Author's Note: What's that? You say you haven't had enough Johnlock today? Well, here, let me fix it for you. ;)
It was, without a doubt, one of the strangest cadavers they'd ever been called upon to examine.
John bent over it, struggling to school the flummoxed expression that wanted to creep over his features, and began to rattle off his findings, "Er, it's a woman, obviously. Late 20s to early 30s, with multiple stab wounds and blue colouring around her lips that suggests strangulation. From the looks of the blood coagulation, it's likely the assailant choked her until she passed out and then stabbed her for good measure. Been dead about six hours now. The blood under her fingernails indicates she fought back. We can probably get some usable DNA from that."
"Unnecessary," Sherlock interjected with his usual hauteur. He was ignoring the body in favour of scanning something on his smart phone. "I've already worked out who the murderer is. Right now I'm just looking for the identity of the victim. Of course she had to go and make things difficult for us by failing to have her ID on her."
"I'm sure her dying thoughts weren't centered around how she could have made her body more recognisable. Besides, it shouldn't be too difficult, considering the . . . many distinguishing marks." John turned his gaze back to the body.
The dead woman lying before him was literally covered in tattoos. From her neck to her arms to the soles of her feet, there was hardly a blank stretch on her. Most of the designs were portraits of famous horror film villains—Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees—but she also had some floral work on her thighs and the occasional older-looking black tribal piece. John could almost tell when she'd got what pieces from the condition they were in and their style. The tribal designs were obviously older—he remembered when those were all the rage in the 90s—whereas some of the colours on the flowers were so vibrant they couldn't have been more than three months old.
The woman was dressed in a studded black mini skirt with chains hanging from it, a ripped tank top with a bright red, lacy bra peeking through and heavy combat boots. Her head was shaved into a Mohawk, and what hair she did have was dyed bubble gum pink. She also had enough facial piercings to set off a metal detector.
Yeah . . . John would be absolutely shocked if no one managed to recognise this woman.
Lestrade came over to them then, followed closely by the forensics photographer who was snapping shots freely. "What's the story, Sherlock? I'd like to get out of this blasted warehouse as soon as possible."
John couldn't say he blamed the DI. The body had been found shoved into a moldy corner of an abandoned building right before one of the worst rain storms of the season, and water was dripping continuously from the ceiling. It was impossible to predict where the drops would fall, and so the investigating officers—and Sherlock and John by proxy—were forced to simply endure the cold splashes that plopped sporadically on their heads.
"The murderer is a woman named Sophia Blanst," Sherlock replied evenly. "She's a small-time drug dealer who primarily works out of goth clubs and other underground establishments."
"And how is it that you're so familiar with this particular drug dealer?"
Sherlock resolutely ignored him. "This woman," he pointed to the body, "was a customer of hers. You can tell from the pattern of old and new track marks on the crook of her elbow that she's been a regular user for several years. The only footprints in the vicinity besides those of your officers are from the victim's combat boots and a pair of size 4.5 heels. The latter could have been made by a man in drag, but that's highly unlikely due to how small they are. The victim and murderer met here last night, and at some point they came to blows. Maybe there was a disagreement over payment, or maybe it was merely a drug-induced mistake. Tempers tend to flare up when someone's itching for a hit. The victim was strangled, but the blood under her fingernails and her swollen knuckles indicate she was able to fight back decently well. Unless she's had some form of self-defence training, that means her opponent was not much stronger than her and most likely a woman."
He bent down and flipped the body over unceremoniously. John had to restrain himself from flinching at his flippancy. Sherlock pointed to a small rectangle of paper on the ground. "There's also the very telling fact that Sophia Blanst's business card is under the body. It fell there while she was struggling to shove it into the corner. You can see where her heels dug into the ground for leverage. It's not enough for an arrest, but it's enough for probable cause. Search her flat and find the knife."
"What knife?" Lestrade asked, and Sherlock gave him one of his trademark you're-an-imbecile looks.
