Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock or any of its characters.

The Numbness After Pain

It was a large green splotch, with hints of purple and yellow blurring the edges, adding a cool palette of pastels across a pale canvas. Sherlock gazed at the bathroom mirror in order to better inspect the large bruise on his chest. He pressed his right index finger into the center of the bruise and immediately winced at the contact.

It had been over a week since Sergeant Fulworth punched him- no, attacked him; that was the only word for it. Completely unwarranted as well. Sherlock couldn't even remember what he had said to that victim's wife, so surely it wasn't very significant. Obviously he hadn't meant for her to burst into tears; he's not that sadistic, no matter what others might think of him. But everyone was instantaneously upset with Sherlock, staring at him with blank, disbelieving expressions. And then there was a weight on his arm, causing him to turn around just in time to be sucker punched in the chest, knocking him down to the hard gravel. Sherlock was, though he was loath to admit it, dumbstruck, needing a moment to process the succession of events that led to his current degradation. He peered up through wide, glassy eyes towards the sergeant, who met his gaze with such repugnance that Sherlock was sure he was about to be hit again. Instead, Fulworth turned back to the other officers, who actually cheered and patted him on the back.

"Sherlock?" John said, immediately by his side to help him up off the ground. "Are you alright?"

Good ol' John.

"I'm fine," Sherlock answered a bit hoarsely, though his chest felt like it was on fire.

"You sure?" asked John, his voice revealing his skepticism.

"I said I'm fine," Sherlock said in a much harsher tone than was deserved, pushing John away from him. "Let's just leave."

The cab ride back to Baker Street was thick with the tension of silent thoughts, worries, and accusations.

Sherlock shook himself from his reverie, still staring at the reflection of his marred skin. It wasn't so much the physical pain that bothered him, as the wound would heal given time, and, until then, no one would see it underneath his shirt, but the psychological distress at the realization that the childhood torments he thought he had been liberated from had only followed him into adulthood was too much to bear just now. He could shrug off the relentless name calling and snickering behind his back, but he never thought anyone who wasn't a criminal he was tracking down, a police officer no less, would ever assault him. To top it all off, Fulworth got away scot free; Lestrade had taken him aside for a verbal reprimand, a warning and nothing more.

Sherlock clutched the edge of the sink and breathed in heavily through his nostrils, which caused a shudder of pain to pass through his chest.

It just wasn't fair. These weren't criminals and psychopaths; these were the average people who should have been horror-stricken by seeing someone attacked. They didn't even gawk in embarrassed silence. They were actually glad by what they saw. Schadenfreude, Sherlock thought. The pleasure in the misery of others. No, not others- just him. If it had been anyone else, they would have come to the person's aid.

It was just like when he was young and his teachers would turn a blind eye to the physical violence inflicted on him by the other children. At first, Mycroft would stick up for him against the bullies, but, eventually, Mycroft was no longer around to be able to protect him. He had a vague recollection of one particularly awful attack by three other, slightly older children that left him with a black eye and a broken arm. Mummy quickly pulled him out of school, and he was taught at home for the rest of that year until being transferred to a boarding school where the majority of the children mostly just preferred to ignore his presence, which was fine with him.

Of course, Sherlock couldn't run away in this instance. Sure, there were probably ways he could solve most of his cases without actually having to interact with any of the police besides Lestrade, or Gregson, or whomever was in charge, but that didn't seem like the most advantageous scenario. No, he would have to face them again, to pretend like nothing had happened, to put on a mask to hide the hurt that he hoped would eventually become numb over time.

Numbness. That was what Sherlock yearned for, and, in the past, he would have been able to attain it through the means of a long, sharp needle. But he was better than that now, and not even the dull ache of the memory of all those accusing faces could tempt him to jump off the edge and into the violent sea of destruction.

Because amid the crowd of silent gazes was one pair of eyes that reflected a sympathy of the pain that Sherlock was feeling. Unlike his lonely childhood, he now had John Watson: doctor, soldier, flatmate, friend. And said John Watson was currently sitting in a well-worn armchair, probably at this point having dozed off in the middle of watching a succession of mindless programs on the telly after a long day at the clinic.

Sherlock quickly dressed into his pajamas and robe and left the bathroom. Correct. There was John, slumped over in a position that would most likely cause an ache in his neck in the morning. Sherlock went over to him and lightly shook him awake. "John," he said softly.

John awoke with a slight start. "Huh?" he said, still groggy. "Oh, Sherlock. What is it? Please tell me you didn't wake me to borrow a pen?"

Sherlock huffed at him. "Though I know you don't like it when I wake you up, I surmised that you would dislike it even more if you were to awaken in the morning with a sore neck."

"Oh," said John. "That was thoughtful."

"I can be thoughtful when the occasion arises," said Sherlock.

"I know," said John, feeling more awake now. After a beat, he asked, "So how's your chest?"

"Healing," said Sherlock, moving to sit down on the sofa. "Slowly."

"Well," said John. "A bruise like that will take some time."

"I'm aware," said Sherlock. "It's not like this was the first injury I've ever sustained."

"Fulworth shouldn't have hit you," said John.

"No," said Sherlock stiffly. "He shouldn't have."

"And the others shouldn't have cheered him on," said John.

Sherlock just looked at him gloomily. Then John suddenly stood up and walked into the kitchen, taking a piece of paper off of the refrigerator and bringing it back with him into the living room. "Here," he said, handing the paper to Sherlock.

Sherlock eyed it suspiciously. There was a phone number scrawled on it in John's handwriting.

"It's Fulworth's house phone," John explained. "I looked it up in the phone book."

"So?" asked Sherlock, quirking an eyebrow.

"I thought we could take turns crank calling him," said John.

Sherlock stared at John doubtfully and then back at the phone number. "Why?" said Sherlock.

"Call it... an acceptable form of revenge," said John, choosing his words carefully.

"Why, John!" said Sherlock, the corners of his mouth upturning slightly. "I never realized you were such an evil mastermind."

John smiled back. "I have many layers," he said. "Like an onion."

"Onion?" said Sherlock, looking at him curiously.

"Yeah, it's from..." John started to explain. "You know what, never mind."

Sherlock watched as John found his phone and started to dial, grinned at the affected voice John spoke in when Fulworth picked up, and laughed when he could hear Fulworth yelling through the receiver. And, finally, he let out an inward sigh as he realized that his wound was only skin deep and would heal in time.