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A Study In Ludus

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“So… I can stay the night, then.” Sherlock nodded when John came into the sitting room with their tea.

But his professor simply shook his head, “You’re not forgiven.”

“I’m n- … excuse me?” the teen looked taken aback. “But you let me in. Gave me something dry to wear and offered me tea.”

“You’re my student, and you were soaked to the bone, and I didn’t want you to get pneumonia.” John justified, setting a mug in front of Sherlock on the coffee table. “I never said anything about accepting your apology. What you did was horribly wrong… in so many ways, Sherlock. A lot of people would classify it as rape.”

Sherlock huffed and rolled his eyes as he picked up the mug, “People are idiots. You enjoyed yourself.”

“I was under the influence. It wasn’t really within my control.” John argued sternly, cheeks flushing a bit just thinking about the whole thing.

His guest slumped back against the couch and sighed, “It was barely spiked. Just a drop, that’s all.” he waved off, sipping on the tea. It was rather flavourful, but not overly sweet; apparently John had a knack for making good tea. He made a note it. “And it was hardly as disabling as you claimed - and being broader and stronger than me, I fail to believe that you simply could not ‘push me away’ or stop me if that had been your intention.” the dark haired teen debated, “Instead, you threaded your hand into my hair, and tried to stifle those delicious noises that were coming out of your mouth.”

John’s jaw tensed again, and he knew there was a slight flush on his cheeks. Did he have to use such descriptive wording, like ‘delicious’ to describe the sounds John had tried to hold back?…

“Sherlock, that’s not the point. I didn’t want you to. I told you to stop pursuing this unfounded… romantic infatuation - and instead, you drugged me and sucked me off. You betrayed my trust. Do you realize how damaging that is? How highly I value trust, above all else, in the people I let into my life?” he asked rhetorically, shaking his head lightly as he sipped his tea. “You took advantage of me.”

Apparently, Sherlock hadn’t thought about it like that – and John was pleased to see he had the decency to look rather embarrassed, even irritated with himself. And he was. Sherlock knew ‘trust’ was something John valued; he could see it in the man’s behaviour, the way he treated others, the way others spoke of him. ‘Stupid, stupid…’ Sherlock cursed. It seemed so obvious now that John said it.

He needed John to trust him. And he might have ruined any possibility of making headway with his professor by resorting to that aphrodisiac.

“I… said I was sorry. I am.” Sherlock repeated, hesitantly glancing over towards John and then back down to the table. “You can trust me.”

John pursed his lips together, “Apparently I can’t.”

“You can!” Sherlock insisted, sliding off the couch onto his knees so he could kneel near the side of John’s armchair. He rested his arms atop it, leaning in slightly; towel still draped around his shoulders like some sort of cape, “I know it was a mistake. I know I handled it badly, but I’m… I’m at a loss with you, John Watson. No one ever confuses me. I read people efficiently, deduce their lives and their secrets… you’ve seen me, you know! But you’re different. Oh-so different, and fascinating in a way you shouldn’t be. Our relationship wasn’t moving as quickly as I would have liked – and I wanted to prove to you that I was an adult; that sexual activity would, in no way, be an obstacle - nor something you should feel guilty about. I’m nineteen… twenty in six month’s time… and my intelligence vastly surpasses every student enrolled at London University. Undoubtedly, even surpasses the I.Q of most Professors as well. I know what I’m doing. This isn’t childish fantasy. I want you. I want to know everything about you, I want to get under your skin, I want to be in your blood, and I want you to trust me. You can. I swear it; I won’t take advantage of you, I won’t trick you, I won’t give you one single reason to ever doubt me again.” He rattled on quickly, shifting his icy blue eyes over John’s features – wondering if he was buying any of it.

Oddly enough, as much as it should have been an act to simply get ‘back on track’ with the progress of his bet with Jim… Sherlock did want John to trust him. It was uncomfortable to have this feeling rattling around in the pit of his stomach; this need to gain trust, to be accepted, to prove himself.

“Christ…” John sighed, drawing Sherlock’s attention back to him and out of his thoughts. The Professor rubbed his eyes, “…You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

Sherlock smiled, “…No.”

Silence hung in the air between them for a good five minutes, and Sherlock began to hope, dared to hope that this meant John was at least considering his proposal. Finally, the older of the two spoke, “Alright.” he muttered quietly. “I-… we can… try it.” John began hesitantly. He saw Sherlock perk up, and was quick to continue, “But… we are going to do this on MY terms. Understand? I am going to set the pace. If you so much as whine, or complain, or try to push things forward at a faster pace than what I'm comfortable with… we’re done. I mean it.” he finished in a firm tone.

The dark-haired teen had already begun to nod along quickly, “Yes, yes, yes, fine – that’s fine.” he agreed swiftly.

“Good. I’m glad you agree.” John smiled, “So, my first decision is that you are not allowed to approach me for a week.” Sherlock’s jaw actually dropped slightly, and John had to bite his tongue to keep from smirking proudly over the fact he’d caught the young genius off guard, “You’re going to earn my trust back. That’s the first step. So, you’re not going to contact me, you’re not going to stalk me… nothing. You will wait for me to approach you. When I’m ready.”

Every muscle and bone in Sherlock’s body wanted to protest. Naturally, he was worried that amount of time would hinder him; Jim was probably already making headway with Professor Moran – and not only did Sherlock not want to lose five hundred pounds to Jim (he had his eye on some scientific equipment that cost about a thousand pounds; coupled with what he could get from Jim if he won, he’d finally have enough)… but worse… he didn’t want to have to listen to that Irish cunt brag about the fact he’d won.

“…Fine.”

The voice was so quiet and defeated John wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly. But Sherlock remained kneeling – still staring up at John from beside his chair. “Good… that’s…good. Thank you.” he nodded. Releasing a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, John stood up and lowered his hand to ruffle the loose, dark curls atop Sherlock’s head. “I’m going to call you a cab and give you the fare, alright?”

Sherlock clenched his teeth together tightly before nodding as he stood up and followed. He was going to have to swallow every instinct, every petulant urge, every inclination to speed this up… in order to gain John’s trust. This was above and beyond a simple bet – but Sherlock was convinced he could do it. He wanted to know everything there was to know about John Watson by the end of this. And if he had to bend to the will of John’s stubborn pride… he would. It would work out. It had to.

 

 

 

A week, it turns out, was much longer than Sherlock had anticipated.

It was only seven days.

One hundred and sixty-eight hours.

And yet Sherlock found himself bouncing off the walls – impatient, irritable, and itching for any sliver of attention from John. Being in the Professor’s lectures was even more difficult, but somehow, he managed to restrain himself from approaching him after class or slipping him a note. Sherlock did manage to occasionally catch the man’s eye once or twice during his class – and took care to not overplay the contact, but rather, offer John a shy smile whenever it happened. To his delight, John would return them.

But that was all.

Sherlock had began to wonder that this was just some clever ploy by John to get rid of him for good. A week had passed. A week, and three days, to be precise.

He was moments away from demanding that John pay some attention to him… when he got a text…


What do you think of that guest Professor? JW

Lestrade… something? He is teaching the Criminology course. JW

 

Sherlock furrowed his brow; not exactly the contact he was expecting…

 

Not unbearable. An inch or two more intelligent than the others. SH

I like him. We had a good chat today. JW

You may be surprised to discover that I’m not as interested in your social ventures as I am in the fact that you’ve contact me. SH

I can speak to you now? SH

No. JW

This is a text. JW

Texting is the next stage. JW

It’s neutral. There’s no physical influence. Just our words and potential compatibility. JW

Which includes, wondering if a future boyfriend may or may not be interested in how my day was, or who I might have met. JW

Tedious. SH

We can go back to not speaking, if you’d prefer. JW

….So. You enjoyed the company of Lestrade. SH

You don’t call him Professor? JW

He’s a ‘guest lecturer’. Hardly worthy of the title. SH

Besides, he doesn’t mind. SH

Yeah. You came up in the conversation. JW

Oh? An unpleasant topic, was it? SH

Actually, his exact words were: I do like him, I just don’t know why. JW

How droll. SH

He’s a nice guy. Might go out for a pint later. JW

…Is this interest sexual in nature? SH

What!? JW

No! Why would you think that? JW

It was merely a question. SH

I was uncertain if your attempt to make me jealous was on purpose, or you were just being wonderfully obtuse. SH

I’m not trying to make you jealous. JW

I made a friend. That’s all I was saying. JW

Isn’t that what we are? Friends? SH

Well, yes. I’d like us to be. JW

That’s why this ‘texting’ part is so important. JW

You want me to trust you again, so, I need to know we’re friends first. JW

This will take ages! SH

If you participate correctly, it might happen faster than you think. JW

… I see. SH

So the ‘pub’ tonight then. SH

I think so. And you? JW

I’ve a final assignment that should take less than an hour of my time. SH

And then? JW

…Probably texting you at hourly intervals in the evening to make sure Lestrade hasn’t taken advantage of you. SH

Ha-bloody-ha. JW

Have a good night, Sherlock. JW

You as well, John. SH

 

Sherlock was uncertain as to how he felt about this next ‘stage’ John was putting him through. Naturally, anything was better than no communicating at all. And he did prefer to text when it came to conversing with others if the option was available. So perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. John needed to trust him, and if he would feel more comfortable befriending Sherlock first… so be it. Just more effort required.

But John wanted texting… he would get texting. And over the course of the following two weeks, Sherlock put this allowance well into use:

Do you have a copy of Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, and Better, by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH? I am interested in reading it. SH

Your office was open. Borrowed the Atlas of Human Anatomy instead. SH

Also your Army issues Defence Against Toxic Weapons and Field Management of Biological Casualties. SH

I dislike Professor Donovan. May need to draw attention to her on-going affair with ex-Professor Anderson. SH

He’s also married. Which in itself is hard to believe. SH

I would like to see your shoulder wound up close. SH

One day. SH

Dissected a pigeon. SH

I need a bigger animal. It’s hardly a challenge. SH

Professor Donovan called me a ‘freak’ today. SH

Believe it or not, it’s a term I’m rather used to. SH

Have you spoken to your sister recently? SH

My brother is being annoying. SH

You should come over for tea. SH

How can supplements such as coenzyme Q-10, phosphatidyl serine, and Gingko biloba increase short-term memory power? SH

Do you still have your dog tags? SH

Have you had any contact with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia? SH

Lestrade is tolerable. SH

And apparently, competent enough to give me extra insight into you. SH

I didn’t know you used to play rugby. SH

Do you have access to Codeine? SH

Lestrade works at the Yard. He will be a useful contact. SH

I’m studying different types of burns. Quite interesting. SH

 

John had to smile at the number of times his mobile had beeped with these (and other) incoming messages. To his surprise, he wasn’t as bothered as he initially thought he would be. It was swiftly getting to the point that he looked forward to these attempts at interaction from the teen.

 

What have I told you about letting yourself into my office? JW

Just make sure you return whatever you borrow. I still need them. JW

Professor Donovan is nice enough. I don’t have too much interaction with her. JW

For godssake, please don’t scare away any more teachers. We’re short staffed enough as it is. JW

I don’t know why my shoulder wound interests you so much. JW

It’s just an ugly scar. JW

If I hear you’ve kidnapped a cat, dog, or god forbid, something larger to dissect, I’ll be cross with you. JW

You’re not a freak. They’re idiots. JW

I spoke to Harry the other day actually. JW

She’s fallen off the wagon again. Which should have been a surprise, but it wasn’t. JW

I feel guilty for not having faith in her. JW

What’s your older brother like? JW

I picture a scarier version of Alan Rickman. Am I close? JW

It’s hard to discuss ‘brain supplements’ over text. I can give you more information later. JW

I do still have my dog tags. Two sets, actually. JW

I think they’re in the back of a drawer somewhere. JW

No cases of schizophrenia in the army. Did a bit of work with patients during med school though. JW

I need to warn Lestrade about ‘me’ as a subject between the two of you. He’ll get an earful. JW

But I’m glad you can ‘tolerate’ him. JW

I played rugby a long time ago. JW

I’m not giving you Codeine. JW

I hope you’re not burning yourself in the pursuit of this study. JW

I saw you in the library today. JW

John had just sent the last text as he was packing up for the day. It was a bit late; normally he left campus after his last lecture, but had stayed to mark some papers and catch up on a few upcoming lesson plans and the ever-looming midterm that was scheduled in about a month.

To his surprise (and repressed delight), he received an immediate text back:


Oh? SH

Yeah. JW

I was just returning a few slides. JW

You seemed engrossed in whatever book you were reading. JW

About Criminals: A View of the Offender’s World by Mark Pogrebin. SH

Any good? JW

Adequate. SH

You should have come over. SH

I didn’t want to disturb you. JW

You’re so focused when you read. JW

I was afraid I’d get my arm chewed off if I disrupted a genius-at-work. JW

I miss you. SH

[no reply]

Disregard that last text. SH

[no reply]

I wasn’t intending to hit send. SH

[no reply]

Apologies. SH

No need for an apology. JW

You… miss me? JW

It’s not like I’m absent from you, though. We’re communicating. JW

Perhaps you can understand then, why it wasn’t my intention to send that text. SH

I don’t mean ‘miss’ in a literal sense. As I am quite aware we’ve been texting steadily for the past two weeks. SH

I miss personal interactions with you; hearing the inflections in your voice, reading the look and emotions on your face, and hearing you giggle at some of the things I say. SH

Out of curiosity… JW

How many texts do you write to me that you never end up sending? JW

[no reply]

Sherlock? JW

At least three a day. SH

[no reply]

Not good? SH

What are you doing tonight? JW

Skimming through Professor Dimmock’s assigned readings from The Future of Socialism. SH

Boring. SH

Right. JW

Well maybe once you’re finished… you can come by. JW

…Really? SH

Though you might fancy a cuppa. JW

I can arrive at nine o’clock. SH

Alright. JW

See you then. JW

John hesitated before pocketing his mobile. He’d felt a sudden, unexpected protective surge toward Sherlock when he’d admitted that he ‘missed’ him. It had caught him off guard. The young man was usually so guarded and calculating. He was also intrigued (beyond belief) by the texts Sherlock didn’t send him; the ones he reconsidered, or had no intention of allowing John to see. He could only imagine they were in the same category as the ‘miss-you’ text. Secretly vulnerable and apprehensive.

“So…” John muttered to himself, “…tea, then.”

Sherlock had done well at listening to, and following, the rules John had set out. It had been nearly a month since the confrontation in his flat after the 'aphrodisiac' incident. And to be fair, he did feel as if he knew Sherlock Holmes a bit better. He felt like he could call him a friend. Perhaps it was time to give him another chance.

‘I must be mad.’ He thought. An affectionate, fond smile found it’s way to his lips as he gathered up his things, and left his office. He had to change, tidy up his flat a bit… and put the kettle on for his company.