Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Non-con and slash, Sherlock/John.
Summary: Written for a prompt on the kinkmeme: Before shoving him in the explosive vest, Moriarty fucked John, viciously. John makes it through the whole encounter with Moriarty and Homles via his own badass soldier nerves of steel, but afterwards, when he and Sherlock are admitted to the hospital for minor burns and abrasions and shock, the hospital staff find other injuries on John.
(Title page by birddi)
In the end, John went with the lesser of two evils, and chose the doctor who'd patched him up at the hospital. He'd take her pity over having to explain it all again.
Still, having to wait on Dr. Letier for over an hour seemed to have exhausted whatever reserves of patience Sherlock had possessed. John was almost grateful for Sherlock's casual verbal swipes at the world around them and the dull people who inhabited it.
“And those ridiculous paintings – all flowers and and fields and colours as though the patients and visitors are meant to forget they're in the hospital. As if you ever could with that distressing smell of disinfectant about the place...one would think they had people bleeding out every two feet with the way they're layering it down...”
For a moment, just a moment, John could almost believe this was normal – well, his and Sherlock's version of normal, anyway.
Which is why his mouth opened on a retort automatically, instead of just basking in Sherlock's return to bitter sarcasm. “Oh, leave off, Sherlock, they do the best they can. Besides, some of us actually like nice, colourful paintings of flower fields.”
As soon as the words were out his mouth, John could have kicked himself. Now Sherlock would back off and shut up as he'd been doing for days, because god forbid John should get distressed in any way even though he'd been frustrated and on-edge since this whole train wreck had started, and really, there was very little Sherlock could do it make it worse.
But Sherlock paused in his stream of dialogue, narrowed his eyes briefly like he was looking at a blood sample under a microscope and then...acted as snotty as ever.
“Wouldn't have taken you for the type to like flowers, John.”
John was so relieved the words shot out of his mouth on pure reflex. “I was in the army, I shoot like a sniper, and I played rugby in spite of being the smallest guy on the field – at this point, you can't make me insecure about my masculinity just because I like flowers.”
Sherlock chuckled low in his throat, laughing without actually moving his mouth, and then spotted a couple arguing on the corner and launched into a diatribe about why they were shouting at each other based on the colour of the man's shirt...or something. John wasn't too certain – he wasn't really listening by that point.
Sherlock hadn't shut up. He hadn't acted like John couldn't deal with it, like John was fragile or weak...he'd just continued on, the way he'd always done.
For a moment, John was something resembling happy, until it occurred to him exactly what he'd done.
Sherlock wouldn't shut up.
John sighed. He probably should have enjoyed the acquiescence – and the silence – while it lasted, because there'd be no stopping Sherlock now.
Still, the idea that Sherlock seemed able to tell the difference between something John honestly needed and the usual griping he subjected his friend to was a comforting thought. John smiled, almost to himself, as they made their way back to Baker Street.
And he kept smiling right up until the point he saw the man waiting at the crossing.
He knew it was a stupid reaction, he knew it. He knew the man wasn't Moriarty, but the suit, the haircut...even the face looked like him, in profile.
And the resemblance was enough to lock his knees and set his heart pounding like it was determined to smash his ribs to pieces. John could feel himself sweating, his mouth becoming dry, his muscles trembling as his gut instinct to bolt competed with his rational mind.
It wasn't Moriarty. But it didn't stop his body was reacting as though it was. Didn't stop every logical thought grinding to a halt, didn't stop him from reaching for a gun that wasn't there. Adrenaline spiked his blood and dimmed his surroundings, and though he tried not to remember he couldn't help but remember, and he closed his eyes to keep out the voice and the smile and the hands and the...
John opened his eyes, surprised to find himself in one of the narrow back-alleys Sherlock seemed to favour with the detective in front of him, not even a foot of space between them, and with an expression on Sherlock's face that was close to fear. John realised dimly that his whole body was trembling, and he was on the verge of hyperventilating.
He wouldn't have done it under normal circumstances, but these weren't normal circumstances. John was too strung out to care and so bloody tired of being like this and he just needed to lean on something, just for a moment...
So he leaned forward, pressed his forehead against Sherlock's collarbone, steadied himself with his hands on the taller man's hips, and just breathed.
In and out, steady and deep movements of his ribcage as John struggled to get his lungs back under control. Sherlock smelled vaguely of the hospital, of soap with an almost acidic overlay of chemicals, and of himself – that unique scent every person possessed that was a result of hormones or pheromones or something, John couldn't remember. All he knew was that somewhere along the line, that scent had come to mean 'safety' and 'belonging' and 'home' to him.
Which, really, probably just showed he'd been screwed in the head long before Moriarty had got to him.
That thought, more than anything, prompted a weak, stuttered laugh that was mostly smothered in Sherlock's shirt.
Sherlock, for his part, hadn't moved. He hadn't put his arms around John or touched him in return, but he hadn't stepped back or held himself rigidly, either. He hadn't reacted at all, for which John was inexpressibly thankful. He didn't think he could have dealt with rejection, and any gesture on Sherlock's part would have felt too much like pity.
But Sherlock had behaved as though what John had done was perfectly normal, entirely expected, and nothing out of the ordinary.
John didn't think he'd ever been as fond of anyone before in his life. Or as grateful to someone. And it was that, more than anything, that made John think he owed Sherlock an explanation; he should at least understand what had made John react that way.
He didn't move back, though, preferring to address his remarks to Sherlock's sternum.
“I thought...he looked like...”
Sherlock, predictably, saw where he was going. “That wasn't Moriarty.”
John snorted weakly, ruthlessly suppressing the urge to flinch at the name. “I know. If it had been-”
“If it had been, I would have killed him,” Sherlock said.
That made John lean back and glance upwards. Sherlock's voice had been completely flat, almost disinterested, and his face was almost entirely neutral, save the slight hints of anger in the way the muscles at the corners of his eyes and mouth had tightened. Sherlock didn't look particularly defiant or impassioned , and John realised that was because he simply wasn't.
Sherlock hadn't been making a declaration to put John at ease – he'd been stating a fact. John had no doubt that they could be in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, on international television, and Sherlock would still bash Moriarty's brains out against the pavement if he caught a glimpse of him.
John snorted again, and pressed his face into Sherlock's chest once more.
“Probably not good that I find that reassuring,” he commented.
“Are you all right?” Sherlock's voice was still bland, still perfectly at ease...but there was a quiet tension in it that had not been there before.
“No,” John said honestly, his voice bleak. “Give me a minute, yeah?”
Sherlock made an agreeable sort of noise that vibrated through his chest, and John closed his eyes and kept breathing.
In the end, John was pretty sure he took much longer than a minute – it was probably close to a quarter of an hour before he felt ready to step out onto the street and face the world once more. But it was hard to be precise, because Sherlock never commented on it; the whole time they were standing there he didn't say a word, and he didn't move away.
And if Sherlock had walked a bit closer to him the rest of the way back, John didn't consider that cause for complaint.
Sherlock had known something was wrong the instant John stopped walking. The doctor had frozen completely where he stood, and begun to shake with a severity Sherlock hadn't observed since he'd roused John from a nightmare and been punched for it. John's eyes had stared, then clenched tightly shut, and Sherlock had known retreat was in order. From what, he hadn't known, only that something around them was distressing John and that couldn't be allowed.
It was disturbingly easy to pull John into the alley. The muscles of his arm were corded and stiff beneath Sherlock's hand, but his legs moved automatically, as though he were in some kind of daze.
Sherlock had to call John's name three times before he finally received a response. John's eyes opened, but they looked only barely lucid, and his breath was coming so fast and so hard Sherlock was concerned he was about to pass out.
But John just looked up at him then, without question or explanation, leaned forward to press his face into Sherlock's chest. His hands – covered with steri-strips from the mishap with the mirror – went to Sherlock's hips and gripped like a drowning man holding onto a life buoy, so tightly Sherlock could feel his skin stretch taut across the bone.
Sherlock quelled the immediate instinct to wrap his arms around John and draw him closer. He wouldn't grab John, wouldn't hold him, trap him, so he forced his hands to stay where they were, instead cataloguing the myriad of observations his mind was suddenly bombarding him with.
Like the fact that every one of his exhales faintly stirred the hair on the back of John's head. The fact that John's weight rocked slightly with every breath Sherlock took. The way John smelled faintly of blood and that awful antiseptic the doctor had used on him, but still managed to smell like himself underneath it. Sherlock liked to categorise things, but he'd never found something to adequately compare to the way John smelled, only that the scent made him think of jumpers and late nights in front of the television, warm things and soft things and quiet things.
It was...reassuring. Yes, that was a good word for it, even if the concept didn't particularly make sense – John smelled reassuring.
Eventually, John started to offer an explanation, but before he'd got six words out Sherlock's mind had flashed back to the man on the corner. Remembered the suit, the face – he hadn't noticed any particular resemblance to Moriarty, but it seemed as if John's mind had.
“That wasn't Moriarty,” he said flatly, not wanting to hear John stumble over his words as he struggled to articulate something he probably saw as a weakness.
John made a soft, huffing sound – Sherlock felt the puff of cool air against his shirt. “I know. If it had been-”
Sherlock overrode him, wanting to ensure John knew why he should never fear meeting Moriarty on the street. “If it had been, I would have killed him.”
John shifted away, and Sherlock felt an irrational urge to grab him and drag him back to his previous position. John was peering up at him as though he couldn't quite credit what he'd just said, but Sherlock had no idea why he should look so surprised. Moriarty didn't deserve to live; he'd thought that fact was well-established. Sherlock would have happily had him arrested for the bombing spree, but for what he'd done to John – for what'd dared to do to John, who at times seemed the only good thing on the whole miserable planet – Sherlock would see Moriarty burn.
He did want to take his time about it, he couldn't deny that. If he managed to lay his hands on Moriarty in a nice, deserted warehouse or factory where Sherlock could be assured of several uninterrupted hours, then he'd make certain Moriarty suffered before he died. But if that couldn't be managed, if he just glimpsed Moriarty on the street one day, then Sherlock would take the more expedient route and simply smash the man's head against the road until he was dead.
John leaned forward again and hid his face against Sherlock's shirt, as though he were deliberately trying to block out the world around them. He made some inane comment about finding it reassuring that Sherlock would kill Moriarty, which seemed rather nonsensical – it was a simple fact, why should it be reassuring?
“Are you all right?” he found himself asking, feeling an entirely illogical hatred for the faint tremors that still lingered under John's skin.
When John spoke, his voice was flat and horribly resigned. “No.” Then he seemed to fortify himself. “Give me a minute, yeah?”
So Sherlock stayed just as he was, letting time drag by without making any conscious effort to categorise it. It was strange; usually he couldn't stand inactivity, his mind demanding more stimulation, more puzzles, more facts, more everything, but now...
Now Sherlock thought he'd have no trouble staying like this, exactly like this, for the rest of the day. John could stay here until sunset, and Sherlock would consider it time well spent.
But it didn't take the day, of course it didn't – John had never let the fearful tricks his mind played on him beat him before, and he wasn't going to start now. It was barely fifteen minutes before he was leaning back, his hands slipping off Sherlock's hips as he squared his shoulders and straightened up like a man about to go into battle.
Sherlock could see the sheepishness on John's face, the awkward embarrassment as he mentally berated himself for his near-breakdown, but Sherlock forestalled the inevitable (and completely unnecessary) apologies by simply sweeping out of the alleyway ahead of him. John was clearly more at ease now, but tension and wariness still lingered in every movement.
So Sherlock kept himself a bit closer than he usually would, and made sure to scan for dark-haired men in well-fitted suits. There were two others on the way home, but there were no more panic-attacks; Sherlock ensured John never saw them.
This, at least, was something he could do for John.
Almost as soon as he was inside Baker Street, John felt so much tension unwind that it was dizzying. He hadn't even been aware of how wary, how on-edge he'd been until he suddenly wasn't, and the abrupt release of energy almost set him shaking again.
John planted himself in his chair with a soft sigh, leaning back slowly, wary of his new stitches. He knew it was foolish – if they popped open at the pressure of him leaning on them, they wouldn't be very good stitches, but he couldn't shake the need to be careful with them.
Sherlock was clattering around in the kitchen, but there was a certain tension in his shoulders and randomness in his movements that suggested he didn't have any particular goal in mind, and was just rearranging his various experiments to have something to do.
John realised Sherlock was actually bothered by what had happened.
“You okay?” he asked.
Sherlock froze, glancing over his shoulder with a completely perplexed expression on his face, as though he knew what John had said but the data didn't make sense. “Sometimes, John, you're the most bewildering creature I've ever met.”
“Say again?” John said, feeling more than a little shocked at that pronouncement.
But Sherlock had turned away, as though he hadn't actually meant to let that slip and was now trying to pretend it hadn't happened.
So John sighed in frustration, and tried again with his first question. “Sherlock...are you okay?”
“I don't understand this obsessive need to enquire into welfare,” was the sullen mutter from the kitchen. “I wasn't the one who broke my stitches just this morning, or-”
“Well, you're my friend, for one,” John announced loudly, determinedly drowning Sherlock out. “And for another...”
He trailed off, reluctant to voice the second reason, but feeling a need to admit it. Sherlock had just tolerated being all-but hugged by John, the least he could do was explain himself, even if only a little.
“It's...easier,” he said quietly, shutting his eyes and rubbing at his nose, feeling almost ashamed of what he was saying. “Not to think about myself, I mean. If...”
“If you focus on how it's affected me, rather than how it's affected you,” Sherlock finished, in the tone of someone who'd just put a puzzle together.
The voice had come from right in front of him, and John opened his eyes to find Sherlock had left the kitchen and was now standing over him. He wondered idly how Sherlock had done that without John hearing him.
He also wondered how Sherlock had known to leave exactly enough space between them so that, in spite of Sherlock's vulture-like stare, John didn't feel as though the taller man was looming over him.
“And I am a bit worried about you,” John threw in. “But yeah, it makes it easier.”
Maybe it was the adrenaline crash, maybe it was the fact he'd had a panic attack in the middle of the street just because he'd seen a man in a high-priced suit, but John was feeling strangely resigned to the whole thing. “Besides, it's not like thinking about it is going to do any good, is it? I mean, there's not exactly anything else I can learn from it, other than to spin it around in my head and see how long it takes to drive me crazy. We know who, we know how, we know why-”
“I don't know why,” Sherlock muttered bitterly.
For the second time in as many minutes, words failed John. Sherlock seemed to realise belatedly what he'd just said and looked away again. His face twisted viciously as though he was honestly considering cutting his tongue out, and was mulling over the adjustments he'd have to make in his lifestyle and whether they'd be worth it.
John wanted to change the subject, wanted to get off the topic of Moriarty's various motives and the actions those various motives had led to, but for once, John didn't see the point. He'd be thinking about it for hours either way, so he might as well take the time to enlighten Sherlock.
“Well, I have no idea why he set this whole thing up other than that he's a psychotic bastard, but I know why he...raped me.”
Sherlock looked horrified but also slightly intrigued, as though he desperately wanted to know the answer but hated himself for it at the same time.
“It's war,” John stated, thinking that would make everything clearer.
Before he'd shipped out, John had read a few books on the psychology of war and the various traumas those that fought in them could expect. It wasn't nearly enough to be of any real help, but it had been enough to stop him sticking his foot in his mouth when he treated his patients, and he'd learned some interesting things along the way.
But going by Sherlock's scowl, John didn't think Sherlock understood.
“In war, rape is less about the person, and more about what the person represents,” John explained, able to feel nicely detached from everything as he recited what he'd memorised. For a moment, he could fool himself into thinking that he was just giving a lecture, that this had nothing to do with him. “And they represent the enemy. Rape is used to decrease the enemy's morale and a way of citing conquest. Soldier's wives could expect to be raped by conquering forces.”
Here, John felt his lips curling in an expression that was less like a smile and more like a grimace. “But you don't have a wife, so I guess I was the next best thing.”
He wouldn't have thought it possible, but Sherlock actually flinched, his face twisting and jerking for an instant, as if he'd been slapped. His eyes were hard but also somehow withdrawn, as though he wanted desperately to retreat but was forcing himself to remain in place.
John didn't even think about it – he just wanted that look off Sherlock's face and blurted out the first thing that flew into his head.
“Why'd you break the phone?”
“But you don't have a wife, so I guess I was the next best thing.”
Sherlock tried to control his reaction, he really did. But he could feel his skin tightening as the muscles beneath it jumped, his expression twisting even as he fought to keep it still.
Had Moriarty known? That he'd known John was the only way to truly get to Sherlock had been apparent, but had he known? Known the way Sherlock listened carefully every time John laughed, wanting to categorise the different cadences and nuances of that sound? Known the way Sherlock was sometimes gripped by the urge to see what John's smiles felt like against his own lips? Known the way Sherlock watched John almost obsessively, wanting to memorise every single detail of his expressions, his reactions...of him?
Had raping John been some revolting, school yard-esque comeuppance? A way to say he'd beaten Sherlock in one arena, that he'd got there first?
Nausea that rose at the idea, quick and vicious. He was half-wondering if he should make a run for the bathroom when John's voice broke into his thoughts.
“Why'd you break the phone?”
There was a certain desperation to John's voice, as though he'd seen where Sherlock's thoughts were going and was trying to stop them. And it certainly succeeded, the question derailing Sherlock's line of thought quite neatly.
For a moment, he considered lying. But something in him was reluctant to lie to John after he'd just made such an obviously painful admission.
Of course, that didn't mean he'd actually tell John what Moriarty had said. “I deemed it necessary at the time.”
John squinted as though Sherlock's words had been scribed and he was reading the fine print. “Liar. You didn't even think about it, did you?”
Sherlock sat down and opened the newspaper with a particularly irritated flick of his hand, raising it between them.
There was a few moment's silence. Then, “He called, didn't he?”
Sherlock debated simply refusing to answer. But there was only the slightest hint of a question in John's voice – he wasn't fishing, he was simply seeking confirmation.
“Yes,” Sherlock said tightly, dropping the newspaper and the pretence that his attention was anywhere but on John. “He called. He called and he...laughed.”
Sherlock could feel his lips twisting, his tongue curling as though he'd just bitten into something sour. He watched John try to suppress a shudder and only mostly succeed, but the doctor forced himself to smile.
“So what you're saying is...you got mad. And you broke the phone in a fit of temper.”
Sometimes, John's sheer resilience honestly astounded Sherlock.
“It wasn't a 'fit',” he defended.
“If you say so,” John said, in the agreeable tone of voice Sherlock had learned usually meant John was subtly mocking him.
But he felt a smile threatening all the same. John's amusement had always been infectious, unusually so – at least, in Sherlock's experience, as he'd never found himself wanting to smile just because someone else was smiling, not before John came along.
Though perhaps that was the point; everything was different with John.
AN: Thanks once again to ginbitch , my wonderful beta!