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Tastes

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12: slash

Minor spoilers for all three parts

Note: this started out as a shortish one-off story from a prompt about Sherlock being jealous. It has ended up as the first part of a series of stories. This one just gives the basic data, but stay tuned for the later stories which will include ripe peaches, civil service protocol and why you shouldn't take advice on relationships from Jeremy Bentham.

UPDATE: The second story is now up: Holmes comforts

It has become second nature for Sherlock to keep tabs on John's love life. That is the sort of statement that would make most people think he was a voyeur, which just confirms that most people are dirty-minded simpletons who should not be allowed out unaccompanied. Sherlock has occasionally had to observe sexual encounters as part of his work and it has had no effect on him. Why should you feel hungry just because you see someone else eating?

He is not remotely interested in the details of John's private life: what does it matter what John does? Sherlock simply needs to know who John is sleeping with (in case they're a threat to John or himself), when (in case he needs John in a hurry) and the effect it's having on John (because if you summon somebody halfway across London, you need to know if they're going to be in a suitable physical and mental state to dodge poison darts).

Initially, Sherlock had presumed that John's relationships would be as simple to deduce as the rest of his life. The awkward conversation at Angelo's restaurant, awkward for John, that was, made it probable that John was gay, but discreet. On the way home, after the encounter with the bemused American, Sherlock was already calculating how to confirm this. (Perhaps it had been the interest of this new problem that had made him so stupidly slow at spotting the cabbie's guilt). On the pretext that the police might still be on their tails, he had led John on a rapid scramble through half of Soho's bars and nightclubs; it was only at the gay pub in Old Compton Street that John had gasped that he needed a breather.

Sherlock had watched surreptitiously as John took rather too long to get his breath back, given his obvious physical fitness. Five minutes, seven minutes, John's eyes scanning the room in a way that said spotting policemen wasn't his main concern. But then John had stood up, and smiled, and said: "Where to now, Sherlock?" Which meant closeted gay and staying like that.

Sherlock's deductions were confirmed by John's date with Sarah. Not just closeted, but deep in denial, eager for a relationship with a woman, but still letting his night out be wrecked with barely any protest. The General Shan case also allowed Sherlock to check that John wasn't physically attracted to him, even if it had required some rather peculiar behaviour down by the railway tunnel for confirmation. But he needed to know how John responded to his touch, being grabbed by him. It was dangerous to have a colleague, friend, running after you across the rooftops if he might get distracted by the sight of your thighs and miss a jump.

He had almost all the data he needed now, Sherlock concluded. The final piece had been John's heroically feeble attempt at a joke in the swimming pool. He could only have said that about Sherlock ripping his clothes off if he'd come to terms with Sherlock's asexuality. At least, Sherlock was almost sure that was the point of the joke. It would be easier to analyse John's jokes if they were actually funny. He wondered then whether he ought in turn to explain himself more clearly to John, because you couldn't expect John to be able to deduce things, at least complex things. But it had been oddly easier leaving some things unsaid. Being with John had shown him for the first time that what was unsaid didn't have to be purely manipulative or menacing ("You know what I know and you need to worry") and could be somehow comforting ("You know what I know, but it's fine, it's all fine").

Sherlock had always had the explanation for why he didn't sleep with anyone ready to download if necessary. If someone asked what it really meant to be married to his job. It was occasionally a useful tactic to have sex with someone, male or female, during a case: a witness, a suspect, a police officer. If he was already sleeping with someone else for personal reasons, there was an 82% chance of them being unhappy with this tactic. (The 18% of possible partners who were unconcerned or even happy about such actions might expect Sherlock to sleep with suspects or witnesses when it wasn't necessary, which would be a terrible waste of time and condoms).

Sherlock suspects that if he did give that explanation to most people, they'd call him a sociopath. If he gave it to John, however, John was likely to point out that being concerned about someone's reaction to you sleeping around was more of an argument against sociopathic tendencies. He occasionally worried that John might decide the love of a good man would redeem Sherlock.

Or perhaps a good woman. Because John's women are a whole additional complication. How can a man who is so clueless about relationships, a gay man who is so clueless, have such success with women? Who got a date by falling asleep at work, for God's sake? It is a nightmare sometimes, or at least a logistical nightmare. John would get emotionally involved with a woman, go on a few dates and then when the time came to sleep with her, mysteriously  have his leg seize up, or get attacked by ninjas, or simply summoned to a case by Sherlock. He wonders if John knows that Sherlock sometimes sabotages his encounters with women. He wonders if John knows that this is only when Sherlock thinks John isn't up to the self-sabotage needed. But maybe John is still deluding himself about what he is, since he can take self-ignorance to heroic levels, apparently incapable of deducing anything from his own behaviour. There must be some way, for example, that John is able to black out or ignore the times he had sex with men.

It had been a couple of weeks after the end of the case of the Pink, of Jennifer Wilson. Sherlock had been back in Old Compton Street trying to trace Moriarty (he'd been a name to him back then, nothing more), when he'd seen John come into the pub. Sherlock had been in disguise, fortunately, but for a moment he'd wondered whether to break cover and go and help John, if he'd somehow got lost in London and was trying to re-orientate himself. Even when John had gone off with the youth he'd been talking to into the toilets, Sherlock had presumed it was drugs he was after. John on drugs? How had he not spotted that? That was why he'd followed the pair into the toilets: he needed to know what John was on and that he wasn't going to get mugged. And then he'd heard what was going on, and left hurriedly, annoyed that he'd not foreseen that angle.

He'd been planning to follow John the next time he went out – it wasn't voyeurism, just a need for reliable information, but he hadn't needed to. The keylogger on John's laptop gave him the right Time Out listings page, he'd then just had to correlate that with the page number of the A-Z that John had been looking at to find the venue. (They actually had an A-Z in the flat now, now there was someone living there who didn't have every street in London flowing like ripples through his mind). He could leave ten minutes after John, Sherlock calculated, and still be in position beforehand, given John's normal problems with the Circle Line.

As before, John managed to find someone remarkably quickly when he arrived. How did a short, badly-dressed man, with not much in the way of pick-up lines do it? wondered Sherlock. Or was that what "straight-acting" really meant? Sherlock went out of the club then, to wait for the next piece of reference data: John's behaviour after the encounter. When John came out around half an hour later, Sherlock rapidly scrutinised him: scratch on back of neck, flexing of the arms suggesting he'd been using them for support, left shoelace badly tied. Then he memorised John's expression, before hurrying back to 221B to be there when John returned.

Data from before and after now, so he could check the frequency patterns of these encounters without having to leave the flat. Not during times of stress, after nightmares, for example, as Sherlock had expected; also uncorrelated to John's 'success' with women. Rarely in the middle of cases, which might have been inconvenient. But at quieter moments. So John gets bored as well, does he? Sherlock sometimes wonders whether he should suggest to John they find other ways to entertain themselves at these moments: target practice, deep-sea diving, base jumping. But he suspects this would be another thing John doesn't want to discuss. John is divided within himself, unable to work out his own nature. A man who's dedicated his life to saving others, but who can kill without hesitation, a man who sincerely wants a mundane life, and yet stays with Sherlock. There's a perverse logic in John combining a deep emotional desire for women with a need for meaningless gay encounters.

Sherlock had recognised some of the 'before' signs in John last night - hair better styled, shoes even more polished than usual, cheap pay as you go mobile only, not his fancy one  – although the suit and briefcase suggested John was going a bit more up market tonight. He'd been concerned when John didn't turn up in the middle of the night, but perhaps it took longer to pick up someone in the posher gay clubs. But he did always wonder whether John would be safe on these occasions – might be worth trying again to fit a tracker device to John's shoes. For emergencies only, obviously.

He has been observing for nearly five hours now: it is 7.32 a.m. when he a car draws up outside Baker Street and John gets out. No word to the driver, no payment. For once, Sherlock has been completely wrong about what was going on. John's been summoned by Mycroft again. He seems to be doing that a lot recently; maybe he thinks since there are no big cases on, Sherlock will start causing trouble.

Poor John, always ending up as the go-between in the Holmes family, but it is just so convenient for both of the brothers. Mycroft can give messages verbally, as he prefers, without having Sherlock interrupt him. Sherlock, meanwhile, can have a properly appreciative audience for his better digs at Mycroft if he explains the background to the messages beforehand. It's all far more satisfactory than the days when Mycroft used to come to 221B and John would just sit there and watch the arguments bemusedly, like a particularly dim Wimbledon spectator, or retreat into the kitchen for mugs of tea and the rewriting of the whole week's shopping list. Does John ever get fed up with all their tricks, he wonders. Especially if John couldn't even get his usual dose of sexual release, because Mycroft was wanting reports at strange times.

"What's Mycroft hassling us about now?" Sherlock enquires as John comes in.

"Korean elections, North Korean elections," John mumbles and disappears into the bathroom. There's something wrong, thinks Sherlock. Something in the way John was moving as he came in, the length of time he's been in the shower. And he's not sure that North Korea exists anymore, if it ever did. And the car was Mycroft's, but the driver wasn't the usual one, and Anthea hadn't been in the back, or Grace, or Christabel, or Sheralee. It hadn't been an official car, had it? Mycroft always had a well-manicured female operative in the back, so as to show that it wasn't an actual abduction, just a little voluntary chat.

John has emerged now, muttering about wanting a more comfortable bathroom, going into the kitchen to make himself breakfast. He looks calm, cheerful, no trace of the nerves of the last day or two. Maybe he did find a chance before the meeting with Mycroft for some action, but he wouldn't be looking so happy if Mycroft knew about his pick-up habits. So it must have been after the meeting with Mycroft that John had sex. But then how did the car fit in? Oh, he has it worked out now. Mycroft is trying a new form of bribery for John: young men.

"You OK?" John asks, coming into the living room with a steaming mug and a plate of toast.

He has to work out how to phrase this, Sherlock thinks. Direct enough to make his point, but euphemistic enough to keep John comfortable.

"I think I need to warn you about Mycroft," he says at last.

"Bit late now, isn't it?" says John, starting on his toast.

"He's providing you with sex, isn't he? Male partners?"

"I suppose you could call us partners," John says calmly. "I told Mycroft you'd have to know eventually."

"John, you may think you know what you've got yourself into, but you really don't have a clue."

"We're both consenting adults."

"You'll get blackmailed, John. You're setting yourself up for that, you're walking into the trap."

"Mycroft knows what he's doing. I trust him."

"He's going to blackmail you, he has the evidence now to use against you."

"How can he, under the circumstances?" John said. "Sherlock, am I missing something obvious here? How can Mycroft blackmail me about the fact we're sleeping together?"

"You and Mycroft?" Sherlock gasps, and then, trying to conceal his complete confusion, barks: "Why?"

"The usual reasons, you know. Well, OK, I suppose you wouldn't. I could try and explain, but it would be like trying to explain music to the tone deaf."

"You and Mycroft making beautiful music together, are you?" Sherlock snaps. If he can just get in a few stinging one-liners, maybe he can get control of the situation again.

"We, I, are trying to see what it's like, what we're like together."

"It still makes no sense. You're not gay."

"I...keep on sleeping with men. I like sleeping with men, and I don't with women. I think, Sherlock,that probably does make me gay, after all."

"That's not what you've been saying for the last year, ten years, lifetime."

"No," says John slowly. "But since I've known you, been with you, I've started to realise that it's not worth pretending to be something I'm not. Yes, people label you: freak, sociopath, queer, but it doesn't matter. You are what you are, I am what I am, and that is...fine."

There is a simplicity about John sometimes that could burn the heart out of someone who happened to have one.

"Well, you may be gay, but Mycroft certainly isn't it," says Sherlock, "well, apart from a few hopeless fumblings on the Cam twenty years ago. His wife didn't leave him because he was gay, she left him because he was less thrilling than a man who bred Chihuahuas. He did tell you about Janet, didn't he?"

"Yes, and I know they were married for quite a while. But Mycroft is gay, Sherlock. Deep in the closet, even deeper than me. It took us months to work out that we were both interested, and even then I thought at first he was just trying to recruit me in the traditional Secret Service way."

"So now you're going to live with him in domestic bliss in Richmond?"  Sherlock says. Annoying that it comes out less sardonic and more bitter than he'd intended.

"Hardly. When I say sleeping together, it's been mostly us having quickies in the offices of various warehouses until recently. It's been pretty strange for me to talk to someone afterwards, get to know a single body, a person. Try and build a relationship."

"I thought the anonymity was the point. Banishes the boredom, at least temporarily."

"I thought so too once, but I'm getting too old for that, Sherlock. I'm coming up on forty, I want someone more mature."

"I would hardly have thought Mycroft was your type," Sherlock says. He has deliberately never found out John's taste in men. Because otherwise, every time he met a man, his internal database would have to add to the instant categorisations – age, nationality, occupation, relationship status, recent criminal activity – the question "would John fancy him?", and it would waste so much time. He's fairly certain, however, that Mycroft isn't anybody's type.

"He's tall, dark, not exactly handsome, but two out of three isn't bad."

"And devious and untrustworthy."

"Not...underneath," said John. "Beneath the suit and the stuffed shirt, there's a very different Mycroft."

"I'd really rather not imagine, though Freud might be interested. Lucian Freud, that is. But if he starts promising to go to the gym again, I suggest you check he's not secretly reprogramming his training results." That's more like it, good and sarky.

"Sherlock," John says patiently, "I know it's probably not worth trying to explain it to you, but I'll say it just this once. I don't know yet know whether Mycroft and I have any sort of future. I hope so, but it's been quite hard for me working out what kind of person I am, what kind of person he is. And there are all kind of complications from his job. But this is London, and it's 2010, and there's always some way to get what you want."

"If you know what you want."

"Yeah, it takes so long to work it out sometimes."

"Are you sure you've done it yet? Maybe you still need to find someone talk,dark and handsome, go for the full house."  

"Think I'll stick rather than twist for the moment." John says.

Over the last thirty years, Sherlock's stolen several thousand pounds, two ID cards, three laptops and a hamster from Mycroft. Of course, none of them had a say in the matter, not even the hamster. Besides, "I stole my brother's lover", correction, "my brother's gay war hero lover", is getting far too far into Jeremy Kyle territory.

John suddenly grins: "It's funny, isn't it, the way it seems to run in families: maybe there is something in the gay gene theory after all. Harry and me, Mycroft and you."

"Me?" says Sherlock, trying to sound calm.

"OK, I'm sorry. I know, you don't do sex. But if you did, it would be men, not women, wouldn't it?"

Sherlock has slept with more men than women to solve cases, but that's because he finds women easy to manipulate even without needing to get into bed with them. His personal preferences are irrelevant and John should not be looking at him in that understanding, kindly way.

How has he got this so wrong, how has he known everything and nothing? And, oh God, he hasn't said anything for several minutes now, even John will notice there's something wrong soon.

"What is up with you, Sherlock?"John asks on cue. "OK, let me guess. You've been staring at me eating toast for the last five minutes. When did you last eat?"

"Just because you see someone eating, it needn't make you hungry."

"You are just ridiculous sometimes, Sherlock. You need to listen to what your body is telling you."

What could he possibly say? Suddenly the words tumbled out:

"I had a friend, a colleague once, he was a vegan for years, decades, very happy with that, never wanted to change. But he told me one day he saw someone eating a bacon sandwich, and suddenly that was the thing in the world he most wanted to eat. Wanted it so much it made his guts hurt just thinking about it."

"OK," said John, "so you've worked out what you want, what you're desperate for, so go ahead and have it, for goodness sake. It's there for the taking."

"I-"

"I went shopping yesterday, there is food in the kitchen, if you want a bacon sandwich you can go and make one. No, I'd better do it, because you look in the state to accidentally burn down the kitchen. Honestly, Sherlock, for a brilliant man, you're a complete bloody idiot sometimes, aren't you?"

"I know," Sherlock mutters, and thinks, but Mycroft isn't.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
ginbitch
Oct. 4th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Really great, understated writing! *gah* - Sherlock is an idiot...

And I now _really_ want to read Jeremy Bentham's guide to dating...is that so wrong?

marysutherland
Oct. 5th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
I'm afraid things are not going to stay understated for long. Part 2 has Mycroft in love (think Sir Humphrey Appleby crossed with Romeo) and Part 3 has a love triangle (using 'love triangle' in the sense of three interconnected strands of razor wire). Because once Sherlock gets an interest in a subject he is dangerous.

Jeremy Bentham on dating would be a bit of a mixed bag. "If your relationship is not making you happy you're doing it wrong" is a good start, but then you've got to work out all the details of the intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity and extent of the pleasure and your date's probably finished their coffee and left before then.(Yes, Wikipedia is my friend). I also shudder at the thought of the inevitable panopticon love nest.

And while Bentham might be relatively liberal on gay relationships, he's really going to be rude if you just fancy a wank.
ginbitch
Oct. 5th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
I...think I love you! This is total win throughout!!

I now need a philosophers 'guide to relationships' conference...Jeremy Bentham handing out a handy scale for weighing up whether an OT3 increases the good, Adam Smith advising on the scripts of RomComs ('It's all about the quality of the sympathy, baby'), Hume ranting outside: 'screw you guys, it's all worth no more than a frickin' oyster...' Oh, the possibilities!

<3
fengirl88
Oct. 4th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
"There is a simplicity about John sometimes that could burn the heart out of someone who happened to have one." I love this! and the list of the things S has stolen from M. and the bacon sandwich misunderstanding. could go on but I would just be quoting more of this back to you.

looking forward eagerly to more!
et_cetera55
Oct. 17th, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
Such wonderful writing and such a great insight into Sherlock's POV :D
random_nexus
Oct. 19th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
OMG! That was so... sneaky... You can read what you like into Sherlock's thought or not... until the end. OMG! You totally got my jaw dropping!

Excellent!
warriorbot
Oct. 22nd, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)
I love how you make Sherlock's protestations just a little too vehement - pitch perfect all the way through. What a poor, deluded boy he is.

And suddenly the coat has yet another role to play - anti-thigh-distraction shield!
marysutherland
Oct. 22nd, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I think a bit less of the 'poor boy' is called for here - Sherlock's lack of scruples is going to be revealed in the third story. After all, he does actually enjoy Jeremy Kyle!
2ndskin
Nov. 21st, 2010 03:30 am (UTC)
Ah! Am so over the moon in love with this tale. The Sherlock theories about John and his dismay when they prove to be wrong, the logical, human struggles of John, and so much tension in the last few lines just knowing the history of what sherlock has seized from his brother . . .and such cleverness in the writing makes the reading pure pleasure! Am thrilled I can read all of the installments in a row. . . Ready for more!
ungalad
Nov. 26th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Gosh, this is wonderful, I love it! There's some ambiguity here, we don't know whether Sherlock loves/wants John or he simply wants what 'belongs' to Mycroft. I'll keep reading, this is awesome. :)
darthhellokitty
Nov. 27th, 2010 07:28 am (UTC)
"I'd really rather not imagine, though Freud might be interested. Lucian Freud, that is.

I absolutely goggled at that one! XD

This is wonderful - Sherlock's flawless observations, and completely wrong deductions - about all three of the parties involved! I am SO delighted to see that there's lots more ready to read right away! Yay!
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Jan. 16th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )