Winged. Wingless. Two different species of people; one with the ability to grow huge feathery limbs, and one without. Having wings isn't exactly considered abnormal, by anyone's standards.
It's just... John Watson's wings are.
His wings... well, they're white. Pure white. He has a brilliant, almost blue sheen to his feathers; his family often joke he's an angel. Other people don't like it so much.
He's five - just started school - and three nine year olds come up to him, own wings raised and huge in comparison to his, even then, shorter than average frame. They tease him for it - John Watson has quickly become John Whitewings - and that night he goes home and cries to his mum.
Carol Watson moves John to a mixed school, with both Wingless and Winged pupils. And the first day he starts, when getting dressed in the ugly uniform, John tucks the wings around his torso, pressing the bones to his spine, adding weight to his frame but hiding the wings. Being teased for his weight is much better than being teased for the brilliant sheen of his feathers. He pulls on the shirt and blazer and tie and no-one can tell that John Watson is Winged.
From then on, John's wings aren't seen again until almost thirty years later.
He's home from Afganistan - if London, another battlefield, can really be considered home, and John takes a good, hard look in the mirror. His hair is more grey than the last time he was here, and he's thinner, but he pulls his shirt off and unfurls his wings from their familiar position around his torso.
Huge, is the first thing that comes to mind. When fully unfurled they sit almost sixteen feet from tip-to-tip, almost blocking the room out entirely. He's amazed the muscles haven't deteriorated in the years he hasn't used them, but then, every morning he does a muscle routine, adding power to them.
He wonders if he should fly.
He glances out of the window; only youths are soaring about, and some older children, wings flapping around, all colours of blues and greens and browns and greys. He takes another glance at his own wings; they almost seem to let off their own light, in the sunlight... and he wraps them tightly back around himself.
One Day, he tells himself. One Day.
He just hopes One Day will come.
Sherlock Holmes is a startling man, in many ways. He is gorgeous, very almost borderline androgynous, and John feels a stirring in his gut for the other man before quelling it ruthlessly. Possible flatmate, he reminds hinself.
But it's not the simply sheer beauty of the man that awes him, nor the eyes, nor the pale skin.
It's Sherlock's wings.
They are a deep, deep blue - borderline black, but then pure black or white is unheard of (and John's wings, still wrapped around him, twitch unhappily at the thought). Despite the fact they're in a morgue, of all places, Sherlock has his wings out, loosely tucked against his frame, and John can just tell that this man shows no interest in anyone. At all.
(John wants to get out his wings; show them the almost blindingly white feathers, prove he's different, but then reminds himself that to the rest of the world, he is Wingless. Wingless and Winged are different species, goddammit, so he hasn't a hope in hell in even touching Sherlock, let alone kissing him-)
And then the two of them are flatmates and John wants to show off his wings like never before.
Anderson is Wingless, as are Donovan and Lestrade, although Dimmock isn't, while neither is Mrs Hudson. Dimmock's wings are brown and remind John of a sparrow; slightly too small for the rest of the man for him to be able to fly, while Mrs Hudson's are brown and gold and yellow and remind John, somewhat of a chicken.
It's Molly's wings that worry him, though.
Hers are grey, like a pigeon, and she is constantly molting. All the time. So badly, in fact, when John passes her in a corridor one day, shoulder brushing wing, feathers fly off in a whirlwind.
"Oh, god, I'm so sorry!" she exclaims, blushing a bright scarlet colour and bending down to collect the feathers.
John helps her, bundiling feathers into piles before handing them over."Molly," he says absently. "Have you been to a doctor for your wings?"
Molly splutters, obviously embarrassed to have to go to a GP about her wings, but John reassures her. A week later he does an exam at her house and tells her to eat more protein - or to just eat at all, really.
Her wings are glossy within days, and she presses one of the charcoal grey feathers into his hand, smiling softly.
The meaning is not lost on him. Giving another a feather is like entrusting someone with a secret; this time, it means she is forever grateful.
(The feather gets tucked into a wooden box hiding at the back under his bed, three feathers already residing inside. One of Bill Murray's khaki coloured waterproof overfeathers; a feather from his mother, who's wings had been dull brown: a cuckoo; and a tiny, final feather from a man he had been unable to save.)
Sherlock may not eat or sleep for days, but the one thing he always looks after are his wings.
He walks around the flat, feathers brushing the floor if he's just woken up, and when he stretches, all his feathers seem to arch outwards, stretching with him. John openly watches the midnight blue feathers, wishing that he could run his hands through them, imagine how warm they'd be against the flat of his palms.
Sometimes, in the darkest depths of his mind, John wonders what his stark white feathers would look against Sherlock's blueblackblack wings. But touching another's wings is taboo unless you are together, especially considering John is 'Wingless', while wing-to-wing contact is the final step in a relationship; you are mine forever i will never love another, and the thoughts are shoved to the back of his head, emerging only in dreams and the blackest part of night.
"So Freak and his pet are here?" Donovan has no right to say these things to Sherlock, but a sharp glare is sent John's way by the consulting detective himself and John quells the urge to say anything. Wingless aren't second class citizens by any means, but being defended by one is equal to defending a liar or a thief; you do not do it. Ever.
"Shut up, Donovan," Sherlock says imperiously, primaries poofing outwards slightly to protect himself from the cold. "I would tell you to shut your legs as well as your wings, but you haven't got any of the latter."
John lets out a wince - that is a low, low blow, but barely even touching the surface of what Sally's said to them. However, she doesn't seem to get it, frowning in confusion. "What does that mean?" she turns to Anderson in confusion, who seems just as bemused as Sally.
Sherlock looks faintly amused until John decides to take them out of their misery. "Um..." he pauses once before continuing awkwardly. "Opening your wings and pressing them against another's is one of the most personal... well, rituals two Winged people can have... and basically he's saying that you've done it plenty of times, implying that you've slept around... and you don't mind doing it, either, showing you're a slut."
Sally suddenly looks very offended and Sherlock sends an amused - not upset, simply amused - glance to John, and then a searching one, wondering where the man could have picked up Winged slang.
(Sherlock really didn't need to know that simply because John didn't show his wings in public didn't mean he hadn't used them in Afghanistan.)
Sherlock, being the sort of person he is, notices that John never wears any see-through shirts; always has an ugly jumper on in an attempt to hide the uneven lumps across his stomach that are the white feathers closely trapped against him, forever a second layer of skin. He wants to see John's scar tissue; compare it for a case and John feels a cold sweat come on and makes up some bullshit about stomach scars. Instead of making it better, it just makes it worse.
The detective's hassling practically never lets up. Texts when at the surgery, calls when out shopping, and then the moment he arrives back at the flat it's always with a: "John, take off your jumper. Take off your shirt, John. I want to see your scars, John."
John cannot let Sherlock see his wings. Or his scar. Or his torso. Or anything, really, because he is scared of getting into anything apart from platonic friendship with his flatmate. He's not sure if he can control himself.
So he just replies no every single time, while inside he's screaming 'yes'.
He gets Bill's feather in Afghanistan.
John is shot through the soldier as he heals Murray up, and everyone there, everyone that survived said that in those few moments, John looked like an avenging angel. John simply laughs it off and tucks his wings closer to him; closer and closer, trying his best to merge them with his skin altogether, wishing that he was Wingless for the first time in his life because these - thesethings have caused him so much more pain than pleasure and he hates it. (And Bill gives him a feather; after all, a feather isn't exactly a bad exchange for managing to keep your life).
His mother's feather is on her deathbed.
She is dying, lying there; John is only fourteen, and she gives a feather to both of them; one to John, one to Harry; a part of the woman that will never leave. Harry's is burnt weeks later in a fit of rage, but John keeps his close, protecting the last piece of his mother from his drunk, drug-taking sister.
The third feather...
There had been a man, dying. John was so young, and oh-so inexperienced, and could do nothing for him, but he had plucked out the last tiny feather and given it to John, in thanks of what little he had been able to do. And John had closed the door, and brought out his wings, and he had died merely moments later, but with a smile on his face.
And one day he's out, doing things, and-
Moriarty takes him, and wraps him up, and doesn't even notice the wings; doesn't seem to notice the lumps across John's shoulders; doesn't notice the long pale feathers staining his shirt a slightly lighter colour than the rest of it, and shoves John into a jacket and uses him as a mouthpiece.
His wings are black, with red towards his shoulder-bones, and the outside of them are blue, and as he rants and raves they raise above him, like some sort of plea to the heavens. Through the drugs and the pain, someplace deep in his head where Moriarty hasn't gotten in yet - John can remember reading about them and it clicks. A kea bird. Willing to give up everything for what he wants.
And then -
Everything's moving slightly too quickly, and as he locks arms around Moriarty's neck, John realises he is happy to die - die for Sherlock Holmes, the man he loves, and he feels himself click into place and he's content - because Sherlock said that what he did was Good, and John knows that Sherlock is the one and there will never be anything else; Sarah was just a distraction, and guilt pulses through him at that.
Moriarty's back, and Sherlock is aiming the gun at the jacket, wings slightly raised in anticipation, and then clickclick -
John starts to run, pushes them into the wat-
John wakes up at Baker Street, which is nice.
Both of them are still alive. Well, this has just upped the nice levels quite a bit.
Sherlock is lying next to him, legs entangled while one of Sherlock's wings is draped protectively around John's front. Makes it even nicer.
The room is dark, filled with only empty spaces, and the street-light illuminates the room. He feels a familiar warmth behind him and a baritone voice grumbles a little in sleep.
His clothes are ragged and torn and Sherlock's dried blood is on the man's pale skin and John can feel a wetness, which is probably from the pool, in-between his shoulder blades.
Sherlock's breathing suddenly jolts and John begins to move away from Sherlock, sitting up off the sofa. He's left wondering if Sherlock's awake, but it merely seems to be a nightmare. So, glancing around quickly, he strips off the shirt, wiggling his shoulderblades and letting his wings unfurl, feathers rustling in the silence of the living room.
Quick as a flash Sherlock is awake, grey eyes studying John even as John himself realises he's fallen for the trick and he curses internally as Sherlock's pupils dilate, focusing on the white, even in the dark haze of the room.
Sherlock just stares.
John stares back.
The staring continues.
Somehow, it gets louder.
Realising that Sherlock's going to stare no matter what, John, keeping a tentative eye on Sherlock, begins to stretch them out, feeling muscles uncurl and ache - but not a bad ache, a good ache. And then they're as far as they can go and he sighs, because Sherlock has seen his wings now, and that's it, that's the end of everything -
"Oh," is all that comes out of Sherlock's mouth, and he moves forward suddenly, dark wings brushing fowards, and then he reaches over John's shoulder. He completely ignores John's bulletwound, and the very tips of his fingers suddenly brush the tops of John's wings.
A jolt like electricity runs through John and he arches closer to the other man, wanting that feeling again; of knowing that you trust someone enough to let them touch your wings, and then Sherlock does it again and again, fingers running through snow-like feathers and when he eventually lets go John feels so content and so happy, and he can't think of anything else -
He presses his own fingers into Sherlock's feathers, watching as a blissful expression crosses his face, and John digs through the feathers, stroking soft downy feathers as well as primaries and Sherlock practically purrs, getting closer and closer to John, and then the very tips of their wings are brushing and John can feel something like - well, he's not sure what, and he just brings his lips to Sherlock's, and they're kissing and more of their wings are touching and Sherlock is his, and there will never be anyone else; never has been anyone else, and-
The next time they're called up to go to a crime scene, a week and a half later, John keeps his wings out. Sherlock has cut holes in all his clothes and instructs him that they're going to get him some new clothes as soon as possible, sending a death-glare to the cable knit jumper as he did so.
Sherlock is brisk around the body, shouting out deductions like they're nothing, but no-one seems to be paying any attention to him. John simply rolls his eyes at them all and brushes his own wing to Sherlock's in a reassuring manner, earning himself a soft smile from Sherlock that makes him warm all the way down to his toes.
The two of them leave not long after that, and John "Wingless" Watson isn't as Wingless as everyone first thought.
A few months later, John is going through his things and happens upon a box under his bed, at the very back. He opens it up, glancing at the feathers inside, and a jolt comes across his chest.
There are five feathers.
He picks up the latest edition; a long, primary feather, shining brilliant blue in the sunlight.
And John smiles.