Original Story Title: I Don’t Buy It; It’s Not For Sale
Original Story Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/856827
Original Story Pairings: Sherlock/John
Original Story Rating: Teen and up
Original Story Warnings/Content Notes: Prostitution
Remix Author: lindentreeisle
Remix Story Title: Negotiable (The Frail and Faithful Heart Remix)
Remix Story Pairings: Sherlock/John
Remix Story Rating: Teen and up
Remix Story Warnings/Content Notes: Prostitution
Remix Story Beta: lady_ganesh
Remix Story Britpicker: n/a
Summary: John knows what he wants. He just doesn’t have any clue why he wants it.
The morning after he met Sherlock, John stayed in bed till 8:42 before he gave up further sleep as a bad job. He was too damn exhausted to feel properly hungry, but he forced himself to down tea, egg, and toast on principle. A shower and shave to make himself basically presentable, and he was ready to go round to Irene’s.
“Morning, John,” Kate said when she opened the door. “Irene’s in her office.” He smiled at Irene’s- assistant? girlfriend? silent partner? (whenever he started to ask, she got a look in her eye that made him a bit nervous)- and went through to the inner sanctum.
“Long night?” Irene smirked at him from behind her massive, battered antique desk. Most of the house, including the parlor where Irene entertained the occasional incall, was all gold damask and white draperies and classic, elegant furniture. But the office where Irene spent most of her time was furnished with dark-stained woods and evoked warmth and security rather than icy aloofness.
John dropped onto the overstuffed leather sofa without waiting for Irene’s hand-wave. “True enough,” he said.
“I hope he tipped well,” Irene said. “You’re barely fit to be seen.”
“Ta for that,” John said drily. He wanted to be offended by her appraising look, but it was simply a fact that appearances mattered a lot in escort work. With his inconsistent limp and his bullet wound and his body generally tipping into middle age, he probably wouldn’t have landed this job at all if he hadn’t worked with Irene back in her apprentice days. She was a friend, but she was also his boss: she was right to call him out for looking half a corpse. By contrast, Irene was exquisitely made up; this, despite the fact that she was at least 8 hours away from any clients, and she was still wearing a camisole and jeans.
“I’ll have a kip later,” John said. “Anyway, the trouble was the bloody waking up every hour on the hour; I was in bed by 4:30.”
“But whose bed, is the question.” Irene had a way of quirking the left corner of her mouth that let you know she was laughing at you, even if she didn’t make a sound. “Cuddling with the clients?” She clicked her tongue in mock disapproval.
“Oi, it was my bed,” John said with great dignity. “And for your information, the client didn’t even let me touch him, much less cuddle him.”
“Ooh, novelty,” she teased, folding her hands under her chin. “Tell, tell.”
“He didn’t want sex,” John said. “He wanted me to wait a while, for the sake of appearances, and then just go.”
“And yet, you didn’t get to bed till after 4,” she said. “So you were able to coax the blushing inamorato at some point.”
“Not at all. We just...talked.” John fought to restrain the smile that wanted to appear.
Irene’s raised eyebrow let him know he hadn’t entirely succeeded. “For better than five hours, you talked?”
“You said a Michael Siger called in the booking, right?” He barely paused for her nod. “He didn’t give another name or any other info?”
Irene reached for her phone and began busily tapping away. The outer office, where Kate had her desk and her filing cabinets and her photocopier, had a desktop computer, but Irene preferred to keep her records in her pocket, and she was a demon with a touchscreen keyboard. “Michael Siger, The Dorchester room 1123, advance payment by credit card.” She looked up at him. “Don’t change the subject, John. You spent five hours chatting with Michael Siger? How attractive was he, exactly?”
John found himself blushing; Irene could be maddeningly insightful. “His name was Sherlock, not Michael. And I don’t think he or his brother was named Siger, either.” It was a gut feeling and maybe not a reasonable one: after all, the credit card was in that name and the payment had gone through, so Michael Siger must exist in some capacity. But John was prone to trust his instincts.
Irene’s mouth was doing that thing again. “How attractive was his brother?”
“His brother was creepy,” John said emphatically. “He was there when I arrived, made it clear he had booked the appointment. At first I thought it was a voyeuristic thing, like he wanted to direct the action, so I shut that down. But he said no, he just wanted to offer me an exclusive contract, sight unseen- Sherlock hadn’t even spoken or looked at me yet- said if it goes well, he’ll put me on payroll- a weekly check to be available any time. Then he gave me an advance tip and waltzed out.”
“Posh,” Irene suggested.
“Yeah, absolutely. Both of them were, but the brother was practically slimy with it.”
“He sounds like a fixer of some kind,” Irene said. “Image consultant? Or a manager, perhaps. Someone trying to protect a client who’s in the public eye.”
“Your agency has the best reputation in London,” John said. “If you can’t trust that level of discretion than why bother?”
Irene gave him an honest smile. “Thank you, love, but that sort is too tightly wound to rely on reputation alone. One slip and you’re in the Daily Mail.”
“I didn’t recognize either of them from anywhere,” John said.
Irene waved this objection away. “You know I adore you, John, but you’re hopelessly out of touch with popular culture after about 1995. You wouldn’t know a popular icon if he snogged you in the street.” Irene let her gaze slide past John, her expression reflecting amusement. “Posh, obsessed with image, and claims to have morals straight as a ramrod,” Irene said. “I know the type. Unraveling them is like solving a puzzle box, but once you get there, they’re unparalleled good fun.”
“For someone who adores me, you don’t seem bothered that this bloke was trying to steal me from you,” John said.
Irene outright laughed at the half-teasing remark. “I know for a fact this isn’t the first time you’ve been offered a deal to leave the agency, or to become someone’s kept man. Clients are always trying to cut the agency out, it’s part of the business.” She propped her chin one hand and scrutinized his face in a way that made him want to turn away. “No, what interests me is that this Siger’s offer interests you.”
“No,” John said quickly. “I don’t want to stop taking other clients.” That was out of the question. If he started turning down other clients, on the off-chance that this Siger (or whoever he was) might actually call on a regular basis, he was likely to be left in the cold. Literally, once he got the boot from his landlord; Sherlock’s assessment of his finances hadn’t been wrong.
“I’d like to meet this Sherlock,” Irene said, still closely examining him. “He must really be something to have you this wound up.”
John couldn’t seem to stop blushing. His damnable face was clearly making him out a liar. But Sherlock was something, he couldn’t deny that. “He knew things about me,” John blurted.
Again with the eyebrow. “Such as?”
“My military history. My schooling- the fact that I was a doctor. My deployment. My injury. My history with escort work. My financial situation.” John scrubbed a hand through his hair. “There’s no way he could have just read this stuff somewhere. He told me what I’d had for dinner, for God’s sake. He just looked at me, and he knew things.” John drifted a bit, remembering the astonishment he’d felt, the way his nerves caught fire and his hand forgot to shake when Sherlock looked at him as if he was a puzzle to be solved. “Then he told me how he’d seen it- deduced it, he said. The observations that he’d added together. He just talked for hours, and it was fascinating. Amazing.”
“John,” Irene said. John startled and looked up at her, realizing that he’d been staring at nothing, meditating on the client he hadn’t ever touched but couldn’t seem to forget. “Why are you telling me all this? Do you want me to book someone else for Mr. Siger, if he calls again?”
“No,” John said, then clamped his lips shut on his own vehemence. Irene looked triumphantly amused. “No,” he said more calmly. “I want- if he calls again- um. I want the booking.”
“Siger’s offer could be a good thing for you,” Irene said. “You’re doing well here, but you know it won’t last forever.” Again, Irene’s blend of shrewdness and friendliness made him wince. Every time he looked in the mirror, he was reminded that he wasn’t 20 any more, and his age could only become more of a handicap. He’d only ever got into escort work as a stepping stone; it wasn’t, couldn’t be, a permanent career.
“I know,” he said. “But- it’s not even that.” Sherlock had said he didn’t want sex from John and never would. Sherlock told him to go but physically blocked him from doing so. Sherlock told him to shut up and listen, but seemed pleased when he answered back. Irene was right, but pragmatism really had nothing to do with John’s decision-making in this case. “I....liked him.”
“John,” Irene said. “You sound incredibly secondary school right now. And I say this as a friend, not just your boss: you don’t make it personal with clients. You know that. You’ve never had a problem with it before.”
He hadn’t, not even back in his student days. He always cut things off before an infatuation could become mutual, stopped seeing the client before things got weird. “I still don’t,” John said. “You can trust my professionalism. You do trust it, or you wouldn’t have hired me.” Irene inclined her head slightly to acknowledge this. “I want any future bookings, if he calls again.”
“So what you’re saying is,” Irene said, “You don’t want to be exclusive, you don’t want to take his private offer, but you do want to see him if he calls, whenever he calls, and you want his calls to take priority over any other clients.”
When she put it that way, it was clear she thought he was being more than a bit of a twat. Exclusivity with training wheels, in other words. Nevertheless. John’d had customers who wanted to get off, or to be seen with an attractive date; he’d even had the odd few who were looking to turn him into their significant other. John had never had a client who just wanted him to be their friend.
John swallowed. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s absolutely what I want.”
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