The Antidote, part I

Sherlock doesn't do things without purpose.

(Not a lie, even on the worst days, when he's so bored, so pressed in by boredom, that it feels as though the long noodly bits in his brain are crawling around restlessly and pushing against the sides of his skull like blind foetal kittens, trying to feel their way out. Not a lie, because even when he's pinching John's gun and blowing holes in the couch he's testing angles and velocities and unlikelihoods. Not a lie because he never learns without intention - Earth around the sodding sun, not sodding logical, completely counter-intuitive and not worth the intuition anyway - he never makes an experiment without some kind of testable hypotheses to act as racecourse to a wild theory bucking down the track.)

(Experiment #2377:21: observe effects of alcohol on ability to navigate familiar arenas. Hypothesis: excessive consumption of alcohol will impair subject's ability to get from Scotland Yard to 221B, up the stairs, and into the bedroom. N.B.: purpose of experiment should focus less on proving hypothesis or null (hypothesis obviously correct), more on positive and negative effects of hypothesis and how they present.

Results: Hypothesis proven (obviously). Effects include disorientation, dislocation of centre of balance, difficulty in judging personal limits, impairment in ability to avoid puddles or make decisions regarding wisdom of avoiding puddles, inability to get home in under two hours due to excessive distractibility, inability find the sodding keyhole once home, inability to make sodding tea, and severe depression due to sedative effects of alcohol.

N.B.: experiment should not be replicated, wore John's pyjamas to bed, now smell like him.*)

*not that John doesn't smell good, because he does, Sherlock is well aware that he does, but Sherlock has a Sherlock smell and that should not be interfered with, not even with a John smell. Besides, John complained - in fact, woke him up complaining, and, when he realised Sherlock had a hangover, made him drink something devastatingly unpleasant with raw egg in it and then rattled on and on about how astonished he was that Sherlock should have been drinking to begin with, as if he were perfectly unaware that it was an experiment. Which he couldn't have been, because as dull and blind as ordinary, John-like people are, they at least have to understand science.

Having his smell interfered with left Sherlock sulking on the couch all afternoon, trying to get the taste of raw egg out of his mouth and not realising that he was wearing John's cardigan until half past six when John came home from work and brought in the takeaway.)

John stands in the doorway with his hands full of plastic grocery bags and says, "This has really gone too far."

Sherlock rolls over to look at him. '"What?"

"You're wearing my clothes. Again."

"Your clothes were in my area."

"Your area."

"You neglected to put them out of my way."

"Don't make this my responsibility - "

"It is." He sits up. "Food. Now."

John throws one of the cartons at him, and Sherlock smiles at it. Food always settles in the trip from the Indian restaurant to the flat, but hurtling through the air and landing neatly in his hands will have shaken it up nicely.

(Irritating John is essential to his mode of living, almost as essential as knowing that John will cease to be irritated after a while and subside back into his usual self, available and as attentive as ordinary people can be. Sherlock has determined, via Experiment #2370:21, that he lives better with John there to pick up the groceries and the takeaway and to do the laundry and to worry about keeping the flat in order while Sherlock does the vital things like the experiments and the thinking. He isn't overly concerned with whether or not John thinks; his assumption is that John does, sometimes, at a lower speed and with less intensity. But that's not the point. John does the things Sherlock can't get done.*

*Not that he would admit it to John, but the hums of the refrigerator and laundry machines and the low whisper of the gas stove make his skin twitch, and the trouble with thinking all the time, and with bad days when the boredom wants to fill his nose and mouth until he suffocates, is that ordinary John-like things elude him, frustrate him, until he's breaking dishes and acting entirely without purpose in an effort to push out of the amniotic sac of boredom and clear his eyes and suck in a breath of genuine dirty London air - )

He sits perfectly still with the carton on his lap, cradling the warmth of tandoori and trying very carefully and calmly to breathe. He needs John. That much is evident. Infuriating, at times, but evident.

"Look, I'm going out with Sarah to-night," John says. Sherlock's head comes up at once.

"Going out with Sarah?"

"Yeah, unlike some people I like to have the occasional night out that isn't spent down at the morgue beating dead bodies and ruining other people's lives."

That's nastier than is usual for John, even when he's piqued, so Sherlock supposes this business with the cardigan must matter more than makes any sense at all. "Now, now," he says. "I didn't ruin anyone's life. I prevented her from attaching herself romantically to an antisocial personality disorder. A gay one."

John's expression is reproachful.

Sherlock sighs irritably and taps his fork on his knee. "Don't wake me when you get in."

John slams the grocery bag into the recycling bin, puts his jacket on as roughly as possible, stuffs his wallet into his back pocket with a great deal more force than is necessary, and stomps down the stairs. Sherlock leans back against the couch and eats his tandoori.

