(December 18th, 2010)
Sherlock stirred in the middle of the night at a soft sound and sighed, burrowing his face into his pillow, letting himself drift back to sleep. It was rare that he felt so tired – he'd trained himself to go on less sleep than most people, and had naturally required less most of his life anyway, except possibly in infancy, which he didn't remember – but for the past six weeks, and he and John had been wearing each other out quite thoroughly.
He smiled a sleepy smile and snuggled further under the duvet.
There was no one quite like John.
Sherlock's only other long-term partner, Charles, had been utterly different. Not least because, despite being lovers for a year and a half, they'd been nothing more than sexual partners. They had sometimes gone weeks without seeing one another and those days would slide past without being noticed or remarked upon. He'd appreciated Charles, of course, who had been a year or so older than him and French and more experienced. Sherlock had by no means been naïve by that point, but a handful of teenage dalliances, while enthusiastic, had not been exceptionally sophisticated.
And there had been other people since Charles had gone back to France without fuss or even really a farewell, but only one night here or there, and Sherlock had always made a deliberate point of observing each man carefully beforehand, assessing, very accurately, if they seemed the type to take unnecessary risks, to have contracted something after refusing to take proper precautions, if they gave any indication that they would ignore any possible symptoms rather than seek treatment. In short, if they were idiots. He'd walked away from more than one potential interlude because of that possibility. He was not about to put himself at risk for a brief encounter, because it was unnecessary and he hadn't pursued these because he needed them, but because he'd wanted them. After all, he was perfectly capable of looking after his own needs, if required.
He smiled again, still half asleep, ignoring the small noises John was making – dreaming, probably. They washed over Sherlock innocently and he let them slide past.
John was fascinating, unique, astonishing, perfect.
Sherlock had occasionally wondered, academically, what the fascination was with falling in love with another person, if only because so many other people seemed to invested in it that he'd deduced it held some sort of appeal.
Now he knew.
And he remembered the expression on John's face, that absolutely shock and amazement and astonished joy when Sherlock had first mentioned that he loved John, which had taken him by surprise – John's reaction, not the words – because surely he'd known?
But hearing them said back had settled something in Sherlock, something he hadn't known he'd been waiting for.
And there were so many other benefits! Astounding, really.
For one thing, Mycroft had no more cameras or bugs in the flat. Sherlock's sex-in-every-room stratagem had paid off, in more ways than one. He smiled a sleepy evil smile at the thought of Mycroft panicking and having all the listening devices removed. His brother may be a lot of things, but he probably wasn't a voyeur. At least when it came to his family's sexual activities. Some things were best left not even to the imagination.
John made another noise and Sherlock's eyes fluttered and he sighed, shifting his hand onto John's stomach, pushing the t-shirt out of the way slightly, absently rubbing his partner's abdomen, feeling the sensation of skin and defined muscle against his palm and fingers. He felt the muscles twitch and gave a smile, which then faded fast, because the involuntary movements seemed a bit too tense.
John shifted, not away or toward Sherlock, but almost twisting, and made another noise.
Not the happy type of moan he was used to hearing from John now.
Sherlock blinked himself awake and heard John breathing, too hard and too heavy to be normal for sleep. He blinked again, trying to get his pupils to dilate more quickly in the near-darkness, and John moaned, arching his back and Sherlock saw a vague movement, John's head shifting against his pillows, shaking once, left to right.
He had his left arm up, bent at the elbow so that his upper arm rested on the mattress between them, and was now pulling his head to the right, shifting his legs restlessly beneath the sheets and the duvet, having half-dislodged the blankets from his body.
"John?" Sherlock whispered, shaking the last vestiges of sleep from his voice.
John gave a sound that was halfway between a groan and a whimper and the uncomfortable combination of these made Sherlock push himself onto his right forearm, straining to see in the darkness, urging his eyes to adjust more quickly. The muscles in John's neck were working, his jaw clenched, his eyes screwed shut.
"John!" Sherlock whispered, rather more urgently. He moved his hand from John's stomach, up his partner's chest, lightly, and John tried to pull away from him, making a pained "uhnh" sound.
Blast! Sherlock thought, tossing aside the covers, realizing what was going on. This wasn't a dream, or not entirely. He hurried into the bathroom and flicked on the light, wincing against the sudden brightness but not slowing down, pulling open the medicine cabinet and shuffling through it. He came up with an empty box of thermal patches and cursed, the crouched down and looked in the cupboards under the sink, but the only patches in there were his own nicotine patches. He stood again, scanning the medicine cabinet for something stronger than ibuprofen, but they had nothing – John hated taking strong painkillers for shoulder and Sherlock had no reason to need them. He snagged the ibuprofen bottle and filled a glass of water, then hurried back into the bedroom, setting both of these things on his bedside table before climbing back onto the bed.
John was still straining against himself, against the pain, in his sleep. Sherlock wondered if it was better than his partner hadn't woken, but he would, soon, if this kept up. Sherlock set his own jaw, disliking what he had to do, but John had told him this worked best.
He shifted himself so he was sitting cross-legged, a more stable position, and closed both of his hands over John's left shoulder.
John awoke with a shout and tried instinctively to get away but Sherlock held fast.
John hollered, not anything with real words, not anything directed at Sherlock, and fell back, gasping for breath, eyes wide in the semi-darkness, trying to figure out what was going on.
Sherlock tightened his grip slowly, easing John into it. The doctor moaned, shaking his head, his right hand reaching over to grasp one of Sherlock's wrists lightly, ineffectively.
"Stop, stop," he pled, his voice laced with pain and remnants of sleep. "Oh, God, Sherlock, that hurts!"
"I know," Sherlock muttered, clenching his teeth against his instinctive reaction to draw back, to not cause John pain, and tightened his grip more. John cried out, shifting his legs, trying to push himself away. "Hold still! Do your counted breathing!"
John twisted his head away, still fighting, and Sherlock wondered what else he was fighting, if it was just the pain.
The weather was probably responsible for aggravating the injury, he thought dimly. They'd been predicting a major snowstorm, and the light around the edges of the curtains was somewhat brighter and yet duller, indicating a low-hanging sky and falling snow.
He leant forward as much as he could.
"John, stop it," he said gently. "If I let go, it will be worse. Breathe."
John turned his head toward Sherlock, teeth clenched, breathing hard, unproductively.
"Nngh…" he moaned, shaking his head, but keeping his eyes on Sherlock.
"I know," Sherlock said. "You're out of thermal patches, I'm sorry. And we're getting a blizzard."
John blinked and Sherlock tightened his grip again, minutely, judging that he was holding as tightly as he could to offset the pain without creating more. John screwed his eyes shut, sucking in a deep, ragged breath, and Sherlock listened with concern, but John held it as long as he could, then hissed it out slowly between clenched teeth.
"Good," Sherlock said, nodding encouragingly. "Good."
He wondered why this storm had caused a worse flare-up than normal, but the reactions of old injuries never had to make sense. How irritating that these could command control over the mind, the body, when it should be the other way around.
"White Christmas," John gasped, jaw still locked shut, lips barely moving.
"Possibly," Sherlock agreed. This seemed irrelevant, but was probably a mental displacement activity.
"Always liked those," John hissed. He kept his right hand wrapped around Sherlock's left wrist, moaning when he dropped his left hand onto the mattress. Sherlock shifted his sitting position somewhat but keeping his grip steady.
John breathed in slowly, with effort, Sherlock could tell, then exhaled again. Sherlock adjusted his own breathing to keep time with John's, nodding again. John locked his eyes with Sherlock's, both of them more visible to one another now that their vision had adjusted to the low lighting.
By degrees, John began to relax, but not nearly enough, and Sherlock could feel the jump and pulse of muscle and the shift of scar tissue under his fingers in the old wound. More often than not, John's exhales were hisses, and a small moan slipped out now and then, making the doctor arch and shift uncomfortably. Sherlock felt his hands and shoulders begin to go numb from holding the same tensed position for so long, but ignored this as irrelevant. He counted his breath along with John's, to make sure his partner was keeping even inhalations and exhalations, and then gradually was able to decrease the pressure his right hand was exerting.
"I have ibuprofen and water," Sherlock said reaching behind him, twisting somewhat, but ensuring that his left hand stayed on John's shoulder, pressing just as hard as it had been. He snagged the bottle and propped it on John's stomach, holding it tightly. This position meant his right arm was snaked underneath his left, stretched uncomfortably across his body, but he ignored his. John worked the cap off with his right hand and Sherlock tapped three pills into John's palm. He put the bottle aside and passed John the glass of water. John popped the pills into his mouth and then took the water, downing it in one large gulp.
Sherlock put the glass aside again and returned his right hand to John's shoulder.
They stayed that way for some time, until John began to relax somewhat more convincingly. Sherlock had him sit up, slowly, and removed the t-shirt, carefully, but still eliciting groans and winces.
He set to massaging John's shoulder, very cautiously, very lightly, knowing it would help, because he was not a stranger to this even after only six weeks, although it had never been quite this bad. Usually, if anything, it was just achy when Sherlock did this, and sometimes it didn't bother John at all, and those massage sessions usually turned into something else quite quickly.
That wasn't about to happen now – he knew with this level of pain, John wouldn't enjoy shagging, and Sherlock wasn't interested in causing real pain. He paused in his ministrations, though, moving his hands gently to kiss John's shoulder where the scar was, only lightly.
Their first night together, he'd kissed and licked the scar carefully, and John had moaned in appreciation, and later told Sherlock that no one had ever done that, no one had elicited desire from touching his old wound. That Sherlock was the only person who seemed unafraid of it.
He went back to massaging it until John's head dropped forward and he began to nod off. Sherlock let go of his shoulder with one hand, wrapping his arm around John's torso, keeping him from falling forward. John raised his head and made a sleepy sound and Sherlock lay him down, very carefully on his back. John hissed and winced, but it had none of the urgency or potency it had had earlier, and he settled his head onto his pillow with a sigh, looking up at Sherlock.
Sherlock stretched out beside him, on his right side, and closed his left hand over John's shoulder again, more lightly this time. John sighed again, then raised his head, turning it slightly toward Sherlock, who leant in for a kiss, their lips moving gently together. He could feel the buried desire in John for something more, and felt it reflected in himself, but it wasn't going to happen, not just then.
"Go back to sleep," Sherlock whispered. "It will help. You'll feel better in the morning."
John managed a tired smile and a nod, his eyes drifting shut. He lowered his head again, turning his face slightly toward Sherlock's hand, and gradually fell asleep, his breathing evening out and deepening. Sherlock kept his hand where it was, kept the pressure constant, until John was fully asleep.
Then he slowly and carefully let go, eyes on John's face, watching for any hints of returning pain or discomfort. There was a flash of distaste across John's sleeping features, but probably at the loss of contact rather than from pain. Sherlock wrapped his arm around John's waist, feeling a gentle tingling in his shoulder at the welcome change of position, and saw John's expression settle again. He kissed his partner's neck lightly, then his jaw, then his ear, before settling down and closing his own eyes, waiting for sleep to reclaim him as well.