basingstoke: VULVA (VULVA)
[personal profile] basingstoke
Title: The Choke Pear

Fandom: Sherlock/Black Books

Sequel to "Cartilage."

Thanks to jacquez, Derry, mific, and evildrem for beta and britpicking. Without my readers I would have some embarrassingly egregious errors.



"Are you seeing your girlfriend tonight?"

"I think so."

"I thought she was terrified of me."

"She reconsidered. Drawn by my masculine charms." Actually, her words had been "haven't pulled in six months, tell me your penis works, oh thank god," but that was sufficient. He had enough high drama with Sherlock.

In illustration, Sherlock scowled and flung himself back into the sofa cushions. "Every day is another betrayal," he said.

John stood in front of him, took Sherlock's hand, and placed it on his crotch. Sherlock growled without looking at John.

"I have needs. I know you don't. But if I don't exercise my testicles, they're going to burst," John said. "Might be on you. Might be at a crime scene. Might be on Mrs. Hudson. Do you want to be responsible for that?"

Sherlock sniffed and took his hand back. "Desires aren't needs. That's your DNA lying to you. You're letting your mind be controlled by your sperm cells."

"I'll be back come morning if not before. Goodnight, Sherlock."

*

He received a phone call on the Tube. The number displayed as "Denmark." Sherlock's phone, then, stashed in his pocket like a squirrel's nuts. "John Watson speaking," he answered.

"I know. Sherlock never answers his phone," Easter said.

John smiled. "How are the studies?"

"The human spine is arranged very badly."

"Well observed."

"Wollstonecraft is here arguing with Mycroft and Mummy. Do you know why? I can't get close enough to listen and Mycroft blocked my spy vent."

"No, no idea," John said.

"I told Wollstonecraft that I don't believe her stories any more and she called me a china doll. I'm tired of being a girl," Easter said, exhaling with impatience. John was starting to wonder if this wasn't a phase after all. "And I tried playing with Darwin! I was good! I tried to play Doctor Who with him and he cried and ran away! He's such a baby."

"Be kind to him," John said mildly.

"I am! I've decided I like Sherlock better and I'm going to be on his side."

"What's the other side? Sides?"

"Wollstonecraft is a side and Mycroft is a side and Daddy is a side. Mycroft pretends to be on Daddy's side but Daddy knows he's not because he won't give him the right samples. Wollstonecraft is Mummy's favorite so she's a side even though she doesn't have an agenda and doesn't have a helper yet so, um, her base is weak. Mycroft said that. Does he mean base like the pedestal of a statue or bass like the low notes in music?"

"Er, pedestal of a statue," John said.

"That's what I thought but Mycroft talks in music a lot."

"You'll make a fine politician one day."

"Eugh! Boring. Mycroft gave me a project to follow a bill through Parliament and it didn't go anywhere for six months! Six whole months! Mycroft had to call in a favour just so I could have a grade!"

"Oh--well--six months isn't nearly as long when you're grown," John said.

"Anyway, Daddy thinks he's cloned Mycroft. He says the DNA is perfect and he just needs to be sure of the epigenetic factors before production. I called to ask how to spell epigenetic so I can look it up. Is it u-p-i?"

"E-p-i."

"Thank you, John. Goodbye!"

John slipped the phone back into his pocket, half stunned, wondering if he should have her put in care.

*

John moved in for a kiss, but Fran had a cigarette in her mouth. "No snogging. Shagging," she said. She pointed to the bed.

"Yes, ma'am," John said, and dutifully took his trousers off.

After, Fran got a phone call. "What?" she said. "Manny? He's what? Fire? Oh, mire. Well, I'm not alone. I have a gentleman friend. Fine." She turned to John. "Do you mind if Manny kips on the sofa?"

It was a one-room flat. John shrugged. "I don't mind."

"Yes, come on over," Fran said.

"I should go," John said.

"Not if you value your bollocks."

"Yes, ma'am."

Manny knocked on the door not a minute later. "Were you lurking under my window?" Fran asked as she answered the door in her dressing gown.

"Yes! I've had enough!" Manny stomped in soaking wet, though it wasn't raining. Okay.

"Are you all right?" John asked. He tucked the sheet around himself like a toga and got out of bed.

Manny sat on Fran's sofa and wrung out his hair. "I'm tired of wearing wellies indoors! I'm growing fungus in my beard!"

"Bernard still didn't get it fixed?" Fran asked.

"I've had it! I'm leaving him!"

"Oh, God. Let me see what I've got." Fran stood and opened a cupboard. "Here. Hairy Arms Genuine Horseradish Vodka. I was saving it for a dark afternoon."

She gave it to Manny before John could demand to see the label, which looked to him like it had been printed at home on A4. Manny choked down a huge gulp and sighed. He immediately looked better. "Thank you, Fran."

Well, it wasn't John's place to tell a grown man how to live. He went back to bed.

"Now you drink that up, because I'm going to shag John again in a bit and you're not allowed to look, all right?"

"I would never!"

"Good man." Fran patted his head. Manny knocked back another dose of vodka.

*

On Monday, John and Sherlock assisted DI Dimmock. The investigation took them (after an art supply store, an exotic pet store, and a private zoo) to an expensive salon, where they found... Wollstonecraft.

"Don't," John said.

"She's my sister. Not saying hello would be uncivilized."

"Sherlock."

"That's your sister?" Dimmock straightened his tie. The salon owner stood between him and the back room where Wollstonecraft was seated, having her nails done.

"I'm glad to assist police inquiries, but my customers aren't," the owner said. "My customers come to relax and enjoy themselves."

Sherlock smiled. "I assure you she'll enjoy this," he said, and he walked around the owner and straight for Wollstonecraft.

"Oh, God help me," John sighed, and followed him closely.

Wollstonecraft raised an eyebrow. She was wearing her hair long this season, tumbling curls in rich mahogany brown. Her lips were bright red. Her eyes were the same crystalline blue as Sherlock's; same as their father's, if John recalled correctly. Their mother's eyes were bright green. A woman (Ukrainian, John thought immediately, then chided himself for jumping to conclusions) was painting her nails a shimmering grey. "Sherlock," Wollstonecraft said.

"Wollstonecraft. What an unexpected pleasure."

"And John." Wollstonecraft actually smiled at him. "Have I mentioned what a salubrious effect you have on my brother? His affect is very nearly human these days." The woman painting her nails ignored them, concentrating on Wollstonecraft's ring finger.

"Lovely to see you. We have work to do," John said. He touched Sherlock's coat arm.

"We do have work to do. In fact--" Sherlock smiled. He dived in and seized a lock of Wollstonecraft's hair; she screeched, shocking the nail artist into smearing gray paint across her hand and making the rest of the room look up. Sherlock pulled, hard, and the lock came away in his hand. "You can help us. Thank you. An exemplar of human hair extensions, complete with glue and other styling aids."

"You shite!" Wollstonecraft screamed. She clutched her head. The nail artist shouted in Ukrainian.

"Out! Out!" the owner shouted. She had a broom in her hand. Dimmock danced behind her. "Madame, I cannot apologize--"

Wollstonecraft jumped out of her seat. "Oh, don't apologize for him! It's not your fault my mother birthed him!"

"But surely, sister, you should be glad your vanity has a useful purpose!" Sherlock fired back. "You should enjoy the unique situation!"

Dimmock retrieved the broom from the owner. Wollstonecraft exhaled angrily and turned to John. "Give me his wallet so he can pay for the damage."

John, in deference to natural justice, fetched Sherlock's wallet from the inside pocket of Sherlock's coat. Sherlock ignored them both and sniffed the hair.

"The biliary secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale," Sherlock said. "How appealing."

John opened Sherlock's wallet and proffered two twenty-pound notes. "Keep going," Wollstonecraft said. John took out two more. "Keep going."

"He'll have to owe you, then," John said.

"Well, we have what we came for," Sherlock said.

"And more," Wollstonecraft said. There was murder in her eyes. But she sat back down and examined her hand. Sherlock left with his prize.

*

On Wednesday, they came home to find an unholy stench in the flat and Mrs. Hudson opening windows in all the rooms. "What did you do this time? I told you to keep your experiments discreet!" she said.

John and Sherlock both ran through the flat and isolated the source of the smell to the sitting room, and then, the fireplace. "Probably an animal stuck in the flue," John said.

They climbed up to the roof with a telescoping scoop device that Sherlock pulled out of a closet and pulled a half-decomposed black crow out of the chimney. "No, that didn't die in there," John said. "Too far gone. I would have noticed if you didn't."

"Wollstonecraft used to call me a skinny old crow." Sherlock slid the carcass into a bin bag and taped it up.

"Make peace with her, Sherlock."

Sherlock sniffed. He exhibited far more disgust at that notion than the dead bird in his hands.

"It's a declaration of war. That's the last thing you need!"

"You don't think I can hold my own against my younger sister?"

"I think you shouldn't! She's a sociopath!"

Sherlock arched his eyebrows. "So am I."

"Oh, yes, so if she hurts you, you'll have no compunction hurting her back, but she'll still have hurt you! Eat your pride and be her friend. She won't know what to do."

"I'll take that under advisement." Sherlock threw the bin bag off the roof into the alley skip. It squelched.

*

On Thursday, Mrs. Hudson opened the door to Wollstonecraft and Dimmock.

"Leo is such a sweetheart. He apologized for your behavior, can you believe it? And sat with me as I had my hair redone." Wollstonecraft leaned her head on Dimmock's shoulder and smiled falsely.

Dimmock didn't notice. He was smitten. Wollstonecraft must have shagged him blind.

Sherlock retreated to his violin. He produced a series of pained squawks on the strings. "Go away, sister. Go buy something sparkly and waste your life some more."

"Come on, Sherlock, she's smashing! Give it another try. We brought lamb curry. Eat it before it gets cold." Dimmock unpacked the bags on the desk. "To think little Easter thinks she's some kind of demon! We went out yesterday. Brilliant shopping with her. Perfect taste," he said to Sherlock's turned back.

"Mummy sent me to see how you look. Can't disobey Mummy," Wollstonecraft said.

Sherlock screeched at the violin like a screaming baby. "And how do I look?" he asked.

"Shabby."

Dimmock laughed. John fetched plates. "And glasses, John," Wollstonecraft said. "We brought wine."

When John put the plates down, he leaned close to Dimmock and muttered, "Mate, she's a nightmare. I don't know what she's playing at and neither do you."

Dimmock didn't roll his eyes but his expression showed what he thought of John's opinion. Well, he was young and full of pride and John judged him gently for it. He had a chip on his shoulder that Sherlock had taken a chunk out of but not taken away; he had a high opinion of his own abilities, not unwarranted by John's standards. He was a copper. Of course he would think he had it under control.

"Call me if it goes pear-shaped, all right?" John said.

Dimmock patted his shoulder. Wollstonecraft gave John a slit-eyed, self-satisfied look.

Sherlock was unnaturally quiet during dinner. He ate, which surprised John, and he had half a glass of wine, which astonished him. Wollstonecraft excused herself to the loo. Sherlock watched her over the brim of her glass.

"Dimmock, there's something you should know," Sherlock said.

John frowned. Sherlock sounded odd, just slightly off normal.

"She has HIV and so do I. Mummy has us check on each other. She's going through my medicine cabinet to make sure I'm current on my pills. I don't forget--I have John to think of--but Wollstonecraft is young..." Sherlock shook his head. "I think she wants to forget that she's sick. Be careful with her if you take her to bed. She's more fragile than she looks."

Dimmock's mouth hung open. The shock and pity in his eyes was awful to see. Sherlock reached down and took John's hand without looking. Squeezed.

"You both have it? What happened--?"

Sherlock flinched away.

"Oh, god, sorry, sorry, ignore me, I'm an idiot." Dimmock thrust himself back from the desk in embarrassment. "None of my business."

"She's seven years younger. She doesn't remember. She just lives with the end result," Sherlock said. He drained his glass.

