Disclaimer: I do not own these characters! Except Victor Trevor. And Mrs Holmes. Oh, and Kurt. (Can't forget Kurt).
Spoilers: The usual, all three.
Summary: At Christmas at the Holmes's, John meets Victor Trevor, Sherlock's ex. This was meant to be comedic. Instead, it turned deep and difficult and dark. I think it works.
Sherlock may be an expert on perhaps everyone in the world, but John is an expert on Sherlock. He's not quite sure how this has happened, but all he can think is that it is down to his almost overly prolonged contact with the man. Whatever the reason, within a minute of being in the same room as Sherlock, he can instantly tell the mood he is in. Where he falls down, where he is not the genius that Sherlock Holmes is, is that he often cannot tell what put Sherlock in his current mood.
It's sometimes possible; boredom is easy - it means no cases. Lots of leaping around and cries of exuberance means the opposite. However, occasionally, and in this case, it is completely impossible to tell anything.
Sherlock is miserable. John can at least decipher this. He is making a great pretence of not showing it, but John can always tell when Sherlock is pretending to pretend and when he is really trying to cover something up. This is the latter; he is lying on the sofa, nose in a book with the rather bizarre title of Chemistry in Bees, and when John comes in from work he starts humming, but John is not fooled. There is a small but telltale tightness around the eyes, a twitching at the corners of the mouth.
John says, "What's wrong?"
Sherlock stops humming long enough to reply, "Nothing," and then goes back to whatever tune he is droning out. This is really bad, John decides.
He says, "Okay," and goes into the kitchen. On the side, next to a dismembered finger, is a piece of paper crumpled up into a vicious little ball, and John picks it up and unfolds it, because he might not be Sherlock Holmes in the field of deduction, but he's not stupid either.
It's an invitation from Mycroft to a Holmes Christmas dinner.
He goes back into the living room, waves the paper around. "Is this why you're moping?"
Sherlock looks away from his book just long enough to give John a passing scowl. "I'm not moping." He does not go back to his humming.
"Oh, you are." John looks back at the invitation. It's utterly fancy, fancy paper, fancy writing, and Sherlock's name is handwritten in between printed lines. Perhaps quite a few people will be going to this event, he thinks, if such an effort has been made. "Don't you want to go?" he asks.
Sherlock sighs and puts his book down, resigned. "Yes," he says, "I'd like to see mummy - mother."
Sherlock says nothing.
John bites his lip. This is where he cannot be Sherlock Holmes. "Is it Mycroft?" he asks tentatively.
Sherlock snorts. "I can handle him. It's not him, it's - "
And he goes quiet again.
John counts a minute in his head, and then says, "Who?"
Sherlock goes back to his book, running his eyes over the words too rapidly, not really focusing, not really, and then he mumbles, "Victor Trevor."
John's never heard the name before. He frowns, but it is as if he has said his thoughts aloud, because Sherlock sighs a long suffering sigh and says, "We went to university. Together. I mean. We were together."
John blinks. He hasn't tried to think more on Sherlock's sexuality or lack of it beyond that first embarrassing conversation at Angelo's. It hasn't worked very well, but he's kept his mouth shut, hoping that at some point Sherlock might elaborate on it himself. Well, here he is. Elaborating.
"Right," John says, for something to say.
Sherlock shifts self-consciously. "It was. I mean, we were. It was. But then I - we broke up." He coughs, looks back at his book. "And now he's got someone else."
John goes back to the invitation. "And Victor and this someone else will be at this thing."
"Mummy likes him. Mycroft really likes him. He's a banker." Sherlock turns a page, pauses. "There's no accounting for taste."
John can't help but smiles at this. A slightly more comfortable silence settles between them. John flicks the invitation around in his fingers. "So this is an archetypal case of 'ex who's moved on'-itis?" he says aloud.
Sherlock flashes him a scathing look. "I don't do archetypal," he snaps.
John grins fully this time. "Would you go if it wasn't for that?"
"Yes." Sherlock speaks with no hesitation.
John bites his lip. He thinks. Sherlock turns another page, though his eyes aren't moving across the words anymore.
"If I," John starts to say, and then stops, and then says, "If we," and stops again. Two false starts, he thinks, and ploughs on because he's not an adolescent. "How about if I went with you? If we pretended…"
He obviously doesn't need to say anything else; Sherlock blinks and drops the book again, and looks over at John.
