Sherlock liked the way they looked, pale and shiny, and how they felt, raised beneath his fingertips. He liked how they were reminders of the battles he'd won, the demons he'd defeated, the life he saved.
But Sherlock often forgot that other people wouldn't feel the same way.
Lestrade already knew, had seen them before they were scars, when they were still fresh and dripping onto the floor of his flat that he lay on, high as a kite. Lestrade had been there when they scabbed over, swathed in bandages as he lay in hospital, detoxing. And Lestrade had been there when they faded into pink lines that Sherlock kept covered when Lestrade allowed him to accompany him to crime scenes, only, of course, if he was clean.
Lestrade wasn't very judgemental, but he couldn't possibly understand, even if he tried. But Sherlock didn't fault him for that, he was still a decent guy, and much less stupid than most of the DIs at the Yard. So Lestrade had seen them, and it wasn't that big of a deal. Sherlock knew he was always looking for more, for a different kind of relapse, but Sherlock was careful at crime scenes, in case someone else would see, like Donovan or Anderson, who would not be so accepting.
So no one else from the Yard had seen, and Sherlock planned to keep it that way.
Mrs Hudson didn't ask, bless her, although Sherlock was almost positive she'd seen them. Perhaps she was too afraid of the answer to ask the question of where he'd received those neat, even scars.
Sherlock suspected she already knew the answer.
Sherlock suspected she knew a lot more than she was letting on, and wasn't sure whether he liked it better that way or not.
And then there was Mycroft. Of course Mycroft knew, the omnipotent man. He would have known even if Lestrade hadn't called him when he'd found him in his flat, even if he hadn't gone to the hospital with him, supervised his treatment during detox.
Sherlock suspected Mycroft had known even before it happened, even before the first drop of blood had dripped from his skin, before he'd even picked up the cold metal blade.
And of course, he hated him for it. Because Mycroft never spoke about anything directly. Never just once asked him why. No, the bloody man danced around the question like he was a ballerina, arranging for therapists and psychoanalysts, people who delved into his childhood while he lay sprawled on a couch, expected to break down and cry so they could fix everything, patch him up like they did to the cuts, watch them scab over and heal, and send him on his way.
But Sherlock never spoke during all those sessions, only laid on the couch, counting the tiles in the ceiling, deducing how broken those psychiatrists were themselves, and flexing his wrist to feel the scabs stretch, resisting the urge to scratch them.
They gave up after a while, and even Mycroft couldn't make him talk.
When he finished detoxing, he found a flat, and another, and another, as he was promptly kicked out of all of them. Eventually he found one that no doubt Mycroft had 'arranged', despite the previous relationship between himself and Mrs Hudson. And of course there was a catch. A flatmate.
Sherlock wanted a flatmate like he wanted to return to those therapy sessions.
But he found John, and John was alright. Not entirely annoying, stupid, or dull. Especially for someone so... ordinary. So John moved in and they started solving crimes together.
Sherlock had almost forgotten that John didn't know, it had been so long. He grew more lax about the sleeves, about the patches, about the socks.
Because contrary to popular belief, as demonstrated by teenage girls everywhere, his cuts had not been limited to his wrists.
No limb had been safe, no patch of skin sacred. He'd tested everywhere before finding what worked the best. He finally found that ankles and lower legs were good, as were arms. But not wrists. He wasn't stupid. He didn't want to die. No, it wasn't until three inches past the wrist that the even horizontal lines started.
It was mostly the left arm, Sherlock being right handed, and it was usually where he put his patches.
As for the ones on his legs and ankles, which, if possible, where even more visible than the ones on his arms, there was rarely the chance for them to be seen. Sherlock did not go traipsing about in shorts or the like.
It had been the result of an experiment. He wasn't even sure what had happened at first, didn't even feel the pain or see the blood from the shattered beaker that had embedded in various places throughout his upper body, until John had grabbed him and practically thrown him down on the couch, ripping his shirt off.
"No-" he tried to protest, because he was fine, nothing that he couldn't do himself, but when John was in doctor mode he never listened to Sherlock.
He almost panicked when John exposed his left arm, except Sherlock didn't panic.
John had seen his left arm before, but it had been mostly covered in patches at the time, and he was all the way across the room.
This... this would not end so well.
Thankfully, John seemed distracted by the blood and glass, at least for now. Sherlock hoped it would stay that way, but he doubted it very much.
He examined the embedded glass, declaring none of them were too deep, and perhaps he wouldn't even need stitches, before running off to retrieve the first aid kit.
There was nothing Sherlock could to do hide them, so he just sighed, sat back, and waited for the inevitable questions.
In the end he got two stitches, one in his cheek and the other in his chest. The rest of the numerous lacerations were de-glassed, cleaned, and covered with plasters.
Sherlock had almost hoped that John had managed to not see the scars, that he would let Sherlock put his shirt on and go about his day after a reprimand about dangerous experiments. Alas, it was a fantasy too good to be true, because as Sherlock went to get up, John fixed a glare at him.
Sherlock remained sitting.
"Sherlock..." John began, obviously not entirely comfortable with the conversation he was about to have, which Sherlock would have pointed out could be entirely solved if they just chose not to have it.
"Would you mind explaining to me how you got all those scars."
"Yes," Sherlock replied, pointedly.
John realized his mistake and rolled his eyes. "Well tell me anyway."
Sherlock glared at him. "I'd say it's fairly obvious what they are."
John sighed, looking rather defeated. "I know... I'd just like to hear it from you. Jumping to conclusions is wrong, remember?"
"They're self inflicted," Sherlock said carefully, watching John's face for any signs of disappointment, disapproval, or disgust. Because he'd seen all of those before.
But there wasn't. It was hard for Sherlock to decipher what there was in his face, but it seemed to be more... defeated. Like he was somehow responsible, which was ridiculous.
"They're from long before you met me," Sherlock said, pointing out the obvious for John, who seemed to require that at the moment.
"I know that," he said distractedly. "That's not what I'm thinking about."
Sherlock pondered that, debating whether to ask or not, which of course, he did. "What are you thinking about?"
John sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. It took him a minute to respond.
"I'm thinking about the pain that went along with these, not just the physical pain, because you would have rationalized that as release of endorphins, but the emotional pain that must have triggered these." He sighed again before continuing. "I don't like the thought of you high somewhere, bleeding out on the floor alone. I don't like the thought of you dying before we ever met, because then we wouldn't have any of this." He threw his arms wide, gesturing to the flat and their life in general. "I don't like the thought of me being stuck in that other life that you rescued me from, hobbling around on a cane, entirely bored of life." He paused, another thought occurring to him. "When did it start? How old were you?"
Looking down at his hands, gripping each other in his lap, Sherlock whispered "Young."
John sighed again. "I don't like the thought of you sitting in your room somewhere, whether at home or some posh school, cutting yourself because of boredom, or other people's stupidity, or pain, or anything." He sounded extremely frustrated, but Sherlock could hear the sadness behind the words. It was hidden in with the anger, like salt in toffee. "How close did it come, Sherlock? Are there more?"
Sherlock stood up, yanking the leg of his pants up to his knee, revealing the scars on his ankles and legs. The ones there were deeper and had scarred more heavily, and even in the dim lighting, John could see them clearly.
He heard John gasp a little, but didn't look at him, positive that he didn't want to deduce everything he was thinking at the moment, not wanting to see his expression.
He was sure this would be the end, that John would pack his bags and move out, perhaps even tonight, maybe tomorrow if he couldn't find somewhere to stay on such short notice.
But while Sherlock's mind was spinning around this thought, it almost didn't notice the whispering touch on his ankle.
John was touching his scars.
Sherlock whipped his head around to glare at him, only to find John's face softened, examining his scars with the same care he did his wounds.
And he was caressing them, running his thumb up and down the raised skin as though his healing hands could fix the previous damage, both mental and physical.
And when he finally finished, touching each and every one of them, John looked back up to Sherlock, his face full of sadness. Not pity, not disappointment, but sadness.
"What if you could go back in time, and take all those hours of pain and darkness and replace them with something better?" he muttered.
"What?" John asked, startled.
Sherlock shook his head. "Nothing." To be honest, he'd thought he'd deleted that movie, but apparently something had registered in him.
After tidying up the stuff from patching up Sherlock's lacerations, John wandered about the flat aimlessly.
"War wounds," he said suddenly.
Sherlock glanced up at him and snorted. "Hardly," he said. "You can hardly compare my self inflicted scratches to the bullet wound in your shoulder."
John glared at him for a moment, obviously not pleased with that statement. He softened, and told him, "Scars are scars, no matter how they came to be." Because they knew they had both fought battles. Battles of different natures, yes, but they were both battles. And they had both won.
Sherlock hesitated before nodding, and allowed himself a small smile.
He and John Watson both had war wounds, and while they may not show them off or display them, they were both proud.