Liar, liar, liar, LIAR, John's brain shouted. He was frozen between trust in Sherlock's plan and anger at the brazen underhandedness of it. What the hell was Sherlock about?

Wollstonecraft returned and spotted Sherlock's hand on John's. "Oh, lovebirds," she said.
"Mummy is so proud you found something at long last."

"John is good for me," Sherlock said. He interlaced his fingers with John's. John barely reacted, still stunned.

"We should be off," Dimmock said. "Good to see you again."

"I'm staying at the Hilton. Champagne and hot tubs. Enjoy your books," Wollstonecraft said.

They left. John took his hand back from Sherlock. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Sherlock's mouth curled into a devious smirk. "Prying Wollstonecraft off Dimmock. He'll give her the kid glove treatment until she gets annoyed and gets the story out of him. Then she'll be so disgusted that he fell for such a transparent untruth that she'll jettison him."

"You complete bastard," John said.

Sherlock stiffened. He twitched his head slightly, confused.

"Rather than just telling Dimmock that your sister is trouble and letting him make up his own mind as an adult man, a police officer, you feed him this story, you use his compassion against him! He was sick to his stomach! Didn't you see the look on his face?"

"It wouldn't work if he didn't believe it!" Sherlock snapped back.

"That was cruel! For no reason! You used a good man to score points off your sister!"

Sherlock slammed up out of his chair. "He'll get over it."

"He won't. You don't have the first idea how deep a lie like that can cut. He trusted you! He believed you."

Sherlock snarled silently and retreated to his computer. He typed noisily. John breathed, throat choked off by his fury, then grabbed his own computer and went up to his room.

*

That night, John felt the mattress dip. "Don't you dare," John said.

Sherlock stopped. "John."

"I can't even look at you right now."

Sherlock withdrew from the room and John didn't see him for four full days.

*

The first day, John was relieved. It let his anger settle. In the afternoon, he got a call from Dimmock on Sherlock's phone. Finding that Sherlock listed Dimmock as "Dim"--when John knew for a certainty that that was not an abbreviation--fanned the flames back into an inferno.

"John Watson speaking."

"John? I thought I called--"

"You did."

"Fine, well--did Sherlock--? What he said?"

"He lied."

"Christ," Dimmock sighed into the phone. "Wollstonecraft said I was a fool."

"He was trying to do you a favour and get Wollstonecraft to chuck you. He just did it in the worst way possible."

"She didn't chuck me. It's just a fling. Neither of us expected any more."

"Ah," John said. He didn't know what else to say. What was Wollstonecraft up to?

"Tell Sherlock he needs therapy."

"I tell him all the time," John said. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything. I thought he had a better reason to make that story up."

The second day, John started calling his own phone, guessing that Sherlock had it since it wasn't anywhere in the flat. He got a text back: "Giving you a rest from my abhorrent face."

On Sherlock's phone, John's number was listed simply under "John." He wasn't quite sure what that meant.

Wollstonecraft rang on the third day. "Tell Sherlock's he's not funny," she said.

"Sorry?"

"Tell him he'll regret it." Her voice was full of knives. She hung up before John could ask what Sherlock had done.

Late on the third day, John sent Sherlock an email detailing his conversations with Dimmock and Wollstonecraft and asking him to come home. Response: "You wanted your space, John."

"What did you do to Wollstonecraft?" John asked.

:), Sherlock responded.

Early on the fourth day, he had a long text conversation about bone spurs with Sherlock and learned he was sulking in Southend. "Back tomorrow. Mattress has bad springs," Sherlock texted.

On the fifth day, he wasn't back, and he didn't answer phones or texts. John went to Southend, spent the day tracking down Sherlock's hotel, and found out Sherlock had checked out that morning. He called Lestrade and left a message. On his way back, Lestrade returned the call.

"Sherlock says he's been kidnapped and can we come pick him up. We tracked him to Whitechapel, near the Royal London. Meet us there. He said he had to call you because you'd had a row, so keep him on the line if you can, he sounds off his head." Lestrade hung up.

John held his phone, muscles twanging in his arm. He was nearly home, which meant he wasn't far. He might get there first. Bloody Sherlock and his bloody pouting; this would never have happened if John were there.

The phone rang and John answered. "Sherlock! Where are you?"

"Menswear," Sherlock said.

John let his breath out. "You went shopping?"

"I'm pinned here. Will you come? I want you to see this. It's better with you beside me."

"Are you on any drugs?" John asked. Sherlock did sound right off his head.

"Heroin. It wasn't my fault."

"Heroin!"

"She put it in me. Will you come?"

"Of course I'm coming," John said. "Stay with me. Lestrade said you're near the hospital."

"The Royal London. Two streets away. I won't have to go far. I could walk."

Injured and not resisting hospitalization. Oh, God. Ten long minutes listening to Sherlock breathe before John could get off the train. "Where are you?" John asked.

"Marks and Spencer's closed for renovation."

He needed another phone so he could talk and Google at the same time. Fortunately, he saw Lestrade's car and flagged him down. "Marks and Spencer's closed for renovation," John parroted.

"That's what I said. John, stop mucking about and come find me."

"I'm working on it," John said.

Lestrade pointed the way.

When they arrived at the store, there was nothing to see. Just a closed, dark shop. "Sherlock, what floor?" John asked.

"Menswear! It's a small department. We're discriminated against."

Lestrade broke the glass door with his torch. An alarm went off; John could hear it through the phone as well, when he plugged his other ear, so they were in the right place. Thank God for that. "You're so noisy," Sherlock complained. "I should be furious."

"Damn, I smell blood," Lestrade said, barely audible under the alarm. Once he stepped over the metal frame, John smelled it too.

"You're not furious?" John asked Sherlock.

"No. Benevolent. Intrigued. Delighted. Come and see what she did, John!"

Lestrade ran over to the stopped escalator and checked the store directory, which would be funny if it weren't so sensible. "Menswear, ground floor, that way," Lestrade pointed, and started running.

They found Sherlock sitting at a table made of a fitting room door over two sawhorses, gaffer taped to a chair. A work light, clamped to an obliging mannequin, cast a cone of light over the table and Sherlock. "Take a picture before you get me out," Sherlock said. "Take a lot, actually. This is beautiful work."

