have got it?"

"Gift? P-prize? Stolen it?"

"Who do you know who gives gifts or prizes like that?"

"I could be a thief," she said, as if this was still an abstract argument.

"Harry Watson, you might just be morally capable of shoplifting. You're certainly aren't practically capable of it."

"I could have p-purchased the whisky one bottle at a time."

"You may want to be guilty, but you're not. Could even you forget six separate purchases of alcohol?"

"But if it wasn't m-me, who was it? Not M-M-Molly."

"No, Molly's just as unlikely as you. So my next step was some archaeology."

She was focusing on the problem now, which was always a good sign with Harry.

"Digging down in m-my flat?"

"Stratigraphy. The whisky was at the back of that cupboard. If you looked in there, you'd have noticed it, if you were sober. In fact, your alcohol detection capabilities were probably even better when you were still drinking. So when did you last look in that cupboard?"

There was a bemused silence.

"I forgot, Harry, you can barely remember what day it is. The only other thing in the cupboard was old photo albums. Who, if anyone, would be sentimental enough to want to see them? Do you get them out in order to embarrass John?"

"N-no," said Harry, and suddenly smiled. "And yes, I have got embarrassing photos of John and I'm n-not showing you them."

"I feel sure that Molly would want to see how cute you were as a child. A sweet little blonde princess, no doubt."

"Did you have long ringlets as a child, Sherlock? Little Lord Fauntleroy clone, were you?"

"There is a picture of me as a page boy aged five, in velvet trousers. I'll show you that in exchange for one of John as a teenager."

"N-not even for that. I haven't shown M-Molly any photos."

"So the cupboard hasn't been opened since you got together with her, presuming you haven't shown them to anyone else. Which takes us back to last summer. Anyone been alone in this flat since then?"

"Alone?"

"I assume that even you would notice if someone brought six bottles of whisky into your flat while you were here. At least if you were sober."

"No, n-no one. Well, the builders have been in."

"You know, Harry, you had a brain once. Try and recover its use."

"Builders wouldn't bring two hundred pounds worth of whisky into m-my flat. The landlord has a key, but again, why would he do that? And n-no one else has access."

"Someone else did have access for several days, if not weeks. Do you remember your ceiling falling in, due to the riotous behaviour of the bunch of criminal lunatics above you? Who therefore had access to your flat via the hole in their floor."

"They didn't steal anything."

"Did you have anything in the flat worth stealing, other than your laptop, which you brought with you to 221B?"

"Some of my books are valuable."

"They wouldn't think of those. Besides, they weren't interested in stealing anything more. They were interested in hiding the stuff they'd already stolen before the landlord came round to investigate their antics. Stash the bottles in your flat, in a cupboard that was obviously little used, and they had a decent chance of retrieving them later. If they'd come round to apologise a few days later, distracted you with some cheap booze, they could probably have removed half your flat and you wouldn't have noticed."

"So what went wrong?"

"I'm not sure. That's why it's taken me so long. I still haven't tracked down the thief. I suspect it was a man called Pat Wormald, but I haven't yet found him or his associates. But there's circumstantial evidence, as well, enough to clear you. The plaster dust didn't help, unfortunately, but the fingerprints on the bottles are very interesting."

"M-mine would be all over them. I thought they m-might not be real, so I p-picked them up to check."

"You thought you might be hallucinating whisky bottles while sober? You have a strange imagination. Your fingerprints and Molly's are indeed on the bottles. No-one else's are. Which proves what?" He paused, just in case Harry was with it enough to appreciate his logic, but she just gazed at him in confusion.

"I suppose you're probably incapable of the simplest feats of deduction in your current state. Who gives you, or sells you, a whisky bottle and doesn't leave their fingerprints behind?"

Harry frowned in thought. "A vending m-machine?"

He grinned at her. "You have a certain idiotic genius sometimes, Harry. The bottles must have been wiped before you and Molly handled them. Therefore their previous owner shouldn't have had them."

"So it really happened the way you said?" Harry asked.

"Almost certainly."

She beamed up at him. "You're sodding brilliant, aren't you? I m-mean I kn-knew you were, but I didn't really understand it before."

"That was simple," he said, smiling back.

"N-no, you're just brilliant. Thank you. Can you explain it all to M-M-M-Molly, please? Then it'll all be OK again, won't it?"

"You don't hold it against her that she didn't trust you?"

"No," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "I'm n-not trustworthy. I'm trying to change that, but it's hard. M-maybe even harder than the n-not drinking. I've let a lot of people down over the years."

She had the same lethal honesty as John. No wonder they were both hopeless at lying to others; they couldn't even lie to themselves. Hard for them, but it was sometimes quite good to be on the receiving end of that truthfulness. Sometimes.

"What are you thinking about?" Harry asked suddenly. "If m-my inferior m-mind can cope with hearing it?"

"You and John."

"You should be thinking about you and John. He's back tonight, isn't he? Have you heard from him?"

"I haven't checked my phone recently." He tried to sound offhand.

"You're n-not worried, are you?"

"Of course not."

"Yes, you are!" Her grin had turned sympathetic now. "You're terrified. I don't kn-know why, but you are. Sherlock, this is John. The Taliban couldn't finish him off, are you saying your m-mother can?"

"Knowing two Holmeses is bad enough," he replied uncomfortably. "Three might tip the balance. It's one thing to put up with someone you...care for. It's another to get landed with their awful relatives."

He realised the implications too late, and waited for her to yell at him, but instead she started giggling. Which set him off, of course.

"Look at your damn m-messages," Harry finally managed to get out. "Or if you can't face it, let m-me look at them, and I'll tell you."

Sherlock pulled out the silver phone from his pocket, and saw Harry's eyes widen in recognition.

"Oh, that isn't, is it?" she said. "My phone?"

"It's not yours anymore."

"Well, it's certainly n-not yours, unless John's giving you second-hand p-presents n-now."

"I'm borrowing it!" he protested. "He's got somebody's phone with him."

"So let me look," said Harry, stretching out a small hand.

"Piss off, Harry Watson, stop being a nosy historian. Just because it's a text doesn't mean you get to read it."

"Then tell me. P-please. He's my brother. What does he say?"

"All OK, but missed my train, staying at Threeways Farm till Monday morning. Mycroft's going to have to shell out for peak train tickets. Love, John. My God, I don't know how, but he's tamed my mother."

"That's m-my brother," Harry announced. "He can do anything."

"Shall I tell John you said that?" he asked, sardonically.

"N-no. John'd be embarrassed, and feel he has to call m-me an idiot. But I'm not always, am I, Sherlock? Just n-now and then I get things right."

"Yes," he said smiling. "Law of averages, I suppose." He felt suddenly deboned, adrenaline seeping away with his relief.

"Are you OK?" Harry said, looking at him anxiously. "Do you n-need a drink? Because I definitely do." She stopped, shaking her head. "I didn't m-mean-"

"Yes, you did. Oh sod it, Harry, you can't weaken now. I'll sort things out for you with Molly tomorrow."

"Why not n-n-now?"

"Because we need to talk to her in person, but it'd be past eleven by the time we could get over to Colliers Wood, and Molly would almost certainly be in bed. And I am not entering her bedroom, under any circumstances. We will talk to Molly tomorrow morning."

"It's too late, Sherlock," Harry suddenly wailed, "Tomorrow or tonight, it's too late. I can't do it! N-not sober."

"Why not?" His voice was harsh.

"Because it hurts so m-much, and right n-now I could go and get a bottle, and then it would stop hurting. I wouldn't be scared if I had a drink."

Oh God, he'd got it wrong, hadn't he? Harry's despair had been a paralytic; she didn't have the energy to seek out alcohol. But hope renewed her energy and her anxiety. If he left her now, she'd either go out and get drunk or she'd be bouncing off the walls of the flat with nerves. Either way she'd be in no fit state to cope with Molly in the morning.

"Do you have any sleeping pills?" he asked. She shook her head. Probably not surprising no-one would give her any. But he couldn't just leave her like this, not when John was stuck in Northumbria coping with his relatives.

"Come back to 221B for the night," he said. "I've got pills and I'll be around if the insomnia's really bad."

"But you've got alcohol there."

