Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: Thanks to regan_v for the beta!


At Lestrade's phone call that morning, Sherlock initially snorts out a decided dismissal.

"Boring and stupid. Why should I care if some barmy nut case, who hasn't left his flat in fifty years and is entombed by his own garbage, dies." John doesn't need this conversation to be on speakerphone. He can imagine all of it based on Sherlock's responses. "Variations on a theme, Lestrade. Why should I care if this man played the violin? Give me three days and I could teach a monkey how to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." There's a pause and then Sherlock says, "I highly doubt it. It must be a fake. They are all accounted for except four. Three are extant, and the fourth is the one I stole." Another pause. "Of course I'm joking."

John doesn't think Sherlock is joking at all but that isn't germane to this situation. Having developed a hinky feeling about these conversations, John gulps down the rest of his tea and shoves a piece of toast in his shirt pocket.

"God, Lestrade, you're being tiresome this morning. Pluck me a string. I can tell you in half a second if…"

As John races down the staircase, trying to simultaneously put on his coat and grab for the handrail so as to not kill himself, he imagines the satisfaction in Lestrade's voice during this exchange. Their victories against Sherlock are rare. Gloating is allowed.

Sherlock's does his usual rapid-fire barrage of insults to clear the room so that he can examine and think. Also per the usual, he leaves off insulting Lestrade until Lestrade has ordered everyone else to the perimeter of the crime scene. The moment Lestrade has thrown everyone else out of the room, Sherlock is rude to him as well. "You're standing in my light, Lestrade. Now join the others, as in, get your arse on the other side of the door and let me do your job properly."

John has come to like Greg Lestrade. Most of the cops he's met since becoming Sherlock's step-and-fetch-it have what his therapist would call "personality disorders." Which is a fancy way of saying they are a bunch of violent buggers with chips on their shoulders. John's personal assessment is that by and large they are sadistic wankers who gravitate to police work because it's the closest thing possible to institutionalized violence, short of running up and down a football field or joining the army.

Lestrade is different.

Although he's clearly bright enough, John suspects that Lestrade's promotions over the years aren't due to any special facility, merely that he works his arse off. His superiors have rightly come to the conclusion that he's not the type to use his promotions as stepping stones to other jobs—as in theirs—and why not promote him. Given the verbal abuse he routinely suffers at Sherlock's hands, if Greg Lestrade ever snaps and instructs some of the boys to work Sherlock over, John won't be surprised or sympathetic—to Sherlock. John believes that Lestrade is fairly mentally healthy; he ignores Sherlock's insults because it's not about him (which is the exact opposite of Sherlock). No, it's always about the case. Lestrade is willing to suffer whatever kicks in the metaphorical nuts Sherlock visits upon him just so long as justice is served.

Like everyone, John had assumed that Lestrade was one of those dark-haired men who went gray early.

"Not true," Sherlock had said one day as John was reading the newspaper. He'd been staring at some ad for hair dye for men. "He's much older than you think. I hacked into his personnel file."

John had reached the point where he could usually connect the dots.

"How did you know I didn't want the hair dye for myself?"

Sherlock had run a lazy eye over John's head and then his face and then what he'd been wearing.

"You have many faults, John, but vanity is not one of them."

"Maybe I'm secretly vain."

"Don't be stupid," Sherlock had snapped and then a pop-up on Sherlock's computer had appeared about a possible serial killer operating around Brighton. At that point, John could have spontaneously burst into flames and Sherlock wouldn't have noticed.

He had felt like shouting, "Yes, I'm extremely vain. I stare at my thickening middle-age body in the mirror in the dead of night and hate myself."

Which was a lie, but sometimes Sherlock's always being right is downright tiresome.

