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BBC Sherlock

Rating: PG (slash)

Spoilers: none


"We're really not getting anywhere on the trust issues, are we, John?" Ella announced near the end of yet another of the therapy sessions. "I think we need to try something different."

"Maybe," he replied cautiously.

"And now, of course, you're thinking, what is she planning, and does she know what she's doing? Which rather proves my point."

"Why do I even bother opening my mouth when everyone can read my mind?" John protested. He ought to make it his next New Year's resolution: Stop Being So Obvious.

Ella smiled at him. "I want to get you trying some trust games."

"What does that involve?"

"We'll start with a very simple one today. Come over here. I'm going to stand behind you. Now you need to fall backwards and trust that I'm going to catch you, not just let you drop."

"I'm not sure," said John, and he knew that any minute his damn hand was going to start shaking. He tried to breathe slowly. "It's not that I don't trust you to try and break my fall, Ella. It's just-"

"You're not sure if I'm capable of it. You're not that heavy, John. And it's not just your mind that has trust issues, is it? It's your body as well. I'll stand quite close behind you, I'll catch you almost before you've started falling."

He'd faced down the Taliban, he could hardly balk at one psychotherapist. "OK," he said, carefully got himself into position, and then let himself go. Ella made him repeat the falling back three or four times, till he could stop his muscles knotting up at the very prospect.

"That's good," she said, "you're getting the hang of it. That's going to be your homework for the week."

Sod it, he was hoping she was going to forget about that, it was just like being back at school sometimes. John wondered if he could offer to label a few anatomy diagrams instead of whatever Ella was going to suggest.

"You can do this exercise with me now, you trust me to catch you. Your task for this week is going to be finding five people you know, and doing the same exercise with them."

"But that's ridiculous!"

"You don't know five people? Five you know and trust well enough to do a simple exercise like this with them?"

"No, it's just that they're going to think I'm a bloody idiot if I ask them to do this."

"Quite possibly. Which is one of the other aspects of the exercise. Another side of the problem, John, is that you're embarrassed to ask anyone for help, especially about something that might be out of the ordinary, make you feel conspicuous. You see now what I'm trying to do?"

"Have me get my skull split open?"

"John, will you try it?"

"OK," he said, as much to get out of the room as anything. "Five people, by next week."


He'd forgotten all about it, of course, well, more deliberately forgotten about it till the day before the next session. He ought to make some kind of effort, he decided, a gesture of cooperation. Fortunately, he had go down to Scotland Yard anyhow, to return some evidence Sherlock had walked off with, so he found Sally Donovan and explained it to her.

"That's weird," she said.

"Yeah, but it's what the therapist said I should do."

"And why me?" she demanded.

"Because you're physically strong, and you're competent, and I know I'll be in safe hands."

"OK," she said and gave him a half-smile, "still sounds strange, but I'll do it if you want."

He did the game three times with her, and he'd been right, she was good at it. She could not just catch him, but lever him back upright without him needing to do anything.

"I've dealt with a lot of drunks," she explained. "You're easy in comparison. OK, who do you want to try next? Anderson?"

"No!" John said, "Absolutely not."

They were still arguing when Lestrade turned up, which meant John didn't have to approach him separately. Because, although, as he'd expected, his body had no problem falling back towards Lestrade, he would have found it awkward explaining why he wanted to do that. After that, he once again refused to try the game with Anderson, and said he'd better try somewhere else. He suspected that Ella would say trusting the police wasn't enough.

So he went to Barts and asked Molly, who was happy to help and completely unfazed by any strange request. He did insist that they found somewhere with a carpet, but he was fairly confident he didn't need that. Molly might be small, but he suspected she'd built up a certain amount of strength moving bodies around.

He was right about that. Molly's arms were gentle, and she smelt of some kind of lavendery stuff, and she was rather nice to fall back onto, but he could feel some muscles there. That had been pretty good, he was up to three now. His mistake, however, had been to try Mike Stamford after that, because Mike was not only short, but in poor condition, and John ended up hitting the floor two times out of three purely from his clumsiness.

Trying not to wince, John headed home and doggedly asked Mrs Hudson.

"You know about my hip, dear," she said, "and I'm not really your therapist."

"It's fine, don't worry," he said.

