John looks bitten and kissed. Kissed? Kissed. Sherlock shakes his head to clear it. He can’t explain, but he’s certain about this. John looks kissed. He looks roughed up and over and ravaged. There are scratches on his skin and bruises on his ribs, and Sherlock doesn’t believe he’s ever seen John smile that widely. The other man exhales a chuckle before it becomes a titter.
Near hysteria, then , Sherlock thinks, but manages to smile in return. It’s relief. If John can laugh, he’s in one piece. If John can laugh, Sherlock hasn’t found a way to break him yet.
Lestrade insists the medics check John over despite his protests and he goes along, bare-chested and light-eyed, still bubbling over every once again in humour that Sherlock has yet to understand. The medics go from worried to amused themselves and one of them winks when John descends into boyish giggles. That only makes matters worse, though for whom Sherlock can’t say.
He has crisp bills falling out of his inexplicably camouflage pockets. There is lipstick on his collarbone. He reeks of a multitude of colognes he doesn’t wear. There are powder burns on his fingers, yet he can’t stop smiling. Sherlock is baffled.
“Are you all right?” he asks, because, no, John doesn’t seem to be.
John is submitting the care of the EMTs, ignoring the sting of iodine to watch the coppers run. Sherlock has already forgotten the case. Unimportant, deleted. All that matters is that John is undamaged.
John finally sees fit to elucidate the situation. “That was a bachelor party.”
Sherlock waits a moment for him to continue before impatiently prompting him, “Yes, and?”
“It was for Anthea’s brother.”
“Interesting.” It isn’t.
“He asked for a good luck kiss and gave me his number on the way out the back door.”
“I see.” He doesn’t. He also doesn’t want to.
“Anthea was there, too.” 'Adelaide,’ Sherlock wants to correct. Doesn’t bother.
“Oh?” Sherlock shifts on his feet while John's combat boot-laden pair swing in the air beneath the gurney.
“Someone tried to kill her.” John isn’t snickering anymore though his amusement remains palpable.
Sherlock side-steps the medics to grab John’s arm. He loosens his hold where it bleeds. “Were you hurt?”
John hums, quietly content to inspect the scrapes and abrasions that deck his strong, square hands. Sherlock wants to read the story they have to tell, but the details have been lost and his sharp focus has deserted him.
“Oh, no. No, that was the best night I’ve had in a while. And all I had to do was get my kit off.”
Sherlock grinds his teeth and swears murder on every person that contributed to John’s shocked state. “Name names.”
“Couldn’t if I wanted to. Aliases on top of aliases.” John sighs, pupils wide enough to contain solar systems Sherlock can’t begin to recall. “I don’t think I’ve ever kissed that many spies in one place. Well, maybe once, but that’s classified. Don’t tell Mycroft.”
Sherlock manages a smirk at the mere suggestion of that conversation. “I won’t.” He takes John’s dominant wrist in hand to test his pulse for himself. The man is a little more than tipsy, flushed to mid-chest, and thoughtful. His scars throb with his heart and dance with his breath. Sherlock understands to his marrow why someone with everything to wager and lose might risk a kiss.
“They liked my ID tags,” John mentions off-hand. “Liked pulling me by them.” Sherlock notes that John is no longer wearing them. “Someone tried to hurt Anthea, so I hurt him with them. He didn’t like that so much.” Or the gun , Sherlock hazards wrly.
“Mycroft will be grateful.” Sherlock knows how his brother dotes on his long-survived PA, and knows that he will take any threat against her as an attack on his person. He pities them if they have survived John, though he questions the likelihood of that.
John becomes starry-eyed at the thought. “I think one of his bodyguards kissed me good night. He looked familiar.”
“Aren’t you the popular one?” he quips, rolling his eyes and doing his level best not to envision just that.
“You told me to blend in.”
“Yes, but I didn’t expect you to parade around shirtless, John. A discreet corner would have sufficed.”
“Corners were all taken. Center stage was free, though. They even had a spare set of camo for me to wear.” He purposefully ignores John's lack of clothing.
“Needed a bit of Dutch courage to make it so, I see.”
John straightens right up and grins all the wider. “Oh, the first one was definitely Dutch.”
Sherlock is not bloody amused. But the EMTs are and the Yarders are not far behind. Sherlock should know to expect this, that wherever John goes without him will either result in catastrophe or triumph. He knows this to be a sort of victory. John has put Mycroft in his debt, which can only bode well for their future meetings with this archenemy.
On the other hand, John has become a commodity for the eye in a way that he wasn’t before. Sherlock can sense the over-enthusiastic perusals from all quarters: Yarder, pedestrian, and emergency. They are the shallowest breed of idiot, seeing John as only the sum of his muscles and scars. They see a soldier now, rather than a doctor, a hero rather than a sidekick. They’ve eschewed daily blindness for hysterical sight. It galls him in a way he hasn’t come to expect at all.
Sherlock sneers at the first simpering prospective hanger-on he sees. He doesn’t care for the way others watch John now they know for certain he’s brave, brilliant, and battle-scarred. Their unobservant eyes have never noticed that he was all these things before, clothed and armoured. To Sherlock, he was never less.