Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. While I consider this a tragedy, most of the world is probably pretty happy that it remains the property of the BBC, Moffat, and Gatiss. Also, my medical knowledge is limited to my father's horror stories from the ER and episodes of Grey's Anatomy and House, so apologies for any mistakes.
Fine, Okay, All Right
Nudity was not exactly an issue in 221B Baker Street. The military had forced any shyness out of John, and his profession necessitated that he be comfortable around nakedness. Sherlock flung himself around with his bathrobe hanging loose around his shoulders, the tie barely knotted at his waist—his body was merely a vehicle, and around the flat clothing didn't particularly enhance its capabilities.
John didn't match Sherlock's exhibitionist tendencies, but occasionally explosions from Sherlock's experiments jerked him out of bed and he found himself downstairs in his boxers, ensuring that the flat was still standing and his consulting detective was still breathing. By the second month he realised that Sherlock's explosions typically resulted in nothing worse than ash marks on the ceiling, unless a pink mobile phone was involved, in which case John would have run naked to Siberia to avoid the fallout. Usually, though, he just shook his head at his flatmate, stretched his hands behind his back, and returned to his bedroom, the hair on his arms rising in the post-midnight chill of the flat. The first time it happened Sherlock had pressed one soot-covered hand to John's left shoulder and used his thumb and index finger to examine the scar there; he had parsed it in a few words and left dark fingerprints over John's skin. After that the doctor's bare torso and occasionally unclothed bottom-half elicited less of a reaction out of Sherlock than John's jumpers.
Given this general disregard for the clothed versus unclothed nature of himself and his flatmate, John had no problem ignoring the closed bathroom door when he arrived home after a long day at the surgery to find Sherlock's robe pooled below a long-fingered bloody handprint on the wall. He tried shouting Sherlock's name first, but the shower was going and he wasn't sure if the other man could have heard him even if he was more conscious than the blood on the wall suggested.
Sherlock hadn't flicked the lock, so John pushed the door open easily and a wall of steam pushed out. John called, "Sherlock?" one last time, and when he didn't get a response, he tugged the shower curtain aside.
Sherlock stood in the spray, his hands braced against the white tiles and his head bent forward so the water fell over his neck, dragging dark curls straight and running down his back in rivulets. The water was so hot that it had turned his ordinarily pale skin red, and his body was quaking with his rapid breaths. Pinkish blood ran down the wall from his right hand, and John knew that it was diluted with water and so it looked like there was more of it than there was but God, this was a ghastly sight.
"Sherlock," John said again, but the other man didn't make any sign he'd heard him or that he'd even realised he was there. John stepped over the edge of the tub, fully clothed, and pressed a hand against Sherlock's back. Sherlock didn't react. John lifted his hand—he left a white handprint in the red skin—and reached for the faucet, turning the shower off with a quick twist.
Sherlock's breathing was loud and too fast in the sudden silence. John reached his hands around Sherlock, the soaking wool of his sweater chafing the other man's forearms as John wrapped his fingers around Sherlock's wrists and said in a nearly-steady voice, "Sherlock, I need to see your hand. Let me fix it." He tried to take the other man's hands from the wall, but Sherlock shook his head, still keeping his neck bent and his eyes shut.
"Please," John said. "Come on, there's not that much blood." He told himself this again, silently, because now that the water was off the redness ran much slower down the wall from where Sherlock's palm pressed against it, more of a drip than a flow, and it was nice to think that his flatmate might survive this rather dramatic incident. "It won't hurt that much, and it'll be better if you just let me do it now, rather than letting it get infected."
Sherlock jerked his head from side to side again, and John breathed, "Fine," against his ear. He let go of his flatmate and stepped out of the shower, dripping water from his jumper and trousers and leaving wet footprints on the tiles. He tugged one of his several first-aid kits from beneath the sink and sorted through it until he found some gauze and antiseptic cream, and then knelt beside the tub.
"Just lift your right hand," he instructed. Sherlock didn't.
"Christ. You leave blood all over the walls out there, and then act like an absolute baby when I try to help you."
The other man was dripping water and blood and from this angle John could see the marks his habits had left on his arms and pale thighs. Sometimes John wondered at that, at the scars and puckered, burned skin, and he thought about what it would be like to heal Sherlock completely when he tended his more recent injuries. But if he could put a plaster on tonight's cut and then eradicate all of those masochistically inflicted marks, would he? Did he want Sherlock more whole, less fragmented, less himself? John loved Sherlock as he was, he had long ago accepted that, and did that mean that he wouldn't love the mad man if his skin had not knitted his past into itself?
"Sherlock," John repeated. "Please just let me look at you."
"Aren't you?" The words were monosyllabic and came out even shorter, each carried on a sharp exhale and a hard-edged tongue.
John shut his eyes for an instant and when he opened them Sherlock still hadn't moved, although he had rolled his lips between his teeth and the red flush was beginning to fade from his skin. He looked, as John always thought in the rare moments he came upon him asleep, like one of his cadavers. "I am." John drew the single syllables out. "But I'm not really seeing what I want to see. Give me your goddamn hand."
Sherlock let out the barest breath of a laugh. "You never see what I want you to see."
Unfair, unnecessary, harsh. John reached for Sherlock's right wrist again. He pressed his fingers against the veins there—blue and strong—and watched as they flattened under his fingertips. "You can teach me how to see what you want later. At the moment you need to give me what I want." If he were talking to anyone else he'd have gotten a face full of cock at those words. But he'd never have said that to anyone but Sherlock, and Sherlock was impervious to innuendo.
"Fine." Sherlock's breathing had normalised during their brief exchange, and he straightened and lifted his hands from the wall. He had left a smear of blood on the white tiles, but John's eyes were drawn to the redness of the palm his friend held out to him. The cut was deeper than he had expected, it sliced from the base of his thumb to the lower knuckle of his smallest finger, and it flooded all of the lines in his skin with blood. His hand looked like Egypt must have after its alleged plague—a space severed by rivers and tributaries of blood.
"Fuck, Sherlock, what did you do?" John took his friend's hand in his own and used his thumbs to push the sides together, causing another wave of blood to pulse from the split skin.
"Nothing," Sherlock sounded stubborn. "I was just observing how—"
"You did not do this to yourself on purpose," although it looked that way. He reached behind him for a few tissues and pressed them against the cut, staring as dark blood bloomed through them in shapes like poppies. "You might need stitches."
"As I said," Sherlock told the top of John's head, "I was observing how thinly sliced skin from fingertips—not mine—maintain the fingerprint. I needed to know at which point a person could remove all evidence of their identity. But the knife was sharp and something—and I slipped. It's fine, I don't need stitches."
"That was idiotic," John informed him. "You realise there are Wikipedia pages that answer these questions? Google? Use the Internet, you imbecile. And you're not fine, and you definitely need stitches." The blood still hadn't stopped. John wondered how long the other man had been standing in the shower before he arrived. "Are you at all light-headed? You've lost more blood than I thought."
"Wikipedia is often incorrect and the answers provided on Google were not precise enough. Besides, I was bored. And I am fine, as I said." John was still kneeling by the tub, holding crumpled and bloody tissues to Sherlock's hand, and Sherlock had shifted his body so he faced John, rather than the showerhead. John assumed he was staring down at his head, although he could just as easily have been examining their reflections in the mirror over the sink. If John had raised his eyes from Sherlock's mess of a hand he would have found himself face-to-face with his friend's crotch, which was not something he particularly wanted to think about at that moment. Right then, he needed to remember where he had left his sutures after the last time Sherlock had injured himself bad enough to warrant having his skin sewn shut.
"Hold your hand over the cut." John reached for Sherlock's left hand and settled it over the tissues. He stood and shut the lid of the toilet. "And sit there. I'm going to find my kit."
"I'm," John cut Sherlock's protest off with a glare and Sherlock rolled his eyes, stepping over the edge of the tub and sighing, "Fine. Even though it's unnecessary."
John ignored him and headed up to his bedroom, where he found his tools in the drawer of his bedside table—a sign of a troubled friendship, relationship, whatever if he's ever seen one—and returned to the bathroom to find Sherlock sitting on the closed toilet with his head back against the wall, his body a long line from his neck to his hips, his left hand covering his right palm where it lay on his thigh.
"So," John began as he once again knelt by his friend's side and tugged the tissues from the cut, tossing them in the rubbish and pressing some gauze against the skin to catch a few more pulses of blood before readying his sutures, "what was going on in your head when you decided to take a shower rather than text me or Mycroft or even stick a few plasters on this thing?"
"I'd never text Mycroft."
"Okay, point." John bit his lip. He hated stitching Sherlock together. "But why not me?"
"I knew you'd be home eventually." Sherlock was still cutting the words off prematurely, dropping syllables and vowels.
"What happened to make you cut yourself? You're generally," not careful, "better with a knife than this."
"You're always saying you're better at people than I am. Surely you have realised that I do not wish to discuss this." Sherlock flinched as John pulled the needle through the layers of his skin. He hissed a breath through his teeth—he hated showing weakness.
John focused on pulling the thread through Sherlock's skin for a few stitches and then replied, "I am choosing to ignore that fact. You didn't even react this strongly after the pool."
"I'm fine," Sherlock ground out as John continued stitching across his hand. John sighed and finished off the sutures, then reached for the gauze and antiseptic ointment, holding Sherlock's newly sewn palm flat as he wrapped it and secured the gauze with a clip.
"All right, don't tell me. Next time you decide to cut yourself open, just text me, okay?"
Sherlock slumped back, his head thumping against the wall, and John stood and washed his hands in the sink, wiping them on the towel and kicking Sherlock's crumpled bathrobe out of the way as he left his flatmate still sitting on the toilet, blood drying on the shower wall and rusting at the edges of the drain.
John muttered, "You're a bastard," but only after he was halfway up the stairs and certain that Sherlock couldn't hear him. He left his soaking clothes in a pile by his bedroom door and tugged open the door to his wardrobe to find something dry and warm and not blood-stained to wear. All of his jumpers reminded him of the sight of wet wool against the skin of Sherlock's forearms and he pressed his forehead against the door for a few minutes. The man would kill himself before Moriarty got a chance to, and he wouldn't even explain a fraction of his undoubtedly intricate thought process to John. Not even the understandable portion, if there was one. And if there wasn't, didn't he understand that John would get lost for him? Christ, John had killed for him, nearly died for him. Of course he fucking cared about the insides of Sherlock's brain, just as much as he cared about the way all the answers shifted into plain sight when the man worked through all those tangles of thoughts.
John slammed his fist against the wardrobe door, and it banged back against his wall, leaving a black mark on the wallpaper and John feeling no better than he had since he came home. "Fuck," he spoke to the fake wood and reached for a cotton t-shirt on the floor of the wardrobe and a pair of soft tartan pyjama bottoms Harry had given him years ago. He folded himself into them and fell back on his bed. Facing Sherlock tonight seemed like climbing Everest—near-impossible and suffocating and cold.
The next morning Sherlock was propped on the couch, his bathrobe back around his shoulders, a laptop—John's—on his lap. "There's coffee," Sherlock said, nodding toward the kitchen.
"Thanks." John ignored the mug of cold coffee and set the tea kettle on. "I'm at the surgery till late tonight. How're your stitches? Do you need me to change the gauze before I leave?"
"They don't hurt. I think they're fine." John never wanted to hear that word again. "I think Lestrade will be needing us today."
"I'm working, Sherlock." John dropped a tea bag into his travel mug.
"Yes, well, tell that woman you need to leave early. I'll text you."
You'll text for someone else's blood, not your own. John bit the response into his tongue and shrugged into his coat as he said, "Okay."
"If you want to come. I'm sure I can manage without you."
"Unless Lestrade's got Anderson on it."
"Even so," Sherlock stretched his legs out in front of him and ran his gauze-wrapped hand through his hair. John wanted to punch him and then kiss him and then punch him again. He envied Sherlock's coolness.
"I'll be there." John poured boiling water into his mug and fit the lid on. He didn't care to stay around properly doctor his tea. He needed air and space and somewhere beyond Sherlock's eyes.
The case happened, just as Sherlock had predicted it would, and John found himself outside of a flat across London late that afternoon, standing in a dining room as Sherlock leaned over a corpse that had been left spread-eagled on the table. Anderson was muttering something to Donovan and Lestrade shot them occasional glares as Sherlock's nose brushed near the dead man's.
"Simple," Sherlock straightened and tugged a card from the pocket of the corpse's jeans with his injured hand. "You'll find the murderer at this address." He handed the business card to Lestrade. "The idiocy of today's criminal element concerns me. Ready, John?"
"Better than Moriarty," Lestrade muttered. Sherlock stiffened, his momentarily grey eyes locked on John's face. The freeze lasted only a second, long enough for John and Lestrade to exchange looks across Sherlock's shoulder, but not long enough for Donovan and Anderson to notice, and then Sherlock shook himself and passed John in three long strides.
"Coming?" he spat when he reached the door.
They sat in silence in the taxi, Sherlock against one window and John against the other. Sherlock unlocked the door to their flat and John toed off his shoes in the entranceway while the consulting detective threw himself onto the sofa, stuffing his favourite pillow beneath his head and staring up at the ceiling. He pressed his hands together in front of his face. They were asymmetrical with the gauze on the right and nothing on the left.
"John," Sherlock said. John stopped at the base of the stairs and glanced over at his flatmate again.
"It is not a huge issue, you know."
John wanted to tell him that everything was a huge issue because he was Sherlock Holmes, he was the only consulting detective in the world, and he bled as red as everyone else, and froze at the name Moriarty.
Instead he nodded. "I know."
"You are annoyed with me, though."
"Not annoyed," John told him. "Confused."
Blood on the wall and Sherlock hyperventilating under steaming water. "About a lot of things. Not all of them have to do with you."
"Most of them do, though."
"Most of them do, yes."
Sherlock nodded and shut his eyes. John waited a moment longer, and then continued up the stairs. He collapsed on his bed and pulled his pillow over his face, breathing in the scent of cotton and laundry detergent and trying not to think.
He woke later that night from a dream involving hot sand and colour-shifting eyes stilled and the scent of chlorine—a conglomeration only possible in nightmares—and he rolled out of bed with his back drenched in sweat. He shucked his shirt and trousers and padded down the stairs. The lamp was switched on beside the sofa but Sherlock's eyes were closed and his breathing was steady, and John opened the door to the bathroom silently enough that he thought he'd managed to keep his flatmate asleep.
There was still a pattern of blood on the wall beneath the showerhead. John stepped beneath the hot spray and pulled soap from its dish, sliding it against the rust-coloured marks until the wall was white again. He mimicked Sherlock's pose from the day before, bowed his head beneath the stream and shut his eyes and he counted. Sometimes the repetitiveness of numbers dispelled his nightmares, occasionally they covered his memories, and often they calmed his heartbeat to something resembling a regular rhythm.
"John?" Sherlock's voice came from the other side of the shower curtain, and John opened his eyes. He could see his flatmate's tall shadow through the blue plastic.
"What?" John's voice came out a rasp, and he coughed. The shape on the other side of the curtain raised one hand, fingers made longer through a trick of the light, and placed it against the plastic. It was his right hand, but John couldn't make out the bandage.
The hand closed, crumpling the plastic and tugging the curtain aside in one quick movement, and Sherlock stared at John, his eyes sleepy but aware. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but instead he stepped into the tub, stood behind John and wrapped his hands—fingers cold, gauze around right palm suddenly wet and soft, left hand gripping harder—around John's wrists, mimicking the position John had taken the day before.
He curved his body over the shorter man's, his neck against the twisted scar, his chin digging into where John's clavicle ran into his shoulder. He breathed against John's ear, even breaths, fixed, deep.
The soft fabric of his bathrobe was drenched, and John stared at the way the blue looked against his arms. Smoother than his wool had been the day before, but just as cumbersome. "Sherlock," he said, and Sherlock dug his chin even harder into his shoulder, the other man's skin rough with stubble and so near.
John wanted more of Sherlock's skin against his. He hooked his ankle around Sherlock's bare leg, below where the drenched hem of his robe draped, and rubbed against the other man's calf. John stood there, balanced on one leg—his good one—and sighed into the water falling over them both. Sherlock had frozen again, and then he let go of John's wrists and was gone, fully gone, John's foot fell back to the floor of the tub and he could feel colour flushing his cheeks, Fuck, too far, and then Sherlock's hands were back, and this time the pale skin of his forearm pressed against the pale skin of John's and when he set the inside of his legs against the outside of John's—a cage, a coat, human armour, a lover—the skin of his torso ran uninterrupted against John's back, to Sherlock's hips and his half-hard cock, and then down his legs to where the bumps of Sherlock's ankles hit just above John's.
"I don't," Sherlock murmured low against his ear.
John knew, of course. Sherlock went with sex like water went with air—they had some of the same components—Sherlock was attractive, could go through the motions—but the two never coalesced completely. John was pushing boundaries here.
John leaned his head back so his lips were below Sherlock's ear, and he breathed lightly over the other man's earlobe. Sherlock shivered, despite the still-warm water falling over them. "This won't solve our problems," John told him.
Sherlock didn't respond, but his thumbs moved over John's wrists, and then gently pulled them from the wall and dropped to their sides, twisting so Sherlock could weave their fingers together.
"It might be necessary, though," John admitted, turning his head so his lips found Sherlock's jaw-line. He pressed his mouth there, sucking lightly right beside the wet fall of the other man's dark curls. Sherlock gripped his hands tighter.
John scraped his teeth over Sherlock's skin and then pulled away, unlinking his fingers from Sherlock's and stepping into the stream of water. Sherlock's eyes were between green and grey when John turned to face him, and he was staring at John so intently John thought it might have been the first time since that day at Barts that Sherlock had focused his attention entirely on him. It felt good, to be the centre of that fierce existence.
