The best laid plans

Sherlock walked slowly back to Baker Street, and turned the front door key. He stopped and studied the steps. Seventeen had never seemed such an unforgiving number before.

He began dragging himself up the stairs, one hand trailing against the wall. As he was reaching for the door knob to the sitting room, the door opened to reveal John standing there. Must be worse off than I expected. Didn't hear him. Ridiculous really, get a grip, Holmes.

"John." He tried to speak casually. He obviously failed, as concern immediately crossed the good doctor's face.

"You sounded like you were struggling. Come in, sit down. Do you want a cuppa?"

Unobtrusively, a caring arm was around his shoulders, leading him to the sofa. Hands ghosted over him as they settled him down, a physical extension of the bedside manner. Bless John, there was no wifely explosion of anxiety, no bombardment of questions, nothing stifling, just the unspoken confirmation that, should he need anything, John was there.

"Tea would be good. Thank you."

He sank in the cushions, and tried to repress the shame and sickness coursing through him. Stupid reaction. It was necessary, it was irrelevant. His hands were trembling slightly. He was sore, and it made his sickness worse.

John left, ostensibly to make tea, in reality to allow Sherlock some time to compose himself, should he find it necessary. Sherlock closed his eyes, and concentrated on his breathing. Think about John. Oh, god, no, don't. Not with those other thoughts floating around. Come on, Holmes. This is ridiculous.

His phlegmatic flat mate returned with tea steaming in his favourite mug, also carrying a mug for himself. He carefully handed it over – he could not fail to notice the tremor – damn it! – but he made no direct comment. Instead, he sat on the other side of the sofa, turning to face the pale, strained young face.

"Something's wrong. Do you want to tell me about it, or shall I shut up for now?" Gentle, but never soppy. His John. Suddenly, much to Sherlock's mortification, he found himself holding back tears.

"Oh, mate. What's happened?" John was worried now. Sherlock hadn't been going to tell him; had considered it unnecessary; John would only get upset, and that would be annoying… except all he wanted to do was expunge this horrible deed from himself. Suddenly the tears were spilling over, silently. John wordlessly stood up and walked to Sherlock's end of the sofa, sensibly removing the mug of tea; Sherlock found himself making room for his friend, then flinging his arms around him, and beginning to cry in earnest.

"I thought it didn't matter. But it's just so horrible."

"What is, Sherlock?"

"You won't approve." A tiny trace of the usual imperiousness, mostly submerged by this raw misery.

"Does that matter?"

"-". John thought perhaps his friend has whispered "it does to me", but he was too quiet to tell for sure.

"Try me."

Sherlock buried his face in the crook between John's neck and shoulder, taking deep breaths.

"They were people traffickers. They work as pimps in the East End, dockside. I needed access; I needed an in. I succeeded. The four ring leaders are in prison, the charges watertight. Scotland Yard rings with my name. Even Sally deigned to say well done." He loathed that he sounded so bitter. It was pathetic.

"You didn't ask me for help in this." The statement had just the tiniest deviation towards disapproval; the doctor was too kind to vent his frustration now, but it evidently flowed just under the surface.

"God, no. I'm pretty good at being… inconspicuous… in that type of situation. I had to take the place of a poor kid called Mikhail; I had to infiltrate the set-up, see what they'd do to me, get at their accounts. I had to win their trust. It took me ages to find Mikhail. He'd been hand-picked as a gift for the boss."

He felt John tensing. It was too late to go back now.

"The boss was pleased with me, John."

"Oh, God. What did you have to do?"

"J-just what you're imagining…. F-fuck him. Or rather, be f-fucked by him." Curse the fact he was now crying harder than ever, so that he stuttered over the terrible words, in a way he hadn't since he was in his teens, prolonging the time it took him to make his confession.

"Jesus, Sherlock."

"I thought it wouldn't matter. It's not as if I'm a wilting virgin, and I don't think I've got any hang-ups about sex, it's just a bodily function, after all… but as soon as it came around to it, I desperately didn't want to do it. But I had to, or I'd've given the game away, could have been killed, could have got Mikhail killed. He liked it rough, he liked toys and BDSM and repetition. I hurt, John. And I feel unclean. Like I'll never be clean again. I don't feel! I don't get issues! I knew what the charade would likely entail, and I went in with my eyes open. So why do I feel… ruined?"

"You're an idiot."

Sherlock was literally brought up short. Oh yes, John was clever sometimes. There was no way that was the right thing to say, except in this one, very specific, situation. The familiar teasing, chiding, served to re-orientate him, keep track of the essential kernel of himself, buffeted in a confusing storm of unfamiliar emotions. He smiled weakly, and sat up slightly.

"A taste of your communication skills, doctor?"

"Always ensure the patient is sufficiently informed to allow competent participation in their care. My diagnosis is that you are an idiot to think that you could undergo this particular activity and remain detached from it. I daresay prostitutes and rent boys become hardened to it eventually, but I expect it's still massively damaging for most of them. And this seems almost worse somehow. I'm also amazed that, even when you've realised it was awful, you're still surprised to be upset and disturbed by it. Even Sherlock Holmes isn't that far outside the bell curve."

Sherlock liked the harsh honesty of the words; it appealed to his aggressively logical mind. The fact that John had pulled him to lie against his shoulder with an arm wrapped around him, and was holding his hand with one hand and stroking his hair with the other, made it even better. John knew how to offer him tailor-made therapy that his pride was able to accept. Any "normal" person might have shrunk at some of John's word-choices. Any "normal" person might have recoiled from close physical contact after such an ordeal (although it was doubtful they would have placed themselves in that position to begin with). Sherlock was the get back on that horse type, and besides, it was John. His mind, aberrantly blank for the last few hours, began whirring analytically again.

Perhaps he should take direct action; get out on the pull tomorrow… his mind crunched to a resounding stop, as a whole body adrenergic panic response swept through him. Ah. Definitely appears some damage has been done; I'll need to rewrite that response. Hope it doesn't take years again. Suppose I'm older this time.

He realised that John had subtly responded to him; was soothing him in a way that was quite definitely not smothering, although perhaps it should have been. Quietly, he replied.

"I am an idiot. I just don't like having to admit it, but it appears I don't have much choice about it this time. I'll need to work at deleting this. Hard drive's…messed up."

He dropped his gaze. Corrupted. Both of them were thinking it. And it was true. It was horrible, horrible; as if dark things were crawling under his skin, and a vile miasma was exuding from it. God, he couldn't bear to even look at himself; how could John bear to be near him? Before this cognitive snowball could carry him away within himself, John spoke.

"Do you want to sleep in my bed with me tonight? You've been through a foul experience; I predict you might have a disturbed night, and I can help you with that, if you think it won't make things worse if you wake up to find another man next to you."

Gratitude was something he felt occasionally. Very occasionally. He had never felt it so potently as now, though. John, operating at his harmonic frequency, had deduced, as effectively as Sherlock himself would have done, that his friend must be feeling worthless, despoiled, untouchable. He was willing, he with the trust issues and the conventional middle class/military background, to spend the night, whilst asleep and at his most vulnerable, next to the sullied sociopath who had earlier voluntarily subjected himself to virtual rape. Immediately, he felt marginally less repulsive, slightly more able to believe he might one day not feel faint and sick at the thought of what had previously been one of his favourite casual recreational activities.

Sherlock accepted the gesture. He felt too shaken to refuse, if he were honest with himself.

"Shower, then bed. Do you have any injuries you need me to patch up?"

So fucking kind and gruff and down to earth and accurate and ludicrously comforting. Hiding his profound distress so as to avoid embarrassing either of them, yet allowing just enough of it to show to reassure that he cared deeply, to make accepting help a gesture of mutual friendship rather than one of weakness.

"One or two."

"Come on then."

John helped Sherlock from the sofa, and guided him towards the bathroom.

-OoOoO-

So, first offering of dark fluff/angst on my shiny new account (this can't get too addictive – if I neglect my old account, Sherlock and Holmes will sulk – but it IS fun!).

Do you know, I can really see Sherlock being stupid enough to do something like this, and human enough to – heaven forbid – experience profound emotional distress as a result.

Please do read and review. If you'd like more chapters, let me know – I love requests.