Disclaimer: The characters of Sherlock are not mine, nor is the story, nor are the characters from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I make no monetary profit from this.
Note: And after forever, here it finally is. I still can't quite believe that people have taken the trouble to read this, and that you like it enough to read it through surprises me even more. I'm not good at thank-you's or conversation, for which I am very embarrassed, but let me tell you how much this means to me: I started this fic in a very bleak, very bad time in my life, and hashing out a thousand or so words a day became a sort of survival tactic, and seeing all the nice things you had to say about it really made my life. Things have gotten much better since then (which is sort of why the writing's slower), and you helped me get there. To take it from the show's canon, I was so alone then, and I owe you all so much. Thank you.
The Seduction of John S. Willoughby
The box of nicotine patches was on the table. John picked it up, took one look at Sherlock who was holding out one hand like he'd done for Lestrade's printout, hefted the box thoughtfully, and threw it at his flatmate. Sherlock sat up amidst a flurry of packets, swatting the things away like so much drugged confetti.
"What the hell was that for?" he demanded.
"You're being an idiot."
"And Lestrade says I'm childish. All right." Sherlock leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and fixed John with a look that ought to have gone straight through him and bored a hole in the opposite wall into the rooms above Speedy's. "If that's what you want. Go ahead. Talk."
"You're not going to make this easy are you?"
The stony expression on Sherlock's face said 'no.'
"Fine. Just – fine." John looked around the flat, saw nothing of great and immediate importance that could possibly postpone things, grit his teeth, and got on with it. "The kiss," he said. "That last one. Well." He took a breath, drummed his fingers on the table as he tried to figure out how to go on from there. "It was a good kiss," he admitted, not quite looking at Sherlock.
"Of course it was."
"Can you not do that?" It was probably too much to ask. Sherlock wouldn't know modesty if it snogged him (but then the way Sherlock kissed would likely leave modesty dazed and confused and quite ready to abandon its principles). "Look, this isn't exactly comfortable for me."
"And how do you think I feel about it?" snarled his flatmate. "I don't – it's not comfortable for me either," he added rather lamely. He looked down at his knees and seemed to draw inspiration from the fabric of his trousers. "If you think I should be skipping along and strewing daisies in the park-"
"No, I don't think so. That would take an extra special vanishing serial killer with no fingerprints, no apparent motives and wings on."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth quirked upward as if he couldn't help the suggestion of a smile. It was just there for an instant – John barely caught it – before he schooled his features back to a studied blank.
"I did think that you'd like to clear things up though," said John. "It's not like -"
"Not like me? Of course it's not like me." Sherlock tossed his head sharply. "It's exactly not like me, and that's exactly why I don't like it." He spat out the words as though they tasted like last month's milk. "Anyway, it's not important. A good kiss, but it makes you feel uncomfortable? We don't have to talk. I don't need to be told what that means." He swung his legs up onto the sofa and threw himself down on his side with his back to John. "I need sleep. Wake me when it's time to get rid of Milverton's stuff."
He probably was tired. John had lived with the man long enough to know that towards the end of a case, Sherlock Holmes was held together by a combination of caffeine, stubbornness, and the sheer momentum of his own deductions. Whether he'd gotten any real sleep last night was a secret between him and God and the bedclothes, and John was pretty sure he hadn't done more than catnap since the start of this business with Milverton and what's-his-name. Willoughby. (Poor sods, both of them.)
"You're an idiot." It had to be said. John meant it in a more general sense this time, a sort of marveling that anybody could constantly function like that without breaking down.
"I'm inclined to disagree, and you're being redundant. You made your point with the nicotine patches." Sherlock fished out one that had gotten lodged in the cushions. He unstuck it and pressed it onto his forearm with a noisy sigh.
"Yeah, but I thought the message didn't get through."
"Gnh." Sherlock was on his back now, eyes closed and chin tilted slightly upwards. It was then that John noticed that he hadn't any shoes on: his toes burrowed into the upholstery of the sofa's arm as the nicotine began to seep into his system.
"The thing is, Sherlock," John went on, determined to go on with it, "I don't actually think of myself as gay."
"I don't either."
"What?" That was news to John and he raised his eyebrows at Sherlock. It was a gesture that the detective carried out with greater aplomb, actually, but that didn't mean John couldn't have it in his arsenal too.
"I told you, I don't like thinking about it. One way or the other." Sherlock waved a hand vaguely at the ceiling. "Though if you must know, so far I have preferred men. But it's possible that that's because I haven't met the woman yet. I don't have the data."
"It was you who wanted to talk," muttered Sherlock darkly.
"Well, yeah. Didn't think we'd go there though."
"You brought it up."
"But you started it," said John, reasonably enough though he suspected he ran the risk of sounding like a four-year-old. He sat at the desk, facing his flatmate with his elbows on the table.
And just when he thought they might be starting to get somewhere, Sherlock pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes and emitted a noise like an angry tea kettle being run over by a rusty steam engine. (Well, it was probably several octaves lower than a sound an actual tea kettle would make in that situation, but it was the same sort of sound.) At the end of it, he exploded into sudden speech.
"All right, all right, it's my fault! Is that what you wanted to hear?" He shot John a fierce look. "Yes, I started it. And, yes, I'll admit that maybe I didn't know what I was getting into. And apparently my self-control isn't as good as I thought it was, because I didn't mean for that last kiss to happen, it shouldn't have happened, so that was my fault too." Sherlock was at the point where he was using his entire body to conduct the conversation, adding punctuation and emphasis with jabs of his finger, sweeping motions of his expressive hands, and the set of his stubborn mouth. He even brought his legs into it, swinging his feet to the floor with an unnecessary kick as he sat up again. For someone who supposedly eschewed feelings, John thought he certainly put a lot into expressing himself when he was incensed.
"I meant what I said before we left for Milverton's house," he went on, ignoring John's attempt to get a word in edgewise or sideways or any way at all, "but I was just saying it, just explaining – I wasn't asking for anything. So let me save you from going through all the motions of putting me down gently, since you seem to be having such a difficult time with it. You don't have to. Say you're not interested if you really feel you have to, but hurry up and have done with it!" And he threw himself back against the sofa with a heavy thud that the neighbors must have felt through the wall, crossing his arms in front of his chest, and glowering at the empty space a couple of feet away from John's head.
"I'm sorry you've had a difficult week." The tone didn't quite imply that Sherlock meant the exact opposite thing, but it was said pretty damn grudgingly all the same. John Watson pinched the bridge of his nose and, as he had done so often since coming to live at 221B, he prayed to any god who might be listening for preternatural amounts of patience. (It seemed to work. He hadn't strangled Sherlock yet, and that was something.)
"No, Sherlock, listen to me. Listen." The detective turned his head a fraction of an inch to glower directly at him. "If you were expecting more last night, I'm sorry. But I'm not saying no." John looked Sherlock in the eye. It was an intimidating business, even at the best of times, and more so now that Sherlock was actually putting effort into making his eyes drill into him like gimlets with sharpened edges. In the face of it, John sat a little straighter, squared his shoulders. "I'm saying not yet."
That took Sherlock by surprise. John could see it in the way his posture relaxed, how his expression became disarmed, which is to say it became rather less like a targeted weapon than it had been previously. He would have been proud of having pulled one over the man if he hadn't been quite taken by surprise himself. "Mind you," he said, "I'm not promising that it'll be a definite 'yes' in the future – not that you'll mind since you weren't asking anything" – John knew it wasn't good of him, but he couldn't resist the gibe – "but I think I could get used to the idea. Of you." He shrugged. "Maybe us."
"You mean that." It wasn't a question. It was Sherlock Holmes, of course it wasn't a question. But he did sound like he couldn't quite believe his ears.
