Disclaimer – Profit would be nice because then I could give up the day job, but alas, no.
For once it was a quiet evening, not long after John had moved in. The latest case had been solved, dinner had been eaten and the warm fire provided a pleasant contrast to the driving rain that was battering against the windows outside. For some reason, which John really didn't want to know about, Sherlock was reading a textbook on advanced obstetrics while he himself was making do with the paper and the quiet murmur of BBC News 24 in the background.
"Tea?" He offered after a while.
"Lovely." Sherlock murmured without looking up.
John stood up, stretching out the kinks a little, before he padded in his stocking feet into the kitchen and busied himself with the kettle and teabags. As he retrieved the milk from the fridge the bowl of human fingers elicited nothing more than an exasperated shake of the head, adding the milk to the tea he left it on the side as he wandered back into the lounge carrying two mugs.
"You know, we could buy a second fridge," He suggested. "Then we would have one for body parts and another for actual food."
Without warning gunfire sounded suddenly loud in the room. On the television a BBC News Reporter was providing commentary as footage of British Troops involved in a fire fight played out across the screen. For a second, John stood transfixed, transported by those sights and sounds to a time and place he would rather not remember.
At the sound of Sherlock's voice John blinked and forced himself back to the present, trying to ignore the slight tremor in his hand as he set one of the mugs down on the table next to the sofa and retreated with the other to his armchair, sinking down into its soft upholstery without a word.
"Are you alright?"
Across the room, grey eyes were narrowed as the full force of Sherlock Holmes formidable attention was brought to bear upon him. John almost smiled as he imagined how many criminals had confessed under that penetrating look. Odd then, that he found it rather endearing that the other man had cared enough to notice his discomfort.
"Yeah," He found a smile from somewhere. "I'm fine, it's just, well, the memories."
"Good or bad?" Sherlock asked perceptively.
"Both," John admitted. There was a lot about the army that he missed. But actually getting shot and its resulting complications wasn't an experience he was anxious to repeat. Looking across at his flatmate his mouth twisted slightly in rueful amusement as he took in the particularly focused expression. "Go on then."
"Are you analysing me?" Sherlock looked positively delighted by the prospect, bounding forward on the sofa to place his elbows on his knees and his chin on his steepled fingers. "What exactly is it you're expecting me to do?"
"Well, most ordinary people," John stressed the word with an amused grin. "Once they find out I was wounded in action. They have questions. They're curious. They want to know what happened. But not the great Sherlock Holmes, you think you already know what happened, but you're not entirely sure and it's been driving you nuts. You want to know if you're right."
"Very good, John," Sherlock was totally sincere in his praise. If anything he was slightly surprised and rather flattered that the other man already knew him so well. That was so unexpectedly refreshing that he felt uncharacteristically reticent about revealing his deductions. "Are you sure?"
"Believe me," John met his gaze squarely. "Nothing you can come up with can compare with living through the reality. At least, you had the courtesy to wait until I was ready. Everyone else I've met so far has seen my injury as fair game."
"Alright then," Sherlock wasn't about to disrespect this man by giving him anything less than his very best. "Judging by the pattern of the scaring you were shot from behind. Not running away, that's not in your nature, plus the trajectory of bullet as it came out of your chest indicates that you were bending over at the time. As a doctor most would assume that you were attending to a casualty, perhaps bent over a stretcher. But you studiously avoid talking about the incident. Both the psychosomatic limp and the traces of PTSD suggest that it was very traumatic for you. Perhaps, a patient died, you're a doctor, perfectly understandable that you would be upset by loosing a patient, but no, because you're a good doctor and you would have done everything in your power to save your casualty, so regret if he died but not this self recrimination. Not unless, you never got to the patient. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A stray bullet ripped through your shoulder and took you right out of the equation and you blame yourself because you ultimately lived and the person you were en route to save died before help could reach him."
"Very impressive, almost perfect, in fact." John allowed calmly.
"Almost perfect?" Sherlock positively bristled.
"The casualty I was supposed to save was rescued by someone else," John made a face. He didn't care about the glory or the medals, but he had cared greatly about the job and he had failed to do what he was supposed to do. "Like you said, there's always something."
"Indeed," Sherlock smiled warmly, not underestimating how much it had cost this man who was rapidly earning his respect, admiration and friendship to open himself to such scrutiny. "Your turn."
"Me?" John looked honestly confused.
"You," Sherlock confirmed. "I saw your face when I reminded Anderson that I was a high functioning sociopath. You have questions. Go on."
"I don't believe it." John shrugged.
"Really?" Sherlock lounged back a little on the sofa, his expression partly challenging, but John sensed he was also rather intrigued that the other man had simply refused to take him at face value. "What if I told you that the best psychologists and psychiatrists of the modern age had confirmed the diagnosis?"
"Then I really wouldn't believe it," John shot back. "It's clearly a self- diagnosis and a deliberately erroneous one at that."
"Interesting, please continue." Rather than offended, Sherlock looked almost intrigued, it gave John the courage to continue.
"I think, you actually want other people to think you are a self-centred egotistical arrogant bastard," He observed. "And sometimes you are exactly that because you know you can get away with it when us lesser mortals aren't rude or brave enough to tell the truth because we would either fall flat on our faces or get punched in the face."
"Go on." Sherlock was admitting nothing, not just yet.
"You see your brain as a highly calibrated machine. You wouldn't let anyone who didn't have an IQ at least as high as yours anywhere near it. And as you are the self proclaimed cleverest man in the world, that would akin to letting some kid on work experience tune up a FI car."