(Experiment #2379:21: whether it is possible to negotiate the termination of flatmate's relationship while keeping intact one's own relationship with flatmate. Hypothesis: never mind the sodding hypothesis. Must keep John here.)

When John gets home at quarter past midnight, Sherlock has carefully arranged himself across the sofa. There are three nicotine patches on his arm, artistically positioned, two empty bottles of Penderyn - one upright on the coffee table, the other in the crook of his arm - and he himself is sprawled in his bathrobe, watching John from under nearly closed eyelids. He wasn't sure whether two bottles might be pushing it rather, but he does want to be convincing. With any luck John won't assume he's dead of blood alcohol poisoning and just call the hospital right off the bat.

John stops humming at once. "Sherlock."

No answer.

"Oh, dear Christ-" in that harassed, anxious tone John gets, and Sherlock closes his eyes all the way quickly as John kneels down by the couch, checking the speed of his pulse (probably to determine the extent of alcoholic sedation) while saying, louder, "Sherlock. Damn it. Are you OK? Can you hear me?"

Sherlock lets his head bob forward lazily, cracking his eyes open. "John?" Perfect. It almost makes up for the fact that his mouth tastes disgusting from gargling Penderyn fifteen minutes earlier, as well as the fact that it's going to take at least two washes to get the smell of the whisky out of his bathrobe.

"Oh, Jesus." John half-rises, one arm around Sherlock's shoulders to support him. "Two bottles? I hope you spilled most of it. Are you all right? Why the hell are you drinking like this?"

Sherlock starts to answer, but his sharp eyes have noted the hint of lipstick on John's collar, the way his hair doesn't settle exactly right, the flush in his cheeks that can't be attributed to the slight autumn chill outside, and he plunges forward, angling his body with great expertise and falling like the dead weight a dead-drunk man becomes. It's perfect. John is pinned neatly to the floor, and despite the fact that Sherlock is certainly the lighter of the two men, he makes no move to struggle away. Sherlock braces himself ineffectually on his elbows. "John." Breathless, but bleary at the same time.

"Yeah?" John's voice sounds strained with effort, and it actually takes Sherlock off-guard - he knows his weight shouldn't be enough to actually hurt John, and he almost abandons his experiment to be sure there isn't some outside variable he should be aware of. Then he realises that his abdomen is pressed against John's hips and groin, and that John is extraordinarily hard.

Oh, sod it. Outside variables indeed. He decides this is the best time to draw a curtain on the experiment, and lets out a soft sigh, falling prone.

John's hands grip his shoulders, rolling him back, and he feels John sit up, panting. "Oh, Jesus. You bastard." Then John lifts him up, half-carrying half-dragging him into his room, and settles him in the bed, getting him out of his stinking bathrobe and covering him gently. Sherlock even feels John stroke his hair for a moment.

As soon as he's out of the room, Sherlock springs up and goes silently to the door, following the sound of little moans and more panting to the loo, where he determines based on auditory data that John is getting himself off. Sod it all.

Shamming drunk and getting John to worry by utilising the fact that he already feels guilty about his sister is one thing, but shamming drunk and getting John to worry by utilising the fact that he already feels guilty about his sister and he wants to shag Sherlock is another thing entirely. Sherlock gets a little cold tea out of the fridge and takes it back to his room, sipping it in bed while he considers how to restructure the experiment. Outside, he hears John open and close the bathroom door, then get ready for bed. Perhaps he should kill Sarah. She isn't particularly important to him, and it would be diverting to work out a police case around her disappearance. Perhaps he could implicate Mycroft.

That thought amuses him so much that he actually smiles as he puts his teacup on the nightstand and turns off the light.

(He dreams that Sarah, he, and Mycroft sit down in a little triangle of armchairs, whereupon Mycroft explains that Sherlock has become co-dependent on John and it's just as well John has some interests elsewhere. Then Mycroft says he has a new case for Sherlock, one that will be better than anything else he could possibly imagine, much better than some ordinary person-he makes one of those hideous faces Mycroft always makes, twisting his mouth and eyes into something grotesque when he smiles.

Then Sarah says, "He'll only distract you."

Sherlock folds one long leg over the other, loosens his scarf, and clasps his thin fingers together on his lap. "He doesn't distract me. He makes my life far more facile."

Mycroft sneers. "Imagine what you could have got done to-night if you hadn't been lolling around on the couch with whisky all over your clothes."

"I would have been bored. He keeps me from being bored."

"Nothing can keep you from being bored. You're always bored, you're always going to be bored."


Sarah, rather irritatingly, says, "Then you should do something to tell him how much he means to you."

"Why in God's name would I do that?"

"Because I do. He's a soldier - he's used to hearing 'good man' when he's done a job well."

"Oh, I say that to him all the time."

"No, you don't."

Mycroft leans forward. "Take the case."