"You'd do that?"
John shrugs. "Harry and Clara are spending Christmas in Spain. Patching things up, she said. For the umpteenth time. So. If you wanted to - "
Sherlock is staring at John as if he has just grown a second head.
"We don't have to," says John. "Just an idea."
"No," says Sherlock a little too quickly. "No, I mean. That would be…good."
'Good' in Sherlock's vocabulary can mean lots of different things, and none of them bad. John smiles and is treated for the rest of the evening to jaunty violin playing.
The Holmes's are filthy rich, which John knew, and own a huge manor house in Sussex, which John didn't know.
Sherlock is silent for most of the train journey.
"Victor Trevor," he says, when they're only one stop away. "Is. He's. He's not very…good."
John couldn't ever imagine Sherlock being with anyone good. Not totally. Not really.
"Okay," he says.
They lapse back into silence.
John was right; it is a big gathering, and at least twenty people are waiting outside to greet Sherlock when their taxi pulls up outside, but Sherlock only has eyes for one person; she is small and middle aged, with his dark hair, his light eyes, his sharp look, and Sherlock clings to her like she is the only thing in his world. She is Mummy.
Mycroft stands to the side, looking fed up, and rolls his eyes in a long suffering manner at John. Next to him stands a tall, dark haired, dark eyed man. He gives John a long, slow, silent look as he gets out of the taxi, which John misses, because he is concentrating on Sherlock and his mother.
He is Victor Trevor.
They get a room with one bed, but they've both been expecting this, so it isn't a problem. Sometime the next morning, John wakes up to Sherlock frowning out of the window, bathed in its cold grey light.
"What is it?" he asks, because the telltale strain around the eyes is back.
"Victor's boyfriend," Sherlock grunts. He is chewing on his thumb nail, a rare occurrence. "He's blond."
John swallows a laugh, because Sherlock is saying 'blond' the same way someone else would say 'murderer'. He gets out of bed, joins Sherlock at the window. A car has pulled up and the dark eyed man who John didn't see but who saw John is waiting as what looks like a male model gets out of it.
"Bloody hell," John says. The man's muscles shine, his hair glimmers. "I'll never match up to him," he says.
Sherlock pinches John's little finger between two of his own.
Lunch is the first opportunity John gets to finally hear Victor Trevor speak. He and the male model sit at one end of the table and John and Sherlock sit at the other. He and Sherlock never once look at or speak to each other.
Victor talks about his latest trip to India. He, like everyone else here it seems, is filthy rich and successful. John would be feeling jealous if it wasn't that everyone seems to find his being a doctor and an army doctor at that to be the pinnacle of modern day heroism.
Victor talks in images and symbols, and his voice is like magic, his words cast a spell.
Victor Trevor, John realises very quickly, is captivating. He speaks with such exuberance and passion and knowledge, and he knows just what to say, just how to phrase something so that it is completely right, so that it does just what he wants it to do, words bow to him, they dance for him, and when and as he speaks, everyone around the table falls in love with him.
Victor Trevor has power.
John sits numbly in a chair in their room later and thinks and remembers the words, the gestures, the expression. Sherlock takes one look at him when he comes out of the shower and knows.
"Yes," he says, "He's always like that."
It is exactly what Stamford said about Sherlock after their first meeting.
"You are very alike," John says, when the lights are off and they are lying on their backs staring at the ceiling, carefully not touching.
"He's dangerous," says Sherlock after a long pause.
John thinks, so are you and says nothing.
Victor Trevor turns up again the next day, when John is in the kitchen by himself, having been persuaded by Mrs Holmes to chop vegetables. He leans in the doorframe, dark eyes sparkling. They remind John suddenly of Moriarty's eyes, wide and perilous. He moves on to the potatoes. His hand is perfectly steady.
"You don't seem like his type," Victor says finally.
John's hand remains steady. "And what would his type be then?" he says finally.
"Me," Victor immediately replies.
John cuts into the potato a little too violently. "Well maybe his tastes have changed."
"No." Victor shoulders himself off the doorframe and circles the kitchen table. John resolutely keeps cutting, doesn't stop. "No, I know what he's doing. He's pretending he's with you, because I'm with Kurt."
Kurt equals male model boyfriend with glistening hair. John says nothing.
"You probably know a very different Sherlock to the Sherlock I knew," Victor continues, and when before his voice was like a dream, it is now poison. John wishes he could block up his ears; a childish, primal desire.
