Title: The Troubles Of Marriage Counselling.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock or John or Mycroft. Everyone else, I own!
Warnings: Swearing. Talks of sex. Marriage counselling.
Spoilers: The usual.
Summary: Sherlock and John go to marriage counselling. Hilarity and angst happen in equal measures. From this kinkmeme prompt: .?thread=16044181#t16044181
There is a dangerous silence.
"A what?" says John, carefully, because even though he isn't twenty anymore, that doesn't mean he's old enough to start hearing things.
Sherlock brandishes the brochure at him. "We," he repeats calmly, "Are going on a marriage counselling course."
John stares at the front of the brochure. A happy smiling couple walking hand in hand through some beautiful grounds stares back at him. "You have got to be joking," he says.
Sherlock hands him a surveillance photograph, this time of a far more unhappy looking couple somewhere in the streets of central London. They are standing at a distance from each other; the woman, blonde, petite, perhaps nearing forty, with very nice clothes, is frowning fiercely, her mouth open in an attack. The man, older, greyer and shabbier, is looking extremely fed up.
Sherlock points at the man. "This," he says, "Is Daniel Harris, aka Jonathan Lewis and therefore the leader of a very excellent ring of drug smugglers. His wife, Naomi," he points at the woman, "Is his confederate. They're going to a marriage counselling course in Kent this week, and Mycroft and I both suspect that this is a cover for one of their more clandestine operations. Though it looks like they probably need it as well." He frowns at the photograph.
"Mycroft?" John says, picking up on the important stuff quickly. "You're working for Mycroft?"
Sherlock glowers. "Unless I want Mummy to know about the time in the sewer with the one handed gunman, apparently I am." He collapses on his seat. "I despise blackmail."
John gives him a sidelong look; he knows that Sherlock must have at least a little interest in this case to be doing it, blackmail aside. It is probably very difficult to blackmail Sherlock properly, he ponders.
"So we're going to this marriage counselling thing?" he says, turning back to the brochure. The house is a few miles away from Maidstone, in large and extensive grounds, and promises to have 'all your marriage woes' sorted out in a single week.
"Yes." Sherlock flips through a sheaf of papers. "As John and Sam Turner. I have the paperwork here, courtesy of Mycroft."
John stares. "Hang on - you mean, we're going to be married?"
Sherlock is frowning at the paperwork distractedly. He says, "Problem?"
"Yeah, we're both men, Sherlock!"
"Excellently deduced. However, this place also caters for gay couples, so it's not a problem."
No, John thinks, this is an enormous problem.
"I'm not pretending to be your husband, Sherlock!"
"Why not, it's just pretend!"
"That - that's not the point! Why didn't you tell me?"
Sherlock looks as though John has just said something to prove he is mentally deficient. "But I'm telling you now," he says.
John flings the brochure on the floor.
On the train to Maidstone, Sherlock gives John one of a pair of rings and tells him to call him Sam for the entirety of the journey to get in some practice.
John sulks and calls him nothing.
The house is actually a refurbished Georgian house, in admittedly very beautiful gardens, and John can't help but cheer up a little at the sight of it. When they get out of the taxi, they are accosted by a smiling, slightly overweight and friendly woman called Jane.
"You must be Sam and John," she says brightly, beaming at them with perfect teeth. "I'm Jane - I'll be your group leader for the duration of your stay. Come on, I'll show you to your room."
Their room is light, bright and only has one bed. John glares at Sherlock. Jane catches his glare.
"If there's a problem…"
"No problem at all," Sherlock says smoothly, piling on his charm by the bucket load. "It's lovely, thank you."
Jane nods, flashing John a worried look, but he says nothing. "In that case, dinner is at seven, I'll leave you to get sorted." And she vanishes.
Sherlock lies down on the admittedly very comfy looking bed. John picks up a bar of soap from the dresser and hurls it at Sherlock. He misses by several inches, but Sherlock's look of reproach is worth it.
"What was that for?"
John throws up his hands in defeat. "I'm having a shower," he says, and goes into the en suite bathroom and slams the door shut.
At dinner, served in a warm and nicely decorated dining room, they meet the others on the group. There are six couples in all, including John and Sherlock. Lizzie and Mandy are a young lesbian couple, both very shy, who tiptoe around each other constantly, as if they don't quite know how to react to each other. Then there are Jeff and Linda, who introduce themselves to the group by having a loud row about the state of their cutlery back home compared to here, Bill and Emma (Bill is huge and makes crude jokes at the dinner table, Emma is tiny and cringes with embarrassment), and the Neil and Violet, who are American, wear big sunglasses and are apparently unable to keep their hands off each other for a minute. Daniel and Naomi are the last to arrive, and John doesn't need Sherlock's nudge to tell him who they are; they look just like they do in the picture.
They sit at the other end of the table and don't eat or talk much. Sherlock watches them like a hawk and John listens to Jeff and Linda's rowing and Jane's comment that "this is the first step towards improvement - to want to improve" and wishes he were back home in Baker Street.
John is making his way back to their room (Sherlock left early, saying he needed to think) when he comes across Mandy, quietly crying on the staircase. She is blonde and John thought at dinner that she was very sweet, and he sits down next to her and silently offers her a tissue.
She blows her nose and says, "I don't know what she wants from me."
John thinks of Lizzie, her partner. He says, "Have you been together long?"
"Six months," Mandy sniffs. "But it's…I mean, I…" She wipes her eyes. "I didn't know I liked girls until I met her. I don't know what to do." She looks momentarily lost.
John pats her hand. "Well, isn't that why you're here? To find out?"
Mandy nods and smiles and wipes her eyes again. "I hope so. Why are you here?"
God knows, thinks John. "Lots of reasons," he says carefully. It's sort of true.
Mandy smiles again. "Thanks for the tissue," she says in a snuffly kind of voice.
John smiles back and says, "Anytime," and goes to his room. Sherlock is already asleep, curled up at the side of the bed like a cat, and he doesn't wake even when John knocks a lamp over by mistake.
John gets into the other side of the bed, making sure no part of him is touching Sherlock, and thinks he will never get to sleep.
He dreams, weirdly, about heads cushioned on shoulders, and black curls tickling his nose, but when he wakes up, Sherlock is already awake and dressed, and is tapping away on his laptop, his back to John.
"We have a counselling session in half an hour," he says without turning around.
All of them sit in another bright, airy room in a circle. Mandy gives John a little wave, and he smiles back, but the rest of them ignore them. Sherlock sits on his plastic chair in an elegant and bored sprawl, taking up more than his fair share of space. The criminal couple sit and look normal.
"So," Jane says, "How about for starters we go around the room and each couple can talk about what they have in common."
Bill - the crude one - puts up his hand and says, "I know what Emma and I have in common."
"Neither of us sucks dick."
John closes his eyes. It's going to be a long session.
When it comes to their turn, Sherlock says, "Our sense of humour," and John thinks of their first meeting and giggling at a crime scene and nods in agreement.
It gets a bit worse when they need to talk about their differences. Jeff and Linda's list for each other goes on and on, and ranges from things such as he never puts the bottle opener in the right place to she never cooks the vegetables quite right, I like them crunchy, why do you never make them crunchy woman. Mandy ventures that she doesn't really know what Lizzie does or doesn't think. Emma says, "My husband is a sex maniac" and Violet says, "We don't ever talk about it. Or anything really. We don't talk. We shag."
Sherlock says, "John's an idiot and I'm a genius."
John retorts, before he can think about it, "Well, at least I'm not an expert in putting people down."
The room goes very quiet.
Sherlock snorts. "It's not my fault if you can't keep up with me."
"No," John says, "But it is your fault that you can't shut up about it."
They glare venomously at each other. Jane breaks the silence herself, saying tentatively, "Right, I think it's about time for a break, don't you?"
That evening, John finds Many crying on the stairs again and makes a mental note to carry more tissues with him. She says, "I don't think this is going to work."
When he goes to bed, Sherlock is awake but keeps his back to him and doesn't speak. John is about to turn off the bedside lamp when Sherlock's deep voice finally rings out through the room.
