Sherlock, just waking up, padded into the kitchen,a bedsheet wrapped around his hips. He'd somehow managed to doze off for a couple of hours, and assumed that John would be in bed (since it was only quarter to four in the morning.) He therefore deemed real clothing unnecessary.
As he put the kettle on to boil he was startled by a small gasp behind him. Sherlock quickly spun around to see a pyjama laden John staring at him, mouth slightly agape.
"Christ, Sherlock..." John murmured softly. It was then that Sherlock realized that John had seen his back, his scars on full display without a shirt covering them. Carefully. Sherlock slid the sheet up further and wrapped it around his shoulders. The usually quick witted detective wasn't sure exactly how to avoid the conversation he knew John would try to bring up.
"Tea?" He asked, hoping that John was too tired to bring up the past right then. He was lucky.
"Um, no, just going to the loo." And with that, John walked past Sherlock. Neither said another word, even when John went back to bed.
Sherlock was sitting in his usual chair, fingers steepled together under his chin, when John reappeared again around 7am from upstairs. He knew Sherlock was in his mind palace, so just went straight to the kitchen to start his breakfast. A half an hour later, after his toast was eaten and tea nearly gone, John sat in his seat opposite Sherlock.
John's mind was jumbled with thoughts. The scars he had seen on Sherlock, even in the low light, had been been horrific. He wasn't an idiot, he kew damn well they were from his time in Serbia. John knew very few details about Sherlock's time over there, only that he had dismantled Moriarty's web, and sadly had been captured at some point.
"Oh, John! Good morning." John came out of his thoughts, apparently Sherlock was done in his mind palace. He gave a small smile and nodded, "Good morning, Sherlock." They sat quietly, for once the silence wasn't comfortable and amiable. The air felt heavy and tense as questions swirled through John's head. They both looked up at the same time and looked each other in the eyes.
John didn't want to make Sherlock uncomfortable by asking intrusive questions, he was trying hard to think of something else to talk about. It seemed that, as usual, Sherlock could read his mind, (or more likely, his face.)
"John, I know you want to ask me questions regarding what you saw last night, and are holding your tongue to spare me any discomfort. While I appreciate it, because I infact do not wish to discuss the two years I was absent from Baker street, I will permit you to ask one question so as to appease your mind." Sherlock stated calmly as he crossed his legs and placed his hands in his lap.
"Sherlock, I am more than capable of..." John stopped as Sherlock gave him a loud huff. "May I see them?" John was actually surprised when the words exited his mouth, and it seemed that Sherlock was as well.
"That, of all things, is your question?" Sherlock raised an eyebrow. John replied with a curt nod. John thought he could see a slight pink on Sherlock's cheeks, and immediately felt bad. He hadn't wanted to embarrass Sherlock, that was the last thing he wanted. He didn't even know it was possible to embarrass the unshakable Sherlock Holmes!
"I'm sorry, Sherlock, I shouldn't have asked that." John apologized, and feeling guilty, stood up to leave. The sound of Sherlock speaking his name stopped him.
"John," Sherlock murmured, looking up at John, "While I am surprised by your question, I am in no way upset by it. If you want to see the atrocity that is covering my back..." Sherlock looked down to the floor, almost looking ashamed, "I will allow it." John wanted to try and back out of it, but didn't want Sherlock to think he was disgusted by the thought of looking at his scars. Also, he could tell that Sherlock was putting a lot of trust into his hands by letting him do this. He wanted to prove himself worthy of such a gift.
John nodded, "Thank you, Sherlock." With that said, Sherlock stood and walked over to the couch. He slid off his dressing gown, then looked over to see if Jonn was going to come sit with him. John went and sat beside him, Sherlock turned his to him, and with shaky hands, pulled his tee shirt over his head.
John closed his eyes and took a deep breath before turning to look at Sherlock's back. He had to bite his tongue so as not to cry out, he couldn't believe how much worse it looked in the light of the day. It made his heart ache, knowing what he saw was his fault. Sherlock left so as to keep him safe, experienced Hell for John's sake.
The scars were barbaric looking. John was reminded of history class lessons in school, seeing the backs of slaves that had been beaten. Some of Sherlock's scars were thin, crossing the entire length of his back. Others thick and ugly, one lie directly across his left shoulder blade.
There were burns as well. Some obviously left by cigarette butts, but others looked worse. On his lower back, Sherlock had what looked like to be a chemical burn the size of his palm. John could feel tears filling his eyes, and did his best to fight them back. He knew Sherlock would not want John taking pity on him, or feeling guilt.
Without even thinking, John reached out with his left hand and placed his fingertips on Sherlock's shoulder. He heard Sherlock gasp quietly and freeze up. John immediately pulled his hand back. John berated himself, what was he thinking?? Invading Sherlock's space like that, and on a place of his body he obviously wasn't comfortable with!
"Sherlock, I'm so sorry! I wasn't thinking, I'm sorry!" John rushed the words out, hoping he hadn't crossed an uncrossable line in their friendship. Sherlock let out a shaky breath and shook his head.
"It's... It's fine, John. You may touch them, if you'd like." Sherlock nearly whispered. No one, other than the doctor Mycroft insisted on checking him, had touched the scars. That had been years ago though. He wasn't sure why, but feeling John's gentle fingers on his back, it almost felt intimate. Sherlock actually wanted to feel the sensation again.
Hesitating slightly, John allowed his hand to venture back up to Sherlock's shoulder. He ran a single fingertip over the length of the scar there. Sherlock shuddered slightly, but didn't say anything.
Soon, John was running his hands and fingers over every part of Sherlock's back, feeling every mark, bump, scar, and burn. When he finally ran his hand over the last wound, the chemical burn, John could feel a tear rolling down his cheek. He wanted to just wrap his body around Sherlock and tell him how sorry he was. He recalled how he had tackled Sherlock to the ground when he first reappeared in the restaurant. Another tear followed the first.
Sherlock desperately wanted to turn his head to look at John, but was afraid of what he would see. Was John disgusted by what he saw? Would he see the face was mere indifference, not caring at all about the torture his friend endured? In the midst of these thoughts, he heard John sigh.
"Sherlock, I am so sorry you went through all this." He ran his hand down Sherlock's back, mind running with how the man he loved, had been beaten to such an extent. The images in his mind seemed to short circuit his entire brain as he leaned forward, placing his hands on either sides of Sherlock's back and kissed his spine.
Sherlock couldn't believe what he had just feeling, and it was over all too soon. John's hands were quickly snatched back, as if they had been burned. Sherlock finally allowed himself to look at John, turning his entire body to face him. John looked like he had just seen a ghost, his face full of shock and fear.
"Oh my God, Sherlock, I don't know what's wrong with me today.. I didn't mean to... I'm sorry!" Sherlock tilted his head slightly.
"You didn't mean to what, John?" Sherlock was thrilled to have felt John's soft lips on him. He'd always dreamed of touching them with his own, but he would take feeling them on his back any day! But did John really not mean it? How could he not? What else could he have meant to do? "I didn't mind it, at all." He gave a soft smile to show he truly meant it.
"Well, I mean.. I did, but I didn't think think it through. I would never do something like that. I would never intentionally do anything that could jeopardize our friendship." John tried to keep himself composed, afraid he was coming off as a bumbling idiot. Somehow Sherlock wasn't upset, or even put off by the fact that John had just kissed him. Kissed his back, a place on his body that he had purposely kept hidden all these years!
"If you meant it, John," Sherlock placed his hand on top of John's, "Then I definitely don't mind. Something so... intimate, could only ever strengthen what is between us. Would you not agree?" John couldn't help but smile, and place his hand on top of Sherlock's.
"I couldn't agree more, Sherlock."