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While we still have the chance (2/2)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: 12 (preslash)

Spoilers: For The Hounds of Baskerville

A sequel to There May Be Trouble Ahead, and Before They Ask Us to Pay the Bill.
Betated by the amazing Blooms84.

Summary: The Baskerville case may be solved, but Sherlock has other problems to consider.

Part 1




John works out about the drug the next morning, but he sounds almost resigned about the fact that Sherlock's been running experiments on him. Or maybe it's just that he has the ideal weapon to retaliate with this time: pointing out to Sherlock that he was wrong about the sugar. Wrong. Even as Sherlock tries to pretend it doesn't sting, a tiny part of him is glad that John not above being petty. That he's not inhumanely good. Just as he's pleased when it occurs to him that if he tells Gary about the dog, then John won't have to. Because John will doubtless feel upset about shooting a dog, even one that's feral and dangerous. John is absurdly sentimental about animals. And women. And most people. But not, Sherlock thinks, about him.

***        

They have to hang around and give a brief statement to the police, after all, but it's a pure formality, and by the time they catch their train, they find that Mycroft has arranged for them to travel first class. John is simply grateful; Sherlock recognises it means that there's less chance anyone can overhear them talking about Baskerville. Which means that he can discuss with John almost all of what happened. And subtly point out the bits of the case that John really shouldn't put in his blog post.

"I hope Henry will be OK," John says at one point.

"He was right," Sherlock replies, "he's been vindicated." John gives him the look that he now knows means: Earth to Planet Sherlock. We have a communication problem.

"His parents are dead. The friend Henry trusted, almost his second father, killed his father, and was trying to kill him. And then blew himself up before Henry could get the full truth from him. Henry's spent twenty years in confusion and fear, being manipulated, being drugged. It's going to take a lot of hard work to recover, make a life for himself," John pauses, and then adds: "And he's going to have to get a new therapist."

"Did you conclude Dr Mortimer was inadequate to the task then? I suppose she's a little weak on patient confidentiality, but then you can be very persuasive." That's a genuine complement he's managed, Sherlock thinks with pleasure. So why is John still giving him an exasperated look?

"Henry attacked her," John replies patiently. "She's not going to work with him after that. At least, she shouldn't do."

"He didn't know what he was doing at the time."

"That's not the point. A therapist has to trust that their patient won't harm them. If you lose that, you can't make the relationship work."

"And you can't trust someone who puts you into danger?" Sherlock's voice is determinedly neutral, but John's smiling across at him in a way that means this time he's followed Sherlock's train of thought.

"A therapist can't. Friends... well, you said when we got to Baskerville it could be dangerous checking the labs, and I went anyway. I'm stupid like that, I guess." He pauses and then adds, grinning: "There are a lot more boundaries for therapists. They're not allowed to tell their patients they're idiots, for example."

Or sleep with them, Sherlock suddenly thinks. Unlike with a friend. He shakes his head at the intrusive idea.

"You all right?" John promptly asks.

"I need to think."

"OK, but we're just under an hour out from Paddington, and when we get there, we are leaving this train. I'm not sitting in a railway carriage all night because you're rearranging your mental furniture."

 John pulls out a book from his bag. Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms, Sherlock notes.  Comfort fiction -John mostly likes adventure stories, but this time he's gone for fantasy. This one has good werewolves in it, doesn't it? Had John been thinking subconsciously of the hound when he picked that book to bring? Anyhow, John will enjoy himself now, unwind, relax.  And sure enough, John's soon absorbed in the book, which means that Sherlock can watch him without being noticed. Because John's appearance, at the moment, is a relevant data point. The fact that Sherlock finds him...attractive.

It's a frustratingly imprecise description, but Sherlock can't, for the moment, think of a better one. John isn't handsome, let alone beautiful, and he's not sexy, of course. Irene is beautiful and most people believe her to be extremely sexy. So why, given the choice, would he rather sleep with John than Irene? Obvious answer: because to the extent he is attracted to people, sexually attracted, it is to men rather than women. But many men are better-looking than John - Lestrade, for example - and Sherlock has no interest in sleeping with him.

Why is he thinking about all of this, anyhow? Why do these thoughts about desire keep on coming back to him? Surely Irene's bogus psychological tricks aren't still disturbing his equilibrium? And then a memory that even he hasn't been able to delete swims into focus. Cherchez le chien indeed. Well, time to prove that he can talk rationally about Victor Trevor. Or at least mention his name without blushing.

