John's limp wasn't psychosomatic. Or rather, not entirely. In the beginning, when his shoulder throbbed with every beat of his heart, he limped because he was trying to hold his torso still. To move as smoothly as possible so that the muscles in his hips wouldn't move the muscles in his back and then shoulder. Eventually the movement became a habit and a hard one to break. It wasn't until Sherlock showed him exactly how much range of motion he had regained (during that mad dash after the cab) that John made a conscious effort to correct his gait.
The shaking in his hand would always be intermittent though. The muscles of his upper arm and shoulder had all been damaged and the nerves that ran through them would never fully heal. Numbness in radiating streaks from his deltoid, periodic muscle spasms, and tremors in the hand all meant that he would never practice surgery again. He was positive that while Sherlock never said anything, he made note of every time John had to switch his torch from his left to his right hand because the beam began to wobble.
John was aware of his shoulder in almost every moment in his life. Every time he needed to reach for something above his head, every time his punches lacked power, or every time he needed to climb up a fire escape (surprisingly often), he had to make sure his arm would hold up. It was tiring.
Tonight had been a disaster from start to finish. Sherlock lost the element of surprise, the thief managed to escape, and John had slipped on a slate shingle and nearly fallen off a roof.
They were chasing a thief named Silvetti for a client who wanted her property returned to her without police involvement. Sherlock had tracked him to a warehouse that usually housed rice, but often hid smuggled goods as they made their way out of the country. A miscalculation by the consulting detective spooked their thief and they chased him up onto the roof.
Silvetti seemed to know exactly where he was going and when to dodge the inconvenient pipes and ductwork that snaked across the roof. The full moon threw a harsh light across the scene, making it hard to see just what was shadow and what was solid. John and Sherlock did their best to jump and slide around each obstacle, but they were losing ground with every step. The man spared a glance behind him and John saw the quick flash of teeth.
The bastard was grinning.
John redoubled his efforts, but the man reached the edge of the roof and jumped, landing neatly on the sloped roof of the old outbuilding next to them. Sherlock followed him, practically pouncing to try and make up some of the distance they lost.
John didn't think about it, he just launched himself across the gap after his flatmate, needing to be there if he needed backup. As he landed, a slate tile broke off under his foot and he tripped, sliding back towards the gap. It was one of the most sickening sensations he'd ever felt. The roof was big enough that he had enough time to fully realize that his frantic attempts to halt his slide were not going to be enough and then he was rocketing out over the empty space. He only saved himself by managing to grab the gutter with his left hand, adrenaline making the instant his full body weight wrenched on his bad shoulder barely felt.
A second later, Sherlock was there and trying to haul him up by the wrist. John tried to help, but the sudden yank upwards brought back all the pain all at once and even though his disciplined mind tried to power through it, his damaged nerves made his hand let go of the gutter. Sherlock braced himself on the edge of the roof and hung on grimly until John collected himself enough to help.
Through the rushing in his ears, he could hear Sherlock's carefully calm voice repeating his name over and over. He tried to grip the detective's arm with his hand, but nope. That arm was completely out of commission for the moment and it took all his will to not think about what further damage may have been done.
When John was finally able to look up, Sherlock was backlit against the night sky by the full moon, looking like a wild-haired gargoyle. He sucked in a deep breath and brought his good arm up to grip Sherlock's to start pulling himself back up to the roof. Sherlock leaned back, pulling him up as far as he could and John managed to swing a foot up and catch his ankle around the gutter. Transferring his good hand to the edge of the roof, he was able to wrench himself up and over the lip in a move that left him shaking all over.
Sherlock held on to him, bracing them both while John concentrated on trying to even out his breathing. After a moment, the detective ducked his head to meet his eyes and said apologetically, "Reaction later. First we need to get down. Someone noticed our chase and called it in. Hear the sirens? We’ve got about five minutes before they get here. I’d rather not have to explain all this."
Always practical, even in the face of near death. "We lost him?" John panted.
Sherlock helped him up and they began to pick their way back up the slope towards the fire escape. "Oh, most definitely. He'll be well away from here by now. We'll have to start tracking him again tomorrow. It will be much more difficult this time." He actually sounded pleased about it.