"Yeah, I guess I do. I don't think I'd even consider it if it was anybody else. Just give me time, okay?" There were still things that John needed to sort out. Like his own mind, for instance, and how things were going (or not going) with Sarah and how to tell her that she was very nice but they didn't seem to fit at all and it wasn't just that he'd discovered he was gay (or bi) for his flatamte. And how on earth he was going to break it to his sister (he wouldn't enjoy that; Harry would). Strangely enough, what the rest of the world would think figured very little in what was worrying him. "And, please, don't try any of that seduction business again just yet. You – you're good at it, I'll give you that, but I'd rather not be dragged into it kicking and screaming."
"Mmm." It was an absentminded sound that had its origins in the back of Sherlock's throat, the sort of sound made because something needed to be said while his brain was busy with other far more important things. In this case, those other things seemed to involve studying one Doctor John H. Watson with measured intensity. John sat still under that scrutiny, trying to look straight back at his flatmate, and trying, more or less successfully, not to fidget. He doubted he'd ever really understand what went on inside that head of his, but that didn't really bother him. Fully and truly understanding how Sherlock's mind worked would probably involve a human/Holmes metacrisis that would drive him mad and fry his nervous system. Then Sherlock's gaze abruptly slipped from him to the television. "A bunch of grown men in armor attacking a rabbit. A rabbit, John. Is that meant to be funny?"
And that there was the Sherlock equivalent of a white flag. Not that John minded. There were other, vastly more terrible ways this could have ended. This was actually comfortable. He turned in his chair to look at the television. "You have noticed that the rabbit's winning?"
"But that's a hand puppet now!"
"And that's just Monty Python. Wait till you start watching actual telly."
"It gets worse?"
"Good God." Sherlock drew his knees to his chin and stared at the screen in apparent fascination, his plans of a nap abandoned. John grinned at him and took a brief look at the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh before rifling through the paper Lestrade had left behind, looking for the continuation of the Milverton story. The arrangement of articles in a newspaper had been explained to him once, but he could never like the fiddly way they disappeared on one page and had to be hunted through the rest of the publication.
"You don't have to be dragged kicking and screaming, you know," said Sherlock after several minutes of silence that were blessedly un-awkward.
"Hm?" John had been distracted by an advertisement for highly improbable weight loss pills.
"I won't act on it yet, since you asked," said his flatmate in the tone of one clearly granting a great concession, "but would you consent to, say, being led gently by the hand?"
John looked up from the paper warily as he realized what Sherlock was driving at. "What, you think you could make me change my mind?"
"I know I can."
"Right." John picked up the newspaper, and hid behind it more than anything else. He had remembered waking up in a bed half-full of Sherlock, and he was sure his ears were turning red. "Sure. Just so you know, I'm going to start sleeping with my door locked."
The corners of Sherlock's mouth twitched upwards in a smile that had very little to do with Monty Python.
"Yes, Sherlock?" he said, staring fixedly at the print on the page.
"I can pick locks."
Completely Unnecessary Notes on the Text: And if I could, I'd have Always Look on the Bright Side of Life playing in the background for this. With bagpipes.
Just a few more things, I won't keep you long. So this is a retelling, yes, because I absolutely love the story and I couldn't get rid of the idea that I'd very much like to see it adapted to the modern Sherlock, and I wanted to read it, but didn't know where I could get it or someone to write it for me (I hadn't discovered the kink meme yet) and it wouldn't leave me alone, so I went and wrote it. (And took a long time about it too, sorry!) I'd just like to explain that in ACD canon, Charles Augustus Milverton has an unnamed secretary "who is devoted to his interests, and never budges from the study all day." That's where John Willoughby's from, though I took the name from Willoughby Smith, secretary who was murdered in The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez. Mary Fraser from The Adventure of the Abbey Grange takes the place of Lady Eva Blackwell as Milverton's victim.
Er, I also took quite a lot of lines, mostly dialogue, out of various other stories in the canon – more than I can remember, to be absolutely honest, only I have a lot of bus tickets and things stuck in my Sherlock Holmes books in places where I found things I wanted to use – and I suppose you will have noticed that I've been rather heavy-handed with references to other things as well. So I suppose I owe apologies to Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who, My Fair Lady, and Monty Python for dragging them into this. And also Tolkien. If you got all the references to The Hobbit, I will love you forever.