gracie_musica: Mystery Science Theater: 3000 (flimsy plot device)
[personal profile] gracie_musica
Title: Bitterness Is A Paralytic
Date Written: 3/23/11
Rating: PG-13/T
Word Count: 2,259
Fandom: BBC's Sherlock
Disclaimer: Not mine, property of their respective owners
Characters/Pairings: John Watson, Harry Watson/Clara, insinuated John/Sherlock
Spoilers: Slight for the series in the form of quotes as scene headers, mostly for episode 1
Warnings: Mentions of alcohol dependency/abuse
Author's Notes: I blame [profile] midassa_in_gold for getting me into BBC's Sherlock. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If you haven't seen/heard of it, here's why you should watch it: it's only 3 episodes long, and created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffet. Yeah, the guy who made Who awesome again.

So today's my birthday, and as a hobbit birthday present to my long-suffering f-list (I swear I'm still alive, guys), I bring you fic, in hopes that you won't sacrifice me to the literary gods for not writing lately. Thanks, as always, to my betas: [personal profile] totally4ryo, [profile] k8stamps and [personal profile] gingerlr.

Also, does anyone know any good Sherlock fic comms? My comm-fu is lacking at the moment.

Harry And Me Don't Get On, Never Have

Eight is a very difficult age for John Watson.

His sister Harriet is six, with big blue eyes and Shirley Temple curls and a lisp that the women in the neighborhood coo over and call adorable. He likes being her Big Brother, tries to be a good one to her like his parents keep drilling into his head.

But she's such a baby, that's the problem. She cries when she trips and skins her knees on the pavement, or wants to play Barbies and Action Men with him (because yes, even back then, John was playing with soldiers). That was fine when he was seven, but he's eight now. Eight-year-olds just don't play with their crybaby sisters.

Especially when said eight-year-olds have eight-year-old mates who make fun of them for being close to their baby sisters.

Because that is how it starts. It's how it always starts.

So he pushes her away. Not forcefully, not like many of the boys his age would have. Instead, John takes his mother's sarcasm and his father's no-nonsense tone and combines them into a crack, unsympathetic deadpan that stops his sister from going to him for comfort or companionship. It's all right, she has her mother and father and her own mates who want to play Barbie with her.

She likes Barbies more than Action Men, anyway.

Never See A Drunk's Without Them

Mrs. Watson is diagnosed with cancer when Harriet is twelve and John is fourteen and spends a good portion of that year too ill to do much more than sit in bed. While eight was difficult for John, twelve is difficult for his sister. Mr. Watson tries, God help him, he does, but Harriet, ultimately, needs her Mummy. And since the entire family has decided to not bother the lady of the house with anything past "What would you like for dinner?", Harriet's pretty much allowed to run wild.

She starts drinking at thirteen.

Children, you see, learn from their parents. Mr. Watson tirelessly cares for his sickly wife and children between work deadlines and household demands. He doesn't complain. He doesn't rage at the heavens -- or if he does, he doesn't do it with witnesses about -- or take his anger at the general unfairness of life out on the kids or on others, aside from the occasional slip-up. He doesn't yell. He doesn't lash out.

What he does do is come home, check on his family, start dinner if it's been a bad day, and then sit in a chair with the newspaper and a glass of whiskey.

Absolution in a bottle.

It looks like tea, or like dark honey, but the first mouthful burns terribly, fire down her throat and chest. She gags and barely makes it to the bathroom before vomiting it up again, petrol onto fire. Enough, however, gets into her stomach and lingers there, making her limbs tingle and her head spin.

The difference is this: Her father has the restraint to stop after one or two. Harriet throws herself into the fray with all the teenage youthful vigor she can muster.

Bit Not Good, Yeah

John's got two weeks until he leaves for uni when Harriet runs into the law for the first time. She'd been out with some friends, sneaking into clubs with a fake ID. After a few drinks she picked a fight with a much-older girl, resulting in her ejection from said club and the police being called in. The PC who'd picked her up was young and soft-hearted and had decided to let her off with a warning if she promised to never do anything like that until she was of age. And she'd had to call her brother.

He picks her up from the station, concern and big brotherly disappointment rolling off him in waves strong enough that she can sense them even in her inebriated state. They take a taxi home, neither one of them speaking to each other. John's getting more and more frustrated as the drive wears on, before finally he can't keep his mouth closed anymore.

"You are lucky as hell, you know that? You could have been arrested. Do you ever just -- bloody think, Harriet?"

"It's Harry," she counters.

"And this is you coming out too, then?"

"Like you fucking care." The petulance is a brave front for the deep-down terror she feels that their parents will catch her out, will turn her out.

John doesn't speak again until the cabbie turns onto their street. "You know what? You're right. I don't care." Harry turns to look at him in surprise, but he's not looking at her; instead, he's watching the meter run up over the driver's shoulder. "I don't care what you do, or who you do. You are old enough to screw up yourself, and that means that you are no longer my responsibility. And stop making that face," he adds, not looking over at her. "I'm not going to tell them."

"About me being a lesbian, or about the drinking?"


(years later, in yet another round of family therapy, both John and Harry come to the realization that this was the tipping point, the place where the problem could have been cut off at the knees. she blames John for months for not being responsible before realizing that he only did what he thought was best, what he thought would help, that she has only herself to blame)

Maybe You Liked His Wife

Harry meets Clara through John. She's a receptionist at St Bart's. The first time they have a conversation, John tries to ask her out; Clara responds with, "Sorry, love. Now, if you've got a sister...?"

He does.

Clara has the patience of a saint, and the self-sacrificing love of one to boot. She begs Harry into two rounds of rehab. Harry walks out when Clara threatens to leave her if she doesn't go in for a third.

Best to cut before being cut.

Besides, everyone had always told Harry that Clara was too good for her.

You Know How It Always Upset Mummy

Once upon a time, Harry was a happy drunk. Loud, outgoing. The generally obnoxious life of the party. Over time, she's become brooding, introspective, moody when she drinks.

Tonight, she's just mean.

"This is all your fault."

John stops dead in his tracks. "What?" he finally manages to say, after a few false starts.

"Your. Fault," Harry repeats, waving her hands about. The wine in the glass she's holding sloshes all over the counter.

John wrinkles his nose. "You're drunk," he tells her before turning away, dismissing her.

"She's dead because of you."

"She's dead because she had cancer for years, and it got into her lymph nodes," John corrects.

"You could have saved her!"

John purses his lips and shakes his head.

(deep down, it's something they both desperately want to believe, that a brilliant medical mind could have saved their Mummy; and they don't want it to be true because then it means that Big Brother John failed on a massive fucking level)

Harry slams her hands down in drunken frustration, and the stem breaks off in her hand. Both Watson siblings swear as bright red dribbles from between Harry's fingers and onto the bleached white tile of the kitchen island. John's by her side in an instant, setting the glass aside and dabbing away the blood to get a proper look at her cut.

But Harry's drunk and mean, and the anger and the booze mean she doesn't quite feel the pain yet. Not the physical pain, at least. They scrabble like children over her injury, and John ends up with bright red blood smeared across his starched white shirt. Harry's dark suit hides the blood on her clothes better.

"Fine," he says with finality. "Get an infection. I don't care anymore. I'm tired of caring."

He leaves for Afghanistan three days later. The next time she has any interaction with him is when he's back home in the hospital, still recovering from his injury.

Neither of them bring up the funeral.

You Heard Me Perfectly, I'm Not Saying It Again

"John, you've been quiet," the therapist notes. "Is there anything you'd like to say?"

Another intervention. This one's the fourth, and the standard cast of characters is there: John the stoic brother and their father; Saint Clara, wanting to patch things up again; Eric and Stephanie, the only two childhood friends she hasn't run off over the years; the cookie-cutter intervention therapist, different people but that same sickening I care about you because it's my JOB to care about you aura while they continue to be completely impersonal. This one only calls her Harriet, the snobby bitch. The one before her called her Harry, at least.

"Not really," her brother replies.

"John," Mr. Watson admonishes.

"I don't care," John insists. "She doesn't care what she's doing to herself, so why should I?"

The therapist tips her head to the side. "So why are you here?"

"Because Dad told me I had to come."

Harry's twitchy by now. She's at one of her lows, when she can't go more than a few hours without a drink. They've been at it for two hours. She wants an out, and John's just given her one. Pick a fight, storm out of the room. Find a bottle. "See? John hates me. He doesn't care if I live or die."

"Now Harriet, that's not true -- " the therapist starts.

It's John who cuts the woman off. "Her name is Harry."


"Her name? It's Harry," he repeats. "Use it."

While the therapist sits in stunned silence, John leans in towards his sister. "Do not act like you know what I'm thinking. There is only one other person who ever reads my mind."

"Oh, your precious Sherlock," she sneers. "I'm so glad you could get out of his arse long enough to roll in for this little pep talk."

"We're not -- " John shakes his head. Damn, he sees through her ruse, baiting him with his sexuality. Why does he have to be one of the rare, secure, heterosexual males? "I don't hate you."

"You've said you don't care countless times."

He ignores her comment. It's true and he can't refute it. "Do you know what I hate? 'Cause I'll tell you." He starts ticking them off his fingers. "I hate that you stressed our parents out at a time when they didn't need it. I hate that I've been cleaning up after your shite since we were both teenagers and have only gotten shite out of it. I hate that you were drunk at Mum's funeral."

"I wasn't -- "

"You were, Harry." Clara leans overs to touch his shoulder, but he brushes her off. "No, you all want me to talk about how I feel, so you will shut up and listen," he tells her before focusing all his attention on Harry again. "I hate that all of my good memories of you -- and I actually have some, Harry, although they're few and far between -- are overshadowed by the horrible ones. I hate that everyone has had to walk on eggshells for years around you, about the good things and the bad things, for fear of how you'd react. I hate that you have thrown away good thing after good thing and wasted most of your life away."

He sighs and rubs at his face. When he pulls his hands away, he looks... old. Tired of her bullshit. "I hate that I know, in graphic detail, what all this is doing to your body. I hate that I also know that I can take you down into the morgue right now and show you someone who drank themselves to death from the inside out and you would just go across the street to the pub. I hate that."

He sighs again and shakes his head. "And what I hate the most is that despite everything? Everything, Harry? I can't hate you. I can't -- Jesus." He turns his hands out, giving up. "You're my baby sister. Of course I fucking care. You're the only one in this room who doesn't."

Love Is A Much More Vicious Motivator

"I'm sorry."

Next to Harry, John flexes his left hand, but doesn't say anything.

"I am," she insists. "Sorry."

He doesn't say anything in response. For one terrifying moment, she thinks that he's going to leave her standing alone at their mother's grave.

He wouldn't, would he?

Finally he speaks. "Which one of us are you talking to?"

"Both of you."

John closes his eyes and bows his head. Shame and the clarity of sobriety make her ache for the release of the bottle, but she won't do that anymore, she can't do that.

"Do you care now?"

"Yes." Has for four months now. Just a little, and a little more each day. But that's enough for now.

He nods before lapsing into silence again, still not looking over at her. Harry reaches out for him, then hesitates. He still cares, right? He said he did. He has to.

The last time they held hands, they were tiny. She can barely remember it, past the fact that his hand swamped hers.

In the split second of her hesitation, Big Brother John takes Little Sister Harriet's hand in his, and squeezes it.

Almost thirty years later, his hand is still bigger than hers.
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