?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Don't you want me? (1/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (nudity, non-explicit femslash)

Summary: "Anthea" had a relationship ten years ago with Sarah, when she was a student in London, but broke it off when she joined the civil service. Now she's helped bring Sherlock and John together, should she resume contact or not?

Sequel to Working practices, Do you want to know a secret? and What's love got to do with it?
No Series 2 spoilers and not compatible with it.

Betaed by the very helpful Greywash.



You couldn't expect to get what you wanted if you didn't know what it was that you wanted. Anthea had always known that. Even Anne Zimmerman had known that, before she had become Anthea Zelig.

She didn't want to be Anne again. Who but a fool wanted to return to their early twenties? Looking back, her ignorance had been incredible, even if her taste in women had been better than she realised. One woman, at least. Because it had been Anne who had got involved with – no, she must admit it, fallen for – Sarah Sawyer all those years ago.

It was still ridiculous, she told herself, even as she skimmed the day's report on Sarah. There had been nothing remarkable about her ten years ago: there was nothing remarkable now. Why should the actions of a thirty-eight-year-old divorced GP be of interest to anyone?

They weren't to Mycroft, of course, or only indirectly. As she expected, when she clicked on the video clip attached to this day's report, Sarah was talking to John Watson. He was still at Security Grade 3 Active, so that even his most trivial interactions had to be watched. Although not normally by her, thank God.

She recognised the location as the back office at Elmside Surgery, and wondered whether this was yet another discussion of NHS funds. Or of Karen the receptionist's sickness record, about which she was now, by force, well acquainted. She didn't know why Sarah put up with some of the staff she had to manage.

"John," Sarah said a little awkwardly.  "Karen was a bit worried about your arm." She looked as professional as ever, Anthea thought: auburn hair tied back, the minimal make-up that nevertheless cleverly emphasised her delicate bone structure, the plain blouse hiding her beautiful body.

"What about it?" John Watson asked casually. "I'm probably a bit pasty at the moment, but that's the point of wearing short sleeves, to get a tan."

"You have scars on your arm."

"I've got scars in a lot of places, you should know that." He was smiling at Sarah, and if Anthea had been there, she might possibly have hit him.

"Star-shaped scars, Karen said," Sarah said. "Looking as if they'd been deliberately inflicted. As if you'd been branded." She still sounded remarkably calm.

"Ah, those. Sorry about that, I thought the sleeve covered them."

"They're on your left triceps, and you're left-handed. I think even if you did want to make pretty patterns on yourself, you wouldn't try doing it in such an awkward position. So what's Sherlock up to?"

"I suppose you could call it branding, though it's done with extreme cold rather than heat. Sherlock wanted to see how long before the marks faded, because we know they're not permanent."

"He could have experimented on himself."

"The victim was more my build, and I cope better with pain," John said, as calmly as if this was a normal conversation. "I did use local anaesthetic first, but it wasn't as effective as I'd hoped. But as I said, no permanent damage."

"This time," said Sarah. She paused and then added, "Just make sure you take care of yourself, OK? Because you can be sure that Sherlock won't."

"Sorry if I upset anyone," he said. "I didn't mean to."

The clip ended there and Anthea made a few rapid notes for Mycroft. Sherlock still investigating the Blauer Stern gang, no sign of tension between him and John, no significant security breaches. She did not need to play the clip again. And it was hardly new information that Sarah was intelligent and practical and caring. It was not even important information. Especially when she still had daily reports on sixteen other people to check.

***

Anthea rattled through the remaining files: the perennial sorting of the significant from the trivial, the deluded and pathetic from the deluded and dangerous. She could probably go home on time tonight, provided a crisis didn't arise in the next six minutes. Which she was not going to spend thinking about Sarah, but writing up tomorrow's to do list. It was just that she needed to double-check that the keywording of the video clip had conformed to protocols. No use collecting data you couldn't find again, was it?

She stopped the clip halfway through her second viewing. Her...physiological reactions to the video were ridiculous. She could go out tonight to a club and find someone younger and sexier than Sarah. On her Blackberry she had the contact details for women who were far more powerful, far cleverer than Dr Sawyer. If she wanted to meet any of them – have sex with them – that too could be arranged. Sarah might be a possibility, but she was hardly an optimal one.

***

"I see myself as a performer primarily," Amber half-shouted at Anthea across the noise of the bar. "The pole-dancing and the modelling, they’re both about transgression, bricolage, a whole new post-post aesthetic being created."

You're doing the pole-dancing, Anthea thought, because you have a good body and a mediocre degree. You're running away from your suburban past but that doesn't stop you taking money from your parents. Your name is fake and so is your accent.

But who was she to complain about fakes, with a purse full of ID claiming she was Adrienne Johnson, and the key to the hotel where Ms Johnson was staying during her business trip to London? A room to which she could take Amber, née Somebody Else, later this evening and see if her performing skills extended to pretending that she and Anthea cared for one another before they fucked.

No, she decided abruptly, she wasn’t going through with this, it simply wasn't worth it. She excused herself to go to the bathroom, and then slipped out of the bar. Another small betrayal in a long line of them.

Why had she gone there, she wondered as she headed home. Of course all you got in a place like that was superficiality. But then that was safer. The Service didn't mind casual pickups as long as you didn't talk in bed or get pick-pocketed. It was the serious relationships they worried about, wanted to start vetting.

Sarah had been very discreetly vetted already, after Moriarty. It had been easy to confirm she was clean: an exemplary career, an uneventful five-year marriage and an amicable divorce a couple of years ago. No serious relationships since then, unless you counted John Watson, which Anthea preferred not to. No men at the moment; no women ever, apart from her. Anthea still wasn’t certain if that was a good sign or not.

Why wasn't a beautiful, intelligent woman in a relationship? Because she was thirty-eight? But that was her sexual prime, as anyone who knew about women would realise. Was she too bright, too blunt, not willing to play the games that men expected from women? That most men did: Dr Watson had seen her value, she had to give him that. Sarah was real, not some plastic creation like Amber. Or the shadows and surfaces of Anthea. Why hadn't she realised, when she was still Anne, what she had found when she'd met Sarah?

She mustn't fool herself; Anne hadn't been Little Miss Innocent. Anne had been reshaping herself even then, becoming a woman destined for the top, an alpha female who would get everything she wanted. She'd known what she was doing with Sarah, taking what she could and then running away. Though there were other things Anthea knew that Anne had been happily ignorant about. She’d done things working for Mycroft that she would prefer to forget. But you couldn't stop real life and wind it back to the bit you preferred. There was no way back to Anne Zimmerman.

***

No way back, Anthea decided a couple of days later, needn't mean no way forward. Wasn't it possible that Sarah might still be interested in a relationship with Anne? An Anne. What was wrong with reinventing oneself, after all? Or with giving Sarah a chance to see her again?

A chance, that was all. She wasn't going to involve Mycroft in this; she mustn't trap Sarah into his schemes. He would know about her plan, of course, but only after the fact.

***

'Anne Zelig' walked into Elmside Surgery at lunchtime a week later, and asked for Dr John Watson.

"He's not working today," Clare the receptionist replied. She was the one who mothered the male doctors, but bitched about Sarah behind her back. Anthea was happy to make life difficult for her.

"Can you give me his home address, please? I need to get hold of him urgently."

"I can't do that, I'm afraid. But he'll be in tomorrow, and I think we've got an appointment or two left–"

"It's a personal matter, really important. Is there any way I can get a message to him?" Anthea stood there, persistent, insistent, as a queue of people gradually formed behind her. She'd made heads of state agree to her demands before now and Clare was already looking for a way out. Just in time, before Clare cracked and actually gave Anthea John's address, Sarah appeared.

"Is there a problem?" she asked politely.

"Dr Sawyer's in charge of the practice," Clare gabbled hastily, "Maybe you should talk to her."

