It had long been known that people were born with words on their wrists. Not everyone, and not always from birth. Sometimes, they developed later on in life.
The words were related to a medical condition someone had. It could be a disease, a condition, a warning. John had heard tales of people who found causes of death on their wrists the day that they died. They may not have been true, but it fascinated him to think about. There was things they did do though. Medical conditions were spelled out on everyone's wrists. John knew a girl with 'epilepsy' etched on her wrist in charcoal grey. He'd seen numerous patients in hospital who developed 'cancer' and 'heart disease' and even some psychiatric patients who grew their mental illnesses from their scars, etched like leaves on their wrists.
After John came back from Afghanistan, four faint letters, penned carefully in cursive, emerged on his wrist.
People didn't need to see the letters to know what John had been through. Because while he tried to hide it, everyone could see it etched on his face, in the way he stood, spoke, breathed.
John wore jumpers to hide them, regardless. He thought it was unfair anyone should be judged because of what was etched on their wrists (perhaps an extension of their DNA?) even though as a doctor, sometimes he couldn't help it.
It was always the first thing doctors did, when a patient came into A&E, or on the battlefield. Sleeves would be harshly yanked to reveal words, if there were any, carved into the delicate skin of the wrist. In many ways, it was like having a medical history. The most important bits anyway. When someone was unconscious and bleeding out, it was great to know if they were diabetic, asthmatic, or perhaps had some extra duct on their kidney. Whatever it was, information was power.
So John was thankful for the words.
On other people. On himself, they were not welcome.
It shouldn't have come as much as a shock as it did to find that Sherlock agreed. Perhaps it was because John had never considered Sherlock having any writing on him, perhaps it was because it was hard to think of him as even human, and therefore, capable of having flaws.
It was mostly through a fluke, an accident, that John finally caught a glimpse of colour on Sherlock's wrist.
It had been one of those John-got-home-from-work-and-Sherlock-grabbed-him-and-ran-right-out-the-door-on-a-case days.
It hadn't been a particularly busy or difficult day at the surgery, but John had been up until 2am the night before listening to Sherlock work out the kinks of a new piece. It seemed like he's just fallen asleep only to be woken up by an explosion in the kitchen. (It had actually been five whole hours, as Sherlock pointed out, but John was still unimpressed.) No harm was done, but John was up at seven for a shift that didn't start until ten.
It made for a less than happy day.
And John was taxed with the added burden of a mother who brought her daughter in to the clinic, the beginnings of 'type I diabetes' appearing on her wrist. That was one good thing about the words, John had heard stories about before them, when people would fall into comas resulting from untreated diabetes. Still, cases like those were always hard, and John was exhausted emotionally and physically by the time he got home, only to be dragged out the door by a Sherlock who was talking a mile a minute, no chance to even get a cup of tea or remove his coat.
Sherlock dragged him into a cab. John had been rather hopeful that Sherlock would explain then, but as John began to ask what was going on, Sherlock shushed him with a wave of the hands. Obviously he was thinking.
John leaned his head against the window and watched London go by.
Twenty or so minutes later, they arrived who knows where. Sherlock bounced out of the cab, leaving John to pay. Just once... he thought. It would be nice if Sherlock payed.
"Sherlock," he called wearily. "What are we doing?"
"The case John!" Sherlock had a bright look in his eyes, rather similar to a child given a present. Same thing, really, John thought.
"Just refresh me, what case is this?"
"The one Lestrade gave me this morning of course!"
John sighed. "The one he gave you while I was at work?"
Sherlock hesitated for a split second. "Oh. I suppose so. No matter." Sherlock continued moving towards the house the cab had dropped them by. It was rather large with an impressive front yard.
John was still clueless about what they were doing there, if they were looking for someone, and mostly, what the hell was going on.
"Shh!" Sherlock hushed him violently. In fact, it was almost as loud as John's hushed whisperings. He rolled his eyes. Counter-intuitive.
"There!" he whisper yelled, pointing to what John could soon make out as a running figure.
"Go around the other side," he called, already rushing off behind the man.
John shook his head in exasperation, but obeyed. Sherlock bloody Holmes, next time you are explaining all this in the cab.
Reaching the corner of the house, he peered around it before running head on into whatever mess there may be.
Sherlock may have had the long legs and a head start, but John had the side of the close much nearer to where they were when they both took off running. And now the man was lying in wait around the corner for Sherlock, who would surely not take the time to peek around.
If only Sherlock had given him enough time to grab the gun... John shook his head. Of course not.
John could even see the scene play out in his head. Sherlock would come around the corner, run right into the knife, probably in the abdomen. The man would leave Sherlock there to bleed to death, turn around, spot John, and likely stab him too, unless John could manage to disarm him with nothing but his bare hands while the man pointed a knife at him.
It wouldn't go well.
But apparently Sherlock had different plans, which included not dying today, because, amazingly, he didn't come running full blast around the corner, it was a stealth attack, and before John could really tell what was happening, Sherlock had hissed in pain, and the man was reeling from being headbutted.
Sherlock was holding his upper arm and the man was recovering enough to strike again, but he never knew what hit him when John tackled him from behind, accidentally cracking his head off the side of the house.
The man fell limp. John checked him over. Pulse fine, still breathing, but there was something slightly upsetting to John. Schizophrenia was etched on his wrist in red angry letters. John's heart sank. Too often it was from a mental illness that people got violent. However uncommon it was, it was still much too often for his liking.
He shook his head. But he is fine, we are fine, and now he can get the help he needs. No one died.
All was well. He turned his attention to Sherlock.
"What the hell is going on?"
Sherlock hadn't even opened his mouth to speak yet (or perhaps he wasn't going to) when sirens and flashing lights were upon them.
"That would be Lestrade," Sherlock muttered. "Late as always..."
Lestrade's hands were in his pocket, and despite this, he was still holding them out in a 'what the hell?' position.
"Honestly," John said, shaking his head, "I have no clue what went on. I don't know what the case was, I don't know who that guy is," he gestured towards the man who still looked rather stunned being herded into a police car. "But he was attacking Sherlock so I jumped on him."
"Yes, and knocked him out," Sherlock added impatiently. "This is all very good and everything, but we really have to be going." Sherlock grabbed John's coat sleeve and pulled him towards the road.
John threw an apologetic look towards Lestrade, who only shrugged. John knew that if he wanted to know more, he could always come to the flat.
Spotting Sherlock's coat tucked up under his arm, John frowned.
"Why aren't you wearing your coat?"
Sherlock only shrugged.
He'd been wearing his coat when they arrived. But what about when they were fighting the man? John couldn't recall.
"Umm... sure. Okay."
They reached the street and Sherlock gestured to John to hail a cab. Why the hell can't you do it? John thought bitterly. It was then that he noticed Sherlock's arm. Remembered the hiss of pain right before he jumped on the suspect.
"You're bleeding," John noted, pointing to Sherlock's right arm. A dark patch, blood, could be seen despite the darkness of the shirt. Plus, it helped that the slash in the shirt which, obviously, led to the cut in Sherlock's skin, was gaping open, allowing John to see red on white.
"Hmm. So I am." Sherlock shrugged his coat back on, wincing.
"I'm looking at that when we get back home."
Sherlock didn't argue. Perhaps he realized he'd lose.
They piled in a cab. It was silent all the way back to Baker Street.