"You should get Sherlock to do it."

"It's just..." Pinning down in words the many reasons for not asking Sherlock to do this was rather difficult, if not actually embarrassing.

"The thing is, John, he's bored, you know he is. It'd be a distraction for him, at least. Before he starts interfering with my pot plants again."

"OK, Mrs Hudson, I'll give it a go."

When he got up to the flat, Sherlock was hanging upside down from the back of a chair, staring out of the window.

"You don't think there's enough blood running to your brain already?" asked John.

"If an artist wants to see if there's something wrong with a drawing, he holds it upside down. I want to see if there's something wrong with the world." Sherlock righted himself with an effortless move that spoke of extremely strong stomach muscles. "Got anything for me?"

"A trust game," said John, and explained.

Sherlock closed his eyes. "Boring," he announced.

"More boring than what you're doing now?"

"A wasted opportunity then."


"You're willing to fall over, collapse on the floor, and all you're interested in is the petty detail of whether someone will intervene. Think of all the data you could collect."

"Sherlock, I'm not falling over for your benefit."

"Why not? You want me to help you with this game, I want some data. You give me the data and I'll help you. Or don't you trust me to keep my side of the bargain?"

"It actually hurts falling over, even onto a carpeted floor," John protested. "I can still feel it where Mike dropped me."

"Mattresses," Sherlock announced, standing up.


"We both have memory foam mattresses, very good at shock absorption. You fall onto them, you'll barely feel anything."

"I suppose not."

"Of course not, I've tried it. So first we need to clear some space, and then get the mattresses in here."


He didn't know why he did these things, John thought, as he stood at the edge of one of the mattresses a quarter of an hour later. Well, he did, but 'because Sherlock says so' sounded awfully feeble.

"What I want," said Sherlock, "is to see how someone falls without resistance, as if they're dead, or unconscious, or drunk. So no bracing yourself, or trying to break the fall, just over and down. We'll do ten variations, may need a couple of falls in each position to get it right. And then we'll do your little game."

"What?" said John, "that doesn't sound a very equal bargain."

"Depends how often you want me to catch you. Oh, and I might want to take some photos as well. So, first off, just fall straight backwards."

John tried to relax his muscles and then let himself go. Falling, falling, and then a 'wumpf' that was mostly, but not entirely, from the mattress. It was going to be a long afternoon.


Backwards, forwards, sideways, backwards trip, backwards push. Five of the ten positions done, and John wasn't sure how much more he could take. Even with the soft landing, the repeated tensing was telling on his muscles.

"What next?" he asked, trying to sound like someone who could do this all day.

"Those are the basic positions I want, now comes the interesting bit," Sherlock said. "Hold on while I get the equipment."

John felt his stomach muscles knotting, and he wasn't reassured when Sherlock re-emerged from his bedroom a few minutes later with a bag made of some black material.

"What's in that?" he asked.

"Nothing. It's a hood. I need you to repeat all the previous postures, but blindfold this time. See if it affects the fall patterns."

"f you want to blindfold me, you could just use one of your scarves," John said.  

"It's almost impossible to avoid it slipping. A hood's much more effective. Don't worry, it's perfectly safe, got breathing holes and everything. I've used it myself a lot, it's actually quite comfortable."

"Why have you used a hood on yourself?" John  asked. "If that is, I want to know."

"You always reckon I can see in the dark, don't you?" Sherlock said, smiling. "Find my way through anything, thick smoke, near pitch blackness?"

 "Yeah, it's incredible."

"I trained myself with this, really sharpens the other senses." Sherlock paused and then added. "You are OK to do this, aren't you, John? You're not phobic or anything?"

"Phobia is an irrational fear of something," John retorted. "I'd say it was entirely rational to be worried about being blindfolded and then falling over, don't you?"

"You'll be fine. We've got so much useful data already, I just want to get this last bit. Please."

For that 'please' alone, John was going to go through with this. If he could. "OK," he said, "but you're going to need to show me where to stand when I'm hooded."


"We'd better stop now," Sherlock said, halfway through the side falling sequence. "You've obviously had enough."

"I'm OK," John croaked through the thick fabric of the hood, but he couldn't help sighing when Sherlock unlaced it, and brought him blinking into the daylight. "Oh God, that's better. I'm sorry, probably spoiled your experiments."

"I...shouldn't haven't asked you to do so much," said Sherlock. "And you should have said something earlier, before you started shaking. "

"I'm fine," said John. "Well, I may be too stiff to move tomorrow, but I've had worse."

"Good...thank you. So it just remains now to do a round or two of your game."

"The game?" said John, slightly distracted by checking which bits of his body were still functioning properly.

"Your trust game, or whatever it was called."

"That's OK, we can leave it. Tomorrow morning, maybe." Couldn't he just tell Ella that there were some people it was safer not to trust?

"No, you kept your side of the bargain, so I should keep mine. And there may not be time tomorrow, I'm hoping for something new to come up then. Me catching you three times, I think. I'll start off fairly close behind you. Would it help if I tripped you?"

"It's supposed to be me choosing to do this," said John, as Sherlock hauled the mattresses out of the way. "You could actually put those back in the bedrooms, you know."

"I may need them again later. Are you ready to do this? I'm in position now."

"OK, here I come," said John, and let himself go. It felt peculiar, suddenly meeting resistance in his fall, but Sherlock's grasp was firm and confident on his shoulders.

"Good," said Sherlock. "I'll stand a bit further back this time. Ready? Now!"

He fell back again, and god, Sherlock wasn't there...and then just before he hit the floor, Sherlock's hands hooked under his armpits, lifting him up.

"Slight miscalculation," said Sherlock. "One more time, and I'll get it right, I'll come in a bit closer to make sure. Oh, but the other thing is, you need to fold your arms first."

"Why?" John demanded.

"Stop yourself instinctively trying to brace your fall, that was what confused me last time."

"I didn't do anything! You hashed it up because you weren't concentrating."

"Just fold your arms, and try and be a bit more corpselike this time."

"Not many dead bodies actually have their arms folded, you know," John pointed out. "Unless you're expecting a lot of mummy-related cases?"

"John, we haven't got all day. Let's get this over with, and then we can actually go and do something interesting."

John sighed, and fell back one last time, and...and Sherlock caught him almost immediately, he'd been standing right behind him that time. And his arms were around John's waist now, pulling him back against Sherlock's body, and, oh, wasn't that an unexpected data...point?

"Should have known I wasn't trustworthy," Sherlock whispered gleefully in John's ear.

"I don't know how I'm going to explain this one to Ella," John murmured. He presumed he wasn't expected to keep his arms folded any more, which was just as well.

"She's a therapist, she's not allowed to be shocked," said Sherlock, "Quite a revealing experiment, isn't it?"

"Got an experiment myself," John said, trying not to gasp, "if you let me turn round. What happens when I kiss you."

"Lots of data there, if you trust me to provide it."

"Oh god, yes," John said, "I'm definitely up for trusting you."


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 7th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
making an effort not to be obvious myself, so not inquiring how John could fall into Lestrade's arms and not . . . never mind


Sorry, that was my cat's comment on the situation. I was going to say that, though Donovan's presence made it easier to ask Lestrade, it wouldn't help John to enjoy it.

But I'm awfully curious now to know what would have happened if he'd tried it with Anderson. Sarcastic comments about "Well, I can see you wouldn't want to ask your flatmate?" I think A would want to prove he could do it better than Sherlock.

I like Mrs Hudson adding "I'm not your therapist" to her repertoire, and of course the image of Sherlock as a bat.

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 7th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
It's obviously only a record of the edited highlights from John's point of view, so I feel people are perfectly entitled to infer other events or feelings in any gaps. There are still definite traces of UST between John/Lestrade and John/Molly, though if there's any John/Ella or John/Sally it's been fairly carefully erased, and if there's John/Mike after being dropped twice, John's an idiot. (Which reminds me - while everyone else has been having it away like plot bunnies, there is no Ella fic - this must change).

As for Anderson, there's the general creepiness factor. And the fear of 'accidentally' getting dropped. And wondering if he would insist on wearing latex gloves while catching John. And whether it lowers your IQ to get caught by Anderson. And above all, what Sherlock would say to John when he found out (and you know he would find out).

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 8th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
"Not many dead bodies actually have their arms folded, you know," John pointed out. "Unless you're expecting a lot of mummy-related cases?"