"No, I won't. Good-night." Sherlock reaches up and turns off the light that's beside his armchair all of a sudden. He doesn't feel satisfied, but at least it shuts Mycroft up.)

(Experiment #2379:21: Results: Experiment proved untenable. Processing new data and proceeding with Experiment #2380:21.

Experiment #2380:21: devise solution for problem of flatmate's probable sexual inclination towards self. N.B.: no more alcohol, had to drink another ghastly raw egg beverage in a.m., unacceptable. Alcohol is out.)

Sherlock finds the armchair from his dream and settles into it, frowning at the wall opposite. John is in the kitchen, and Sherlock plays the game of identifying which board John's stepping on, which is diverting for all of two and a half minutes before he has to throw a tantrum. He jumps up and grabs the poker, and John must be getting attuned to his movements as well because he's in the room in a moment, his hands covered with raw meat from preparing supper, trying to work the poker out of Sherlock's grip.

"Oh, come on, you've given me enough trouble to-day."

"I haven't been any trouble at all."

"Bollocks. You're trying to put a hole in the wall, you haven't spoken to me all day because I cured your bloody hangover, and last night you were drunk again and won't tell me why. Let go," he adds, wrenching the poker away.

Sherlock folds his arms. "I need you here, you go out too much."

"I have a job."

"I have to type my own texts."

John's lips tighten.

Sherlock sighs angrily and flexes his fingers around the emptiness where the poker used to be, and frowns, furrowing his eyebrows, trying to come up with a way to tell John he needs him to work the stove without somehow offending him. In the end, though, he throws down his hands angrily and says, "Will you stop thinking at me, I can't think when you won't shut up! You're the only person who doesn't bore me and I traded away a perfectly good case for you, so for once just please shut the hell up and let me concentrate!"

(Not a lie, even if it was a dream, because in his heart of hearts he is illogically convinced that he could have taken Mycroft's case. The trouble is that even if Mycroft is right and he is co-dependent (which he isn't), even if John would rather be in bed with him (a prospect that Sherlock has never entertained and of which he doesn't understand the appeal), even if John is a distraction - he is better than nicotine patches, and Sherlock needs him.

Because otherwise it's just going to be him in this flat, listening to the appliances hum and trying to block out the boredom between cases.)

John is staring at him open-mouthed, and Sherlock snaps, "What do you want?"

"I don't bore you?"

"No, no, I like you," he says, exasperated - he doesn't want dream-Sarah to be right, and it occurs to him that it's possible to say 'I like you' without adding 'because sometimes I do experiments on you while you're sleeping, and I'm tolerably glad you didn't wake up during #2204:21 or #2357:21'.

"You like me?"

"I already know what I said, you don't need to keep telling it to me. Go wash your hands, you're getting beef juice all over the poker."

"All right," John says, sounding dazed, and goes back into the kitchen - although not, Sherlock notes, giving him back the poker. He follows John. The kitchen looks as though a food pantry has detonated in it, or rather a food pantry combined with a crime lab, and he rescues one of his saucers of bone marrow from where it is perilously close to being confused with the dish of marmalade.

He sets it carefully on his knee as he takes one of the kitchen chairs. It's possible, he realises, that taking advantage of John is precisely the way to solve this problem, and has been all along. This would really be no different from performing experiments on John while he's asleep. Probably better.

"John," he says.

John turns immediately, leaving the tap running.

And Sherlock, without thinking, entirely without purpose, says, "Good man."

John smiles. "Thanks."

Oh, sod all.

(Experiment #2380:21: Results: Failure. Failure, failure, failure.)

After supper Sherlock takes his saucer of bone marrow and barricades himself in his room. The facts, he reasons, are these: 1) that he wants John to be his, exclusively, at least when he needs him; 2) that John would like to shag him; 3) that John is choosing to try and shag Sarah in lieu of Sherlock; 4) that Sherlock himself is behaving with complete irrationality, because the perfectly reasonable solution is to allow John to shag him, which would lure him away from Sarah and ensure that he remained in 221B.

But somehow it seems unfair, and Sherlock stares reproachfully at the bone marrow.

It doesn't stare back.

(Experiment #2381:21: leave John alone and let him make his own choices.

Ha, ha, ha.)

He listens to John moving around in the flat outside his door and sets the saucer carefully on his bedside table next to the empty teacup.

He will work this out. It'll just take a little more time than usual.

Sherlock takes a notepad out from under his pillow and writes neatly,

Experiment #2382:21: devise suitable alternative to shagging whereby flatmate will consent to remain in flat indefinitely. N.B.: do not take further advice from dreams, particularly dreams consisting of competition for flatmate and one's nemesis.

Then he puts out the light and lies back, hands behind his head. He'll want to take back the poker to-morrow and hide it for himself before John gets the chance, otherwise he's never going to see it again.

[end part one]