Something was dripping, the sink, plop, plop, plop.
There were 18 distinct cracks on the ceiling.
The man with the window directly across from theirs was embezzling from the bank he worked for.
He was experiencing what he had termed 'the Down Days'. It had afflicted him often during his period of 'substance abuse' (his brother's words, Sherlock had always been in control). Then he would have been itching for a hit. He idly speculated on whether the good doctor kept any painkillers in the house. No, that was an unacceptable option, despite its appeal.
He absolutely loathed the Down Days. A severe and crippling sort of melancholy that struck unexpectedly. Not sadness, that is a more active emotion. No, this was beyond that, beyond boredom even. When he was bored, a mildly interesting case could still catch his attention. But like this, the mere effort of texting Lestrade seemed monumentally dreary.
John had been attempting to engage him, for a few minutes at least. Sherlock had not stirred from his supine position on the couch. He had heard, of course. John had rambled about food, said he was going to the store, asked if he wanted anything. When he hadn't responded the doctor had given up and murmured something about getting more milk. The door closing rang with an unusual bitterness.
He shouldn't be so disappointed. Hadn't Sherlock told him he may not talk for days?
The detective heaved another sigh. He wanted to feel something. He hated this numbness. Did normal people feel this way? Ever? Even once? What could be the root of this absolute apathy? Was his body faulty? What was that about the loss of one sense contributing to the heightening of the others? Perhaps his brain was so extraordinary because the transport was subpar.
Of course these were all things he'd thought before, never fully reaching a conclusion, but they were interesting notions nonetheless. No, not interesting. Time consuming.
Sherlock turned his head, his muscles aching like half-set cement. There, on the table, shining in a ray of sunlight like the universe's gift to him, lay his scalpel.
There was one way to find out. How far he could go before he felt something worthwhile?
He'd reached from his wrist to his elbow by the time John returned. He had been so engrossed in the tiny twinges of pain emanating from the slit on his forearm he failed to notice the door swinging open.
"Sherlock!" He looked up at the cry of his name, though his blade did not falter. His flatmate dropped the groceries to the floor with a clatter. Sherlock wondered if the milk had spilled. John was in front of him in three strides, his hand grabbing the scalpel with the clean precision of one accustomed to using it. His eyes were sharp as they bore into his; hard, like a soldier's. Sherlock tilted his head. Fascinating.
John took his hand in his own, not minding the blood that had run down the arm, tilting it to gage the extent of the damage. Now those eyes were intent, a doctor assessing his patient. Sherlock felt a wave of tingles radiating from the point of contact. How riveting. John nodded, appearing to come to some conclusion, and headed upstairs.
Sherlock glanced down at the couch cushion. He really had made a mess. He pulled over a scrap of paper (useless scribblings about a case easily solved) and mopped up a bit of the blood. Oh dear, that was going to stain. John wouldn't like that. Maybe Mrs. Hudson could set it right.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, causing Sherlock to look up in surprise. He was coming back? Yes, his flatmate stepped into the sitting room with a first aid kit in hand. Amazing. He knelt in front of the detective, pulling out a bottle of saline solution and dabbing it with gauze over the incision. Sherlock might have winced at the pressure, if not for the other most unusual sensations. The pads of John's fingers were calloused as they brushed over his skin, sparking a glorious friction in the nerve endings. Working perfectly.
"Why did you do this, Sherlock?" He muttered under his breath. He was obviously not expecting an answer, and for that reason alone, Sherlock spoke up.
"Experiment." He croaked, marveling at the word. The first in 26 hours. John did not miss the significance. He glanced up, scrutinizing the detective. Sherlock stared back impassively.
"Right." He said flatly. He finished cleaning the wound, placing the saline and the gauze back into the box and pulling out the butterfly bandages. He put three along the cut, taking the time to run his fingers over each flap to ensure they stuck. Sherlock's skin was still crackling with that bizarre electricity. Satisfied, John straightened up, leaving his arm cold and bereft. Odd. "Now," he said authoritatively, sounding like a real commander of men, "Don't remove those until I tell you, alright?" Sherlock nodded obediently. His quiet docility seemed to worry the other man. He had reverted to his usual caring and concerned persona in a matter of seconds. "Are you okay?" Sherlock nodded again. John looked decidedly awkward now. "Right, good." He stammered. "I'll just… put away the groceries then." He turned and gathered up the bags, walking hurriedly to the kitchen. Sherlock examined the doctor's work.
How incredibly intriguing. Clearly this required further study.
"Ow… ow… ow… ow…"
"Would you stop that?"
"No… ow… ow…" Sherlock continued to mutter as he stepped on his injured foot. They were trudging down Baker Street, John supporting half of his weight on the right side. His left foot had been disfigured in a horrific accident.
"For God's sake, it's just a sprain!" His friend grumbled. While Sherlock normally trusted his medical expertise as sound, in this instance he was clearly wrong. This was no minor injury. The mangled remains of his lower extremity were straining the confines of his boot with unnatural determination.
John helped him up the stairs and settled him onto the couch, propping his ankle up on the arm. Carefully, with a gentleness that belied his fortitude, he undid the shoe and pulled it off. Sherlock gave an exaggerated hiss. John shot him a quelling look. He analyzed the foot which was turning a deep red color and now sported a tennis ball sized welt that had not been there before. He reached out a finger, running it along the skin with the lightest of pressure in what appeared to be arbitrary lines. Sherlock watched, enthralled by both the meticulousness of the motion and the fluttering it produced in his abdomen. John was finished with his appraisal all too soon.
"Like I said, it looks like a grade 1 sprain. I'll wrap it in a compression bandage and get some ice and you'll be fine in a week or two." He was looking pleasantly puzzled now that his appraisal was complete. "I can't see why you're making such a big deal out of it. You've suffered through worse than this without complaint."
"It hurts." Sherlock replied mulishly. "I was pushed off a building, John! I think a little sympathy is not unwarranted."
"One story," His collegue clarified, "one, and you were asking for it. Prodding a clearly deranged murderer after we'd already caught him. And I thought you knew how to fall?" Sherlock crossed his arms defensively.
"I was distracted." At John's raised eyebrow, he went on harshly, "I was a little preoccupied with the ground soaring to meet me!" John put his hands up in surrender, though an irritating smirk still played upon his face.
"Fine," He said airily, "I'll be back with the bandage. Stay put." That last one was an order. Sherlock huffed his assent, not looking to watch John head upstairs for his medical supplies. He stared at his foot disinterestedly.
He had been distracted during his fall, that much was true. John had shouted his name. Screamed, is more like it, and with such a pure untainted terror that it caught him off guard. To think, he now had someone who would be affected by his death, on an emotional level. It was off-putting, a daunting responsibility. Should he adjust himself around this new development? Put himself in less danger? Surely John would notice. Surely he would get bored.
But then, he reasoned as the doctor reappeared and began wrapping the tender flesh in the cloth, he supposed… he felt the same way about John. If John were to… perish due to some endeavor of Sherlock's, he knew, and there was no point lying to himself about this unerring proof, he would feel such an acute pain unlike anything he had ever suffered. Perhaps it would be in both of their best interests if he avoided certain life-threatening situations. He could stand to call Lestrade or Mycroft once in a while to handle the dirty work.
Yes, he thought, gritting his teeth against the pleasure as John's fingers brushed feather light along his calf, he could swallow his pride. If it meant a world with John Watson, then he would happily surrender to their gloating looks and snide remarks.
Once in a while.
"Bollocks, bugger, and blast!" Sherlock shouted loudly as he heard John's footsteps on the stairs. He picked up his pace upon hearing the detective's curses. The door opened and he took in the scene. An elaborate contraption had apparently been erected in the sitting room, made of large shiny pipes and tubes, though it had fallen to pieces and lay scattered on the floor. Sherlock sat in the midst of it all, clutching his right leg and rocking back and forth in a mimicked pain position. John hastened to his side.
"Bloody hell, what happened?"
An interesting question. The truth was it had been a surprisingly long time since Sherlock had sustained a significant injury. As such, there had been little need of Dr. Watson's services. He had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress. If he were honest with himself, he had missed the touches. So he had devised a hoax to recapture John's full attention. That this plan came about immediately after Sarah's rejection was merely a happy accident.
The pestle hitting his thigh had stung, but it was a little sacrifice in the face of John's concern.
"My experiment failed." He lied shortly. John picked up his hand from where it clutched his pant leg and gently moved it aside. Sherlock felt a shudder slide under his skin.
"Yeah, I can see that." He said wryly. He splayed his fingers over the leg. "Does this hurt?" The pressure was secondary to the warmth of John's caress.
"Er… Yes, a little." John shifted his hand, applying mild force to the bone. He looked up in askance. Sherlock shook his head. The doctor's lips twisted in concentration. He watched the movement in fascination.
"Well, it doesn't seem fractured or broken." John announced, startling him out of his reverie. "It's probably just badly bruised. I'll get a cold compress for you." He stood then hesitated. "Anything in the freezer I should know about?" Sherlock thought carefully, knowing that a forgotten body part was the worst way to irritate his friend.
"No, just the ice cube tray, the orange sherbet, the peas, and the liquid nitrogen." John nodded, looking exceptionally pleased. He disappeared into the kitchen.
Sherlock rubbed his thigh absently, ruminating on the curious urges that led to the ruse. He had never before longed so desperately for human interaction, always content in his recluse. What was this strange yearning that consumed him entirely?
As John's beaming face reemerged bearing tea and an ice pack, tousled tawny hair, dark blue eyes twinkling brightly, a word flashed to Sherlock's mind.
"Anderson stabbed me." Sherlock said immediately upon seeing John skidding into the morgue. The soldier glanced around, finding the room empty.
"What?" He asked bewilderedly. Sherlock sighed, hating to explain everything. He pulled at the neck of his button down, revealing the gaping wound marring his right shoulder.
"He overreacted to a few of my remarks, picked up the letter opener on his desk and stabbed me." Now his colleague, instead of looking concerned, was positively exasperated.
"The plastic green thing shaped like a dinosaur? That's the 'emergency' you called me across town for?"
"Well you weren't doing anything interesting." Sherlock retorted, disgruntled that he had not received the care he had expected, even wanted.
"What did you say to piss him off?"
"I may have intimated that his wife was sleeping with his best friend. Really, I was more astounded by the fact he has a best friend. Though if he's shagging his wife, how close can they be?" John was staring at him with an almost amused glint in his stormy blue eyes. Sherlock, a little impatient for his touch, tugged at his shirt again, drawing his attention. "My shoulder is still bleeding. Shouldn't you try to fix that, doctor?" He rolled his eyes but approached nonetheless. His face came within inches of the pearly white flesh, his breath grazing the sensitive skin. Sherlock repressed a shiver. John plucked a tissue from the table behind them, wiping the scant traces of blood away.
"It's approximately a centimeter long and it can't be more than a few millimeters deep. Stop whining. I think I've got a plaster in my wallet, hang on." He dug the worn leather wallet from his pocket and leafed through the folds. Sherlock followed the movements curiously.
"You keep a plaster in there but not a condom." He noted. John nearly dropped it in surprise. He stared at him with wide eyes. Sherlock shrugged his good shoulder. "Merely an observation. Certainly it says something about your priorities, but no matter. Continue with the healing process." Fingers shaking slightly (was that the tick, or had he unnerved him?) John pulled out the package and opened it. He smoothed it throughly over the tiny injury. Sherlock watched him shrewdly. "Which shoulder were you shot in?" He asked suddenly. If John was caught off-guard he didn't show it.
"Left." He replied clinically, eyes never leaving the plaster as he flattened it to hasten the clotting. "Bullet shattered the bone and clipped the subclavian artery." Sherlock nodded.
"I suspected as much. You knead the muscle when it rains." John straightened up, satisfied the plaster would stick, but did not step back. His brow was furrowed in that (frankly adorable) way he got when he was confused.
"If you knew, then why did you ask?"
"I wanted you to answer." It was a rather idiotic response, but thankfully John accepted it. And it was definitely a sight better than the truth. I wanted to hear you speak. I like to hear your voice. It's completely illogical, but I think… I must be infatuated with you…
It was early morning, the first weak rays of sun casting a beautiful color to John's tanned skin. Skin that was atypically near to his.
"How did this happen again?" John asked curiously as he examined the gash on the other man's cheek. Two of his fingers were lightly grasping Sherlock's chin, tilting his face to the side. It was highly distracting though entirely pleasant.
"Absolutely no idea." The detective lied easily. The doctor's keen eyes raked over the area in puzzlement.
"These edges look smooth," He noted absently, "like you'd see with a knife or other blade." Sherlock cast about wildly for an explanation.
"Perhaps I was thrashing in my sleep and cut it against something."
"Yeah," John snorted in amused agreement, "it'd be just like you to keep sharp implements next to your pillow." Then something in his previous statement finally seemed to register. "Hang on, you actually slept? I thought it was too 'mundane' for you?" Sherlock scowled, the close proximity to the object of his hidden affections bringing sharper focus to his usually muted emotions. He found himself positively riled.
"I do occasionally succumb to sleep, John. I'm not a robot." The stormy blue eyes widened at his harsh tone.
"I know." He assured him quickly. "You just took me by surprise is all." Sherlock grunted, turning his head to divert the doctor's attention back to the injury. John obediently dropped the matter. "I'll have to clean it, but an ordinary plaster should do the trick. I think I may be out of the saline. Let me get a flannel and some soap from the bathroom." He walked away, leaving Sherlock to wonder frantically if he had left any blood on the straight razor. Thankfully, if he had, John was too oblivious to notice. He reentered the room with an apologetic grimace. "Sorry, this might sting."
The washcloth barely made an impact in Sherlock's consciousness, concentration devoted wholly to the unusually close view of John's face, only a breath away. His eyes kept flicking from his clever fingers to Sherlock's blank expression. Whether he was checking for pain, disconcerted by their closeness, or some other explanation, the detective could not deduce. It seemed his usually keen brainpower was dulled by the same phenomenon that heightened his emotions. There was a peculiar buzzing in his muscles, almost like that familiar friend adrenaline. It must have shown in his demeanor, because John's movements slowed. Soon his hand was simply holding the flannel in place as they stared at each other. Sherlock felt the anticipation rise. He was certain that something was about to happen, something monumental. What that was still eluded him.
"Sherlock…" John murmured, his voice unusually husky.
"Yes?" He replied, only slightly surprised to hear his own voice even lower than normal. The other man swallowed, causing Sherlock to become completely distracted by the bobbing of his Adam's apple. How, with all his notably exceptional observational skills, had he missed that his friend had such a delectable neck? He was overcome by the most outlandish desire to examine the expanse of sweet tanned skin, skim it with his fingertips, taste it with his tongue, go through every sense until it was irrefutably his. He had never felt such a strong pull towards something, particularly not another human being. He found himself leaning forward, slowly, devastatingly slowly.
John jerked away, dropping the washcloth to the floor. Sherlock rocked back, his equilibrium in uproar.
"I, er…" John stuttered, bending down hurriedly to reclaim the flannel. The detective watched him, struggling to keep his customary indifferent mask in place. But it didn't seem to fit like it had before. There were cracks now, as his turbulent emotions furiously tried to break free. John straightened, taking several steps backward, putting space between them. Something in his chest hurt, such a sharp pain it stole his breath. He gestured to the gash on Sherlock's cheek. "That, uh, that'll be fine, in a few days." He handed the plaster to him quickly, careful to keep their hands from touching. "Just put that on, it'll be… fine." John shook his head, presumably at himself, and stomped up the stairs. Sherlock sat in silence for a while after that, the only movement the occasional blink and the twisting of the bandage in his hands. He was experiencing a most unpleasant feeling. It was difficult to place, especially as he had a limited range of emotional intelligence to begin with. He racked his encyclopedic mind for an apt term for this occurrence.
Despair? Not quite. Hopelessness? Close. Rejection? Hmm… that one had merit. On the heels of that discovery, another followed.
He realized, surely, this is love.
"I cannot believe you!" The door slammed furiously shut as John rounded on him. Sherlock winced, keeping his hand firmly clutched at his side. He could still feel the blood oozing under the layers of his clothes. The doctor's tirade was far from over, however. "That was the most incredibly idiotic thing you've ever done! How did you think that was going to work out, hmm? What was going on in that big stupid genius head of yours?" Sherlock grit his teeth, the derisive mention of his intelligence stinging. He'd become accustomed to John's admiration of this trait, and to hear it used so sardonically was painful. Almost as much as the wound in his side.
"I was hoping to take the gun from him." Sherlock said, his words halting with the effort to keep his tone level. John seemed even more incensed by this, if possible.
"Wonderful, and how did that go for you?" The detective kept quiet, easing himself to the couch. John followed, his volume increasing. "Oh that's right, you got shot! With Lestrade only minutes away, you decided to wrestle the killer for the gun, and got yourself shot! What a fantastic plan, really Sherlock, you've outdone yourself!"
"Minutes would have been too long." Sherlock bit out, studiously not looking at him, the lying on his back only marginally lessening the pain. "He was going to kill us and run. If I hadn't intervened Lestrade would have arrived to our dead corpses in that alley, is that what you'd have preferred?" John gave a frustrated huff.
"Ah, I see, you worked that out, did you? In those few seconds that's what you deduced, is it?"
"Yes." He replied stonily. He glanced quickly at him and away again. John was shaking his head, completely fed up with the situation. He started for the stairs. The down stairs. Sherlock sat up in alarm, hissing at the pang it produced. "Where are you going?" He groaned.
"Out." John said curtly, reaching for the door handle. Sherlock stood, and with two long strides he had blocked the exit. John glared at him through narrowed eyes. "Move." He ordered. Sherlock shook his head, an unexpected panic welling in him.
"No. I'm bleeding. Fix me." One of John's hands balled into a fist. He wanted to hit him. The doctor wanted to hurt him.
"Go to a hospital." He said instead, tone dark and dangerous. Angst, toxic and potent, was pooling in Sherlock's stomach.
"No." John practically growled at his staunch refusal. Giving up on leaving the flat, he turned and stalked towards his room. He made it to the second step when Sherlock yelled, "Fix me!"
"No!" John shouted, turning on the step to showcase his angry and determined expression. "Go to a hospital!"
"Oh," Sherlock mocked, his fear and fury propelling the words, "So when I hurt myself out of boredom or provocation, there's no qualms about healing me, but when I act to save your life, suddenly you won't touch me! That's some Hippocratic Oath, doctor!" There was utter silence. John looked as if he had slapped him. Sherlock pondered what it was he had said that went too far. Then something in John's face shifted, and he looked resolute once more.
"Fine!" He spat, storming down the stairs. He passed Sherlock without looking at him, heading inexplicably for the detective's bedroom. Sherlock followed bemusedly. John was standing by his little used bed, waiting for him impatiently. He pointed. "Lie down and take off your shirt." Sherlock blinked. His breathing quickened, not outwardly noticeable but enough for him to be aware of. John did not blush, merely stared at him as he waited for him to comply.
Sherlock removed his coat, throwing it haphazardly to the floor. The jacket came next, landing somewhere atop his wardrobe. Then he began the process of unbuttoning. He kept his eyes locked with John's, ready to pick out the slightest change, but there was none. His love was clinical and cold. Sherlock paused when it came to take the shirt off. The material was sticking to the wound, and he suspected it would be quite painful to remove. John must've understood. He gestured to the bed more sympathetically.
"Lie down." He repeated. Sherlock did so, leaving the shirt half off. John moved close, practically standing between his legs, gazing down intently on the detective's form. Sherlock felt an unfamiliar bout of self-consciousness. He squirmed a little under the scrutiny. John reached a calloused hand to the fabric of his dress shirt. Slowly, tenderly, he pulled it away. Sherlock was right, it did sting, very much so. He closed his eyes as the open flesh met the cool air. Nothing happened for a moment, and he peeked up at his love. John was staring at the small gash that tore through his left side, just bellow his ribs. The blood had already begun congealing.
"I told you it was a graze." Sherlock muttered. John nodded, though he seemed transfixed by the red and brown that stood out from the unnaturally pale skin.
"I'll get the supplies." He murmured back. He was gone a moment later. Sherlock shivered at his absence. He allowed himself to sigh at the injustice of it all: the one person he had ever loved was hopelessly immune to him. John returned shortly, though it felt several minutes too long. "It'll probably start bleeding again." He warned, the refilled saline bottle already over turned against the gauze. He took a seat on the bed, on Sherlock's left side. He lightly dabbed the material along the length of the wound. "Around six centimeters long," The doctor said to himself, "maybe one centimeter wide."
"It was a .41 Remington." Sherlock supplied, though he hadn't asked. He was utterly distracted once again. John was leaning over him, one hand braced on his leg as the other cleaned his side. He felt an uncomfortable heat rising within him. He focused on his breathing, deep and steady. Then John's thumb rubbed his lower rib and he inhaled sharply. John glanced at him but continued the abstracted movement.
"It isn't bad," He said, "some gauze and surgical tape will do the trick." He flattened the cotton strip along his side, taking the time to run his hand twice along its length. Sherlock closed his eyes tightly. He heard John ripping the tape and felt the adhesive against his skin. A similar panic from earlier rose again, and he found himself blurting something out to keep the caress from ending.
"He was looking at you." Came from his mouth. His eyes flew open. Oh. He hadn't wanted to talk about that. But perhaps it was better to continue than admit how much John's innocent touch affected him. His love was watching him in mild confusion, clearly expecting him to elaborate. Sherlock took a deep breath. "The assailant, while he was working out how to escape, he looked at you. You're the most formidable of the two of us, at least by sight alone. He already knew about your military training. You posed the greatest threat. He was going to kill you first. He had turned his gun approximately 20 degrees in your direction by the time I tackled him." John's index finger had joined his thumb in motion, rubbing circles on his side.
"So you meant what you said earlier?" He asked. Sherlock looked at him, confusion taking the place of deductive reasoning. "About saving my life. That was why you pulled that incredibly idiotic stunt."
"Didn't I just say that?" He retorted irritably, hating to repeat his weakness. He stopped, realizing that rudeness was extraordinarily counterproductive in this instance. Sherlock sat up a little on his elbows, the injury pulling uncomfortably. He looked steadily into those unreadable blue eyes. "If he had shot you, he would not have lived to see Lestrade." John stared at him. The hand on his side had halted, resting splayed against the dressing. He made an odd hum in the back of his throat. Sherlock tilted his head at the sound. John's expression was no longer hard, but still practically indiscernible. He moved, shifting nearer on the bed. He kept his right hand on his wound, but the left moved to lean on the bedding. On Sherlock's other side. He was boxed in, the doctor's face inches from his own. And coming steadily closer. Sherlock kept stock still, neither moving forward nor away, too afraid of making a mistake.
"You can stop me, you know." John told him softly, his breath fluttering against his lips. Sherlock closed his eyes.
"Don't be an idiot, John." He whispered. "Of course I don't want you to stop." His love chuckled, the sound vibrating in the scant particles of air between them. Sherlock nearly groaned from the suspense, and decided to be done with it. The space between them vanished in an instant.
It was better than any painkiller.
I know, there's no hot makeout scene. I'm sorry. I just doubt I'd be able to accurately portray it. And I seriously hope no S&M fans were incredibly disappointed by the title. Sorry!
Anyway, as my friend put it, this is an odd mix of character study and fluff. I hope you liked it. Please send feedback, I've never done M/M before so I'd love to hear any critiques or advice.