It's always best to be prepared, John.
Dec. 8th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)

"Would it help if I tripped you?"

Ahh - care and attention, Sherlock style.

I loved this to bits. The different character vignettes for Sally, Molly, Mike and Greg. John's little crush on Greg. All of it!

Dec. 9th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
Well, this fic did finally prove that there are literally some limits to how far Sherlock will push John.

Once I remembered seeing the game done, the little character bits practically wrote themselves. In fact, there are several other people who I didn't get round to including who should really have been allowed to join in - though someone would have had to explain to Mycroft that he needed to put down his umbrella first. Please feel free to add other suggestions for interesting game pairings.
Dec. 9th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
Ooh, ooh ooh - the Cabbie and Moriarty! I want to know how that would go.

And Mrs Hudson and Mycroft - but that's only because I have the wierdest HetTP.
Dec. 9th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
Moriarty and the cabbie is an easy one. Moriarty won't let the cabbie catch him because it might get finger marks on his Westwood suit. He doesn't himself volunteer to catch the cabbie, he has Colonel Moran do it. Moran catches the cabbie safely the first two times. Then Moriarty tips him the wink...and the post-mortem can't tell whether the cabbie's aneurysm burst before or after his body hit the ground.

Mycroft obviously can't ask Mrs Hudson to catch him, even if her hip was up to it. Because a gentleman may fall for an attractive widow, but he does not fall on her. She agrees to be caught by him once he assures her that he has been fully trained in the correct civil service protocol for this game, and she remembers that the apple cake went into the oven twenty minutes later than was ideal. Mrs Hudson is subsequently disappointed to find that civil service protocol for playing the trust game has been strongly influenced by the need to avoid sexual harassment claims. However, she then notices that Mycroft's tie has somehow become loosened during the game...The apple cake is rather spoiled, but it doesn't matter, because Mycroft's appetite for food has mysteriously disappeared.
Dec. 10th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
enjoying these happier S/J endings very much (as well as a hint of J/L, always a pleasure), and this was great fun.

yes indeed, there needs to be Ella fic!
Dec. 12th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
A+! I laughed through this whole story. Just loved it. I'm going to try to find a reason to say, "Try to be more corpselike." to someone this week, even if I have to manufacture a situation. Yes.
Dec. 13th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it, and I wish you every success in working that phrase into a conversation. If you manage it, do please come back and let me know the details!
Dec. 19th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
This was great! We all knew you can trust Sherlock-at least a bit. I'm sure Ella will be delighted by the results of Johns little homework. :D Well done. I still have to smile.
Dec. 19th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
Well, at least it gives John something different not to talk about in the therapy sessions. I do have the feeling that it's something of a war of attrition between John and Ella at times. There's just something in the weary patience she shows in her scene in 'A Study in Pink' that tells you that John is one of her heartsink clients. So as compensation, she's now getting a bit of slash of her own (see the new Ella tag).
Jun. 25th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
newbie trying to join in game above.

Mrs. Hudson can't play the trust game today. She's wearing cerise.
Jun. 25th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
p.s. I really like how this is written. There was a subtle build of tension to the exercise with Sherlock.

I also like that Sherlock Finally realized that his experiment was hard on John. unexpected happy surprise. Strangely moving.
Aug. 7th, 2011 09:34 am (UTC)
Funny and lovely!
Aug. 15th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC)
Ha! As much as the slash is delightful, it's all the non-slash bits that really sell this. Ella makes too-rare appearances in fandom (which is a shame, as the potential with her character is almost limitless), and all of the other character cameos are spot-on. ^_^
Aug. 18th, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
I enjoy writing Ella, who comes across as a character remarkably well in the series, despite the tiny amount of screen time she has (a tribute both to Stephen Moffat and Tanya Moodie). I've written a few other fics featuring her: PC world, a trio of 221Bs, and she's also in the first part of SNAFU. You should also read Sleeping Beauty by Fengirl, which is very good Anthea/Ella slash.

Sep. 10th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I'd read some of those - but not Sleeping Beauty, thanks for the link! - the ending of PC World made me laugh aloud. I'd almost completely overlooked Ella myself, but this little cache of fics is fantastic and inspiring. :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )