John didn’t visit the bar across the street from St. Bart’s Hospital often, but after a long shift like tonight’s, he needed a very stiff drink. And so, he found himself taking a seat on a barstool, coming face to face with a bartender he hadn’t seen before.
The man was young, looked too young in fact, with cheekbones that could cut someone and an alabaster face. The sleeves of his button-down were rolled up, revealing armfuls of tattoos, which slithered their way beneath the shirt and reappeared at his collarbones and neck. His head was adorned with dark, unruly curls, his forehead beading with light sweat. He turned to John, looking harried, and raked a hand through his hair.
“What can I get for you?” He asked, surprising John with his baritone voice.
“Uh, whiskey.” John replied. “Neat.”
The man turned around, pulling the appropriate bottle off the shelf and preparing the drink swiftly. He set the glass in front of John seconds later.
“Are you sure you’re old enough to be a bartender?”
The other’s eyes narrowed. “What are you, a cop?”
“No,” John shook his head, taking a sip of his drink. “Just wondering.”
“I’m twenty-two.” The man answered, turning away to take care of another customer. He returned seconds later, his hands resting on the bar as he looked John up and down.
John blinked. “Yeah.”
The man nodded, his eyes devouring John, but he said nothing more as he refilled John’s drink. “This one’s on the house.”
“Oh. Thanks.” John’s hand ghosted over the glass. “Are you sure you’re twenty-two?”
The man sighed, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket, flipping it open and showing it to John. It read ‘Holmes, Sherlock’, and, true to Sherlock’s word, stated his birth year as 1996.
“Alright, then.” John nodded. “That’s an interesting name, by the way.”
“I’m aware,” Sherlock purred, and John shivered despite himself. “Picked it myself.”
“Sherlock,” the bar owner and John’s long-time friend, Stamford, called from the other end of the bar. “Take your half hour and get out of my hair.”
“I wish for us to meet again, Doctor.” Sherlock smiled mysteriously, then disappeared through the back door. John watched him go, finished the rest of his drink, threw a few notes onto the bar, then made his way home.
John returned to the bar the next night, if anything to see Sherlock again. He wasn’t met with disappointment - Sherlock was there, cleaning glasses to pass the time as the bar was a lot less busy. John took a seat, immediately noticing with unease the bruises on Sherlock’s face, the black and blue contrasting unattractively with the bartender’s pale skin. He nodded to John.
“Same as last night?”
“What happened to your face?”
“Same as last night?” Sherlock asked again, and poured another neat whiskey for him without waiting for a response. “On the house.”
“Thanks,” John didn’t touch the glass. “What happened to you?”
“Fell up the stairs,” Sherlock said dryly, going back to cleaning glasses. “I’m quite clumsy.”
“Don’t look clumsy.”
“It comes with the height,” Sherlock replied, not looking John in the eye.
“Right,” John said stiffly, staring Sherlock down as he took a sip of his drink.
“Oi, John.” Mike sauntered towards them. “Are you harassing my best bartender?”
“He’s fine,” Sherlock murmured, his lips quirking upwards just slightly. “Keeping me entertained, seeing as how boring this night is.”
“Boring, huh?” Mike replied, but he was smiling. “Today was your day off, you know. You’re the one who offered to come in.”
“Wanted to get another chance to see the doctor,” Sherlock replied, smirking as he looked John up and down. “And I’d say he came for another chance to see me.”
John blushed, heat creeping up his cheeks and the back of his neck. “Maybe. Lucky for you, too, so you can get a doctor to look at that for you.”
“Leave it be, Doctor.” Sherlock replied, voice low, his eyes back on the floor as he threw the glass-cleaning rag onto his shoulder. John noted that the sleeves off his button up were left down, this time, the sleeves clasped just at his bony wrists.
“Are you sure?”
“As sure as I am about your sister being an alcoholic.” Sherlock remarked, setting the glass he was holding back on its shelf. John gaped at him.
“Don’t take offense,” Mike smirked. “He’s like that with everybody.”
“Because everybody is so boringly obvious,” Sherlock stated, leaning with his back against the bar and his arms crossed. He turned his head to look at John. “Besides you. No, something about you is different.”
John shifted under the attention, heat rising in his cheeks again. “Thanks, I think?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sherlock murmured, checking his watch and glancing at Mike. “See you tomorrow, Stamford.” And without another word, he sauntered out of the bar, his gait slightly uneven.
“Sherlock's usually not that nice.” Mike said, smiling to himself as he refilled John’s drink. "You're in deep shit, Watson."
“Guess so,” John replied, knocking it back with a sigh.