"I got pursued by a pack of hounds once," Sherlock announces. John looks up and closes his book, and though his stare is quizzical, he doesn't say something stupid like: "Don't be ridiculous." Just asks "Why?"  Which is an eminently sensible question.

"They were out on a drag hunt," Sherlock says, "following a scent trail, not a live animal. I interfered with the trail, so they followed me instead."

"I wouldn't have put you down as a hunt saboteur."

"It was an accident. I was trying to establish how long creosote would remain on someone's shoes."

"As you do," John replies, grinning again. "So did they catch you?"

"Yes. Most of them were just trying to lick me to death. But one of them fastened onto my ankle and wouldn't let go. Fortunately one of the masters of the hunt rescued me. He was called Victor Trevor, a student at my college."

"Cambridge University has its own pack of hounds, does it? I suppose it would," John retorts, with all the scorn of a non-Oxbridge graduate. "So what happened?"

"We became friends," Sherlock says, and it's then that John says, "Don't be ridiculous". And promptly grimaces and adds: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. It's just – I wouldn't have thought you'd get on with the hunting, shooting and fishing types."

"We found we had some interests in common," Sherlock replies, because he can hardly say: Victor took me back to my room and bandaged up my ankle, and we ended up that evening in bed together. It sounded so implausible, now. But when he'd been eighteen, and lonely, and sexually-inexperienced, a tall, confident blond who'd told him enthusiastically that he was gorgeous had been surprisingly appealing. Made Sherlock feel that he didn't have to be an outcast, after all.

"I'm glad there were at least some of the students at your college who were nicer than what's-his-name," John replies. "The wanker...banker we met in the Chinese smuggling case. Sebastian."

Seb and the others hadn't realised about Sherlock. If you knew how to read the signs of other students' sex lives, you knew how to conceal your own. It had seemed an obvious precaution to preserve his privacy.

"In fact," Sherlock says, "I ended up staying with Victor and his father down in Norfolk for a substantial chunk of the Long Vacation." Even Mycroft had been so pleased about Sherlock having made a pal that he hadn't enquired about what Sherlock might be doing when he wasn't in the "small but select library" he'd told his parents that Mr Trevor possessed. Or maybe Mycroft had just been preoccupied with whatever the current war had been then. Had somehow failed to notice that his little brother was engaged in his first romance.

"So what happened?" John says.

"Who says anything happened?" Sherlock says hastily. Is he really that obvious?

"This is one of your stories," John replies, leaning back in his seat, still smiling. "Someone always gets killed in your stories. Or occasionally just loses a large sum of money and one thumb."

It doesn't occur to John that there could be anything more to his story than that, Sherlock realises, and he's not sure whether to be pleased or frustrated at John's blindness. Stick to the things he can talk about, he decides.

"You're right," he says. "Victor's father, as I deduced after a little while, was in fact, a former criminal. He'd been part of a gang in Australia in his youth, involved in several armed robberies. One of his previous associates was now pursuing him, attempting to blackmail him. A man called Hudson, oddly enough," Sherlock pauses for a moment, enjoying the misdirection inherent to the case.

"A relative of Mrs Hudson's?"

"Not that I know of. It's a common enough name. I was able to distract this Mr Hudson, draw his attention to another of the gang now based in Hampshire, a man called Beddoes, who seemed a more promising prospect for blackmail. Hudson went down to see Beddoes and no more was ever heard of him. One of them doubtless murdered the other and then fled, but no bodies were ever discovered."

"So you saved Mr Trevor's reputation, maybe even his life," John says. "Dunno he deserved it, but it would have been very embarrassing for your friend if it had all come out."

"Yes. It wasn't my first case, of course - you know about Carl Powers – but it was one of my earliest successful ones. Or so I thought at the time."

"You don't think that now? Did Mr Trevor go on to commit more crimes?"

"No," Sherlock replies, and John waits for him to say more. Time to prove that it doesn't hurt any more, Sherlock tells himself, and he's going to do that. "But my friendship with Victor didn't survive. I think he was embarrassed at what I knew about his father." Once Sherlock had known that the money that had purchased Victor's expensive education had come from crime, the relationship could never be the same. And beneath the high-spirited beauty of Victor lurked some of the same ruthlessness that had driven his father. Sherlock had become a liability, and so Victor had dumped him. Or was it – as he'd sometimes worried – that he'd got bored of Sherlock in bed already? Had that been part of it?

