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Battle Scars

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John had remembered the night Sherlock came home. Came back from the dead. 

It was like every other boring, dull night that John had been having ever since his best friends death. It had been three years, and yet he still mourns. But not in the company of other people. No, to them, he is John Watson, the soldier who carried on even when he felt like falling apart. To them, everything was fine. He was even smiling again. And sometimes the smiles felt genuine to John, he could laugh at a joke that Mike had told, he could smile at his co-workers and he could even still be the best doctor he can be to his patients.

But when he came home, everything else faded away. Coming back to 221B was like forcing to reenter hell but not having the strength enough to leave is because he felt like this is what he deserved. John was supposed to take care of Sherlock and he failed. So in return, he takes care of their used to be home, no matter how much is pains him to live there all alone.

It was a Tuesday night, nothing special on the telly, but John wasn't paying much attention anyways. He usually only had it on for white noise. He was physically and mentally exhausted, as the clinic seemed to be more busier than usual today. For once, his mind wasn't drifing to Sherlock's fall, but how fantastic it would be if he would be playing his violin right now so John could relax.

He was unfocused but not enough to hear the door squeak behind him. He knew that this wasn't Mrs. Hudson, she would have already made her presence known. John knew this wasn't a welcomed visitor.

Hand clenched at his side at the remote and hoped he looked like he was sleeping so he could do a surprise attack.

He could feel the presence moving closer, until he could feel their breath coming out in short huffs.

One hand on his shoulder and John got up from the couch, and swung his right arm around to hit the intruder in the face.

"Ooof!"

John was panting and shook his wrist out and came to the other side of the couch to see who had been trying to sneak into his flat.

Clutching his face in his hand, the other sprawled out behind him and legs splayed about the floor.

Sherlock Holmes was back from the dead.


John blinked. 

And then he blinked again.

And then some more, just to be sure what he was seeing.

Sherlock Holmes, his dead best friend, very much alive and with a punched face.

His face also wasn't just punched, but cut up, more bruised and scarred. It looked like he had gone through a war. His hair was also unkempt, not in its once usual perfectly curled locks. His eyes starred up at John, wild, questioning and the ever, please let me explain, I know it doesn't make sense but please let me talk before you get mad.


"Sherlock."

"John."

John ran a hand through his hair. He didn't know what to say or what to do. What can one do when someone they love comes back from the dead? Oh, hello, so glad you are back. Had a nice time on the other side, was the big man up there? Yeah, let's go get some dinner and talk all about it.

So John was honest, "I don't know what to do right now."

Sherlock slowly got up, "Nor do I."

"Well, you're here. Fantastic. Great. Um. How exactly are you here?"

"I faked my death in order to stop three gunman pointing at you, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. I had to go take down Moriarty's web." Sherlock looked as if he was hesitant, trying to read John for any type of emotion. But the only emotion John was feeling was confusion, is he really seeing this right now? Is this real? Or is he going to wake up in five minutes to the sound of his alarm?

"Right, okay. That's good, I suppose. But three years. Sherlock, you were gone three years."

Sherlock shrunk back into himself, "It took longer than I had thought."

"Um, your face, it's uh..." John motioned his hands towards his own face, trying to get his point across.

"Oh, yes. I got myself into a number of... complications. Nothing that time shouldn't help fade."

John nodded and then silence once more. Neither man knew what to say. John felt like he should be angry, and he knew he would be but right now, he was too much in shock to react in any type of way. Relief that his best friend was back. Confusion that this was real. Resentment because he had no idea his best friend was out there all that time and not a word was said to him about it. Every emotion imaginable was flickering through him, but he didn't know which one to stop at.

"John, you look like you're about to pass out." Sherlock sighed and moved closer to John and dragged him to the direction of the couch.

Sherlock sat on the other side of John, close but just a couple of inches of space between them.

More minutes of silence.

Sherlock broke it, "John. Please, say something. Be angry. Punch me. Anything. Your silence is making me uneasy."

John turned his head and looked at the ex-detective. His face was twisted in confusion and worry.

"I don't know what to say right now, Sherlock. I'm shocked. I had thought you were gone for good. Now you're here. I am glad about it but I'm also angry."

Sherlock nodded and looked down, "I get that this is going to take time. I will go check into a hotel and be situated there for now. This is your home, I do not wish to intrude if I am not wanted here. I just wanted to see you as soon as I could."

And then John felt another knife go into his stomach at the mention of Sherlock being anywhere else but here beside him. He's angry, he's hurt and he's so much more broken than what he was when he came back from the war. But that didn't change the fact that his best friend was sitting beside him once again, alive and breathing. He knew he was once of the only one's that ever had this chance. And the thought of him leaving just as he came back made him dizzy.

"Stay."

"What?"

"This... this is your home as much as it is mine. You are always welcomed to stay. I'm angry at you and what you did was not okay, but I don't want you staying anywhere else."

Sherlock smiled down at him, one of those rare, only-reserved-for-John, smiles. 

John didn't know how this was going to work out. He knew there would be fighthing and shouting and readjusting to each other. He knew that Sherlock knew this as well. Which only meant that not only was John willing to try to path things up, so was Sherlock.


It was about a week later when John was pacing back and forth and Sherlock was sitting on the couch, his eyes following his every move.

They were fighting.

"Things just can't be how they were over three years ago, Sherlock! Things change!"

Sherlock rolled his eyes, "Like what? I'm still me, you're still you."

"No, Sherlock. We both changed. You changed. And you are ignorant of that fact for reasons I don't know why. You keep on deluding yourself, that things are all happy and dandy when things just can't go back. We agreed to both work things out and you ignoring it is not going to solve anything!"

"Nothing changed."

"Everything has changed, Sherlock! Why the bloody fuck can't you see that? You, you aren't the same. You think I haven't noticed? You flinch at loud bangs. You barely go out of the flat. You love London and you haven't even done a new mental map of it yet. You don't play your violin, you don't do experiments. You just sit there all day long and solve cold cases that are barely a five! I get that this is hard, believe me, I do, but you not putting any effort is not helping. If you can't try, then I won't either because then what would be the point?"

John breathed heavily and put his face in his hands and faced the window looking out towards the street. He didn't know what to do. A week in and they are already fighting but it's like they aren't even fighting. Just Sherlock doing the shouting and Sherlock taking it. That's not like Sherlock. He always defended himself. Always tried to have the upper hand. He never backed down from a screaming match with John. Sherlock always had to be right.

Oh, god.

Sherlock isn't defending himself because he thinks that he deserves this. Deserves to be yelled out and thrown out. Deserves to have John hate him.

Well, that bloody well isn't going to happen, not on John's time.

He straightened his shoulders and turned around to face Sherlock who wore a blank face, a mask. He was hiding from John, but John knew Sherlock all to well. Some things don't change when it comes to people and Sherlock Holmes hiding his emotions was definitely one of them. John my be a bit slow but he always arrives at the point eventually.

John took a few steps towards Sherlock.

Sherlock looked up at with a blank expression but also with anticipation. He's ready to be kicked out of John's life. He is bracing himself.

"You listen to me, Sherlock Holmes. You play a lot of sick and twisted games. You are playing one right now. You are trying to make me kick you out because you feel like you deserve it. You feel like you should be hated. I understand. But that would just mean loosing you again and I refuse to feel all of that again. So stop this, stop trying to be everything you're not just because you cannot get over what you did to me. We are both going to get over it, together. We are going to fix this, this bloody thing that we have even if it kills me. So, if you are waiting for me to kick you out, you are waiting for nothing."

Sherlock eyes widened, his shock was evident on his face. This was not what he expecting John to say, maybe to get out and never come back again, but not to say that he would do the exact opposite.

Sherlock searched for words as John stood in front of him.

"I...I don't go out much because of my face. The scars. I don't like them. I hate looking at them."

John's eyebrows rose and took that as an understanding, that Sherlock wasn't going to try to push him away, but explain. John could work with that, it was better than working with a Sherlock who just sat around all day.

"Don't be ashamed of those scars, Sherlock, it shows bravery. You did a lot to ensure the protection of your friends and we are thankful for that. Anyone else who thinks differently can piss off."

Sherlock shook his head, "I don't feel that way."

John sighed and moved to sit next to Sherlock on the couch, "Well, of course you don't. I didn't feel that way returning from the war, either. I felt ashamed because I couldn't resume duty and that I was discharged. But I realized that over time, I saved many lives. And that I wasn't indestructible. One day I was bound to get shot. My scar on my shoulder is my reminder that I did something good. You won't always look at your scars in that way, it just takes time."

Sherlock nodded in understanding, but didn't say anything else.

They sat together until the sun fell from the sky and night was upon them. 

Sherlock got up and played his violin for the first time since his return.


A month later, things were still different, but was getting better.

Sherlock started going out, rebuilding his mental map of the city, and he started taking more cases, which John eagerly followed.

He even started doing more experiments.

Things were starting to get more back to normal but there was an ever growing tension in the flat. They hadn't opened up since that fight, and no one was willing to reopen another conversation.

There were things that needed to be said. Things that Sherlock nor John knew how to say.

But the glances were longer and the touches always lingered a few more seconds than need be, but no one mentioned it.

John knew they needed to talk, they just hadn't the time yet.

John was getting back from the clinic earlier than expected today, it was slow so they told him to go home and take the rest of the day off. John was too happy to relax the rest of the day and spend time with Sherlock. Being with him always made him feel better.

He went up the stairs, "Sherlock?"

No answer.

Huh, that's weird. Sherlock doesn't usually leave the flat without telling John.

He checked his room, even though he was hardly ever in there, but no sight of him.

John sighed and thought this was the beginning of Sherlock not telling him where he is, as it was before. He didn't mind it so much then but now it always seemed different. He always had to know where Sherlock was. 

He stopped on his way to the bathroom and noticed the light was on and the door was open just a crack. Sherlock was in there.

He stepped toward the door with caution, making sure that his footsteps were as light as possible. But Sherlock had to have heard John when he first came in.

John put his hand on the door lightly, no sounds were coming from the other side, so he pushed his hand against the door and watched it swing open.

Sherlock was standing facing the mirror, shirtless, and with slash marks all down his body.

John stood in shock, he had known his face was covered in scars but he had not seen the rest of his flatmates body. One long thick red mark when across his right shoulder, all the way down to his left hip. Another one went from one side of his ribcage, to the other in a slant ward angle. His stomach was over all covered in little cuts and scars.

"I was tortured."

John looked up from Sherlock's stomach to his face.

"By who?"

"Sebastian Moran. He was the most lethal. The last one I took down. He tortured me for hours before I was able to break free and catch him off guard."

John stepped in to the bathroom more, "I'm so sorry, Sherlock. I had no idea.."

Sherlock tilted his face, "No, no how could you. But now this is what I have to remember every time I look in the mirror. I'm trying to follow your advice you gave a month ago but I can't help but feel disgusted at myself. Gross. Ugly. A freak."

John's heart broke at every work Sherlock spoke. Sherlock was never, would never be any of those things. Sherlock, in John's eyes, was a hero. Was a fantastic human being. Was everything that everyone should aspire to be. He was clever and brave and full of wit and.. and...

"Beautiful."

Sherlock eyes head snapped to John, eyes widening, "What?"

Well, there was no going back now.

"You are none of those things you just described yourself to be, Sherlock. None. You are beautiful. In everything that you are. I know I was angry about what you did but how can I keep on being angry when I know I'm the reason why you went through this? You were so brave. You took down a web almost single handily and you survived. When I look at you, with all of those scars, I don't see ugly, I don't see disgusting, and I will never, ever see you as a freak. You are Sherlock Holmes, my best friend, a man who went through so much for the people he cares about. These scars are one of a soldier."

Sherlock's mouth was open is disbelief, his eyes scanning to John to see if he was just lying to him but he found nothing but pure honesty. He wanted to say something, anything. To tell John that he was just as amazing, no more than Sherlock will ever be. He will never comapre to him, Sherlock was so small compared to John Watson, who had a big heart, one that still loves even when broken. Oh, how Sherlock wished he could just say something.

"John, I..." 

Nothing was coming out.

John only smiled at him in understanding, John knew Sherlock wasn't used to be talked to in that way, he looked like he had been knocked over, his face with a thousand words on them but not a word was said.

"Time will fix it, it's a great healer. It's only been a month Sherlock, you deserve time to heal. Now, let's go get something to eat. I have the rest of the day off and I'm starving."

John gave him one last smile and walked out of the door.

Sherlock watched him go in awe and confusion. 

One day, Sherlock will say what he needs to say to John. Maybe when he is more healed. Time.

Time was a great healer.


It's been three months since Sherlock's return.

John was right, time was some sort of a miracle worker. The scars were fading. (Well, John had got him a cream from the clinic that helped make scars fade away, which Sherlock was grateful for.) And things were returning to normal again, more normal than ever before. 

The one thing that still was a three-patch problem, was the nightmares that Sherlock had.

It bothered him, he knew they weren't real and he knew in the case of a traumatic event, that they would occur. Completely logical.

But that did not explain the way he woke up in sweat and tears, feeling like the dream had been real.

And the dream is always the same. Instead of Sherlock being on the roof that day, it was John, saying goodbye and Sherlock watching John fall to his death.

He realizes that John must have gone though. How much the hurt eats away at you, how much guilt you feel from not being able to save the other even when they felt so close. If this is how Sherlock felt from a dream, he couldn't fathom to think what John had to go through in real life.

Normally, these dreams occurred in the middle of the night, when he is in his room and where John cannot see. And Sherlock had no intention of him ever finding out.

Time.

He just needed time and they would be gone.

He did not anticipate for tonight's dream to be so much more intense then the others. It was different. 

John was laying on a medal table in a dark room, and Sherlock was sitting in a chair.

The scene looked all to familiar. It was Moran's room he tortured Sherlock in.

Sherlock got up to move from the chair but he wouldn't budge. He looked down to realize he was tied.

He heard a laugh, "Don't try to save your little pet, Sherlock. He's going to die. And you are going to watch."

Sherlock tried to speak, but his throat would not work. He looked around the room, searching for the voice.

"Over here!" The figure laughed and came out of the shadows.

Sherlock shook in his chair as he saw the whip in Moran's hand.

"You're trying to destroy something that I've spent most of my life building. I will not let you take it away from me!"

He rose his hand and that's when the first lash hit John's right leg.

John cried out.

Sherlock felt like he was going to be sick.

"You killed someone very important Sherlock. Very important indeed. Only about time I return the favor."

Another blow to John's stomach.

More cries.

"You!" Crack, "Will!, "Crack, "Pay!" Crack, "For!" Crack, "What!" Crack, "You!" Crack, "Did!"

All Sherlock could hear was John's cries and his own, hot tears spilling down his face, his vision going blurry and his throat aching to make a noise. Sherlock just wanted Moran to kill him, so he could forget all about this. He could not bare John in pain, he could not stand to hear his cries. He wanted to die, or that he never was born so John would never have to pay for his mistakes. He wanted John to meet a wife, a nice girl named Mary, and have kids and grow old and die an old, old age. Not like this, never like this.

"Sherlock, help me! Why are you sitting there? Help me!"


Sherlock felt himself give way and suddenly his eyes were opening to the dark.

He didn't get enough time to adjust because he was already out of bed and running to the bathroom to empty the contents in his stomach.

He heard the door open and knew John was by his side in no longer than five seconds.

Hands were at his hair as he continued to dry heave into the bowl.

"Sherlock, come on, breath. You need to breathe, it's going to be okay. Just breathe."

John's words were soothing to Sherlock, as were the hands that were currently messaging his scalp. 

"John."

"I'm here, I'm not going anywhere. You just need to get your breathing back to normal."

Sherlock closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, in and out. His head was resting against the edge of the toilet, he couldn't bring himself to move just yet. His head was still spinning and if he moved, he was sure he was going to vomit again.

He felt hands leave his hair and he made a noise out of the loss of contact.

"Just getting you water from the sink. Your mouth probably does not taste good right now."

Sherlock changed to open his eyes, and luckily, nothing was spinning. He blinked a few times and lifted his head up from the toilet and sat back against the wall on the other side.

He looked up at John, who was currently wearing just boxers, getting water from the sink, he flushed the toilet and handed the plastic cup to Sherlock.

He mumbled a thanks and put the water in his mouth, swished it around a bit and spit it back in the cup. John took it back and emptied it in the sink and repeated the process two more times. John placed the cup on the counter and went and sat next to Sherlock on the ground.

"So, what happened?"

"Food poising."

"Liar."

Sherlock made a hum in agreement. There wasn't a big attempt to lie to John, but he just didn't want to tell him the truth.

"Come on, Sherlock. What's going on?"

"I'm.. I'm afraid to tell."

"Take your time."

Sherlock sighed and closed his eyes. Time. He didn't anticipate for it to take so much time to realize. Didn't realize how much damage was there until after the fact. He didn't know how to heal or make it stop. He wanted to talk to John, he just didn't know what to say. He needs to say things he should of a long time ago. Say them just in case.

"I've been having nightmares."

"About?"

"It's usually just me on the ground and you on the rood and you fall instead of me."

"But, not tonight?"

"No, not tonight. We were in Moran's torture room and he was torturing you while I could do nothing but watch and listen to you scream."

"Jesus. No wonder you puked."

Sherlock hummed in agreement, "Maybe I shouldn't of waited this long to tell you."

"You think?" John had an amused tone, slightly teasing.

"I just didn't know how."

"It's fine, Sherlock, it's all fine."

Sherlock shook his head, "Except it is not."

"How so?"

Sherlock played with his hands in front of him, not knowing what is it he exactly wanted to convey to John. He wanted to thank him. To tell him that he's the reason he did all of this in the first place. Why he keeps on going. He wants to tell him that he made Sherlock a better person, a good man. He wanted to say so many things, like what John had told him.

"Remember what you told me a few months ago? You said... I was beautiful?"

"Yes?" John had the, I'm-Not-Sure-Where-This-Is-Going tone.

"I.. I feel the same way. Towards you. You're beautiful, John Watson. And knowing that I couldn't save you, killed me."

Silence.

A bit not good?

"It was a dream, Sherlock, nothing more."

"No. I broke you, too. When I left. I did a lot of damage. Damage that cannot be undone and I realize that I do not know how to fix it. I'm trying to be the best friend you have always been to me. But I feel like I am not enough for you. You deserve better. You are amazing and brave and loyal and everything I wish I was when it comes to you. You are solid and something to lean on and something to anchor myself while I feel like I'm drowning. You make me feel, and I now realize that that is a wonderful thing."

Sherlock turned his head to see the reaction on John's face.

John looked awed, much like how he looked when Sherlock first came back. His eyes were like he was starring at the eighth world wonder.

He felt something slip in his hand, it was John's own hand. He intertwined their fingers.

"No, Sherlock. You're enough. You've always been enough. You saved me. More than once. And I cannot be anymore thankful. I'm only trying to return the favor I know I will never be able to repay. You... no words can put it how much you mean to me. We are both somewhat broken and damaged at what has happened but we fill fix each other. I want you as you are, I take you for everything you are, as I have from the beginning. We're in this together, okay?"

Sherlock nodded.

"I love you."

It slipped before Sherlock had a chance to catch himself.

But, John, wonderful, amazing, John, he only smiled.

"I love you, too," His hand came up to cradle his face, "And all of your battle scars."