“So what exactly did you do while you were gone?” John asked. He realized he had never actually found out. John had spent so much time wanting to know why he had disappeared for three years and thinking about the gap that he had left in his life that he never knew what Sherlock actually did.
Something in Sherlock’s eyes shifted in response to John’s question. He didn’t move, then he turned away. A long silence followed.
“John,” he finally said. “You of all people should know how difficult some things are to talk about.”
John took a step towards Sherlock, wanting to show his concern and support but, even after all his training, unsure of how to give it.
“It was that bad?” he asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock replied, his voice sounding like it was stuck in his throat. He slowly turned back to face John. “It wasn’t all bad. But there was one thing…”
“Sherlock,” John said, his voice low, “if you don’t want to tell me, you don’t have to. I understand if it’s too painful.”
It was silent again, the two of them standing there, frozen in time. At first, it was enough, but Sherlock didn’t want to keep it to himself anymore. He unbuttoned his shirt and turned around to show John the scars on his back.