"The stab wounds match those of another body found several months ago. The MO is the same: the victim was a female junkie who'd been strangled and stabbed. If Ms Blanst kept the knife after her first murder, she undoubtedly kept it after this one."
"Brilliant," John interjected from the floor, and Sherlock shrugged in a close approximation to modesty.
"Right then." Lestrade waved a few members of his team over and had one of them collect the business card and put it in an evidence bag. "We'll start work on getting a search warrant."
"See that you do. In the meantime, I suggest that you place Ms Blanst under surveillance. She has family in France and may be a flight risk."
Lestrade nodded and turned away, silently dismissing them.
John rose from his kneeling position, expecting Sherlock to whisk away without so much as a backward glance to see if John was following as was his usual habit once cases were solved. Much to his surprise the detective was leaning over the body again, studying it closely.
"Did you find something else?" John asked, peering over his shoulder. He knew he would never be able to see everything that Sherlock saw, but sometimes it was fun to try.
Sherlock was silent for a moment, and then he answered, "They're ridiculous."
"The markings on her body."
"Well, the woman was strangled. Having some bruising, particularly at the throat, is to be expected."
"No, I mean the markings are ridiculous."
John wrinkled his brow, trying to work out what his mad flatmate was on about, and then it dawned on him. "You mean her tattoos?"
"Yes. They're utterly frivolous. Her apparent love for orchids is in no way enhanced by having them carved into her, and the ink does nothing to protect her skin, as evidenced by the six times she was stabbed."
John shifted from one foot to the other. "It's her body, Sherlock. Or, rather, it was her body. She can—could—do anything she likes, liked, with it."
"But it's so thoroughly pointless!" Sherlock shot him an agitated look. "Tattoos are expensive and perform absolutely no useful functions. I will never understand why anyone would subject themselves to hours of agony just so others can tell in an instant that they enjoy it when dolphins jump into sunsets."
"Well, sometimes people do silly things when they're young."
"This woman was not young. She was somewhere near the age of thirty and had clearly not stopped having the procedure performed."
John shifted again, and he saw Sherlock notice the movement. He cursed silently to himself. "She probably got her first one when she was just a teenager and then figured there was no harm in adding more. Besides, they're art. I've seen some that were absolutely stunning before. A lot of people take real pride in what they choose to put on their bodies forever."
Sherlock was scrutinising him, and John knew he'd said too much. "Why are you determined to defend the general public's right to irritate me?"
"I'm not determined. I genuinely believe what I said." He could feel himself starting to colour beneath the force of Sherlock's penetrating gaze. He considered backing off, but once the detective focused on something, there was no deterring him. He might as well hop willingly into the grave he'd dug himself. "Some tattoos have deep, sentimental meaning behind them. Not all of them are as stupid as you think."
Sherlock's eyes widened with realisation. "You have a tattoo."
"I never said that."
"But it's true nonetheless."
John sighed, turned around and began to walk away. This was not a conversation he wanted to have next to a dead body. He briefly considered making a run for it, but Sherlock and his damnably long legs would catch him in an instant.
Sure enough, after he'd taken just a few steps the detective appeared by his side and matched his pace effortlessly. "Show it to me."
John jerked his head to the side in surprise. "What?"
"Your tattoo. I want to see it."
The doctor opened and closed his mouth several times before blushing violently. "You can't."
"Why not?" Sherlock cocked his head curiously to the side in a manner that John would never admit he found exceedingly endearing.
"You just can't, Sherlock. Leave it alone."
"Is it of something embarrassing?"
John quickened his pace in a futile effort to distance himself from this conversation. "Leave it alone."
"Is it located somewhere . . . intimate?"
"Leave. It. Alone."
No matter how many times he refused to answer, Sherlock persisted in cloying him with questions all through the cab ride to their flat and well into the evening. John excused himself for bed and pointedly shut himself in his room, assuming that Sherlock would stop once they had an actual barrier between them.
Oh, but no. The lunatic stood on the other side of the closed door and shouted more questions at him while he lay in bed.
John's temper finally snapped, and he yelled, "If I answer some of your BLOODY questions will you BLOODY WELL LEAVE ME ALONE?"
Sherlock fell silent for one glorious instant and then answered in a quiet voice, "Yes."
John would be lying if he said he wasn't perversely pleased that he'd managed to make the other man show some hesitance. "Fine. Since you've already deduced that the tattoo must be in my pelvic region from the fact that you've seen me in just swimming trunks before, I will confirm that you are, in fact, correct. I will also tell you that I got it during my first tour in Afghanistan. You can riddle out how old I was from that."
"Nineteen," was the automatic response.
John rolled his eyes. "Nicely done. You get a gold star. Now kindly move your bony arse away from my door."
He waited until he heard retreating footsteps before he laid down again.
Despite his momentary victory, he knew there was no way Sherlock was going to leave this alone. The man was obsessed with knowing everything, and John was fighting a losing war.
However, war was something he was more than familiar with. If he was going to lose, he was going to make Sherlock work damn hard first.
Sherlock gripped the lighter in his long, steady fingers and methodically set their flat on fire.
He wasn't burning anything important, of course. Just some of John's medical texts that Sherlock had already memorised and some family photo albums. He'd positioned his kindling strategically around the flat, ensuring that the fires would set off the smoke detectors before they had time to spread too far. There was a fire extinguisher under the sink if anything went awry. Or, at least, he thought there was. He might have forgotten to replace the last one, come to think of it. It had been destroyed last month during a rather elaborate experiment, along with a significant portion of Sherlock's eyebrows.
It hardly mattered, however. A little fire damage was nothing in comparison to what he stood to gain.
John was currently having a shower, and if all went according to plan that shower would soon be cut short.
Sure enough, when the loud beeping began to pierce the air, Sherlock heard furious cursing from the direction of their toilet. He positioned himself down the hallway and waited with an eager expression on his face. John burst out of the bathroom moments later, and Sherlock's face fell.
John had a towel wrapped around his waist.
That was not supposed to happen.
John was shouting something at him, but Sherlock tuned him out, his eyes roving over his dripping torso and legs. There were definitely no markings anywhere in sight, confirming both what he'd observed previously and what John had told him. The tattoo must be located between John's lower back and upper thighs. He pressed his palms together under his nose and began mentally reviewing popular tattoo locations in that anatomical region. He could only pray that John had not chosen to get his tattoo in the infamous "Tramp Stamp" area. He would have no choice but to lose all respect for his flatmate if that were the case.
Sherlock vaguely noted that John had dashed into the kitchen and was digging frantically in their cabinets. The towel, unfortunately, had been knotted tightly around his waist and failed to fall when he let go of it. The fires were beginning to lick at some of their furniture, and Sherlock eyed them with muted interest. Perhaps he should have placed them away from wood. Ah, but John had the fire extinguisher now and was putting them out, coating their living room in white fluff.
Sherlock absently opened a window, remembering that they had the kind of extinguisher that sucks all the oxygen out of the room. Though, if John were to lose consciousness, he could steal a peek beneath his towel . . . but no, that would be going too far.
John was panting heavily in front of the charred remains of the final fire. Slowly, he turned to look at Sherlock. "What the bloody fuck happened in here?"
"You're supposed to be naked."
". . . WHAT?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. John apparently couldn't understand anything unless he heard it twice. Tiresome. "You're supposed to be naked. You were to panic and run out here without anything on, and then I would get to examine your tattoo. It would have only taken a moment."
There was a pregnant pause. "You set our flat on fire just to get a look at my tattoo?"
"Does repeating everything I say aid your learning retention rates?"
John's face shifted several times between expressions of confusion and dark rage. "I can't fucking believe you sometimes."
"It's your fault, really. If you'd just let me look at the thing, I wouldn't have to resort to such . . . incendiary measures."
John threw the fire extinguisher down in disgust. "Never do that again, Sherlock. Do you understand me?"
"If you would just—"
"Do. You. Under. Stand. Me?"
Sherlock analysed John's white-knuckled fists and locked jaw and came to the conclusion that if he failed to acquiesce, he would shortly receive a serious blow to the face. In response, he nodded obediently. That seemed to calm John somewhat, since his shoulders relaxed out of their rigid posture. Just as John turned away, however, he snapped back and studied a nearby pile of char.
"Is that . . . Was that one of my medical textbooks?"
"Yes, but don't worry. It's one you've already read."
"Maybe I'd like to read it again someday!"
"Not much hope of that now, I'm afraid."
The next ten minutes of Sherlock's life was filled with obscenities that he found exceedingly dull. He ignored his screaming flatmate and began devising a new plan for what he had recently dubbed Operation Inked.
After three weeks of failed attempts to get John naked, Sherlock was losing his patience. The atmosphere at 221B Baker Street grew increasingly strained as the detective forced himself not to pounce on his flatmate and strip him, and John watched his every move with rising paranoia.
Sherlock had tried everything. He'd "accidentally" dripped acid onto John's trousers. He'd set up a trip wire outside the toilet that should have sent the most tightly-secured towel flying. He'd even gone so far as to ask John politely to show him the tattoo. Nothing worked, and despite the fact that Sherlock was clearly willing to risk both their lives to get what he wanted, John's resolve seemed to only grow stronger.
It was time to take drastic measures.
Sherlock lay on the sofa one night, scratching absently at the five nicotine patches he'd slapped on his arm, and studied John as he moved about the kitchen. He was making tea for them, putting the kettle on to boil, grabbing mugs and spoons and even digging up some biscuits that Mrs Hudson had left them a few days ago. This was the first time he'd bothered to do anything for Sherlock since the unfortunate incident with the Vaseline that had mysteriously coated John's sheets. He was dressed in soft athletic shorts that clung to his hips and a grey cotton shirt. Sherlock stared openly at his pelvic area. If only those shorts were tight enough to reveal the design etched beneath them.
There had to be some way to get John to show him his tattoo. Sherlock's mind whirred with possibilities, each more unreasonable than the last. He couldn't burn every pair of trousers and pants John owned because then he would have to replace them. That money was far better spent on nicotine patches and sheet music. Sherlock could steal the towels while John was in the shower, but John had taken to locking the door and keeping a spare with him at all times. If Sherlock yanked his shorts down right now, John would be furious and probably hit him repeatedly. He might even move out, and that was simply not an option. They were supposed to be together; Sherlock was quite certain of that.
So, that was the answer.
He'd overlooked the most obvious solution.
In his defence, it was an area in which he had admittedly little experience. He could occasionally get Molly to do things for him by smiling at her in a certain way or letting his gaze linger for just a moment too long, but he hardly employed those methods on a regular basis.
After careful consideration, he concluded that he was both capable of doing this and that it would be the fastest and least lethal method of accomplishing his objective.
He would seduce Doctor John Hamish Watson.
John was continuously amazed by the realisation that his flatmate could, in fact, get stranger.
He'd come home from the surgery that day to find Sherlock lying sideways on the sofa with his head propped up on an elbow and a long-stemmed red rose clenched in his mouth. John stared at him for a moment before turning and walking resolutely into the kitchen. After having hydrochloric acid dumped into his lap, he was beyond the point of trying to understand how his flatmate's funny brain worked.
He heard shuffling behind him but ignored it in favour of opening an old container of Chinese take-away and sniffing it experimentally. Still good. He opened a drawer, rummaged around for a fork and tucked in with gusto. It had been a long time since lunch. He started to turn around but yelped, noodles spraying ignominiously from his mouth, when he realised Sherlock had managed to get within about three inches of him without him hearing a thing. Sherlock still had that stupid rose between his lips.
Pale blue eyes were moving rapidly across his face, and John instinctively backed away from the exam. "Sherlock, what are you doing?"
The detective reached up and slowly removed the rose from his lips, his tongue darting out to wet them seconds later. John followed the motion without entirely understanding why he was so entranced by it.
Sherlock smiled at him in the soft way that always made his stomach feel funny. "You look rather fetching today."
John glanced down at himself. White button-down shirt, striped jumper, dress trousers and shoes. It was fairly standard attire for him. He glanced back up at Sherlock and was met once more with that sharp, intelligent gaze that alternately delighted and unnerved him.
"Er . . . thanks."
"Do you like what I'm wearing?" Sherlock held his arms up and pivoted slowly. "I picked it out specifically for you."
Now that he'd pointed it out, John realised that his flatmate was actually dressed impeccably. Sherlock normally had enviable fashion sense, but today he'd pulled out all the stops. He was wearing a powder blue shirt with pearly buttons that showcased the colour of his eyes flawlessly. His black jacket had high, elegant lapels cut from some form of shiny fabric, and his trousers were tailored to perfection, elongating his already long legs and highlighting . . . well, certain areas of his anatomy that John had never properly appreciated before. He fought to keep heat out of his cheeks. Sherlock would see it and know in an instant what he was thinking.
John forced his eyes back to his flatmate's face and suddenly remembered that he'd been asked a question. "Well, yes . . . Sherlock, you, erm, look rather fetching as well."
"Thank you. I deduced what sort of suit you'd want to see me in from the number of lingering glances you gave me the last time we went to the tailor. You favour Italian designs, and you love me in light colours that emphasise my eyes and fair skin."
John had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to do with that information.
"Er, right. I suppose I do."
Sherlock looked inordinately pleased with this admission, and John couldn't begin to work out why. "So . . . what's this about? Did you want to go out to dinner or something tonight?" He closed the lid on his take-away.
Sherlock looked thoughtful. "Hm, perhaps that would be the best way to do it."
John raised an eyebrow. "Do what?"
Sherlock was already muttering to himself, though, obviously lost in thought. John caught phrases like, ". . . believe that's how people go about it . . ." and ". . . might be best in this instance to follow tradition . . .".
After several minutes of this, John ran out of patience. "Sherlock, what's going on? Is this another scheme to try and get me to show you my tattoo?"
John was not expecting honesty from his flatmate. He took a moment to recover and then asked, "How is an expensive suit and going out to dinner going to convince me to show it to you?"
"They technically aren't. They're merely steps leading up to the final product."
"And what might that be?"
"Getting you to take your clothes off."
Sherlock said this in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone, and for a moment John could only stare at him. Slowly, ever so slowly, his brain pieced the evidence together.
"Sherlock . . . are you asking me out on a date?"
"I suppose that is what it would be called, yes. Two people who like each other go out and have fun, as you once described it."
"And you're expecting this date to end with me naked."
It was a statement, not a question, but Sherlock answered regardless. "Yes."
"So . . . you're expecting me to want to have sex with you after we go to dinner."
"I'm actually fairly certain you already want to have sex with me. The date is merely for the sake of propriety."
For a long moment, John had no idea whatsoever how he was going to react. He ended up choosing a question, not just to stall for time but because he was genuinely curious. "Would you want to have sex with me, or would it merely be a step on the way to accomplishing this mad goal you've set for yourself?"
"I'm entirely amenable to the idea. In fact, I believe I would find it enjoyable."
Several options flashed through John's mind. He could push past Sherlock, walk out of the flat and never return to this godforsaken nest of insanity. He could punch Sherlock in the face and potentially beat some sense into him. He could just drop his trousers and reveal the stupid tattoo that had unwittingly set him up for all this madness.
In the end, he didn't do any of those things. He spent a moment reevaluating his feelings for his flatmate, and then he said, "All right. Let's have dinner."
