Disclaimer: Sherlock (BBC) is the property of those more talented than me; this story intends no copyright infringement. It is the birthday present for my beloved, and it kind of took over my brain and cockblocked any other writing projects. SO I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY WITH IT, JENN. Because if you're not, I will hurt you in your face. Or cry into my pillow. Probably both. Beta'd by Lubird and Tatoe-dearest. Any remaining problems remain mine.

Warnings: Domestic abuse, Alcoholism, and Discussion of keepsake dismembering. Dismemberment? Anyway.

Hands in Jars, and Other Home Accent Notions

John wakes up exhausted.

The glass of his window is aged and distorted, mutating the morning light so that it ripples like moving water over him. He watches it shift across his blanket's surface. Duvet, actually, with a flannel cover, taken from Sherlock's bed. "I so rarely sleep," Sherlock had said when he brought it up.

It's warm, and sleep makes John tired, so he lies there awhile and lets himself drift. The light moves in waves over his face, lapping at his eyes and cheeks; he almost lets his mind trick him into feeling the sensation of it. The last time he had been in the ocean was as a child, with Harry beside him trying to drown him. Their parents had been watching from the shore. There were no other children present, it being off-season, a damning fact. Anyone else, anyone, and Harry would have left off because she'd have someone about to flirt with – boy or girl, since back then she was young enough not to realize she was gay but old enough to know she felt drawn to girls more than boys – but just the two of them, and all her attention was John's.

He almost drowned for real, when she chased him and he went past the drop off point, and he could no longer reach his feet down and find solid ground beneath the water. He was too afraid to come back in, the way she'd put his head under, and he'd gone too far out besides. His legs were treading, and treading, and treading: but his muscles were tired. Now John knows the build up of lactic acid made what happened inevitable, how he suddenly could no longer move, how his legs didn't obey his command.

He panicked out there. So far from Harry yet further from their parents. He flailed and waved his arms. His mum waved back, his da rose a hand. Only Harry noticed, like the poem, not waving but drowning. "JOHN!" she screamed. "JOHN COME BACK!"

And like that, he could.

Oh, not his legs. They dragged uselessly behind him. But his arms – all of a sudden he knew what they were for. They weren't his but they were Harry's, belonged to her, obeyed. "Come back," she said, and it wasn't until the command that he could.

The door creaks open without a knock and Sherlock slinks in, hair wild and everywhere. He's in some tatty old dress shirt, long and worn soft at the elbows and button-band, and his trousers with no socks on. His feet are pale and his toes are long. He climbs up on John's bed and crawls under the duvet. John's bed is not large yet they still don't touch. Some miracle of physics enables this.

"Sherlock," John says, "Sherlock, what –"

"Cold," Sherlock says. He's already closing his eyes. "Anyway it's my blanket, isn't it." Like a switch, flipped, he's asleep.

John stares unblinking at the smudges beneath Sherlock's eyes. Dark like someone had dipped a finger wet with navy paint beneath each eye, at the top of his cheekbones. War grease for going into battle, absorb the light, stealth.

"I see what you're doing here," John murmurs. "Ninja duvet and all." Give Sherlock an inch, he'll take continents. John might preserve some territory were he to throw Sherlock from his bed, unceremonious yet no-nonsense.

Sherlock is a heat suck, a void of cold quickly consuming all warmth the duvet has to offer. He hasn't slept in over thirty hours and past a certain point the body loses its ability to self-regulate temperature. Sometimes this expresses as a flush, sudden as a fever and rising. When febrile Sherlock will throw open every window and pace, relentless, wearing creaks into the floorboards with his repetitive footfalls.

Sometimes Sherlock chills. If John is up he'll make the man tea. British answer to everything, that. He realized early he had to be careful how he gave it to Sherlock, though: boiling hot, and the man would gulp it down, heedless and thoughtless and mindless to the sear. "Christ," John had blasphemed. "Let me see your mouth, are you burned?"

Bemused Sherlock had opened his mouth and let John peer inside. He managed somehow to speak despite his opened jaw. "You were the one to give me the tea."

"Yeah, well," John muttered, checking for blistering, "I wasn't expecting you to drink it without checking the temperature."

"I've swallowed worse things," Sherlock said, still with his jaw unhinged, tongue twisting, strange ventriloquism.

Sherlock's teeth were very even, and very white. They were as perfectly formed as the rest of him, and not for the first time John wondered if he were the end result of some very specific, very successful (discounting the sociopathic claims, of course) eugenics program. "Well, you look all right," John said, stepping back. Sherlock's mouth closed with a click and he gave John a peculiar smile.

John doesn't feel like getting up, brewing tea, waiting anywhere from five to fifteen minutes for it to cool, jostling Sherlock semi-aware and forcing him to drink it. So, that's a no on throwing Sherlock out of his bed, then. The option of letting the man be cold honestly does not occur.

It's a biological fact that a great deal of heat is lost from the top of the skull. In consideration of this, John draws the duvet over their heads. It hushes down against his ear. The feathers inside rustle, bestirred. John turns his head to the side and stares at the outline of Sherlock's face. Everything is hazy in the dimmed under-blanket universe. Even though John is perfectly calm, it suddenly feels as if he can't breathe.

He fists his hand and punches his thigh, the psychosomatically injured one. The wound that isn't there flares pain and he can exhale again. In, and out. Breathing is such a gift. The fact of it.

In the dark haze the blue beneath Sherlock's closed eyes looks like bruises, his pallor like a corpse, his stillness without breath. John holds a hand in front of Sherlock's nose. Waits. Waits. There: slight stir. Thank god.

John's da beat his mum bruised from her chest to her thighs. "Bring us a paracetemol, there's a love," she'd murmur in the aftermath. She chased it with gin. No tonic. John disassociated early from the sight of his mum in her underthings, back turned to him so he could get the bruise salve where the bootprint was deepest. If there were ice he'd numb her first. Not the smartest considering she had to be able to tell him if something needed the doctor, but otherwise she'd cry, little noises she trapped in her throat, like a scream she wouldn't let out.

She was a drunk, John's mum, but she came by it honestly. No cheaper anaesthetic.

John's da was sober. That was the terrifying thing.

Sherlock in repose is a statue. Carved and cold and a work of unutterable art. Strange, brilliant man. For all his talk of murder this, mental condition that, the only one he has ever hurt is himself.

Intentionally, anyway. But John doesn't blame him for crossfire, truly. He's been to war. He understands. These things happen. People have died, but that's what people do.

Sherlock said it. Moriarty said it.

Neither is a doctor. Neither truly understands it. The fragility and the strength. They deal in corpses, not patients.

John's mum was his patient. That was how he dealt with it. She was in his care. The only time he touched her was to treat her wounds. She didn't touch him at all. His da didn't either. John wished he would, wished he could get beaten, wished he could move his frozen body between his da and his mum, but he couldn't. He was paralyzed, his body wasn't his own. It belonged to itself, mindless and animal, and it wanted only to survive. He lived, but his mum died of internal injuries when John was fifteen, and his life didn't feel worth it. He wasn't even home when it happened; he was at footie practice. He came back and her body was cooling. He started CPR, and screamed for someone to ring an ambulance. He kept the CPR going hard against her chest. Her ribs cracked. He wanted her to live. People die, that's what they do, but not her.

He got her heart restarted but brain death had already occurred. She was young, his mum. The doctors talked to them about harvesting. This was when his da was just under investigation and not yet convicted.

Harry was off at uni. It was just John and their da. John stared at his mum through the hospital door's window. His da put a hand on his shoulder. He was a good father. John was a part of him, and he loved his son. John loved him too.

It seemed a worse crime, a worse waste, to deny the gifts his mum's body could give. "If you say no to the doctors," John said, "I'll testify against you. I'll turn you in myself."

In the end they donated her eyes, the organs John's da hadn't turned to mush, and her skin for grafts. She was a match for someone in the marrow registry so they donated that, too. Harry didn't come back until their da was incarcerated and their mum cremated, and John had been in foster care for a week and a half.

"Well," Harry said, taking custody. "Let's get you to London." She was already an alcoholic. She started drinking at thirteen, by eighteen was full-blown. The next few years were spent with John holding her hair from her face as she vomited, waking her in time for her classes. She curled up on her bed like a dead beetle; limbs shrivelled close to her chest and face slack. She woke swearing, batting at John's hand. "Get off," she mumbled, still drunk.

"Up you get," John said. Seventeen, and friendly, but detached. Getting a job done. He hadn't been her brother for years now. Nor had she been his sister. He hauled her to her unsteady feet and pushed her in the direction of the shower. Breakfast was cooking and he needed to be in the kitchen to watch it. Her body was frail and thin; the only calories she got were from the booze. He made her drink protein shakes between pub crawls, set out multivitamins with the morning paper, made her promise when she was too drunk to walk to call him so he could pick her up. She didn't always remember. Mostly, John was tired, exhausted and drawn pale.

Sherlock's forearms are pale. There's the leftover residue of a nicotine patch making a circle on his skin. He's starting to warm, John can feel it, starting to emanate warmth. His sleeves are doubled up to his elbows. Loose fit to the shirt; it belonged to someone larger than Sherlock, or was fitted to the man when he was brawnier. He's underfed now.

He doesn't eat when he's working a case, says the food distracts blood from his brain, pulls it to his stomach; he isn't hungry when he's bored. He gorges during the brief peak after a successful deduction. Ebullient then: smug and high on the drug of his own ego.

They go out to eat at dim sum restaurants, pho houses, get curries, orders of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper going steadily see-through with grease. They go to a hole in the wall where the owner greets Sherlock with both arms opened wide and Sherlock and John take turns rolling spongy injera in wat. The owner beams at them and motions for each to feed the other, and they make a joke of it, ripping larger and larger segments of the injera, feeling the lamb stew go messy on their fingertips, shoving handfuls into each other's face, delicious. They go to a tea house and eat currant scones with clotted cream, light as air cucumber sandwiches, pumpkin and lobster bisque, flourless chocolate cake. Decadence after privation, like the exultation of spring following thaw. They laugh out loud and their eyes are bright, like polished coins.

They're past the midway mark to closing this case. Sleep is good for Sherlock at this point, as it sometimes gives him an epiphany. He wakes up already a-ha!-ing, in motion. John likes to see his brilliant friend, but his quiet friend is a good sight too.

Under the blanket, Sherlock's dark curls press against his face, his cheek and forehead and mouth. John considers brushing the hair from Sherlock's face. He feels the motion in his arm, his hand, his fingers; electrical twitch of nerves firing. He feels the motion so fiercely it turns into an ache.

John aches. Everywhere and all at once. He feels whittled down to his imperfections: trembling hand, limping leg. It's getting warm beneath the covers but John doesn't shift them off.

When he was a small one he'd hide beneath his blankets so as to muffle the sound. It's habit now. The stifled closeness comforts. He still doesn't know why his da did it, was like that; he still doesn't know why his mum stayed. She'd come to his room and try to find him in his bed, but he'd dive further and further into his blankets, and her hands were clumsy. He slipped through her grip.

"Johnny, please," she'd said, almost sobbing, and he crawled out of bed to her. When she still touched him she would gather him close. Her body was hot like a fever. "Sweet boy," she kissed his hair, "Good boy." She never went to Harry, or she never did anymore. Harry still knew. It was impossible to not know what their da did. But Harry got to pretend ignorance, and John's always been slightly resentful for that, except it didn't work out so well for her so his lingering anger now seems petty.

John's hair got wet with his mum's tears, and they slept together in his bed with him curled to her side and her wrapped around, maternal cocoon. By the time John was ten he'd begun to treat her and she'd stopped her night visits. She sensed his touch was different. No longer son. Something else. Something practical.

There's something practical but also absurd about sharing bed-space and blankets with Sherlock. John looks down the length of the bed. His feet stop sooner than do Sherlock's, whose disappear. Long-legged stork of a man. His toes are probably hanging out the end of the bed right now, bloodless white from the cold.

Harry's feet got frostbite once, stumbling home shoeless and drunk through a London winter night. "Ow, fuck," she hissed when he made her sit with her feet in a basin, water lukewarm. "Ow, ow," Harry chanted. She started to sob, snot from her nose mixing with drool from her mouth, eyes streaming. "Ow, fuck, ow," and she put both hands against her head and dug her fingers into her hair and pulled.

She looked ridiculous, like a child throwing a tantrum, but John felt no disdain, only a wrenching sensation deep in his chest, near to his heart.

He gradually added warmer and warmer water to the basin, watching the white toes bloom pink, flush, coming back to life. When he finally let her pull her feet out, he rubbed them briskly with terrycloth, gripping the ankle and heel. Dead skin peeled off and she made a face, at it and at him. Each toe was tiny and perfect and John didn't think she'd lose any, though he wanted to drag her to A&E to be sure.

She resisted, naturally, wanting only to go to bed; and he, exhausted already and with final exams looming a few hours away, let her be the adult and decide her own fate and deal with the fucking consequences all her own for once, he was done.

"Don't be angry," she slurred at him as he tucked her in, hot water bottles and flannels wrapped around her feet. She tried to touch him but her aim was off, her hand fell off-centre of his face and trailed instead across the top of his ear. Her eyes were half-slit and she looked at him as though he were something she didn't expect, someone she didn't know, and he wanted to tell her It's me, I've been here all this time, but she fell asleep instead. He sat watching over her until morning and his exams came.

John seems to watch everyone sleep. Sherlock, warming, no longer looks dead. He looks as if he's coming back to life, a statue beginning to breathe; strange magic, wholly real.

Just a few weeks ago, Sherlock showed him something else marvellous. A pair of hands, gnarled and desiccated, old specimens by the look, carefully rehydrated: their clenched and curled fingers slowly unfurling, open and supplicant. It was akin to performance art, the coaxed awakening, the fists turned to prayer. Sherlock had been so eager to share it with John, and they existed together in a moment of pure wonder.

Then of course Sherlock managed to ruin it by pondering how he could successfully pickle the hands, thinking out loud on what solution of chemicals he should use and how large the size of jar should be. He had spread the fingers of his hands wide and stared at them, contemplatively, then glanced at John.

"No," John said pre-emptively. "If you die before me, I'm not pickling you and keeping you about the flat. Or stuffing and mounting you. Or preserving you in any other fashion. Just. No."

Sherlock looked mournful. "Not even my skull?" he asked. "I can personally attest to the companionable value of a good skull."

"I am sure I will find adequate companionship elsewhere," John said firmly. Sherlock's expression fell, minutely but visibly. John rolled his eyes and made a concession. "If I die before you, you may choose one piece of me to keep. I'll even bequeath it to you. Write it in my will." Sherlock's expression lit up. It was better than Christmas. John winced and consoled himself with the thought that, well, he'd be dead.

Since then Sherlock has been staring at John, or pieces of him, as if evaluating. Sometimes he speaks his considerations aloud, non-sequitur, likely disturbing without the context – God knows, Donovan had been disturbed when at a crime scene Sherlock had paused his acidic, verbal lashing to turn to John and say, "I do like your eyes, and I could keep them in a small clear container in my pocket so that whenever I would like to show you something I could take them out and you could see – even though I do know it is not the eyes that process visual information, but the brain – so maybe I shall choose to keep that instead? But brains are rather less portable."

John sighed tiredly and looked pointedly at the crime scene with its forensics analysts and DS's and DC's and Lestrade. "I'm glad you're putting such thought into your eventual inheritance," he said, wry, "But perhaps you should focus now before DI Lestrade has a coronary."

Sherlock smiled at him. One of his real smiles, not shamming, a peculiar quirk of his lips; as if they were sharing a joke. And John realized that, well, of course Sherlock said what he said in front of an audience; he wanted them to know. That a piece of John was his, and he could choose which piece, and own it. After he had made his decision that piece of John would always be Sherlock's, with Sherlock graciously allowing it to remain in John's care until John died, and then it would fully be Sherlock's possession.

There was no doubt in John's mind that he would die first. He had a small child's belief that Sherlock couldn't die, was incapable of the act.

John smiled back, sharing the joke, wanting almost to lean closer to Sherlock and feel the man's warmth. Sherlock was a tall man and John a short one, and often on windy days Sherlock would arrange himself as a windbreak for John as they walked through London. It was something John hadn't realized he was doing until after the fact, the small thoughtful gesture made without expectation of notice or reward. When Sherlock wasn't setting out to deliberately antagonize he had impeccable, posh manners; was gracious and expansive and generous. Charming. But then, it was rare for Sherlock to not be deliberately antagonizing.

Like this, he's not. Sherlock. He's not anything but sleeping. Even the space he takes in John's bed – John didn't invite him in, but he's welcome, anyway – even that invasion isn't meant to get a rise out of John. To do that Sherlock will be bratty and leave broken teeth in the kitchen sink, or shoes filled with feet, cut off at the ankle, by the entrance like a macabre doorstop. Nothing disgusts Sherlock save for ignorance or lack of creativity, and so he views these studies in decay as props strategically positioned to properly horrify his visitors, the theatrical arse.

Sherlock seems to delight when John doesn't bat a lash. Not at the eyes in the microwave, and not at killing a man (a bloody awful cabbie, to be precise) so easily as to be casual.

Killing has been easy for John since the first time he'd done it. As an army doctor he was never meant to fight as the others had done, yet he had the same basic training and a marksman's aim. They saw his native talent early close after his enlistment and asked him if he'd like to improve; and he had, and he did, and they sent him to more dangerous areas, because they knew he was capable, because he had steady hands. His hands never shook, not even when Harry had screamed at him for enlisting, for going to war. It wasn't even about him being her little brother – because they weren't family to one another, not really, and hadn't been in a while – but about the war itself.

"How can you support it?" she'd said, "How can you go there and support it?"

John stared her down, affable and mild. He could do many things, and most of them she'd left him to learn all his own.

She didn't see him off, and he didn't even think of her until later when he caught sand in his mouth and for some reason registered it as water, ocean, and he spluttered and wind-milled his arms as if to push the gusts of sand away, and thought, drowning, but he was just waving, all this time later, and already ashore.

His body obeyed commands not his own and he was a machine, he could kill and he could save, he was alive and he belonged. Then he was shot, suffered infections and raging fevers, and was invalided out of the war. They called it going home, but it was home he was leaving. He didn't think he'd get to return.

Every kilometre he traveled away he felt the shift, how ownership of himself came back into his grasp, that alien wracking freedom. He couldn't trust himself, couldn't trust his body, for all the ways it had failed him and was failing him still. His imperfect body. Limping leg, trembling hand. The span of scar tissue, keloid raised not faded, bumpy across entrance and especially exit wounds.

Harry came to get him, drunken and divorced, and he knew she wouldn't say it but he felt her gloating. You shouldn't have gone. And, You came back broken. And, This is what war does, this is all that war does, all that it can do. And you were a part of it. And you perpetuated it. And you killed. Nowhere in her silence was, You survived. Nowhere was, John.

He could have stayed with her. But he had tried that already. It wasn't about her drinking or her divorce, though he disapproved of the former and had liked Clara, truly, and thought the latter a shame. It was about how he was no longer trying to understand, no longer performing the act to see if the rationale could seep inside, somehow; he had stayed for years as an adolescent, had abided, and could still not comprehend why his mum had done it. Why she hadn't left.

And he had killed. And it was easy. But he still didn't know why his da –

His body was its own and it would do what it had to, to survive, even if in the process it drowned him. Animal and mindless, contrary beast. Only knowing there had been pain and now surcease.

John is tired but he's not in pain. He imagines this is how his mum felt, her body, waiting to be harvested – almost holy, sacrificial. Fifteen, he'd said goodbye. At first he held her hand but it felt too strange. Dead already. She couldn't touch him: touch required intent required thought required a brain. Hers was gone. All electrical activity shut down, but her heart kept beating and her lungs kept expanding and deflating, and he had done that. He had been responsible for that. The son giving life to the mother, reversion of all things natural, and he had done that, and he had ensured that it would have meaning – that his mum, in pieces, would go on in the living tissues of others who would move with her embedded within them.

As long as one of them lived so did she. This was how he dealt with it. His mother who was his patient who he had tried to treat but not touch – and only as he worked frantically to revive her did love enter his efforts. He touched her, he loved her, as he beat on her chest to restart her heart, as he broke through her ribs with the force of his devotion. He battered her body as his da had done. And she came back to him, alive yet not alive; dead but not dead.

He was breathless from forcing air into her mouth, almost faint, and he fell back just before the ambulance arrived. He counted each rise and fall of her chest. He could almost believe he was watching her sleep.

John watches Sherlock sleep. Restful. Soon, he'll wake; and the game will be on, Sherlock's tremendous mind having deciphered one or another clue that will break the investigation open, labyrinth untangled. While they chase Sherlock's conclusions down, Sherlock may or mayn't discuss what of John he would like to keep, forever, for always, their strange yet intimate game.

"Maybe your heart," Sherlock might say, sidelong and sly, making a joke of a threat, "Seeing as our friend M has promised to burn mine out of me."

Or perhaps, "Your hands, I will keep your hands, preserve first the flesh until I decide to strip them to bone, and then I will wire the bones together, and study how they moved, how you moved them."

Or, "Your brain, yes, sliced thinly and preserved as slides, thrown onto every wall, framed, so that I would live surrounded by your tangible thoughts."

Sherlock is making a home out of John. Under the duvet, under the shifting light that moves like waves, under, as he drowns, John reaches and touches and stays. All of me, he thinks, so tired and tender, exhausted as he comes back to life. You can keep all of me.