John's months of being Sherlock's sidekick has had its financial benefits. He's on retainer with the police department now, a small one but it helps with the rent and cab fare, as his shifts in the clinic are hit and miss. Lestrade has started asking for his expertise as the ever-escalating gang-related slayings rock London; the Russian mafia is systematically trying to wipe out the Pakistani mafia in a bid for hegemony over the drug trade. Russian gangs are using the same weaponry as the Taliban. Probably bought from the same sources. Sherlock has no interest in gang-related violence—he refers to it as "uninspiring carnage" —and John attends these crime scenes by himself. It's not like the two of them ever go out for a pint in their free time, but over these last few months he and Lestrade have reached an understanding of sorts, a mutual respect. So when Sherlock orders Lestrade out of the room, John flashes Lestrade a minute smile in apology and he gets an amused roll of the eyes back.

When Sherlock had said "entombed in his own garbage" he didn't think that even Sherlock knew to the extent that this was true. Small pathways had been carved out of stacks and stacks of newspapers. Whatever garbage that had accumulated was thrown over one of these walls of newspaper; the only light coming into the room is from a five-inch by ten-inch sliver of exposed window. The rest of the window is blocked by a mountain of empty soup cans.

"John, your thoughts."

Based on the lividity of the body, the man has been dead four days. Based on the temperature in this room, it is likely the man froze to death. It isn't the smell of rotting flesh that prompts the neighbors to call the authorities, but the constant mewing of six starving, freezing cats. Last week had seen record lows, and the body is fairly preserved. The cold has probably prevented the cats from eating him. As it is, it looked like they'd licked off his eyebrows. Small mercies.

John rattles off these facts, which is fairly pointless because Sherlock is the world's foremost expert on lividity and, probably, freezing to death, but he doesn't say anything. Sherlock is staring at the violin. The man is laid out on his bed under a mountain of blankets and newspapers in a futile attempt to stay warm. The violin and bow are lying on his chest, and his arms are crossed, one over the other, as if he'd been hugging it. Maybe he had been. No doubt it had been the most precious thing in his life.

"Save me from the world's idiots," hisses Sherlock.

A staged cough interrupts John's intended reprimand.

Mycroft is standing there, seemingly oblivious to the squalor. In his Savile Row suit, he looks as incongruous as a muddy footprint on a wedding cake.

"Your sister, John."


It is February.

The tenth.

Their anniversary.

She'd been lying to him. Had told him only last week that she had things under control, that she was, in fact, off the booze. Had licked it. Really. Was time. Didn't know why she didn't do this years ago.

Surprisingly, the power of an original Stradivarius doesn't have as much claim on Sherlock's intellect as John's sister having a psychotic break in the middle of London. The words "…naked in Trafalgar Square" are barely out of Mycroft's mouth before John, Sherlock, and Lestrade are running for a police cruiser. With sirens blaring, they race through London at speeds so terrifying that if it weren't for the visual of Harry being physically subdued by baton-wielding cops, John would have been violently ill from sheer terror. As it is he keeps shouting at Lestrade to drive faster. The dispatchers on the police scanners are detailing the situation in cop-cromens: "IC1, white female, late thirties, blond, D and D, PGMS…" Before John can say anything Lestrade turns it off. Except for his exhortations for Lestrade to step on it, they are silent the entire way, the incessant whoopwhoop of the siren fortunately making any other conversation impossible.

He doesn't need Sherlock's, "Alcohol-induced psychosis, obviously," to immediately deduce that his beautiful, brilliant, and completely potted sister is having one hell of a psychotic wing-ding, no doubt fueled by liters of gin. All the evidence he needs is right there. She's in Trafalgar Square, completely naked, and swinging a garden rake from side to side, successfully keeping the battery of police officers trying to capture her at bay. John indulges in a full second of incandescent rage at her and then it's gone.

Because this is Harry.

Strings have been most definitely pulled because the square has not only been cleared, but the surrounding area as well. He supposes that's Mycroft's sense of decency at play. Oddly enough it does make him feel better that only seventy percent of the Metropolitan police know what his sister looks like naked as opposed to the hundred thousand people who work and live around Trafalgar Square. The police are poised on the balls of their feet, as if they are just waiting for the word to take this bitch apart.

String-pulling is too mild a word for it. When the news feed hits the television that night all four channels will have in-depth coverage of a naked woman who went berserk in Trafalgar Square that morning and tried to beat off the police with a garden rake. All of which is true. Except the face of this woman is not Harry, and at no point do John, Sherlock, or Lestrade appear on camera. John can't even fathom how this was done, but his gratitude is profound. She might actually keep her job. Later, when this is all over, he will try to thank Mycroft for that substantial bit of tap-dancing on their behalf; he will be tutted and his apology ignored. "You have no idea how much I owe you, John. I doubt that my debt will ever be paid."

Harry is screaming obscenities at the police, using the rake to keep them back. Even so, they've cornered her near Nelson's statue. Apropro of nothing, John notices that all the pigeons have temporarily fled and flown away.

"Harry," he says in a loud and what he's sure is a calm voice. Because without any effort John has moved into combat mode. He advances slowly, repeating her name. His hand is down by his side, moving back and forth in a discreet shooing-away gesture, hoping that Lestrade and Sherlock understand. He needs to do this alone. That they can't follow. "Harry, love," he calls yet again, making sure that there's much more of a West country drawl evident in his voice, a familiar drawl, a drawl that he's lost somewhere between university and Afghanistan.

She lowers the rake. "Where were you?"

Her voice is appropriately accusatory. The guilt he feels is nearly overwhelming but he doesn't let it stop him. He edges closer.

"So sorry, love. A case. Some poor bugger froze to death, clutching a Stradivarius. A real one. At least Sherlock says it's real."

"I'm cold, Johnny."

"I know, my dear. Do you want my coat?" He's within five feet of her and inching closer and closer.

"It's always so cold when he touches me," she screams. "His hands are so cold. No matter how much I beg, he never warms his hands."

"I know." He's less than two feet away now.

"I beg and beg him not to, and he never listens. I hate it when he touches me," she shouts. Of course she hadn't shouted at the time. She had whimpered and begged in a small voice not much above a whisper. Harry had had a lisp when she was wee, and sometimes when the wind screams through a gap between the wood and the window pane John fancies he hears her high-pitched voice begging, "Pwease."

By this point, John is so close to her that he can see the blue tinge to her lips. Frozen tears and fresh tears cross her cheeks, and if he hadn't been in combat mode he would have started crying himself. Later, he tells himself. I'll cry later.

"I know. Here, you're freezing. Take my jacket." She drops the rake but makes no effort to put on John's coat, and he has to thread her arms through the sleeves and work the zip himself. "Let me carry you. Your feet must be like blocks of ice. Put your arms around my neck, Harry. That's right, love, that's right. Now hold on tight. One. Two. Three. Up we go."

And as if she were small child again, he lifts her into his arms and carries her across the square to a waiting ambulance. All the fight has gone out of her. She keeps her head tucked into the flat of his shoulder; her hair smells of gin. He chatters about the weather, how it's supposed to be warmer tomorrow. Even so, maybe they should look into taking a holiday to Florida. He's never been to the States. Her eyes never leave John's face as they strap her onto a stretcher. She doesn't even wince when they put an I.V. into her arm. Before the drugs pull her under she says, "Don't leave me."

At John's request they take her to St. Bart's. In the ambulance he takes off his shoes and socks. The medic helps him put his socks on her feet and while John holds her feet in his hands to warm them, the paramedic placed warms packs all over her body. Afghanistan is brutally cold at night and he's become a reluctant expert on frostbite. He doesn't think she will lose any toes, but she's not wearing sandals for a few months. So much for that trip to the seaside.

The ER doctor is sympathetic but brusque; he has three hearts, a compound fracture, and a possible meningitis in room four that he has to attend to. Harriet Watson is an open and shut case of alcohol-induced psychosis, obviously brought on by too much booze in too little time or a too-abrupt withdrawal. John thinks it's the former. The doctor concurs. Once they are confident that she doesn't have to have any toes amputated and isn't in danger of killing herself, then she'll need to dry out somewhere. There are several rehabs clinics the social worker can recommend. Will she need a slip for work?

John is never sure whether it was Sarah who put a bug in someone's ear or yet again Mycroft's doing, but Harry is not confined to the psych ward. Much to John's relief, she's wheeled up to a private room. There are bars on the windows, so perhaps they have these rooms available for people with clout who go crazy. Courtesy of Mycroft or Lestrade, a burly looking nurse (either an MI5 agent or a police officer in scrubs) is sitting outside the door. She's wearing an ear piece and John is certain that there is a corresponding microphone in the room should Harry try anything. When John leaves, she'll move into the room itself.

John sits there until she wakes up. Once her eyes focus he says immediately, "I'm sorry. So sorry."

Because he should have spent the night and been with her all day and there is really no excuse. He hopes that her continuing silence is due to the fog of the anti-psychotic drugs flooding her system and not rage. Or psychosis.

He curls his hand around hers and squeezes. She's so medded-up that she can't squeeze back. Or she's so angry at him that she refuses to acknowledge his gesture of affection. He stays until another round of anti-psych meds are administered and knock her out. Once the nurse assures him that she'll sleep until morning, he slips out the door and the police officer/MI5 agent slips in.

Lestrade is the lobby/waiting room texting on his mobile. He's got John's coat on his lap.

"Thanks, Greg." John doesn't know why, but today has propelled them to a first-name basis. At least in John's eyes. The ride to Baker Street is without sirens or fanfare or even stupid chit-chat. Thank God. "The lift. Oh, and my coat. Honestly, I don't even remember where I…" He doesn't bother to finish his sentence.

"You left it in the ER. How is she?"

"I think she'll keep all her toes. They have her on a bloody boatload of anti-psychotics and something to keep the DTs at bay until she's transferred to a rehab clinic. I need to…" The list of what he needs to do is growing by the second. First things first. He needs to contact Clara. Hopefully she and Harry aren't on the outs. She will know what clothes and toiletries to pack for Harry. If she and Harry are on the outs, he'll have to go over to the flat tonight and try to put together a week's worth of clothes. No, he won't. Even if they are on the outs, he'll take advantage of Clara's good nature and beg her to do this for him; he really doesn't see himself rifling through Harry's underwear. Then he must contact her supervisor regarding a personal leave and then call some rehab places. That "Promises" place isn't too bad. At least they'll let her smoke. Expensive though. "Well, a lot. I need to do a lot."

"Right then, I'll be off." Lestrade hands him a small white bag. "It's a sandwich. Got it from the hospital canteen so it's nearly inedible, but it will fill the hole. I don't imagine there's any food in that flat." He gives their front window a dismissive glance.

"No, not last time I looked. Thank you." He's halfway out of the car before he stops. "Today. At the square. Thank you for that, too."

"Can't take any credit for that. Mr. Holmes' bailiwick. Imagine if those two weren't at each other's throats all the time. If they joined forces they'd be as scary as all get out. I'd seriously consider emigrating to Canada. Can you imagine those two as kids?"

John musters up enough energy to say, "What a horrifying thought." He can still hear Lestrade laughing as he slams the car door shut. Has he ever been this tired? He sits on the stoop to eat his sandwich and manages to finish most of it before being shooed upstairs by Mrs. Hudson.

Sherlock is clicking away on his laptop and doesn't bother to look up when John enters the room.

"That Clara called. One of Mycroft's minions phoned her. Says she'll take some toiletries and whatnot over to the hospital. She also says turn on your mobile because she's going to call back in an hour."

He takes his mobile out of his pocket to turn it on and notices that it's not off but dead. Fumbling with the charger, he drops the phone several times before actually getting the little fork into the proper slot. The phone lights up and immediately his mailbox shows fifty-five voice mails and ninety-four text messages. The text messages are all from Harry; he assumes the voice messages are too.

The kitchen table is more or less clear of whatever is fascinating Sherlock that week. Part of that day's newspaper is strewn across the top, looking worse for wear. Sherlock doesn't read newspapers so much as throttle them. The pages with nothing of interest are balled up and thrown on the floor. John kicks a few of these wadded up balls of paper out of the way and sits down. He'd like a cup of tea but doesn't have the energy to make one himself. He could ask Sherlock to make him one, but doesn't even have the energy to ask him. Of course, what he'd really like is a stiff drink, but that seems obscene in light of today's events.

"Did Clara say anything else?"

Sherlock types for a few seconds more and then finally looks up.

"She might have done. You know I can't listen to that woman for more than two minutes at a stretch."

Sherlock dislikes stupid people on principal and is always particularly vicious to Clara whenever he's forced to interact with her. Fortunately, his remarks are usually obscure enough that she doesn't understand that he's constantly insulting her.

John has tried to defend her against Sherlock's condescending comments on numerous occasions, but the truth is that she's not very bright, as evidenced by her relationship with Harry. He knows that his role here as Harry's brother is to try and convince Clara to overlook Harry's faults, but he does the opposite. He's always encouraging Clara to leave his sister because no one should put up with that sort of nonsense. John has come to the conclusion that Harry purposely alienates Clara so that Clara will resort to bigger and more elaborate displays of affection in an attempt to keep them together. He's not sure whether this is calculated or just pathological on Harry's part, but Clara is not that dumb. At some point, she will leave Harry for good, and Harry will be devastated. Conversely, Harry might need Clara's continued devotion but every time Clara returns, Harry respect for her decreases a notch or two. No matter what happens, the end will be grim.

Not for the first time does John wish he had as much insight into his own relationships as he does his sister's.

By this point a normal person would have asked about Harry, but then Sherlock isn't normal.

"What do you know about addiction?"

"That some monkeys, regardless, will keep pulling the lever for more cocaine. They would rather die of exhaustion than face the idea that they will never get another hit off the crack pipe."

"Is this supposed to make me feel better?" John doesn't wait for an answer. "Where did you grow up, Sherlock?"

"Cheshire. What a revolting hellhole. Mycroft likes it, but then in another age he would have been a country squire." Sherlock says this with such a degree of contempt that you'd have thought that Mycroft's love of Cheshire's hills and dales was akin to his harboring a secret fancy to be Margaret Thatcher's love slave.

"Yes, I imagine its pastoral delights would be lost on you."

John fixes his eyes on a series of bullet holes, the remnants of an experiment Sherlock conducted during that case of the blindfolded man, the apple, and the Glock.

"I grew up in Hampshire. Farnham, actually. My father was also a doctor. A pediatrician. We were fairly well off. Of course as a child you don't understand what well off is juxtaposed to not well off, but I remember we had two cars and a fair bit of land around the house. Which wasn't anything special. Some third-rate architect's vision of a Tudor mansion but with a suburban sensibility. Had a conservatory and a bunch of bedrooms. Large house. Fitting for an up-and-coming doctor and his pretty wife, and their two adorable children. The daughter was especially beautiful. She took after the mother."

John noticed that the typing had stopped. He must talk to Mrs. Hudson about getting a hearing aid. She had the volume turned up so loud that he could actually make out what the people on the telly were saying.

"He'd molest her on Saturday afternoons. Unlike a lot of the husbands among their set of friends, he encouraged his wife to take it easy on Saturdays afternoons. Have her nails done. Stop by Sally's and have a cup of tea on her way home from the hairdresser. Wish I had a fiver for all the times that I heard her say how lucky she was; I'd be a millionaire. He even did the laundry. Harry and I are only twelve months apart; it was probably the only time during the week she had a bit of time to herself.

"Do you think Mrs. Hudson's going deaf? Anyway, I think he started on her when she was six. I'm not sure. I do know that at first it was her little secret with Daddy and then it was Daddy and Harry and Johnny's little secret from Mommy. Because eventually Harry told me. Told me what Daddy did. And how she didn't like it. How it frightened her but Daddy told her it was all right. Their special time together. When I confronted my father and asked him to stop, that Harry didn't like it, he told me that there were lots of things children didn't like to do, but that adults knew better. I believed him until the day I put my ear up to the keyhole of Harry's bedroom door and I heard her begging and pleading that she didn't want his hands there. She didn't want to put her hands there. He ignored her and in between giving her orders, he kept telling her how much he loved her. When he was done and opened the door, I could hear her sobbing into her pillow. As he stepped onto the landing, he was tucking his shirt into his pants. I've always been a bit brawny. Take after him that way. Harry's room was at the top of the stairs. At ten I was a little pudgy and quite strong. I shoved him down the staircase. Because he had his hands down his pants, he couldn't break his fall. Perverted bastard fell head over heels and broke his neck.

"God, I could fancy a cup of tea. Anyway, that's why Harry and I are so awful to each other. She can never forgive me for not stopping him, I can't forgive her for not begging hard enough, and neither of us can forgive me for killing him." That is probably John's worse offense. Because in between all those "No, Daddy, stop," there were an equal number of "I love you, too, Daddy."

"If I go to hell for this, I will use Harry's voice begging him to stop as my defense."

John pulls his eyes away from the bullet holes and notices that there's a cup of tea in front of him. And it has gotten dark outside. Why hasn't Clara called, he wonders. Oh, his eyes hurt; he really doesn't need a migraine right now. As if on cue, his phone chirps and it's Clara. Yes, Harry's still out like a light. Clara's going to spend the night there. If they had been on the outs, they weren't now. Has a doctor examined her feet? Yes, they seem to be okay. Has John called Harry's supervisor and what about rehab facilities? Does he have anything lined up yet? They are looking to discharge her tomorrow before she goes into the DTs. John promises to call Harry's supervisor first thing in the morning and some rehab places second thing. He'll take care of it. He thanks Clara for being so super about all this, signs off, and then throws his mobile against the wall.

"Today is the anniversary of his death. We always spend the day together and usually the night beforehand. Even when I was in the army somehow we managed. I took a short leave or she flew to wherever I was posted. Except this year I didn't. Last night I was arguing with you about actually sitting down and having a meal. And then we were arguing about how if in the miraculous event you might actually be hungry, we couldn't sit down and have a meal because you wanted to use the kitchen table to dissect a pig. And then I went to bed in a huff and completely forgot that I had had a dinner date with Harry. While I lay there stewing about what a totally irritating bastard you are and how you're absolutely impossible to live with, Harry was drinking herself into a right old psychosis."

Sherlock's never gets angry when he should and becomes enraged over the smallest things. Even though a part of John knows that this is monstrously unfair, he doesn't care.

"This is not about me, John," Sherlock says in a cool voice.

John starts laughing. Later he will realize that this was actually nothing more than controlled hysterics, but at the time it merely seemed funny.

"It's always about you, Sherlock. Always!"

Sherlock closes his laptop and pauses, as if debating whether or not to say something.

"You didn't kill your father."

"Beg your pardon." John isn't sure he heard correctly.

"You didn't kill your father. You only think you did. The police report says that your mother came home that afternoon just in time to see your father slip and fall down the stairs."

John has been outraged on other peoples' behalf at Sherlock's lack of boundaries, but he's never been worried too much about his own. Until now. This is a violation of the first order.

"You hacked into the police report?"

"Yes, of course. I heard what Harry said and it was self-explanatory. I was curious if there was a police report."

"Curious." John sounds calm to his own ears but his rage is escalating so quickly that it does feel like his blood is literally about to boil.

"I knew you grew up in Hampshire. I wasn't sure there was anything to find, frankly. Most child molesters get away with it. It took me longer than I expected to locate the file. Watson is a fairly common name."

"Sorry about that."

Sherlock is like a human laser. All that intellectual power on high beam. Unfortunately, when you shine a bright light on something, then everything else around it fades into the dark. So engrossed in his sleuthing, he doesn't hear the dangerous note in John's voice. The edge. The anger. John needs to get up and walk out the door. Just leave for a couple of hours. Maybe check into a hotel. Or stay at Harry's place for a couple of days.

He is pushing his chair away from the table when Sherlock says in a nonchalant voice, "You might have wanted him dead, which sounds perfectly justifiable in my opinion, but thinking murder isn't a crime. I want to kill Mycroft an average of four times a year."

All thoughts of escaping his anger vanish. This so enrages him that he lunges out of his chair and throws a wild punch at Sherlock. His shin smashes into the coffee table and the thin skin along the bone rips open. He feels the knuckles in his right hand seize up in pain as he connects with the hard bone of Sherlock's cheek. The weight of his punch causes him to collide into Sherlock and the two of them fall back onto the couch in a heap.

The act of throwing that punch bleeds John dry. He is no longer angry. So ashamed of himself, he bursts into tears. Sherlock manages to untangle himself from beneath John, and ignoring John's sobbing, he hustles him into the bathroom. He wraps John's hand (they might not have a moldy end of bread in the house but they are always well-stocked with first-aid supplies) and kneels to dress his shin. John finally stops crying and looks down at Sherlock using a handful of butterfly bandages to seal his cut closed. He should get a cab and go to the ER, but he can't be arsed. Sherlock's eye is already puffed closed.

"You need to put ice on that. Your eye, I mean."

Sherlock looks up. "In a minute. You're nearly done."

John will look back on this as the defining moment in their relationship. As irritating, limited, arrogant, and insufferable as Sherlock Holmes is, he will accept a black eye from John Watson. Maybe he isn't that different from Clara, and maybe Sherlock isn't that different from Harry.

Running a thumb over the cheek that isn't bruised, he traces Sherlock's sharply defined jaw line. Runs his thumb over Sherlock's bottom lip.

"John, I don't—"

"I know. I don't either. Really, I don't. But I need this. Tonight. I won't ever ask you again. I won't ever expect anything out of you again. Just tonight it needs to be about me. Just this once."

Sherlock stands up and leaves the bathroom, and he doesn't realize that Sherlock has agreed until he hears the wheeze of the bedsprings of his old mattress, as if someone has sat down on it. John follows as quickly as he can because he's really done a number on his shin. A killing throb every time he puts weight on his leg reminds him of how stupid he's being; he should really go to the ER and get it stitched up properly.

Sherlock is already undressed and under the covers by the time John limps into the room. Taking off his clothes basically one-handed is something of a bitch but he manages and climbs in. He's not even sure he wants sex with Sherlock; he just knows that if he is alone one more minute something will break in him and that will be permanent. A scar from one end of his soul to the other.

Before John even lays a hand on him, Sherlock says in his usual take-no-prisoners tone, "I'm very bad at this. And I hate being bad at anything. Most of the time I don't see the point."

He can well imagine that in Sherlock's world that passion without an accompanying intellectual tether would be inexplicable. People think he's a cold fish, but he's not really. In fact, he's one of the most passionate people John's ever met, if one can actually say that about someone whose emotional highs are limited to points on a logic tree.

"I know. But this time there's a point even if I can't articulate it."

And because this night is about scars, about his scars and Harry's scars and how they can barely manage their own but have taken on each other's as well, he starts with Sherlock's scars. At first his touch is clinical. After all, John is a doctor and he can't help but note the number of scars crisscrossing and dotting Sherlock's body. Some of them are very old. Sherlock's current practice of using his body as his own personal guinea pig must date back to when he was a child.

This helps, actually, lulling Sherlock into a sort of bored acceptance of what is happening. He starts at Sherlock's back, mapping out the scars, starting at one end and moving a fingertip across the raised ridge of skin. As he moves down, his touch gradually eases from the clinical to the personal, and Sherlock gradually eases from indifferent to aroused.

A monster of vanity in most regards, Sherlock is thoroughly cavalier about his physical beauty. As John kisses the scar on Sherlock's left knee, runs a tongue over the ridge on the back of his wrist, and kisses the puncture wound on his right shoulder, John is gob-smacked at how he could have lived with this man day in and day out for months and not realize how gorgeous he is. Teeth and a hot mouth worries Sherlock's left nipple and he comes. John moves into the wet on Sherlock's stomach in a slow back and forth. He's not even sure he can come from this. When he does fall over it's a surprise, a slow and languid release. As if he were having an orgasm in slow motion.

John half expects Sherlock to get up and go to his own room, but he doesn't. He steals most of the blankets and all of the pillow, and settles his body.

"Thank you, Sherlock."

"Mycroft texted me the name of someone who can help Harry. Small place, exclusive. The mucky-mucks are sent there. This woman has a relatively high success rate. Located up in Yorkshire."

John starts laughing because Sherlock can't help but sneer when he says 'Yorkshire.'

Harry is what is known as a high-functioning alcoholic. The amount of money she makes for her company on a yearly basis is truly disgusting, and they grant her a six-month leave of absence, no questions asked. It's as if Trafalgar Square never happened. The cost of this secret rehab facility is never discussed, and it's either paid for out of one of Mycroft's government slush funds or he's footing the bill personally. John is not allowed to drop her off—it's that secret—but he loads her and her luggage into the private touring car that Mycroft's hired, and for the first time in his life tells her that he loves her. She doesn't say it back, but then she has much more to forgive.

He doesn't quite know what he and Sherlock are doing. They don't talk about it. When Sherlock actually sleeps they share a bed. Regardless, they have sex on a fairly regular basis. Less often when they are on a case, more often if Sherlock is bored. Largely hand jobs and the occasional blow job if they've had a couple of pints, it's what John calls straight man gay sex. It's only mildly physically satisfying, but emotionally quite fulfilling. Since most people consider Sherlock an emotional vacuum, John finds this privately hilarious. Slowly but surely it's getting better or they are getting braver. Overtones of an S&M dynamic are beginning to creep in; he imagines that their safe words will be "yes" and "no."

John supposes this makes sense as he most definitely needs to punish, but why Sherlock would want to be punished remains a mystery. To his mind in order for you to crave pain, then you have to be conscious of how to inflict it, and, as Sherlock has noted himself, his cruelty is that of the sociopath. Whatever. Far be it from him to second guess Sherlock Holmes. It might be simply that Sherlock finds John's desire to punish fascinating, and he's more than willing to discover what it's like to be the "M" to John's "S". Maybe it's that simple.

Maybe. Everyone has secrets, and every now and then a secret gets told. More often than not they don't. You can't be in a room with Mycroft and Sherlock for more than three minutes and not know there are secrets.

At a recent crime scene Sherlock solves the case in two minutes flat, a world record. He is so disgusted at this turn of events that he has a temper tantrum and stalks off, catches a cab, and leaves John behind.

It isn't the first time and John knows it won't be the last.

He and Lestrade trade ironic grins.

"Need a lift, John? Tanner will be free in a minute."

"Thanks. Gave my last fiver to Sherlock to pay for the cab ride out here. Say, Greg, thank you."

"Not like I'm giving you the lift," notes Lestrade. "Tanner lives not far from you two."

"No, I mean, changing the file. You did, didn't you? Change the file."

It wouldn't have taken more than ten minutes. Most records have been scanned and computerized by now. Changing the testimony of a ten-year old boy who'd said his father had slipped down the stairs to the wife saying the exact same thing would have been a piece of cake. So would have eliminating the bit about the police finding a man with a broken neck lying at the bottom of the stairs with his hands still shoved down his pants, and the nine-year old girl with semen stains all over her sheets.

"Have a sister. A father too. Tanner, get your arse over here. I need you to give Dr. Watson a ride back to Baker Street."