"You don't think I'm capable of providing an accurate self diagnosis?" Sherlock challenged.
"Oh, I think you're more than capable," John allowed. "But equally you also find the idea of having carte blanche to be a complete git because people think you're a sociopath extremely appealing."
"Social conventions are so confining," Sherlock admitted. "Why can't people just be honest? What's so wrong with that?"
"Because at best it hurts people's feelings and at worse it wrecks lives." John pointed out. "And don't you dare pretend you don't care about that, because I know better."
"And what evidence do you have to back up that particular hypothesis, doctor?" One the surface the words were obviously intended to bait him, but John didn't think he was imagining Sherlock's underlying desire to see if he really had the heart, courage and insight, to look beyond the intellectual shell he had constructed around his personality.
"For starters, there's the fact that you led the soldier invalided home from Afghanistan to believe that you needed his financial contribution to meet the rent, when what you were actually looking for was someone who could put up you bringing home body parts and generally being a selfish git, because you really wanted was a spot of company who wouldn't mid too much about your playing the violin at 4am, might be able to act as a sounding board for your cases and wouldn't let you sink too far inside your own head."
"To be fair I warned you about the violin."
"Yes, yes, you did," John allowed. "I also remember the way you lied about the rent and even tried to tidy up, to convince me to move in. You're not a sociopath, you like plenty of people, look at Mrs Hudson, who I'll admit is a treasure, but you hug and kiss her like she was your mother, or at least a favourite aunt or maybe a former nanny, not exactly traditional sociopathic behaviour."
"You know, John, Google is a very dangerous tool in the hands of a novice." Sherlock was scathing.
"Give me some credit," John retorted. "I am a professional medic as such I sought a reputable second opinion. I'm sure you've heard of Dr Sam Walker, he is the world leader in his field. In his professional opinion, you're not so much a high functioning sociopath as "a manipulative bastard who has moulded the word to his own liking."
"Are you finished?"
"Nope, not really," John shook his head. "Because then there's Lestrade. You might insult him and tear his detective skills to pieces, but you're loyal. You never fail to come when he asks and you go without food or sleep to give him the best solve rate at Scotland Yard. The reason you don't ask for any payment is because all you really care about is earning his respect."
"Yet according to the redoubtable Sergeant Donovan, the only reason I turn up to a murder scene is because I 'get off on it'"
"She also says you don't have any friends," John pointed out. "Which must be why there isn't a restaurant in central London which will ever let you settle the bill, or why you can always recommend a tailor, a dry cleaner, a hairdresser or bloody candlestick maker for all I know, all of whom owe you a favour, granted there are some people who would cheerfully punch you in the mouth, but there are far more who would line up to shake your hand."
"Next you'll be telling me that my verbal sparring with Mycroft is a displaced form of affection." Sherlock taunted.
"I don't know about affection," John gave a slightly awkward shrug. "Sibling relationships aren't really my area. But you have to admit that it's a game of sorts. Watching the two of you together is like watching a series of rallies at Wimbledon without the electronic eye to referee. But at least you communicate, which is more than can be said for Harry and I."
"John, much as I appreciate your loyalty, I should probably warn you that I am almost guaranteed to be a disappointment to you. Frankly, most people deserve what they get, whether it is being cuckolded, arrested, imprisoned or executed in many cases they have brought their fates upon themselves by being, selfish, greedy or just plain evil. Only a very few are in fact truly innocent."
"I'm a soldier as well as a doctor," John reminded him. "I have no problem with justice. I've killed others to preserve life more times than I can count. Frankly, I'd be more disappointed if you felt the need to use that enormous brain of yours to give the guilty a get out of jail free card just to prove how very clever you are."
"Liar," Sherlock murmured.
"Excuse me?" John blinked.
"You heard me perfectly," Sherlock met his gaze. "You know exactly how many people you've killed. You might not know all their names, but you know how many lives you have taken. Just as you know exactly how many lives you have saved. I imagine it's like some kind of abacas in your head, always striving to keep the balance on the side of righteousness."
"Yeah, well," John grimaced. "A couple of tours of Afghanistan are enough to throw anyone off balance. It's probably going to take me a while to feel like I've got it back on the side of right again."
"Far be it from me to suggest that any one life is worth more than any other," Sherlock observed. "But I would venture to suggest that you have made a most impressive beginning."
John frowned. He hadn't been able to do any medical work since he had returned from Afghanistan. And he hadn't thought his contributions to Sherlock's case load had been anything the consulting detective couldn't have figured out for himself, certainly, not earth shattering enough to save any future victims.
He supposed shooting the serial killer might well count as saving future innocent lives. Who knows how many other victims he might have claimed before he was caught otherwise? And Sherlock would have been one of those victims. And for all his annoying traits that would have been a devastating loss to the world.
"You know, if you keep bringing that night up, one of these days Lestrade will overhear and he won't have any choice but to arrest me. Or worst still, one of Mycroft's spies will pick it up on a surveillance tape and he'll use it as blackmail material."
"Neither of them would dare." Sherlock scoffed.
"Lestrade doesn't have any loyalty to me and you were the one that said Mycroft was the most dangerous man I'd ever meet."
"I do wish I had seen his face when you told he wasn't very frightening," Sherlock's lips quirked. "Besides, it's all irrelevant now. You were probably in far more danger in Afganistan than you will ever be from either of those."
"Oh and why is that exactly?"
Sherlock met his eyes as his face spread into a genuinely warm smile.
"Because they both know better than to go after any friend of mine."