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Don't you want me? (2/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (nudity, non-explicit femslash)

Summary: What should Sarah do about Anthea's lies to her?

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.

Part 1



"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?"

She waited. What was she going to get? Confusion, denials? Or had John got this wrong, jumped to some rash conclusion? But Anne wasn't saying anything, just sitting there, the smile frozen on her beautiful face, her hand clenched round her coffee cup. Thinking...thinking what to say.

Then Anne bowed her head and said, so quietly that Sarah could barely hear it over the traffic noise:

"I'm not allowed to tell you who I work for. You must understand that."

"It's not just that," Sarah replied, and she could feel her throat clenching. "He said...he said you'd have had me watched. That it wasn't just chance we met, that you'd have planned it all, set it up to seem like a coincidence. Is that right?"

"Yes," Anne whispered, and Sarah got up from the table, and fumbled her bag onto her shoulder and walked away, because if she stayed she would start yelling and crying, and that would just make it worse. How could you get through to a woman who would do that sort of thing?

She only realised she was going to Baker Street when she got to Charing Cross. She had to tell someone, but she didn't know anyone else it was safe to talk to. She was shivering from stress by the time she got to 221b, and John hurried her into a chair and gave her hot, sweet tea.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Anne Zelig, that woman I met. You said she was working for British Intelligence. I asked her, and she just about admitted it. And that she'd deliberately engineered meeting me."

John nodded. "I'm sorry, it must be a shock. But I thought you needed to know."

"Are they after me or you?" she demanded. "Are you in danger? Am I?"

He put down his mug and came and stood in front of her chair, putting his arms on her shoulders.

"It's not like that," he said. "Anthea, Anne works for Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. They're...they're the good guys, they're on our side. Mycroft would know better than to try something like this on Sherlock–"

"Something like what?" said a voice. A voice from under the sofa at the back of the room.

"Sherlock!" John said, "Can you please not lurk."

"I needed to check the effects of a confined space on one's limbs and I didn't have a car boot to hand," said Sherlock, emerging rather stiffly from his hiding place. "What is Mycroft up to now?"

Am I really about to explain my love life to a sociopath who hides under sofas as an experiment, Sarah thought, and then decided that she was. Because she hadn't come here primarily for sympathy, had she? She'd come here to make sense of what was going on. Unlike her, these men understood the world she'd somehow blundered into.

"I, I've got involved with a woman called Anne Zelig," she said, "and I want to know what she thinks she's doing."

"Then I suggest," Sherlock said, hanging onto the mantelpiece and stretching out his limbs, "that you tell me about your encounters with her. If I'm going to give you a diagnosis, Dr Sawyer, I need a case history to start with."

***

It was oddly easy telling Sherlock about Anne. He seemed to know the right questions to ask, could clarify her incoherent thoughts with a single neat phrase. He's good at this detective business, isn't he, she suddenly realised. And John just sat there and listened, and smiled reassuringly and that helped too. They weren't treating her as if she was some hysterical woman, but as a case. And to Sherlock, a lesbian love affair with someone who was concealing her real identity was clearly quite tame stuff.

"I think that's enough data for now," Sherlock announced, after fifteen minutes or so. "We can already eliminate most hypotheses. First, this has nothing to do directly with security. You obviously don't know enough, Sarah, to be of interest to the authorities. And now you're no longer sleeping with John you're in much less danger of being targeted by our enemies. No one's engineering a bogus romance with Mrs Hudson, so I don't see why they should be with you. Second, this also has nothing to do with my relationship to John, although that's always a possibility to consider when Mycroft is involved. But if the aim was to block off John's options for sexual release elsewhere so he'd be forced to find an outlet in me, Anthea would have been breaking up the relationship between John and you far earlier."

"Sherlock!" John protested, "are you really implying–"

"I am saying, John, that Mycroft manoeuvred us into becoming a couple. Given that Anthea was the one who explained to you about my...regard for you, I would have thought that was blindingly obvious. But she didn't attempt to re-enter Sarah's life at that stage. And by now, I think we can take it for granted that if we did split up, you wouldn't necessarily go back to Sarah on the rebound. You'd probably find another woman. Though I suppose potentially you could replace me in your bed with another man..."

"Can we please not have this conversation?" John said, sighing. "I'm sorry about this, Sarah. It's just...you know what's Sherlock like. Always has to think out every angle."

Perhaps there were things it was better to keep quiet about, Sarah suddenly thought, and almost giggled. "So if it's not about security, what it is?" she asked.

"She told you her name was Anne Zelig?" Sherlock said. "Did you say she had a Facebook page under that name?"

"Yes."

"A look at that will probably give me the answer." He whipped out his phone and started tapping away. John stood up, and cleared the mugs away, and came and sat back down opposite Sarah. But he was looking at Sherlock, not her, and his gaze told Sarah that Mycroft had no need to worry about him leaving Sherlock any time soon.

"What have you got?" John asked Sherlock after a while.

"Something surprisingly obvious," said Sherlock. "I'd have expected more finesse from Anthea, but she was clearly in a hurry."

"What do you mean?"

"Her supposed friends on Facebook link to her pages and to each others', but no-one else's. They all have the same writing style and posting habits, and pictures taken by the same photographer. Who is a professional, with a very distinctive taste in patterns, especially wallpaper patterns. So the pages have been recently and carefully created en masse by at most two people. They are familiar with the standard methods of creating cover stories, but they do not normally do it themselves."

Sarah was about to ask a question, but Sherlock barely seemed to pause for breath: "That fits with the approach to you at the surgery, Sarah. There was an obvious potential flaw in a story involving John, who might possibly become suspicious. I'm not surprised Anthea underestimated John, but Mycroft wouldn't have made that mistake. So this project was an independent effort by Anthea. Although obviously with Mycroft's tacit approval; she couldn't hope to conceal it from him."

"It's all just some elaborate hoax?" said Sarah, slowly.

"Not in the sense of being a joke, no. Do you know what Anthea's surname is, either of you?"

"M?" John asked. "No, I have no idea who she really is or what the hell she thinks she's doing."

It was a relief that she wasn't the only person baffled by all of this, Sarah thought.

"She most often goes by the name of Anthea Zelig," Sherlock said. "To call herself Anne Zelig is almost to reveal herself. She wouldn't compromise that identity just for a joke. Anne – Anthea – the woman behind those names – is, I deduce, very seriously interested in Sarah."

"She can't be." She stared back at Sherlock. However clever he was, she couldn't let him just make pronouncements like that.

"She was very ambitious as a student, you said? Aiming for the Diplomatic Corps and a fast track to the top?"

"Yes. She was far more focused than any other student I'd ever met. Than I was at her age. She knew what she wanted, always did."

"And one of the things she wanted, quite clearly, was you. She didn't sleep with you back then to buy your help; you said you were already her landlady. And she stayed with you as long as she dared, even though it would have been far safer for her in career terms to have been involved with a man. The most plausible explanation for her behaviour is that she loved you, Sarah. No, loves you. She risked exposing herself by coming back into your life. She wouldn't have done that lightly."

"I...how can she love me?"

"You're an attractive woman, she's a lesbian. I'd have thought the answer would be obvious."

John put his head in his hands. "Show some tact here, please," he sighed. "Stop treating it like an abstract puzzle."

"No," said Sherlock. "If Sarah wants sentiment you can be warm and comforting later. That's not my specialty. What she needs from me is an understanding of the situation. Or, more precisely, she needs to understand who Anne Zelig is, so she can work out what she wants to do."

"I thought I knew her," said Sarah. "I thought...is there anything real underneath all that?"

"Mycroft doesn't tell lies," Sherlock replied, staring out of the window. "At least not explicit lies. He misleads in other more subtle ways. Anthea lies about her past and her job, which is necessary, and about her motivations, which is normal. What has she told you recently about herself:  her friends, her family, her work?"

Sarah thought back. "Very little, actually. She said she couldn't talk about her job, and we tend to talk mostly about books, music, that sort of thing. I should have been suspicious about that, shouldn't I?"

"On the contrary," said Sherlock. "She deliberately steered you onto subjects where she didn't have to lie to you. Which is interesting."

"But how do I know she wasn't lying? She said once she was planning to go to an exhibition of Saudi Arabian art. Was she just faking an enthusiasm for that?"

"I don't know about art," John broke in, "but Anthea likes reading Persian poetry." Sarah stared at him. So did Sherlock.

"She did languages at SOAS," Sarah said, "but I thought it was Arabic rather than Persian."

"How do you know that, John?" Sherlock demanded.

"Asked her once what her favourite poet was. I didn't recognise the name, but she said it was the Iranian national epic."

"You asked me who my favourite poet was as well," Sarah said. "One of your standard chat-up lines, is it?"

John smiled. "I once got a very pleasant shag owing to having heard of Sonnets from the Portuguese."

"Yes, well leaving aside the fact that you were clearly educated in the University of Bedfordshire," said Sherlock, "are Anthea's intellectual interests substantially different now to those of ten years ago, before she became caught in Mycroft's dubious clutches?"

"His clutches?" she gasped. "Do you mean–"

"No of course, I don't," Sherlock said with irritation. "Oh, I forgot, you probably wouldn't have heard. Mycroft has now entered into a relationship with DI Lestrade, whom he had been lusting after ineffectively for years. The rumour was that Anthea arranged that as well. No wonder she's feeling rather left out of events."

"Can you try not to make things worse?" said John. "And besides, if Anthea was just looking to settle down, surely she could have her pick of women? I mean she could certainly have her pick of men. I'd have...I'm sorry, that's completely irrelevant." He was starting to go a rather familiar shade of pink by now.

"What John is trying to say, Sarah," Sherlock announced, "is that it's obviously you specifically that Anthea wants, and that's she prepared to go to some lengths to attract you."

"I don't...I can't live that way, with the lies. With not knowing who she is."

"A perfectly rational response," said Sherlock. "I doubt she'll trouble you again. If she does, let me know and I'll raise it with Mycroft. Now, is there any other aspect of the matter that needs to be dealt with? If not, do you happen to have a decent-sized car I can borrow? Well, the boot of it, at least?"

***

That was that, Sarah thought. At least it ought to be. So why couldn't she get over it, move on? Why couldn't she stop thinking about Anne...Anthea...her? Hearing someone on the radio and thinking: I wonder what she'd say about him? Or seeing a book in a shop window and wondering: would Anthea like that? And when she lay awake at night she kept hearing Sherlock's words in her head:  The most plausible explanation for her behaviour is that she loved you. No, loves you. The surprised voice of a man who hadn't known what love was until he'd been overwhelmed by John Watson.

She was being stupid. Even if Sherlock was right, Anthea couldn't be trusted. People didn't change.

But if people didn't change, what had happened to Anne Zimmerman? Who had cared for Sarah, even if not quite enough to stay. Who had been brilliant, beautiful, staggering, just as Anthea was. Who had lain in Sarah's arms as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Was that Anne gone forever? Sherlock had been right: when she'd talked to Anne – Anthea – Anne this last month, it'd felt as if she'd never gone away, as if they'd simply taken up a conversation from a week ago, not ten years. If Anne had asked her to go to bed with her, it would have seemed as simple as breathing.

Was it all a facade? Surely it couldn't have been. But she needed proof. She couldn't let it go like this, it burned and twisted in her guts that she hadn't at least said goodbye. She should...no. She had to be honest with herself. She didn't need to see Anne again just to end the matter. She could send her a letter if that was all it was, tell her what she thought about her behaviour. To see Anne – no – Anthea Zelig again was to admit that she still cared about her, even now. To make herself vulnerable again. Was that really what she wanted to do?

It was, though, wasn't it? Maybe it shouldn't be, but it was. Because in ten years of dating and marriage and post-divorce dating, they'd been no-one as clever and amazing, and, yes, sexy as Anthea. She'd come back into her life and everyone else abruptly looked second best. It was probably stupid to fall in love with her again, but it was a stupidity that sang through her body. She couldn't just walk away from this. She had to try one more time. 

***

"I don't know how to get hold of Anthea, or whatever her name is," John told her, when she plucked up the courage to ask him, "And frankly, I'm not sure I'd tell you if I did know. She's a bitch."

"John!"

"I'm sorry. But she's treated you appallingly, and, and I'm your friend, Sarah. I don't want to see you getting hurt again. And you know what she's like: she lies about everything."

"I still want to see her. Just talk to her, see what she has to say for herself."

"I can't help you, I really can't."

***

Sherlock, I need to talk to Anthea/Anne. Can you tell me her number? Sarah

Meet you at the surgery at 6.30 pm. SH

***

"Anthea's her preferred name now," said Sherlock, when he arrived. "Are you sure you want to contact her? There are certain risks in getting involved with any associate of Mycroft's."

"The first time I met you, I ended up fighting Chinese gangsters," she replied drily.

"Dating John is a rather unusual business, isn't it?" he said. "I presume you're asking me because he warned you off doing this. He's quite protective."

"And you're not?"

"You're a grown woman, but this is going to take some nerve. Where would you go if you wanted to have a private meeting with someone?"

"I have an office at the back," she said, and led him through. Once they got into the room, he whirled round, scanning the office as if he was a camera. As if he was a camera.

"Have they bugged this?" she demanded. "Put surveillance in here?"

"It's the obvious place," Sherlock said. "Even Mycroft would think twice about surveillance in the consulting rooms, but reception and here are both likely. You sit at the desk here, they'd probably just have a fixed position lens and the walls are plain, so where exactly?" His hands began to sweep over the far wall of the room.

"Furniture's ideal, helps to give shadow," he added, his hands skimming across the shelves in the corner. He whipped out his pocket magnifier, stared hard for a moment at something on the wall, and then turned and leant against it.

"Hidden camera," he said, "which is now getting a very close view of my shirt. There'll be a microphone as well, so if it concerns you, we can relocate."

"How could she do this to me?" Sarah demanded. "She...how?"

"Oh, this isn't Anthea's work," Sherlock replied. "In fact, really, it's my fault."

"You put it there?"

"No, but it's there because of me. Mycroft Holmes is my brother. John is my friend and now my lover. You are John's ex-lover, friend and boss. Therefore you are watched. If you want to be left alone, that the link that's easy to break. Fire John and never speak to him again, and Mycroft and Anthea won't disturb you anymore."

"I won't have them – I won't have anyone dictate who I can and can't love, who I can and can't have as a friend."

"Even given the consequences that come with associating with John, with both of us?"

"Even then. So if I want to contact Anthea–"

"You do it via this camera. And it'll get passed onto her by the surveillance team."

"The team? There's a whole team watching me?"

"Not all the time. But because I've been here they'll be monitoring this zone particularly closely for the next few hours."

"So whatever I say or do, someone will hear it," she said.

"Yes," Sherlock replied, still leaning against the wall. "To my way of thinking that means you might as well say things that are worth hearing."

"Do I have any choice?"

"You've walked away from Anthea. As I said, you can walk away from John and myself as well and this will stop. You'll be back to your own safe world. No more of the Service watching you. "

"And if I don't do that?"

"You've effectively chosen to expose yourself. As you do by entering into any same-sex relationship, even if it's not with Anthea. People will talk, judge." There was a matter-of-fact tone to his voice.

"Will the people behind the cameras judge? Or your brother?"

"If you're not a danger to the realm, they don't really care what you do. When you get patients telling you secrets, do you condemn them?"

"I have my own views, sometimes, but it'd be unprofessional to express them."

"Mycroft and his subordinates pride themselves on their professionalism, too.  Whatever you want to say personally to Anthea will be treated in confidence. But you have to decide how far you want to go."

"How far would you go?" she found herself saying. Why on earth was she talking to him about this, she wondered. Still, he would at least give her an honest answer.

"For the right person and the right reasons, a long way. So what is it about Anthea? Unlikely to be simple nostalgia, a desire to recapture your youth. You're not sentimental about such matters, judging by the lack of mementoes in the office. You're predominantly heterosexual, so it can't simply be sex that you want from Anthea. And, of course, her treatment of you would not cause you anything like so much distress if you did not have deep feelings towards her."

"I'm probably stupid to feel the way I do," Sarah said, leaning back against the desk, trying to will herself into calm.

"Well, Anthea is at least not likely to decide that she's really in love with me, which surely puts any relationship with her one up on your time with John."

One of the many things she'd needed to develop over the last year was an extremely robust sense of humour.

"She's also taller than John, and prettier," she managed to get out. Sherlock smiled.

"As well as being beautiful," he replied. "she's intelligent, competent and brave. She has to be to work for Mycroft. She's been his PA for more than five years, which is longer than anyone has ever previously lasted. Which implies she's also loyal, under the right circumstances."

"Who...who is your brother? What does he really do? Or aren't you allowed to tell me?" She'd heard so much about Mycroft, but she'd only seen him once, in some hospital or other, when John and Sherlock had once again managed to damage themselves.

"He does the necessary, but unappealing task of ensuring that Britain does not collapse into chaos. If you open the curtains in the morning and no-one's knifing somebody else for the last loaf of bread in London, he's apparently done his job. Or so he informs me."

"And Anthea?"

"Behind every successful man is a woman who can explain to him in simple terms how to use a mobile phone. She is essential to Mycroft, and her job is essential to her."

"So I can't ask her to give it up?"

"The Service comes first. Were you attracted to John because he was a war hero or despite that?"

He was always several steps ahead of her, but now he at least expected her to be able to follow some of his deductions.

"Anthea's a soldier as well, you mean?"

"In a different kind of war."

"I can understand serving your country," she said slowly. "Admire it, even. But if I can't trust Anne...Anthea, how can be sure what she feels towards me?"

"You can't, obviously. Caring for anyone leaves you vulnerable."

"Which is why you find it so hard?" Sherlock's eyes narrowed and his cheekbones somehow seemed to harden. He didn't like other people deducing him, she should have remembered that.

"I have...changed my views somewhat in that regard. The currently available evidence suggests that Anthea is prepared to put considerable effort into attracting you. But there is, naturally, no obligation on you to reciprocate. If you need help in acquiring additional data, you know where to find me. I do not, however, advise my clients on emotional matters. If you'll excuse me, I have other matters to work on this evening."

He levered himself off the wall, and swept out of the room, leaving her alone. Except, of course, she wasn't. Sherlock's big brother was still watching her. On an impulse, she went into one of the consulting rooms and found a plaster, and stuck it firmly over the tiny lens in the corner that Sherlock had found. And then she got the radio from reception and turned it on loudly. Probably futile, but at least she might get a few moments' privacy.

On the radio they were talking about instability in the Horn of Africa. Was that something else Mycroft and Anthea had to worry about? It couldn't be an easy job, she supposed. A long way away from swish embassies and diplomatic parties. Even further away from the mundane life of a central London surgery and a thirty-something GP.

Last year she'd given a temporary job to a sweet, funny and overqualified ex-army doctor, and here she was discussing with the world's only consulting detective whether to get together with a spy. What had happened to that ordinary world of hers? But then Anne – Anthea – was extraordinary, always had been. Ever since she'd met her, she'd known Anne was destined for greatness, a shining star. But stars burned you up if you got too close. Was it worth the risk?

Sherlock had said Anthea was brave. Sarah knew she wasn't, not in the way John was. But she'd done brave things sometimes, when the situation had demanded it. Maybe she needed to be brave now. What was it Sherlock had said? They're going to hear you, so give them something worth hearing.

She switched off the radio and announced loudly to the covered camera: "I've got a message for Anthea Zelig." And then she ripped the plaster off and went to stand in the middle of the room, where it could see her clearly.

"This is Sarah, Anthea. I want to say that I made a mistake running out on you like that. I should...I should at least have given you a chance to explain. I still love you, but it can only work between us if you're honest with me. You can’t keep hiding yourself away." This was unreal: was she just making a fool of herself? Well if so, why not go the whole hog? She took a deep breath and put up her hands behind her, to untie her hair, so it fell down round her face. Anne had always liked her hair like that, hadn't she? And liked Sarah's body, its generous curves.

"I'm not going to hide away anymore, Anthea," Sarah said. "I've seen the way you look at me, what you want from me." She started to undo her blouse, her fingers tense and clumsy. "You can have that, you can have all of me." She took her blouse off and then removed her bra. Not much of a striptease technique, but then that wasn't really the point.

"I will do this for you," she said. "You can know me, every atom of me" – shoes off next, then tights – "but you have to let me know you, reveal yourself to me. I'm not going to conceal things, Anthea, but you mustn't either." She was down to her briefs now, and half of her wanted to cling onto them, keep at least that measure of privacy, dignity. But that was the point, wasn't it? There was no room for half-measures here. She pulled off the briefs rapidly, and stood there, naked in her own office, and then put her hands on her hips and began a slow turn for the camera: big boobs, rounded arse and all.

"This is me, Anthea," she said. "All of me, just as I am. But you have to show yourself to me in return. Who you really are. It won't work otherwise. Please, Anthea, do this." Her legs were starting to tremble, and she could not do this anymore, she could not, and then the phone on her desk started to ring. She picked up the receiver with a shaky hand.

"Good evening, Dr Sawyer." A man's voice, polite, educated. Mycroft Holmes or someone else?

"I wanted to let you know," the voice went on, "that your message has been understood and passed on. It'll take a little time to organise the reply, so if you could go to 221B Baker Street tomorrow evening, we'll have things in place. And for your information, the cameras in your surgery have now been turned off for the rest of the evening. Good night." The line went dead.

She clung to her desk, naked and drained, and thought: What have I got myself into?





Part 3

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
trista_zevkia
Apr. 26th, 2012 08:37 am (UTC)
No part 3 or 4! Oh, give me patience! Had to go a read a bunch of your other stories;) Loving them,even though I get into reading mode and don't leave feedback as I should. Also trying to hurry, as I should have been in bed hours ago. Oh well.

<3 the ficage!
marysutherland
May. 6th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
Parts 3 & 4 are now up - including the world's most horrendous internet chat conversation and yet more secrets coming out.
trista_zevkia
May. 19th, 2012 05:17 am (UTC)
A week later and I finally get to read. Yes indeed, very awkward internet chat, but totally in character. <3
zauzat
Apr. 26th, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
This is really interesting. I love unusual ways of looking into the world of Sherlock.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )