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fic: Sleeping Beauty

Title: Sleeping Beauty
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing: Ella Thompson/Anthea
Rating: R
Warnings: none
Wordcount: ~3000
Disclaimer: They're still not mine.
Summary: This would be a particularly stupid way to die, Ella thinks.
In which John's therapist meets Mycroft's assistant. And Mycroft.
A/N: for blooms84, ginbitch and kalypso_v , with love and thanks.

Sleeping Beauty

This would be a particularly stupid way to die, Ella thinks.

The woman whose real name she'll probably never know taps away at her BlackBerry.  Her face is in shadow, lit up briefly by each streetlamp the black car passes.  The glimpses show pale skin, dark hair, an impassive expression, full lips slightly parted in concentration.  Ella's not sure if the woman even remembers she's there.

She'd been puzzled when the woman had turned up for a preliminary consultation, seeming so vague not just about why she wanted therapy but even about her own name.  Ella's used to those painfully interested types who claim they're making enquiries on behalf of a friend, but this seemed almost the opposite of that.

A sense of something deeply asleep there; Ella wondered what it was, and what would happen if it ever came to light. She'd answered the woman's routine questions about what the therapy involved, her rates, how often they'd meet; but she wasn't sure if the answers had registered.

Certainly hadn't expected to see her again.

Should have realized there was something else going on.  Stupid.

No use kicking herself about it now, though.  And no good worrying about all the people she was supposed to see tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.  

Just have to do without you, won't they?

God knows, there have been times when she wishes it would all just stop.  But not like this.

The man in the three-piece suit is polite, but Ella's not fooled.  He's just had her kidnapped, after all.  She can't imagine why anyone would think it worth their while kidnapping a therapist.  A case of mistaken identity?  But then why would the woman have come to her in the first place?

It's like something out of a bad thriller, she thinks; knows the thought is a defence against the fear that's clenching her gut.  She's never been brave about physical pain, and this man clearly isn't any too scrupulous in how he gets what he wants.  Probably not the type to do his own hurting, though.  Maybe the woman does it for him, or maybe some white-coated horror with an instrument case is about to emerge from one of the dark corners of the warehouse –

The man offers her a chair.  She doesn't want to sit, but her legs seem to have other ideas.  He smiles down at her, showing his teeth.  The smile doesn't reach his eyes.

She is not going to ask him what he wants.

Therapists get used to long silences; it's all part of the job.

Eventually he speaks, looking faintly annoyed.

“You are a treating a Doctor Watson.  John Watson.”

Ella doesn't answer.  There's no point in denying it anyway, and she isn't going to speak unless she has to.

“I want a complete assessment of his psychological state,” the man says.  

God help John Watson if this man wants to know about him.  Ella wonders if it's something to do with Afghanistan.  She knows John hasn't told her more than a fraction of what went on there.

“I can't give you that,” she says.  “It's confidential.”

He tilts his head, raises an eyebrow.  I'm disappointed in you.

Yes, well, that's just too bad, isn't it?

Another silence: shorter than the first, and again he's the one to break it.

“Your professional discretion is – commendable, of course.  But there are circumstances in which it ceases to be a virtue and becomes a liability.”

Oh John, Ella thinks.  What have you got yourself into?

She remembers the last time she saw him, just a few days ago.  Lying about how well his blog was going, then admitting he wasn't using it at all.  That stubborn note of depression, underlying anger: Nothing happens to me.

She'd feared there might be self-harm, or alcoholism; probably runs in the family, given what he'd said about his sister.  Even a risk of suicide.  She's seen those signs before with men returning from that place, that life.  But nothing like this.

“I do assure you,” the man says, with that same note of weary menace she remembers from the phone call, “I would not make this request without very good reason.”

Ella comes closer to saying Fuck you than she has for years.  Which is surprising, in the circumstances; but she finds she's blessedly and straightforwardly angry with this self-satisfied prick.

“I don't give a damn what your reasons are,” she says.  “Nobody gets that information without a court order.  You can make it official or you can piss off.”

“Interesting,” he says nastily.  “Your original accent comes through much more strongly when you're rattled.”

What's really interesting, Ella thinks, is that he seems slightly rattled himself.  Something personal at stake here.  She wonders again what the connection is between him and John.

“It must be a struggle for a woman from your background,” the man says thoughtfully.  “You've done well, of course, but you could do so much more with a little assistance.  Think how many more people you might be able to help.”

Bad joke, and she shouldn't laugh because it's not meant to be funny.

“I have quite a full list of people to help already, thank you,” she says.

He starts waffling about research facilities and assistants, and really he is just making it up as he goes along now, isn't he?  Somebody didn't do their homework properly; he has no idea what she wants.

“Not interested,” she says.  “I know what I'm good at and I'll stick to that.”

He looks taken aback for a moment, then the smooth expression returns.

“A foolish choice,” he says.  “You may yet live to regret it.”

Here it comes, Ella thinks, feeling her adrenalin levels start to drop.  Footsteps behind her; don't look round.  

“Sir?”  The woman's voice, unexpectedly tentative.

“Take Ms Thompson home,” he says tightly.

In the car, Ella can't stop shaking, but the woman doesn't notice, or pretends not to.  The car waits while Ella fumbles for her keys, drops them twice, and finally opens the door.  She just about makes it to the bathroom before she throws up.

The next time she's supposed to see John Watson, he cancels the appointment.  She leaves messages on his phone and on his blog but gets no reply.

Three days later, he turns up.  Without his stick, which is surprising.  Doesn't even seem to be favouring the leg.  She hadn't expected the limp to disappear just like that, especially when he'd seemed not to be making any progress to speak of.

“I'm not coming to see you any more,” he says.

“John, are you sure –”

“Very sure,” he says.  Sounds it, too.

She doesn't say anything.  Waits.

“Hope you know what you're getting into,” he says aggressively.  “I wouldn't trust Mycroft further than I could throw him.”  Or you, his expression says.


For a moment she thinks he's actually going to hit her.

“Mycroft Holmes,” he says grimly.  “Sherlock's – my flatmate's – brother.  Claims to have a minor position in the British Government.  Sherlock says he is the British Government, when he's not busy being the CIA or MI5.  Seems to think I have trust issues.  Ironic, really.”

Ella's throat is dry and it hurts to swallow.  “When did he tell you that?”

“The other night – Saturday.  In a bloody warehouse.”

Certainly getting his money's worth out of the place, Ella thinks.  Don't laugh, it's not funny.  He must have got hold of her notes on John – did someone break in here while she was getting the warehouse treatment?  And what the hell was all that about?  

Sherlock says he is the British Government...  why not make it official, then?  If it was official.

My flatmate's brother.  A personal connection, but not one that makes sense.  No point in trying to probe any further, though; she knows that look on John's face.

“For what it's worth,” she says carefully, “I didn't show him your notes.  Or tell him anything about you.”

He gives her a look that says Oh yeah? but then it changes to something more like Oh shit.

“Oh,” he says.  “Did you – did he –”

“I got taken to the warehouse,” she says.  “At least, I assume he just has the one.”

John goes a bit red in the face.  “Sorry,” he says.

For a moment she wonders if it's worth asking if he wants to reconsider quitting therapy.  Settles for saying “You know where to find me.  If you –” If you need me.  “If you want to see me again about anything.”

“Thanks,” he says, embarrassed.

“Good luck, John.”  No good saying Be careful.  They both know he won't be.

She doesn't expect to hear from him again, and she doesn't for a long time.

She doesn't expect to see the woman again, either, but that happens much sooner.  It's the first Saturday in March and she's treating herself to tea at the National Portrait Gallery, looking out at the London skyline as the sun sets.  


Ella turns, half-dazzled from staring at the sunset, but the jolt in her stomach at the sound of that familiar voice – oh God, is it starting again? – tells her who it is even before her vision clears.

The woman looks different somehow – maybe it's just the lighter spring colours of her coat and skirt.  Still the same shimmering eye-shadow and mascaraed lashes drawing attention to her dark eyes; still the same vague unfocused expression.  Ella almost wonders how she recognizes anyone.

“Can I join you?” the woman asks.

(You can; the question is, may you?  A teacher's voice from long ago.)

Ella knows she should probably tell her to get lost, but somehow she doesn't.  The woman sits down opposite her, smiling as if they're old friends.  Doesn't bother to tug her skirt down over her knees; no body shame there and no need for it either –

Stop it, Ella's inner censor says automatically.

Why should I?  I'm not her therapist now.  Never was, if it comes to that.

The ditzy young waitress, suddenly not ditzy any more, materializes at the woman's elbow to take her order.

Is she really going to eat all that?

Apparently she is.  An impressive appetite.  Ella wonders if her appetite for other things is equally impressive.

She must exercise ferociously, or else her metabolism's different from Ella's.  There are other possibilities, of course, but Ella doesn't think so in this case.

Shapely; an old-fashioned word, but it suits her.  Nice hands, too.  No ring on the left one.  Well cared for, like the rest of her, a sort of sheen on her.  Her skin looks soft, smooth.  Warm.

Ella looks away, embarrassed by an unmistakable twitch of desire.  It's been a while since she felt that for anyone.  She stares at the back of Nelson's Column and breathes deeply.

One good thing, the woman probably hasn't noticed.  Though she seems less sleepy now.  Reminds Ella of her friend Helena's Russian Blue, Sasha.  That cat only ever shows signs of intelligence when there's cheese around, Helena said fondly.

Maybe the vagueness is just low blood sugar.  Or maybe it's all put on anyway.  Just because Mycroft Holmes is the British Government doesn't mean he's not sinister, and anyone who works for him could be dangerous.

Which really ought to be more off-putting than it is, but Ella's not going to examine that too closely just now.

“So,” she says, watching the last piece of scone laden with jam and cream disappear between the woman's lips, “why did he bother?”

The woman looks puzzled, but it's a different kind of look from the vague unfocused one.

“Your boss,” Ella says.  “Mycroft Holmes.  What was the point in kidnapping me and going through that rigmarole when he could get hold of the file anyway?”

Oh,” the woman says, as if she can't believe Ella hasn't worked it out already.  “Oh, because he wanted to know about you as well.  He always wants to know about people who might have an effect on – his close contacts.”

“Waste of time, wasn't it?” Ella says.  “John Watson's not coming to see me any more, so it's hardly likely I'll have an effect on Mr Holmes's brother, however indirect.”

This time the look she gets is surprisingly sharp, and distinctly odd.

Not going to start wondering about what that means.  She peers into the teapot to see if there's anything left, then almost drops the lid as a thought strikes her,

“Is this another errand?”

“No,” the woman says, flushing slightly, “but he did know I was coming.”

She's obviously not even going to try to pretend the meeting was an accident.  Offers to pay for the tea, but Ella's not having that.

It's going to take more than a cup of tea and a sandwich, even at these prices, she thinks, and realizes she's not sure how that sentence is supposed to end.

What's that line of Bette Davis's in All About Eve?

I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.

God, she could do with a drink.  Time to go home and have a nice hot bath, try to forget about it all.

When she sees Mycroft Holmes in the street a couple of months later, she thinks for a moment that it is all starting again.  But he just gives her a nod and goes on walking, swinging his umbrella.  She's not sure why he's carrying an umbrella on a cloudless May morning, unless it has a poisoned tip or doubles as a sword-stick.  Tells herself not to imagine things.

But she does wonder whether he's fitted a GPS tracker in her handbag or something.  Because she keeps running into Amanda, or Anouchka, or Angela, or Astraea, or Annabella.  Or whatever her real name is.  

Maybe she'll just call her Anthea.  She seems to answer to that as readily as to anything else.  And after a lot of cups of tea – and indeed a lot of cocktails and salted peanuts – they've reached the point where Ella feels she needs to call her something.

“Judy Holliday's wonderful, isn't she?” Ella says.

It's the second time they've run into each other at the BFI: first Some Like It Hot and now Born Yesterday..

“Brilliant,” Anthea says.  “Gin!

They start laughing again.

“I loved her in It Should Happen To You,” Anthea says.  “They had a Cukor season last time I was in Paris.”

Her face clouds for a moment; Ella doesn't think it's about the films.

“My – the person I was with was ill,” Anthea says.  “It was good to have a distraction.”

Ella registers the hesitation, and the expression that goes with it: the one that says I know you don't do men and I think you're going to judge me.  Bad relationship, from the look of things.  She wonders if it explains the vagueness, if it's a kind of retreat.  All it takes is one prick and you go to sleep for a hundred years.  Don't laugh, it's not funny.

“Sounds like a difficult situation,” she says, carefully neutral.

“It was,” Anthea says.  “All over now, though.  Another drink?”

“I'll get them,” Ella says.  “I still owe you one from last time.”

“Look at this,” Anthea says, as Ella comes back from the bar.  “They're showing The Lady Eve.”

“Ooh,” Ella says.  “Haven't seen that on the big screen for years.”

Anthea checks her BlackBerry.  “Bugger.  I can't go.”

“I've got it on DVD,” Ella says.  “I know it's not the same, but –”

“That would be lovely,” Anthea says.  “If you've got the time.”

“Oh,” says Ella.  She'd been about to offer to lend Anthea the DVD, but it looks as if she's just agreed to host a film evening.

A film evening with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda and an interfering horse, and a train journey that turns into the wedding night from hell, which makes Anthea laugh so hard Ella's amazed her mascara doesn't run.  A post-film conversation that meanders lazily through Persian poetry, the finer points of dachshunds, and the challenges of writing haiku.   

Finishing the last of the home-made popcorn.  Licking butter and salt off her fingers, then off Anthea's fingers.  One thing leading to another.

She'd wondered what it would be like if this woman ever woke up completely; now she knows.  It's energy and astonishment and delight, like a whole kingdom, a whole world coming to life again. Sharpness and salt, blurred vision, the loudness of her own blood pounding.  Pleasure spilling over and collapsing into laughter, bodies entangled and sticking to each other, heavy-limbed with satisfaction.  Night air cool against heated skin as pulses quieten, breathing slows.

“You're quite sure this wasn't an errand?” Ella asks.

Anthea's sprawled across the bed, still panting too much to say anything, but she shakes her head.

“No it wasn't an errand or no you're not sure?” Ella teases, nipping at Anthea's inner thigh.

Ow,” Anthea protests.


“Not – errand,” Anthea says breathlessly as Ella's fingers begin to move again.

“Does he know where you are?” Ella demands.

Anthea groans.  The answer's obviously yes.

“Am I going to be kidnapped again?” Ella says.  “You said he always wants to find out about people who – what was it you said? – might have an effect on his close contacts.”

Anthea pulls away and flips Ella onto her back, rolling on top of her.  She's laughing about something, though goodness knows what –


Anthea may look as if she's half-asleep, but it seems like Ella's the one who's just woken up.

“Did he know he was vetting me for this as well?”

Anthea snorts.  “Well, he's always saying we have to make budget savings where we can.”

“Double-entry bookkeeping,” Ella says, and starts laughing herself.  She pushes Anthea's hair back  and kisses her, embraces her tightly, savouring that heat and weight and softness pressing against her.   

“He told me when I started, he doesn't mind what I do with my free time,” Anthea says, “as long as he knows I'm seeing someone he can trust.”

“You get quite a bit of free time, don't you?” Ella says, thinking back over the last few weeks.

“Oh yeah,” Anthea says, wriggling luxuriously against her.  “Lots.”


What they're watching: the card scene from Born Yesterday is here. The Lady Eve is highly recommended, but there isn't a good YouTube clip of the train scene (or of the interfering horse).

Additional thanks to blooms84 and kalypso_v for the beta.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/46998.html with comments.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 3rd, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
thank you so much! I'm very glad you liked it and found it believable. the idea came from a kissbingo "Sleeping Beauty" prompt I ended up filling with something quite different, and the fic itself took a few unexpected turns, but it got there in the end...
Jun. 4th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
Aww, I like this. I love Anthea being sneaky and Ella being a bit badass. And *points to icon* enough said. :D
Jun. 4th, 2011 11:27 am (UTC)
thank you very much - glad you enjoyed those things particularly. this was more difficult to write than I expected (I thought it would be a quick bit of nonsense after a long angsty series), but I like the idea of these two together.

*agrees with your icon*
Jun. 4th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
This is great! I was just thinking today I wanted to have a good read with an unusual pairing in Sherlock. ;D
Jun. 4th, 2011 11:29 am (UTC)
thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I wanted to write a Sleeping Beauty fic with Anthea, but it took a while to work out who could be paired with her, and how.
Jun. 4th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
first time I've seen this pairing but I have to say you are really good. Thank you for writing a fic for my favourite character there aren't many Anthea fics outthere. You and Anthea made my day now I can go happily to my exam.
Jun. 4th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC)
thank you very much! I'm happy that this has given you a good start to your exam day, and glad you enjoyed it. Anthea's an interesting character but quite a difficult one to write, I found.
Jun. 4th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
This is my second time reading this, just to pick up some of the subtleties. I particularly like Ella's inner therapist, knowing how to stay silent, almost automatically wondering whether Anthea's bulimic, picking up clues even when she's scared (as any normal person would be). I also thought it was clever to have Mycroft make such a hash of the interview (perhaps because Ella's so unlike the politicians and spooks he's used to dealing with)?

And I like the idea of that hidden quality of Anthea, because she is such a memorable, but yet unknowable character in Pink. Though, of course, it is now almost canon that she likes Persian poetry.
Jun. 4th, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
very glad you enjoyed this and those things in particular - thank you! I hadn't expected to write the warehouse scene when I set out, but I liked the idea of Ella being able to hold her own and Mycroft being at a loss (I think you're right that he's not used to this sort of interlocutor).

and of course I had to include Anthea's liking for Persian poetry after your fic...

Jun. 4th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
Oh man. Oh man oh, man this is just so utterly marvelous. Ella is so badass and her snarking back at Mycroft. I pretty sure I had little hearts dancing over my head.

I got taken to the warehouse,” she says. “At least, I assume he just has the one I found this irrationally funny. I don't even know why.

And Anthea coming alive after such vagueness is just- so great I don't even know how to describe it. You've reduced me to making hand gestures and happy dolphin noises.
Jun. 4th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! *enjoys your happy dolphin noises*

I wasn't sure at first who else would be in this fic apart from Anthea, but was pleased when I had the idea of linking it to how Mycroft knows the details of John's therapy.

I hadn't originally envisaged a warehouse scene - I enjoyed having Ella stand up to Mycroft even though she was scared. her sense of humour was also a surprise, including the remark you liked.

Edited at 2011-06-04 08:41 pm (UTC)
Jun. 6th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
That! Oh. Such a fascinating pairing. So well done. Loved it.
Jun. 6th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! *beams* very glad you enjoyed it.

I had the idea when I was coming back from Scotland in December but it took ages to get round to writing it (and then longer than expected to get it finished).

femslash seems to lead me into rare/odd pairings (first Harry/Sarah and now this)!
Jun. 19th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Really, really liked this--it's great to see rarer pairings, and the characters are very well drawn. Recced at the women-centric BBC rec prompt.
Jun. 19th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
thank you very much indeed for the comment and for the rec! I'm very glad you liked this.
Sep. 10th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
Lovely, fantastic fic! Always good to see excellent femmeslash in this fandom! And I hadn't ever thought of this pairing before, but you handled it perfectly. :D
Sep. 15th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! *beams*
I'm really pleased you liked it. I had wanted to write a Sleeping Beauty fic with Anthea in, but it wasn't till I thought of pairing her with Ella that it took off.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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