For all that Sherlock had been obsessed in the wedding planning, throwing himself into colour schemes and guest lists, origami napkins and the careful selection of music, he didn't care at all for what he was supposed to wear.
John was having a hard time getting him to cooperate with shirt selection. Sherlock was sitting on his bed in a cream coloured button up that didn't look quite right on him.
"Take that shirt off and try this one," John told him, throwing a new shirt at him.
Sherlock caught it in one hand. "I'd rather not John," he said quietly.
"Sherlock, I've seen you shirtless before. It's nothing new."
Sherlock just sat there for a moment, and John wondered if he was going to do it, but Sherlock began to undo the buttons on his shirt. As he slid the shirt down off his shoulders, he made no move to put the next one on. And John understood why. Sherlock knew John would want to see, to stare, to ask, to know.
Because John understood why Sherlock hadn't wanted to undress in front of him.
He was covered in scars, all in varying degrees of healing, some from years ago, others from within the last few months. His back especially, lines crisscrossing like some sort of abstract art.
It was horrific.
John may have let out a small gasp.
"You weren't the only one who suffered," Sherlock said quietly.
John blinked. "But... you never said anything," he whispered.
"And why would I?" he replied.
John lowered his head.
Indeed, why would Sherlock have said anything?
When he came back, John felt nothing but anger towards him. Anger for putting him through all that pain, for not telling him, for making him wait two bloody years.
And then after Sherlock rescued him from the fire, they were sort of friends again, hard not to be with that sort of thing, and they mostly skipped over the anger. Of course, there was the bomb incident, but they were never to speak of that again...
They never really talked about what Sherlock had been doing for two whole years.
John figured that it hadn't been pleasant, but he never expected to see this. Sherlock had been tortured. Repeatedly. His skin had been cut and torn and beaten and burned all in an effort to get... something from him. Information. Confessions. Entertainment. Who knew?
John couldn't help himself.
"Can I touch them?" he whispered.
Sherlock shrugged, knowing that John needed to be able to feel that he was alright, that he was still whole, all the important bits still held carefully inside, not having fallen out anywhere along the way.
With careful hands, surgeon's hands, John traced the scars, the larger ones first, the deeper ones, the ones that had taken the longest to heal. He sorted them from old to new, to the ones Sherlock had received so shortly after his death to the ones that still hurt John to look at.
"When did you get these last ones?" John asked, tracing them. They were particularly violent.
Sherlock shifted. "The day before I came home."
John startled and looked up at him. "You mean... when you got back... you were still healing?"
Sherlock shrugged. "I suppose."
John groaned, realizing what that meant. "So when I attacked you... repeatedly... you already had these injuries."
"You couldn't have known," Sherlock told him, like it would reassure him.
"And when you rescued me from the fire..." John murmured, tracing a particularly long one, "You probably opened the wounds back up. Did you even get them treated?"
Sherlock shrugged. "I didn't notice," he said honestly. "And not really. Mycroft had someone look at them, mostly to ensure I wasn't dying."
"Remind me to punch Mycroft the next time I see him," John muttered.
Sherlock smirked. "With pleasure. And with any luck, he'll be at the wedding, so you can do it in front of a crowd."
"I'm so sorry Sherlock," John sighed. "For everything. For not realizing how much it hurt you. I suppose I was lost in my own pain and anger, and forgot that you had been fighting criminals for two years. And I'm sorry that you have all these scars," he added, gesturing to Sherlock's back, then to his head.
Sherlock frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"The worst scars are the ones you can't see," John said knowingly. He held a finger to Sherlock's forehead, much like Sherlock had done to Lestrade once, so very long ago. "In there."
Sherlock frowned. "Perhaps," he said softly. "You would know, wouldn't you John?"
John nodded sadly. Indeed he did.