Title: Don’t call me Bill. Or William. Or any other version of the name.
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: c7200
Warnings/Tags: Childhood and teenage bullying and taunting. Unpleasant experience in an asylum. Separation. Pining. Back together again. Romance. First kiss. Positive ending (bring your own confetti). Also there's a bit of whump (but not at the same time as the confetti)
Summary: Five times Sherlock hated his name, and one time when he didn’t. William Sherlock Scott Holmes’ relationship with – and dislike of – his own name throughout the years.
The ten year old boy cringed as the sing-song taunt rang out across the playground.
“Silly Billy Willy!”
He looked around for an escape route but the kids in Mark Anderson’s gang had already penned him in and now they all took up the chant as they closed in on him. Other kids joined in and soon most of the playground was staring at the boy and singing the mantra while he stood with his back against the wall and his hands pressed against his ears.
After a minute the teachers arrived and dispersed the crowd, sending them back to their classrooms. Mr Davies walked over to the boy and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. The boy stared defiantly at him, his eyes bright with unshed tears.
“I don’t know,” the teacher sighed. “Why is always you who needs rescuing?”
“It’s not my fault,” the boy protested.
“No, it’s not,” Mr Davies said, “but somehow the idiots always seem to pick on smarter kids like you.” He smiled at the boy. “Do you know the best way to beat them? Ignore them. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts you when they’re nasty, just ignore them. Pretend they’re not there. They can’t enjoy themselves if they don’t get a reaction. And ...” he leaned closer and lowered his voice, “... always be better than them in the classroom. It might not win you any new friends, but I promise you, it’ll be worth it in the end. Trust me.”
He straightened up and looked down at his pupil. “I have high hopes for you, young man,” he told him. “A glittering career. I’ll be keeping my eye on you, William Holmes.”
When Mrs Holmes came in from the garden later that afternoon, she found that her son had returned from school and was sitting on the floor of the sitting room with his dog, his head buried in Redbeard’s fur in an attempt to hide his tears.
“Oh, darling,” she said, sinking down to put her arms around him. “What’s the matter?”
“Boys at school are horrible to me,” he sniffled. “Mr Davies says I’ve got to ignore them because I’m smarter than them, but they’re really horrid.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” she said gently. “Mr Davies is right. They’re jealous because you’re cleverer than they are. We’ve talked about this before, remember? They’re not worth getting upset about. They’re just nasty little boys, Bill.”
“Don’t call me Bill!” he yelled, shaking off her embrace.
“All right,” she said mildly, sitting back on her heels. “William, then.”
“I hate my name,” he grumbled.
“Well, that’s the name you were given,” she said. “Granddad William was very dear to your father, and that’s why we chose to honour him by naming you after him.”
“But it’s a horrible name!” he burst out.
“It isn’t horrible,” she said. “It’s a very powerful name. It means ‘strong willed’ and ‘warrior’ and ‘protector.’ You can use all sorts of variants of the name, too – William, Billy, even Liam.”
“I hate all of them,” the boy said tetchily.
She did her best to cheer up her son but knew that when he was in a mood, there was little she could do to make him feel better and eventually he stomped off upstairs to sulk in his bedroom, taking the ever-faithful Redbeard with him for company.
“Go away,” he said later when his brother opened the bedroom door and walked in without awaiting an invitation.
“What are you going to do about the boys at school?” Mycroft asked, sitting down on the end of the bed and idly stroking Redbeard’s head.
“I know what to do about the boys at school. Mummy’s told me, Mr Davies has told me. I don’t need your help, Myc.”
“‘Mycroft,’ if you please. I don’t call you ‘Bill,’ do I?”
The younger brother pouted. “I don’t want to be called any version of the name. I hate it. I really hate it. I wish I had a different name.”
“You can change it if you really want to,” Mycroft told him. “And simply sulking isn’t going to help, is it? So, what are you going to do about it? Think about the matter calmly, then make a decision.”
“You’re welcome,” Mycroft replied coolly. He stood up and walked to the door, then turned back and looked at his little brother. “If you want me to help you work through the problem, you know where I am, but you should try to solve it on your own if you can.”
The boy turned his back on him, curling into a ball on the bed and somehow radiating self-pity and petulance. Mycroft smiled. He knew it wouldn’t be long before the boy’s brain would start racing. If past incidences were anything to go by, he would probably have resolved the problem by bedtime.
At dinner that evening, once the family had finished their meal, William stood up and said that he had something to tell everyone.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” he continued. “I’m sorry, Daddy; I know you gave me your dad’s name, and I bet he was ever so good at having that name but I don’t like being called William. I don’t think it suits me, and it makes me feel bad.”
His father looked at him without surprise. Apparently either Mummy or Mycroft had already warned him that something like this might happen.
“We just want you to be happy, Wi... I mean, son,” he said. “So, what do you want to do?”
William looked down nervously. He glanced sideways at his brother, who nodded encouragingly to him. William took a deep breath and raised his head again to look at his family.
“From now on,” he said, “I want you all to call me Sherlock.”
“What sort of a name is Sherlock?!”
“Asks the man called Crispin,” Sherlock snapped.
“There are other people called Crispin,” replied the young man so named, “but I’ve never heard your name before.”
“Do you know that your name means ‘curly haired’?” Sherlock asked. “Mine means ‘short or shorn hair’ – Sher-lock – or ‘bright hair’.”
He hoped that the similarity of the meaning of their names might deflect any further disdain. A serious illness in his family had prevented him from starting at the university at the beginning of the academic year and, while he had been given special dispensation to study at home for the first three weeks of term, when he arrived at the campus and was taken to his accommodation, it was immediately clear that the three students who shared the room had already built a friendship and resented his intrusion into their little clique. Not that Sherlock wanted or needed their friendship, but he’d had enough of being the outsider at school and had hoped that university life would be a little more tolerable.
It wasn’t to be. Crispin and his roommates, Matt and Stuart, made no effort to incorporate Sherlock into their social circle and continued either to treat him like an interloper or simply ignored him, depending on their mood. Mostly they behaved as if he wasn’t there, chatting and laughing loudly, inviting other friends into the shared accommodation, holding late-night parties and sneering at any of Sherlock’s requests for some quiet so that he could work. Going elsewhere wasn’t always convenient, especially if Sherlock wanted to study late into the night when the library and all common areas of the campus were locked up, and two days after he bought headphones to try and block the noise, they disappeared from his bedside drawer while he was out.
Matters weren’t made any easier when, six weeks later, the results of the first exam of the term were posted on the noticeboard, showing that Sherlock had achieved a much higher percentage score than the other three.
“You weren’t even here for the first month!” Matt protested. “How did you get such high marks?”
“I simply studied,” Sherlock said quietly.
“You’re such a geek,” Crispin snorted.
Then Stuart did a dramatic double-take and pointed at the list. “Hold on ... look at his initials!”
Sherlock closed his eyes while the rabble stared at the full entry which read ‘HOLMES, W.S.S.’
“You mean Sherlock isn’t your first name?” Crispin asked incredulously. “Jesus – how bad must your first name be?!”
“Wilberforce,” Matt suggested.
“Or Winston,” Crispin offered.
“Wally, more like!” snorted Stuart.
“Are you all twelve years old?” Sherlock demanded as the others dissolved into giggles.
“Go on then,” Matt invited. “What is your real name?”
“Sherlock is my real name. Just because I choose not to go by my first name, it doesn’t make the name I have chosen any less my ‘real name.’ Grow up, Matthew.”
But apparently Matthew was incapable of growing up, and neither were his cronies. They pestered him endlessly to tell them what the other two initials stood for and it took less than a fortnight for them to find out – how, Sherlock never learned – what his full name was. From then on they only called him Bill or Billy apart from the occasions when they found it particularly hilarious to address him as Billy-Scott in an affected southern American drawl.
When their taunting, constant rowdy behaviour and loud music began to affect his ability to study – and after the university had ignored his request to move to different quarters – Sherlock took action. The university received an anonymous tip-off, and a subsequent unannounced spot-check of all accommodation found copies of a forthcoming exam hidden in Sherlock’s roommates’ wardrobes. After various investigatory meetings during which all four of them were repeatedly interviewed – and because the exam was on a subject which Sherlock wasn’t studying – he was deemed innocent of any knowledge of wrong-doing. The fact that he had been regularly and publicly ostracised by the other three actually helped his case. Matt, Stuart and Crispin were kicked off their courses and sent home.
For an encore, two nights after their departure Sherlock picked the lock of the university’s admissions office and hacked into the computer to change his records. From then on, all results sheets showed him simply as ‘HOLMES, S.’ The name was fairly easy to find: it was always very near the top of the sheet.
Before the Fall
“Sherlock, what the hell have you done to the top of the sheets? I can’t find a single one that doesn’t have black stains on the top part and ... bloody hell!”
John, who had begun his rant partway down the stairs after discovering the state of the bedding in the airing cupboard outside his bedroom, stumbled to a halt – both physically and verbally – in the doorway to the living room.
Sherlock didn’t even turn his head, continuing to look at himself in the mirror over the fireplace. “Surprise,” he said calmly.
John lowered his head in disbelief, took a few calming breaths and then looked across at his almost unrecognisable flatmate. His hair was dyed a dark blond and had been straightened and scraped back into a very short ponytail. He had a convincing-looking scar on his left cheek and an equally convincing healing cut over the middle of his top lip, and from the shape of his face it seemed that he was wearing cheek implants. He was dressed in scruffy black jeans and a baggy white T-shirt, and had John Lennon-style glasses perched on his nose.
“Going into hiding to avoid Mrs Hudson’s wrath, are you?” John asked tightly.
“What? No,” Sherlock said dismissively, then gestured to himself. “This has nothing to do with the sheets. I’ll explain about them later. And they’re perfectly clean – they’re just a little ...”
“Disgusting?” John asked.
“They’re clean,” Sherlock insisted. “I put them through the washing machine twice and added antibacterial cleanser as well as detergent. The stains didn’t come out like I hoped they would, but they’re still usable.”
John clenched his left hand to control the impending tremor.
“So you ruined the sheets ...” he held up his right hand to shut Sherlock up before he could contradict him, “... you ruined the sheets, put them in the airing cupboard in their current hideous-looking state, and then you did this ...” he pointed a finger at his flatmate, “... completely separately.”
His earlier calming breaths had already run their course, so he took a couple more.
“Explain, please,” he said in a tone which Sherlock recognised as his I’m-rapidly-running-out-of-patience-and-by-God-Sherlock-this-had-better-be-good-or-there-will-be-broken-crockery-before-tea voice.
“I would have thought it was obvious,” Sherlock said airily, while calculating three different escape routes from the flat in case John finally lost it, one of which involved diving head first into the unlit fireplace and shinning up the chimney. “I’m going undercover.”
John stepped closer and peered into Sherlock’s eyes. “Are you wearing contacts?” he asked, then answered himself before Sherlock had a chance to make a snide comment. “Obviously,” he mumbled, adding, “Blimey. Brown eyes look even odder on you than the hair.”
His eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“You’re going somewhere dangerous, aren’t you?” he deduced. “If you’ve got to look that unrecognisable, you’re going somewhere where they know who you are, and that means you’ve caused trouble for them before and so they’ll kick your head in if they recognise you. I’m coming with you.”
“No you’re not,” Sherlock answered. “I have to go there today, and there’s not enough time to get you a new look, let alone a new I.D.” He took a fake driving licence from his wallet and handed it to John, who looked at it with surprise.
“Scott Williams,” he read. “What sort of name is that?!”
“What’s wrong with it?” Sherlock asked defensively.
“Well, nothing ...” John cleared his throat, “... nothing. It’s just, you don’t look like a ‘Scott.’ How did you end up with that name? William Scott would have been better, or maybe Bill Scott?”
“No,” Sherlock replied tightly.
“Well, okay, but ‘Scott’ is just not you ... and ... Hang on, isn’t Scott Williams a rugby player?”
“How would I know?” Sherlock asked irritably, then looked a little concerned and asked, “Is he very famous?”
“I think he plays for Wales,” John said. “Greg would know. But anyway, I don’t think he’s, like, Jonny Wilkinson-famous.”
“Who?” Sherlock asked.
“Never mind,” John said with a sigh. “But you should still let me come with you. You need to have back-up in case things go wrong.”
“There isn’t time,” Sherlock insisted again. “And even if there was, I wouldn’t take you with me. My false identify has to hold, or we’ll both be in trouble.” He glanced at his friend’s reflection in the mirror. “I know you mean well, but you’re not a good actor. You can’t guarantee that you’ll remember to use my new name.”
“I’m not that much of an idiot,” John protested. “And ‘Scott’ isn’t that difficult a name to remember, especially now I’ve got the association with the rugby player.”
“Oh really?” Sherlock said, and spun around from the mirror, took John’s face in his hands and kissed him deeply.
For a long moment John let it happen, then he pulled away and stared at his friend in shock. “Jesus, Sherlock ...” he began, then realisation dawned and his face fell.
“I rest my case,” Sherlock said, turning back to the mirror. “I’m sorry, John, but you’re really not good at keeping in character when you’re surprised without warning. If anything unexpected or dangerous should happen, you’re likely to blurt out my real name, and if we’re revealed to be using fake identities, and especially if anyone recognises my name, we’ll both be at risk.”
He picked up the leather jacket which was part of his new look and headed towards the door, turning back to give John an attempt at a reassuring smile. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “Back before you know it.”
He left the room and trotted down the stairs, three thoughts prominent in his mind. Firstly he was wondering why he had used a variant of his own name for his fake I.D. Up until now he had neither liked nor disliked his second middle name but after today, he would probably always associate ‘Scott’ with the instinctive action he had taken to prove to John that he couldn’t accompany him on this case.
Secondly, he was trying very hard not to notice that he was memorising and cataloguing the soft feel of John’s lips against his own.
And thirdly he was trying to pretend that just as he had turned to leave the room, he hadn’t seen John lift his hand to his lips with a puzzled look on his face. Sherlock thought that by the time he got home, John would have had time to process and think through the incident and deem it inappropriate and distasteful. And from now on ‘Scott’ was going to be just as hateful a name to Sherlock as ‘William’ because unless he was very lucky indeed, such an incident was unlikely ever to happen again.
Neither of them spoke about it when Sherlock returned home safely several hours later. Then again, neither of them knew that they only had four months before they would be torn apart for over two years.
After the Fall
Sherlock had torn apart a large section of Moriarty’s empire since his faked suicide nearly a year ago, but it had been a big mistake allowing himself to be locked in this asylum. He hadn’t had a problem getting himself committed to this institution in Poland and had thought that he would escape after a few days, during which time he would have finished his investigation into the local drug trafficking ring and learned which one of the asylum’s staff was running it and whether – as Sherlock suspected – he or she was part of Moriarty’s crumbling network.
Unfortunately he hadn’t anticipated just how heavily he would be sedated from the outset, and he hadn’t been able to move from his bed for the entirety of his incarceration. Orderlies brought him food three times a day but simply left the tray on the bedside table, then took it away later without apparently caring that the food had been untouched. However, every few days he was dragged into a sitting position on the bed and force-fed, but only very occasionally did anybody clean him up despite the fact that he was so weak that he hadn’t even been able to get off the bed to wash or to use the toilet.
He had been alone in this ... ‘room’ was too generous a word; it was definitely more worthy of the name ‘cell’ ... for the duration and he had lost track of time long ago. It felt like he’d been there at least a couple of weeks, but it could be longer. He hoped that eventually his sedatives would be reduced and he would be scheduled for some form of treatment or counselling which would get him into other parts of the building, although from the way he’d been treated so far he wasn’t sure whether it would give him a better opportunity to get away.
The cell door noisily banged open. Sherlock wearily cracked open one eye and squinted at the uniformed orderly who entered the room and slammed the door behind him.
“Look at you, you disgusting maggot!” spat the man in Polish. “What kind of person are you, lying there in your own piss? Get up, you filthy louse!”
Having neither the energy nor the inclination to answer, Sherlock let his eye drift closed again. The orderly walked over and shook the bed violently before lifting a clipboard from its pin on the wall.
“William Scott,” he read aloud in his strong accent, then continued, still in Polish. “Are you American? English?”
He shook the bed again when Sherlock didn’t reply. “Do you speak Polish?” he demanded. “Do you understand me?”
When Sherlock still didn’t respond, the orderly leaned down, grabbed him under the arms and hauled him off the bed and stood him up. Sherlock struggled to support his own weight but his legs were stupidly numb and he couldn’t even keep his head up. The orderly grimaced and released him, and Sherlock’s knees buckled and he crumpled to the floor. The man glanced up at the closed circuit camera in the corner of the room, then looked back down at Sherlock and kicked him.
“Get up, maggot,” he demanded. “If you don’t get up and get over to that sink for a wash, I’ll drag you to the showers.” His voice became more threatening. “And you don’t want me to take you to the showers, believe me. Get up.”
Sherlock tried, but he hadn’t even managed to wobble up onto his hands and knees before the orderly swore, hauled him upright and then dumped him face down on the bed.
“Listen to me,” he said threateningly. “Let me tell you exactly what will happen to you if you don’t do as you’re told.”
He leaned over and put his face close to Sherlock’s face, grabbing a handful of his hair and pulling hard to lift his head. Sherlock groaned.
“Oh, now you feel something,” the orderly purred. “Well, you’ll feel a lot more pain if I have to take you to the showers. Let me tell you ...”
He lowered his voice, moving his mouth close to Sherlock’s ear.
“Lieutenant Colonel Quentin Fairchild, SAS,” he murmured in English, his lips barely moving. “Sent here by MI6 to extract you. If you understand me and will co-operate fully with me, slap the floor with your left hand when I dump you back down there.”
Immediately he released Sherlock’s hair, then picked him up and dropped him back onto the floor. “Now do you understand, maggot?” he demanded in Polish.
It took a herculean amount of effort, but Sherlock finally managed to lift his left hand a few inches before letting it flop back to the floor.
He had little recollection of their escape, and neither were the following days much more than a vague memory. Colonel Fairchild took him to what Sherlock assumed was an MI6 safe house, cleaned him up and tended to his needs while he went through the agony of withdrawal from the strong sedatives. If he had been more alert, Sherlock would have found it both uncomfortable and humiliating to be closely manhandled by a stranger who regularly washed him, treated and dressed the bedsores he had developed in the institution through lying on a wet bed, fed him, and helped him to the bathroom as well as quietly and efficiently cleaning up the bed when Sherlock didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. However, the colonel was respectful and gentle with him, repeatedly reassuring him that he would feel better soon, and always calling him “Mr Scott.” Clearly he hadn’t been told Sherlock’s true identity, and at that time Sherlock didn’t have the strength or the inclination to correct him.
It was five or six days before Sherlock began to feel more like himself. He was still stupidly weak and slept most of the time but one morning when he woke he found himself using his observational skills for the first time while he watched Colonel Fairchild who was sitting nearby reading a Polish newspaper. Slightly distracted by the realisation that the colonel was moving his lips very slightly, like John did when he was concentrating on a complicated medical or police report, Sherlock forced himself to focus on the small scar near the man’s right ear, also noticing that his cheekbone was a slightly different shape to the other one.
Cheek broken in the past? he thought to himself. Possible zygomatic replacement?
He also recalled the colonel’s stance on recent occasions when he had been lifting him off the bed. Past damage to chest and/or abdomen, he deduced. Major surgery was likely required. Gunshot wounds, or more likely a severe beating. As an SAS officer, the latter a distinct possibility. May have been captured and tortured during interrogation.
He let out a quiet sigh. The colonel noticed that he was awake and lowered his paper. “Good morning, Mr Scott,” he said. “You’re looking brighter today. How do you feel?”
Sherlock wondered – not for the first time – why he had chosen to call himself William Scott instead of picking a different name altogether. He tried not to consider that it had been a kind of punishment to himself, selecting his least favourite names as retribution for causing so much grief to John. He had thought a lot about John over the last couple of days as his mind began to clear. It hadn’t helped that Colonel Fairchild not only was a military man but had short blond hair and blue eyes and a kindly and sympathetic smile when he assisted Sherlock with his daily needs.
“A little stronger,” Sherlock said in response to the colonel’s question.
“Good,” Fairchild said. “How about some breakfast? I can offer coffee, poached eggs and toast.” He grimaced. “Personally I’d kill for a decent cup of tea, but the tea here is undrinkable.”
“Coffee and toast will be fine,” Sherlock said, pushing himself up into a sitting position. “Thank you, Colonel.”
“Coming up,” said Fairchild, walking across to the kitchen area to fill the kettle. “By the way,” he said over his shoulder, “we should be able to get you out of here fairly soon. As soon as you’re strong enough for the journey, we’ll leave. At your current rate of recovery, I reckon a couple more days should do it. Three or four max.”
“Understood,” Sherlock said.
“After breakfast I’d like to start some physical therapy with you to help you regain your strength,” Fairchild told him. “It’s boring but necessary, and it’ll help pass the time.”
Sherlock nodded. The colonel rummaged in the fridge and took out some sliced bread and a carton of milk before turning back to Sherlock.
“And if you like, you can talk to me about John?” he suggested.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Fairchild shrugged.
“You called me John, or called for John – I couldn’t tell which – a few times while you were still delirious,” he said. “Friend of yours?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said shortly. “Someone I knew at home. I don’t want to talk about him.”
“Not a problem,” Fairchild replied easily. “I’m not prying – just making conversation.”
Sherlock looked away, searching for something to distract the colonel and change the subject. “Is it safe to open a window?” he asked. “I’d like some fresh air. I’ve been indoors for far too long.”
“The back garden isn’t overlooked if you want to go outside,” Fairchild said. He looked towards the window, licking his lips while he gave more thought to the option. “It’ll be safe enough – we can have breakfast out there as long as it doesn’t get too cold.”
He walked across to the sofa bed, holding out a hand ready to help Sherlock to his feet. “Come on then, Bill, let’s get you washed and dressed, shall we?”
“Don’t call me Bill,” Sherlock said hoarsely.
“Okay,” Fairchild said. “What’s your preferred name?”
Sherlock opened his mouth, then hesitated. There was no need to keep his real identity from the colonel, who must have the highest level of security clearance and who had probably not been told who he was rescuing only in case he himself was captured during the extraction attempt. However, even now something was stopping Sherlock from assuming his proper name. It was as if he didn’t deserve to be Sherlock Holmes right now.
Mistaking the reason for the hesitation, the colonel told him, “We can keep it formal if you prefer, but personally I’m getting bored of saying ‘Mr Scott’ all the time.” He quirked a grin. “And you don’t have to call me ‘Colonel’ either. My name is Quentin.”
“... Will,” Sherlock said after a few seconds. “Call me Will.”
“William Sherlock Scott Holmes.”
“Sorry?” John asked.
“That’s the whole of it,” Sherlock said, trying to keep his tone light, “if you’re looking for baby names.”
He knew he couldn’t – and wouldn’t – tell John the real reason why he had been released to go on this mission instead of remaining incarcerated in solitary confinement for his own protection. He understood and even appreciated Mycroft’s realisation that prison would destroy his sanity within the first couple of months and that this mission, potentially fatal as it was, would be a better way to end. And under no circumstances would he let John know that; not right now, not when this was probably the last time he would ever see him.
He tried to be nonchalant about the mission and how long it would last but then John asked what would happen afterwards. Sherlock hadn’t been ready for that question and when he tried to shrug it off with a casual “Who knows?” he instantly realised his mistake. John thought that Sherlock was rejecting him again – going off on an exciting adventure where John couldn’t join him. They still hadn’t talked about what happened to Sherlock during his two years away; even though John had seen some of his new scars, Sherlock hadn’t been ready to talk in detail about how he had acquired them and so had changed or diverted the conversation every time John tried to raise the subject. And now Sherlock was again refusing to be honest with him, and John seemed to be taking it as yet another offhand rejection.
Sherlock couldn’t stand the pain in John’s eyes and so he tried to lighten the mood by making a stupid joke about ‘Sherlock’ actually being a girl’s name. It made John giggle and that was all right, he didn’t want to hurt John any more, although he had a momentary thought that another ‘Sherlock’ in the world, and one who was named in his honour, was perhaps the least he deserved after the mission killed him. For the first time he had some empathy with his parents’ decision to name him in memory of his late grandfather. But the only way to ensure that the Watsons’ baby was named after him would be to tell John the truth, and Sherlock couldn’t bear to do that.
Shaking John’s hand for probably the last time nearly broke him. He turned and walked to the plane and climbed the steps, paying little attention to the captain when she welcomed him on board. After a moment’s calculation of the route the aeroplane would take to the runway, he deliberately sat on the right-hand side so that he wouldn’t have to see John on the tarmac; and it took a lot of determination not to dive immediately into the supplies which Wiggins had smuggled to him shortly after his release from prison.
Sitting with his right hand raised to his mouth and trying to pretend that he wasn’t burning the last scent and feel of his best friend into his Mind Palace, he wished that he could simultaneously burn his chosen name out of his brain. Right now he didn’t deserve to be Sherlock. He had never felt more like ‘William’ in his life.
And one time when Sherlock didn’t hate his name
“Don’t call me by that name,” Sherlock snapped.
“William ...” John started again.
“I mean it, John,” Sherlock insisted.
John pressed his lips together for a moment, then drew himself up and looked at Sherlock with determination.
“You’re going to shut up, and you’re going to listen,” he said, “and this conversation is going to be done my way, do you hear me?”
Sherlock resisted the urge to bolt from the flat and go far away in search of cigarettes, or something much stronger. John had been jittery for days but wouldn’t tell him what was on his mind, and Sherlock feared that he had decided to move out again, this time once and for all. For the past several minutes John had been trying to talk to him, saying that he had something important to say, and Sherlock had been repeatedly finding reasons to stop him from beginning the process which would tear his world apart. But now John had had enough and when Sherlock had tried once more to leave the room, John had stepped into his way, making it clear from his body language that he wasn’t going to be budged and then – to make matters even worse – had used that hateful name. Sherlock didn’t think he could cope with such cruelty from the man who meant more to him than anyone else in the world.
John was apparently waiting for a reply to his question but now seemed to realise that he wasn’t going to get one. Stubbornly he persevered.
“My way,” he repeated. “These are the most important words I will ever say to you. I’ve had to rehearse every word I want to say. I couldn’t risk doing it off the cuff because it’s going to change our lives in one way or another, and I don’t want to make a mess of it.” He pressed his lips together momentarily. “And because they’re the most important words, I need to use your full name. I’m sorry if that annoys you, but it matters to me.”
He lifted his chin and looked closely at Sherlock. “Can you tolerate it, just this once? Please?”
Sherlock tried to look bored. “Oh, get on with it,” he said, folding his arms over the rising sense of panic in his chest, and attempting to appear indifferent as he stared vacantly into the corner of the room while suppressing the urge to scream in anguish at the unfairness of the universe.
John cleared his throat.
“William Sherlock Scott Holmes,” he said slowly, carefully. “I’m in love with you.”
Sherlock’s eyes snapped round to meet his nervous gaze. John flinched at his startled expression but battled on.
“I’ve been in love with you for far longer than I realised,” he continued. “The two occasions when I lost you were the worst moments of my life. When you jumped off that roof, and when you walked away to get on that plane, both times I didn’t want to go on living but I was too bloody British to admit the real reason why I felt like my world had ended. And then when we found you unconscious on the plane, I thought for a moment that you were dead and that this time you were really dead, and I couldn’t deny how I felt any longer; but there was Mary, and there was the baby, and I couldn’t do anything about my feelings for you and I just had to suck it up, knowing that I’d left it all too late. And then the thing happened with Mary, and the baby isn’t mine and they’re out of my life and dammit Sherlock it’s long past the time when I should have stopped pretending that I’m not in love with you. I am in love with you, and I always will be. We don’t have to do anything about it. It’s totally up to you. You can tell me that you’re not in the least bit interested and then you can delete it; or you can just take it on board and hopefully cope with it; and you can tell me that you don’t feel the same, or you can tell me that you do feel the same but you don’t want anything physical, and that’s fine and we can just stay friends; or you can tell me you feel the same and that you’d like to see if we can take it further; but please please don’t let it change anything because I couldn’t stand it, and our friendship matters far more than anything else and I never want to leave you again, and I do love you but I’m your friend a whole lot more and that’s what matters more than anything else and I never want to leave your side, and really Sherlock I can take it if you don’t feel the same way, but I had to let you know everything.”
He ground to a halt and took a shuddering deep breath. “I’m done now,” he said, still holding Sherlock’s gaze. “Over to you.”
Considering what he had just heard, Sherlock’s response was – he felt – expressive, eloquent, enigmatic and many other words beginning with ‘e.’
“Oh,” he said.
John waited for a moment, then stared anxiously at him. “Sherlock, please for the love of God don’t go offline,” he begged. “I couldn’t stand it right now.”
Sherlock’s eyes came back into focus and he realised that he had been blinking frequently for the last few seconds. He pulled himself together and carefully cleared his throat.
“Did you, um, did you really compose and memorise all that?” he asked.
John smiled ruefully. “Not really. Well, yes, I did memorise a whole bloody speech, but I pretty much went off script after the first couple of lines.”
Sherlock swallowed. “Oh,” he said again. “So, you, um ...”
“... spoke from the heart, yes,” John said with a firm nod. He took a step closer. “And I mean every word. Nothing has to change if you don’t want it to. I love you, and I don’t want that to change anything, or spoil our friendship, or make you feel awkward. It is what it is, and we can carry on just like before and nothing has to change and we’ll just ...”
“I want to,” Sherlock blurted out.
John’s eyes widened a little. “You want to what?” he asked.
“I want to have more,” Sherlock said, forcing himself to keep looking into John’s eyes.
“More,” Sherlock confirmed.
“More than ...”
“More than just friends,” Sherlock said.
“How much more?” John asked, swallowing nervously.
“How much do you want to give?”
John tried to look stern. “This is a partnership,” he told him. “Nobody’s going to be setting the rules here.”
“I know,” Sherlock said, “but ... I don’t have much experience. You’ll need to teach me.”
“Teach ...” John let out an incredulous laugh. “Me teach you?! You do realise that I’ve never been in a relationship with a man before? I’ve got no more experience than you in this.”
“You have experience of love,” Sherlock said in a low voice. He couldn’t hold John’s gaze any longer and looked down at the floor.
“Idiot,” John said fondly. “You don’t need to have experience of love to feel it. It just happens. As for the physical side of it, we’ll work out together what we want, and don’t want, and we’ll learn from each other and teach each other and we’ll make compromises, and that’s what it’s all about, and oh Christ, Sherlock, are you sure you want to try this?”
“I’m willing to try,” Sherlock said. He raised his head and looked into John’s eyes. “I want to try.”
John’s joyful smile was beautiful, and Sherlock tried to keep his breathing under control as John took a step closer.
“Do you want to start now, or do you need time to take all this in?” John asked softly.
“Now,” Sherlock said, but he could hear the uncertainty in his voice.
“Sherlock ...” John began, clearly hearing the same doubtful tone.
“Now,” Sherlock said more firmly, lifting his head higher.
John looked at him closely, apparently judging whether he really was prepared for such a major step forward in their relationship. He seemed reassured by what he saw. “I’m going to hug you,” he told him. “You ready?”
Sherlock had never been more ready for anything in his life, but still his self-consciousness stopped him from surging forward like he really wanted to. He jerked his head down in an awkward nod, his eyes flickering to John’s and then shying away again. Thankfully, John seemed to understood that he needed to take the lead this time and he took a few more steps forward, lifted his arms slowly so that Sherlock could see and anticipate what he was going to do, then slid them around his neck and pulled him closer, laying his head on his shoulder. Sherlock froze for a moment but then lifted his hands and gently put them onto John’s waist.
The hug was tentative at first, the two of them standing too far apart and leaning forward uncomfortably, but then Sherlock let out a long breath, releasing all his fear and tension and dread and he stepped closer, wrapped his arms further around John’s waist and held him tight, their bodies pressed close and their eyes closed while they finally began to get to know the feel of one other. Sherlock fought back a sigh, or was it a sob, or a groan of utter relief at the sheer sense of rightness. For the first time since he had returned from Serbia, he genuinely felt as if he had come home.
After a very long time he pulled back a little, enough to look at John. “Tell me again,” he asked.
John chuckled. “I’m afraid I can’t remember the whole speech,” he said. “My brain seems to have gone offline, I can’t think why. But I remember the most important line. I’m in love with you.”
“No, tell me properly,” Sherlock told him, “like you did before, with my name.”
John smiled. “Sherlock ...” he began.
“No,” Sherlock said firmly. “All of it. The whole name. My whole name.”
“You sure?” John asked.
“I’m sure,” Sherlock said determinedly.
John gazed at him for a long moment, then smiled. “William ... Sherlock ... Scott ... Holmes,” he said, slowly and softly. “I am in love with you.”
Before Sherlock could respond, John leaned even closer and ghosted a kiss against his left cheek.
“William ...” he said even more softly, then carefully took Sherlock’s face in his hands and lightly kissed his right cheek. “Sherlock ...” He tilted Sherlock’s face down and feathered a kiss against his forehead. “Scott ...” He kissed the end of his nose. “Holmes ...” He pulled back just a little to gaze into his eyes. “I’m in love with you,” he told him again.
Sherlock opened his mouth but John shook his head. “Quiet, please,” he instructed. “Haven’t finished yet.”
Sherlock concentrated on locking his suddenly and stupidly wobbly knees while John moved closer again and kissed the side of his mouth.
“William ... Sherlock ... Scott ... Holmes,” he whispered, softly kissing a different area of Sherlock’s face and jaw before each name. “I’m in love with you.”
Once more he pulled back just a little, gently stroking his thumbs against Sherlock’s cheeks and smiling at him in wonder.
“William ...” he breathed one last time before ending all of their years of loneliness and denial and closing the gap to bring their lips together at last.
Sherlock had never loved his name more.
An extra bit.
The time when Sherlock loved his name more
“I, William Sherlock Scott Holmes, take you, John Hamish Watson, to be my lawful wedded husband ...”
All the years I’ve been writing Sherlock fanfic and I’ve never done a 5+1 before. Ah well, finally got there!
And even then, because I’m Ariane DeVere and can never do things properly, I had to break the rules of the 5+1 and put in an additional bit! Think of it as the DVD extra.
Quentin Fairchild is © squire who introduced him as an Original Character in Unrepentant, her fabulous re-imagining of Sherlock Season 3. Quentin was a marvellous invention: the role he played in her story should have caused her readers – especially the Johnlockers – to hate him but she wrote him so cleverly and sensitively that most readers at least tolerated his intrusion into the Baker Street world and a lot of them actively liked him; and I basically developed (and still have) a massive crush on him! So when I started to get some ideas for my story, it was a thrill when I realised that I could incorporate Quentin into it and keep him Unrepentant-canonical by basically writing a missing scene from that story.
Thank you, squire, for giving permission for Quentin to come out to play.