The hands of a murderer aren’t really that different from anyone else’s hands. John stares down at Sherlock, head cracked open and bloodied, and wills himself not to shake. His fingernails bite sanguine crescents into his palms.
He is seventeen when he first kills someone. She is not his first girlfriend, but the first person he’s ever truly been in love with. Afterwards, he stumbles outside and promptly vomits in her bushes. He sits on her front steps and wipes his mouth with a trembling hand. When he notices, he balls his hands into fists and sprints home. He runs his hands under burning hot water in his kitchen sink and scrubs so hard he breaks the skin. Their blood mixes together in the porcelain basin before disappearing down the drain. The sink remains tinged a faint pink after that. If anyone else in his family notices, they don’t comment on it.
He is twenty-three when he kills again. This time it’s a boy in a bar who whispers silver promises into his ears and slips wandering fingers down the front of his trousers. They’re in a bathroom stall and John moans brokenly, something thick and choking blooming in his chest and the next thing he knows, the boy is slumped over the toilet and there is blood on the boy’s throat and the back of his head and the only sound in the eerie quiet of the bathroom is the soft drip drip drip of his blood running out of his hair onto the floor. John looks down at his hands and they’re bloody too, as well as his shirt and his trousers and he tears out of there as fast as he can and slips into his parents’ house and shoves his bloodied clothes deep in the bottom of the rubbish bin and turns on the shower and stands there shivering until the water runs clean again.
He figures it out when he almost kills his sister. Harriet Watson is three years older and twice as reckless. They’re in her living room, him slumped on the couch, her sprawled out in an armchair. She taunts him with a bottle, half-drunk and delirious. “Aw, baby brother, still heartbroken over that last girl you fucked and dumped? God, you have to stop getting attached so easily.”
John glares at her and she grins, tipping the bottle back and swallowing half of it in one go.
“Or are you still torn up over that bloke? You know, the one you found dead in that bar last month? He was pre-tty hot, right?” She wiggles her eyebrows at him and takes another swig from her beer.
John freezes, clenching his fingers around his thigh as he stares at her, panicked. Oh God she knows how can she know I was so careful how did she find out that I—
“Hey,” she says, sobering as she catches the look on his face. “You know it’s totally fine with me, right? I’ve been with Clara for three years already!” She grins again, and he exhales shakily with relief. Good. She doesn’t know. “Anyways,” she continues, “it’s not your fault. Anyone could’ve OD’d in that bar that night, and that night, it happened to be him.” She takes another sip of beer and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “And you happened to find him.” She smirks at him and rolls her eyes. “Come on, it’s not like you fucked him to death.” She laughs at the idea, hiccupping a little and spilling beer down the front of her shirt. “I mean, can you imagine fucking someone to death? Like actually fucking until one or both of you drops—”
John snatches the bottle out of her hands and holds it out of her reach.
“Alright, that’s enough,” he growls. “Time to get you to bed.” Harry pouts up at him and he glares at her, grabbing her arms and frog-marching her down the hall to her bedroom. He tucks her into bed and she smiles sleepily at him.
“Thanks little bro. You know I love you, right?” His lips curve up at her admonition and a wave of affection washes through him.
“I love you too,” he whispers and Harry’s struggling for air, fingers scratching at John’s hands around her neck as he squeezes tighter and tighter and he doesn’t know what made him look up but he locks eyes with Harry’s terrified gaze and he’s out the door before he knows it, running as fast as he can, harsh breaths tearing through his lungs. He stops when his legs can’t hold him anymore and he sits on the curb. He runs his shaking hands through his hair, gasping out half-sobs into the still night air.
He enlists the next day and leaves without saying goodbye.