Sherlock's right arm was taped to his side. His left arm was taped to the table. His left hand was palm down, flayed open like an anatomy lab specimen, the skin spread around his naked bone and muscle like butterfly wings on a card. Hundreds of tiny silver pins glittered in the stretched edges of the skin. The table was wet. A squeeze bottle of water stood on the table by Sherlock's hand and several more stood empty on the floor.

Lestrade paled and turned away. He swallowed noisily but did not vomit. He called dispatch and gave the address; "I need Donovan, I need crime scene, and I need a bloody ambulance!"

"John, get some pictures with your mobile," Sherlock said. "Just wipe the screen first; I had to dial with my tongue and it's going to be--smeared." John's phone was sitting in front of him. His kidnapper must have taken it out of his pocket.

John checked the blood flow. No major vessels cut, which was a feat in itself. The fat radial artery pulsed cheerfully away above the stark red-washed white of Sherlock's exposed tendons. He was oozing, not spurting. "You're going to be fine," he told Sherlock, surprised and relieved.

"Yes, I know. I've lost less than a pint of blood. Lestrade, she put the pins in with a hammer. Tell them to bring pliers. John, pictures!"

Lestrade looked sick. "Bring pliers," he said into the phone.

John felt Sherlock's pulse at his throat. Strong. "How much heroin did she give you?" John asked. Lestrade flinched slightly but didn't speak.

"Not much. You're both being very quiet. Where's the oh my god Sherlock, I'm so relieved you're all right? No, wait; pictures first."

"Don't touch anything. Evidence," Lestrade said.

"You're saying that to me!" Sherlock exclaimed.

"You're in shock! You're injured. I can see your bones!" Lestrade said, pointing at the table.

Sherlock smiled. "I know. Aren't they lovely?"

"Your kidnapper took your mobile out of your pocket, right? So you could call for help?" Lestrade picked John's mobile up carefully and bagged it.

"Yes, yes. Pictures!"

Lestrade snapped some pictures with his own phone and Sherlock sighed in satisfaction. John embraced Sherlock's shoulders from behind and Sherlock sighed again, butting his cheek into John's. "Look at my tendons," Sherlock said.

"I am." Sherlock's flesh was drying from exposure, he realized. John took out Sherlock's phone from his pocket and photographed the wound. Perhaps Sherlock could do an experiment later and determine how long he'd been sitting there since the last dousing. John sniffed the liquid on the table; it was saline.

"I need you," John said to Lestrade. John moved from his embrace to lean his weight on Sherlock's taped wrist.

"John? What are you doing?" Sherlock asked. He was woozy if he couldn't figure it out.

Lestrade nodded and drew nearer. "Take that bottle," John said. "Pour the water on his hand."

"But that would hurt, John," Sherlock said.

"Do it," John told Lestrade.

Lestrade took up the bottle. "No, that's really going to hurt," Sherlock said, and Lestrade squeezed the bottle over his exposed bones, and Sherlock screamed bloody murder, so loud John's ears rang.

But it had to be done, or Sherlock might suffer irreparable damage. John held Sherlock close as the pain shuddered through Sherlock's body, erupting in jerks and cries and the chattering of his teeth.

Not so fun now. Sherlock fell back into the chair, panting, tears streaming down his cheeks (and piss down his legs, John could smell it). John embraced him. "I'm guessing the heroin wore off," John said.

Sherlock laughed, a small hiccuping sound. "Yes. It wore off." His face was red and his pulse jumped in his throat. John ran his hand up and down Sherlock's arm.

"They're coming," Lestrade said.

"Keep the water running. This time it won't hurt so much. I want you to be able to use your hand again, Sherlock, that's why I'm doing it."

"I know," Sherlock said. He turned his head in toward John's cheek and breathed deeply as Lestrade rinsed him again.

Donovan arrived first, pelting up the stairs. "Shit! I didn't know you had blood, Holmes."

"Oh, don't I just. I'll even scream for you if you like," Sherlock said. He thumped his head back against John's chest. "Get me out. I'm tired of this."

"Did you bring tools?" Lestrade asked her.

"Yes--fucking hell, how long did this take?" Donovan's eyes widened as she saw the table.

"Out!" Sherlock snapped. John stroked his hair.

The paramedics arrived next. "No shock, mild bleeding, dose of heroin, not sure how much or how long ago, and I'm his doctor," John told them.

"Jesus!" the younger one cursed when he saw Sherlock. The older one gave him a look.

"Hi," the older one said. "I'm Janet. What's your name?"

"Sherlock Tamara Prendergast Holmes."

"What, really?" John asked. "Tamara?"

Sherlock wrinkled his nose. "Why shouldn't I be named for my mother? She's remarkable. I'm also named for my great-uncle and he's a hermit."

"It's nontraditional," John said, but couldn't think of a better argument.

Janet checked his pulse. Lestrade started pulling up pins. "Can you feel this?" Lestrade asked.

"No."

Crime scene arrived. A tech (Turner, good man) sliced through the gaffer tape along Sherlock's side. Another, along with Donovan and Lestrade, pulled up the pins from the table with pliers and hammers. The skin recoiled in bloodless curls around Sherlock's raw flesh.

"What did you see, Holmes?" Donovan asked. "Do you know who did it?"

"My sister," Sherlock said. His voice was unsteady.

Donovan looked startled; John realized she'd only seen Easter. "Wollstonecraft Holmes, twenty-four years old, unemployed. She's staying at the Hilton," John said.

Lestrade pried up a pin. "Did she show her face? Are we going to get anything off the cameras?"

"No. A hood and gloves. My latex gloves, from my pocket! Rude. But I saw her with my eyes."

Turner cut through Sherlock's shirt and the tape, exposing his bare torso. He had no other visible injuries. John shucked his coat and wrapped it around him, hugging him and keeping him warm. "Don't pull," John said. "Don't shred yourself."

"You wouldn't fetch her from jail, so she nailed your hand to a table?" Lestrade said.

"They've been rowing all fortnight."

"We've been rowing since she was born," Sherlock said. "As soon as she could walk, she was breaking my test tubes. Oh, John, if we put her in prison, Mummy will be furious..." He trailed off and leaned against John. "I'm bored of this. Cleanup is so tiresome."

Sherlock's muscles shifted and John clamped him down, willing his hand into iron. "You're not standing up. Do you know what the surgeons will do if they can't salvage the skin on your hand? They'll open a pocket in your right upper arm and sew your bare fingers inside to keep them alive. Then they'll cut away the pocket, take another graft from your back or arse, and leave you with a flesh mitt as you heal. It will takes months before they reduce the mitt into fingers. So if you don't want cartoon hands, sit still!"

Sherlock relaxed against him. "Yes, John, no need to yell."

"Just the fervent desire," John muttered.

*

Mycroft arrived as Sherlock was wheeled into the operating theatre. "Rein in your sister," John said.

"My dear doctor, I do my utmost. How is Sherlock?"

"Should be fine. The surgeon says barring complications, she can just piece him back together. He'll love the scars." John rubbed his face. "She has an alibi, doesn't she?"

"Detective Inspector Leonard Dimmock kept her company all week. Yesterday and today were his days off and they spent them together."

"Poor sod."

"My sister can be a charming and attentive lover. I have no doubt he enjoyed himself."

"And now he's got to explain himself to the boss."

"And to me," Mycroft said. The fluorescent light glinted off his teeth.

"Don't be too hard. He's a decent copper and he was kind to Easter."

"Such compassion. What an unexpected treasure you are." Mycroft smiled, without teeth this time.

"Unexpected? I was under the impression that you discovered me."

"John," Mycroft said, chiding.

"Mycroft," John responded, not buying it.

"I'll return tomorrow when my brother awakens."

*

Sherlock was out of hospital shortly on antibiotics and narcotics. He installed himself on the sofa, dressed in pyjamas, staring at family portraits. His hand was wrapped in an enormous gauze mitt.

"Dimmock swears up and down that Wollstonecraft was with him the entire time that she had you," John said. "She treated him like a prince. Bought him a watch and all."

Sherlock looked at him. "But you don't doubt me."

"I know you. And her."

"And Dimmock doesn't." Sherlock stretched out. "My hand aches," he purred, writhing on the sofa. He stared at John with his shoulders half off the cushions and his leg flung up against the wall.

"No, I haven't received the pictures from Lestrade yet."

Sherlock frowned. "I deserve to see my own case file."

"I'm working on it," John said. He sat beside Sherlock; Sherlock wriggled another half revolution and squirmed onto John's lap.

Sherlock cupped his good hand around John's knee. John stroked his spine. "Clearly she had a double," Sherlock said, arching into John's touch.

"She hired a double to shag Dimmock? Hard to come by."

"Something else, then." Sherlock swiveled on John's lap again, flinging his arm over his head and closing his eyes. John stroked his stomach and Sherlock lolled into John's hands. "I fear I may have taken too many painkillers. My brain feels liquid."

"How many did you take?"

"Enough to enjoy it." Sherlock retrieved the blister pack from between the sofa cushions. He had, indeed, taken far too many.

"Idiot," John said. "I’m not prescribing you any more. You'll regret it later."

"But that's later."

John drew his nails up and down Sherlock's chest. He watched Sherlock's eyelids flutter and his lips purse.

*

John and Sherlock came by the police station. Sherlock was sober, using his drugs properly for once. He wore a lone nicotine patch above the gauze mitt (and one of John's jumpers, because his own shirts were either too skinny for the sleeves to fit over the gauze or too ratty to be seen in public).

"We'll get this on tape," Lestrade said. He ushered them to a room. Donovan watched them go from her desk. Dimmock was notably absent.

"Placed on paid leave until his full involvement in the crime can be determined?" Sherlock mused to Lestrade.

"Yes. Coffee or tea?"

"Coffee, black, mountains of sugar," Sherlock said. "Opiates give me cravings."

"Tea," John sighed.

"Sighing. I'm being inappropriate. How many times do I have to bring up my flayed body part before you return to sympathetic tolerance, John?" Sherlock flopped into the hard plastic chair.

"That one's tapped. You'll need to get another one done."

"Mm. Right hand's out, clearly. Feet are out, I couldn't bear not walking. I'm not using my penis for anything, though," Sherlock said. He raised his eyebrows at John.

"Is that a request?" John asked. Sherlock smiled.

Lestrade brought the drinks in, set them down, and started the tape. "Go on, then."

"Well. I was seven years old when Wollstonecraft was born, and she was a very fussy baby..." Sherlock smirked. "We've never liked each other. You have the records of her arrest, of course. In retaliation for that, she dropped a dead crow down our chimney; she then invaded our flat with Dimmock, and I told Dimmock..."

John glared at Sherlock.

"A bit of a lie," Sherlock said, wrinkling his nose.

"A bit. A tiny little white lie, a fib--" John spat out.

"John, I need it from him. If you have another version, I'll get it next," Lestrade said.

John subsided. He crossed his arms and glared truthfulness into Sherlock.

"I told Dimmock that Wollstonecraft and I have AIDS so that he would treat her like an invalid. I know she can't bear that any more than I can. John takes exception to that ploy."

"Yes, I bloody do," John said.

"And he refused to sleep with me, so I left the flat and retreated to a hotel for a few days," Sherlock said.

Lestrade raised his eyebrows and looked at John. All he said, though, was "Which hotel? How many days?"

Sherlock gave the address. "Bed and breakfast run by Eleanor Patel. She owed me a favour. Friday night through Tuesday morning. I checked out, intending to return home, as I'd made up with John, but Wollstonecraft found me first."

"Don't leave out what you did to her before that," John said.

"Oh, yes. She put an ad on Craigslist with my picture and telephone number--here, see." Sherlock punched up the ad on his new mobile and handed it to Lestrade. "I was inundated with inane calls."

Lestrade handed the phone to John. The ad read: "PLUCK MY FLOWER. 31yo virgin seeks male, any age any race. I've had my nose in a book far too long. Make me say yes, yes, YES."

"I removed it as soon as I found it, of course, but it was intolerable," Sherlock said. "In return, I called in a tip to a colleague linking my sister to the records of a certain escort, so that she was called in for questioning. It is what she does, after all. Just through subterfuge rather than commerce."

"Never mind that she bought Dimmock a watch, not the other way around," John said.

"John. Later," Lestrade reminded him.

"Tuesday morning I checked out, intending to return home to John, and my sister met me as I was walking to the train station. I leaned into her car window and she injected me in the throat." Sherlock tilted his chin back and showed off the tiny red needle mark. "Classic unsuspecting mark. I'll know better next time. Honestly, I thought she was going to insult me, and I wanted to hear it; she can be quite inventive."

Sherlock took a drink and continued. "I could tell it was heroin due to previous experience. She gave me enough that she could walk me into the passenger seat without being noticed. She taped my eyelids shut with surgical tape and taped sunglasses onto my eyes while I was woozy. I'm not sure what happened between that point and the shop. I don't have any bruising that suggests I was dragged, so she either walked me in or moved me in a wheelchair. I only remember clearly from somewhere in the first third of the dissection, while she was still opening my hand. I... recognized the pain without caring about it. I don't think I cried out until you two arrived, in fact."

"Did she say anything to you? A reason? A goal?" Lestrade asked.

"She said... that she was taking Mummy's advice and exploring what we had in common," Sherlock said.

"Do you remember what car she was driving?" Lestrade asked.

"Red 2012 Ferrari. Which you knew."

"We searched it. Nothing, not even a suspicious fiber. It smelled like it had been recently cleaned."

"And Dimmock?"

"Dimmock's story is that he had Monday and Tuesday off. He spent both days with Wollstonecraft, shopping and having sex and so forth. She paid. She said she'd rather have his company than her money. They retired to bed Tuesday night and he found out about the abduction later that night when I woke them both up. He's already sworn to this under oath. His record is impeccable; he's never taken a bribe, never roughed up a suspect, and barely even takes off sick," Lestrade said.

Sherlock tapped his chin. "Yes, that's what I thought. I'm convinced he's innocent."

"You know how she did it?" Lestrade asked.

"I have a working hypothesis but no evidence." Sherlock stood. "Well. I hurt. I'm going home. John?"

*

Sherlock retreated to his bedroom as soon as they returned home.

"John," Sherlock shouted some time later. "Come up."

The curtains were drawn. Sherlock sat on his bed, shirtless, but with something John couldn't see on his bottom half. He wore bright red lipstick and false eyelashes. When he held his chin just so and softened his cheeks, in the half-light through the curtains, he looked exactly like Wollstonecraft. He turned and posed, looking at John with his eyelids half open.

"Stop that," John said.

"I need help with my zipper," Sherlock said. He stood, revealing the shimmer of satin he held around his waist.

"No," John said. Sherlock pursed his lips. "Jesus Christ," John said, and zipped Sherlock up. Anything to spare him from Sherlock being seductive.

Sherlock was wearing the heels, too, making him a full head taller than John. Unfair. Sherlock crooked his arm and John took it. "You're beautiful," John said.

"Yes." Sherlock met his eyes in the mirror. "If I promised to kiss you..."

"No. You're not yourself."

Sherlock smiled. He stroked John's hand with his gauze mitt. "And it wouldn't work on you. You're immune." He tilted his head. "The dress is a method to control the gaze."

"Yes, it bloody is. I'm looking down your cleavage and you don't even have any."

Sherlock smiled wider. "How long has it been since I called you up here?"

"Ah." John thought about it. "No idea. A minute?"

"Wrong. Help me out of this dress. I need to talk to Dimmock."

"The dress might help," John said.

"Without sexually confusing him."

*

Dimmock stared at the gauze mitt.

They weren't supposed to speak to him, of course. Suspect and victim. Sherlock wasn't supposed to work this case, because he was the case. Didn't matter. Not to Sherlock.

"I'm sorry," Dimmock said. "But--"

"My sister gave you a watch. I need to see it."

"Evidence, they took it."

Sherlock hissed in annoyance.

"I don't normally take presents from women but--"

"But we're terribly posh and she's terribly persuasive. She reminded you to check it, didn't she?"

Dimmock nodded. "The day went by so fast. Both days. Having too much fun. It didn't seem like she wanted anything from me--just--it can't have been her, Sherlock! I would have fucking noticed!"

Sherlock smiled. "Thank you. John?"

*

Mycroft came over with a DVD. "You'll enjoy this," he said, popping it into the player without asking.

John sat beside Sherlock on the sofa and crossed his arm across Sherlock's body to his wounded side. "Do you think I'm going to have a fistfight?" Sherlock asked pettishly.

"Taking no chances."

Mycroft sat in the leather chair and cross his ankle over his knee. The DVD came up. Interrogation room. Wollstonecraft and Donovan. "Of course I didn't hurt my brother! It's depraved to even accuse me!" Wollstonecraft cried.

"He seems very sure." Donovan sat across from her, body language neutral. Listening.

"Do you have any idea what growing up with him was like? He dissected animals on my desk!"

"Only when I ran out of space in my room," Sherlock muttered.

"He despises me for being normal while he's psychotic. He never graduated uni. He's never even had a boyfriend. He pays that doctor to hang around him."

"Yeah? We wondered," Donovan said. "What were you doing Tuesday?"

"Shagging DI Dimmock. He goes like a piston."

"All day?"

Wollstonecraft held both hands to her forehead like a mind reader. "Woke up, shagged, breakfast, shagged, went shopping, came back, shagged. Tea, napped, shagged, hot tub, slept. Woken up by DI Lestrade. Is he available?"

"Divorced, not dating," Sherlock said.

"No," Donovan said on the recording.

"Are you? I'm finding the Met quite handsome," Wollstonecraft said.

"Straight," Donovan said.

"So am I. That doesn't mean we couldn't have fun. You want the dirt on Sherlock," Wollstonecraft purred, resting her chin on her hands. "His room at home is still filled with dead animals."

Sherlock exhaled. "Mummy's fault, not mine! I told her to bin them once I was done!"

Mycroft paused the recording. "Lest you get the wrong idea, John--"

"Humanely killed?" John asked.

"Yes," Mycroft said, with some subtle eyebrow action.

"I dissected... worms, frogs, cats, pigs, monkeys, and humans in uni," John said. "Monkeys were the worst. They always looked like they knew what was coming."

Sherlock twitched his thumb against John's arm. "I put a knife through their brains before I did anything. Elliston--" He looked at Mycroft.

"Of course I know you told him. Whispers in bed aren't a terribly secure form of communication," Mycroft said.

John looked at Sherlock. "We're going over my bedroom tonight."

"No use. Directional microphones next door. We'd have to break and enter, and he'd just replace them tomorrow anyway."

"Quite right."

John grimaced.

"I caught mice and frogs and gave them to Elliston to kill at first," Sherlock said, quietly, "but he made such a mess, and the squeaking was never my interest. I was glad when Mycroft taught me the best way to kill them instead."

"Elliston always blamed me for your failings as an accomplice," Mycroft said.

John swore he could feel warmth flashing between the two brothers. Just a quick spark, like static shock. Then Mycroft started the recording again.

*

"Show me the watch," Sherlock said to Lestrade.

"I can't let you touch it," Lestrade said.

"Just show me!"

Lestrade did. Sherlock examined it through the plastic with his magnifier and smirked. "It's mine," he said. "She lifted it when she came by, she didn't buy it for him at all. Did you note the minute scratches on the back?"

"Out with it, then," Lestrade said. "What happened?"

"She took him through two days in one," Sherlock said. "She reprogrammed the watch to run at double speed. She prompted him to check the time frequently, so that his head told his body it was much later than it actually was. Since it was a very nice watch, if he saw any contradictory timepieces, he would easily believe that his watch was correct and the clock was wrong. And, of course, my sister is very distracting."

"But if it's the middle of the day and she says it's the middle of the night--" Lestrade said.

"She drew the curtains to protect their privacy. Took him to bed, gave him enough champagne to make him doze, then reset the watch, woke him up and told him it was morning. He didn't notice the contradictory effects of the drink because my sister distracted him with sex and, of course, because such an idea didn't occur to him. She opened the curtain and it was day again. He thought it was Tuesday and it was Monday afternoon. Another day of shagging, lunch, et cetera, and then it was nighttime. Dimmock took a shower and Wollstonecraft reprogrammed the watch again to run normally. Then she drugged him with sleeping pills--zopiclone would be my guess, it takes a very small dose and leaves the body quickly--and he slept through Tuesday until you woke them up Tuesday night. He was groggy from the pills, but attributed it to my sister's high energy level. He didn't kidnap me, nor did he have any involvement whatever. He's guilty only of very poor taste in female companionship," Sherlock concluded.

"How the hell are we to prove any of this?" Lestrade asked. "The watch is normal, just a normal watch. We drug tested Dimmock and he's clean. Didn't find any zopiclone. There's nothing but your identification and frankly--I hate to say it--"

"Yes, it looks like sibling rivalry. My dear Lestrade, you don't need to prove anything. I have no desire to see my sister put in jail."

Lestrade's mouth hung open like a fish.

"My mother would never speak to me again. I meant that when I said it," Sherlock said. "Just close the case, that's all. I've solved it."

*

John took Sherlock home and put him in his bed, where he slept for twelve hours.

When Sherlock woke, John brought him breakfast in bed. "I'm still angry with you. I'm going to be angry any time you do something so craven."

"Craven!" Sherlock crossed his arms. "A new and unwarranted adjective."

"Bringing outsiders into family disputes is cowardly and unworthy of you. He didn't have the first clue!"

"You gave him the first clue. He chose to ignore it."

John pointed his finger in Sherlock's face. "Promise me. No outsiders. You fight with your sister, you fight fair."

Sherlock tilted his head. "But you're not forbidding me to fight with my sister?"

"I'm also not kicking the tide back into the ocean," John said. He leaned over the breakfast tray and pressed a kiss to the side of Sherlock's mouth. "Eat. Rest. The case is over."

Sherlock smiled. He bit into his toast.

"Now, I'm going to get off with Fran. I'll bring you the skull before I leave. Keep you company."

"Bring me the newspapers while you're at it, I'm behind. And Thai for dinner. And that book on molecular gastronomy I was reading. And my computer. And give me my phone back!"

"You licked mine," John said.

"I thought you liked my fluids," Sherlock said. He rubbed the side of his mouth where John had kissed him.

*

Fran lit a cigarette. "Does he know you come here?" she asked.

"We've had the talk. He's all right. Sometimes after I've been, I catch him sniffing my hair. He misses cigarettes so bad it hurts," John said.

She poured a glass of wine for him and drank from the bottle. "So, I wanted to run an idea past you."

"Yeah?" John sipped his wine.

"I thought I might have Bernard's love child. I'm on the dole again and his family is quite rich, aren't they?"

"Pots of money. Bags full of it lying around."

"Would they kick?"

"No, definitely not. As long as the DNA checks out." John considered it. "It would be good-looking. You're bloody gorgeous."

"Darling, thank you."

"It would be completely mad," John said.

"Oh, utterly."

"Twice round the bend."

"Barking," Fran said.

"But raised in the bookshop..."

"Bernard reads non-stop. There's everything in there."

"It would be terribly smart. A terrible know-it-all," John said.

"Bit like your friend."

"Bit. But you'd be Mummy. You'd be its god."

They looked at each other.

"I'm doing it," Fran said.

"Do it," John agreed. "Though, actually, there's someone you should meet first."

*

When John returned home, he found Sherlock on the sofa, rubbing his wrist fretfully. John sat beside him and took his forearm in both hands. He rubbed the sandpaper of his cheek against Sherlock's inner elbow, and Sherlock groaned softly in pleasure. The wounds had reached the itching stage.

John sandwiched Sherlock's hand flat against his chest, squeezing to provide counter-irritation without disrupting the healing skin. Sherlock curled around him and--yes--sniffed John's hair. John smiled. He kissed Sherlock's opposite palm and Sherlock relaxed and closed his eyes.

*

"Easter, this is Fran," John said.

"John thinks if I meet you I won't have gender dysphoria. He's not very subtle," Easter said.

"Oh, you must be Sherlock's sister. Delighted. I'm friends with your cousin Bernard," Fran said.

"Is he the one that vomited on Mummy's cat and killed it?"

"That sounds right, yes."

"I want to meet him," Easter said. "And take tissue samples."

"I think Sherlock already did," John said.

"How recent?"

"I'll just text him and find out."

Fran looked like she was worried she was going mad. "Would you like to come in and see my wardrobe? John mentioned something about adventures in pretty dresses."

"Yes. I'm not convinced." But Easter trooped in and looked around at Fran's apartment anyway. She was wearing her usual outfit of plaid dress, black tights, and riding boots. "Why is that thing covered with an Indian throw?"

"Because it's not for little girls!" Fran shouted. Easter ignored her roundly and pulled down the colourful throw.

The inevitable next question: "Why do you have a costume shaped like a penis?"

John looked at Fran. Fran covered her eyes with her hands. "Because a woman in a penis costume and sparkly red d'Orsay heels is extremely funny, that's why. It's my new job. I stand around in a penis costume telling men about testicular health."

Easter was crawling into the costume. "John, am I funny?" she asked.

The costume came down past her knees. Her frowning face peered through the face hole mid-shaft and her arms stuck out to either side. When she hopped experimentally, John broke out laughing.

"Comedy is very predictable," Easter said.

"Mind the testicles! You'll rip them open!" Fran said, and John doubled over, holding his stomach.

*

They met in a park like spies trading documents, Mycroft leaning on his umbrella, Wollstonecraft beside him in long coat and tilted hat, Sherlock with his collar turned up, John… well, John didn't hold up his end, but to be fair, nobody told him it was "Dress Like Casablanca Day."

"Wollstonecraft."

"Sherlock."

Sherlock took her shoulders and kissed her. Pressed his lips to her cheek as fondly as he did Mrs. Hudson. "That was the most fun I've had in years," he said. "I loved it. Every second. You're my favorite sister."

Wollstonecraft stared at him, stunned. He kissed her other cheek, then hugged her. She hugged him back uncertainly. "You're quite mad, brother," she said.

Sherlock grinned, widely and genuinely. "I had no idea the inside of my body was so beautiful. You've shown me something new."

"God." Wollstonecraft took Sherlock's arm and walked with him. John took his other arm and kept pace. "You were a little bit right. I am bored."

"But not for long," Sherlock said, looking back at Mycroft.

"Mm, no. Turns out I like a bit of intrigue. And Mycroft promised me my own assistant, like your dear doctor. Have you shagged him yet?"

"He goes like a piston," John said.

Wollstonecraft snorted. "The shudder that ran down my dear brother's arm tells me everything I need to know. You'll never know if you really hate it until you try it, Sherlock."

"I've been considering castration, actually. It would reduce the potential for distraction considerably."

"I will never understand you, brother. I thought Dimmock was your mate and you went after him like a piranha. Usually you're more subtle."

"Usually you are. But--" Sherlock inhaled and whirled. He stared at Mycroft. Mycroft looked back evenly. He hadn't moved from his position leaning on his umbrella. "But now you know what it's like being the subject of one of our brother's little games," he muttered.

John racked his brain, since Sherlock was too busy glaring. "The--what, Sherlock?"

"Crow down the chimney. Of course it wasn't her." He turned back to John, hissing, "Stupid."

Wollstonecraft pursed her lips. Sherlock took her shoulder. "If he fucks you about the way he does me, give me a call and we'll fuck him back together."

"Eugh," Wollstonecraft said. "If that's the way you think of it, no wonder you don't dip your wick." She stroked his cheek and smiled. "Mummy was right, this did bring us together."

Then she walked back to Mycroft.

*

the end.

Date: 2011-02-20 06:34 am (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
How would you feel about two full comments consisting of nothing but my repeated mashing of my laptop keyboard, with the shift key sometimes held down?

Because that's about what I've got. There's pretty much no words in me for this fic, just a great big incoherent flail.

Date: 2011-02-20 02:25 pm (UTC)
laurajv: Don't give me any wild ideas! (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurajv
I'm pretty sure my first beta comment was something like

I LOVE EASTER AF:LSKJA:LSFDKJD S:FLKAJS DF:LKASJDF :ALSKJDF :ALSKDJ AS:LKDJA:SLKDJ

so don't feel bad.

Date: 2011-02-20 08:46 pm (UTC)
aethel: (sherlock creepy)
From: [personal profile] aethel
OMG!

Date: 2011-02-22 03:02 am (UTC)
aethel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aethel
\o/

Date: 2011-02-20 09:04 pm (UTC)
petra: A woman in a police officer's uniform looking surprised (Annie Cartwright - Oh My)
From: [personal profile] petra
It says something that I thought, "Oh, good, Fran. She'll be sane and predictable compared to nearly everyone else," and was proven right by the giant penis costume.

These people are horrific and fascinating, and I never quite know how to feel about them other than glad I'm nowhere near their universe.

Date: 2011-02-21 01:37 am (UTC)
revolutionaryjo: A girl waving in silhouette. (Holmeses)
From: [personal profile] revolutionaryjo
This is disturbed, which translated through Sherlock fandom means the highest praise, I assure you. I love it utterly and completely. I love that Fran is still around. I love John attempting to warn Dimmock off. I love that Sherlock is so happy to have his hand flayed open so artfully. I love every Holmes sibling you have created and all their various head games with one another. Love love love~

Date: 2011-02-21 06:04 am (UTC)
lastscorpion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lastscorpion
This whole series is just insanely, beautifully wonderful. I'm really enjoying reading it.

Date: 2011-02-21 11:04 am (UTC)
mific: (sherlock-wrong)
From: [personal profile] mific
Oh god, a baby raised in the bookshop? There's a deeply disturbing idea.
Love the finished product, wonderfully deranged! And Mycroft! So bad.

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