They went to a little French place that John had wanted to try for months, but his last girlfriend had steadfastly refused to go with him. He allowed the waiter to put a candle on the table. Angelo was right, as it turned out. It was more romantic that way. John ordered a bottle of expensive wine, and Sherlock educated him on different species of French grapes. John laughed and talked and teased Sherlock like he normally did, only this time there was a decidedly flirtatious note to both of their voices. They shared small touches across the table and more than a few lingering glances. Sherlock actually ate a full meal, and more astoundingly he genuinely seemed to enjoy it.
It was the best date John had ever been on in his entire life.
Several hours later they stumbled through the door to their flat, laughing so hard they could barely breathe. Mrs Hudson shouted something to them about indecency from her room down the hall, but they ignored her and trotted up the stairs.
The mood changed very drastically once they reached the living room.
Before John could mutter more than a surprised, "Ungh!" Sherlock was all over him. The taller man seemed to surround him with his scent, his warm body, his mouth pressed hotly to his. If Sherlock thought John was slow before, he'd yet to learn how easy it was to make him lose all semblance of normal cognitive functioning. John released himself to the tide of feeling that was sweeping through him and let instinct take over.
Sherlock tasted like the wine they'd drunk, warm and sugary. His tongue rolled smoothly over John's, and he felt himself melting under his touch. John was dimly aware of his tie and belt being removed and tossed behind them, but the reality of it didn't hit until he felt cool air on his chest. Sherlock had yanked his jumper over his head in one swift motion and was now making quick work of his button down. The temperature change was just enough to startle him back to awareness.
He grabbed both of Sherlock's hands between his, stilling them. He took a step back and met his flatmate's inquisitive gaze. Sherlock looked beautiful with his hair disheveled and his lips kissed to an attractive rosy red.
"Sherlock . . ." he began tentatively. He stopped, unsure of how he wanted to continue, and he felt Sherlock withdraw from him, expecting rejection. Without thinking, he raised a hand and brushed his thumbs over Sherlock's ridiculous cheekbones. The words came to him unbidden. "I just want to make sure this is really what you want. I can't stand the thought that this is a means to an end for you, and you once told me that you were married to your work."
"That was when we first met," Sherlock responded quietly, and John was struck by the lovely, low timbre of his voice, laced with uncertainty. "You must know how radically you've altered how I look at the world. Before you, I'd never even had a real friend, let alone a lover."
John's heart broke a little at that. Sherlock was so brilliant and beautiful, he couldn't imagine how anyone had ever been able to scorn him. He pressed a quick kiss to Sherlock's lips and then said, "As long as you're certain, I have no regrets. You're fantastic, and you make me feel fantastic."
Sherlock smiled, really smiled, and replied, "Then I have no regrets either."
John led him by the hand to their sofa. He took a seat and set about unbuttoning the rest of his shirt and stripping it from his broad shoulders. Sherlock watched him unblinkingly, and for once John felt flattered by the attention instead of intimidated. He started on the button and zip of his trousers, and heat sprang up in his flatmate's eyes. Tangible and real. It was the first time John had ever seen such an expression on his flatmate's face, and it made him impossibly more aroused to know he was the one who'd inspired it.
Before it could sink too deeply into his skin, however, John clarified, "I think we should get your curiosity out of the way now so you don't stop in the middle and make me explain."
He waited for Sherlock to work it out. It was nice to watch him spend a minute catching up to John instead of the other way around.
"You're going to show me the tattoo."
"Yes. I'm sure you'll have questions, so we'd best get it over with."
John shucked his trousers and pants in one smooth move, stood and turned towards his flatmate.
Sherlock's eyes were riveted on the spot just over his left hipbone, where his tattoo lay.
For a long moment, neither of them said anything.
Then, finally, Sherlock broke the silence. "It's a hedgehog."
"Yes, it is."
"Why is there a hedgehog on your hipbone?"
John chuckled breathily. He'd expected to feel more exposed than this, but he actually liked Sherlock's riveted gaze. "It's on my hipbone because I wanted it to be visible only to me and people I was intimate with. No one sees it unless I let them. It's a hedgehog because that was my nickname in the army."
There was a bit of silence.
John huffed a breath and considered how he should explain himself. Then, tentatively, he began, "I . . . was somewhat reserved when I first joined. The army. It took me a bit to make friends, and I didn't quite know how to adjust to sharing a bunk with nine other men and constantly being surrounded by people. They treated me like a pet at first, the quiet, short man who mostly kept to himself. Then there came the first day when we saw actual combat. We ran into a small Afghani cell outside of a village, and they opened fire. I saw an opportunity when no one else realised what was going on. I could tell from the sudden silence that the enemy was out of bullets and waiting for backup to move in. I moved in instead. It was a risky move, but it paid off. Once I jumped into their trench and opened fire, they scattered. I managed to kill three and wounded another. He spoke decent English, the one that was still alive. At first he begged me to spare his life, but then after a moment when my squad caught up and began to crowd around him, he begged us to end it quickly. Not to torture him or make him suffer."
John paused to take a shaky breath, and Sherlock, for once, was completely silent.
John continued, "I saw too much of myself in him. He was young, like me, enlisted into a war that had been going on for decades. Afghanistan has been in a state of turmoil for a very long time, to the point where it seems almost cyclical. Even habitual. I just couldn't stop looking at the man's face and seeing my own in its place. I got down on my hands and knees, took out my medical kit and helped him. I removed the bullet from his arm—the bullet that I had personally put there—staunched the blood flow and bandaged him. After that, we let him go."
Sherlock was still mercifully silent. John took another breath. "From that day on, the other soldiers looked at me differently. I was the one who'd jumped headfirst into the trench but also healed and let a member of the 'enemy' go free. I was the one who seldom joined in their jokes and games but was always there when they had a scrape or broken bone. It didn't take long for them to give me my nickname. Hedgehog. Prickly and rough on the outside but undeniably tender beneath the surface. It . . . was what got me through the horrors of war. I killed people, but I also healed them. I kept more blood in bodies than I spilled. I could protect the men around me—friend or enemy—and my country without losing my identity in the process."
Sherlock was studying the ink etched into his hip. It was a simple design, a drawing with more empty space than detail. Spiky lines, big black eyes and a long snout. It was silly, really. Something he'd got when he was very young and couldn't think of any other way to deal with his feelings than to make them concrete. To this day, though, John couldn't claim to regret it. It was a part of him, the embodiment of his personality. It was a time in his life he would never be able to forget. He may have been invalidated, but he would always be a soldier.
"I hope you understand now," John said thickly, "why I don't show it to just anyone."
Sherlock met his eyes then. John sat back down on the sofa. They shared a quiet moment in which they each just studied the other. Then Sherlock leaned in and kissed him with more strength than he'd ever felt before.
"Do you realise, John," the detective said as he pulled back, "how incredible you are?"
John shook his head. "You're the incredible one."
Sherlock kissed him three times in hot succession. "No, John. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a soldier. I deal with bodies that are already dead. I don't put them there or keep them from being there. You do, and that, that, is what makes you incredible."
John smiled slowly, and Sherlock kissed him with reverence, carefully, thoroughly and with obvious affection. It was the most intimate thing he'd ever experienced without actually being intimate. The minutes that followed were a blur of sensation and emotion. Desperate touches turned into their naked bodies rubbing together and their names on each other's lips. It was messy and perfect, and John couldn't understand why they'd never done this before.
The next morning was precisely like every other morning they'd had since they'd moved in together, only this time they woke up in the same bed. John couldn't deny how nice it was to have Sherlock's ridiculous, gorgeous face be the first thing he saw.
It was business as usual, really. They continued solving cases together, John blogged about it and Sherlock took pains to ensure he would be the last person to ever see John's tattoo.