[identity profile] tartancravat.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tartanfics
Title: History Is What You’ve Travelled On
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock/John
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 1,275
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters or make money off them.
Warnings: Post-Reichenbach (no spoilers for S2), suggestion of torture and related injuries
Notes: I guess I had to write one last pre-series two fic. Beta credit to [livejournal.com profile] miss_sabre, title from the poem by Michael Ondaatje.
Summary: John always has to remind himself that Sherlock has done things in the last three years that John still knows nothing about.


It’s like time has been reset. The living room is strewn with boxes full of Sherlock’s belongings, his papers and his clothes and his books, and though these boxes never left Baker Street, it feels like Sherlock is moving in all over again. John can pretend, if he chooses, that it’s the day after they solved the serial suicides case, and they’re unpacking their belongings in the grey January light as John wonders what he’s getting himself into.

John still wonders what he’s getting himself into. What he’s putting himself through, all over again.

It isn’t January. Instead of weak January daylight, it’s the long golden sunshine of late summer. Sherlock’s hair is too short, his movements just a little too stiff. He doesn’t insult John, cheerful and confident, as he puts his books back on their shelves.

After the initial outpouring, the futile attempt to convey in words three years of absence, of unfamiliarity, they’ve been mostly silent. John makes cups of tea and sets them down at Sherlock’s elbow without a word, and Sherlock drinks them, dutifully. Or, almost thankfully. As though he’s missed John’s tea.

Sherlock, John can tell, is frustrated. He’s impatient, had hoped, perhaps, that he’d be able to settle into the life he had before without having to sand down the rough edges his abrupt departure left in 221B. In John’s life.

John, on the other hand, has had to slowly recalibrate, to adjust his view of the world. The world had seemed a different place without Sherlock in it, and it seems different again--different both from that bleak, Sherlockless world and from the world he inhabited before. Lots of things change in three years--John has a new phone, the country has a new prime minister (not that Sherlock will know the difference), Baker Street has a new television and new curtains. John keeps forgetting that Sherlock actually has been in the world in the last three years. He knows about new technology John keeps wanting to explain to him, like the shiny new computer Harry gave John for Christmas. John has to remind himself that Sherlock has done things in the last three years that John still knows nothing about.

One day three weeks in, John realises they aren’t going to talk about it, and tries a different approach.

“Sherlock,” John says.

Sherlock looks up from his newspaper and stares at John, standing in the kitchen doorway. They are still surprising to each other.

John struggles to ask for what he wants. Words are clearly never going to be sufficient for this relearning. “Can I... I’d like to check--” He plucks at his own shirt front, helpless.

“I assure you I’m perfectly healthy, Doctor,” Sherlock says, with an almost-visible smile.

“That’s not what I--. I mean, yes, that is what I want, but I’m not worried about--.” He grimaces, embarrassed, and looks down at Sherlock’s feet. He never would have had this much trouble asking for this before. Of course, he never would have wanted or needed to ask for this before.

“John?” Sherlock asks, setting aside his newspaper and standing up.

John lets out a long breath and steps toward Sherlock. Close enough to touch, he stops and reaches out, brushing the tips of his fingers against a mark on Sherlock’s jaw. It looks like a shaving cut, but John knows it’s not. “You’ve got a cut here,” John says. He lets his hand fall and brush against Sherlock’s chest. “You’re favouring your left side. I’m not--” He wants to say that he isn’t trying to be a doctor. That what he wants is just to see, to know that Sherlock has been doing something worthwhile for the last three years, and not hiding in a cave somewhere or in some kind of limbo. Should he be worried, that what he considers worthwhile, what he will accept as a reasonable excuse for disappearing for three years, will inevitably have left its mark? Sherlock will have bruises, scars. His body will have changed, and John wants to see the changes.

Sherlock nods, silent. His face is... not blank, exactly, but guarded. He reaches up, and very slowly begins unbuttoning his shirt. John steps back, watching as Sherlock removes his shirt, unbuckles his belt, steps out of his trousers. He isn’t wearing any shoes or socks. “You don’t have to--” John mutters, as Sherlock’s hands move to the waistband of his pants. He does it anyway, and before John realises quite what’s happened, Sherlock Holmes, alive and impossible, is standing naked in the living room of 221B Baker Street.

It’s the least sexual and the most intense striptease John has ever experienced.

“Are you all right?” Sherlock asks. John closes his eyes and opens them again, and nods.

Sherlock is too skinny. The shadow of his ribs is visible against his skin. No time for food? Or no food to be had? But he isn’t as pale as he used to be. John remembers that first deduction: Your face is tanned, but no tan above the wrists. You’ve been abroad, but not sunbathing. Sherlock obviously hasn’t been sunbathing either, but he’s been somewhere sunny, and he’s had a reason to be shirtless. His legs are still pale.

There’s another cut just under his right collarbone, and on his left leg a long white scar runs from his hipbone to the middle of his thigh, interrupting his surprisingly pale hair. It looks like a knife wound. A giant bruise covers the left side of his abdomen, over his stomach and up past the first few ribs. John can’t help himself; he steps forward and flattens the palm of his hand against the bruise. Sherlock’s slightly ragged breath tells John the bruise is sensitive, even with no pressure. John trails his hand across Sherlock’s stomach, though it has no other marks. Sherlock shivers, and John realises the light kiss of his fingertips is enough to make Sherlock ticklish. The room isn’t cold. When he reaches Sherlock’s other hip, he pulls against it until Sherlock turns.

“Sherlock,” John breathes, horrified.

In the small of Sherlock’s back is a scar--not a scar, a carving. Not red still, but not yet faded all the way from pink to white, the letter M is carved into Sherlock’s back. M for Moriarty, no doubt. John’s hand tightens on Sherlock’s hip.

“Are you--is this--”

“It’s never going to fade,” Sherlock murmurs. “He made sure of that.”

He did, didn’t he. He made sure that they are never going to forget the horrible three years of Sherlock’s death. Sherlock will wear those years always.

John steps in and curls his left hand around Sherlock’s shoulder. His other arm slips around Sherlock’s waist, and he presses his forehead into Sherlock’s back. He’s seen it now; he knows a little something more about what happened to Sherlock while he was dead, and it hurts, but he’s glad. Sherlock seems a little more real, with all his flaws and his scars and his nakedness on display. “I’m sorry,” John says, his lips against Sherlock’s skin.

Sherlock doesn’t turn around, doesn’t return the embrace, but he relaxes into John’s arms, he lets John hold him. John holds the reality of his skin and what’s written on it, and what it contains. They will never let go of those three years, but Sherlock is not dead (not dead, John’s mind echoes). He has many more years still to write new stories, years for John and others to mark his body in new ways.

John presses his face to Sherlock’s skin and, just barely, he smiles.


Kissing the stomach
kissing your scarred
skin boat. History
is what you’ve travelled on
and take with you

Date: 2011-12-31 06:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] exbex.livejournal.com
Love This. The sorrow and the tentative hopefulness are just beautifully woven in here.

Date: 2011-12-31 10:46 am (UTC)
ext_93592: from astronomy pic of the day (Default)
From: [identity profile] tetsubinatu.livejournal.com

Date: 2011-12-31 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lbmisscharlie.livejournal.com
This is really lovely. The moment when John has to remind himself that Sherlock's been out there, living, and hasn't actually missed what has been happening in the world is particularly poignant.

Date: 2012-01-01 11:47 pm (UTC)
innie_darling: (lit from within)
From: [personal profile] innie_darling
Oh, gorgeous.

Date: 2012-01-04 01:19 am (UTC)
cyanne: (Sherlock & John)
From: [personal profile] cyanne
This is lovely. You really made me feel for both of them.

Date: 2012-02-07 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] exsequar.livejournal.com
How beautiful! Your writing style is so exquisite, I find myself holding my breath. This is such a unique and lovely way for the two of them to reconnect, to try to bridge those impossible, terrible years. Really lovely.


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May 2013

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