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Title: Damage/Repair
Pairing: Sherlock/John (unrequited)
Rating: Explicit
Word Count: 1,283
Genre: sci-fi, robot!John AU, angst


John’s shoulder is full of torn wires bleeding out their copper insides. Shredded metal twists around his gears.

John gets shot in Sherlock’s place.  They are on a case, hiding in a warehouse, when Sherlock looks down  and sees a bright red dot hovering against his chest.

John pushes him out of the way.  The bullet goes clean through his left shoulder.  His arm stops responding.

The shooter is caught by the end of the night, and Sherlock doesn’t have an explanation as to why the man’s nose is broken, or why he is missing two teeth.  Lestrade looks at the blood on Sherlock’s knuckles, and doesn’t ask again.

Sherlock kneels down next to John, his fingers pressing at the ragged tear in John’s synthflesh.  John’s eyes have gone dim.  When Sherlock pokes a finger into the bullet hole, John’s irises flicker, but he doesn’t come back online.  Sherlock’s jaw sets.


Sherlock thinks he can fix John.  He carries him down to the workshop in the basement and turns on all the lights.  He takes out a screwdriver and a wrench and a box filled with hardware.  He cuts away John’s skin and pries off his shoulder plate with his fingers.  John’s shoulder is full of torn wires bleeding out their copper insides.  Shredded metal twists around his gears.

Sherlock replaces the wiring that connects to John’s central AI unit, and John comes back online.  His eyes flicker to animatronic life.

John turns his head, but it makes a scraping sound.  Sherlock continues working.

“You do not have the parts required for full repair,” John says, watching.  “I took inventory on Saturday at 17:00, as ordered.”

Sherlock closes his eyes.  “I didn’t order you.  Delete that word.”

John’s chest whirrs, then makes a clicking sound.


Sherlock smiles.


The wires are replaced and connected, but John’s arm still won’t respond to stimulus.  Sherlock peels away a corner of the synthflesh on John’s chest.  He presses a button to dislodge the chest plate.  Underneath, John is full of rotating gears and lights like blinking stars.

“It is inadvisable to continue,” John says.

“I need to know why you won’t work.”

Sherlock keeps peeling until he can see bits of debris caught in the motors of John’s chest cavity.  He feels the swelling pride of success.

“I need to turn you off,” he says.  He looks into John’s eyes as if asking for permission  “I just need to reach my hand inside for a moment.”

John doesn’t display an expression.  Sherlock strokes John’s cheek once, then flips the power switch.


The debris is successfully removed.  John’s arm comes back to life.  Sherlock stitches the synthflesh into place and applies the growth hormone that will encourage it to knit back together.

“This repair will not last,” John says.  “Without gear replacement, my parts will erode after two weeks of use.”

Sherlock puts his fingers to John’s mouth.  He presses John’s lips closed, but without an order, John doesn’t understand.

“I will not last for the entirety of my designated lifetime without proper care,” he says.

Sherlock frowns.  “I care for you.”

“Incorrect.  Proper care for synthetics involves regular professional-grade repair.”

Sherlock imagines someone else prying John open.  Knowing the colours of John’s wires and the rhythms of his lights.  He turns away.


John’s arm is serviceable, for a time.  He is able to cook and tidy in the flat.  He is able to help Sherlock with experiments and on cases.  He is able to hold Sherlock’s hand when Sherlock asks.

Nonetheless, Sherlock can tell that something is wrong.

“My arm is currently operating at only 10% efficiency,” John warns one day.

Sherlock ignores him.


Sherlock is having breakfast the next morning when John drops a mug of tea.  It falls with a thud.  Brown honeyed liquid seeps into the rug.

John’s arm has gone limp.  His eyes flicker.  He makes a series of clicking noises, then his arm twitches against his side.  He lifts it back up again.

“5% efficiency,” he says.  He cleans up the spill.


It's three days later when Sherlock makes up his mind.  They are sitting on the sofa, watching telly.  Sherlock leans against John’s side.

“Put your hand in my hair,” he says.

There is a pause.

“My arm is unresponsive.”

Sherlock scowls.  He gets up and moves to John’s other side.  Sherlock doesn’t care about the telly anymore.  He closes his eyes as he feels John’s fingers slide against his scalp.


The repair shop is just down the street from their flat.  The man sitting behind the desk has his feet propped on a table.  He doesn’t look up—just keeps staring at the television screen in front of him.

Sherlock sets John on the desk.  “Fix him,” he says.

The man snaps peppermint gum between his teeth.  “You take out the memory chip?” he asks.  He glances away from the football game for long enough to see John’s mangled shoulder plate.  “Can’t do a thing legally ‘til you take out the chip.  Privacy laws.”

Sherlock looks down at John’s blank eyes, the irises now a cool blue-grey.  The man points.

“It’s in the—”

“I know where it is,” Sherlock spits.  The man raises his eyebrows.  He snaps another bubble.

When he turns away again, Sherlock lifts John’s head, gently.  He flicks the switch behind John’s ear and types his access code into the screen that appears on the back of his neck.  A tiny hatch flips open, and the blinking standby lights begin to dim.  When they go dark, the memory card pops out.  Sherlock takes it between his fingers.  He looks again at John’s face.  John’s eyes seem somehow dimmer.

“Just the shoulder?”  The man asks.  He puts his feet down and peers over at John.  “How the hell’d you get a bullet hole in him?”

Sherlock doesn’t answer.  He pulls out his wallet and pays the required portion up front.  He squeezes John’s hand once before the man at the desk takes him away.

“You can pick him up after 18:00 tomorrow.”

Sherlock nods.  He swallows against a knot in his throat, and walks out the door.

John’s memory card fits perfectly in his palm.


When he brings John home, the first thing he does is slide the card back into place.  He turns on the power switch, and John’s eyes light up.

“Better?” Sherlock asks, smiling.

John blinks.  “Would you like me to compare diagnostics?”

“No, that’s alright.”

John looks down at his arm.  He raises it above his head, then drops it back down.  He rolls his shoulder, then reaches forward and back.  He swings his arm in a circle.

“Good,” Sherlock says.  “Come over to the sofa with me.”


That night is unusually quiet and dark.  They have been sharing a bed for five weeks, and they lie together now, Sherlock pressing his face to John’s side to feel the hum of energy beneath his cheek.

“Why did you do it?” Sherlock asks.  “Why did you take that bullet for me?”

Something whirs in John’s chest.

“The first law of robotics states that a robot may not injure a human being, nor, by inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

Sherlock purses his lips.  “Is that really the reason?”

“I am programmed to tell the truth.”

“You are also programmed to protect me.”


“That’s really the reason, then?  The only two reasons?  Your programming and your law?”


Sherlock swallows.  Closes his eyes.

“Sleep, John,” he says.  Then, louder— “Hibernate.”

John’s humming gets faster, then stops altogether.  Sherlock opens his eyes.  Presses his lips to John’s side.  Pretends that John smells of sweat and pheromones.

“You are a machine,” Sherlock whispers.  “You are a machine.  You are a machine.”

It is a mantra.  It is his reminder.


Date: 2013-06-03 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*wibbles* I can't decide whether to be delighted or heartbroken by this story. Poor Sherlock, trying to treat John like a person and unable to reconcile his feelings with the fact that John is 'just' a machine.

Date: 2013-06-04 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It broke my heart to write it, honestly. Sherlock's loneliness just tears me up inside.

Thank you for commenting! :3


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September 2013

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