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Sherlock sat on the edge of his leather chair, the blood-soaked cuff of his white button-down rolled up to the elbow. John knelt in front of him with a first aid kit, although he kept muttering about “hospitals.” Occasionally, Sherlock watched John, pushing and pulling a thin needle through his wound. Other times, he looked at his own hand—more accurately, his right ring finger, the tip of which looked ready to fall off.

“It hurts more when I watch.”

John sighed and pulled the needle once again through the thin flesh of Sherlock’s hand. “Then stop watching, you clot.” He didn’t look up at Sherlock. His eyes, dark in the firelight, just stared at the slowly closing wound. His brow wrinkled.

“What did I do?”

John pulled a long, loud breath in through his nose.

“It’s not my fault the suspect had a knife.”

John tugged on the stitches, maybe a bit harder than necessary, which made Sherlock yelp. John’s strong fingers wrapped around his wrist kept him from tugging backwards and probably ripping the meticulous stitches John had sewn to keep Sherlock from losing an appendage.

“You should have waited for me,” John said lightly.

“But he was getting away.”

“We would have caught up to him, yeah?” John took scissors and finished mending Sherlock’s mangled digit. “Don’t move. I think I have a splint in the toilet.”

Sherlock watched him go, every step forceful, angry, despite the soft tone of his voice—as if Sherlock was a squirrel that might spook at sudden sound. He lifted his hand and looked at it. Of course John would be an artist at stitches, probably wouldn’t even leave a scar.

He came back a moment later with a towel and metal splint. Kneeling once again, John used the fabric, damp, to wipe excess blood from Sherlock’s palm and wrist. Then, with a doctor’s gentle touch, he wrapped gauze around the wound and taped Sherlock’s finger to the splint, bent slightly at the end, John said, “to help with the healing.”

John took Sherlock’s hand in his and kissed his palm. He packed up his first aid kit and stood, but before returning it to its place beneath the bathroom sink, he leaned forward and kissed Sherlock on the forehead.

“Tea?”

“All right.”

Sherlock watched the mystery that was Dr. John Watson move to the kitchen.

They’d been flat mates for little over a month. Sherlock was loath to admit the doctor was still something of an oddity—a puzzle Sherlock had yet to put together. He knew John was steadfast and brave. He’d killed a man the very first day they’d met to save Sherlock’s life. He put up with Sherlock’s utter nonsense around the house. He even took the occasional verbal abuse. Sherlock knew most normal people would be long gone already, scared off by Sherlock’s uncaring demeanor and abrupt rudeness.

Instead, John remained, and he did strange things like kiss Sherlock on the forehead. A couple times, he’d even ruffled Sherlock’s hair. He touched Sherlock on the arm, the back, the shoulder ... He looked at Sherlock fondly as one might appraise an adorable puppy. And he made Sherlock tea.

John set Sherlock’s mug on the table beside his chair and then sat across from him, extending his muscular legs so that his feet rested on Sherlock’s chair next to Sherlock’s upper thigh.

“Please,” John said, “Wait for me next time. Don’t go running off after madmen on your own.”

“I’ve been doing it quite successfully for five years.”

“Yeah, well, now you have me, and you’re well on your way to exhausting my first aid supplies.”

Sherlock sipped his tea. It tasted better when John made it.

He slid into cataloguing mode:

Dr. John Watson.

Ex-Army doctor and brave beyond compare.

Small, compact, muscular body. Quick on his feet.

Lost. Or he was when they met. He seemed to have discovered some part of his lost self in 221B. He seemed to have discovered a purpose, at least, in chasing after Sherlock and patching him up when he bled.

“Stop it,” John said.

“Stop what?”

“That thing you’re doing. It’s fine when you do it to murder suspects, but I don’t like when you do it to me.” He rocked his sock-clad feet back and forth, his arches brushing the side of Sherlock’s leg. “Obviously, the first time was amazing, but I think we know each other well enough now for you to stay out of my head. And you should go rinse that shirt, by the way, or you’ll never get the blood out.”

“I have others.”

John smiled softly. “I know. Your wardrobe probably cost more than my medical degree.”

Sherlock could feel his own pulse throbbing beneath the splint. Maybe it was the loss of blood—more likely his endless curiosity with John Watson—that made him ask, “Why do you stay?”

John seemed to understand without further extrapolation. Then again, he was one of the only people who seemed to understand Sherlock at all. “I can’t afford to move.”

Sherlock pouted behind his teacup.

John smiled and kicked his leg. “Because I like it here. And if I left, who’s going to patch up all your reckless injuries?”

For an hour or so, John read a book while Sherlock organized his Mind Palace. He worked hard on the room labeled “John Watson,” and some part of him suspected it would never be complete.

John yawned and stood, announcing he was off to bed. Before heading upstairs, though, he did that thing he did sometimes—ruffled Sherlock’s hair. “I’ll check the stitches before I leave for work in the morning, yeah?”

Sherlock nodded, so deep in his mind that he barely registered the sound of John going upstairs, wishing him a good night’s rest.

***

There had been many men in the life of Sherlock Holmes. He was not ignorant of the way he looked, the way he sounded and dressed. He utilized all attributes with success at crime scenes and even while charming possible suspects. Since his teen years, when he’d grown five inches, lost the baby fat, and developed the seductive rumble that was his speaking voice, men had flocked to him. At first, he’d been open to exploration. Even his old friend from uni, Seb, had one night invaded Sherlock’s room with a whispered begging of “touch” and “taste.”

That was until Sherlock used his intellect to dismantle Seb’s insecurities and his father’s infidelity. After that, they’d never consummated Seb’s desperate wishes. In fact, Seb had grown to hate Sherlock after that, unlike John, who’d been fascinated the first time Sherlock had deduced him.

John who called him things like amazing, brilliant, and once, perhaps on accident, beautiful.

Men of all ages always wanted to touch Sherlock—touch and fondle and tug his hair and suck dark marks on his throat. Because of his harsh demeanor, it seemed they thought he wanted things rough. And definitely no cuddling after.

He let random sex happen for a while, but Seb had unknowingly taught him an important lesson: Sherlock had armor against such things. He had defenses, and those defenses were his intellect and sharp tongue. Sometimes, he didn’t mind the men who attacked his body with such sexual fervor. Other times, if not in the mood, he just said something scathing, which sent some men dashing away and others into a fury. How many punches had he taken thanks to other men’s bruised pride?

Then, there was John.

John, who took care of him.

John, who laughed when Sherlock was socially inept.

John, who touched gently, softly, with graceful doctor’s hands.

Sprawled out on the couch in pajamas and a dressing gown, Sherlock reached for his phone and typed: “Why do you touch me so much?”

It was almost half an hour before Sherlock received a response from John: “Because I’m your doctor, and you insist on hurting yourself.”

It was a viable answer but not quite enough for the ever-curious Sherlock Holmes who, as the favorite child, had never been taught proper boundaries. “You touch me when I’m not injured,” he texted.

“Do you want me to stop touching you?” John replied.

Sherlock typed, “No.”

Then, his screen lit up: “All right, then. Shall I pick up Chinese on the way home tonight?”

“Yes, but stay away from the takeaway around the corner. Go to the restaurant by your office.”

“Do I dare ask why?”

“Based on the off-white hue of the chef’s sclera at our usual takeaway, the man is suffering an early bought of influenza.”

There was a pause in the text communication before John’s response lit the phone: “Sherlock Holmes. You brilliant, beautiful thing.”