"Do you really find it annoying?"
John thinks back to their little session. "Yes," he says, and turns off the light.
He does not dream about heads on shoulders or the warm press of hair that night.
"I don't understand why you two are always constantly arguing about small things," Sherlock says flatly to Jeff and Linda in their next session. "It doesn't matter."
"Sometimes it does," John replies, not meaning it to sound snappy but managing it anyway.
Sherlock gives him a look. "Like when?"
"Like when you put poisonous substances in the fridge and then forget to tell me," says John. "Or when you put my things somewhere else and then expect me to know where they are."
"Oh, I have that," says Linda sympathetically. "And then he complains because I ask where it is."
"Exactly," agrees John.
Sherlock stares at him.
"This is a waste of time," John says that night before dinner. "Daniel and Naomi aren't doing anything suspicious, or anything at all really."
"We should stay anyway," says Sherlock, in the middle of changing his shirt.
"Why?" says John.
Sherlock says nothing, preoccupied with his shirt buttons.
John is armed with a box of tissues that evening, and he sits on the stairs and listens to Mandy sniff through half sentences and gives her a one armed hug. "You're being too insecure," he says. "From what I can see, Lizzie likes you whoever you are. So what if you don't know what to do? She likes you."
Mandy snivels and takes another tissue.
"Today we'll be talking about our sex lives," Jane announces brightly the next day. Sherlock and John swap quick looks, ones that say lie, just lie and shift in their seats.
Neil and Violet go on about the subject in length and detail; apparently all the problems they don't have in other areas they make up for in this area. John thinks he really didn't need to know about the unacceptable circumference of Neil's penis, thanks. Lizzie says that Mandy is a very devoted and thorough lover, making Mandy go pink with happiness. Bill says he might as well be having sex with a broom for all that Emma gives him, and Emma protests that he makes unreasonable demands.
"So does Sam," says John, because he thinks he should say something and anyway he thinks that Sherlock probably is demanding in bed. Not that he's thought about it. At all. Ever.
"John's boring," Sherlock retorts.
"I am not," John snaps. He's had experience with women (and, yes all right, and men) on three different continents; Sherlock doesn't know what he's talking about.
"Oh please," Sherlock sniffs. "I bet you won't even go past vanilla."
"I would," John insists.
"Really?" And suddenly Sherlock is giving him that look, that fascinated look, the look he gives a piece of evidence that might just provide an answer to this entire mystery, and John pretends that it doesn't make his face flush, or his throat tight.
"Really," he says, meeting Sherlock's eyes, and everyone in the group goes silent, sensing the sudden electricity.
John lies awake in bed that night, after his routine comforting of Mandy, and wishes that he had thought to toss off sometime during the day, because now he's lying in bed next to Sherlock Holmes with a bloody hard-on.
He closes his eyes and tries to think about repressing things, like Mycroft naked. It's just working when Sherlock mumbles something in his sleep and turns over, and suddenly Sherlock's head is resting on John's shoulder and his hair is tickling John's nose and John knew it wasn't a dream.
He puts an arm around Sherlock without properly thinking about it, and Sherlock shuffles closer, still apparently fast asleep.
It shouldn't be, but it is easier to get to sleep like this, and John is gone before he can realise that this will be quite a compromising position to wake up in.
Sherlock says nothing in the morning, and neither does John.
The investigation on Daniel and Naomi is going nowhere, and Sherlock gets more and more irritable as a result. He spends a lot of sessions brooding or making nasty comments about John or the other couples. He tells Jeff and Linda that they are the two most boring people he has ever met, he informs Bill that he is psychologically damaged, and instructs Mandy to get over herself.
That's when John snaps.
"Maybe," he says, "It's you that needs to get over yourself, Sh - Sam," he says, over Mandy's whimperings. "You know, you're not as amazing as you think you are - "
"I think you'll find I am - "
"I think I'll find you're not. You're arrogant, selfish, completely nasty - "
"Really?" Sherlock snaps back. "Then why do you stay with me?"
