While John hadn't expected to wake before Sherlock, he did so. Sherlock was still sleeping draped over him, head resting on his shoulder. He found himself suddenly wishing that the group Gloria had mentioned met today; he was way in over his head. But at the same time he was determined he and Sherlock would ride this out together.
Sherlock stirred, and he froze. Although he knew that they'd have to talk once he woke up, John needed a few more minutes to come up with something to say. It turned out to be a nonissue, as Sherlock fell back into sleep. He went back to thinking about what to do next. He'd tell Sherlock about the group, of course, but he knew the chance of getting Sherlock into any kind of therapy at all was nil. Maybe the group would have ideas about how to make the idea more palatable.
Once again Sherlock stirred, and this time it was for real. At first he just stared dazedly at John, trying to place himself, fighting out of the fog of sleep. Then something clicked and the look on his face changed from confusion to sheer unadulterated terror. He jerked himself into a sitting position and was clearly preparing to flee. "Sherlock," John said, hoping to calm him down without having to restrain him. "You don't need to panic. Take some deep breaths."
Sherlock did nothing of the sort but didn't flee. He still looked terrified. He started to feel around with his free hand and John guessed he was looking for Hamish.
"That's where I'm going, then," Sherlock said in a hoarse whisper.
"Only if I'm allowed to come with you. We need to talk."
"You're going to make me see someone, aren't you?" The terror in Sherlock's voice made him start to shake. "Because I won't. I'll run away, I'll live on the street, I'll stay away forever."
There was no doubt in John's mind that he meant what he was saying. "No. I'm not. If you don't want to see a therapist it'd be stupid to force you to. I am going to a group though."
"But I don't have to come?"
As soon as John reassured him, "No, you don't," his body sagged in relief. John quickly said, "And just so you know, a relationship with me doesn't have to involve sex."
John expected Sherlock to try to bolt again, but he didn't. He merely looked away and mumbled, "Yes, it does."
"No, it does not," he firmly replied.
"Because it's not a romantic one."
"Yes, it is. No, it doesn't."
"You like sex." Sherlock still looked away from him.
"Yes, but you very obviously do not." John couldn't tell if it was a good sign or not that Sherlock was avoiding the implications their relationship was now a romantic one.
"It's something you need."
"To a degree, yeah, but that doesn't mean I can't go without it. The army's basically one long enforced period of abstinence."
"But not for the rest of your life," Sherlock quietly said.
"If it gets to be that long we'll find a way to deal with it." John sincerely hoped it would not be that long.
"When does this group meet?"
"Tomorrow. And you're not changing the subject that easily."
"I can't give you what you need."
Surprised that Sherlock had willingly gone back to the original subject, John responded with, "You already are."
"Not all of it." Sherlock shifted again, trying to move away.
"You can go get Hamish if you'll come back down," John said, figuring the bee might help him relax. Sherlock lept to his feet and John could hear him racing up the stairs. He half expected him to not come back and was surprised when he heard someone coming down the stairs. Sherlock walked in front of the sofa and sat down next to John, holding the bee in his lap like a frightened child might, seeking the comfort of the soft toy. John began to speak again. "I know that you've talked yourself into believing that a relationship with me is impossible. It's not. I also know you're interested in one. Right now I want you to understand that that is my choice, not yours."
"Did you mean it?" Sherlock suddenly asked.
"Mean what?" John said in confusion.
"What you said. Last night."
It dawned on John what he meant. "That I love you? Yes. Both romantically and as a friend," he added, to prevent what he was sure was the next question. "That's the reason I hate to see you like this. You shouldn't have to get high to drive her out of your brain when it's me. And I'd like to try to help you with that. That's why I want to go to this group." Not wanting to push the issue further, John changed the subject. "How long have you been using again?"
"Since I was taken off the case." He placed his head down on Hamish.
"Were you ever going to tell me this?"
"Maybe after the trial was over."
"Is there anything in the flat right now to use?"
"Used it right away."
It occurred to John that Sherlock's sleepless nights of pacing were probably due to cocaine-induced hyperactivity. "When you were in rehab, last. Didn't they have therapy groups there? Did anyone ask you about your past there?"
"They had them. They talked but I didn't listen. I went away. I don't remember."
"You left the group?"
"No. I sat there. I just went away. Far off. Like I sometimes did with Her."
Now John understood. Sherlock had apparently gone into a dissociative state as soon as the subject of childhood abuse came up. "I think we both need something to eat."
"You're not angry with me?" The way he said it, combined with the stuffed toy he continued to be wrapped him around, made him seem like a scolded child.
"No. It hurts me to see you in this much pain, but I'm not angry with you." Much, John silently thought. From the look on Sherlock's face he wasn't sure if it had registered, but he got up and went to the kitchen anyway. He felt far too exhausted to make anything more than tea and toast, and even that seemed a great effort. "Eat at least one slice," John ordered Sherlock when he returned with the food. Sherlock made a face but did slowly eat one slice.
The day passed by like molasses. John couldn't remember a longer one, and he remembered some very long Christmas eves from when he was a child. Sherlock didn't try to talk to him any more, and just sat in his chair staring out the window. John read, watched television, and went to bed at a ridiculously early hour - in his own room.
When he woke up the next day he wished the group met at nine and not noon just so he could be there more quickly. But thinking like that wouldn't make the time pass, so he got dressed and headed downstairs. To his surprise Sherlock was lying on the sofa, Hamish perched on his chest. "When does this group meet?" He spoke in a monotone.
"Not too far from where the Ahernes live. A group member is going to meet me in front of the building."
"What is this group for?"
"People who are close to survivors." The word "survivors" left a bad taste in John's mouth.
Sherlock said nothing in response, and simply curled up again, face to sofa, Hamish in his arms. He didn't say a word as John made himself eat breakfast and watched crap telly until it was time for him to leave.
When he left Sherlock didn't say anything and John felt almost glad for the silence. He walked the whole way there, because after all this he needed the exercise. It managed to create enough mental static so he didn't think about anything else the whole way there.
Gloria was in front of the building, just like she said she would be. "Good to see you," she told him.
"Is this group expecting me?" he asked her.
She nods. "I've told the therapist there I'm bringing someone new."
"How many other people are there?"
"Six usually, not counting me." She gestured for him to follow her and they both headed into the building. "We're near the top." She pressed the button for the lift. It arrived in almost no time at all and they got in. Gloria pushed the button for the ninth floor and they ascended silently. Once the door opened again, she walked out and headed across the hall to a frosted glass door with Mitchell Dodson Ph.D, BASW written on it. Gloria opened the door. She led John into the waiting room. A short, balding, blond man stood there. John assumed he was a group member.
"Gloria," he said. "This is John? The one you were bringing?" He had a low, kind voice.
"Yes. John, this is Doctor Dodson."
"Hello, John." Dr. Dodson smiled at him. "Come on in."
Gloria followed Dr. Dodson into the next room, where six other people sat in a circle of ten chairs. "Gloria's brought a new person today," Dr. Dodson said as he sat down in a chair off to the side of the circle.
"John, this is Eli, Peter, Mari, Tammie, Jason, and Rodney," Gloria said, gesturing to each one in turn. "Have a seat." She sat down in one of the vacant chairs. John settled himself down into the one chair no one sat on either side of.
Eli, a man about ten years older than him with dark curly hair, appeared to notice John's discomfort. "I know this can be all a bit overwhelming," he said.
"If you just want to listen your first meeting that's okay," said Mari, a heavyset woman with bright red hair.
"Can I do that?" John said, more to himself than anyone in the group.
"If you want to keep coming here you'll have to participate, but just listening for a meeting or two is perfectly fine," Dr. Dodson said. John nodded, too overwhelmed to say anything. "Does anyone have something they want to bring up first?" he continued.
Eli spoke up. "I don't have anything I need to bring up about my situation right now, but I'm curious how Jason is doing."
Jason, a very tall dark-skinned man with long dreadlocks, sighed. "I'm really not sure at this point. The kids are wondering why their mum seems so sad and I don't know what to say."
"Because you're not too sure about it yourself," Mari said.
"That's true," he admitted.
"Well, her father's dead, right? So it's not an issue of explaining why they can't visit him anymore?" asked Eli.
Jason nodded. "Do you think they're too young for an explanation?"
"How old are they, again?" Peter, a man with long dark hair, a beard, and glasses, asked.
"The oldest is eleven, and the others are four, six, and seven."
"The eleven year old should know the truth, I think," Mari commented. "If your wife's okay with telling them that. The others are really too young. Tell them she's sad because of some things she's remembering."
"That makes sense," Jason said after a period of silence.
"You've come a long way in a month, yourself," Eli said. "I can tell you're not as angry."
"You're doing really well," Tammie added. She tossed a lock of long blond hair behind the chair. "You've stopped glowering at all of us."
Dr. Dodson then spoke up. "Let's go around the group and see how everyone else is doing. Mari?"
"Well, I'm excited. Tomorrow is my husband's first birthday." The rest of the group applauded. John felt confused for a second before he realized that she was probably referring to a complete year of sobriety due to some detox program. "He hasn't had any alcohol in a year."
"What are you doing for it?" asked Peter.
"We're going out to dinner with his best friend and his son."
"His son or the friend's son?" John asked in confusion.
Mari chuckled. "The friend's son."
"Didn't you tell us the friend walked in on something once? At home?" Eli said.
Mari's smile flattened. "Yes. He walked into my husband's bedroom when he was a teenager. Unfortunately his mum was in there as well."
"Nothing happened to his friend, did it?" Jason said worriedly.
"No. He just ran out of the house, threw up, and headed home. It eats at him still that he didn't do anything."
"He couldn't have done much himself," said Dr. Dodson. "In those days it was hard enough for most people to wrap their minds around the idea of incest, much less the idea the perpetrator could be a woman."
"He knows that, but it still gets to him at times."
"Emotional reasoning," Dr. Dodson said. He looked over at Eli.
"No new news here," Eli said. "Her brother's staying with us for a few days - not any crisis in his family, he's just got work for a few days in London - and it's nice having him around. It's eerie how much they look alike."
"Well, I've got an anniversary coming up, too," Peter said after a period of silence. "Next week it'll have been one year since the last hospitalization." The group gave him another round of applause. John wondered what it must be like in that relationship if that was a milestone.
"It was pretty bad for the two of you last year, right?" Rodney, a man with short spiked black hair with blond tips, asked.
"She was in there five times," Peter responded. "Once for about two weeks."
"That was the one where she walked in on you and the computer, right?" Tammie said. "You had to call 999."
"Yes," said Peter. "That was the one."
"Any celebration planned?" Mari said.
"We're planning a proper honeymoon." He grinned. "All over Europe. She's never been to the actual continent before."
"Are you engaged?" John asked.
Peter shook his head. "Married. For a year and a half now." He looked at Dr. Dodson. "She told me therapy is going well."
"I can confirm that," Dr. Dodson replied.
"Sometimes I have to not get angry when she tells me things. We went out with some friends a few days ago. She always just sits there and sips her drink, not saying anything. Anyway, the conversation got a bit raunchy. Someone brought up the topic of anal penetration. She didn't say anything then, but when we walked home she said to me: 'I don't know why anyone would like that myself. It's disgusting.' I realize there's only one way she could know that, because I'm the first person she dated." He sighed.
"But I thought it was a woman," Rodney suddenly said. Peter gestured to his fingers. Rodney blushed. "Sorry, that was a stupid question." After Dr. Dodson looks at him Rodney adds "Not anything big. Been pretty quiet actually. She's gone to work every day this week."
"Speaking of women, as you all know my fiancé is going to testify against the woman who abused him in a week or two," Gloria said.
"Is your fiancé nervous about testifying?" Jason asked.
"Very. I keep telling him that it'll help all the other kids she could hurt and that helps." If anyone in the room knew it was the trial that was all over the news they didn't mention it. They all listened to Gloria like it was new to them.
"Have things been any worse?" Eli asked.
"Not really. His brother's living with us now though. He's detoxing. He's really good with our son, which is nice. Not all of it's nice. They talk to each other a lot. Sometimes they both start crying. I think when I'm not around they talk more about their former foster mother."
"Is he testifying?" said Mari.
"No. Just my fiancé and his older sister."
"How long has his brother been living with you?" Mari continued to look at Gloria.
"A month. He's been in rehab six weeks now, but he was living on the street before then. We didn't think that was very good for him."
"Six weeks, wow. I wish it was more than two weeks at this point," said Tammie. "I didn't think going off the drink would be this bad. She snaps at anyone who comes near."
"I understand," sympathized John, who only realized after he said it was revealing something about himself.
"Your, um, friend?" From the way Tammie said it she clearly was unsure of what Sherlock's relation to John was.
"No. My sister."
Tammie caught something in his voice and said, "But it's your friend too, isn't it? You sound like it's something you're going through every day, like me."
"Cocaine," John said. "But my sister does drink as well." He looked down at his hands, wondering if he should have said something in the first place.
"You've got it from all angles, don't you?" Tammie commented. "I can't imagine dealing with two people going through this. As it is we're in separate bedrooms."
"My sister's wife left her because of the drinking, so yeah, I know what that's like." He paused. "Can we use names here?" he asked, already having noticed that no one ever gave the name of the person they were there to support.
"Our policy is to refer to the person we support by their relation to us," Eli told him. "It's their choice to be open about it, not ours."
"Then who's everyone here for?" As soon as he said it John knew it sounded idiotic, but there was no way to take it back.
"Wife," Eli said in response.
"Me too," said Peter.
"And me," Jason added.
"Husband," Mari said.
"Fiancé, but you know that," Gloria said.
"Girlfriend," said Rodney.
"Same with me, although I might pop the question soon," Tammie finished.
"You sound like you want to talk about it, whatever it is," Rodney said.
"Sort of," John admitted. "He won't."
"Then how did you find out?" Jason didn't sound accusing but rather curious.
"His brother told me."
"The brother knew?" Eli said.
"He found out because someone else told their mother." John was uncomfortably aware that everyone's eyes were now on him.
"It's obviously weighing on your mind a lot," Dr. Dodson commented.
"Well, last night there was an incident..." John began, and before he knew it he was telling the group the whole story. And the whole group sat there and listened, and that broke the floodgates and then he was talking about the drunken kiss and the flashbacks and the knife to the sheets and Hamish the bee and how it was obvious that Sherlock wanted a relationship with him but just as clear he couldn't make himself be intimate. When he finally stopped, he looked at the clock and realized he'd been talking for over twenty minutes. John then looked back at the group and none of them looked surprised. In fact, Peter and Mari were both nodding sagely.
"You're in the thick of it," Peter said. "I can remember having the exact same conversation."
"You got married, so you must have worked some of that out," John said. He wondered what the solution was for him.
"Well, she does see a therapist." He looked back at Dr. Dodson before speaking again. "They've agreed to not bring up any of those issues unless she does it. That hasn't happened yet, by the way, but there's been progress."
While John desperately wanted to ask, he didn't think just saying, "So how did you two get to have sex?" would be anything but rude. Instead he asked the highly sanitized, "Intimacy?"
"You mean sex, right," Peter said in a way that indicated he had seen this coming. "Haven't solved it yet."
"And you've been married for a year and a half?"
"Yup," he replied, smiling. "There's more to love than sex."
"I know. He's just so obsessed with it and he keeps saying he can't give me what I need."
"If it was really going on for years it's going to take a much longer time to deal with it, especially since you said that he's never talked about it before," Mari broke in.
"I understand. It's just... he's in so much pain. I want it to stop." John blinked away the tears in his eyes.
"It will," Eli said firmly.
"It'll take time though," Rodney added.
"We're out of time for today," Dr. Dodson said. Everyone got up to leave, but before John could go out the door the doctor gestured for him to come back. John walked back over to stand before him. "It sounds like your friend needs individual therapy, but it also sounds like he'd resist it."
"That's true," John responded.
"Do you think he'd be more comfortable if there was an agreement like the one mentioned before? It's never brought up unless he brings it up first?"
John shook his head. "He'd never see anyone to talk about anything personal."
"Are you coming back?"
"Yes," John firmly replied. "All this... helped." A thought occurred to him and before he could think twice he asked: "Peter and Mari both said that their spouse was abused by a woman. How often do you see that?"
Dr. Dodson didn't seem to be bothered by his question. "With males I treat? I'd say almost eighty percent." John must have looked surprised, because he followed that with, "It's more common than you think. In this group it's half. Eli and Gloria both have a spouse in that category."
"It's not something I thought about until recently," John admitted. He turned and started towards the door
"I'll see you next Sunday, then," Dr. Dodson said as he walked to the door with John.
John stayed silent the whole way home, thinking about everything that the group had said. It had helped, even he had to admit that. It wasn't until he was actually walking up the steps that he wondered how Sherlock was doing now. He tried to tell himself that if anything horrible had happened he'd have heard about it by now, but the feeling didn't subside until he got through the door and found Sherlock asleep on the sofa, using Hamish for a pillow. For some reason that made him feel more calm than he had in days, and he went to prepare lunch thinking that he might be inching towards a solution.