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SNAFU (4/6)

BBC Sherlock

Rating for whole fic 15 (swearing, sex, angst, hints of BDSM)

Summary:  John is about to discuss his sex life with Clara. Choose Your Own Disaster Time awaits...

Notes: With special thanks to my betas Fengirl88 and Blooms84 for their exceptional efforts in trying to sort this fic out.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6


I thought I was looking reasonably presentable when I got round to Clara's, but she took one look at me, and almost bundled me into the flat, as if I was about to collapse on her doorstep. As usual, she looked lovely. She's got a very unobtrusive charm. Short brown hair, smartly but plainly dressed, nothing that stands out, except that she's got the kind of face that you know will still be beautiful in fifty years time.

"Do you want a drink?" she asked.

"Got any juice?" I asked.

"Apple juice OK?" Clara asked. "Or I might have some...no, I have a nasty feeling I'm pretty low on everything." She handed me the drink and went on: "And I'm sorry, I didn't say anything about food, did I? You have eaten, I presume?"

"I, er, possibly not," I said, trying to focus. "I had something at lunchtime." Because what better way was there to get myself back into gear than not bothering to eat or sleep properly? Medical genius, that was me.

"Don't tell me you're on a Sherlock diet now," Clara replied, and added. "I could do you a sandwich, maybe?"

"That would be great," I said. I went into the lounge, and when Clara presented me with a rather chunky and haphazard cheese sandwich, tried not to wolf it down, or drop too many crumbs on the sofa.

"So what is it you're worried about, John?" Clara asked, sitting down opposite me. "It's not Harry, is it?"

"No, it's me."

"If it's anything financial, you know I don't feel I should advise you," she said cautiously. Clara is a research analyst who specialises in the luxury goods market. I have had the details of this explained to me several times, but it never sticks properly in my mind. All I know is that she makes lots of money (which came in useful, given Harry's distaste for paid employment), and that she has a mind like a steel trap. Which might make up for the fact that I wasn't able to think straight anymore.

"It's not about money," I said, "It's my, I wanted, I...I'm worried I'm gay."

She sat up at that, and looked at me thoughtfully, and then asked: "What are the symptoms?"

"Excuse me?"

"John, if I came into your surgery and said 'I'm worried I've got diabetes', you'd ask me why I thought that. So, tell me your data."

"I...slept with Sherlock just over a week ago."

"OK. And you'd like to do it again?"


"That does strongly suggest you're attracted to men, or one man at least. So, if you really need the label, then you're gay or bisexual. The thing is," she added, "are you trying to come out of the closet or get back in it?"

"I don't understand." Whatever had happened seemed to have eaten my brain as well.

"You said you're worried you're gay," Clara said patiently. "Do you just mean it's all still very strange, or that you don't want to be gay and you're trying to run away from it?"

"No point," I said. "It's there, I can't stop it. It's terrifying." Shit, I thought, why do I always open my big mouth and put my foot in it? I was supposed to be fine about this, wasn't I? Always said I was.

"Why terrifying?" asked Clara, which was exactly the kind of question that Ella would ask. Unfortunately, I couldn't face lying to Clara.

"Because it's not just Sherlock. There was this young guy walking along Baker Street when I was coming here, and he had a nice arse. I realised he had a nice arse. And my heart started pounding, and..." And I thought about fucking him, because maybe then all this would stop, my body would just switch off wanting, wanting...

"Before you slept with Sherlock, did you ever look at women and feel like that?"

I didn't say anything. I didn't need to. John Watson, sex-crazed male. Hypocritical sex-crazed male. I just wished I could explain that it wasn't that I wanted. Not just that I wanted, but something more, someone who would stay. But right now, what I wanted more than anything was for the whole thing just to stop, the pain to end.

"John, are you OK?" Clara said. "You look absolutely terrible."

Clara looked warm and sane and normal, and if I could just hold onto the thought of her, maybe I could keep things together. Her mouth had pale pink lipstick on; I could barely see it, but it gave a faint gleam to her lips, and I was sure they would be gentle and calm on my skin, not like Sherlock's insanely mobile mouth...and I was now fantasising about Clara, God help me. And she was standing up, and coming towards me, and the conflicting urges in me to grab her or run away suddenly resolved themselves  into a wave of nausea. I stumbled up, staggered out into Clara's bathroom, and threw up the cheese sandwich in the toilet.

"Are you OK?" Clara said, coming into the bathroom, reaching out to help me up.

"Don't touch me!" I yelled. "Please, don't! I'm fine, just leave me alone."

Clara retreated to the doorway and said, in the careful voice of someone addressing the possibly deranged : "John, I think you should sit down, because you look very wobbly. Aren't you supposed to put your head between your legs or something?"

