Trigger for brief violence and homophobia

Limb From Limb

It was a day for rage.

It was sunny, for one. Not good when you're made of milk and bleached bones and chalk. Which is to say if you're a certain sort of English.

It was futile for another. Not good if you'd like a bit of locum work but there's nothing, absolutely nothing, going. Which is to say John Watson.

And finally, it was boring. Not good if you're petulant, demanding, obsessive and so very, very smart. Which is to say Sherlock Holmes.

So the day was set up for rage if you want the truth. And so rage is what they got.

...

The first man was shorter than John, the other no taller. Later, just about everyone—Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft—would attribute their cruelty to that, because people desperately need to give reason to things, even very smart people.

The rage of those two men had nothing to do with their stature, however, it had to do with a youth of casual violence, of growing up in a place where fury seemed the only outlet, and where there were always bones and glass and hearts waiting for the breaking.

If speaking for themselves those men would tell you John was asking for it. Because sometimes if you're white and male, straight and angry, well sometimes the only justification you need is black or female or gay. Be any one of those things and that's reason enough to hurt you. Hell, it's a neon sign. It's fucking permission.

John kisses Sherlock in public. At first he was reticent about that. The world's a backward place, something an army doctor knows firsthand. So when he and Sherlock became lovers five months back, John thought he'd keep the public displays of affection low-key.

Yet to his surprise the good doctor found himself with a quite justified self-righteousness, a need to have what everyone else had. And what they had was the simple right to publically hold their lover's hand, whisper in their sweetie's ear, to buss a pretty mouth.

So John came to do all those things quite quickly, possibly initiating even more than Sherlock, who had never given one tinker's damn about what anyone saw or thought.

The point is, those two thugs? They would say John was obviously a little queer so he was asking for it. They saw him put his tongue in the other fairy's mouth and if that ain't begging to have your shit rearranged right quick, what is?

The problem, the whole problem with everything that happened because of that, is that it didn't happen right then, not right after that sloppy, silly, very out-in-public kiss, it happened a day later, when Sherlock was angry with John and so Sherlock wasn't there. He wasn't there when John needed him.

...

They don't fight much. People think they must. They presume Sherlock's temperament, his eccentricities, his maggot-filled experiments would try a saint's patience and yes, sure, Sherlock's high-strung, peculiar, and keeps close company with dead things, but he's also passionate, inventive, and loyal.

So they don't actually fight often and when they do it's about ridiculous things like whether the new toaster is Sherlock's toaster to be used for the macabre heating of unspeakable things, or whether the new toaster is John's toaster, to be used for the heating of bread. They will both insist that the old toaster belongs to the other, the toaster that groans almost in an obscene way, something that finally got so disturbing even Sherlock was disinclined to use it.

That's not what they fought about that day though. It was about consent, it was about John insisting that Sherlock get his permission to take a case, any case, and frankly that, phrased just that way, was so ridiculous that Sherlock looked at John and pronounced him, "Mentally incapacitated and delusional."

The words were inflammatory but Sherlock was right and John knew it. He also knew his own angry response was out of all proportion to the stimuli and even as the words left his mouth John regretted them, knew they were wrong, and yet he let them fly.

"Seven out of ten cases you get now are because of me, me and my blog are what's keeping you fed, the least you could do is show some gratitude."

There's not going to be much John regrets in his life, and most of what he does is going to be words. Because John's not an overly talkative man so when he does get on a roll it's often when he's angry and the very absolute best time to say things for which you'll later feel remorse is when you're annoyed because you feel useless.

Initially Sherlock didn't reply because he suddenly got it: John was in a snit and looking for a fight.

Well too bad. Sherlock won't argue back when John's really spoiling for it because John Watson's nowhere near as well-equipped for blistering invective as the man who spent nearly thirty-four years honing this terrible skill.

Instead Sherlock did something worse. He apologised.

"I'm sorry John. You're right. I'm wrong. I'll ask your permission next time."

Sherlock doesn't even try to lie well anymore, especially not to John, and right now that annoyed John even more. "I'm going out," he said.

And then he did.

...

The good doctor stood on 221B's stoop for five long minutes. First he thought about going to the pub a few doors down. Then he thought about going back upstairs. Finally he fiddled with his phone, nearly sending a text to Lestrade.

Then with a shrug he did indeed send a text—I'm sorry love. I'm sorry. Going for a walk. Back soon—and then John headed toward St. John's Wood to get his damn head on straight.

He was a few hundred metres along Park Road when there were words, very close.

"Hey faggot."

Later that's what John would fixate on, the man's use of the American invective.

Not that John even heard him at first, he didn't. So the ugly little man made sure John heard his ugly little insult by coming right alongside him, and hissing, "Hey fairy, I'm talking to you."

John's a lot of the things people say he is. Strong, brave, yeah sure, he's a regular little warrior. But what most don't know is he emphatically does not seek out a fight. A fist to the face—whether getting or giving—hurts and leaves you feeling like shit later, no matter on which end of the violence you stood.

So John didn't engage the fool beside him, he just kept walking. Except now his hands were no longer in his pockets.

"Maybe the little poof's a deafie, too."

John's breath left him in a startled rush. He hadn't heard the other one until the man was on the other side of him, touching him.

John stopped walking the moment he felt those fingers at the back of his neck. "Get the fuck off," he said, turning, cocking his arm to swing.

And that's as far as he got because just as John had been before, these men were spoiling for it and so they swung at the same time, one at John's belly, the other his head.

As he hit the pavement John curled fetal and the calm part of his mind, the part that helps keep his hands steady, that part told him to stay tucked, to protect his belly and chest and face from the feet and while he did that, exactly that, another part of his mind chanted kick, kick, kick, and that seemed like a good idea too and maybe, when he could breathe again, maybe John'd do that, yeah, that'd be a good first effort but not just yet because it was getting kind of serious, the whole not being able to breathe thing, so he really needed to concentrate on relaxing his cramping belly enough so he could—

—John sucked in a sharp breath when one of the men fell on top of him, then flopped onto the pavement, out bloody cold.

John groaned giddy, because he was breathing now, and then he was rolling over and sitting up but Sherlock was going down, down onto his knees over the second man, and he was bashing the man's face into dirty pavement not once—

"Sherlock!"

—not twice—

"Sherlock!"

—god no, not three times—

"Sherlock!"

John lunged from his sitting position, toppling Sherlock off the thug's back, though one of his long legs still managed to kick out, connecting with the man's jaw.

"No!" John howled, wrapping himself around his lover's body as Sherlock thrashed wild, like something gut-stabbed and dying.

"Stop!"

But there's no easy way to stop a freight train that's gathered steam, not until it's spent its momentum or been derailed.

Mercifully, Sherlock took care of that on his own.

He went suddenly boneless beneath John, and started crying.

Sherlock.

John didn't say it with words, just with everything else, with a gentle hand against Sherlock's cheek, a kiss to his forehead, with shushing at his lover's ear.

But Sherlock would not be shushed, because once he's committed himself—to just about anything—the man is god damn lavish. So Sherlock gave in to his misery, sobbing as if he were broken somewhere, wailing like a hungry infant left too long alone.

It was about then John saw the first man stirring, and with a soft "Stay," he crawled over, peeling open first one of the man's eyelids, then the other, ignoring a weak flail that tried to bat his hand away.

Satisfied that the arse was not seriously compromised, John turned to the second man and knew before he touched him that here things would be so much worse.

Concussion and intracranial injuries nearly certain.

Multiple contusions.

Possible shoulder dislocation. Make that two.

Even as he assessed damage John dialed 999, speaking aloud what his examination uncovered, twice repeating himself, once because he was too dizzy to focus, once because Sherlock had choked off his own sobs as if he had, indeed, been choked, and then crawled over and tried beating the bloody man bloodier.

Grappling with his lover, keeping an eye on the waking thug, coping with his own wooziness, it took John so long to complete the emergency call that about the time he did, help had arrived.

Thank heaven for small mercies. Or not-quite six-foot mercies named Gregory Lestrade, who got them home within two hours, after a detour to A&E.

And it was there, in the sanctity of their calm and quiet home, that Sherlock Holmes derailed a second time.

...continuing...

My universe doesn't contain Moriartys, Reichenbachs, or much in the way of homophobia, but this story's been in my head awhile. There's one more chapter, maybe two and all will end well. My stories for them always will. (P.S. No, this is not my pending angst fic, this one's an entirely different angst fic.)