“What time did you get in last night?”
“You’re still dressed, you know.”
“And mumbling into my pillow.”
“Are you gonna start giving me anything more than monosyllabic answers?”
“Right. Let you sleep then, shall I?”
John hid his smile behind his cup as he looked up from his laptop to see a disheveled Lestrade wander into the kitchen, squinting against the harsh fluorescent light.
“Morning,” he murmured, scrubbing at his eyes and making for the coffee.
“Afternoon,” John returned, amused. Lestrade frowned.
“It’s one, now. You’ve been in bed since at least six; that’s when I woke up. What time did you get in last night?”
“I think - three?” Lestrade said distractedly, more concerned with finding a mug. He rummaged through the cupboards, and John would have helped except he was too amused by his lover’s disorientation. It wasn’t often he got to see Lestrade like this - actually, it was almost a nonexistent occurrence.
“Need help?” he said finally.
“No, I - Christ.” Lestrade glanced over his shoulder at John, and then around the kitchen as though he was truly seeing it for the first time. “I’m at Baker Street.”
Now it was John’s turned to be confused. “You didn’t know that?”
“I thought -” Lestrade scratched his head. “Honestly, I thought I was going back to my place last night.”
“Well, I was surprised to wake up with you in my bed. Not that it was unwelcome, mind.”
Lestrade shook his head and snorted. “I can’t believe - I must have been more out of it than I thought. Jesus.”
John got up from his seat and walked over to Lestrade, slipping his arms around the man’s waist from behind and resting his head against Lestrade’s shoulder. Lestrade leaned into the touch.
“I’m glad you came,” he murmured. “I’ve missed you.”
“Missed you, too,” Lestrade said softly. “It’s been hell, these past few days. This entire case, really.”
“I know.” John pressed his lips against the back of Lestrade’s neck. He hadn’t been as involved with this case as he usually was, what with it being flu season at the surgery, but it was one that even had Sherlock somewhat rattled. They were up to four young women murdered, as of three nights ago - all university age; all with so much promise. John couldn’t imagine what the case was doing to Lestrade, if even Sherlock was bothered by it.
Lestrade turned around and wrapped him in a loose hug, and John added, “I wish I could help.”
“You already do, Johnny,” Lestrade murmured, dropping a kiss on the top of his head.
John tilted his head up and captured Lestrade’s lips in a languid kiss. When they broke apart, Lestrade took John’s face in his hands and brushed his thumbs across the stubbled cheeks.
“Don’t deserve you, you know,” he said gruffly.
“Oh, shut it,” John muttered, drawing him in for another kiss. He could feel Lestrade stirring under his touch, waking further, and the kiss slowly grew from lazy to insistent. Lestrade’s hands drifted lower, dipping under John’s waistband, and he began to rock their hips together. John mentally counted back the days with what minuscule portion of his mind wasn’t focused on the feel of Lestrade’s stubble against his jaw or the thigh that pushed between his legs and realized that it’d been nearly two weeks since they’d last been here, wrapped in one another’s arms and thrumming with the slow burn of arousal. There hadn’t been time in recent days for much more than kisses stolen in corridors or meals eaten on the go.
Lestrade’s tongue skirted around the hollow of his throat, teasing, and John drew a ragged breath. “Greg.”
Lestrade’s mouth found his own again, and John’s lips parted under his, allowing him entrance. He pressed closer to Lestrade, wrapping his arms around the broad shoulders and digging his fingers into the short hair at the nape of his partner’s neck -
- but then suddenly Lestrade broke away, drawing sharp breaths through his nose, and pressed his forehead to John’s. His eyes were clamped shut, and John froze in confusion for a moment.
And then his mind registered, through the fog of arousal, that Lestrade was murmuring under his breath.
“Sorry...so sorry, John...”
“Don’t be,” John said as realization dawned, shifting so that Lestrade could bury his face in his shoulder. He tightened his grip on the man, feeling the pressure of Lestrade’s hardness against his thigh rapidly fade. This happened only very occasionally, and there was no telling really what crime would affect him or why. But sometimes the images were too much - broken bodies, dead children, victims getting younger all the time - and, while Lestrade was normally able to detach, sometimes there wasn’t a thing he could do about it and the horror of it all simply overwhelmed him.
“s’not supposed to happen. Not today,” Lestrade muttered into his shoulder, hands curling into fists in John’s shirt. “Dammit.”
“What makes you think,” John murmured into the silvering hair, “I want anything to do with a man who isn’t affected by all that you see?”
He nudged Lestrade until he lifted his face from his shoulder. The man looked stricken.
“It’s been two weeks...” Lestrade tried weakly.
“And it’s going to be a little longer. I can wait,” John said firmly. “You’re more important, and we’re not doing anything until you feel up to it again. Got it?”
Lestrade snorted and shook his head. “My day off, too. Who knows when I’ll get another. God, Johnny, I’m so -”
“No,” John said, cutting him off. “I won’t have you apologizing for this. Now, come on. Let’s get you some coffee.”
“Um...all right,” Lestrade said slowly, hesitantly, as John moved away, pulling out a clean mug from the cupboards and pouring him a cup. He pressed the mug into Lestrade’s hands and stood there, patient, waiting for the silence to break.
“He cut her throat,” Lestrade said finally. He held his mug but didn’t drink; John recognized the beginnings of nausea in his pallor and in the lines around his eyes. “And then gutted her. Same as the others. Christ, John, I’ve been living with this case for weeks. Why now?”
“I don’t know, love,” John said softly. “Sometimes that’s just the way it works. Sneaks up on you. What else?”
“She - had a necklace on. Gold. Soaked in blood by the time we found her. Everything was, really. She’d been there so long, it had leeched into the soil, at least four centimeters down.” Lestrade swallowed hard. “John -”
“Just keep talking,” John murmured, rubbing Lestrade’s shoulder.
“She was blonde, same as the others; early-twenties. Too young.”
“They always are.”
Lestrade nodded distantly. “Yeah.”
He took a drink from the mug, finally, and after a moment it was clear he was going to keep the liquid down. His story resumed.
“Most of her internal organs had spilled onto the ground; been torn away by scavengers. But just looking at her face - God, you’d think she was just sleeping.”
“Yeah, I know.” John moved his hand from Lestrade’s shoulder to the small of his back. “Anything else?”
There was a pause where Lestrade stood very still. And then he slowly shook his head and said, “No. Not now.”
“All right, then.”
John didn’t know for sure, but he liked to think that sharing the burden of the images helped Lestrade, so that he alone didn’t have to be the one to remember. He alone didn’t have to go to bed with the vivid images swirling in his mind. And John knew the pain he was going through. He’d seen it abroad; Lestrade saw it here. Theirs was a shared horror.
John looked up at Lestrade. “Feeling any better?”
Lestrade looked away, and hid the tightening at the corner of his mouth behind the rim of the mug.
“Not really,” he admitted, taking a sip of coffee.
“You will,” John said, sliding his fingers between Lestrade’s and lacing their hands together. “I promise. We’ll get you through this, like we have before.”
Lestrade squeezed his hand in thanks, and they slipped into a companionable silence.
It wasn’t all right, not just yet.
But it would be.