"I'll lock it away. Or stick you down in 221C again, like when you were detoxing. But I'm not having you wreck your life this weekend, Harry, you can do it some other time. Go and pack your bags, you've got ten minutes. Or you could just use John's stuff, as usual."

She was ready in twelve minutes, argument free, which wasn't too bad. She sat quietly in the taxi, staring out of the window in a daze. Exhaustion and stress getting to her, obviously, but she'd probably be functional tomorrow if she got some rest. Which gave him an idea. He banged on the glass partition of the cab, and told the driver to stop.

"Why are we getting out at Victoria Station?" asked Harry.

"Because you're walking the rest of the way. Why bother with sleeping pills, when half an hour's walk will knock you out as effectively, and you'll be less dopey in the morning."

"Alright," said Harry. "But remember my legs are shorter than yours."

She was soon complaining about route marches, and it took them nearly three quarters of an hour, but they got back to 221B safely. He half-dragged up her the flights of stairs, and deposited her in John's bed, and she simply curled up and collapsed, almost too tired to drag her glasses off first. He removed some parts of a dissected fax machine, pulled a duvet over her, and then switched off the lights and left. If Harry wasn't talking, that was sign enough that she was almost asleep.

There wasn't much alcohol in the flat, but he stuck all that he could find in the fridge, because nothing short of imminent starvation would get Harry opening that, not after the pickled rat incident. He'd probably have to clear up some of the experiments as well, she was terribly squeamish. A nuisance, but someone had to care for Harry, and temporarily, it was down to him. She was John's sister, after all. And given he'd helped her dry out, it would be a shame to waste that effort.

***

August 2010

He'd not just been surprised, but slightly impressed by Harry on the morning after Molly's birthday party, when Molly had turned up with the nervous glow of someone who'd just had her life turned upside down by a small, scholarly tornado. Once Molly had left, John had started berating a particularly washed-out looking Harry, who could probably have passed for a cleaned-up Dickensian orphan. Till she opened her mouth and announced that she was planning to give up drinking, and could John please help, rather than just nag her.

Her timing was lousy, as usual. John had had two hours sleep that might and had shot Sebastian Moran dead, though it was almost certainly the former rather than the latter that was making him so ratty. Once it became clear that Harry wanted to detox immediately, it was Sherlock who was together enough to suggest she move into 221C.

"We can't get her into a clinic at this kind of notice, and it gave her more chance of success than if she goes to stay with Clara," he pointed out.

"She can stay here," John said, with the persistence of a man too tired to realise how idiotic he was being.

"No!" he yelled, almost simultaneously with Harry, and then added, "I have experiments to do."

"Yes, we kn-know about your bloody experiments," said Harry. "Bloody, as in blood, as in I don't want to see them." She looked in a fractionally worse state than John, but love and a hangover were doing nothing to dampen her natural stroppiness. "I don't want to spend several weeks in the Hammer House of Horrors, thank you."

"221C is damp and gloomy," John said.

"If it's got wifi and a desk, I'll be fine," Harry replied. "Oh, and I suppose a bed, as well."

"You're not going to be in a fit state to work," John said. "This isn't going to be easy, you know. You need to think about what you're doing, not just rush into it."

"I'll lose my n-nerve if I don't rush," said Harry. "P-please can you help, both of you. I've got to do this."

"Why now?" said John. "Why, after all this time?"

"I'll explain later," Sherlock said. "For now, John, concentrate your few non-dormant neurons on working out what supplies we'll need."

***

Harry's drying out hadn't been as physically horrendous as Sherlock had been expecting, but the mental effects were disturbing. Harry screaming at John till Sherlock wanted to hit her. Harry crying, begging John for a drink, then begging John to let her die. And John yelling back at Harry, harsher with her than Sherlock had heard him with anyone, even murderers. It was unbearable.

On the fifth day he'd gone down to 221C to find Harry alternatively trying to slap John and knee him in the groin, and John grey from the effort of restraining her safely.

"Get out of here, John," he demanded, "I'll deal with Harry."

John had the sense to go without arguing, and fortunately he'd got upstairs before Harry made a rush for Sherlock. Because possibly John might have objected to Sherlock tripping up his sister and then twisting her arm behind her back, while sitting on her legs.

"OK, Harry," he said calmly to the tiny fury wheezing beneath him, "You haven't a hope against me, and I'm not a gentleman, like your brother. I will hit a woman and extremely hard, if necessary. So can you just stick to verbal attacks or you will end up feeling even worse than you do currently. Do we have a bargain?"

For a moment he worried he had done some serious damage – she was too damn breakable, without any of John's physical toughness – and then he heard her whisper: "Understood." He got off her, and helped her up into an armchair. So what did he do, now he had temporary custody of this deranged, alcoholic midget?

"Why did you attack John?" he asked at last. Start with basic data collection.

"He called m-me an idiot," Harry replied, looking up at him glassily.

"Why?"

"Because I am."

"Why specifically?"

"I wanted a drink and he wouldn't let m-me have one. Even though if I had a drink I would be n-nicer to him. I'm definitely n-n-nicer when I'm not entirely sober."

"No, you're not," he said firmly. "You're bizarre, loquacious and mostly harmless whether you're drunk or sober."

She looked at him with sudden focus. "John's got you reading Douglas Adams?"

Mostly harmless. He grinned at her guessing correctly about his reading habits, and then it occurred to him.

"You know what's wrong with you, Harry? You've not just sworn off alcohol, but thinking. Your mind needs to start working, than your body might shut up."

"I can't think straight."

"No, John hasn't tried to make you think straight. You need to talk, Harry, but about something interesting, not your pathetic, sentimental feelings. What's the square root of minus one?"

"I'm not a fucking m-mathematician."

"No, but you're not a pure ignoramus. What was the most important discovery of the eighteenth century? The condensing steam engine or oxygen?"

"That five-year-olds could do a day's work in a factory and n-not die. That people can survive on a diet of bread and jam. That you can get very rich if you decide to treat p-people like disposable p-parts of a m-machine. The working classes, children-"

"You missed out women and slaves."

"Exploiting them wasn't an eighteenth century discovery. More like eighteenth century BC." There was an edge to Harry's voice now, but it was the right sort of edge, Sherlock decided. The sound of her voice and brain getting back into gear. John always reckoned she could argue till she was blue in the face; time to see if she could talk till she forgot she wanted to drink.

John reappeared three hours later and promptly retreated in the face of an animated discussion of how easily you could strangle a man with his own bootlaces. By the time he returned in the evening, insisting they both needed to eat something, Sherlock had told Harry about twenty-three of his cases and she'd only guessed seven right. Though, on the other hand, he was now better informed on early modern forms of contraception and why Tony Blair deserved life imprisonment.

***

"You actually enjoyed that didn't you?" John said, as they were going to bed that night. "Spending hours arguing with Harry."

"I was trying to help, before you snapped and throttled her."

"You liked it. You like her. Which is...fine, but strange."

"She's isn't boring, you must give her that. Or at least when her mind's working and she forgets about the transport."

"Going to recruit her as an assistant?" The hint of jealousy in John's voice was mitigated by the fact that he was unbuttoning Sherlock's shirt rather than his own.

"Of course not. She's extraordinarily unobservant, since her mind's so focused on the eighteenth century. And she could probably fall off a rooftop even while sober. Is her complete lack of co-ordination down to the drinking?"

"She's always been clumsy, nose in a book, oblivious to everything else, even as a kid," John said. "Drove Mum wild. I suppose it's not surprising she's ended up as she has. Well, not the lesbian and alcoholic bit, maybe."

"When did she come out?" Sherlock asked. You were supposed to show an interest in your partner's family, weren't you? It was politeness, not simply gathering useful data.

"When she was eighteen, and just gone up to Oxford. She'd had a pretty sheltered life as a teenager, especially with Dad being ill, but she made up for it after that. Spent years falling messily in and out of love. And then she got together with Clara again, and I thought there was going to be a happy ending. Goodness knows what kind of awful woman she'll end up with now."

Lack of observational skills clearly ran in the family, thought Sherlock. Though probably better not to explain to John about Harry and Molly till he had more information on that situation.

"Anyhow," John added, "could we please not talk about Harry? Or anything, really. It's just, well, it's been a hell of a few days."

"As long as I have something to do with my mouth," Sherlock said, smiling. "And of course, there are reasons why I prefer you to your sister. Do you need some help removing your briefs? They look rather snug fitting currently."

***

Sherlock was in the living room that night, researching flavours of Monster Munch, when he heard the footsteps coming upstairs. 3.56 am. He listened as they retreated again. Harry had insomnia, did she? Distressed enough to come upstairs to find John, still rational enough to realise belatedly it'd be antisocial to wake him. Probably worth going down to forestall any further problems: a sleep-deprived John and an alcohol-deprived Harry were clearly a toxic combination.

Harry was curled up in a chair when he went down to 221C, looking like a sickly ten-year old. Exhausted, miserable, and obviously been crying. But probably not suicidal, so that was OK.

"I didn't m-mean to disturb you," she said. Her voice had a croakiness that suggested earlier screaming. He hoped she hadn't worried Mrs Hudson.

"What would get you to sleep, Harry? For the sake of other people's sanity, if not your own."

"Hemlock."

"Sleep you wake up from. It's presumably too much to hope for that your system responds to something as normal as hot milk?"

Harry shook her head. She was practically asleep already, she just needed something to push her over the edge, he thought. The right edge.

"How much exercise have you had today?" he demanded. "Other than screaming?"

"You keep m-me chained up in this dungeon, don't you?" she protested half-heartedly.

"Tomorrow, we'll buy a lead, and John can take you for walkies. Tonight, there are fifteen steps up from here to the ground floor, and another seventeen up to 221B. Making, as even an arts graduate ought to be able to work out, thirty-two in total. Go up and down there five times, but hold onto the handrail, because John will kill me if you fall and break something."

Harry got up and went out without a word, which just proved how far gone she was: Harry Watson, stair-climbing zombie. He stopped her when she came stumbling down the second time. Her body really was a wreck, wasn't it?

"OK," he said. "Shoes and glasses off, get into bed."

"Clothes?" she croaked.

"I'm sure you've slept in them before. Do it, Harry, don't make me have to tuck you up in bed."

She started to tug her trainers off. Surprisingly obedient when she was tired, useful to remember that. OK, now distract her mind, while her body succumbed to sleep.

"Recite the kings of England," he said.

"Sod off, Sherlock."

Stroppy zombie, was she? Well, if she wanted to play hardball, she was almost certainly too tired to lie, and probably even to block his questions.

"Why did you seduce Molly?" he demanded. Her tear-reddened eyes gazed up at him short-sightedly from her bed.

"She's sweet...interesting. She n-needs someone to be n-nice to her."

"Why did you seduce Clara?"

"N-none of your business."

"She was engaged to John. That makes it my business."

A long pause, and then Harry muttered: "Because I'm an idiot."

"Yes, but not a nasty idiot, except when you're desperate for a drink. So why did you hurt John like that?"

"I didn't m-mean to."

"Then why?" Shine the bedside light in her face, maybe? Maybe not. "Why?" he snapped, and her mouth seemed to open of its own accord.

"Clara wanted it," Harry croaked. "Asked m-me."

"Why?" he said, and his voice was soft now, alluring. She'd kept this hidden for a long time, she must want to tell someone. "Tell me why, Harry. Make me understand."

There was a very long silence. Which was caused, as he eventually realised, by the fact that with impeccable crappy timing, Harry had finally fallen asleep.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
uwsannajane
Oct. 11th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Have I told you how much I'm enjoying this?! Because I have a nasty feeling I haven't - too many deadlines lately, and then I end up reading on my phone, which isn't conducive to commenting.

This is an excellent story, and ensemble piece. I am particularly in love with your Harry, but the whole thing just works. Really well. The Sherlock-and-Harry relationship is especially convincing and ... toothsome. As in I keep wanting more :)
marysutherland
Oct. 12th, 2011 09:20 am (UTC)
Glad to hear that someone else is still reading this and enjoying it - I thought I was down to two or three readers by now, the story's so long and convoluted. There is a tiny bit more Harry and Sherlock in the last part, which is now up: I do like writing that pair.
kalypso_v
Oct. 12th, 2011 10:17 am (UTC)
"Recite the kings of England," he said.

"Sod off, Sherlock."

Stroppy zombie, was she?


Well obviously. If she'd been awake she'd have asked why he didn't want the queens.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )