Summary: Because, in the end, all he really could have done was smile and pretend like everything was okay.
Disclaimer: I own nada, and this fact is disturbing to me. -_-
Warnings: Some slight messing with the Sherlock timeline and some slight, possible OOCness.
John Watson knew how hard it was.
In fact, even months afterwards, he still had to constantly remind himself to behave like a civilian.
Having been in war, it was easy enough to recognize a kindred soldier at just a glance. After all, haunted glances and twitching reflexes never quite go away.
So, when he first saw the black-haired youth sitting in a park bench, bags under the eyes and emaciated. He immediately knew that this boy saw death.
And it churns his stomach, to think that a boy not much older than eighteen years was in a war of some kind, had been in a position to kill.
It wasn't hard to drag the boy to the flat he shared with Sherlock. Indeed, he didn't even seem to really care or notice, just relieved that someone cared….even if it was a stranger.
Sherlock's protests fell on deaf ears as John sent the boy to the bathroom, fresh clothes in hand with bathing supplies. It was only when Sherlock's eyes took in his friend's determination that he turns to the kitchen to dig out the leftover Chinese food they had been saving. An unspoken agreement….how kind of him.
The boy was practically swamped in John's spare sleeping pants and t-shirt when he stepped out of the bathroom, and, by the way the newcomer favored his left leg, knew he'd have to give him a check-up soon.
He didn't eat much, regardless of how hard John, and even Sherlock in his subtle ways, tried to push him for more sustenance. The killing and death had ruined his appetite for food. How spaghetti could be food one moment but, in a blink, look like Ginny's entrails. Or how grapes could look wonderful at the time, but then look like someone's eyeballs, torn out from a decapitated head.
John Watson understands this, and more. As a doctor, he had to deal with large, gaping wounds. Amputations also occurred frequently in his position; however, he also knows that the only way to overcome these obstacles is through time and talking.
Memories tend to dull over time, and talking…well, mind over matter, as the saying goes.
However, the first few months are always the hardest as memories can't dull down unless people stop insisting to talk about them, and talking absolutely has to happen for any healing to occur.
John also knows this, and it is because of this knowledge that he sets the boy, Harry he's called, to cleaning up after Sherlock's mess.
Sherlock sulks at the invasion in his work area, but otherwise does nothing. He knows, as well as John, that Harry needs to be continually worked. To clean and scrub and vacuum so that, by the time night falls, perhaps he could feel safe enough to close his eyes for a few hours.
Because, even though the body is safe from harm, the mind is not. Dreams can quickly turn from being pleasant to finding one's self drenched in a proverbial bloodbath of bodies.
It is this last part that John himself still occasionally experience, though not as much as before.
He found his own safety net through Sherlock and the cases, and…in a way, he hates himself for it. He hates the fact that the only way he can stay relatively sane is by helping with the cases because they are, most often than not, dangerous and bloody.
He hates that the only way to escape the nightmares of war is by experiencing the same sense of danger that war provided. It is an endless cycle, one that John cannot escape, and he gets tired of it sometimes.
But he feels hope blossom within his chest. Hope that perhaps, through Harry, he can put his own past to rest by helping another experiencing the trauma of war for the first time.
He provides his bed for Harry at the moment, taking the couch for his own rest, but he cannot sleep.
In a way, it is a good thing that matters turning in his head keeps him up, for he can hear Harry shifting restlessly in the beginnings of a nightmare.
Staring down at the thin, pale face, he notices, for the first time, a thin scar in the shape of a lightening bolt, and he knows that, somehow, that scar played a major part in Harry's troubles. He knows that scars, ones as memorable as that, tend to involve some bad business, because it is not a scar caused by murder. It is a scar caused by torture, and John is right in some respect.
Because every bad thing in Harry's life revolved around that scar, and what it represented. Fame, that Harry abhorred, wealth, at the cost of his parents' lives, and war, as people saw him as a symbol of the light side. It wasn't Dumbledore people sided for in the Final Battle, it was what Harry's scar meant. It meant that, if Harry was able to survive and fight, then so could they. It also meant that anyone who imitated his scar died. That people he didn't know died by association of his scar in a misguided attempt of idolizing him. And that was torture of the psychological degree for a seventeen-year old boy.
But this particular bit of information, John does not know, nor does he particularly care as he tries to shake Harry awake.
And for God sakes why is his scar bleeding like that? But the only thing that matters right now is that Harry's waking, his eyes unfocused.
Harry cleans his face with the wet washcloth that was pressed into his hands, and he murmurs a soft 'thank you'.
They are the first words he's heard from the boy since giving his name, and John can't help but think that some small amount of progress has been made. Because he feels that warmth called 'Hope' blossoming in his chest once again, and he thinks that this is what it might feel like to have a son.
Even Sherlock seems a might bit pleased at Harry's whispered words, even if he won't show it. John knows that, given time, Sherlock will open up to Harry. For he seemed to be a balm of the soul to both of them just as they are a balm to Harry's.
'Thank you,' he whispered again, but he didn't elaborate, and they didn't care for him to do so. It was enough to get him to talk, be it because they cared, because they, John, understood Harry, or simply because they woke him from his memories.
The next day, Harry's listless again, only moving to help clean something when asked, but it's okay. Recovery takes time, and both John and Sherlock are experienced with healing.
When asked about family, Harry only mumbled 'exploded' before quickly leaving to clean a difficult stain in the floor, not wanting to talk about it anymore.
Sherlock searches through several sites until he finds a closed case. One Dursley family, killed by gas leak, the article said.
Or, that's what the article said. The hacked police reports said otherwise, if anything, according to the autopsy reports, there was no plausible way for the family to simply die. The uncle and son could be explained through heart attacks due to their weight; however, it didn't account for the aunt. Especially when the autopsy said that the Dursley patriarch's heart hadn't shown any strain that could be present in a heart attack.
It was a closed case, regardless, but Sherlock so wants to solve it. However, even he can see that any prodding about his relatives could send Harry over the edge and, quite frankly, he feels disgusted by the family.
The uncle was about the size of three heavy men, and the son was no better. It disgusts him that they clearly made enough money to feed a small army, yet they couldn't be bothered to take care of their nephew. And it is because of this disgust that he decides to not touch this case, not even with a ten-foot pole.
Sherlock notes that Harry's surname involves a seat in Parliament as a minor lord, and he resolves to ask his brother more about this bit of information. Though he dislikes anything involving his brother, he'll go through with this because he'll do anything to help John, and if helping Harry helped John, then that was even better.
But, for now, he could pretend to sulk at having to deal with matters that are not of consequence to him. John's a bit too thick some times, so he won't notice, and Harry doesn't yet know him well enough. He really was a good actor when he thought about it.
Sherlock has helped in a few other, small, ways before. He made sure to put his body parts in a place that won't interfere with Harry's cleaning, after all he knows that his beloved skull could create panic, and he's kind enough to sometimes play his violin without screeching because he knows that music is one of few memories untouched by memories of war.
In a way, Sherlock wonders if this is how Mycroft sometimes felt when they were young, looking out for him. The thought is quickly shoved aside as he knows that Mycroft's sense of duty as an older brother was skewed by using manipulation if need be.
He thinks, only for a moment, that, should Harry view him as something akin to an older brother, he should be rather pleased. It would be nice to know someone who doesn't think of him as a freak, like Donovan, or think of him as some sort of God, like Molly. John is a close friend, but he doesn't quite count because he was a roommate first and foremost.
He knows, after Harry's healed mentally, that he would teach the boy the art of deducing. But, other than that, he would keep the boy separate from his cases. In a way, he doesn't want anyone else, besides John, to know about the boy. He once said that he didn't have time for relationships, being 'married to his work,' however that's quickly not extending to the relationship of 'friends,' and even if it wasn't, Harry's practically a case himself.
It is, in this way, that Sherlock is a possessive sociopath, even with his friends, which is quickly growing to include Harry.
Mycroft himself doesn't know what to think. When he first heard from Sherlock about Potter, his first thought was 'poor bastard' followed by 'what was Sherlock getting into'. He knew about the War of Wizards, and that just seemed to need capitalized letters, he thought bitterly. Almost all members of Parliament knew. Even the head of Scotland Yard knew, for some Auror members had to work close with the head of police a few times. However, that was before the second war. Before everything turned to shit for the wizards.
Last time he saw the wizards, Albus Dumbledore had introduced him to the Potter family, and the Potter infant. Mycroft can't help but to bitterly think that, had he only paid a bit more attention, Potter could have grown up with a more decent family instead of his relatives. Potter could have become a ward of the government, at the very least. But it's too late to think about that, and all he can do now is help Sherlock and John fix the biggest mistake of wizards and muggles alike.
They had all let Potter down, and he knows that, and he knows that he is the biggest hypocrite of all, protecting his brother through spies and surveillance bugs in compensation for his failed duty in helping Potter.
This fact doesn't stop him from sending a personal secretary to get the boy clothing and any other items he might need, though. Just a small step towards allowing his conscience to forgive himself.
Mycroft doesn't tell his brother about the man who got a little boy's family destroyed, all the while destroying any chance of a good childhood. Nor does he send Sherlock a story about a man who met the boy's parents, several times even, and, his own business side shudders at this, played clapping games with their son a several times.
It isn't his story to tell, only Harry's, and he won't be the one to take away one of the few rights he has left in the world. Not now, not ever. Mycroft, in fact, goes so far as to hang up on his brother in the middle of his tirade, leaving his brother in a sulky mood for the rest of the day.
He later discovers that Sherlock got even more sulky when he told Mummy about Potter being found.
Needless to say, when Mummy heard, silent tears trailed down her cheeks. Falling, in the privacy of her bedroom, for the first time since her own boys were children. Because she knows that the boy could have had her wrapped around his little fingers had she been able to take him in.
A determined woman using all her resources as a mother to get Sherlock to, someday, bring the boy to her. Aching to embrace him for a family he never knew, and for a family lost.
She, too, does not give Sherlock information, for it is a story full of tragedy and wonder. A story that cannot be known unless experienced firsthand. For she taught her sons well, and Sherlock would not believe anything without proof. Proof she cannot give, and proof that would surely break the boy.
This time, Sherlock does not sulk, instead wondering what had happened during the weeks he spent abroad, working on a case. Mycroft and Mummy knew something, and it piques his curiosity something awful.
Something was buried by time, and it had yet to be discovered. What was it about Harry that brother and mother knew, yet he didn't?
Harry did not know how long he sat on the damp park bench. There was a gentle rain, yet he couldn't be bothered to move.
Everything had happened so fast during the last few months. The planning, the attacks, the….the deaths…Voldemort had not gone out easily. Nearly everyone were killed, both friends and enemies alike, before Harry was able to stop the madness of war. Death Eaters were sacrificed like yesterday's fashion trends, Voldemort not giving his own followers any thoughts to their wellbeing.
It wasn't a war anymore, it was survival of the fittest. The weak ones went down first: Ginny, Luna…Hermione. There were more, many more, but those were the ones closest to him. Then there were those fools who thought it would be a good idea to wear something similar to their idol as a symbol of hope: the lightening bolt scars.
Seas of them, wherever Harry could see in public. Funny how wizards believed in prophecies…turns out, they believed in talismans, like rabbits' feet or, in this case scars, as well. There wasn't a sea of blood in Diagon Alley that day because there was no Diagon Alley anymore. What looked almost like an atomic bomb had gone off, leaving only rubble where buildings once stood.
Voldemort was angry that night, Harry could tell. Through his visions, he saw Voldemort destroy nearly a quarter of his followers in anger.
Harry felt close to throwing up at the thought that nothing of his world existed anymore. That there was really and truly no one he could ever call 'family' again.
He pushed his thoughts away long enough to notice that a stranger was dragging him down a street. How did he not notice this?
It was of no consequence, might just be someone giving him mercy by offing him. Surprise must have shown on his face because the stranger mumbled something before leading him into a bathroom with clothes.
He knows that the other man does not want him there yet, when he stepped out of the bathroom clean for the first time in weeks, the man does not say anything. The man even provided him with food though he could not eat it.
At the time, Harry thought that the John-person was only helping him by taking him in and giving him a check-up because he wanted something in return. This thought was even more firmly imprinted into his mind when the man set him to cleaning up the house; however, it wasn't until he was wiping himself clean with the washcloth that he realized he had a full two hours of sleep before the nightmares started.
Sleep that happened to be more peaceful, even with nightmares, than before. This time, the overwhelming grief of ghosts from the past seemed to lighten.
Sometimes, when a person has no other way to repay a stranger's kindness, the only thing that can express such extreme gratitude is through a simple 'thank you'.
The unspoken message in those two words seems to have been understood, and that relieves Harry. Harry's relief is two-fold because he knows that he now has a place he can call home.
Because, in the end, all he really could have done was smile and pretend that everything was okay. But that was in the past, where everyone was dead, and suffering never ceased.
Because here and now, Harry has a new beginning with two men who he can look up to. Two men who can take care of him instead of him being the one people looked up to.
A place where he can finally be free.
…where he can finally heal…
Author's Note: Incredibly solemn and profound for me… I must admit I'm rather impressed with it. I must also admit that I'd love to hear some feedback on this oneshot. So, you know what to do!