John isn’t home and to her great surprise, his contrary flatmate doesn’t slam the door in her face.
“Harry,” he says, warily. “Come in.”
She is just as dubious, and why not? John has told her enough about him, and of course he recognises her instantly. Maybe he also recognises how great her need is right now. What exactly that need is, is less recognisable, even to her. A drink, that’s for certain, but she’s already had six and this isn’t the way she wants the night to go.
She’s beginning to realise something.
Something about Clara.
Clara is several inches taller than Harry. She’s got hair that brushes her shoulder blades and eyelashes that don’t need mascara. She’s an Assistant Managing Director at an advertising agency but she’s a graphic artist in her spare time.
Harry has a decent job in marketing, and her friends are sort of her hobby. She has a lot of friends because she’s the life of the party. She’s got a heavy tread but she can’t help it. She always feels like she’s packing on a few extra pounds and if she’s honest, it’s probably the drinking. Yet if she never drank, she would never have met Clara, never attracted her with her sheer bloody-mindedness, never captured her with a kiss that Clara later told her, “changed her life.”
When Harry has a few, she’s invincible. She’s who she needs to be. She’s tried to be sober enough times to know that sobriety means loneliness. Being a lesbian meant her parents rejected her and drinking helped her deal with that. Being a drunk meant her brother rejected her and Clara helped her deal with that. Being co-dependent meant driving Clara away and it so it’s back to drinking.
But somewhere along the line she wanted to stop. Wants to stop. She doesn’t want to be a baggy-eyed, aging, stomping drunk. She wants to be with Clara. This is new, because she was sure, when she threw Clara out, that she was doing them both a favour.
Clara had started acting strangely. Picking up the slack, which she never used to do. There were fewer arguments but something was off. Clara took out the rubbish when it was Harry’s turn. She cooked dinner after ten-hour work days and she mixed cocktails while Harry decompressed from her eight-hour day (which included a two-hour liquid lunch). It was all wrong and Harry wanted her Clara back. She’d never wanted a Stepford Wife.
It went downhill fast from there. Harry couldn’t remember half of it; so much of her life had fallen into an alcohol-induced stupor. Pieces of her gone forever, down the rabbit hole, and for a while it was hard to care. Then she lost her job and started to make an effort. Got into therapy, took long walks, asked her friends for help.
The still-missing piece was John. They’d reconnected, but she still needed to tell him, to tell someone, what she was going through.
Odd that it turned out to be Sherlock of all people that gave the appearance of listening to her while she unburdened her soul. And then told her a few secrets of his own.
“I’ve never done this before.”
“What,” Harry says, sipping as delicately as she can at the whiskey Sherlock offered her (it belongs to John). “Never had a relationship?”
Sherlock sighs, as if she’s the biggest idiot in the world. John had told her about that.
“Of course I’ve had relationships. They’ve just never mattered.”
“Oh. Right. I get it.” Of course Harry got it. She had never been in love until Clara, never cared if her one night stands lasted a night or a week. She’d never been invested before. It was terribly frightening. “You’ve started to care for him.”
“I don’t let myself get involved,” he insists. She rolls her eyes at this and says nothing. “It’s my one rule, the one that means things like Sebastian don't happen again, and until John—until John—it's been fairly easy to maintain. I decided to find a flatmate, pay the rent this time and hope that said flatmate doesn’t run away screaming.”
“I’d say John’s doing pretty much the opposite.”
Harry nearly bursts out laughing. This strange man is surprisingly endearing. “Yes, Sherlock,” she says. “He speaks of you fondly and he isn’t one to do that lightly.”
“God, why am I telling you these things?” He jumps up and begins pacing around the room like a cat. Harry just looks at him. She knows the best way to get someone to say more is to say less.
“Well,” Sherlock continues, scrubbing a hand through his unruly curls, “I’ve realised that what I’m doing now just isn’t working. John needs a relationship. He thinks he wants stability, a family, all the things that society has convinced him he should want. If I am going to compete with those, I have to offer him some form of normality.”
“Darling. Wait just a bloody minute.” Harry goes so far as to set her glass down for emphasis. She has more than a few gay men in her circle and they usually respond to darling. Of course, Sherlock looks as horrified as John would. “Sorry. Look. If John wants all that, he’ll bloody well go out and get it. In fact, he would have before now, don’t you see? He seems like a traditionalist, but he’s not.”
“Please,” Sherlock scoffs. “John Watson is the very definition of traditional.”
“Au contraire mon détective,” Harry says with a flawless French accent. “John is complicated. You just don’t see it.”
“You’re excused. You’ve only known him, how long?”
“I can deduce--”
“Yes, yes, you’re a genius, a master deducer, a whatsit detective. Shut up. This is my brother we’re talking about. He’s complicated. He isn’t what you think he is, doesn’t want what you think he wants.”
Sherlock looks absolutely shell-shocked by Harry. Yes, this is Harry on alcohol. She’s a wonder. She can sense exactly what Sherlock is expecting from her and that he wasn’t expecting her to subvert his expectations. Sometimes the hangover is worth it.
“What does he want, Harry?” Sherlock is leaning forward, his hands clasped lightly together, but his spine is rigid. He looks lost, and a little sad. He’s complicated too, Harry thinks.
“Let me give you some advice, Sherlock. Just be yourself.”
Sherlock scoffs. “Terrible advice.” He folds his arms across his chest and looks so petulant that Harry almost laughs. Instead, she does the nicest thing she can think of.
“If you want, I can help.”
After that, Harry starts texting Sherlock at regular intervals.
have you told him yet?
r u being ur self 2day?
you stopped cleaning up - he’s complaining again.
In response she gets:
I don’t understand any of that.
She smiles every time she sends a text and every time she receives one in return. She begins to think Sherlock is absolutely perfect for her brother. She can’t explain why. Their secret meeting has blossomed into something exciting, something she isn’t ready to share with John yet. She already thinks of him as a friend, even though he’s given her no outward reason to.
She’s beginning to realise something.
Something about family.
The smiling comes to an end one Friday night. All her hard work - the therapy, the cutting back, everything comes crashing down.
Clara comes to pick up the rest of her things.
Later that night she’s back at 221B Baker Street, looking for John or Sherlock or both. Sherlock has replied to her text telling her that he is out and don’t tell John.
Idiot, she thinks, it’s not always about you.
She sinks muzzily onto the sofa, feeling an unaccountable rage taking over. She knows she’s being difficult, she does. She knows what John thinks of her. She can’t explain to him that it’s always been easier for him. John doesn’t have unfinished business with their parents. John doesn’t wake in the night screaming for his mother. John has someone, has Sherlock, while she--
“Harry you left her. You kicked her out. What, exactly, were you expecting?”
“Sherlock,” Harry says, or thinks she says. She’s not supposed to know him, and now is not the time to reveal her unexpected visit. She tries to remember why.
“Sorry, what was that?” John is leaning in, his blue eyes piercing through her, not like Sherlock’s at all. Suddenly she thinks how nice it would be if Sherlock was there, instead of her judgmental brother.
“Sherlock,” she says. “I want to speak to him.”
“He’s not here,” John says. He’s puzzled, he doesn’t understand. Harry feels misunderstood. She feels sad for Sherlock too, because he’s misunderstood. She can suddenly sense that he might really be exactly what he thinks he is - damaged, different - and that he might never tell John how he feels. John will remain resolutely ignorant and eventually they’ll drift apart. She makes a low noise in her throat as tears well up. It feels like her heart has burst into flames. It’s too much. The world tilts sideways and thank god there’s a pillow there.
In the morning Harry sits at the kitchen table and ponders the most efficient way to kill herself.
Sherlock comes home, after what must have presumably been some all-night criminal chasing and his look is so measured, so calculating, but so refreshingly free of judgment, that Harry finds her world righting itself again. Stripped of all its emotional baggage, life is really rather simple.
“This has to stop,” she says.
“How many times have you said that?”
“Shut up. This is different.”
It’s funny how much she wants to prove that to him.
“If you want, I can help,” he says.
In the end, Harry takes her own damn advice. She arranges to meet Clara and plans to tell her how she feels. For all the times she’s done that in the past year, she might as well be a slightly psychotic anti-social genius with impeccable clothes and a cadaver fetish.
When she sees Clara, all her prepared speeches go straight out the window. They’re in a garishly lit Costa Coffee and Harry is drinking Americanos like they’re whiskey and her hands won’t stop shaking. “I miss your hands,” she says, apropos of nothing.
Clara’s beautiful brown eyes look startled, like a deer in the headlights. God she is beautiful, no wonder Harry had to be pissed to even think of approaching her. What if she’s met someone else?
“I miss your hands, Clara,” Harry repeats, more firmly this time. Clara lets her pick up the hand resting on the table and Harry turns it over and kisses the palm. Harry holds it throughout their conversation. She’d be quite happy if she never had to let go again.
Harry’s beginning to realise something.
Something about herself.
Harry pulls out her best bottle of wine and sticks it in her bag. It’s going to be tough, but there’s no point in letting a bottle of 2007 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay contribute to her downfall with its deliciousness.
She shows up at Sherlock’s and impresses upon him that the bottle is for him. Her hand shakes as she hands over the glass, but somehow he makes it easier. There’s no challenge in the hand he holds out to take it from her. He would barely flinch if she downed it in one or threw it across the room to shatter against the mantelpiece. She leans back and smiles.
She asks him how it’s going and when he tells her it’s going beautifully she laughs.
“You can lie to yourself but you can’t lie to me,” she says. She unbuttons the top button on his lovely purple shirt. “Relax a little. I don’t bite. But John might if you ask nicely.”
Sherlock unsuccessfully hides a smile behind his next sip of wine. He changes the subject and asks her how she’s getting on. She’s ready to launch into an epic tale of love and forgiveness and the new dress she bought for her date with Clara, but before she can, the door flies open and John is standing there.
“No,” Sherlock says when he sees the look on John’s face, and for once he’s flustered. Harry almost laughs.
“This isn't,” Harry says, “anything at all what it looks like. I mean, apart from the fact that he's seriously lacking some of my favourite body parts you'd have to be an idiot to think it was me he wanted—”
She realises her mistake too late, but There are a few things she does realise right away. One, that John is jealous. Not just jealous that there’s a secret friendship he doesn’t know about, he’s jealous of her, as if she were a rival for Sherlock’s affections. Two, she realises that he’s jealous because he’s madly in love with Sherlock. He looks broken. He looks shattered. He’s breaking Harry’s heart.
“Look,” John says, and Harry winces inwardly at the tone of anger and betrayal in his voice. “This isn't—I don't care what you were doing or what this is but—please, not behind my back. That's not on,” and here he holds a hand up to Harry's protestations. “It was her, wasn't it?” he continues, rounding on Sherlock. ”It was Harry you've been texting. Which is fine, text her if you want, but really, Sherlock? You couldn't have thought to mention it, just once?”
Harry wants to excuse herself from the room. She can’t of course, she has to see this through.
“I didn't think it was important,” Sherlock says and Harry groans.
“Look,” John says, “Harry and I haven't talked for a while, and—maybe there are some things we need to discuss, sibling stuff, so—”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Harry starts to say. She is going to nip this in proverbial bud. Her brother is just so dense sometimes, and so is his flatmate. She stands up, ready to bang their heads together and call it day when someone’s phone rings.
Sherlock answers and it’s clearly a case. He can’t stop staring at John.
“Are you coming?” Sherlock asks and Harry can hear his thoughts, already splintering off in several different directions; toward the case of course, but also reaching out to wonder what John will say.
“Hey,” she offers, “you guys do whatever you have to.” Then, because they are even bigger idiots and actually hesitate, she grabs the bottle and stalks to the kitchen. She doesn’t even flinch as she pours the contents down the drain. “There,” she says, “now you can go.”
Both the bloody fools look at her gratefully and she thinks not everything is about you. They exit in a hurry, not looking at one another and Harry gets settled on the sofa. She needs a few minutes to process what she’s seen. Her brother, with a look on his face like she’s stolen his toy, and she giggles. What a sibling rivalry that would be!
Later, she goes down to the landlady and introduces herself. A cup of tea follows, then some biscuits, and just a tiny bit of gossip about the “boys” as Mrs Hudson fondly refers to them. She helps Mrs H lock up their flat and the two hug goodbye, with promises to make plans for a 221B dinner party very soon.
Clara loves the new dress and can’t stop saying so. She was always much more of a clotheshorse than Harry, but Harry is beginning to see the appeal. They have dinner and Harry tells Clara that it’s too soon for her to drink with dinner, but she wants Clara to do whatever she wants. It’s a mark of something that Harry is so taken with their conversation that she forgets about the wine until Clara asks for another. Harry is glad. She doesn’t want to be pandered to, particularly when it never worked before.
She tells Clara all about John, and Sherlock, and Sherlock and John and Clara throws her head back and laughs beautifully.
“Finally. Someone who thinks it’s as hysterical as I do,” Harry says.
“They sound adorable. I can’t wait to meet the detective.”
“You’ll love him. He’s a piece of work. He’ll dissect you verbally inside a minute.”
On the way home in the taxi, Harry asks to be excused for a moment to text her brother to make sure he’s all right. Clara smirks at the first-date politeness, given that she’s already agreed to come over for a nightcap in what was once their home.
went home, 221b all locked up, mrs H is lovely
how are you. alive i hope.
you, we used to talk about you.
also, your an idiot and im sobering up. he made me remember i love my wife.
Harry hopes that’s enough. She hopes that John gets it. He’s a smart man, her brother. She gets an almost immediate reply.
What should I do, Harry?
It will be quite a while before they’re properly brother and sister again. This, though, is a start. Better than Harry could have ever hoped.
kiss him or let him kiss you
dont be an idiot
John texts back: yes.
Harry imagines them at home, skirting around each other, making tea, watching bad telly, and finally, finally, kissing.
She ponders texting Sherlock as well just to make sure, but Clara has shifted in the taxi seat and her skirt has fallen away to reveal a slender leg that ends in a black patent leather boot. Fuck, that’s sexy, and it’s meant to be. Harry runs a finger up the laces of the boot and Clara’s breath catches. Before she can think, she’s kissing Clara, putting all of her heart and soul and sorry, sorry, sorry into it.
Harry smiles as she cradles her phone in the dark. She’s lying in bed next to Clara, feeling clearer headed and more sensible than she has in months. Years, maybe. Clara rolls over and mumbles grumpily into her back. Sherlock will think it’s Lestrade texting him this late, or maybe his brother.
She’s given him lots of advice lately, but this is her best yet.
go get him tiger ;)
Her phone beeps.
he already took that piece of advice –John
She grins, shuts off her phone and wraps herself tightly around Clara.