Notes: This was written for the prompt 'WWI' for Party When Dead, a ten-day-long prompted writing competition on Tumblr. I'm rather proud of it, as well, considering it came out well and I wrote it in only about six hours. I'm not altogether satisfied, because I think it could be better, but I'm just not sure what to do to it to make it better. I sat here for a few hours and tried to revise it, but it just didn't seem to want to work.
Therefore it mostly reads as it was originally posted, edited for typos and such of course. I don't consider it one of my best, but it's one of the better ones that came out of PWD, and a week of non-stop writing is kind of pointless if you can't post at least something to show for it.
There are two more from PWD I intend to post, Composition and A Pirate's Life for Me, but those will come in a few weeks. For now, I hope you enjoy this one.
Warnings: Semi-explicit sexual content, language, wartime fiction.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. Sherlock, John, and all other characters and concepts as depicted in this contemporary universe of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series are the property of Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, and their associates. The only thing I own is the story below as you see it written.
One Night In Paris
The only reason he is in Paris is to transport a wounded soldier to a hospital. He's supposed to be here for only the weekend, and then head back north, back to the trenches and the front lines. He signed up in this war to be a doctor, but they handed him a gun and trained him to be a soldier and now he's just like the rest of them. A killing machine. It's disturbing, because he's pretty sure it violates everything his position stands for, everything the Hippocratic oath states.
The young soldier he came here to help transport is dead. Died in the transport vehicle a mile from Paris. They delivered him to the morgue three hours ago, and John telegrammed his superior that the soldier had died and there was no reason to stay in Paris. The responding telegram had told him to stay the weekend anyway and enjoy himself.
Enjoy himself? How can he enjoy himself knowing when he knows what he's going to return to?
So he went to a hostel. Booked himself a room and spent yesterday sleeping. Spent most of today sulking around, feeling sorry for himself. Now he finds himself in a bar, intending to drown his sorrows. He's heard that's very much the way of things. Soldiers can't stand what they've seen at war and try to leave it all in the bottom of a bottle. John used to think they were just men of weak dispositions who never should have been sent to war in the first place. Now he knows all too well that it can happen to the strongest of men, and John has never considered himself one of the strongest men.
So he has a brandy and sits in a bar where he can't understand what anyone is saying. Stares out at the street and seethes with jealousy for those who have thus far avoided the travesty of war. He knows the number of many of these men will be called soon, if it hasn't been called already and they are here to have one last hurrah before they are sent to the trenches.
A man sits next to him, and he doesn't pay much attention, absorbed as he is in his drink and his own self-pity. Then he has to pay attention to him, for he says something in French—an inquiry, as far as John can tell, and John frowns deeply. Turns towards him and says, "Sorry, mate, I don't speak French." Then, as an after thought, adds, "Parlez-vous…Anglais?" Because that, and how to ask for the bathroom are the only two phrases he remembers from his schoolboy days.
His pronunciation must be appalling, because the Frenchman chuckles slightly and says, "I do. And I asked, how are things on the front line?"
That is the last thing he wanted this gorgeous Frenchman to be asking him—and he is bloody gorgeous. Ebony hair and sharp cheekbones, pale skin and eyes, eyes the color of the ocean and sky, every color of blue and green all at once, every shade of grey. He knows it isn't wise to advertise the fact that he enjoys the company of both men and women, but this is France. He's always been told things are different here; that people turn a blind eye to that sort of thing in Paris.
Unfortunately it would appear as though he's just being used for information.
"They're…awful," John sighs. "No one is getting anywhere. People are just dying. Dying all over, all the time. You have to step over bodies to get anywhere and the conditions in the trenches themselves are just…terrible. Bloody terrible. Every time it rains you're walking around in a foot of water and mud, you never feel clean, you never feel dry…" He pauses, realizing that he's just gone off on a tangent, and shoots an apologetic smile to his left. "Sorry. You probably don't want to hear things like that."
"I don't ask questions I don't want the answer to," he replies, raising an eyebrow at John and setting down his glass. Holds out his hand. "Sherlock Holmes."
