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Friday, September 3rd, 2010 11:46 pm
Story: Getting the Message
Author: The “Oooh,-I-just-know-this-fandom-is-gonna-eat-me” [livejournal.com profile] loveslashangst
Beta: the well-at-least-she’s-writing-again [livejournal.com profile] ophymirage
Characters: Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, Anthea, Molly (mentioned in passing)
Rated: R+ for mature content, sexually suggestive thoughts and behaviour, and language.
Disclaimer: Thank the Gods above and below that the new incarnation of the antisocial Consulting Detective is safely in the hands of Stephen Moffat and the BBC. If I owned him (which I don’t) there’s no telling what I’d do to, with, and for him.
Spoilers: I pretty much assume that you’ve seen all three episodes of the new “Sherlock”. If you haven’t, for goodness sake get your hands on them, for they are Made of Win. This is before “The Great Game”, because I want to see what Moffat does with the corner into which he’s painted himself.
Summary: Well-meaning but misguided attempts at matchmaking, via text-messaging.

Okay, so here’s the dealio…

I’m really trying not to get eaten by this fandom, but it may be inevitable. [O sez: MOO HA HA HA HA HA!!] And if O hadn’t said something about the text messaging fights, I wouldn’t have been tempted.

There will be a second chapter. It will involve my fave kind of camera-does-NOT-pan-up smut because… well… I’m shameless.

On with the show…

mycroft: Did you get the box of household goods? Please consider it a housewarming present.
sherlock: Fuck off.
mycroft: Will have Anthea schedule refill every three weeks or so.
sherlock: Fuck off.
mycroft: Am forwarding to John, in case he has any specific requests. He’s welcome to contact me at any time.
sherlock: FUCK. OFF.

Amused, Mycroft tucks the mobile back into his breast pocket. Gratitude has never been his brother’s strong suit, and though taking care of Sherlock is slightly more hazardous than hand-feeding a poisonous serpent, he holds onto the belief that in the end, both of them know he’s doing what is best for the boy.

Even if Sherlock’s not so much a boy anymore. When he was barely out of his teens, one could excuse the appalling living conditions as symptomatic of youth, but once Sherlock passed the thirtieth-birthday marker, there really was no excuse for someone as brilliant as Mycroft’s younger brother to be constantly living alone in half-tended squalor.

So the arrival of John Watson, doctor, soldier, and adventurer, has been a godsend. Mycroft has suspected for at least a decade that, if Sherlock does in fact possess a sexuality, it leans decidedly toward an appreciation of the male over the female. Hard to tell when the boy goes out of his way to irk, annoy, and alienate everyone who might be even remotely interested in him. But if ever there were anyone who might tempt his brother to something resembling human emotion, surely the good doctor, with his steadfast loyalty, level head, and non-judgmental nature, is the best candidate Mycroft’s interviewed in years.

So Mycroft opts for the obvious tactic first: he politely kidnaps John, poses as the mysterious arch-nemesis, then bribes and warns him by turns. The exchange is delightful from first to last; John stands his ground against every assault, insinuation, suggestion, and temptation. Mycroft begins to see what intrigued Sherlock, for John is every inch the man of honour, with an appealing stripe of determination and defiance -- a brother in arms. For better or for worse, it is perfectly obvious that John intends to attach himself to Sherlock, and the physician’s instinct is to care for and defend his charge.

The kidnapping couldn’t have gone better if Mycroft had scripted it himself. It’s all he can do not to hum happily to himself as he strolls away.

He couldn’t have expected John to simply move in with Sherlock without any complaint, nor to survive the first week without running in terror. (Some of Sherlock’s past flatmates have literally run screaming, usually after finding the nightmares his brother euphemistically terms “experiments”.) Mycroft is delighted when not only does John survive, but Sherlock seems to accept him, not merely as a pawn, but as a partner.

Better yet, John is just broken enough to be interesting to Sherlock. Also broken enough to tolerate him, and perhaps eventually even to love him. And that military background -- John needs orders to obey -- will be perfect for grooming Sherlock into his eventual destiny in Mycroft’s government; it’s high time Sherlock became accustomed to giving orders. Mycroft is all too aware that Sherlock fights having official authority for the same reason he resists obeying official authority -- he finds it much more useful and much less “boring” to exist outside of all rules and social constraints. Makes for a fantastic consulting detective, but a piss-poor career man to fit Mycroft’s designs.

Now Mycroft watches the play of shadow and light pass the car window, considering both the issue at hand and his options. The barbs and jibes and insults are regrettably symptomatic of the fact that Sherlock hasn’t progressed emotionally beyond the age of fourteen, and unfortunately most fourteen-year-olds are decidedly ambivalent about their sexual nature. So if Mycroft is to advance his brother in all senses of the word, then the question remains: How can he convince Sherlock to thoroughly lay John in such a way that neither of them will panic and ruin what is otherwise a mutually beneficial relationship?

It’s a question that has begun to obsess Mycroft. Lately, Sherlock has been more stable than he’s been in months, perhaps years, but such a lengthy good patch might precipitate an even more extreme backslide into bad habits. Mycroft needs to settle the issue, for if Sherlock is distracted between cases by satisfying sex with a good man, he’ll be much less likely to revert to narcotics, which will be more manageable for Mycroft and less hazardous for everyone else.

Mycroft wishes for the thousandth time that he could simply go to John and ask him to take care of (and thoroughly shag) his younger brother, but that’s not the hand he’s been dealt. Best case scenario of such a prospect: John gladly agrees to take care of the man they both love, begins to let his rather impressive protective streak take over, Sherlock smells a conspiracy, and John manages to escape Sherlock’s petulant wrath with life, limb, and sanity intact. Worst case scenario... does not bear thinking about.

Back to the current problem. Some brothers can engage in sibling rivalry while still being friendly over Christmas dinner, but not the Holmes boys; Sherlock spends most of the time hating him, defying him, and wishing him dead. Which is still preferable to his being bored. No telling what the boy may get up to, if he’s not suitably occupied. And if Sherlock weren’t equal parts “occasionally useful,” “wasted potential,” and “pain in the arse”, Mycroft would have washed his hands of him years ago.

Mycroft drums his fingers on the armrest. Beside him, Anthea waits for him to emerge from his thoughts. He gives her a brief look. She gives him a brief smile. Both of them turn away in a mutual understanding that’s taken years to cultivate.

Mycroft supposes he could try bribery again; apparently, the thought of defrauding his older brother amuses Sherlock, and John will certainly need untold thousands to repair the constant damage Sherlock will inevitably do to their shared quarters. However, now that John knows Mycroft’s true relationship with Sherlock, it will be harder to create a plausible pretence for such a payoff.

An idea strikes him, and again, he has John to thank for his amusement. A financial transaction may just provide the solution to this problem.

Mycroft turns back to Anthea and explains the plan.

She chuckles all the way back to Pall Mall.

Mycroft considers this a positive sign.

john: Sherlock, why is your brother texting me offering cleaning supplies?
sherlock: Do not reply.
john: Have already asked for the lime/lemongrass “Fairy”, 4 the dishes.
sherlock: Do not reply.
john: Why not let M foot bill for necessities?
sherlock: Because my brother is inherently evil. DO NOT REPLY.

John takes a certain perverse satisfaction in using the contents of Mycroft’s gift box. Aside from the fact that it makes Sherlock sulk in amusing ways that involve operatic use of the sofa, the elder Holmes really does have excellent taste.

“What assurances do we have that there is no surveillance equipment in that?” says Sherlock.

John considers the innocent bar of soap. “Because it washes clean, shows no signs of wires or other tech and--“ he raises the French-milled lump to his nose--“it smells like lemon verbena.”

Sherlock crosses his arms, glaring. “Traitor.”

John sets down the offending bar and rinses his hands. He smiles his way through drying and stacking the dishes. He doesn’t mind the task, really, as imposing what order he can manage on Sherlock’s life -- and, by extension, his own -- is its own reward. (Though he privately holds out hope Sherlock might appreciate the effort, should he ever acquire the habit of noticing such things.)

As he puts the last plate away, it occurs to John that this is rather domestic, both the setting and the affectionate spat. True, he and Sherlock relate in ways no sane, normal flatmates would ever consider, but John’s one frilly apron away from being Sherlock’s housekeeper. And of course, when one thinks of an ex-army bloke in a frilly apron, why should it surprise him that…

He frowns, annoyed, as the Issue begins to niggle him again. He fidgets, itching for something useful to do with his hands, yet resenting the thought that frilly-apron-worthy housework is the only thing he’s useful at doing in this flat.

And frankly, he’s growing tired of correcting people when, upon introductions, they assume he’s Sherlock’s partner. The other kind -- not that there’s anything wrong with that, everything’s fine -- and not that he’d seriously like to be. Hell, Sarah’s practically his girlfriend. Well, would be, if the two of them were ever conscious at the same time and long enough to make it officially official.

John’s fingers tap restlessly at the counter and suddenly it seems impossible to stand in a way that doesn’t make his leg twinge in decidedly non-psychosomatic ways.

“Everyone assumes we’re a couple,” he says at last. “And I’m beginning to see why.”

“Everyone is an idiot,” says Sherlock. “And why does it matter?”

“I suppose it doesn’t,” John concedes. “To you, at least.”

Sherlock raises a triumphant eyebrow. “If it really mattered to you, John, you wouldn’t have moved in. Or you would’ve moved out after our first case.”

John focuses on the innocent bar of soap in its dish as if it can answer the question that’s been bothering him since he first set foot in this insane flat.

“No, I don’t,” Sherlock says, as if the answer bores him.

“You don’t what?” he says, startled.

“Engage in sexual intercourse, with myself or other people.” Again, Sherlock might as well be discussing the colour of the wallpaper.

He glares, cornered. “What makes you think I was going to ask that?”

Sherlock minutely examines the fingernails of one hand. “What makes you think I’ll believe that you weren’t?”

He turns his back on the counter -- and the soap. “You’re insufferable.”

Sherlock shrugs. “You’re obsessed.”

He colours hotly. “I am not.”

“John,” says Sherlock with sharp-edged condescension. “My sexuality or lack thereof was the subject of the first wholly honest conversation you and I ever had. I’m married to the work. You’re married to your notion of yourself as a ladies’ man. Both of us are content in our chosen identities. Why question something so obviously functional?” Sherlock leans up on one elbow, mocking and curious in turns. “Unless I’m right…”

“Which isn’t guaranteed.” Though John knows this is a feeble defence.

“Based on the numerous times you’ve goaded me into a fight and then flounced out in a huff,” says Sherlock, “part of your new identity lies in proving yourself to be a good and ‘normal’ man in spite of your choice of company and avocation. You do this by playing the martyr at my unfeeling hands so it will be my fault that you’ve wound up in this unusual arrangement.”

It’s like trying to waltz with a deranged pogo stick. “What unusual arrangement?”

“I’ve just figured it out,” says Sherlock. “It’s brilliant, actually, but it will require…” He considers John for a long, probing moment.

John’s cheeks go hotter beneath the tan that never seems to fade, no matter how long he’s been home. He would love Sherlock’s scrutiny if it ever came without the double-edge, but he endures it because he’s too proud to back down, now that there’s been a challenge. “What? Require what?”

“No.” Sherlock’s lids droop slightly, which might be some sort of concession, if only John knew how to read the man, then Sherlock flops back down on the sofa. “You’ll never do it, and I’m never trying it again. Forget I mentioned it. It doesn’t matter.”

“No,” John says, now well pissed as well as embarrassed. “You started this, Sherlock, now you finish it, because you’re clearly not just talking flatmates or you wouldn’t make it sound like an arranged bloody marriage. What won’t I do and what are you never trying again?”

“It’s a bad joke anyway,” says Sherlock. “An old friend walks into a post-mortem lab…And yet, you could have said no, but you didn’t. You could’ve turned your head when I warned you not to look, and yet you wanted to see, just as badly as I do. Now you want me to be the hero when you need someone to worship and the villain when you need someone to blame.”

John leans back on the counter. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

“I don’t need to,” says Sherlock carelessly. “You’ll do it for me.” He glances up, viciously triumphant. “Or had you forgotten I read your blog?”

John only barely resists the urge to throw the bar of soap at his flatmate.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” says Sherlock. “Bloody expensive, that.”

When the soap hits Sherlock squarely in the chest, the world’s only consulting detective makes a satisfyingly startled grunt.

sherlock: Need to talk. Coming now.
mycroft: I’m busy. Make appointment.
sherlock: In lift, passing fourth floor.
mycroft: Security has been called.
sherlock: Good. The game is on.

Despite half a dozen highly-trained security, the latest alarm system, and the vigilance of his staff, Sherlock appears not three minutes later in the chair opposite Mycroft’s desk. His younger brother looks quietly furious and a bit defensive, glaring at him from beneath that unkempt mop he considers hair.

“I suppose it’d be pointless to tell you to go out and make an appointment with Anthea like a proper human being?” Mycroft says.

“Why does John stay?” Sherlock demands.

Mycroft blinks twice before recovering himself. “John Watson, you mean?”

Sherlock's unusual pale eyes make the glare a few degrees icier. “Yes, I mean John bloody Watson,” his younger brother snarls. “What other ‘John’ is there who’s worth noticing? It’s been niggling me for weeks now. Why does he stay?”

The opportunity couldn’t be more perfect if Mycroft had engineered it himself -- which, admittedly, he mostly has.

“Well,” he says carefully, “it certainly isn’t for the reason you’re considering.”

Sherlock’s glare demands he continue.

Mycroft crosses the office to perch on the edge of his desk. “He’s not going to be with you forever, Sherlock.”

“I know that.” Sherlock’s defensiveness is promising. Usually, people move in and out of his life without his noticing, let alone caring.

“You should really enjoy the time you have,” Mycroft advises.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?’ Sherlock’s tone is sharp in a way that has nothing to do with simple boredom or impatience. Better and better.

Mycroft schools his face to be calm. “It means you have a dearth of friends.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes, picking at one seam of the armrest of the extremely expensive Venetian brocade chair. “Spare me the caring façade.”

Mycroft leans forward, earnest as he can manage. “John will leave, Sherlock, because he’s a good man.”

“And I’m not,” Sherlock says, sullen.

“You try to be,” Mycroft says. “But for all John’s damage, he’s still functional within normal limits, which is why the life you’ve made for yourself will not suit him forever. It can’t -- not every one of his wounds is psychosomatic; there is only so far you can push any man.”

“I’m bad for him.” Mycroft watches Sherlock dissect this thought, turning it over from all angles as if looking for a way to magnify or amplify it into coherence. For all the boy’s brilliance, such little things are always a struggle for him.

Mycroft shrugs away the insinuation, even as he lets it take root. “So enjoy John’s friendship while you have it. The two of you are good for the defence of this city.”

A razor-edged eyebrow. “You don’t give a shit about the defence of this city.”

Sherlock’s immature personal attacks honestly bore him. “I care a great deal about this country. London is in this country. And frankly, you’re a great deal smarter than John in your priorities; you have your work while John’s off chasing skirts that he doesn’t really care about.”

Sherlock turns on the mocking sneer. “Your tactics, dear brother, are so obvious a child could read them."

Mycroft settles back. “But I’m not wrong, am I?”

“Of course you are.” The fidgeting increases in pace, a steady picking at the now-unraveling seam of the armrest.

“About what part, specifically, am I wrong?” Calm is the key to annoying his brother into action. “You having work, you needing work, or John not caring about the skirts he chases?”

“About...” Sherlock’s confusion turns quickly to anger, one of the few emotions with which he’s ever been truly comfortable. “You’re doing that again. I hate it when you do that.”

“Doing what?” Mycroft guiltily admits to himself that infuriating his younger brother is almost as satisfying as taking care of him.

“You turn everything--” Sherlock starts up from his chair, then settles uneasily back into it. Poor boy is rightly unsure which move will lose him the fight, and -- like his flatmate -- is too proud to admit when he’s been outmaneuvered.

Mycroft gives his brother a look of mild interest.

He’s frankly surprised Sherlock doesn’t find something to throw. Instead, the penetrating look says Sherlock’s grown bored with this game of unspoken communication and confusing emotional cues. “Reverse psychology stopped working on me when I turned four and started being capable of extrapolating motives."

"And if I thought you'd matured past that stage,” Mycroft retorts, dropping the caring pretence, “this wouldn't be necessary."

He turns his back on his brother long enough for Sherlock to exit in his usual irritated flurry. After a count of five, Mycroft calls Security again, this time sending them in the right direction.

It wouldn’t do to give Sherlock reason to accuse him of being boring.

john: Where are you?
sherlock: The Strand.
john: East or West?
sherlock: East. Have lost suspect. Keep up.
john: On intercept.
sherlock: shooting him = helpful. Avoid major arteries. Need alive.

Sherlock presses the makeshift compress to the suspect’s leg. The young man gives a satisfying yelp.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Sherlock says. “It’s a clean-through wound. You’ll live and have a nice scar to show off to your little chav mates.”

“Sod off,” the suspect snarls. “Why won’t you leave me alone?”

“Because you’re guilty.” He presses down. “The necklace.”

“What -- FUCK! -- necklace?” The suspect’s shouting in pain.

“The very pretty one that might save your neck,” says Sherlock. “You stole it, but you didn’t kill the girl to get it, and unless you stop running and start talking, when the DI and the rest of the Met arrive…”

Approaching sirens punctuate the need for expedience. Sherlock signals John to go meet them. With any luck, his flatmate’s easygoing charm will detain the police for a few more vital seconds.

The suspect’s wan face goes a shade or two paler in the dim.

“Pawn shop or antique dealer?” Sherlock demands.

“Don’t know what you’re--“

Sherlock grinds the compress hard into the fresh wound. “It’s in the third drawer of the right side of the damn bureau, so stop playing games and tell me what you did with the furniture. I know you were coming back for it later.”

He eases off just enough that the man can manage, between gasps, to tell him what he needs to know.

Lestrade’s little henchmen pull him off. Sherlock lets them, hiding his grin. They shuffle him to the quickly-established perimeter. He doesn’t bother to fight, just fobs them off, then slips away with John.

He does love to yank Lestrade’s chain.

As their stealthy walk turns to an out-and-out run, John keeps up handily. His loyal companion. Too loyal, perhaps. Always willing to follow Sherlock into the fray.

They scurry through shadows, the pair of them. John’s always been good at this, which is a relief, as most of those who’ve attempted to match him barely made it through part of a case. Plus, John’s a damn fine shot, which is also useful, and he seems unencumbered by the gun tucked into his waistband at his lower back.

Sherlock wonders if there is some psychosexual thrill associated with chasing after clues while cold steel rubs at one’s spine. Surely there must be. Have to look it up.

But such thoughts aren’t what should draw his attention. Sherlock tries not to look at his friend. Not to watch the neat, compact lines of John Watson’s arse while he’s running hell-for-leather.

(He’s watched him before, and it is a surprisingly intriguing sight. All that easy, casual, ignorable façade of normalcy falls away and reveals something much more focussed. More primal and eager and thrilling when finally loosed on the world.

Like him, John can’t stand being cooped up with nothing but menial tasks. Both of them are happiest mid-pursuit.)

And Sherlock has to admit John is moderately attractive. He has a nice smile, one that certainly isn’t wasted on female company -- and no, that is NOT a pang of envy, which would be patently ridiculous. John moves well, with or without the psychosomatic limp. He snores occasionally, though musically, often in A minor triads. He’s militarily obsessive in his daily toilette, even though his clothes are incredibly dull. He’ll also turn on Sherlock if precisely more than four plates are left in the sink. (He’s tested this hypothesis numerous times over the weeks.)

