Sherlock flung open the door to 221B, John following suit, smile plastered on their faces.
“That was absolutely ridiculous,” John cackled. “I can’t believe you dressed as a woman and seduced her.”
“Yes well it wasn’t difficult to deduce she’d have no interest in a man, and it was the easiest way to get close enough to her to grab her phone out of her left pocket.”
“Brilliant!” John grinned. “And I still can’t believe she killed him with a pen!”
“Well you know what they say,” Sherlock hummed “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
They burst into a giggling fit and John reached behind Sherlock placing his hand on the taller man’s upper back, grabbing at his shoulder jovially.
Sherlock glanced down peering into John’s eyes, so open and so happy. John realized the two of them haven’t shared a moment like this in so long. They’ve made a lot of progress and John has let go of a lot of his anger towards Sherlock, but it hasn’t been the same as it was before. John missed this. He missed the moments like this, fueled by adrenaline, laughing at things they had no business laughing at. This was them. It has been too long.
John realized his hand has been on Sherlock for a bit too long and Sherlock has a very serious look on his face now, probably deduced everything John was thinking, the berk. They weren’t good at this. Emotions. John slowly lowered his hand back down and tilted his head as he registered ridges on Sherlock’s back he didn’t recognize. He was about to bring his arm back up and investigate when Sherlock retreated.
“Well, John now that the case is over you should probably go type it up on that insufferable blog of yours. Please do include my deductions rather than mentioning all your sentimental gibberish in a pointless attempt to make me appear more human. I have an experiment to get on with. The sooner I get this done the sooner the feet will be out of the fridge, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate,” Sherlock blurted.
Something didn’t seem right. John may be an idiot but he knew when his best friend was hiding something.
“Sherlock,” John cautioned. “What was that?”
“What was what?” Sherlock questioned innocently.
“On your back. What was that? When did that happen?” John pushed more sternly this time.
Sherlock opened the fridge and began plopping feet onto the counter.
“Oh, you know me,” he said waving his arms camply, foot in hand. “Always up to no good.” He dropped the foot right on top of his own.
“Right,” John challenged, clearly not buying his frazzled roommate's feigned disinterest.
“Let me take a look at it.” He began motioning towards Sherlock and Sherlock froze.
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” Sherlock stated. He knew that John would be made uncomfortable by the innuendo due to his fragile sexuality, plus John has always been protective of his scar. Surely this would get the man to-
Breath leaped into his lungs. John was unbuttoning his shirt slowly, intensely looking Sherlock directly in the eye. He gulped.
“John I- it was just a joke,” he stammered.
John continued to unbutton his shirt and threw it unceremoniously on the ground.
“There,” he finished. He squared his shoulders, and stood up straight, still holding eye contact unwavering.
‘Into battle,’ Sherlock mused.
He stared at John in awe. For the entire time they lived together Sherlock never saw John without a shirt on. He was always hiding his scar from Sherlock as if he knew Sherlock would fixate on it, perhaps deduce his past. And yet here he was exposing himself. Sherlock took the opportunity to catalogue everything. John’s stomach was a tad pudgey and he lost most of the definition in his muscles but they still had some bulk to them left over from his army days, particularly his trapezius and pectoral muscles. He had a small mole above his left hip and a trail of thin blond hairs going from his naval down to the line of his trousers.
Sherlock absorbed every detail until finally letting his eyes rest upon the scar. The skin was pale, indented slightly, with a slightly darker ring along the outside. It was less visible than Sherlock thought. He noticed John began unconsciously shifting, clearly uncomfortable by Sherlock’s intense scrutiny. Yet he stayed there, standing while Sherlock’s eyes scanned his chest. ‘Why is John trusting me with this? It doesn’t make sense? What changed? Did he want to see my scars that bad? Why would he care that much?’
“Ahem. You get yourself a good enough look? Can I put my shirt back on now? If Mrs. Hudson walked in with you staring at my naked chest like this she’d certainly talk,” John quipped.
“Yes. That will be sufficient.”
John bent down to pick up his shirt, pulled the sleeves over his arms, and began calmly rebuttoning it, a slight tremor in his hands.
“Your turn now, off you go,” hs stated.
“Yes...right. My turn,” Sherlock repeated without moving.
Sherlock blinked a few times then realized his error and began popping open each button. He was unsure. More unsure about this than he has been about anything for quite some time now. But John had showed him a sacred part of him. Sherlock had to do the same, it was only fair. He tossed his button-down aside with a theatrical flourish, avoiding eye contact and remaining perfectly still.
John raised an eyebrow at him but when it was clear Sherlock was not going to turn around, he sighed and walked behind his intolerable friend.
He froze instantly when his mind caught up with the image being projected to the back of his eyes.
“Sherlock,” he gasped, taking steps backwards to lean against the counter. “Jesus.” John knew he was hiding something but he had no idea. There were dozens of slashes rippling through his skin, raised, horrific.
“Yes, quite like Jesus actually arms being held up, body suspended, sacrificing oneself. Quite poetic really, not that I would ever be one to believe in religion . It’s illogical,” Sherlock reasoned, his voice too high, his words too quickly spoken.
Sherlock turned around to face John. His chest was heaving and he was relying heavily on the counter to stay on his feet. Sherlock thought for a moment he might pass out. He reached out towards his flatmate.
“John, I think you should really sit down. Let’s go to the sitting room then we can... talk ,” Sherlock spat out the word.
Normally John would object to being told what to do, especially when it implies he needs help or is weak, but Sherlock offered to talk and he hadn’t expected that much out of the man. He didn’t want to push his luck.
As he began to ground himself and force his body into motion, his friend had already made his way to his chair, plopped down, crossed his legs, and began tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair.
John followed, collapsing into his own designated spot, acutely aware that the detective was staring him down, eyes full of concern.
They sat like this for a few minutes, allowing John to catch his breath and plan his words.
He brought his head up and met Sherlock’s eyes.
“What did you mean by that?”
“You said you sacrificed yourself. How?”
“It happened when I was ‘dead’. Moriarty had a vast network, John. They were instructed to shoot you, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson unless I killed myself. It was an easy decision to make.”
“You... left... because of me?”
“Alright. Okay,” John breathed. He had been so angry as Sherlock for so long thinking that Sherlock completely forgot he existed and didn’t care at all about him or the effect Sherlock’s passing would have on him, when the whole time he was exactly the person Sherlock was trying to protect. His stomach twisted with guilt.
“Why didn’t you tell me?!” John snapped.
“You didn’t seem to want to talk about the fall or my time away and I didn’t think you’d want to hear my excuses.”
“Excuses?! That is not just some ‘excuse’, that is huge Sherlock.”
“Right,” Sherlock gulped. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry,” he placated.
John studied his friends face and saw nothing but sincerity. He sighed.
“Okay. Fine. It’s fine.” It absolutely was not fine. “Go back to your story then. You still didn’t explain…” he gestured vaguely at the taller man.
“John, you might be an idiot compared to me but you are a rather intelligent man, you should be able to figure it out with the data provided.”
John’s jaw shifted. ‘Why can’t he just tell me? Why does everything have to be so bloody difficult with Sherlock bloody Holmes?’ He stared at his flatmate expecting him to give in and elaborate, but to no avail. Sherlock met his stare with a challenging look.
“Alright. Your way. Always your way.” He inhaled deeply and began. “You said you could not come back because Moriarty’s men were instructed to shoot me as well as Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson if you were not dead. You needed to stop them in order to get back here. How you did that, I don’t know, Sherlock. I don’t know. I have no idea how you would find out who all is involved in the network, then you’d have to find out which of them knew about the order and apprehend them. I’m not you Sherlock; I don’t know. But I’m assuming whatever you did led to you...getting those scars.”
“I didn’t know either,” Sherlock admitted. “ I had no idea who knew the order and I couldn’t take any chances, so the only logical thing to do was to dismantle the entire web.”
“Jesus, Sherlock. Wasn’t his network huge? International even?”
“Yes. I followed the threads, slowly undoing each and every one, and I was very efficient and successful at it, until Serbia.”
“And that’s when that happened?” John asked quietly.
“Yes. Mycroft eventually got me out and brought me back here.”
“God,” John blurted “How long after was it until… until you came to see me?” he whispered.
“As soon as I could,” Sherlock informed.
John’s lips quirked into a smile at that sentiment, but it soon dropped suddenly.
“Wait. I- I knocked you down. Multiple times. Onto…”
“Yes, well you needed to let out your anger and I’d rather you do it then so we could resume being friends as soon as possible than for you to be passive aggressive with me anyways.”
“No,” John clipped. “No. That is not okay. You need to stop letting me do that. Stop letting me hit you. It doesn’t make things better. It is not okay. I’m sorry, Sherlock. I’m so, so sorry.”
His face crumpled, his hands began shaking again, and his fist was clenched. Sherlock realized there was more to his apology than just the incidences of that night.
“Okay. It’s not okay. But it is what it is. I will stop you if it happens again,” Sherlock vowed.
“Why do you keep doing things for me? Why do you put up with me? I treated you like...like…”
“I would do anything for you, John I thought you knew that.”
John looked up, shocked by how blunt yet sincere and genuinely surprised Sherlock was.
“Well you have quite an odd way of showing it,” John chuckled.
Sherlock’s face grew very stern. In a matter of moments he was... angry? He was fuming, actually. John was shocked, the younger man usually didn’t mind a bit of banter between them.
“John. While I do not show my... affection for people in conventional ways, I thought I had done enough to prove it.”
“Well I didn’t find that out until just now,” John retorted, taken aback by the accusing look Sherlock was throwing his way.
“But I have done it before, John.”
The words were searing, burning John with their intensity.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I convinced you to be with Mary so you could have the life you wanted and chose despite the obvious threat to my well-being. I murdered a man, knowing I would be either shot on the spot or left to die on some MI6 nonsense mission soon after, so you could continue living that life. You have seen me make these sacrifices for you before; you don’t observe,” Sherlock gruffed. “And even so, excluding that evidence, there’s plenty evidence that i care about you otherwise. The fact that I kept you around for so long, immediately opened up my home to you, encouraged you to come on cases. I told you I was lost without you. I told you you are my only friend. The entire best man speech. The fact that I can’t go a few weeks without seeing you without turning to drugs,” Sherlock rambled.
John’s cheeks flushed and his jaw dropped. He had no idea. He had absolutely no idea all these things were about him . And here Sherlock was, so filled with anger and frustration because of how unappreciative John was, that he couldn’t stop confessing. He couldn’t stop confessing how much he cared about him.
“So as you can clearly see, the evidence supports that I would do just about anything for you, John Watson,” he finished, almost out of air from speaking so long and fast without breathing. As he caught his breath his heart calmed and reality sunk in. He looked down at John and saw a man completely overwhelmed.
“Sorry, that was a few more confessions than I intended,” Sherlock admitted, scanning John for any sign he was even still listening at this point, but finding nothing.
John continued to breathe heavily and stare straight ahead as if he was looking through Sherlock.
Sherlock said too much. Way too much. He ruined it. He broke John. John will leave and Sherlock will be alone again and it was too much. Way too much. He began walking to his bedroom when an arm shot out and caught his arm.
John’s eyes glared into him but not with anger or disappointment but with... fondness? Affection?
“You love me,” John stated.
Sherlock’s eyes went wide.
“John as you know I am a high-functioning sociopath. I am incapable of emotions most people feel and completely opposed to any sort of romantic relationship. I cannot feel any romantic interest of any kind. The only emotions I feel are the thrill of the chase and disdain for other people. That is not to say I feel disdain for you. You are not most people. I do have some affection towards a select few, you, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Molly, but still, the affection I have isn’t even a shadow of what ordinary-”
“You love me,” John repeated awe in his eyes.
It occurred to Sherlock that John hadn’t removed his hand from his arm. Sherlock tugged his arm away in retreat when John’s hand reached out and cupped his cheek instead.
“Don’t go,” John stated plainly. “It’s okay.”
“It is?” Sherlock croaked.
“Yes. Oh, God yes.”
John pulled Sherlock’s face closer and pressed a gentle but firm kiss on his lips.
He pulled back and watched Sherlock’s face, knowing the man well enough to know he needed to process this new information.
He was vacant, then surprised, then overwhelmed, then overjoyed, then...hungry.
John’s body reciprocated and began to push the man towards the counter, holding his hips, ready to snog him senseless, when he tripped on something.
The heat of the moment broken, both of the men looked down.
A thawed human foot was adjacent to John’s.
The two men broke out into giggles once more, high on adrenaline.
“Sorry about that,” Sherlock chuckled, deep and beautifully. ‘Oh so beautifully. He’s beautiful,’ John thought.
“I love you,” John beamed.
Sherlock became silent, stunned. He took a moment to process what has happened, what was going to happen, what... will happen ? he mused.
“I love you too,” he breathed.
“I know,” John stated plainly. “Figured that out a few minutes ago, don’t know if you remembered you seemed all out of sorts,” he giggled.
“We’re idiots,” Sherlock replied.
“Yeah, yea we are. Thank you, Sherlock,” John resounded, light bouncing off his eyes as he stared at the man he loved who had done so much for him.
“Any time. Always.”