"You see a calm, collected, controlled Sherlock," Victor says. He toys with a piece of chopped up vegetable, leaning across the table, just a little too close to John. "I saw a passionate, obsessed, infatuated Sherlock, a Sherlock insane with desire. I do that to everyone, you know, to everyone I meet. I enchant them and make them fall in love with me, and then I push them to see how far they'll go. Sherlock went further than anyone."
John freezes, halfway through cutting.
Victor smiles triumphantly and pushes himself off the table. "Which is why," he says, winding his way back to the exit, "I know he'll never be with someone like you."
He leaves. John takes a deep breath, picks up the knife and starts cutting again.
People get obsessed with Sherlock. Sherlock makes people obsessed. His mind, so brilliant, so sharp, so wonderful, his nature, it all fascinates people. Sherlock doesn't get obsessed, Sherlock obsesses people.
Sherlock was right. Victor Trevor is dangerous.
It is time for drastic measures.
To his credit, Sherlock does not react much at John's suddenly intensified role as the pretend boyfriend. He accepts the prolonged touches at the dinner table, smiles at the compliments, acts like he has always been able to act, which is perfectly. When dessert has been eaten and coffee is served, Sherlock lets John have his extra packet of sugar, and John smiles, as sweet as the given sugar, and leans over and kisses his cheek.
Sherlock's cheek is cold and smooth, like marble, and one of his fingers twitches on the covered tabletop, but that is all the reaction he shows.
John does not dare to gauge Victor Trevor's expression, but Mrs Holmes's is full of delight.
Sherlock pauses while he is getting ready for bed later that night, pauses as though he is going to say something, but nothing comes out, and John does not push the subject.
Things get a bit out of control after that. John can't just keep the act up whenever Victor is around, but when anyone is around, otherwise it won't work. He's getting so used to this weird flirtation that he can't seem to stop, even when they're alone together.
It's a bit odd. It's also a bit wonderful, but he doesn't let himself admit that.
Christmas Day rolls around, and John and Sherlock escape the usual afternoon monotony by helping Mrs Holmes in the kitchen with the Christmas dinner. It is a Sherlock-and-mother tradition, and John should feel a bit strange for butting in on it, but he doesn't. It feels natural, like he's always been doing it.
They drink wine while they cook and maybe John has a bit much, or maybe it is simply the nice, comfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach, or his desire to really beat this Trevor bloke into the ground, but when Mrs Holmes leaves the kitchen briefly and John spots Victor lurking in the corridor, he whirls Sherlock around from the boiling potatoes and kisses him on the mouth, silent and hard, in the middle of the grey lit kitchen.
Sherlock kisses him back, though John is sure he can't see Victor from that angle.
He tastes like wine and metal.
They drink more wine at the Christmas meal, and then afterwards, in the same dark corridor, they kiss again, more gently, and this time there is no one to see and no excuses can be made, and they fall into bed together, and it is perfect.
John wakes up to Sherlock tracing invisible patterns on his arm. The sheets are cold and light, and there is snow - just a little - drifting past the white morning window.
"I was obsessed," Sherlock says, knowing what John is thinking about immediately. His finger trails up to John's shoulder. It is the unshot one, the whole one.
"I know," says John.
"Possessed, really," says Sherlock. He traces John's collarbone. "He is the only one who ever confused me. But I still saw through him. Eventually. It took…too long. I felt - feel - ashamed. I got rid of him as soon as I realised."
John thinks, and me?
He says, "I'm not like him."
The finger circles his neck. "I know. It's…different. It's…comfortable, easy. Sometimes I think too easy. It shouldn't be this easy. But it's deeper, somehow. Because I respect you. More than him." The finger trails up his neck. "You're a good man."
"Good is boring," John says simply, trying not to shiver.
"No," says Sherlock. "It's not."
John turns his head and stares at Sherlock.
"It's really not," says Sherlock. "You showed me. It's…important."
John feels the smile creep up on him, stretching across his face. Sherlock reflects it, wide and impossibly happy. He raises himself up on his elbows, all white and smooth. "Plus," he whispers, leaning his mouth down to meet John's. "You're not that good."
John laughs into the kiss.
Victor Trevor leaves that morning, but they do not bother to get up and see him off. He is forgotten; somewhere between cool sheets and snow and the shift of fantasy into reality, he is forgotten.
It is just them now.
It is good.