"God knows," snarls John.
They are getting the record for shocking the group into silence.
"You know why you stay with me," Sherlock says during dinner, while Jeff and Linda squabble and quibble over who took the larger helping of carrots. "You stay because I'm interesting and you're bored."
"Yes, and as a result I get to see you insult and upset innocent people," John fires back. "Not to mention dragging me into things that I might not want to get dragged into, without even telling me." He puts vegetables on his plate and says calmly, "I'm getting sick of it."
"You're getting sick of it?" Sherlock asks. "Do you have any idea, any idea at all, how much I have to put up with from you? Your ineptitude, your ridiculous and common notions on society, your boring mind and even more boring conversation - "
John hurls his wine into Sherlock's face and storms out.
Mandy finds him on the stairs, and offers him a glass of wine in replacement for tissues. He downs it in one, grumbling. She sits next to him.
"You were right," she says, "You and Sam, really. I am insecure and I do need to get over it."
"I wouldn't listen to anything he says," John mutters.
Mandy smiles and puts her hand over his. "He likes you very much, John. Anyone who spends ten minutes in the same room as you two can see that. He's constantly looking at you, watching what you say, how you say it."
"He does that to everyone," says John.
"Not in the same way," she says. "He…sort of catalogues everyone else. With you, it's like he's looking at you because he wants you to approve of him. Like he cares what you think. He's not just observing, he's caring. If that makes sense."
"He's a shit," says John.
Mandy half shrugs. "Maybe it's your job to change that," she says.
Sherlock comes into the room just as John is thinking of going to bed, and for a moment they stand at opposite ends of the room and watch each other like cats. Sherlock's collar is stained with wine and John can't stop staring at it.
"I didn't mean it," Sherlock says finally.
"Yeah, you did," says John.
"Not the bit about the boring mind," replies Sherlock. "Or the conversation. You're not boring. You should be, but you're not." He scratches his head, as if he is genuinely puzzled over this.
John shuffles. "I didn't mean the bit about being sick of you," he says. "Or anything. I'm not. I could never be."
They stare at their feet for a moment.
"What about the going past vanilla bit?" says Sherlock suddenly.
John's head flies up.
John falls asleep and wakes up with a nose full of black curls, but this time he doesn't mind in the slightest. He stares at the ceiling and thinks about what an idiot he is, and strokes his fingers through Sherlock's hair.
After a moment, Sherlock mumbles and wriggles and pulls himself closer to John. John smiles and keeps brushing his hand through his hair. They are silent for a moment. Then Sherlock says, abruptly, "Oh no. What day is it?"
It's a bit hard to think when John is preoccupied with an armful of Sherlock but he says, "Uh. Wednesday, I think."
Sherlock shoots naked out of bed as if propelled by invisible rockets, opens his laptop and immediately starts tapping away on the keyboard. After about a minute, he groans and puts his head on the desk.
"What?" says John.
"Daniel and Naomi," Sherlock says into the desk. "They left late last night. I meant to follow them."
"Why didn't you?"
Sherlock eyes John significantly. "I got a bit distracted," he says.
John is flabbergasted. "You? I - " He shuts his mouth again. He never thought that there could be anything that would distract Sherlock from a case. He feels obscurely flattered, as if this is more noteworthy than any declaration of love from Sherlock would be.
"Is Mycroft going to be annoyed?" he asks.
Sherlock shrugs, closing the laptop.
John watches him for a bit. "You call me distracting," he says finally.
Sherlock frowns over at him in confusion.
"Well, you are sitting there stark-bollock naked," says John.
When they leave, it is an oddly emotional event. Mandy clings to John and thanks him repeatedly for saving her, and he tells her she is silly and that she is sweet, and gives her the box of his remaining tissues and his email address just in case of further panics. Bill tells Sherlock straightforwardly that he had a point and is going to look into proper therapy. Jeff and Linda argue all the way into their taxi, because although some things do change, others certainly do not.
Sherlock and John walk happily together through the beautiful grounds and then go home to Baker Street, where Mycroft forgives their incompetence just a little too cheerfully.