I slumped onto the toilet lid, head in my hands, so I didn't have to look at her.

"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have come," I muttered, but when I stood up to go I was shaking. I thought for a moment I really was going to pass out, things were going in and out of focus.

"Sit down!" Clara said, and my legs seemed to fold at her command. "Are you ill? Do you need a doctor?"

"No, it's not that," I managed to say. I tried to think of some excuse for my behaviour, but everything was starting to unravel, and I didn't have the words.

"So what is it? You're obviously very upset at what you're feeling at the moment."

"I'm just having a rough patch. I said I shouldn't have come."

 "You're here and you're staying here," Clara said, with absolute conviction, as if I'd now acquired her for a guardian angel. "I know how hard this is, and you need someone to talk to. Or maybe if you can't talk about it, I should, because I've been through this too."

"You can't possibly have got into the mess I have."

"The hardest bit of coming out," she said calmly, "sometimes isn't coming out to other people, but to yourself. When you realise you're not the person you thought you were. Does that sound familiar?"

I nodded.

"For me, it was mostly positive...it was as if I'd been living in a foreign country all my life, and suddenly I went somewhere where I spoke the language.  I found myself when I realised I was gay. But I know Harry had a difficult time, with your family being so uptight about sex."

"Yeah, well I don't have a problem with sex...or gay sex," I protested, glaring at the floor. "Do you want me to prove it, tell you exactly what I did with Sherlock?"

"I'm sorry," Clara said. "Is there anything I can say that will help, that won't be wrong?"

Oh fuck, now I was taking it out on Clara. I knew I shouldn't have come.

"No, it's my fault," I said hastily. "It's just...you said you found yourself. I've lost myself and I'm scared of the man I am now. I'm scared what I might do."

If I was trying to reassure Clara, I was doing an absolutely shitty job. I could hear the fear in her voice now.

"John...you mustn't! You can't be thinking of suicide because of this? Please, please, don't tell me that."

"God, no! Of course not."

"You promise me you're not going to do anything to yourself?"

How could she get it so wrong? Not see what was there in me, had always been.

"I'm not a danger to myself," I said. "But I'm scared I might hurt somebody."

"That's insane. Why on earth would you think that?"

"Things got...out of hand with Sherlock. I didn't care if I hurt him. I still think about hitting him sometimes."

"I once seriously contemplated stabbing Sherlock," Clara said abruptly. I looked up then, just to check that she hadn't been replaced by a Clara-shaped alien. Her hazel eyes met mine: sane, intelligent. I must have misheard.

"Do you remember the time Harry and you and I met at that Belgian cafe and tried to sort out the divorce paperwork?" she added.

I mostly try and forget about that night. Harry dragged me along because she didn't trust Clara, and then decided she didn't trust me either. Then Sherlock turned up on some feeble excuse, and Harry stormed off.

"Sherlock said something awful, didn't he, after she'd gone?" It was the sharp pulse of horror I remembered, not the detail; I try quite hard to erase some of Sherlock's worst behaviour from my memory.

Clara's voice was flat as she replied: "He told me to bear in mind, when I was working out the financial settlement, that Harry would probably be dead within five years."

It's the starkness of Sherlock's truth-telling that shocks people, that still shocks me sometimes, hearing the things you've hidden from yourself. That Harry's drinking is killing her. That I was attracted to him. Clara was looking at me patiently.

"You'd never do anything like that to Sherlock, Clara, I know you wouldn't, it's not in you," I said at last. "But I lost control and it didn't bother me." It's the central paradox you learn in the army: you must always be prepared to fight, without coming to enjoy it.

"I'm sure if things did get rough, he gave as good as he got," Clara said. "So did you both end up in casualty?" She said it half-jokingly, but only half.

"God, no! What do you take me for? I'm not like that." Except maybe I was. I didn't know any more. I slumped back down, and in the silence that followed, I could hear Clara thinking. Well, at least there weren't any thoughts of mine that were going to disrupt hers, other than an overwhelming wish that I could wake up and find I'd only dreamt being John Watson.

"What did you do to Sherlock then?" Clara said, at last, very carefully.

"Not that much. Scratches, bruises. But I don't do that sort of thing. With a woman, I mean. Wouldn't be...good." And then I remembered the really painful bit. "Oh, and Sherlock bit my hand." 

"Because you were trying to shut him up?"

"How did you guess?"

"Stopping Sherlock talking sounds like a very good move. You can get gags, you know."

Great, I thought. I was now the sort of man that people recommend buying gags to.

"Whips as well?" I asked. "Should I be installing a dungeon in 221C?"

"John, I didn't mean it like that," Clara protested. "I don't think that you've become some kind of depraved pervert just because you've had rough sex with Sherlock, even if it has freaked you out. As long as he's happy with it."

