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There May Be Trouble Ahead

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12 (swearing)

Spoilers for Scandal in Belgravia. Note: this is the first of four linked stories, covering the events of all episodes of Series 2

Summary: Sherlock's just met Irene and John's not happy. Betaed by the unstoppable Blooms84.

He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer – A Scandal in Bohemia.


Lestrade simply can't resist taking a few photos on his phone of the incoherent Sherlock, as he reels around outside Irene Adler's house, explaining about deadly boomerangs to an imaginary audience. But he can see John is unhappy about the whole situation, so he rapidly volunteers to take them both back to Baker Street. He doesn't want Sherlock being arrested as drunk and disorderly. And he suspects that it's going to take quite a bit of work getting Sherlock into bed at 221B, which is where John says he needs to be.

"You're sure he shouldn't go to hospital?" he asks John, when the other man finally emerges wearily from Sherlock's bedroom.

"He'll be fine once he's slept it off," John says, and then looks at his watch. "But I do need to check on him regularly. So that's tonight's date cancelled."

"Could Mrs Hudson keep an eye on him?" Lestrade suggests.

"She's our landlady, not Sherlock's nursemaid."

"I can stay if you like."

"No. It's OK, I'll do it. Though if you want to have a beer before you go, grab yourself one. I'll just phone Helen."

Lestrade wanders out into the kitchen and braces himself before opening the fridge. Beer is almost certainly safe, so it's just a question of not looking too closely at anything that isn't sealed up tightly. Though as usual, he's attended traffic accidents that are less alarming than the contents of some of the fridge shelves. He takes his time in the kitchen and remembers to bring a bottle back for John, who is going to need it.

Sure enough, when he gets back into the living room, he doesn't need to be the world's greatest detective to spot that John has just been dumped.

"One too many cancelled dates?" Lestrade asks, handing John the beer and sitting down opposite him.

"No, this is the first I've missed with Helen. But it's because it's Sherlock involved."

"What did he do to her?" Lestrade asks. "No, what did he say about her in her hearing?"

"That she's had plastic surgery on her nose. Which I had worked out already, because I am a doctor, but I didn't think necessary to mention. Helen's a very attractive woman otherwise." He drinks some of his beer in thoughtful silence, and then looks up at Lestrade warily.

"Did you volunteer to stay and look after Sherlock in the hope you could get some information out of him while he was still dopey?"

John's picking up a few things from associating with Sherlock, isn't he? To make up for all the lost girlfriends. Time to be honest.

"Partly," he says, smiling ruefully. "But more because I'm not desperately keen to go home at the moment. Problems with Anne."

"Ah," John replies. "Wanna talk about it?"

"No. But so you know." They both need to unwind a bit, and this seems as safe a place as any.

***

"Somewhere out there," John says, as they start their second beer, "there are people whose love lives are not screwed up. The bastards."

"Can't be many," Lestrade replies. "Or there'd be no need for someone like Irene Adler."

John looks at him warily. "So your new plan is to get me drunk and then pump me for information, is it, Greg?"

"I'm obvious today, aren't I? Sorry," He shouldn't be playing games with John, should he? They're the ones who don't do that sort of thing. "The point is, the case is going to get closed down. I can tell it already. Irene Adler is too hot for the Met to handle."

"She's got police contacts," John replies. "She knew stuff she shouldn't have done."

"Yeah. And you two wouldn't have been there unless someone very important was involved, as well." John's trying to make his face go neutral in a way that only underlines how easy he is to read. Lestrade makes a rapid decision.

"Look, I don't need to know any details. But the dead guy's clothes had American labels in them. A foreigner got shot in my city, and I need to know what's going on with that side of it."

"I don't know what's going on," John replies, throwing up his hands. "Yes, we went to the house to retrieve some compromising photos. While we were there, a gang of American thugs turned up who were also interested in some of the material Irene Adler was holding. We...incapacitated them, and called the police and then Irene got the jump on Sherlock."

"And took the opportunity to beat him up a bit. That mark on his cheek was done with a fist, not a pistol."

John nods, and there's a silent, slithering unease about him that suggests that there's something more to it than that. Lestrade wonders briefly if Sherlock hit Irene first. Or if this is about the fact that one of the American gang got extremely permanently incapacitated, and it was probably John to blame. But that's not important right now.

"You're sure the gang were targeting Irene, not Sherlock," he asks instead.

"Yes," John replies, "though they obviously knew who we were. But it was Irene's information they were after."

"Which you two didn't get, presumably?"

"No. She got it back from Sherlock after she'd doped him."

"So now you have to go after her again, before the Americans find her." Bound to get very messy and illegal, that.

"No. She's not going to use the pictures she's got. Well, the particular pictures we were asked to retrieve. I think we're safe on that. So, in theory, it's over."

"Then what's wrong?" Lestrade demands. "You were unhappy even before you got dumped, weren't you?" Shit, that came out wrong, didn't it? But John actually smiles at that, because he has a deeply warped sense of humour, and he'd always rather laugh than cry.

"Third time this year it's happened," he says. "Walking disaster area with women, me."

Something abruptly clicks into place in Lestrade's mind. Because if there's one thing he knows about Irene Adler, it's that she's a beautiful woman. And John and beautiful women...no wonder he was looking for an excuse to duck out of his date tonight. Nothing more calculated to screw up a pleasant evening than if you're fantasising about someone else.

"So what's she like, Irene Adler?" he asks, as casually, as he can. "Seen her photos in the newspapers, but maybe they're all air-brushed?"

"No," John says quietly, "she's beautiful all right. And when I first saw her, she was naked."

Lestrade opens his mouth to say that a day with a gun-fight and a beautiful naked woman is surely John's idea of fun and then shuts it firmly again. Because John gives a nervous lick of his lips and adds:  "And she was practically sitting on Sherlock's lap."

Ah, thinks Lestrade, there's the celibate elephant in the room.

***

Sherlock's sex-life – or lack of one – has always been one of the top three topics of gossip among Lestrade's team. The other two, obviously, are what drugs he's on, and how he affords all his fancy clothes. The initial view of a lot of the Met had been that Sherlock acting as a rent boy was the most plausible explanation for how he supported his coke and designer shirt habit. More recently, however, the rumour that keeps coming up again and again in the Scotland Yard canteen is that Sherlock is a virgin.

Lestrade, however, is sometimes capable of a logical train of thought, and wonders how anyone knows that about a bloke, unless they've been following him with cameras twenty-four hours a day for the last twenty years. And it seems unlikely that even Mycroft's that obsessive. So the only person who can say with confidence that Sherlock's a virgin is Sherlock himself. Admittedly, there is no sensible reason for a man to spread rumours that he's a virgin, but then there's no sensible reason for a man to tell others he's a sociopath, and yet Sherlock's been known to do that.

It's at that point Lestrade realises that he's still staring blankly at the reason he knows Sherlock isn't a sociopath: Dr John Watson. The silence is lingering on, and Lestrade has absolutely no idea what he can say about Sherlock up close to a naked Irene Adler that won't make things worse. But he has to say something.

"That must have been...unexpected," he says, which is stupid, but at least neutrally stupid. "A bit awkward."

"Have you ever been turned on by someone you don't even like?" John asks, in a rather choked voice, and Lestrade quickly replies, "Can't help it sometimes. Just instinctive." Because what he really, really mustn't ask is whether it's Irene or Sherlock that John means.

"Didn't seem to affect Sherlock," John says with resignation, and gulps down the remainder of his drink. He has the look of a man who would like to drown his sorrows, but knows it won't help, and Lestrade wonders again why Sherlock and sex is such a toxic combination. He wouldn't mind if Sherlock really wasn't interested in sex; there are a surprising number of people who aren't, and Lestrade gets on fine with most of them. But if Sherlock can't feel anything like that, then to Lestrade's way of thinking, he shouldn't go round being deliberately sexy,

And it is deliberate, he's sure. Sherlock, if you look at him really closely, has a strange-shaped head and hardly any chin, and yet he manages to make himself look desirable by sheer force of personality and bloody good tailoring. And Lestrade's seen the way Sherlock ruthlessly exploits the fact that people are attracted to him. The reason Molly Hooper at Barts' can't get over Sherlock is that Sherlock won't let her – drip-feeding her attention and flattery, so she never quite gets him out of her system.

"So Irene was trying to seduce him and Sherlock was not being seduced," Lestrade says, and the moment you put it like that, it's obvious why someone normal wouldn't want to be a bystander.

"Oh, she knew how to seduce him," John says bitterly. "She wanted him to explain his deductions. Helped him guess the combination for her safe. And when I asked her to put some clothes on, Sherlock lent her his coat."

"You asked–" Lestrade begins, and then realises there is no inoffensive way to end that sentence. As it is, he's obviously hit a very sore spot.

"You think I just wanted to drool over Irene Adler?" John demands, with one of his sudden flares of temper. "I like sex, but I don't like it rammed down my throat!"

Lestrade looks down at his beer bottle and manages to keep a straight face for several seconds before looking up and catching John's eye. Then they both start laughing.

"OK," John says after a bit and shrugs, "Yes, I probably am a sex-crazed idiot."

"It happens," Lestrade replies, and then adds, more quietly. "It does your head in sometimes, what you feel." He has a bit more of his beer and then, because he has to tell someone, and John will understand, he says: "Anne's gone off with another man. A PE teacher called Gary Tyler."

"I'm sorry, Greg. That's tough on you."

"It's also bloody ironic. Do you know how she met him?"

"How?"

"I'm in a Sunday league football team, so I suggested she might come along, give us some support. Tyler's our star striker."

"Oh, shit, that is bad," John replies. "So if she does see sense and comes back to you, his form is really going to suffer."

It's an utterly tasteless remark, and it's exactly what Lestrade needs, because black humour is all that's sustaining him now, and they both know it. And then John adds, very gently: "Is it definitely over between you and Anne?"

"Dunno," he says. "I'm not sure she even likes Tyler. They certainly don't have much in common. Except the sex, obviously. But I still want her back, that's the stupid thing."

"It's not stupid," John promptly replies. "Well, not any more than some of the things I've done over the years. Broke my arm when I was twelve, trying to do a wheelie on a bike to impress a girl."

"I nearly drowned myself aged seventeen," Lestrade retorts, smiling.

"River? Lake?"

"On the mudflats off Weston-Super-Mare."

"You went out on some mudflats to impress a girl?"

"Not a lot of excitement in Weston in the winter."

"OK," John says smiling, "we'll call it a score-draw on stupidity." And then his face suddenly sags. "God, maybe Sherlock does have the right idea. Might be better off not fancying anyone, caring about them."

"Yeah, well, notice that it's the two supposedly idiotic ordinary blokes who are sitting round discussing this, and it's the ruddy genius who's sleeping off being doped and robbed."

"That reminds me," John says, standing up. "I ought to go and check on him."

Abruptly Lestrade realises that he should leave. Because John giving up his date to stay with Sherlock tells you an awful lot about their friendship, and the slim chance that Sherlock will actually show any gratitude to John is even slimmer if any observers are still around.

"I should probably make a move," he says. "Leave you and your patient in peace." He picks up the bottles, and shoves them in the recycling box. He can see John bracing himself for going to Sherlock's bedroom, trying to submerge his messy emotions behind a doctor's calm, a friend's concern.

"Sherlock'll be OK, don't you reckon?" Lestrade says, "So all's well that ends well."

 John turns to look back at him.

"This isn't the end," he says, unhappily.

"I thought you said Sherlock had given up on the photos?"

"He has," John says. "But I suspect not on Irene Adler. She defeated him. He won't be able to leave it alone."

"You reckon?"

"He's found someone to play games with," John says, quietly. "I've seen it before. And when Sherlock plays games, people get hurt."

"Anything I can do?"

"No. And I'm not sure I can make much difference, either, this time."  And John turns and heads slowly into Sherlock's room.


Sequel now up: Before They Ask Us to Pay the Bill

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
zauzat
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:36 am (UTC)
I loved this. It is great to watch from the outside, through Lestrade's eyes. I loved all the complicated permutations in which sex messes with people's heads, the way people use or are used by it. And you have some great lines! a day with a gun-fight and a beautiful naked woman is surely John's idea of fun :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )