Original Story Title: No Longer Alone
Original Story Link: http://missilemuse.livejournal.com/5589.html
Original Story Pairings: None
Original Story Rating: G
Original Story Warnings: None
Remix Story Title: Complementary and Identical: Ten Scenes of Friendship
Remix Author: jenny_starseed
Remix Beta: niennatelrunya
Remix Britpicker: niennatelrunya
Remix Story Pairings: None
Remix Story Rating: PG
Remix Story Warnings: None
"Complementary and Identical: Ten Scenes of Friendship"
It was a lonely rainy day in the Holmes household. Sherlock tiptoed to visit his brother who was sitting by the window, reading a slim book. His own company was becoming intolerable to him when there was nothing to do outside for days on end. He sat beside Mycroft, peering over the book he was reading. It didn’t sound familiar to him. He asked what the book was. Mycroft showed him the title on the spine: On Generation and Corruption. It didn’t have any pictures or diagrams to show Sherlock how something worked. How dull.
Mycroft smiled affectionately. “Well . . . it is a bit dry, but the man who wrote it was very brilliant and thought of many clever things, far ahead of his time. That makes it interesting.”
Sherlock was curious now. He loved brilliant clever things. He leaned over to read a few paragraphs. There were a lot of large words and sentences that went on without a full stop for a long time. It was about knowledge and how to know something. It sounded like the things Mycroft often tried to teach him, although Mycroft used simpler words. He and Mycroft played games that Sherlock could never play with the other children who were often too mean and dumb to bother with. He and Mycroft only had each other for friends. He wondered if this man named . . . Aristotle had friends like Mycroft to play with as a child.
“He sounds like us. Did he have any friends?”
Mycroft frowned. “Why do you ask that?”
Sherlock made himself comfortable next to Mycroft. “It’s just . . . if he was so different from the people of his time, they would have had a tough time understanding him too, right? And how can anyone be friends with someone they don’t understand?”
Sherlock looked at his hands and said in small voice, “Everyone thinks I’m strange because I know things they don’t. I have a hard time finding friends who are like me. It gets boring when you’re not around.”
Mycroft’s frown grew deeper. Sherlock wondered if he had upset him.
“Would it help if I told you that I know exactly how you feel?” he asked kindly.
Mycroft was being obvious again. Only Mycroft was allowed to be obvious because he did it in a way that wasn’t annoying. Mycroft was his only friend because he was the least annoying person in the world because they were alike. Sherlock told him so with a big smile.
As Mycroft grew older, he became less and less of a friend to Sherlock and more like an interfering prat. Father had died when Sherlock was eight and someone put a silly notion into Mycroft’s head that he was the man of the house. Utter nonsense. Mycroft’s brilliance and bitterness was always tempered with an even handed sense of duty. There was no such temperance in Sherlock. Sherlock’s brilliance gave an almost super-human quality to him and a grandiose sense of self. His bitterness was cultivated by the fear, jealousy and frustration he encountered with his peers and guardians who made it obvious that he did not belong anywhere. Sherlock felt no loyalty to anyone but himself. It made for a potent and violently reactionary young man. One was a conformist and the other a rebel. The two boys who had once been inseparable and like-minded had now become like oil and water.
Sherlock did not care one whit about propriety, prudence or duty. His brother made him feel like privileged child who needed to be protected from the most egregious consequences of his actions all the while lecturing him on how it was not right to make his brother feel put-upon. Sherlock was alone with his boredom, alienation, moods and hopelessness. Mycroft was the one and only person whom Sherlock had believed was his ally in life because of how alike they were in their distinctness of mind and perspective of the world. He felt distinctly betrayed when Mycroft would use his innate understanding of Sherlock against him.
Mycroft constantly worried about Sherlock. It was what he told everyone who took an interest in Sherlock. Well, after he had a little chat with them in a car park. All of them took the fee and the back door out of Sherlock’s life. That was, until John Watson came along. Mycroft had his assistant run a background check on him. He bribed his therapist to give him her notes on her patient. He advised John to get a new therapist. John didn’t take kindly to that. His posture was strict and stiff, disdain and quiet integrity exuded from his very compact form. He was undeniably brave and loyal for a man with a bad limp who had recently been invalidated from war. That was interesting. Sherlock liked interesting. His thoughts were interrupted with the beeping of his mobile.
Did he accept the money – SH
Too bad. We could have split the fee – SH
And that was the closest thing Sherlock ever came to admitting he desired someone for a friend.
Lestrade called him later that night. Sherlock embroiled himself in another crime scene. There was a shooting in an abandoned university classroom. An anonymous caller called DI Lestrade, claiming shots were heard in the area. They found Sherlock in the classroom with the dead body of a cabbie, his head in the middle of a pool of blood. That was all Lestrade would say. Lestrade didn’t like giving Mycroft details. Lestrade was another one Mycroft could not bribe. Mycroft couldn’t say he disapproved.
Mycroft and his assistant watched the scene from afar. He watched Sherlock deduce who the shooter was to Lestrade before he came to the same conclusions as Mycroft. Mycroft had deduced it was John before his brother did. From his observations in the abandoned factory, Mycroft concluded that John was acclimatized to violence. His steady hands under pressure indicated the man could pull off a crack shot. Combined with his quick and unwavering loyalty to Sherlock, it could only be John who killed the cabbie. It was always amusing to watch Sherlock grossly underestimate people and it was unspeakably delightful when he witnessed Sherlock to come to realize it.
But it was more interesting to watch John. He was already acclimatized to Sherlock’s genius and was no longer surprised or intimidated by Sherlock’s gift. Perhaps he never was intimidated in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise Mycroft if that was the case. The two men laughed like old friends sharing an old joke. Mycroft could remember laughing with Sherlock like that, once upon a time.
Never mind... It was time to properly introduce himself to Sherlock’s privileged friend.
“He’s your brother! Could’ve fooled me . . . did fool me in fact.”
Sherlock smiled. John Watson was a man approaching forty who wore ugly oatmeal sweaters. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, as the clichéd saying went. Not that clichés ever did John any justice. The man was the perfect specimen of unconscious cultivated blandness. John had that quiet confidence, integrity and reliability that had the ability to soothe people without making them feel stupid. He was a man who inspired confidence in everyone he met. Sherlock had confidence in him. What a nice change for once. They could indulge their adrenaline addiction together -- solving puzzles, being brilliant. He had found someone that complemented him in his skill set. John could deal with emotions; Sherlock could solve his puzzles and they would both run through the streets of London with purpose and glee. It was why Sherlock felt it was appropriate for them to celebrate.
They sat in Sherlock’s favourite Chinese restaurant. It served twenty-four hour dim sum that was always fresh. Mr Ming certainly knew his clientele. There were many drunken university students and a handful of security guards that had just come off a long night shift. He never ate here with a friend. Sherlock always preferred his own company when he ate, so he wasn’t surprised when Mr Ming shot him a knowing look. How predictable. At least there wasn’t a candle. But there were extra fortune cookies and a few clementines for the “special occasion.” Sherlock successfully predicted every fortune cookie before John brought up his brother.
“Couldn’t he have just come to our flat and introduced himself like a normal person?” asked John. “I would have shaken his hand politely instead of quietly calculating effective ways to incapacitate him in an abandoned factory.”
Sherlock scoffed. “You would have met his other assistant, Bill. They call him The Coded Shadow; I call him Bill. No one wants to meet Bill.”
John poked at his pork dumpling. “The Coded Shadow? Is that supposed to scare people? He sounds like someone out of a bad spy novel.”
Sherlock smirked. It would be repetitive to say that Sherlock liked John already. He had already deduced it 36 hours earlier in the St Bart’s Lab.
The next day, Mycroft decided to pay Sherlock’s new flatmate a visit. They sat in the unmarked black car. John Watson wearily regarded him.
“You could have told me you were his brother instead of his enemy,” John said simply. “Is there something I should know?”
Mycroft fiddled with his umbrella. It was a sunny day. Who could explain eccentricities? Completely pointless. All Mycroft knew was that he forfeited his right to call Sherlock his friend long ago. It was one of the burdens of being an older brother to Sherlock. Mycroft did not have John’s luxurious position as an outsider. He admired John’s loyalty all the more for it. God knows Sherlock could rarely keep any friends for longer than three weeks, let alone finding someone who would commit homicide for him.
“John, in the short time you’ve known Sherlock, has it occurred to you that there’s nothing normative about him? Do you honestly know what it means to be Sherlock’s enemy?”
“Do you two always speak in riddles?” asked John with a frustration that amused Mycroft. “Is it so hard to ask for a simple answer about what your relationship with Sherlock is?”
“That is incomparable to how incredibly difficult that question is to answer. I ask that question every day.”
“Fine; don’t tell me,” murmured John.
“You’ll find out soon enough, John. There are some things of which words cannot do justice to describe.”
“Is that a fancy Holmesian way of saying I don’t know?” queried John.
Mycroft couldn’t keep the smile out of his voice. “Never believe Sherlock when he calls you an idiot.”
It made Mycroft sick to think that Irene Adler had become one of Sherlock’s special people. Mycroft was long out of Sherlock’s inner circle. It infuriated him that this woman found her way into Sherlock’s affections. Sherlock didn’t know what Mycroft knew of Irene Adler. Sherlock didn’t know exactly what kind of secrets this woman was trading. But Mycroft knew. He reviewed the file MI-5 and MI-6 had on her. He knew what sort of history this woman had in manipulating men to her own ends and it made Mycroft feel sick to see her tactics used against his brother. Irene Adler was as ruthless, wily, rebellious and destructive as Sherlock and he would be lured to her like a moth to a flame. Because Sherlock had a sad way of always being attracted by anything that even remotely resembled him. Right now, Sherlock stared blankly at a group of sobbing people.
“Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” mused Sherlock.
You don’t fool me, thought Mycroft. His little brother cared too much as well. It was why Mycroft had given him a cigarette and had John raiding his sock drawer right now. Fine. Maybe it was best to play along with Sherlock’s self-pitying charade.
“All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.”
Sherlock regarded the cigarette with disgust, commenting on the inferiority of the cigarette before wishing Mycroft a Merry Christmas. Mycroft wished Sherlock a happy New Year, feeling very dissatisfied with the abrupt end to their conversation. Trust Sherlock to avoid uncomfortable truths when it came to his own emotions. There was more that he wanted to say and it was likely he would never have a chance to speak of Irene again after this. Some things had to be made known to his little brother for his own protection.
His brother didn’t turn around. But Mycroft could tell he was listening.
“I do not wish to speak ill of the dead,” Mycroft continued. “But take my advice to heart. Caring is not an advantage when it relates to Miss Adler. Sentiments of comfort have never been my strong suit. I would imagine John would adequately provide that for you on my behalf. I’ve resigned myself to giving you the hard truths your friends spare you from. Miss Adler is an expert manipulator who believes she only has herself as an ally. Women like that are extremely dangerous. In that respect, she was nothing like you, Sherlock. Do please try to make an effort to not worry your flatmate too much with your prolonged misguided grief.”
Sherlock took a deep drag of his cigarette before resuming his departure.
“Fuck off, Mycroft.”
Sherlock marveled at the intricate weave of lies he weaved when he deceived Mycroft and John. It was almost like those Russian Dolls: a lie hidden within a lie within a lie, each one a variation of a theme. There were stoic faces, lies fabricated to spare hurt feelings and to avoid many misunderstandings that Sherlock felt were too tedious to explain. The fact was that Irene fascinated him in ways that so few people did in his life. Sherlock could never stay away from anything that shone brilliantly as Irene did. Sherlock loved Irene in the same way someone loved his or her reflection refracted in a kaleidoscope. Her brilliance refracted and multiplied when it came into contact with his.
He never told anyone he saved her. Unoriginal people would accuse Sherlock of being in love with Irene. Sherlock simply kept it a secret to avoid such insinuations. He already had a hard time convincing people with their ridiculous dinner candles that he and John were not a couple. He certainly had no romantic aspirations when he saved her. What a ridiculous notion. Sherlock would never be foolish enough to mistake affection for love. And he did have great affection for her. Her text message flirtations amused and warmed him in their simplicity. He saved them for sentimental reasons he couldn’t explain.
There was nothing more frustrating than when you doubt your mind, thought Sherlock. He steadily watched his shaking hands, holding a glass of very expensive scotch. Sherlock rarely drank because it interfered with his thought processes, sanding down the sharp edges of his mind like sandpaper. Not that it mattered now; his mind was shot to pieces and he didn’t feel he had mastery of it. It made him a bit panicky, because Sherlock Holmes never lost control of his mind. He thought the drink would help him relax. It didn’t. It alarmed him.
John sat across him, offering his stupid theories again. Didn’t Sherlock know there was no hound? How he hated how sympathetic John sounded, he wasn’t some idiot who needed to be treated with kid’s gloves.
“Fine. Don’t listen to your friends. What do I know?”
Oh for pity’s sake! The last thing Sherlock wanted were clichés about how friendships made everything better. Nothing could make this better. His mind and his emotions were not co-operating. He was on the tenterhooks of fear. He felt its sharp claws grip and gnaw into him. He felt his cortisone levels go up as he feared for the foggy unknown beyond the outside this cosy little overpriced restaurant. His logic had left him and he felt distinctly vulnerable. Being the contrary person Sherlock was, he irrationally pushed away the only thing that made him feel safe right now.
“Friends,” he said bitterly. “I don’t have friends.”
John frowned and quietly left. John was never one for big emotions. He was so very stoically British in his stiff upper lip. That was the thing about John; he was so quiet when he was truly angry that Sherlock had a hard time reading him. Sherlock had very limited experiences with being someone’s friend. He wondered how far he could push him before John left him for good. Was there a day where John had had enough? People rarely outright told him why they leave. It was usually all sorts of rubbish excuses of new jobs, no time and no mobile number because of a lost phone. Sherlock greatly feared that one of those days would come to pass with John when Sherlock so deeply depended on his friend. He drank the rest of his scotch and went to bed early. A bit of sleep will help clear his mind. The next day, Sherlock used all of his charm and humour to tease John into forgiveness. It worked.
Sherlock’s worries and doubts turned into paranoia of abandonment and darkness revisited him that day. The images of the hound, Moriarty, parkas with hidden bombs, blood and horrible screams infiltrated his dreams at night. He felt like he was going slowly mad. Everything was jarring and refused to make sense. His own eyes were betraying him when his mind, instinct, senses and deductions told him there was no hound. John denied seeing any hound but Sherlock’s mind rebelled with loud bells and whistles, fuelled by buried fear he had not felt since he had been an adolescent.
Words could not express the horror Sherlock felt when he realized that he had attacked John while under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug. Crouching against the wall of his room, he fearfully assessed John. There was bruising around his neck, his left and right thumb right over this throat. He could have cut off John’s windpipe and snapped John’s neck without a second thought. Sherlock was weak and shaky from the thought of it. John crouched in front of him and spoke words of reassurance. John was very gifted in giving reassurance. He seemed to know what Sherlock needed.
“I could have killed you,” Sherlock whispered.
“But you didn’t. Take your own advice, you berk. It is pointless to dwell on the what-ifs that never happened.”
He was roughly pulled into a hug that Sherlock would have never reciprocated if he was in within his faculties. It was the first time that Sherlock fully appreciated John’s friendship. John was utterly at home with Sherlock and he fit into all the jagged nooks and crannies of Sherlock’s sharp and unforgiving personality that would normally shred people to pieces. Perfectly complementary: ying and yang, lock and key. Complimentary relationships held benefits that relationships between identical people never could. Identical was Mycroft with all his innate understanding of Sherlock had an irritating ability to predict and subvert Sherlock. Identical people could not compensate for each other’s weaknesses as John compensated for Sherlock’s. It inspired a fierce devotion that Sherlock hadn’t felt since he was a child. John felt precious to him since it was John’s humanity, acceptance and ordinariness that soothed Sherlock that night.
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