John shakes back and says, "John Watson. You hardly have an accent at all, Mister Holmes."
"That's because I studied at Oxford for four years," he replies, smirking. His smirk is makes him appear even more tantalizing, if that's possible, and John feels a sharp stab of want go through him. It's been a very long time for him. One doesn't feel very sexy when they spend most of their days covered in mud or the blood of others, and on the few instances of leave he's had since he was drafted, he's had very little time to do anything but sleep.
"Oxford? That's very posh," John chuckles. "I studied at University of London, myself. Bart's."
"Yes, I thought you might be a doctor." Sherlock gestures to the red cross armband wrapped around his bicep. John has almost forgotten he's still wearing his uniform, mud stains and all. Realizes he probably needs a shower very badly.
Looking down at himself, John feels his cheeks darken and says, "I apologize for my appearance. I'm…well, I've just come from dropping off a kid, a young soldier, at the hospital."
Sherlock's bright, intelligent eyes dart over him, and he says, "He died, didn't he? It's written all over your face." He doesn't state it pityingly, which is good because John can't stand pity, especially when it's not him that deserves it. Pity the solider, pity his family, but don't pity the stupid medical officer that couldn't keep him alive long enough to transport him seventy kilometers to Paris.
"Yeah, he did." John sighs, breaths out slowly through his mouth, and says, "He…we thought we had him stabilized enough but…the ride was jarring and the stitches came loose, and there's not much you can do about stitches in a moving vehicle."
"You shouldn't blame yourself," Sherlock tells him, but says no more and instead stands up and says, "I don't feel like being here anymore. I'm bored." Glances down at John, smirks again, and says, "Do you want to come with me?"
He's even more statuesque than John would have thought, and even through his loose shirt he can tell the man is leanly muscled, lanky but not scrawny. His black trousers sit carefully perched on his hips, and are tight enough to hint at muscular thighs. John feels positively shabby next to this tall French beauty.
"What are you offering?"
A smirk spreads across Sherlock's face, and he remarks, "I just want some fresh air, Doctor Watson."
So they leave the bar, the soldier in his uniform and the civilian. Sherlock knows the layout of the city, seems to let his feet take him places unconsciously. At some point, without his realizing it, John loosens his military posture and Sherlock stops standing so tall, and they become comfortable with one another. Like old friends. John wraps an arm around Sherlock's slim waist, and Sherlock does not pull away, and perhaps John feels a little better about himself.
They reach a squat building with what looks to be three floors and an attic. A flat building, John thinks, or at least the French equivalent. His theory is proved when Sherlock takes out keychain and jingles it. Turns to John and says, "This is my flat."
John nods. "I'm staying at a hostel about four blocks away. I think I know the way."
It's not the answer Sherlock was looking for, as evidenced by the fact that he frowns slightly and carefully enunciates, "Would you like to come in?"
Once again, Sherlock has surprised him by saying the exact opposite of what John had expected him to. Quickly and quietly, he nods. Watches Sherlock's long fingers as they twist the key in the knob. He turns it to let John in, closing the door behind them and turning on a light. The hallway is a bit cramped and the paint is cracking in places, but it's clean and hardly looks as seedy as some of the places he's been in, in both Paris and London.
"I have tea," Sherlock says, "and coffee. And something stronger, if what you had at the bar has worn off." He leads John up a flight of stairs and goes in a door on the first landing, using a different key on the same chain. He opens the door onto a flat that is cramped and messy, but not grossly so. It looks lived-in. Comfortable. It's easy to imagine Sherlock spending his days and nights here, lounging on the sofa and reading by the windowsill.
Not eating at the kitchen table, though, because apparently that has been commandeered for papers.
"Are you…a scientist?" John asks, staring at the papers and noticing the content. Formulas and observations.
"Yes," he says, opening one of the overhead cabinets and pulling out two cartons. One coffee and one tea. "Which one, by the way?"
"Tea is fine" he says, sitting down on the couch. He can tell he's not going to get much out of Sherlock on his profession, and perhaps there's a reason for that. They are in a war, after all, and everyone must pitch in the way they best know how. He has almost no doubts that Sherlock is involved in something for the military that he can't talk about. And that's fine. Everyone has their secrets and John is aware of the fact that he's an almost complete stranger.
When the tea is brewed, Sherlock comes to sit next to him. They drink their tea and talk. Sherlock talks about his annoying brother and the dreadful government and openly rants against the war, and John doesn't think he's ever found someone so beautiful. In contrast, John can only offer anecdotes about the dreadful weather in London and some less-gruesome tales from the warfront. The last year and a half of war has made him a bland person, it would seem.
"It thought it would be exciting," John says finally, as he last dregs of his tea cool and the fire Sherlock lit earlier begins to dim. "To be in a war, to fight for something I believed in. But it's not exciting at all. Shoot, duck, shoot duck. It's terrifying, sure, not knowing whether you're going to be alive in an hour, but it's mindless. You don't have to think about it. Even when I'm treating the wounded, it's the same thing over and over again. It's…monotonous." Sets down his cup and chuckles, "It's more exciting sitting here with you, on this couch, than it is in those trenches, to be perfectly honest."
"Is it?" Sherlock raises an eyebrow and levers himself off the couch, picking up both their teacups and transporting them into the kitchen.
While he's gone, John happens to glance at the clock on the mantle and breaths, "Bloody hell, it's two AM. I should really be going." Raises his arms above his head, stretches them out, and opens his eyes to see Sherlock standing there again. He comes back into the room, stands in front of John's knees.
"Do you now?" Sherlock sighs and, slightly clumsily, maneuvers himself onto John's lap. John can't tell if it's residual effects from what he drank at the bar, or if he's just inexperienced, but it's endearing either way. When his weight is finally settled all onto John's lap, he takes John's face in his hands and kisses him. Says, "I was hoping…perhaps you'd stay…?"
"Suppose I could stay," murmurs John. He runs a hand through Sherlock's hair, from crown to nape, and pulls him in closer, arm going round that slim waist. Sherlock sits up on his knees again, weight no longer on John's lap, and John moves his hands to his bum, takes each plump globe in hand and pulls him closer, impossibly closer, while Sherlock's lips move across his and their tongues tangle.
Sherlock breaks away, seeking air with a gasp, and John kisses down his neck; that long, pale neck. All across his collarbones. All the way down until his shirt gets in the way and he groans, because he'd forgotten clothes and he has to take the time to get them off.
"You sound so disappointed," Sherlock laughs, reaching up and slipping each button out of its hole, dexterous fingers moving expertly. When it's finally undone, he tosses the shirt across the room and is back, moving kisses down John's neck and up the side of his face. John occupies himself touching Sherlock, back and hips and bum. Opens his eyes as a thought comes to him. He's only ever tried it on women, but Sherlock seems rather light (If I bit taller than the average woman) and his strength has improved thanks entirely to his training in the military.
"Your bedroom," John murmurs into his ear, taking it into his teeth and pulling on it. Sherlock moans against his throat and good lord if it isn't the most beautiful sound John has heard in months. "Where is it? Through that hallway?"
"Mmm," Sherlock murmurs. "Second door."
"Hold on tight, yeah?"
Sherlock hums in agreement and it takes John a moment to negotiate the leverage, but finally he's up, with Sherlock in his arms, and is heading slowly but surely towards the bedroom. Stops a few times to press Sherlock into a wall and kiss him. Tells him, "God, you're gorgeous."
In reply he gets something garbled in French that could mean just about anything, but it sounds encouraging so John pushes himself away from the wall and into Sherlock's bedroom, sets him down on the bed and crawls over him, takes a nipple in his mouth and sucks, making Sherlock positively howl.
"Oui, oui Jean," he gasps, pressing his hips up against John's.
"Do you think you could," he murmurs against Sherlock's collarbone, "Try to do that in English?" He doesn't mind the French, per say, but it's nice to understand what someone's breathing in your ear, and he especially doesn't like the French pronunciation of his name.
"Sorry," he replies, pushing John up and occupying his fingers with quickly ridding John of his uniform jacket. "Habit." Tosses the jacket into a corner and works at the white dress shirt. He and John get it off in record time and almost tear it in half when they try to send it flying in different directions. Sherlock groans when he realizes he still has to tackle a tee-shirt. Tugs at it. "Get this off and I swear if you're wearing a vest I will scream."
John laughs as he's tearing off the shirt, then moans as Sherlock follows it up his body with his lips. "Sorry; it's not exactly warm in the trenches."
"Trenches-schmenches," Sherlock groans against his chest, dragging his lips wantonly from one place to another, leaving open-mouthed kisses and nipping at skin. "Get my trousers off, John, for God's sake. Can't stand having them on anymore."
"You're a bit bossy," John tells him, but it comes out with a chuckle and he rushes to do exactly what Sherlock demanded, pulling off the Frenchman's trousers and tossing them the way of the rest of the clothes. For a minute, he wonders how long it will take him to find all of the clothes he came here with, then he realizes he really has more important things to occupy his mind, and slips his fingers underneath Sherlock's pants. Tugs them down.
Groans, actually groans at the sight of Sherlock's full cock, the head glistening and almost purple, laying back against his stomach. He's gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, nothing about him could be more perfect, and John wishes he had five hands and two mouths—or perhaps just longer than a few hours in one night—so he could touch and squeeze and lick and bite every bit of Sherlock that he wants to. But he will have to make due with what human anatomy and time constraints have afforded him.
Sherlock lets out a guttural groan as John presses his lips back against his stomach. It's not of pleasure, however; rather impatience. John may not know Sherlock all too well but any idiot will know the difference between a noise of 'Yes please continue' and 'what are you doing now.'
"Wassamatter?" he slurs against Sherlock's navel, so close that he can smell Sherlock's sex.
"I hate foreplay," he mutters, taking both hands and pressing them against John's head, pushing his face against his stomach. "I'm not a woman, you don't need to turn me on, I'm already quite aroused thank you."
"Don't you mean…merci?" John laughs, but lets Sherlock's hands push him downwards, between the Frenchman's legs, and presses his lips against the head of Sherlock's penis. Sherlock hisses out an encouragement, hands tangling in John's hair. The soldier knows how to take a hint, knows Sherlock is getting impatient, and quickly takes him into his mouth. Sherlock cries out and juts his hips upward involuntarily.
"Oh, oui; merci," he groans, and John thinks he may be mocking him, just a bit, but he really can't bring himself to care. Sounds sexy either way.
Sherlock's taste is pungent, but not repulsive, and when John buries his nose into his thick snatch of pubic hair, he all he can smell is sex and pheromones and it makes him want. His hands are occupied with Sherlock's testicles, fondling them, and his puckered entrance. He presses his thumb against it, teasing. Sherlock writhes above him, emitting sounds that John's pretty sure are not words in any language.
You beautiful thing, you, John thinks to himself as he turns his eyes up to see Sherlock's face. He's got both eyes squeezed shut in pleasured agony, biting his lip. Collarbones standing stark underneath his skin from the tense muscles in his shoulders and arms. John has always been a sucker for a prominent collarbone.
"John," he sobs out, trailing a hand into his own hair and pulling. Pain to distract from the pleasure. "John, you're going to make me come, John…" It would seem as though he was utterly distraught at the idea, although John knows he's just babbling incoherently. As proved by his next statement, something along the lines of, "God, I love…love your…that thing you're doing…"
Very suddenly both of those strong thighs are tight round his neck, muffling his hearing slightly but he can still hear Sherlock's babbling, still hear him making noise until finally he starts to lose words, become completely unintelligible. It sounds as though every groan, every grunt is being pulled physically from him.
Towards the end he settles on one noise, a kind of groan that sounds a little bit like 'eeha' and gets louder, and louder. John sincerely hopes the walls are thick.
Surprisingly, Sherlock gathers himself enough to shout, "Coming, coming!" and John murmurs encouragingly. Holds still as Sherlock orgasms, wincing at the taste of the semen—he'd forgotten just how bitter it could be—but holding it on his tongue until Sherlock is done, then sits up.
"Here." Sherlock grabs a tissue off the bedside table, hands it to John, and John spits into it.
"Alright?" John asks the heavily-breathing Sherlock, watching as his reddened chest heaves. "Need a minute?"
"Mm." He closes his eyes and lowers his arms, resting them. John rubs a hand along his belly, from chest to curly, coarse pubic hair. Sherlock's breathing slows down and the flush on his chest becomes a less alarming shade of red, and John leans down to kiss his throat.
Sherlock reaches out a hand, wraps it around John's very erect manhood, gives it two or three long, slow tugs. John groans and closes his eyes, holding onto the bed sheets to keep himself from savagely thrusting into Sherlock's hand.
"Will you fuck me?" Sherlock murmurs, and kisses a trail up his shaft. John realizes that his accent has gotten about twelve times thicker since his orgasm. It shoots straight to John's groin, making him impossibly harder.
"God, yes. Never wanted to do anything more."
Sherlock chuckles and rolls over to retrieve what John can only assume are lubricant and a condom. It reveals that pert little bum to him, though, and he can't help but straddle Sherlock's thighs and amuse himself by tapping on them, watching them jiggle. It makes him giggle, perhaps a bit childishly but for some reason it's hilarious. Sherlock pauses in his excavation of the supplies glances over his shoulder at John, and says, "What on Earth are you doing to my arse?"
"Playing the bongos on your bum."
"Well, it seemed the right thing to do at the time."
Shaking his head, Sherlock turns over and presents John with the tub of petroleum jelly and a condom. Says, "Are all Englishmen this insane?"
"No, I think it's just our sense of humor." He opens the tub and dips his fingers in, coming up with a sizeable amount. Sets it aside, somewhere in the region of Sherlock's hip. He works it over two fingers and places one against Sherlock's hole, pressing in and meeting only minor resistance. He presses it against the walls of Sherlock's passage, looking for that little ball of nerves he knows is lurking just out of reach, and know he hits it when Sherlock twitches ferociously to one side and grunts.
John grins triumphantly and presses a second finger in, then spreads them, opening Sherlock wide. Enjoying the silky feel of him against his fingers, anticipating what it will be like once he's fully inside the Frenchman.
Finally, Sherlock wraps a hand around John's wrist and pulls his hand away, presenting him once more with the condom, which had gone the way of the petroleum jelly container. John picks them both up, unwraps the condom with his teeth and rolls it on, then scoops out another dollop of lubricant, smoothes it on over the condom, and presses the head of his penis against Sherlock's entrance. Sherlock takes in a breath in anticipation, pressing down as John presses forward.
"Breathe," John tells him, and watches as Sherlock gives a shuddering breath, clutching the bed sheets, cock once more fully hard and leaking against his stomach. John just cannot stop thinking about how gorgeous he is. He could write sonnets and ballades and god damned haikus to how lovely Sherlock is, but he knows he never will, will never have the chance and besides—he's no poet, no writer. He's a doctor and a soldier, even though Sherlock seems to have the power to make him forget all that.
He's fully seated, pressed against Sherlock's bum, and has to take a moment to breathe himself, to adjust to the feeling of tightness, of warmth, of another living body pressed to intimately against his. Sherlock's hands wrap around his, and he kisses his palm, his fingers, whispers endearments against them that Sherlock cannot possibly hear. Wouldn't want Sherlock to hear them, doesn't want him to know that he's never done casual sex before and leaving Sherlock in the morning to return to the frontlines will be the hardest thing he's ever done.
"You're thinking," Sherlock whispers, "so loudly. Why are you thinking at a time like this?" He's not disgruntled. Just curious. Curious, gorgeous Sherlock.
"I don't even know," John murmurs, then pulls out and thrusts back into Sherlock, making his whole body move against the bed, shoulders and chest inching up and hair bouncing. He groans and whispers, "Oh, God you feel so good."
"You too," Sherlock murmurs, resting his head back against the pillows. Wraps his legs around John's hips.
John's hips pick up tempo, snapping faster and faster. Sherlock groans and breathes in gasps and hisses, biting his lip, and eventually grunts, "Slow down…Slow down a bit…" John follows his directions, and is rewarded with a blissful smile and Sherlock closing his eyes in utmost pleasure. "Yes…Yes, that's good…Oh John…"
He continues to fuck Sherlock at the leisurely pace he has set, hands planted on either side of Sherlock's hips and groaning occasionally. Somehow it's turned into the slow, sweetly languorous love-making of people who have known each other far longer than they have, and while John does not mind in the slightest, it will only make it harder for him to leave Sherlock come morning. Which, he realizes as he glances at the clock on Sherlock's bedside table, will come in just over three hours.
Almost as though he knows what John is doing, Sherlock makes a smart little maneuver with his hips and is suddenly seated atop John, bouncing in his lap. Is there any greater pleasure on God's green Earth than a beautiful man bouncing in your lap? John doesn't think so.
Sherlock alternates between fast and slow, getting away from himself a bit and then coming back, reigning himself in so it's not over too soon. He leans down and moves his tongue over John's lips, darting inside and around his. Presses his forehead against John's and breathes into his mouth and smiles against his cheek when John tugs on his earlobe with his teeth.
"I want to come with my legs wrapped round you," Sherlock tells him, before rolling over again. It's not as graceful this time, but it gets the job done and John presses Sherlock against the mattress and gives him all he's got. Lets Sherlock squeeze him between those powerful thighs—he must be a runner or something because Jesus Christ—and thrusts deeply. Can feel the pressure of orgasm building in his stomach and can only assume the same is happening for Sherlock because he's craning his head back and curling his fingers around the bedpost, and John can feel his muscles clenching.
Orgasm clutches him with little warning, white suddenly flashing before his eyes and he's sure to give Sherlock another good thrust to tip him over the edge before he succumbs, burying his face in Sherlock's neck and moaning deeply.
He comes back to himself to the feeling of Sherlock's lips pressed against his hair, delivering slow kisses to his head. John does the same to Sherlock's neck, enjoying the afterglow, but soon gets up to dispose of the condom.
Sherlock is wiping himself off with a tissue when John returns, and as he stares around at the mess on Sherlock's floor, he sighs deeply. Knows this won't be a sight he'll see for a long time, a room with wood floors and a warm bed.
Knows Sherlock probably won't be a sight he'll see ever again.
He gets back in bed, telling himself it's only to kiss Sherlock goodbye, and ends up laying beside him and staring into his eyes. His heart clenches when Sherlock smiles at him and says, "If you stay the night, my landlady might make us breakfast in the morning. How long are you going to be in Paris?"
"Sherlock, I…" he sighs, knowing he should have mentioned this much earlier, and continues, "I have to go. I have to be back up north tomorrow morning. If I don't leave the city in…" he looks over Sherlock's shoulder. 3:30 AM. Continues, "Two and a half hours, I won't be back in the time I'm supposed to be."
"Oh." Sherlock looks down. They've entwined their hands together and John doesn't know when that happened but he squeezes Sherlock's tightly. "Then, I suppose you should…" He starts to pull his hand away, but John clutches onto it. Moves forward and kisses Sherlock deeply, teeth clacking together and lips mashing so hard they bruise.
"Thank you," he says finally. "I…you're the only good memory I'm going to have of the last year and a half, I hope you know. I was…so alone, and I owe you so much. You may be the reason I have the will to keep on going in this war. You don't know how many times I've just wanted to jump out of that trench and wait for Jerry to shoot me. You've reminded me that there are things to live for, things outside of war, like…walking around the city at night and talking to someone that just gets you and sex in the middle of the night and how great it is to watch a man bounce up and down in your lap and how nice it is to just be the reason someone smiles." He kisses Sherlock again. "I'll never forget you, Sherlock Holmes. Even if I live to be 150 years old."
A breath wooshes out of Sherlock, and if it sounds a bit like a sob, John isn't going to mention it. Gets up and dresses, trying not to pay attention to the fact that Sherlock has his face pressed into a pillow and his shoulders are shaking minutely. They're probably both too emotional, still high on endorphins and all of those nasty, emotion-causing chemicals that can make even the strongest man cry when they're present at the right time.
Once he's back in his uniform, he sits down beside Sherlock and presses a kiss to his temple.
"Don't die," Sherlock tells him, rolling over and glaring at him ferociously. "Do you hear me? Do not die. I don't care if it's me you live for, or God or the King or the country of England or the love of tea and crumpets just don't die."
"I can't promise anything, sweetheart," John says. "But I'll try."
"Look me up when you get home, okay?" Sherlock says. "I'll be back in London by then. I'm needed at Bart's for an extended engagement, and I'll be there at least a year."
John sighs and stares out the window. "Do you really think this war will ever end?"
"Don't see how it can't." Sherlock sighs. "Give it a year. They'll all get tired, tired of being away from their families and tired of fighting and tired of having no money because they're putting everything they can into that stupid arms race. You'll see."
John pats his hip, kisses him again, and murmurs, "I hope so. Goodbye, Sherlock."
Despite his promises, John gets shot. In the shoulder, by a stray bullet from one of his own men. Thinks he's going to die in the mud, be swallowed up by the Earth, never to be seen again. Probably would have too if Bill Murray hadn't come to the rescue. They clean his would and bandage him up—straight through-and-through, Bill narrates as he goes, and thank God for that because if it hadn't come out they would have had to get it out and that's what kills a lot of men.
He's told later that for straight hour before he passed out from pain, all he said was, "Someone tell Sherlock," and, try as they might, they couldn't find anyone named 'Sherlock' in his contact information. They did call his mother, though, and his sister, and both show up in Paris two weeks later, worried but happy he's alive and happy he's coming home. Harry's been drinking again, it's pretty damned obvious but he supposes he only has himself to blame.
When he tries walking for the first time after his injury, he finds he has a very obvious limp that, by all rights, he should not have. Finds out later, thanks to a psychologist the army makes him go to, that he only has himself to blame for that as well. He also has nerve damage all down his left arm, his dominant arm, and they tell him he'll never conduct another surgery. It's the knock out blow in a series of brutal punches, and John starts to wonder why fate let him live.
He arrives back in London on a rainy (Surprise, surprise) Thursday afternoon two months after he's shot and six months after he spends a wonderful night in bed with a man named Sherlock Holmes. The thought that he'll get to contact Sherlock is probably the only thing that keeps him going, but just as he's about to call directory inquiry, he realizes what it is he's doing.
He's not the same John Watson who spent that weekend in Paris what feels like eons ago. He's broken down, he's a cripple. He's nigh-on spiritless. He's also aged about ten years in only six months and he knows it. Knows he looks it.
If he walked himself back into Sherlock's life now, he'd been an impediment. It would end shortly, with Sherlock going onto bigger and better things, and John—crippled, old John—left behind to once more navigate life alone.
Frankly, he doesn't think he'll be able to handle the blow.
Miraculously, six months after he gets home, the war ends. Britain rejoices, although it's weighed down by the remaining effects of the war. The damage, both economical and structural. The families that will forever have a missing face at the dinner table. The children who will grow up without fathers and all of the mothers who will have to bury their sons.
It's enough to put a damper on any celebration. John himself does not celebrate at all. Merely sits in his flat, alone, and stares at the four stark walls. Ignores all the calls from his sister. Answers the one from his mother. Yes mum I heard. I read the newspapers. Yes mum I've eaten. No mum I'm not in pain today. No mum my limp isn't getting better.
He gets a job as a GP at a surgery a few blocks away. A nurse there, Sarah, shows interest, and he takes her out on a date. But for some reason her red lips and ample bosom don't appeal to him. Sarah walks home on her own, after thanking John for a nice dinner, and the next morning they pretend it never happened.
Christmas comes and goes. Harry is still drinking, John is still despondent, and his mother is starting to look more and more worried every time she sees him.
"You never smile anymore, Johnny," she tells him, plucking lint from his Christmas jumper. "Or laugh. What happened to my smiley little boy?"
"He went to war, mum," John sighs, feeling like crying. "And he watched friends die, and he got shot." Pats his mum's shoulder and says, "When you find something for me to smile or laugh about, just tell me, okay?"
"Oh, John," she sighs, kissing his cheek.
Two weeks later, his landlord informs him that he's selling the building and it's going to be renovated, so he has to move out. John considers moving in with his sister, but quickly concludes that is not an option—he lived with Harry for seventeen years of his life, and doesn't fancy doing it ever again. There's also his mum and dad, but he really doesn't like that idea—nearing his thirties and moving back in with his parents. No, thank you. Only as a last resort.
Like it's destiny, he runs into an old mate from uni—Mike Stamford, a plump guy who's even more plump now—who says he knows a bloke who needs a flatmate, and he works at the university. Hoping he's not some kid—or, worse, some stuffy old professor—John follows him back to Bart's, down into the basement where the research labs are. John doesn't think he's ever been down here, but he still makes noises about how Bart's has change since his time, just so the awkward silence between Mike and him isn't too oppressive.
"Now, he's foreign," Mike says, "French, so there might be a language barrier. I don't really know him well enough to say if he speaks English well or not."
"Well, we'll just have to find out," John says, opening the door. Stops dead and drops his cane.
Across the room, Sherlock Holmes drops a pipette.
"Sherlock," he mutters.
"John," he replies, equally as dazedly.
"You two know each other?" Mike asks, clueless, smiling like so many happy idiots. "That's lovely, then, you won't have a problem sharing a fla—" He stops, because Sherlock has walked across the room and slapped John square across the face. Now he just looks confused and perhaps a little concerned. "Uh, wha…"
"What the hell was that for?" John demands, rubbing his cheek. "Christ, Sherlock, you could have knocked out one of my teeth!"
"Salaud!" Sherlock yells, pointing at John, jabs him in the chest and sends him stumbling backwards. Takes off on a tangent in French that John has no hope of understanding, so he grabs Sherlock's face and lowers his head to his level. Stares at him.
"English, please," he enunciates.
"It's been months," he says, quietly. "Months since the war ended and I thought you would at least try to find me. Did you forget? Forget my name? Sherlock Holmes, John; there aren't too many of us."
"No, no, it wasn't that…"
"I wrote a letter to you, to the front lines," he says, "And they sent it back to me saying you'd been shot. I thought you were dead."
John winces. Thanks army, for that.
"Sherlock…it's complicated. I did get shot, in my shoulder, and I can't be a surgeon anymore, and I have this limp but I don't know why. And…you're…I didn't want to inflict myself on you. I'm an old man at twenty-nine, Sherlock. I really can't offer you anything."
Sherlock snorts. "I don't care what you have to offer."
"But I do. If I forced you into something…into a relationship, you would be miserable. You'd have to wait for me all the time, wait for me to catch up and…you're brilliant, and young, and you don't deserve that."
Shaking his head, Sherlock tells him, "You're an idiot." And kisses him, desperately like a man on a desert island who's just discovered water. It's brilliant, and for the first time in months, John feels alive. Like there's actually a reason he survived that bullet.
"Your limp," Sherlock tells him when he breaks away, "Is perfectly fixable."
"How do you figure?"
"You dropped your cane ten minutes ago when you walked in this room and you're standing perfectly straight. Obviously you just needed the company of the right person." Sherlock grins down at his feet, looks back up, and says, "I hear you need a flatmate."
"That," John kisses him again, "I certainly do."
Notes: Thank you for reading. As you'll notice, the ending was a little rushed. I was going to try to fix it but, as I said, my mind just would not occupy itself with revisions for whatever reason.
Despite that, I hope you all enjoyed the story, and that you'll keep an eye out for my other stories that are coming. As always, you can feel free to follow me on Tumblr (Detective inspector narwhal, no spaces) for status updates on my stories, and you can feel equally as free not to. :)
Thank you again!