***

Sarah's office was brighter than it looked on the surveillance cameras, but more cluttered. Up close, she could see the fine lines on Sarah's forehead. It didn't matter: she was the same intelligent, considerate woman, patiently trying to deal with the fallout from a rather hapless junior civil servant.

"What happened, you see," Anthea explained rapidly, "is that my friend Julia in the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency accidentally deleted Dr Watson's home address from his file. She...I'm not quite sure how she managed to do it. But if it comes out that she's corrupted the data, she'll be in really serious trouble. She wondered if I could possibly find it out, get the data restored."

"I can't give you Dr Watson's address," Sarah said calmly. "But I could ask him to get in contact with the SPVA himself."

"That’d be wonderful," Anthea said. "As soon as possible, please. Can I give you the number of Julia's direct line?"

"If you write it down here," Sarah said, giving her a pad of paper advertising acne treatment. "Oh, and...." She paused and then added: "Have you got identification of your own? Just to be on the safe side."

"Yes, I'm very sorry, I should have shown you that before. I'm Anne Zelig, from the MOD. Here's my pass." She handed it over. One of her less-used identities, but fortunately she'd kept it.

"Anne Zelig?" Sarah's voice was slightly tentative. "I...your surname wasn’t by any chance Zimmerman once, was it?"

"Yes, that was my maiden name. Do I know...oh my God!" Anne Zelig was going to remember now. "It's Sarah, isn't it? Sarah Sawyer. I should have recognised you. I, I don't know what I was thinking of.  You're a GP now, and I should have...God, it's so amazing to see you. It must be ten years or more. How are you?"

"I'm fine," said Sarah, grinning. "And you're with the MOD, now, not a diplomat?"

"It's a long story," Anthea replied, grinning back. "I, I don't know if you have time for a coffee sometime, catch up on things. It's great to see you, and you look so good. You haven't changed a bit."

"And you're all grown-up and lovelier than ever. It's wonderful to see you, Anne. I wondered what had happened to you. I don't know about coffee, but if you'd like a drink this evening, maybe we should go somewhere. If you're not busy, that is."

***

In the bar, Anthea let Sarah do as much of the talking as possible. The more Sarah told her, the less likely that Anthea could be caught out knowing something she shouldn't do. And it was always surprising how much people would tell a sympathetic listener.

"So what about you?" Sarah said after a while. "You're what, in a civil partnership, married?"

"Divorced, like you," Anthea said with a rueful smile. "From a man, though it's not what you think."

"What happened?" Sarah asked sympathetically.

"I was working in our embassy at Moscow. I met this poet called Mordecai Zelig. He was having problems with the Russian authorities, made some enemies, was desperate to get out of the country. I knew him as a friend, so I agreed to marry him, so he could get a UK visa."

"What happened?"

"Well, we got married, but then the embassy became suspicious, and they had someone go back and check my background and–"

"And I gave you away," Sarah said despairingly. "Someone came and asked about you again, and I said the wrong thing, admitted we'd been together. They found out about you being gay from me, didn't they?"

Making people feel guilty distracted them, prevented them from noticing lies, but Anthea wished she didn't have to do this to Sarah.

"If it hadn't been you it would have been someone else," she told Sarah hastily. "And I couldn't have stayed in the closet forever. You get sick of living a lie."

"Did you have to leave the Foreign Office?"

"I was luckier than I deserved. They shoved me sideways into the MOD, who were desperate for Arabic speakers. I'm probably stuck at my current grade forever, but my boss is good about me being out, very supportive. And someone even wangled an Israeli passport for Mordecai, so he's OK as well. He said in his last e-mail he'd met a nice girl in Tel Aviv."

"And you?"

"No, I'm... since I've been back in London, I haven't really met anyone. I'm a bit old now for all the earnest girls just out of college. But I'm probably better off on my own. I could hardly drag a girlfriend off to talks about the psychology of extremism, after all, could I?"

"What?"

"I went to hear someone in Cambridge talk about that recently. And next week it's Saudi Arabian abstract painting at SOAS."

"You always did have a wide range of interests, didn't you?" said Sarah. "Well, I'm not sure I'm up to modern art, but if you have anything in the science or medicine line you want to hear about, I'm quite often free in the evenings. Or perhaps you could even lower your highbrow interests enough for a film or two."

***

Anthea was cautious at first. This wasn't one of her ordinary seductions: this mattered. Get Sarah used to having her as a friend again before trying anything physical. Give her a chance to remember that she wasn't absolutely straight. So lectures and concerts and walking and talking and the odd glancing touch, but nothing openly seductive. Anne Zimmerman had been a flirt, forever finding excuses for wandering round Sarah's flat scantily clad, but she wasn't that Anne anymore.

The nineteen-year-old Anne had flaunted her sexy body at Sarah in vain, though. It had been being sensitively miserable that had got Sarah caring for her, comforting her, finally going to bed with her. She suspected Sarah still had a soft spot for the vulnerable. It might explain her attraction to John Watson, who was oddly, irritatingly good at being accidentally pathetic. At some point maybe Anthea should ensure that Anne sprained her ankle, or got soaked or...

No, she wasn't doing that. She wasn't manipulating Sarah anymore. This Anne didn't do that, didn't listen to Sarah's phone calls or read her e-mails – Sarah was on someone else's watchlist now. Anne Zelig gave Sarah space, left it up to her to decide where the relationship was going. Even as she was conscious of the times she stared too long at Sarah's body, or went breathless at her touch.

***

It was late night at the National Gallery, but there was something odd about Sarah's manner as she arrived that immediately suggested to Anthea that landscape painting wasn't on her mind.

"Can we go somewhere?" Sarah said awkwardly after a few minutes. "I think...we need to talk."

Anthea rapidly found a nearby cafe where they could sit outside: traffic fumes, of course, but the bustle of London made it unlikely they'd be overheard. She positioned herself carefully at the table: lip-reading from the side was difficult even with repeated viewings, and if necessary she could gesture enough to cover her mouth from the local surveillance cameras.

"Hope your latte's OK," she said, smiling at Sarah.

"It's fine," said Sarah. "I probably shouldn't be drinking coffee this time at night, but well, I guess it doesn't matter. I, I don't know quite how to tell you this."

She's dumping me, Anthea thought in terror. No, she wants to sleep with me. No, she's just been offered a job in New Zealand.

"Tell me what's upsetting you," she forced herself to say calmly, "Has it been a bad day at work? Is this the Andrew Lansley blues again?" She rested her hand invitingly close to Sarah's on the table, but Sarah just sat there looking at her, as if she wasn't quite sure who Anthea was. This was bad, this was very, very bad.

"It was at work," Sarah said. "I was telling John about tonight. Mentioned how I'd met you again after all these years, thanks to the SPVA cock-up."

"Right," she said mechanically, her mind racing. Had she underestimated Dr Watson? But surely...

"John, erm, John thought it was an odd coincidence, that happening," said Sarah nervously. "He wondered, well, you know, after Moriarty, the bomber, if you were someone else who was trying to get at him and Sherlock. So I said that, obviously, your name wasn't up on the MOD's website, but you had a Facebook page. And I showed him that, and..." Her voice tailed off.

"And?" Anthea said. Surely John Watson couldn't spot a fake Facebook page?

"He recognised you from one of your photos," Sarah said softly.

The breath left Anthea's body. The photos were deliberately blurry; no-one could possibly recognise her face from them. Then she remembered that Dr Watson had doubtless not been focusing on her face. She had to say something, do something, stop this, but she couldn't think fast enough...

"John says your name's not Anne and you're not in the MOD," Sarah said. "You're in the Secret Service and you work for Sherlock's brother. Is that true?"



Part 2

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
kalypso_v
Apr. 23rd, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
Uh-oh. Discreetly, I think.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )