The first time hunters came for Sherlock, John was in the kitchen making a cup of tea. Initially, he was more bemused than concerned. Even for every day atypical life with Sherlock Holmes, two grown men bursting into the flat at 221B Baker Street brandishing vials of water and rosary beads was an odd sight to behold. Kicking the door in, they exploded into the living room, clutching the beads tightly and strangely thrusting the vials of water forward defensively in favour of the guns, that as John would later learn were full of rock salt, which he could see tucked into their trousers.
John blinked owlishly, staring at the strangers, listening to the kettle bubble away gently in the background.
Slouched deep into his chair, nose buried in a book relevant to his latest case, Sherlock flicked his eyes up taking in all he needed to know of the intruders at a glance.
"Dull," he remarked blandly, intrigue not piqued at their rather strange and unwanted visitors.
The two men looked somewhat thrown, clearly expecting a stronger reaction than Sherlock's complete and utter disinterest. They took a few cautious steps towards Sherlock, still holding the water in front of themselves as though it were a shield.
"Sherlock?" John said in a tone that was inquiring whether he should be concerned, perhaps need his gun? He adjusted his stance, readying himself for action.
One of the men suddenly took a jittering step forward, crying "Plague on this earth, we will send you back to the pit where you belong!" and flicked his wrist so that the water splashed at the consulting detective. Sherlock's eyes widened minutely and he raised up the book he held to deflect the splash. At the same time, the other man seemed to make a move to grab Sherlock's wrists. The detective sprung into a crouching position in his chair, hurling the book at one of the men in order to free his hands and gain leverage on the chair. John jolted into action and charged forward, tackling the man who was grabbing at Sherlock to the ground with a solid 'oomph', winding the man. The ex-army doctor scrambled quickly to his feet just in time to see Sherlock lunge at the first man from his crouched position, almost toppling the man, grappling for the vial of water.
"Your gun, John," Sherlock bit out, clearly a bit more invested in the situation than he had initially been, wrestling with the man trying to pry the jar from his hands. Not needing to be told twice, John moved quickly to the desk drawer which housed the not-exactly-legal firearm. He wrenched the drawer open- seeming to take infinitely longer than it should have- and turned quickly back to train the gun on the man that was struggling under Sherlock's determination. As he did, two things seemed to happen at once. Firstly, Sherlock had successfully wrestled the man to the ground and slammed his head into the floor, effectively disorientating him. The second was that as Sherlock straightened his back from crouching over the intruder, a shower of water was splashed into Sherlock's face.
For the first time in John Watson's life, he heard Sherlock Holmes scream.
Sherlock wrenched back, covering his face with his hands as smoke seemed to pour out between his fingers.
Oh God, John thought, it's not water- it's acid. "Sherlock!" Acting on instinct, John quickly aimed at the second intruder- who it would appear was no longer winded- and shot him squarely in the shoulder, forcing him to drop the vial and clutch at his shoulder, moaning in pain. John ignored the tenseness of his own scar tissue.
Sherlock was still clawing at his face, twisting around as though if he could move fast enough he could out manoeuvre the pain. John quickly moved to his side, aiming the gun directly at the forehead of the man still lying on the ground, "I'm sure you can guess that I'll shoot you if you try to make a move" The man simply moaned and lolled his head to the side. John bent down and hurriedly tied the man's hands behind his back with his own rosary beads. Then, shoving the gun-safety on- down his trousers, John finally moved towards Sherlock.
"Sherlock. Oh my God, Sherlock. Let me see," he said, wrapping his hands lightly around Sherlock's wrists, trying to gently pry them from his face. Sherlock flinched away, small amounts of smoke still coming from his face. "God, Sherlock, you have to let me look! If they threw acid on you we need to treat it right away!"
John heard a gruff snort followed by a moan from the man that he'd shot, who was now slouched against the wall bleeding profusely into the carpet. Mrs. Hudson was not going to be pleased.
"Speaking God's name in the presence of something like him?" the man grunted out.
John chose to ignore the comment- clearly they were some kind of religious zealots who'd got it into their heads that Sherlock was something evil- and reached again for Sherlock's hands.
"Sherlock, show me, I need to see the damage," but Sherlock pulled away again, fingers gripping his face tightly.
"No, John. Don't look at me," he said in what was an attempt at calmness, but John heard the underlying panic in his voice.
Then John heard laughing. He turned angrily to the shot intruder, "Quiet down or I'll shoot you in the other arm!" But the man continued laughing.
"He doesn't know what you are! And now he's going to see how ugly your true face is…" the man trailed off, clenching his jaw in pain.
"Shut! Up!" yelled Sherlock aggressively while still trying to keep his face covered.
Well, enough of this.
John crowded in close to Sherlock and firmly tugged his hands from his face, holding his wrists tightly.
Sherlock bowed his head deep, trying to hide it from John, eyes screwed tightly shut. John couldn't help the small gasp that escaped his lips. For while surely Sherlock's face had been burnt, angry wounds visible- still burning for Christ's sake- they were also very obviously healing at an unnatural pace. Skin threading back together before John's very eyes. "Sherlock…" he gasped, awed and horrified at what he was seeing. He reached a hand out to tip Sherlock's face up by the chin, registering the feel of skin healing beneath his fingers.
A shift seemed to occur in Sherlock, and he straightened his back and lifted his head up, standing over John at his full height. Finally, he opened his eyes to meet John's questioning gaze, eyes flickering to take in his friend's reaction, reading all he needs to know in signals John wasn't aware he was giving off.
His eyes- normally a stormy grey- were like a liquid pool of black obsidian, his entire eyeball engulfed in the wet darkness. He watches John intently for a few moments, then blinks, and when he does his eyes are as they always were, as if the blackness of them had merely been imagined. Sherlock's mouth tightened, unsure how to continue, but he said nothing. Instead, he simply observed John, waited.
A thousand things ran through John's mind, and he knew Sherlock could see every one of them flit across his face. What is going on? What did I just see? Did Sherlock really just? And these men? Are they here because of? Is Sherlock a? What is he? What does this mean? What does it change?
John Watson took a steadying breath, and said perfectly calmly, "I suppose we'd better be calling an ambulance for that fellow over there. And Lestrade. Break-in and all that."
Sherlock quirked his head to the side ever so slightly, a question unvoiced. "Indeed. Mrs. Hudson is going to be rather upset about the carpet, I imagine."
John nodded, mostly to himself. "Yes. Good. Alright. Lestrade, ambulance, and a cup of tea."
Sherlock's lip twitched into his awkward side-grin that meant he didn't know what to do with his face when he genuinely wanted to smile.
And so John called Lestrade who brought an ambulance with him, and the two intruders were taken away muttering about demons and holy water and crazy men who would choose to live with a monster- sounding completely insane while doing so. Lestrade just seemed amused by the whole affair, because of course Sherlock had managed to offend some religious extremists who would take it upon themselves to 'cleanse' him. And later still, once the police had cleared out and Sally Donovan had made her standard snide remarks, to which Sherlock didn't even blink in response, John sat in his chair opposite Sherlock nursing that cuppa. Sherlock, whose face had already fully healed, was still watching him, obviously still waiting for some kind of outburst or freak out of some kind. John however, was decidedly relaxed. Perhaps it was the calm before the storm, but as he sat across from his best friend, this remarkable man who had saved him in so many ways, he realised that he rather felt the way he always had. And there, was the answer to the most important question that had occurred to John in that moment of shock.
Finally, John leant forward slightly, an indication that he was about to speak. Sherlock shifted in response, showing he was ready for whatever John had to say.
"So, I supposed you should be telling me about why those men were after you, why water burns you and all that. Because you know, as flatmates we should know the worst of each other."
Surprise flickered across Sherlock's face for the briefest of moments, and he quickly suppressed it. "Alright," he responded in a level voice. And so he did. He told John of hunters and folklore and things that go bump in the night and demons and holy water and rock salt. He told John of the ghost that used to belong to the skull on the mantle, until Sherlock solved its murder and it was put to rest. He told of hell and of deals- just the bare details - and devil's traps and possession and that he was decidedly not possessed. And all the while, John listens. He knows everything Sherlock says is the truth- Sherlock has never lied to him. He sits there and lets Sherlock's voice sweep over him, allowing the reality of the situation to set in. And even as he hears it all, John thinks, what does this change?
John knew the answer before he'd even finished thinking the question.
It changes nothing.
Well, not any of the important stuff. Sherlock is still the World's Only Consulting Detective, and John is still his Blogger. They still live at 221B Baker Street and treat their landlady like a housekeeper. John will still make the tea and Sherlock will still leave fingers in the microwave. Sherlock will still drag John off on dangerous escapades all over London, and John will still kill a man-or monster- to protect him.
Right, so. It changes nothing.
John wonders vaguely where he would go to buy rock salt at this time of night.