"That's rough," John says. "I mean, I know you're not always exactly tactful about things like that, but it can't be much fun getting told to piss off by your only friend." Sherlock looks at him, but there is no trace of irony there about the events of two nights ago. But, of course, John has more than one friend, and John has probably never had a boyfriend, and if he tells John that Victor was his first and only boyfriend, John will be sympathetic, and he does not want sympathy.

 He is aware that his face is freezing up, and he stares out of the train window, so that he doesn't have to look at John. Because if he does and sees John's look of understanding, he will feel compelled to tell John that he doesn't understand, that he can't possibly do so. That John knows nothing about him. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees John sigh and pick up his book again. Back into a world which actually makes some kind of warped sense.

***

Sherlock stares out at the countryside through which the train is moving – slightly too slowly, they'll be at least eight minutes late in Paddington, but not more than twelve – and wonders if it would help the situation if he did sleep with John. Leave aside for the moment the question of whether or not John can be persuaded to have sex with him, because that is a matter of tactics more than strategy. What would having sex with John achieve?

Well, it'd shut up Irene's voice in his head, for a start, give Sherlock enough fresh data to help decide for himself what he wants. A booster injection against further intrusions of desire, perhaps, remind himself that he doesn't enjoy the activity. That his involvement with Victor had been a mistake at all levels. Or alternatively, a chance to find that his tastes have changed slightly since he was nineteen. And while Irene is wrong about him, she is quite possibly right about John, who is doubtless far easier for her to read. There is probably some form of same-sex activity that John can eventually be persuaded to attempt with Sherlock.

Though it would be more convenient, he thinks, if you could synthesise a drug that produces extreme suggestibility without the side-effect of fear. And then he bites his lip, because now he's not just got Irene's voice in his head, but John's, saying very firmly: Drugging someone to make them have sex with you is really, really not good. He sighs. If this is going to happen, he needs to think it through a bit more.

***

Back at Baker Street, John promptly checks that there are no cigarettes anywhere, and then goes and unpacks (which includes finding the packet that Sherlock had secreted in his own carefully arranged socks). Now the case is over, Sherlock decides, he definitely needs some other distraction from smoking. Perhaps sleeping with John is at least worth a try, for that reason alone.

"I think I ought to keep an eye on you tonight," he announces, when John comes back into the living room.  "I know I said there were no long-term effects, but..." He trails off.

"What may happen to me?" John asks with resignation, and before Sherlock can reply, adds. "Can I say now, if I do go into a homicidal rage, I'd quite like to have you on hand. Because I want to make sure that I kill you first, you bastard."

"Disturbed sleep, restlessness, possible nightmares," Sherlock says. "What do you remember about last night?"

John shrugs, rubs his face. "Not a lot," he says. "Except...were you actually holding me at one point? Sort of...hugging me?" He's going a little red. Odd how he remembers it as that.

"You were flailing about, you'd already broken a lamp," Sherlock says, and adds with sudden inspiration. "You were trying to run away, hide. Or possibly get up and shoot something. What I don't want is you rushing down the stairs in a semi-conscious state and breaking your neck. It would be untidy. In fact, you'd be better off downstairs."

"The sofa's bloody uncomfortable," John protests.

"Then come and sleep in my room. The bed's big enough." Somehow he manages to keep it casual, a concession. John gives him a wary look.

"Tell me you're not planning to poison the sheets, or set fire to the bed while I'm in it," he says. "You're up to something, aren't you?" And then he stops and Sherlock can see him thinking, as he stands there. A memory – of the case, presumably - a glance at Sherlock – trying to analyse his mental state - a thoughtful stare and slightly parted lips – as John debates how to say what he's going to say next.

"If I'm still feeling the effects of the drug, are you as well?" John asks. "I mean, it obviously...distressed you at the time, what you were feeling. And then on the train you were talking about when you were younger, which you don't normally do. So I wondered if..." He pauses, and then goes on doggedly: "Can the drug bring up buried childhood memories somehow? Was that part of what was happening to Henry?"

"Last night you went to sleep with the light on," Sherlock says. "Did you do that as a child?"

John frowns in thought. "Yes, I did for a bit, till Harry objected. I didn't consciously do it last night, but maybe I was subconsciously reverting to earlier patterns as well."

The thing about minds, Sherlock thinks, is that we know so little about them, that almost any theory we produce can sound plausible.  John has no idea what the drug really does to someone, but then nor does anyone else.  What doors it might unlock in the head. John's still looking at him, obviously wondering whether to try saying anything more, or to go and have a cup of tea instead.

Suddenly it seems such an obvious move. Claim to John that the drug had brought back bad memories of Sherlock's adolescence. The trauma of coping with new sexual feelings. I suspected I might be gay, John, and I wasn't sure what to do. That's why I've stayed a virgin. Have sex with me and help me overcome my fear of intimacy. Easy to sound pathetic, to play the victim. To trick John into doing exactly what Sherlock wants and no more. He's good at doing that.

John's still looking at him and Sherlock's pleased that he can't read minds, has no hope of following his Sherlock's thoughts this time. John can't manipulate people and he's no good at lying; he's genuinely concerned about Sherlock. And Sherlock should not...must not exploit that. It wouldn't be friendly.

"There is nothing wrong with me," he says, instead, and of course, it comes out wrongly, makes him sound arrogant. John sighs and goes off for his tea, and Sherlock presumes that's the end of the conversation. But then five minutes later, John comes back into the living room with a couple of mugs of tea and hands one to Sherlock and says: "Is it just me sleeping you want to observe, or are you desperate to run a whole battery of tests?"

"You were flexing your left hand in Stapleton's lab, when I was analysing the sugar," Sherlock replies. "You do that when you're worried the tremor's going to come back. Has that or the leg been bothering you again?" He knows they haven't, but he still wants John to say it out loud. To confirm Sherlock hasn't harmed him.

"No," says John. "You haven't driven me mad, if that's what you're concerned about. Well, no madder than I was to start with. If it'll really help, you can watch me sleep tonight. Just don't...well, don't do anything that will make me want to punch you."

"And if you do start punching me?"

"Lock yourself in the bathroom and call for help. I'm dangerous when I'm angry," John says smiling, and Sherlock can't help smiling back.

***

John sleeps soundly in Sherlock's bed that night, and Sherlock lies awake beside him and doesn't touch him once. It's harder than he expects, but he manages it. Because for now, it's the only honest thing he can do.




Final story in the sequence: There may be teardrops to shed

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
ascendant_angel
Mar. 17th, 2012 11:31 am (UTC)
I've just read all of these connected stories. Sorry not to leave individual reviews but I couldn't wait to get on to the next part, and you left handy links directing me to them, so really it's all your fault anyway :D

This has last one has been my favourite though i really wanted to kick John at one point, John you idiot Sherlock was opening up to you and you not only failed to notice you cut him off asking who died.

I think wanting to kick fictional character means I was pulled further into this fic than I'd realised. This is also your fault, you just portrayed your characters(partially Sherlock)so well consistently through out all these stories. Now while I am at it maybe I can blame you for the fact its approaching midday and I'm still not dressed because I was to busy reading fan fic! Can I have my morning back please? I meant to use it clean and tidy my house before I was so distracted.

Edited at 2012-03-17 11:34 am (UTC)
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
I am sorry for wrecking your time management by making you read my fic - is it any consolation to know that I have also wrecked mine by writing it? There's something addictive about fanfic that I never realised before being sucked into this world.

I think it's entirely justified to want to kick some or all of the characters at some point - they're flawed humans and they do stupid things sometimes. Though I think after all John goes through at Sherlock's hands, it's a bit hard that *he's* the one you want to kick. ;-)
shouldboverthis
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC)
Oh, ouch. This is lovely and sad. A nice insight into Sherlock's mind.
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
It's interesting trying to write Sherlock as being anything other than a complete prick, especially during S2, but I did like the idea that he sometimes now knows when he's going wrong, even if he's pretty bad at knowing how to improve.

The next part is set during and after Fall, so will also be sad, I'm afraid.
shouldboverthis
Mar. 18th, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
He does seem to have difficulty learning from his mistakes. But then if he did learn, we wouldn't have a show.

Oh, dear--more sads. Because even though he knows he's not going to die, I believe he is crying because of what he has to put John through.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )