“Sherlock,” John spoke curtly, “I won’t repeat myself.”
“Then don’t,” Sherlock’s reply came with less bite than usual as he ran his bleeding arm under the kitchen faucet.
Fine, John thought, I won’t. He strode over to Sherlock and gripped him by his shoulders, spinning him quickly and splashing water and surely blood all over the floor.
“What are you-John!” Sherlock complained as he was shoved less than gently down into a kitchen chair.
“Sit still, elevate your arm, and keep your mouth shut,” John commanded and Sherlock’s spine stiffened as he held his injured arm up in the air with a pained wince. Blood dripped steadily onto the floor. Before leaving the room for the first aid kit, John pressed a clean flannel against the wound and put Sherlock’s other hand on top to stop the bleeding, drawing a second hiss from the younger man.
Allowing himself a moment’s deep breath while retrieving his kit, John was calm, sure, and in complete control when he swept back into the kitchen. Having gotten a good look at the wound, he really wished he had some lidocaine and made a mental note to bring some home from the surgery tomorrow. When he entered the kitchen the sight before him pulled a lump into his throat. Sherlock was holding his arm close to his body and his shoulders had slumped. He looked pale, and young. Painfully young. His eyes were unfocused and he was tapping a foot incessantly. He looked like any number of the nervous children that John saw on any given day at the surgery. When he noticed John he stiffened again and held his arm out obediently.
John wanted to tell Sherlock relax, don’t worry, I won’t hurt you, I just want to take care of you, you stupid git. But he bit his tongue, and instead schooled his features into the soft lines and gentle eyes that soothed his patients all day. Sherlock, however, it only made suspicious. John gently moved his hand away and lifted the flannel. There was still some gravel along the edges of the jagged wound, and John was on the fence as to whether it needed stitches. It wrapped about three inches around his forearm. He had gotten caught on a fence and landed in the dirt evading god knows who. That was all he offered John when he had flown into the apartment and straight to the sink.
“I’ll clean it out first now that the bleeding has mostly stopped, and then we’ll see if you need stitches, all right?” John said, keeping his hand wrapped gently around Sherlock’s wrists.
Sherlock nodded once tightly, and John saw his Adam’s apple bob with an unbidden gulp. Why it was so easy for Sherlock to hurt himself and tend haphazardly to wounds that would certainly only hurt more days later instead of letting John take care of them like the professional he was, boggled John’s mind. John knelt at Sherlock’s feet.
“When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?” John said as he began flooding the wound with saline solution.
Sherlock tensed and grit his teeth. He was staring at John’s hands as the blood drained from his face, and he became impossibly paler.
“Sherlock?” John said squeezing his wrist gently.
Sherlock looked fleetingly at John’s face, but couldn’t hold his eyes.
“Do you know when your last tetanus shot was?”
Sherlock shook his head in lieu of speaking. John dug into his first aid kit and extracted some gauze, alcohol, and tape. He dried the wound as gently as he could with the gauze. John couldn’t tell for sure, but he thought he felt a slight tremor in Sherlock’s arm. Every bit of him wanted to take a break, to soothe Sherlock, to speak gently at him. He feared that Sherlock would become indignant and storm off to bleed alone in his bedroom. Against his better judgment he spoke.
“Do you…should I…Sherlock, what’s going on here?” John said, still holding Sherlock’s wrist.
Sherlock stiffened and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. His bottom lip trembled and feeling this he clamped his mouth shut. John jumped as his phone vibrated in his pocket.
Giving Sherlock a puzzled look he stood and checked his phone.
He’s been afraid of doctors since he dislocated his shoulder at age 7. His last tetanus shot was over two years ago. –MH
With a sigh, John turned back to Sherlock who had pulled his arm close to him again. The tapping foot had returned. He looked as though he were ready to bolt for the exits.
“Well, Mycroft has cameras in here,” John said glancing around haphazardly.
Sherlock’s eyes lit up in anger and he stood up too fast for his own good. Swaying, John was at his elbow, but Sherlock pushed away and climbed on top of one of the counters after quickly scanning the room. He pulled a tiny camera from the corner above the fridge and tore the cord out of the wall.
“Arrogant sod,” he said jumping down.
“Right,” John said, “Sit down before you pass out and let’s get on with it, shall we?”
Energized from his anger Sherlock tried, “It’s fine, really, John, I can take it from here.”
“Nice try, sit down. Just because you’re frightened by doctors doesn’t mean I’m going to let you bleed out in your bedroom.”
“You don’t frighten me.”
That wasn’t entirely a denial. John supposed Sherlock had meant to sound fierce in his indignance, but he only sounded pleading.
“I’ll give you something to be frightened of if you don’t let me take care of you when you’re hurt,” John said flicking Sherlock’s ear.
Sherlock startled and a brief but surprised look crossed his face, at which John was very proud. Cocking his head with a schooled look of nonchalance, Sherlock presented his arm again. John turned it over gently and examined the wound closely.
“It’s good that it stopped bleeding, but I’m leaning towards stitches. With all the chemicals you encounter on any given day, I just..I wouldn’t want it to get infected,” he was speaking quietly, thoughtfully as he ran his thumb along the edge of the wound gently.
“No stitches, thank you,” Sherlock said with finality.
“That’s interesting, you seem to think you will be the one making this decision,” John said, drawing his commanding tone to the forefront.
“John,” Sherlock’s tone was openly pleading at this point.
“Listen,” John put his free hand on Sherlock’s knee, drawing Sherlock’s eye to it, “I think we can close it up with four, maybe five stitches. It will take less than five minutes and save you a world of pain if this thing gets infected, which it absolutely will unless you can shelve your experiments and cases for a week or two at least.”
At that Sherlock scoffed, of course it wasn’t an option.
“Right then, I’ll get us a cab and we’ll go to –“
“What? Absolutely not, do it yourself,” Sherlock demanded.
“I haven’t got a kit here, Sherlock,” John explained.
“What did you do in Afghanistan?”
John was taken aback, “That’s…highly inappropriate. We are not at war. There is an A&E ten minutes away and we’ll-“
“I’ll only let you do it,” Sherlock said very quietly and added with more confidence, “Text Mycroft what you need. It’ll be here faster than we can get a cab.”
John sighed and put his forehead in a hand before taking his phone from his pocket and texting Mycroft.
“Haven’t you had stitches before? You get into an awful lot of trouble,” John commented conversationally as he put the kettle on.
Sherlock hesitated, but then said, “I always have to be sedated. It’s been a while. I have a few scars that probably could have afforded stitches. And it’s not a fear, it’s an aversion. I’m not afraid of anything.”
John scoffed at that.
Indignant, but unable to cross his arms, Sherlock could only pout, “Have we got anything stronger than tea?”
John gave him a look before taking a bottle of bourbon down from the top shelf and pouring out two conservative shots.
“So, tell me then, while we wait for your brother.”
“Tell you what?” Sherlock asked, even thought he knew the answer.
“Why are you afra-Why are you averse to doctors?”
“I dislocated my arm as a child and the doctors were…stupid.”
“That’s it then? The doctors were stupid. You know I could always just ask Mycroft,” John said with a smirk.
Sherlock somehow pouted even harder, “They didn’t tell me what was going on, I had no idea what they were doing, and, and it hurt. That’s no way to handle a child. They relocated my arm even though…” he trailed off.
“Even though, what?”
Sherlock swallowed down his bourbon and added quietly, “Even though I asked them to wait for Mycroft to arrive.”
John didn’t know if the pink in Sherlock’s cheeks was from the bourbon or the admission that he wanted his big brother with him for comfort. John’s pitying look made Sherlock wave his hand dismissively and speak quickly and with finality.
“They just started jabbing at me and talking to each other while one idiot nurse cooed at me. They could have told me what they were doing. They put me in a room by myself and the nurse distracted me with her incessant petting while they stabbed me with a needle. I spent an hour…,” Sherlock shook his head and John assumed “crying”, “before Mycroft arrived.”
“I’m sure they were just treating you like they would any child. How were they to know you were a tiny genius?” John offered pouring them each another drink.
Before Sherlock could comment the doorbell rang and John padded down the stairs. A suited gentleman handed John a small black duffle bag with a nod and walked away. John unzipped it to see everything he asked for and a sealed envelope on top. He brought everything upstairs and plunked it onto the table. John was no deductive genius, but the bourbon bottle was significantly lower than when he left. He opened the envelope and read to himself as Sherlock looked on anxiously, resisting the urge to snatch it from John.
Dr. Watson, thank you for tending to my baby brother. Do take care not to get yourself hurt in the process. He does flail a bit.
P.S. Should he panic, and he will deny it, full body contact helps.
John’s eyes widened a bit at the end, and Sherlock didn’t resist the urge, grabbing the letter from John’s hand and scanning it quickly. John just ignored him and began unpacking the supplies, reading the labels on the viles and ensuring the syringes were in sealed packages.
“I haven’t flailed since I was seven and it would be in your best interested to keep your full body to yourself,” he said through grit teeth as he crumpled the letter in his good hand.
John only chuckled as he loaded one of the syringes. Catching this motion out of the corner of his eye drew Sherlock’s attention and he reeled a moment, steadying himself with a hand on the table. John noticed and put the syringe down. Sherlock had reached a tipping point. Before John could offer a soothing word, Sherlock was on his feet and storming towards his bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind him. John sighed and continued to prepare his materials. Three shots of the numbing agent would be plenty.
“Sherlock? Open the door, please,” John tried with a soft knock.
There was no reply.
“Sherlock Holmes, if you don’t want me to treat you like a child then you’d better start acting like an adult,” John tried to keep his voice commanding.
He waited a moment before setting his items on the table and backing up two feet. He used his strong upper body to throw his shoulder into the door sending it flying open and breaking the lock off the molding. Sherlock was sitting on his bed in much the same manner as he had been in the kitchen, looking small and pained.
“I hate that I hate this so much,” he muttered as acknowledgment for John’s entrance, unfazed by the drama of it.
John winced and rubbed his shoulder as he retrieved his equipment.
“Don’t over think it. I’ll spend ten minutes taking care of you and then it’ll be over. We’ll watch crap telly or something,” John said laying the materials on the edge of the bed, “Will you lie down?”
Sherlock did as he was asked as John rolled out a sterile cloth for him to rest his arm on.
“First, I’ll give you three injections to numb the area. You shouldn’t feel anything after that. Sometimes there is a tugging or pressure feeling when the stitches go in, but I’m an expert and you won’t feel a thing,” John said with a smile.
Sherlock put his uninjured arm over his eyes and clenched his fist.
“Relax, Sherlock,” John said and rubbed Sherlock’s forearm before gently moving it down onto his chest to uncover his eyes, “Look at me.”
“Don’t coddle me, John, just get on with it,” Sherlock said spitefully as he opened his eyes to glare at John. They were damp and desperate.
“I was just going to say, that this will sting. I didn’t want you to be surprised,” John said and Sherlock softened a bit.
“Here we go,” he wiped the area surrounding the wound with an alcohol swab and counted down, “One, two..three.”
Sherlock tensed and bit his lip on the first injection but, to his credit, didn’t flail. His chest was rising and falling rapidly and John really hoped he didn’t have a panic attack. He just wanted to get this over quickly for Sherlock’s sake. His eyes had fallen shut again and his good arm wrapped across his chest as though trying to keep his heart from leaping out.
“Next one, here,” John tapped gently at his arm, “One, two..three.”
This one drew a shudder and what John could only describe as a whimper from Sherlock’s body. Sherlock’s breathing was irregular and John set the needle aside to wrap his hand around Sherlock’s wrist and measure his pulse.
“All right, you have to relax, Sherlock. We are almost through the hardest part. “
“I…can’t..breath. This is…irra…tional. Sod all,” he croaked out with his eyes still closed.
John’s quick assessment identified Sherlock as beginning to panic; as Sherlock would add, obviously. Had Mycroft been serious about full body contact? John could not picture himself climbing into bed with a panicked and injured Sherlock without incurring a black eye. As it was, the man only tolerated John’s casual touches on a daily basis. He certainly hadn’t gone so far as to hug the man.
“Open your eyes and look at me,” John said firmly.
Sherlock’s eyes snapped open almost against his will.
“You are fine,” John commanded, “You’re right. It is irrational to panic. We are so close to being finished, and I am not going to trick you or surprise you. You just have to breathe through it a little longer. I can’t imagine what you would be like at a hospital, if you’re like this at my hands,” he tried to offer lightly.
“I’m a terror,” Sherlock said trying to even out his breathing, eyes squeezed shut tight again.
A wave of sympathy washed over John. The great Sherlock Holmes had a weakness after all. Absent mindedly he reached out and ran his fingers through Sherlock’s curls. Sherlock inhaled deeply and almost instantly relaxed. John did it a second and a third time, until Sherlock was melting into the bed, his cheeks flushed rosy. John’s cheeks flushed as well, but for different reasons which he tried very hard to push out of his head.
“All right, tough guy, last one,” John said ruffling Sherlock’s hair.
“John,” Sherlock breathed out his name.
“Don’t fret, love,” John ran his fingers through Sherlock’s hair again before he realized what he had just said.
Sherlock seemed unfazed and again melted a bit more into the bed, breathing deeply.
“Do it,” he said quietly.
John hated to have to, but he dislodged his fingers from Sherlock’s curls and held his arm steady to inject the last bit of lidocaine, “One, two…three.”
Sherlock’s breathe stuttered and he bit his lip, but John’s hand was instantly back soothing him with his fingers threading through the curls.
“Brilliant, you did brilliantly,” he muttered feeling a strange flutter in his stomach, “Tell me about Mycroft. When he was younger.”
Sherlock scoffed, “He was much the same as he is now, except fatter and shorter. He started ironing his uniforms at age 6, or so he tells me. He did manipulate his power a bit to keep bullies at bay, so I do owe him that, not that I ever needed or asked for his help.”
“You got bullied a bit, did ya? I wonder why,” John asked playfully as he worked.
Sherlock opened his eyes to glare at John briefly before offering, “Well, at least I didn’t have braces and a stutter. Must have been hell for you.”
John paused and shook his head, of course Sherlock had deduced as much about John’s childhood. The signs were probably very obvious.
“It wasn’t easy, but I did play football. And in case you forgot, I became a soldier.”
“Doctor,” Sherlock corrected.
John put down his tools a moment to flick Sherlock’s ear again playfully.
“Ow. Some doctor,” Sherlock was far more at ease now and John was nearly done with the stitches, “Who’s the bully now?”
With a smirk, John bandaged Sherlock's arm and then indulgently ran his fingers through Sherlock's hair one final time, drawing a grateful smile from the genius before him.