Summary: Written for the SherlockBBC_fic meme prompt: Sherlock hates hospitals. He is always fully clothed, doesn't let anyone see him naked or let anyone get close to him. It is because his body is covered in scars. How he got those scars is up to you. Mycroft knows and that is why he is so protective of Sherlock and why he worries constantly. Sherlock is injured badly during the incident at the pool and the paramedics that respond have to cut off some of his cloth reveling his scars. Now everyone knows something very, very bad happened to Sherlock. How does everyone react? How does Sherlock react to everyone knowing about the scars?
Note: This story is more about the meaning of the scars to Sherlock than his intimacy issues per-se. Can be seen as Gen-fic or Pre-slash. Set after TGG. Warning: Violence/description of animal abuse.
Disclaimer: I don't own the BCC series Sherlock of any of the characters and I'm not making any money off of this. Just having fun!
When Sherlock came to after the explosion, he deduced instantly by the smell he was in a hospital. His head throbbed and there was a freshly bandaged burn on his chest. The papery caress of the gown over Sherlock's skin told him the rest. His arms were bare, and beneath the pile of hospital blankets his legs were in the same state. He might as well have been naked. Sherlock kept his eyes shut, pretending to sleep, but the beep of the heart monitor sped up in response to his anxiety.
There were three people in the room.
The first was John, his mix of plain Chapstick and aftershave unmistakable. As Sherlock's heart-rate increased, there was the faint swish of hand rubbing against fabric; John's leg was hurting again. Sherlock was caught between bitter relief and guilt: relief that his flatmate had come through relatively uninjured and guilt because there was an eighty seven percent probability (poorly calculated with insufficient data) the resurgence of John's psychosomatic wound was Sherlock's fault, at least in part.
The second was Lestrade. He was on a chair on the right side of Sherlock's bed, near the foot and snoring loudly with a vague rattle of congestion that indicated the onset of a cold.
The third was Mycroft.
In a rustle of fabric, John leaned towards the bed and said, "Sherlock?"
"What's going on? Is he-" Lestrade said, his voice hoarse upon awakening. "Is something wrong?"
John paused, then the sliding of a heavy chair across the floor, followed by John's warm fingers on Sherlock's wrist. "Probably a nightmare," John said, his touch lingering a bit too long. Lying, Sherlock deduced, though why he wasn't certain.
"The bomb is bad enough, but those scars...the things people do to kids-"
"Let it alone," John said.
"It just explains...some things..." The pity in Lestrade's voice was enough to break a man.
"It explains nothing," Sherlock said, eyes still shut. He formed each word with clipped coldness.
Prolonged child abuse, that was always the first assumption. Wrong, of course. People were pathetically unobservant. A basic knowledge of scarification made it obvious the burns had been inflicted within the same few days. The next set of assumptions usually varied. Kidnapping or assault, that came the closest. Sexual deviance was more common. One medical assistant had even tried to write the scars up as self inflicted, to which Sherlock informed her on no uncertain terms that he was not flexible enough to maneuver a cigarette so deftly to the small of his back.
Worse than the assumptions was the pity. That day, when Sherlock had awoken in the hospital, that began the round of it. The nurses with their half-lidded eyes and brisk fingers, making inane chatter with false cheer as they changed his dressings. The haunting fear that made Mummy's lips tremble at his bedside as she cradled his hand like it was glass. Father's staring from the corner, his later awkward attempts at fatherly chats. And Mycroft's hovering. After the first day Sherlock had managed to force down the tears. Crying only created a feedback loop that led to reassurances, and more tears, more touching, his face, his hands, because he was so clearly fragile. One stupid mistake had transformed him into a victim, a thing to be pitied, loved even, but no longer respected.
John's thumb made a circular motion on Sherlock's wrist. He said, "It wasn't your fault."
"Data, John! You're making assumptions without data, again," Sherlock said. "I admit, you're generally dim, most people are, but I had for a shining moment imagined you at least capable of learning something beyond the layout of the Tesco and how to pour tea from a pot."
John's thumb froze, mid-motion, and with mixed relief and guilt Sherlock knew his words had wounded. He could imagine John's expression, the tightening of his jaw, the furrowed flash of pain across his brow. What was worse, hatred or pity? Either way, the man who had bubbled up with comments of 'amazing' and 'brilliant' in response to Sherlock's most basic and obvious deductions, the man who had taken it upon himself to publish Sherlock's exploits on the internet (albeit laced with far too much sentimentality), John, his flatmate, colleague and maybe friend would soon be gone.
"Why don't you tell us what happened," Lestrade said in a carefully neutral tone.
"I see no reason to talk about it," Sherlock said.
And when he lost Lestrade's respect, so went the Yard, the cases, the only things that kept the boredom at bay. Might as well throw himself into the Thames and be done with it. Or go back to cocaine again. Or morphine. You could live hours in a minute on morphine. God, the hell of that.
The tap of an umbrella against linoleum. "Well since my brother insists, as is often the case, on being a child in this, I can certainly offer my perspective."
"Nobody is interested in what you have to say, Mycroft." Sherlock opened his eyes. Mycroft stood flush to the far wall, still in work clothes, a suit with baby blue button down shirt. His hair was mussed and he had circles under his eyes. Sherlock said, "You're looking kind of grey and bloated. Another diet failure?"
"Your insults are as shallow as they are mundane," Mycroft said.
"Hey listen," John cut in. "I know you two have this thing going on, but this is not the place. Sherlock was practically blown up and then damn near drowned in that pool." John's fingers on tightened around Sherlock's wrist. "I'm nobody's therapist. If Sherlock wants to keep some things to himself, that's his business. He doesn't need anymore stress."
"Yes," Lestrade echoed. "Though at some soon point we will need a full explanation of the current crime. We're still searching for your mad bomber's body."
"I have already given my statement," John said. "Considering I'm the one he strapped the bomb to, that should suffice for the afternoon don't you think?"
Gratitude flooded through Sherlock. He glanced up at John. The man gave Sherlock a hesitant smile, the sort you give to children, or cornered animals. And Sherlock's relief faded. He couldn't leave it like this. John would never ask, but the question would sit. Fester. Keep his silence or speak the truth, either way it would lead to the same result.
It was only a flatmate, Sherlock told himself. He could get another. It was amazing John had lasted a third as long. Sherlock focused on a spot on the wall in front of him, just above Mycroft's left shoulder, and let his vision blur. "When I was thirteen, two older students tortured and killed the headmaster's dog. They smashed its skull with a Louisville Slugger, used cigarettes to burn a message in its fur, and then tied the body to steering wheel by the paws. The crime was spectacular enough I heard about it in the science room. I managed to get a glimpse of the body as it was being taken away by animal control. I noted the body was well into rigor; the rope used to tie it to the steering wheel was the same type used by climbing enthusiasts; and while some of the dog's burns were deep, the others were shallow, indicating the second perpetrator had been more hesitant than the first. The ease with which the perpetrators had dispatched the dog also indicated the victim had known and trusted her killers.
"It was fairly obvious from that point the headmaster's oldest son was responsible, and after gathering some basic evidence, I informed the headmaster of what had happened. He summarily had me suspended."
"So you confronted them yourself, of course," John said, a hint of exasperation and something akin to amazement in his tone. "You brilliant idiot!"
The muscles in Sherlock's shoulders, held so tight he had hardly noticed them except to note how they pounded in unison with the throbbing in his chest and head, loosened a little. "I bought a copy of the bat, smeared it with some stored blood I'd been using for an experiment in DNA electrophoresis using food coloring, that was really a pointless exercise as more than enough data had already been compiled using such techniques, but it seemed to me a home kit could come in handy, or perhaps something to carry to the scene-"
"Sherlock," John said, "Tangent."
"Right, of course. Anyway, I made a fair replica of the murder weapon, washing the blood away but still leaving some in the grooves. It was a bit of a risk to assume they'd hidden the weapon as opposed to having simply thrown it in the river, but I had let my anger at the headmaster's unwarranted disparagement of my conclusions cloud my usual rationality. I also hid a tape recorder on my person when I confronted them.
"I won't bore you with the mundanity of the rest. It was really quite dull. Unlike with the dog, they applied the cigarettes to my skin before attempting to dispatch me with the bat. Tobias, the headmaster's son, said he liked the screaming. I passed out somewhere in the middle of it. After three hours the police found me. Mummy had filed a missing person's report after she heard about the suspension and found I hadn't returned home. Fortunately, it was the timid boy who wielded the bat. I was unconscious, and my collarbone was crushed, but it didn't kill me. As it well ought to have."
Sherlock glanced up at John, searching his face for pity. His expression was a cross between horror and nausea. To Sherlock's relief, John didn't pretend to smile.
"How many burns?" Lestrade asked.
"Forty nine," Sherlock said.
"You were very lucky."
"I was very stupid." Sherlock's gaze dropped to his hands. "When I look at them, I see the price for my mistakes." And he saw it then, the bomb, the pool. Moriarty. It was the dog all over again, except the scars weren't Sherlock's alone to bear. Moriarty had promised to burn the heart out of him. And he would do it too. One excruciating centimeter at a time, and the final blow would not be timid.
Even if Sherlock severed his connection with John, would it be enough to keep the other man safe?
"I'm just the same," Sherlock said. "Same as before."
The tap, tap, tap of an umbrella hitting the floor, and Mycroft was at Sherlock's other hand. "No you're not." His brother knew better than to touch him. "You are much, much better."
Mycroft smiled. Was that respect? Sherlock didn't have enough data to accurately make a conclusion, but he could pretend to believe.