John has lovely hands.

No. Not lovely. Useful hands. Hands that know their way around a gun, which is the kind of cover Sherlock needs as they approach the run-down storefont. The Met will be after them soon enough. Time is of the essence, assuming that some opportunistic bastard hasn’t beaten them to the evidence. The real murderer isn’t stupid enough to leave a linking clue like that piece of jewellery where someone can easily find it, especially now that Sherlock’s name is publicly implicated in a half-solved murder. (Really, when will Lestrade learn to be discreet?)

John covers him as Sherlock picks the lock. The proximity must be accidental, for surely it’d be easier to aim and discharge a firearm with more room, not with John’s back pressed against his, though the proximity is… not intrusive. And surely the perceptible catch in John’s breath is due to his concern about being arrested again, this time for a weapons collar, rather than to the physical contact.

Contact. From the middle corner of his right trapezius all the way up to the connecting point at the base of neck and shoulder. Warm. John is warm, though surely just from exertion; he recovers his breath quickly, but his body temperature remains elevated for usually ten to fifteen minutes after a chase.

“Well?” says John, impatient. “Are you in?”

Sherlock pushes the door open in reply. He quashes the urge to seize John, pull him inside, and snog him for all he’s worth, even though he could easily blame it on the adrenaline that is currently running rampant in both their systems. John might even respond to the assault, welcome it, perhaps. Curiosity is almost enough to make him engage in the experiment.

But that’s not what he’s about. Not who he is. And Mycroft’s right, much as it galls him. It’s all well and good to be intrigued by this man who’s somehow seamlessly blended into his life, but the day will come when John tires of his madness and leaves. Better not to get involved in the first place; it always ends badly for the other bloke.

Though Mycroft would smirk endlessly if Sherlock ever admitted there are some things he still doesn’t fully understand.

“What’s got into you?” says John, brushing past him. “Let’s find the bloody thing and get it out of here before it disappears for good.”

Sherlock scrapes his wits back together and focuses on the easy task of finding the right piece of furniture among hundreds of others, in the dark.

sherlock: I hate you.
mycroft: I know.
sherlock: John is not attracted to me.
mycroft: Nor you to him.
sherlock: Shut up.
mycroft: I’ve instructed Anthea to clear an appointment at 1:30.
sherlock: I don’t need an appointment.
mycroft: Nonsense. What kind of man couldn’t clear his schedule for his only brother?
sherlock: An honest one.
mycroft: See you at 1:30.

Sherlock never shows for the appointment, though the CCTV cams do show him pacing out on the pavement, partly obscured by the greenery, for over eleven minutes. Mycroft is amused that his brother is agitated enough not to care if he’s visible.

And Mycroft laughs outright when Sherlock eventually gives the CCTV the bowfinger and storms off. This is progressing beautifully.

Mycroft also doesn’t envy poor John the torture that will inevitably ensue anytime Sherlock Holmes can’t avoid dealing with something emotional.

If the good doctor survives the oncoming sulk, he’s a better man than Mycroft hoped.

mycroft: Be careful.
john: How did you get this number?
mycroft: He’ll be in a bad mood.
john: I just changed this number.
mycroft: Just a friendly warning.
john: What did you do to Sherlock?
mycroft: Nothing, and that’s the problem.

It’s not that John is ignoring Mycroft’s warning per se, just that it’s not always easy to tell when Sherlock is being his normal petulant self, versus when he’s really and truly upset about something. Some of it John supposes he could blame on the jewel theft case, which has not been going well ever since the bureau went missing and Sherlock went toe-to-toe in a brief but impressive shouting match with Sergeant Donovan over jurisdiction and tampering with evidence and the lot, but…

Sherlock is watching him.

When they first moved in, being watched would’ve been an odd kind of compliment, a confirmation that he was interesting enough to occupy Sherlock’s attention for longer than three seconds. In fact, there were times John had wished for Sherlock to really NOTICE him.

Now he realizes what an idiot he was. This is worse than the CCTV cameras, because it’s everywhere AND it never goes away. And because Sherlock never says anything out loud, it’s impossible to fathom why on earth John’s become so bloody fascinating.

He makes it through 46 waking hours of being mercilessly and constantly scrutinized before he snaps. “What?”

Sherlock cocks his head, still intent. "One of your nostrils is slightly larger than the other."

With anyone else, John would’ve assumed he hadn’t heard him right. "It’s taken you two days to assess the relative sizes of my nostrils?"

Sherlock perches on the edge of the sofa, pale gaze unsettling as ever. "And you've got a bit of whisker -- just at the point of your jaw."

The situation now makes sense. “It’s the case.”

“You persistently miss that bit,” Sherlock continues, as if he hasn’t heard him. “No matter how thorough the rest of your self-care.”

“We’ll find the necklace,” John reassures him.

"Your shoes wear more to the outside edge than the inside,” says Sherlock. "And you tidy up only the right things, no matter how complex and befuddling a mess I leave."

“And what of it?’ says John. “Yes, I object to finding microslides of tissue where I make my breakfast. And I've been bloody patient about the eyeballs in the microwave. It's like living with the scientific equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer."

Sherlock waves that away. "I've never shagged evidence."

"Very glad to hear it." John's mobile goes off before he can continue their fight about God-knows-what.

mycroft: Have offer to make you.
john: Not a good time. Text later.
mycroft: Contract for private practice.
john: Already have job, thanks.
mycroft: Six figures. In Derbyshire. 1 month to get settled. All expenses paid. Contract in e-mail inbox.
john: Why me? Why now?
mycroft: Check e-mail. Read contract. All will make sense.

If only because it gives him something to do other than fight with Sherlock, John does check his e-mail. Sure enough, that creepy bastard -- through what appears to be a return-less e-mail that somehow doesn’t get snagged by the spam filter -- has sent him a contract and offer.

He doesn’t really mean to read it, but once he’s begun, he stares down at the screen, stunned.

“What did he offer you?”

“Derbyshire,” says John.

“Oh that’s just BITCHY,” says Sherlock. “Did he promise you a pony and a buxom blonde secretary too?”

“Never much cared for ponies.” John scrolls through the downloaded contract, unable to believe what he’s seeing.

“I suppose he’s offered to wipe your arse and give you a daily allotment of champagne and caviar if you simply nip off to obey his every whim.”

“Actually,” he blinks. “He’s offered me a job. Private practice. Six figures. And I’d be helping veterans.”

“Spare me from brothers in arms.”

His cheeks and ears burn, but John doesn’t look up.

“He’ll own you.” There’s an edge of pleading to the sharp tone. “You’re the one thing he doesn’t control completely.”

The silence is broken only by the faint clicks of John scrolling.

“Actually, never mind. You really should take it,” says Sherlock suddenly.

He looks up.

“It’s the only way a man like you would ever merit such a practice.”

“Vindictiveness is hardly going to convince me to stay.”

“I mean, stability is not your strongest suit right now, is it, John?’

That strikes a little too close to home. John grabs his jacket.

“What are you doing?” Sherlock demands.

“Considering Mycroft’s offer,” he says, settling the jacket into place and zipping it shut.

Sherlock settles back on the sofa, arms crossed and body language hostile. “Right, go cry to your girlfriend. She’d probably be delighted to move up to Derbyshire WITH you.”

“Yes,” says John, angrier than he’s ever been with this arrogant prick. “So excuse me if I’m going to see someone who DOESN’T think I’m an idiot.”

He slams the door. Hard.

mrs. hudson: Bit of a domestic, dear?
sherlock: Go away.
mrs. hudson: He’ll be back soon enough, lovey. They only slam like that when they really love you.
sherlock: Please go away.
mrs. hudson: Will bring you tea in half an hour, and those little sugar biccies you’re so fond of. And some jammy dodgers for the Doctor, when he returns.
sherlock: I don’t want him to return.
mrs. hudson: Yes you do, dear. I’ll leave you for a bit, then be up later.