John let his eyes fall from Sherlock's to his long, thin—too thin—body, to his still half-hard penis springing from dark curls—and John had seem him naked, but Sherlock aroused was something different, better, worse, too dichotomous for words—to his legs, his feet, and then back up to his eyes. All of him, here, staring at John and waiting on him. Finally, finally, it was John's turn to lead.
He stepped out of the spray and stood on tiptoe to brush his lips against Sherlock's. Lightly, the barest touch, and then, when the other man didn't pull away, he pressed his mouth in sudden hunger against Sherlock's, and ran his tongue against Sherlock's lower lip until his parted in a noise between a gasp and a sigh and John ran his tongue against Sherlock's until the taller man caught on and moved his right back against John's—insistent, searching.
John drew pressured lines along Sherlock's back, down the bumps of his vertebrae and falling along his arse and then back up. He dug fingers into his shoulders as their lips moved slick against each other and then John dragged his along Sherlock's jaw and down his neck and Sherlock's teeth snagged at John's right shoulder.
"God," John moaned, and then he pulled away again and ran his hand down in the new space between them, swirling along the soft hot skin on the inside of Sherlock's thigh, up against his erection—the slightest touch, and Sherlock shuddered.
His eyes were still on John's, and John could feel them narrowing at him as he knelt before him and this was always the way, wasn't it, John on his knees in front of Sherlock, but tonight he was going to make his detective break apart. He was. He must. It was necessary.
He braced his hands against Sherlock's hips, pressing his thumbs against the other man's skin so hard there'd be bruises there tomorrow, he thought, and he was strangely okay with marking Sherlock himself. He looked up at the other man once more, and Sherlock stared down at him with eyes shadowed in something unreadable. Fear, maybe, although John wouldn't have bet on it.
He couldn't stop himself from asking, "All right?"
Sherlock nodded, swallowed visibly, nodded again.
John took his erection in his mouth slowly, slowly—it had been a very long time since he had done this—and Sherlock let out a noise that John was not in any state to classify. He felt the heavy weight of Sherlock's cock and tasted the salt of pre-cum; Sherlock's hands were suddenly in his hair, gripping tight as his muscles shook. John hollowed his cheeks and Sherlock moaned, John's name falling from his mouth in the longest, most seductive syllable he had ever heard.
John risked a glance upward and found Sherlock's eyes—a crazy kaleidoscope of light colours—still on him, even through the haze of sex around them. When Sherlock came, his body shuddered and his eyes squeezed shut for the barest instant before they were open and on John again. John swallowed, licked one last swipe down the thick vein of Sherlock's cock, and pulled away, desperately wanting to spit, but knowing that Sherlock would watch and wonder and possibly doubt—and a doubting Sherlock would not help this horribly strange situation.
"John?" Sherlock's voice wavered in the loudness of the now-freezing shower. John stood and pressed a kiss beside Sherlock's nose and stepped away, his hand dropping to his own erection.
Sherlock shook his head, reached and wrapped his hand around John's waist and pulled him close again. He slid his hand—the one not covered in wet gauze and undoubtedly ruined stitches—between them and twisted his long fingers around John's cock. John bit his moans into Sherlock's shoulder, as Sherlock's clumsy hand moved along John's erection and his right hand twined painfully with strands of John's hair. John left teeth marks over Sherlock's skin, and when he came his hands bruised patterns into Sherlock's back.
They stood there for awhile, Sherlock's arms loose over John's shoulders and his head against John's hair, and John's wrists crossed against Sherlock's lower-back, the hollow of his temple against Sherlock's collarbone. When the water ran so cold that their feet turned purple John stepped back into the stream, drawing Sherlock with him, and cleaned them both up while goosebumps rose on their skin.
Sherlock shut off the shower as John reached for their towels, and they dried each other, dragging fingertips along the edges of the rough cloth, light against the skin. John left the bathroom first, and headed for the stairs, still silent, unable to think in as vast a concept as vocalisation, and Sherlock followed to the foot of the stairs. He stopped there, watching as John continued up them.
John turned at the top. "You can...you know."
Sherlock nodded, took the stairs two at a time until he was beside John again, and they entered John's room together. John slid beneath the covers on his bed and Sherlock followed after a moment, lying on his back. John took his hands and pulled him closer, and Sherlock wrapped around the smaller man, his limbs hooking around joints and curves, and his lips pressing against the space where John's shoulder hit his neck.
"All right?" John asked.
"Better," Sherlock told him.
And better was nicer than fine. It was much more than John had ever expected from this man made of utterly brilliant madness.
A/N: So Ela (waltzingvelocity) hacked my writing blog and added a draft which read: "Fucking in the shower. John/Sherlock." And then this happened. I blame her. Also I am really bad at writing smut but I hope this was okay!