"I don't know if he is."

"Do you think if Sherlock was unhappy you wouldn't know about it? Can you imagine him suffering in silence?"

"It may have been OK at the time, but I'm not sure what he felt afterwards."

"But presumably the next time-"

"There hasn't been a next time. He...we're pretending it didn't happen."

"He's a sod, he really is!" I risked another look at her, and she was practically bouncing up and down with frustration, which was not like her at all. "It was his idea, wasn't it, that you slept together? He talks you into something that you're obviously not comfortable with, and then dumps you."

"It wasn't like that," I said. I wished I could explain, but that would have required me understanding it in the first place. "Yes, it was his idea, but it was my choice to sleep with him. So it's not his fault."

"It's always his fault. Messing with people's minds is his default mode. You know, John, being gay, or bi, or straight, that's normal, nothing to worry about. But sleeping  with Sherlock, that really is a bit strange."

I was not going to lose it any further and yell at Clara. I closed my eyes again. I was going to sit here, I was going to breathe. I could manage that, if I concentrated really hard.

"I'm sorry," Clara said into the silence. "I shouldn't have said that. I'm hardly one to talk about poor choices, am I? But surely feeling things for Sherlock is bad news? " She paused, and then added: "It is him that you really want, isn't it? Not other men."

"It's him," I croaked.

"In that case," said Clara firmly, "you've either got to get together with him or get over him. Because if you're just sitting around being frustrated, you're going to do something stupid..." Her voice tailed off, and I could tell she was deducing things. Why the bloody hell can everybody read me like a book?

"You've done something stupid already, haven't you?" she went on, "I mean more than just over-enthusiastic sex with Sherlock."

"You can tell it from the way I button up my shirt, or my left thumb?"

"I can guess it because it's human nature to do stupid things when your love life is a mess. After one break-up, I got my lip pierced."

"I can't imagine that."

"I wanted to prove that I wasn't just boring and conventional. And it hurt like anything, and it didn't make me look sexy, it made me look like I had a sparkly wart. So what have you done?"

"Looked at men in the street."

"If you didn't get arrested or attacked, it can't have been that stupid. Is that all?"

"Spent hours looking at porn."

"That's really not going to help, John. It's no wonder you're getting freaked out about being gay."

If I said something now, maybe I could convince Clara that was what was wrong, stop her working out anything more. But I couldn't get my brain in gear enough to lie. And she was a clever woman - why did I only ever fall for clever women?

"No, it's not that, is it? You've been looking at straight porn," Clara went on, and I could hear the edge in her voice now. "Trying to persuade yourself you're not really gay, you still get turned on by women."

"And so what if I did?" I yelled, through the mounting pressure in my skull. "I thought you were complaining I was repressed! I looked at porn, lots of men do."

"And it's still not a good idea."

"Don't give me that crap, Clara," I said, and suddenly I didn't care what I said, because it hurt too much. "I've had too many bloody lectures from Harry about how all men are disgusting, and sex-crazed, and vile."

"I've had that sort of stuff from her as well," Clara said, "When she found me watching porn-" Her voice stopped abruptly. I concentrated extremely hard on not looking at her, and not thinking about the combination of Clara and porn. Unfortunately, whatever I was trying to think about, my nervous system had different ideas. Despite everything, I could feel my body responding to the thought, blood pumping into my growing erection. And closing my eyes didn't help, because there were images on the inside of my eyelids that I shouldn't be seeing. I opened them again. Focus on the subtle pattern of the lino, not on the thought of the soft, rippling cream fabric of Clara's blouse, the pink of her lipstick...

"Clara," I said, "Maybe we could-" I realised I was staring up at her, and that she looked as if she'd just realised there was an IED six inches away from her. I ground to a halt, because whatever it was she wanted, it definitely wasn't me. At least I should try not to make things worse.

"It doesn't matter what Harry says," I said loudly. "She's a bigger sod than Sherlock."

"I know," Clara said in a very quiet voice. "But the porn isn't going to help you forget Sherlock, is it? When you...want somebody, it's them you want. You might be able to distract yourself for a bit, but anyone else, they're just a substitute, aren't they?"

I saw the not-really-a -smile twisting her beautiful mouth, and remembered the phone in my pocket, with her kisses for Harry engraved on it.

"Maybe," I managed to get out, "we should just leave things for now."

"That would be...sensible," Clara said firmly. "Look, I've got a spare bedroom, you're welcome to stay here for tonight, because you're probably exhausted. If I go and get that ready, do you want to have a shower, get yourself cleaned up, sorted out?"

"OK," I said. Clara turned to go, and then swung round abruptly, and said:

"And, um, it might, you might find it easier to sleep if you relieved yourself. A bit of...thinking about Sherlock in the shower."

I made some vague gurgling response.

"It's just that you're very tense," she went on, "and it's unsettling. And...and I have done a lot of stupid things, but sleeping with Harry's brother because we're both unhappy would be near the top of the stupid list. So I'll go and get the spare bedroom sorted out, and you think about Sherlock, and not any kind of substitute, OK?" She disappeared.

I'd been trying not to fantasize about Sherlock, because I knew it would just make things worse in the long run, stoke the desire that was burning me up already. But once I'd cleaned up the mess in the bathroom, rinsed the taste of vomit and self-loathing out of my mouth, and got in the shower, I held my revived erection and let myself remember his body, as I'd seen it that night. The feel of Sherlock beneath my nails, against my body, in my mouth. I came rapidly, and it helped a bit, some of the pain in my head dissipating at least, my mind stilled. Then I went and lay down in Clara's nice quiet, clean, tastefully decorated spare bedroom. The last thing I remembered thinking about was Sherlock's feet, so alarmingly prehensile that he could probably play the violin with them. And then, unexpectedly, I must have fallen asleep



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
Makes me really see Clara. She is wise and wry and real.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed her. Clara's not a character I've written often, but it's nice to do a fic where she gets to show her potential.
Jul. 20th, 2011 10:52 am (UTC)
I do like Clara's informed attitude to Sherlock (especially the hand-biting/gags sequence). John certainly needs a guardian angel, and he's got a good one here.
Jul. 20th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)
I want Clara's phone number.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Well, part five of SNAFU is now up, and Clara has finished sorting out John, so she's available for consultation now.
Jul. 20th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
Enjoying reading this again after being away from it--so now I see things I hadn't really seen before. I like the intense relationship between John and Clara--the fact that they can get a little angry with each other--think inappropriate thoughts--yet still remain friends and confidantes and she can help him work things out. At first I thought--well, John is attracted to very different things in men vs. women--because Sherlock could not be called "sensible." But now I think perhaps many of the things he finds attractive in Clara are the same in Sherlock--only magnified because of his outsize personality. She sees things other people don't--and doesn't have to be told what other people are thinking--she knows bloody well what they're thinking. Nice.
Jul. 25th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
There's something interesting going on about John's attitude to women in BBC!Sherlock, and I wonder whether series 2 will bring that out more. You get the sense that he genuinely likes the company of women (happily watching daytime TV with Mrs Hudson), and the women he tries to date (Anthea, Sarah) come across not as just dolly birds, but intelligent and successful. And yet there's also a hint of a more old-fashioned military/chivalric attitude to him (like the way he apologises so profusely to Mrs Hudson after swearing). One of the many ideas I was vaguely playing with in this fic was someone who was caught between old-fashioned ideas about 'respectful' behaviour to women and wanting to have an equal relationship with them.

As for Clara, I wanted someone who was smart enough to be able to help John without necessarily getting everything right about him. She's not some kind of relationship guru, and she can't entirely understand why John would want Sherlock, but she does work out one key bit of the answer, and help John get a toehold on reality again. I'm trying not to turn any of the female characters into Sherlock clones, but instead writing them as being intelligent in slightly different ways.

Jul. 26th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
love this take on clara, a woman who obviously has used her life experience to move ahead personally as well as being able to now be there for others as well.(something i believe most of us strive for) that there are awkward moments or uncomfortable undercurrents just make it feel all that more real.

one of my biggest issues with bbcsherlock was the lack of female characters with any real significant screen time let alone depth. in this fic while maintaining in canon feel you've managed to remedy both of my complaints in one fell swoop. kudos!
Jul. 30th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed the fic - it was hard work to get it right, but I think it finally held together. I think there are actually a number of interesting female characters in BBC Sherlock, even if they get very little screen time. Steven Moffat, in particular, is very good at writing memorable characters even in tiny parts: Ella, for example, has her own distinctive voice. I've been writing quite a lot of BBC!Sherlock femslash and other fics featuring the various women from the series, and felt I had quite a lot to build on.
Dec. 14th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
The voice of John in this fic is so fascinating! Such a nuanced, conflicted view of women...gorgeous and breathtaking. Loving it so much.
Dec. 19th, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed the fic - it took a lot of rewriting and help from my betas to get it working. But I did want to do something with the hints in Series 1 that John genuinely likes the company of women, but also still has lurking hangups about chivalrous behaviour and how men ought to behave.

And I do enjoy writing Ella: I think it's all credit to Steven Moffat and Tanya Moodie that she's a real character even when she's only on screen for a couple of minutes. I've had counselling/therapy myself, so I can recognise some of the weary patience with which she deals with one of her more difficult patients. (John Watson must be absolute hell to counsel, since he's clearly so reluctant to talk about himself).
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )