It had been a bit of a shock when John realized that his bedroom upstairs was just that. A bedroom, and nothing more. He hadn't even thought about really looking the place over before he had committed to moving in with a possibly psychopathic man. So here he was, having to use the shower downstairs, which meant being very careful to remember to bring everything you needed to change into the bathroom with you.
Which of course also meant that it was inevitable that he would eventually forget once.
John almost collapsed onto the floor as soon as the door was to the flat was opened. He wanted nothing more than to fall into his chair and take a long nap. He wasn't even sure he could be arsed to make it up the stairs to his bed. Hell, even the carpet was looking promising right now to his heavy lidded eyes.
But one whiff of himself and he knew what the first order of business was.
He and Sherlock had been chasing after a murder suspect, when his toadie took them by surprise in a back alley. A scrap had ensued, and John had found himself unceremoniously tossed into the nearest skip. By the time he had managed to extract himself from the garbage, Sherlock had subdued the toadie, while his buddy got away.
It was hell finding a cab to take them home. He reeked of garage and he didn't even want to think what kind of terrible things had soaked into what used to be his favorite jumper. So much for that. All of these clothes were going into the fireplace post haste. The ride home was hell. Sherlock was scrunched up into a ball as far away from John as he could on the other side of the taxi, riding with all four of the windows open. So far, this budding friendship was not going terribly well.
As soon as they got in, Sherlock had immediately walked straight back to his room and closed the door. Well, that was that, John thought. He wants nothing to do with me for a while, I suppose. He sighed and started to run a hand to his face... but then smelt his hand and thought better of it.
“Sod this. I need a shower.” John grabbed a refuse bag from the kitchen, stripped down to his boxers, threw everything else in the bag, tied it up and put it next to the refuse bin. He headed towards the bathroom, closed and locked the door, and took the longest, hottest shower in his life.
By the time he was done, there was no more hot water, and he had scrubbed his skin so hard it was red and raw. But he felt about 100 times better than he had before. He wrapped a fluffy towel low around his hips, and threw the boxers in a small Tesco plastic bag with the intention that it would join its fellow clothing in the fire later.
For a moment, he hesitated with his hand on the bathroom door handle. It was steamy and warm and comforting in here. It was extraordinarily tempting to just stay in the bathroom for a while. The moist, damp air was relaxing. Or perhaps it was too relaxing. He was worried that he would fall asleep if he stayed. Initially the warm water had woken him up, but as the adrenalin of the chase wore off, he felt more and more of the weight of the day sinking down onto his shoulders, the tiredness was setting into his bones.
“All you have to do it make it up the stairs.” He psyched himself up. After taking in and releasing a long breath, he opened the door and took a quick look to the left. The door to Sherlock's bedroom was still closed, and he saw no light coming out of it. The man barely seemed to sleep, so it seemed odd that he would be out this early. But there were no sounds coming from the living room either. Whether someone was in there or not, the lamp was always on, so that was no clear indication that anyone was present.
John shrugged and turned to the right, freezing as soon as he stepped into the living room.
“Oh John, I see that you are finally...” Sherlock had been sitting in his chair, reading a book. His voice trailed off as soon as he looked up at John, though.
For a heartbeat, John thought Sherlock was embarrassed because he had never seen his roommate clad in only a towel before. It was not something that most roommates shared with each other. But a quick look at Sherlock's eyes told the doctor what he was looking at. His chest.
“You... have a tattoo.” He said, matter of factly.
I could run... John thought. Just run upstairs and then they would both be embarrassed enough to never talk about it again. But for some inexplicable reason, he stayed.
“It's over the wound in your shoulder, from Afghanistan.”
“It's an anatomical heart.”
“That bullet, it didn't miss your heart by much, did it?”
“No.” The response was barely over a whisper.
“So you decided that instead of people seeing the pain of your scar, they would see the comfort of your heart..”
Another pause. That hadn't been his line of reasoning at all. His motives had not been that deep. He wanted to take something ugly and make it personal, make his skin his again. The more he thought about it, the more that those two motivations didn't really seem all that different. He shrugged noncommittally.
“That is an entrance wound, less than 5 centimeters. Which means that the exit wound in the back must be much larger. I would assume, then, that you have decided to cover that as well.”
I could still just walk away, John thought to himself. This conversation was getting more and more personal by the moment. And yet, once again, he did not tuck tail and run. Without a word, he turned around to show his roommate his back.
“A crest, and a Latin motto. 'Quo Fata Vocant'. Whither the Fates Call. That is the crest of the Royal Army Medical Corps. So I will guess that the motto is from your division, the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers.”
John was glad that his back was turned to Sherlock, so he had time to pick his jaw up off the floor. In the short time he had known this man, he had seen his deduction skills at work. He had been privy to them from the first time that they met. This, though, was extraordinary.
“Yes.” John said softly again.
“It's a much larger scar, hence a much larger tattoo. And while the front tattoo covers all the scar tissue, this one does not because of its irregular, almost star like pattern due to the explosiveness of the exiting bullet.”
John was silent, not sure how to respond. The quiet lay thick and heavy for a moment between them before Sherlock spoke again.
“I have read that tattoos over scarring hurts more than over the uninjured epidermis.”
“I have no other tattoos, so I wouldn't have anything to compare it to. “
“Does that... surprise you?” John turned back to look at his flatmate, an eyebrow raised.
“No. You don't seem the type. I am surprised you have the two that you do. I know that it's common for military men to have tattoos, but you strike me as a doctor first, and a military man second. Despite the fact that you do, in fact, hold yourself in a very stiff, military way. Therefore, I am not surprised that you don't have any other tattoos.”
John made a little humming noise in his throat. Once again, he wasn't sure how to respond. He was quickly learning that it seemed to happen a lot with Sherlock Holmes.
“I would ask if it hurt, but seeing as you were shot, I don't think that anything would hold a candle to that.”
John's face went blank. Muzzle flashes.. Shouts of pain. The smell of the sand and of blood and death filled his nostrils.
He was vaguely aware of someone calling his name. Was it his C.O.? The voice was fuzzy and vague and... deep. No. Not his C.O. Someone...
A light touch on his shoulder brought him back to reality. He jolted away and stumbled a few steps back, almost losing his towel. Sweat matted his bangs and he realized after a moment that he was panting heavily.
“John. You zoned out. Are you alright?”
John was silent for a few long moments until he began to catch his breath and his heart started beating a somewhat normal pattern. His eyes were slightly glassed over, like he wasn't looking at Sherlock or even anywhere in 221B, but somewhere far, far beyond.
“Yeah.” He finally managed to croak out softly. “I... need to rest. I'll be okay. I promise. I just need to get some sleep.”
“Alright. Good night, John.”
John grumbled a little noise that sounded like “ 'Night” and trudged up the stairs. It had been a long evening, and he was more than ready for it to finally be over.
Life went back to some semblance of normal- as much as life can be normal at Baker Steet- after 'The Fall', as John took to calling it. Of course he was spending most of his time with Mary at their flat, but he used any excuse that he could to go back to Baker Street and solve cases. It wasn't like it used to be, he knew that it never would be, but for a short time, they could be the doctor and the detective once again.
With the wedding looming soon, though, he knew that those days were numbered. Sure, both Sherlock and Mary were insisting that they could still run around London and solve crimes, but he was smart enough to know that their time as a pair at 221B Baker Street was effectively over.
Two weeks before the wedding, John got a text to come to Baker Street immediately. The first thing John thought was- How does know it's my day off? Followed of course by- because he Sherlock Bloody Holmes. Of course he knows these things.
“Mary, dear, Sherlock is insisting that I need to come over. I promise I won't be late.” He kissed her forehead tenderly, grabbed his jacket, and was out the door in a flash.
“Sherlock, what's so bloody important that-” He has started talking as soon as he opened the door, assuming that the detective would be in his chair like the always was, waiting impatiently like always for him to arrive. Instead, the living room was empty. He looked into the kitchen . Empty as well. John peered down the hallway. Sherlock's bedroom door was open, but he didn't hear any noise coming from it.
His stomach tightened. Had something happened? He looked around quickly, but there was no implement close at hand to use as a weapon. So he steadied his nerves, took a deep breath, balled up his fists, and made his way down the hallway as silently as possible. Pressing his back to the wall on the left side as he went, he peered into the bedroom.
Only to find Sherlock there, standing in dress pants and a half buttoned shirt, facing away from the door.
John must have caught him by surprise. Sherlock turned, and for a moment, he saw surprise in the detective's eyes. But in less than a heartbeat it was replaced by his normal, almost bored expression. “Oh, John. There you are. Took you long enough.” He swept his arm across the bed, which had two shirts on it, plus an empty spot where he assumed the one he was wearing had been.
“Well, you know, London traffic.” He shook his head and shrugged, walking the rest of the way into the room. This man never ceased to surprise and amuse him. “So, I assume you are looking for a shirt for the wedding?”
“Ah, my blogger does learn.” Sherlock smiled warmly. It wasn't a smile that many saw. This was his true friendly, warm smile, and John was honored to know that he was one of a very short list to have seen it. “So, what do you think of this one?” It was bright white, with a thin collar and light pleats down the front.
John looked it over, then looked at the other two shirts. “What about this one?” He pointed to the one closest to him. It was a bit more of a subdued white, with a wider collar and no pleats.
Sherlock nodded and once again turned away from John. He unbuttoned the shirt he had on, shrugged it off, and tossed it on the bed, then turned toward the bed to pick up the other one, turning his back fully to John.
Sherlock grabbed the shirt, holding it in his hand, making no move to put it on. “I what, John?” His humorless smirk said that he knew damn well what John was talking about.
“Yes. That is my back.”
“Those... scars.” He took a step closer, his arm slightly outstretched, still keeping a respective distance. “You got those after you 'died', didn't you?. You were...”
Sherlock quickly interrupted him, his voice going almost dangerously low. “I am not going to talk about this right now, John.”
John took one step closer. He was only centimeters away from Sherlock's skin. He could see every lash. Some were old and thickly scarred, others he figured he must have gotten right before he game back. Even months later they were still not quite fully healed.
“And... you got a tattoo... to cover the worst of it up.” It was a statement, not a question. By far the worst of the lashings were between his shoulder blades. That is where the tattoo was, across the span of his back, from blade to blade.
“It looks like... molecules.. Three of them. But I don't know what they are. And underneath them, an EKG reading.” He paused for a moment, his eyes widening slightly. “That's your actual heartbeat isn't it?”
“Yes. As a doctor you should be able to see that I have a slight Supraventricular Tachycardia. It increases my heart rate slightly, but its not fatal. But it also makes my EKG... unique.” John chuckled. There is nothing about him that is not unique, he thought. Even his heartbeat has to be different than everyone else. He can't stand to be normal in any possible way.
“The three molecules. The first is C17, H21, NO4. Also known as Cocaine. The second is C9, H13, NO3. Also known as Adrenaline. Funny how their structures are not so different, isn't it?” He paused for just a moment to let John take the information in, but not long enough to give him time to respond. “The last molecule is C10, H12, N20. Also known as Serotonin. Closer to Adrenaline than Adrenalin is to Cocaine structurally.” He paused again, watching John carefully as he absorbed what he was being told.
“They represent my past, my present, and my future. Obviously, Cocaine was a part of my past, but I hope to leave it behind. Adrenaline is my present. The thrill of a new case, another mystery to solve. And I hope that Serotonin will be my future, one that finds me happy and fulfilled. “
Sherlock finally went quiet. John opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He would have never expected this from the detective in the funny hat. And maybe Sherlock never would have gotten the idea if he hadn't walked out of the shower with nothing on but a towel all those years ago. Or maybe he would have, as Sherlock had obviously already been reading about the correlation between the level of pain when tattooing scar tissue versus regular tissue the first time they talked. God, I sound like Sherlock now, he thought with a sad smile.
“That is... so... you.” John shook his head and laughed. “I... never saw you as the type to want a tattoo, but if you did, I don't think I could see you getting anything but this. “
“I'll take that as a compliment, then.” In one swift move Sherlock put the shirt on, buttoned it up, and turned so that John could see the front.
“Yes, I think that one will do fine.” John's voice was soft when he responded to Sherlock's unanswered question about the shirt.
And then it hit John, like the freight train at full tilt. Sherlock was perfectly capable of picking out a shirt for the wedding. He had called him there on purpose, to show John what he had done. Sherlock trusted him, and he valued John's opinion enough that Sherlock actually seeked his approval. It was a level of trust that John doubted Sherlock had ever shown anyone in his entire life, save maybe Mycroft. But he wasn't even so sure about that, as their relationship could be described as rocky at the best of times.
“Good then. I am no longer in need of your services. You may go back to Mary now.” That almost callous dismissal, after having talked about such intimate subjects stung John more that he knew it should have. He was aware that Sherlock was giving him on out- a good excuse to go back home. Back to Mary. But didn't he realize that to him, this was home, too?
“Okay. I'll see you later, then.” John said, trying to keep his voice steady. He turned and started to head out.
His head whipped around so he could look Sherlock in the eyes. “Yes?”