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Straightening out questionmarks to end up with new ones

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“Did you know that everyone at the Yard thinks you and Lestrade are sleeping together?”
Sherlock is lying on the couch, doing something with his phone while John is still sitting at the table with the remains of his breakfast and the morning paper.
He has contemplated this question for some time now but never really found the right moment to bring it up. He’s not sure why he’s even doing it now.
Sherlock has never cared what other people are saying about him. Inferior minds and all that. But John has found himself contemplating this rumour more frequently as of late and it has started to bother him. Both the fact that he has let it occupy his mind as often as it has but also because the thought of the rumour being true would not sit well with him for reasons he’s not totally comfortable investigating the reason for.

So what if Lestrade and Sherlock are sleeping together? Would that change anything? If they have been doing it the whole time he has known them then obviously it has not made any difference to his life, as he hasn’t even noticed it. But still…it would bother him.
The thought is insistently nagging away with an increasing demand that is becoming more consuming every day. It’s reminiscent of that time at year 9 in school when his best friend started going out with one of the more popular girls and he couldn’t just be happy for them, instead he became resentful and it took a long time for him to process this development. As he remembers it, those feelings stayed with him longer than the actual relationship lasted and probably came as a result from a feeling of jealousy. But that can’t be the case now, can it? Why would it bother him if Lestrade is having sex with Sherlock? And yet it does, and he can’t take it anymore. He at least needs to know if it’s true.

“Don’t you care what that is implying?” He tries to sound like this is something he’s thought of just now, mere curiosity, nothing else.
“No.” Sherlock’s being typically vague. He’s probably sensing John’s nosiness and is not willing to bait or he really isn’t interested. John’s having none of that.
“No? Why not?” he insists.
“Why should I care?”
“Well, because it implies that there’s more than professional interests behind your working relationship? It could be seen as advantageous that you’re sleeping with him to get access to crime scenes.”

Sherlock sighs but does not look up from his phone. He remains remarkably indifferent to the topic of the conversation.

“We are not sleeping together.”


Relief. Something lifts from the pit of Johns stomach but almost immediately transforms into a suspicious knot again. Because Sherlock is a habitual liar. And there is that time when John called Dimmock and Sherlock was suspiciously unavailable to come to the phone. A phone he is in the habit of always carrying with him wherever he goes. Glued to the palm of his hand more or less.
Could Dimmock have been covering for his colleague while Lestrade was busy with Sherlock? He never did get a satisfying answer from Sherlock himself. And then a case happened and they moved on. Except John didn’t move on and here he is, sniffing around the subject again. It feels intrusive, but he can’t help himself.

“I remember you saying you considered yourself married to your work once.”
“That still applies.”
“But if people are beginning to question your presence at crime scenes and believe it’s because you’re sexually involved with Lestrade, that might harm your future work together. It’s not like you’ve worked with that many other people at the Yard. Seems suspicious.”
“To you or to others?”
John pretends to focus on the morning paper in his hands. Apparently there’s an election in Brazil coming up soon. Fascinating…

He can feel Sherlock’s eyes on him now. All the more reason not to look at him, he might deduce something John’s not eager to share.
“Personally I don’t care if you’re sleeping with anyone…” (liar!)
“But,” he ventures on and turns the page as if all of this is truly irrelevant to him, “I think people like Donovan or Anderson for example could start spreading rumours and one day those rumours end up being heard by the wrong person. Like Lestrades superiors. That could put an end to you working with the Yard.”
“I doubt Donovan would put that much effort into spreading those rumours,” Sherlock drawls.
John snorts.
“She hates you.”
“Yes. But she’s not stupid enough to start rocking the boat she is sitting in herself.”

John lowers the paper and gives Sherlock an incredulous stare. The knot in his stomach tightens but his brain can’t make sense of what he’s hearing.
“What do you mean by that? What boat are you referring to?”
“The one you’re trying to put Lestrade in.”
Sherlock turns his attention back to the phone as if this whole conversation is beginning to bore him. But John is working himself up to new levels of irritation now. This has suddenly taken a turn he did not predict and he doesn’t like the creeping realisation of what Sherlock is saying.
“This makes no sense!”
He finds himself raising his voice, but Sherlock remains indifferent.
“She is only in it because of Lestrade,” he mutters, fingers still working on his phone. John explodes.
“Stop talking in riddles! Are you sleeping with Donovan? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
“Seems like it “
“But you hate her!”
Sherlock just shrugs in the face of John’s outburst.
“And as you so eloquently told me, she hates me, and yet… here we are.”
“But for god’s sake, why?”
“Like I said: Lestrade put her in that boat.”

John can’t believe what he’s hearing now. He’s given up all pretence of trying to look like this is just some casual topic sprung out of curiosity. His head is spinning from this shocking development. Donovan for God’s sake!
“What do you mean by that? That you’re sleeping with her because of Lestrade?”
“And again the question needs repeating: Why?!”
“Because Lestrade and I had sex once when I wasn't really...I didn't think…this was years ago…well, let’s just say I wasn’t at the top of my game that night. It gave him certain ideas. Although I’m not against the idea of sex with Lestrade per se, I’m not willing to risk our working relationship because of some misdirected lust he’s harbouring for my person. Ignoring his feelings has proven ineffective so I’m sending him a message by sleeping with people around him. Eventually he’ll get the point and move on.”
Instead of taking in the surprisingly bad idea Sherlock is presenting, John’s mind focuses on the one thing that puts yet another spin on the already mind-blowing information he’s getting.
“People? As in several of them?”
“I’ve only managed Donovan and Dimmock so far. There’s Hopkins and if I’m really desperate Anderson, but that’s a line I would preferably not cross if not absolutely necessary.” Sherlock’s nose wrinkles slightly in disgust at the thought.
“But why people he works with?”
Finally Sherlock turns his head to look at John. Unfortunately the look he's giving is the one he reserves for people who can’t see the, in his mind, very logical thinking he’s presenting them with.
“Who else would he get that information from? If I just slept with someone out of our working circle he would never find out about it. I thought Donovan would suffice but she’s proven to be surprisingly secretive about what we’re doing. Dimmock also seems to be more discreet than I gave him credit for, but I’ve not given up hope on him yet. If that fails, there’s always Hopkins.”

“But you could have just chosen me!”

John blurts it out without thinking, it just comes spontaneously. He regrets it the second it’s out of his mouth and the anger that had followed his outburst is being mixed with embarrassment now. He rises from the table and throws the paper down with force, making the cup and saucer rattle by the impact. He’s so worked up by confusing emotions that he doesn’t know how to proceed. Sherlock’s eyes are burning into him and he glares right back, trying to come up with something to take the meaning out of his words. Because they didn’t come out right. He would never…

“We share this flat together, and I didn’t want to risk our living arrangement for the sake of Lestrade’s stupid crush. The thought did occur to me, but I didn’t think…Well, I never thought…”
Sherlock is for once reduced to being speechless. It only lasts a moment though.
“Besides, I started this little plan before you came around. How was I supposed to know…”

He clears his throat and regains his composure while John remains standing by the table, still fuming, trying to process how this thing that he has kept supressed for so long is suddenly out in the open, being exposed from all kinds of different angles. He’s not sure he’s ready to face that just yet, even if he’s the one who started this whole conversation. But how was he supposed to know it was going to take this absurd direction? He was feebly prepared to face facts about Lestrade sleeping with Sherlock, but this? This is too much. It feels like he has exposed himself and his instinct is now to flee the scene.
In the background he’s vaguely aware that Sherlock is still speaking.

“…It seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time. Sure, I could have tried with you when things with Donovan didn’t produce any results, but it just seemed easier to go with Dimmock. If he had spurned my advances it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. If I had involved you in my plans, well…I wasn’t willing to risk ending up with a mess both at home and at work.”

Johns holds up his hands in a distancing motion and begins to back away. He can’t deal with this now. Sherlock looks like he’s about to say something more but then apparently decides against it and remains silent while John goes straight for his coat that hangs on the door, then continues out of the room, down the stairs.
Out on the street the cold takes a firm grip on him straight away and he automatically straightens his back and begins to walk briskly towards Regent’s Park.
He has a feeling that he’s just fucked things up spectacularly.