John paused at the top of the fire escape and stared down at the three ladders between him and the ground. His shoulder was on fire and his whole left arm was either numb or tingling painfully. When he didn’t move to start descending, Sherlock turned to look and him and frowned.
“Will you be able to climb down?”
John took a deep breath and stared right back at him. “After you.”
His shoulder was well and truly fucked.
A hot bath and a handful of paracetamol and the damn thing still burned. John sat down carefully on the couch and leaned awkwardly sideways so he could rest without putting any weight on his bad side. He closed his eyes and held his breath, only expelling it when he heard his named uttered from a voice very close to his head.
"John." He cracked an eye opened and saw Sherlock leaning over him, wild hair falling into his eyes. "If you won't go to the hospital, may I try something? Let me see if I can work the cramp out."
His initial reaction was to never let anybody touch his shoulder ever again, but it was entirely possible that Sherlock knew some crazy ancient Chinese technique that would at least alleviate the pain for a little bit. And it was preferable to letting Sherlock near the morphine.
He started to nod, but then had to close his eyes against the flair of pain from his shoulder. Fuck if it didn't feel just like the weeks after he had been shot. Sherlock seemed to understand his assent and took a seat directly in front of him on the coffee table. John kept his eyes closed and waited.
The first press of fingers from both sides of his shoulder made him hiss involuntarily and try to pull away, but they immediately swept lower to start massaging his bicep.
"Did you know that they once thought that you could make medicine out of mummies? It was the first instance of homeopathy as an institutionalized remedy instead of just superstition. Supposedly eating the powdered remains of whatever part of the mummy corresponded with the part of your body that hurt would cure you. For example, you would need to find powdered mummy shoulder, then dissolve it in whiskey. That would fix you up."
Sherlock moved his arm under John's so that the doctor's hand was resting on his upper arm. John tried his hardest to keep his hand relaxed, but it was starting to shake as the blood flow returned to his fingers.
Sherlock continued to speak, his deep voice rumbling at an even pace as he worked. He was working his way up the arm, not touching the actual wound just yet. John opened his eyes briefly and saw the intense look of concentration and realized that the detective was holding himself in much the same way that he did when he was playing the violin. Back straight, but steady, head tilted slightly to the side, arms held with the elbows out.
It was somewhat strange to be the violin.
He closed his eyes again and let the flow of words wash over him. The hands moved to his collar bone and began massaging the juncture at his neck. The release of tension from the aching muscles brought tears to John's eyes and he clenched his teeth. Soon after, Sherlock swept his fingers sideways and began to actually work on the injury. This time he didn't stop what he was doing when John flinched.
Finally he gave in to his reflexive need to hide his face and curled inward. John let his head rest on Sherlock's shoulder, in too much pain and much too tired to care about boundaries. Sherlock never paused in his movements, continuing to press his long fingers into the tangled mass of scar tissue of John's left shoulder. His left arm slid forward to wrap around the detective's neck and bunched the fabric of his collar in his hand to try and stop some of the shaking in that extremity. The fact that he was able to get his arm up that far just proved how effective Sherlock was being.
Eventually Sherlock stopped talking, letting the silence sit as he kept working on the shoulder.
John kept his head where it was and spoke into Sherlock's shirt. "Why keep me around? I'm useless to you like this."
"Acceptance," Sherlock said gravely. "Everybody else either wants something from me or wants me to be something other than what I am. You just allow me to simply be. You might not like the body parts in the refrigerator, but you don't hate me for being someone who would put them in there. It's like finally being able to take a deep breath, to have someone around to interact with who doesn't constantly judge or assess me."
John frowned, but before he could process that, Sherlock continued on. His voice dropped into its lowest register, becoming felt more than heard. "And you're not useless. That's an incorrect conclusion anyway. To be useless would mean that your only value would lie in being valuable to me, and while I do find you handy to keep around, that completely negates any intrinsic worthiness that your may have. And you are worth it."
Former soldier, former surgeon - it felt like everything notable about himself was in the past. John felt his eyes become hot and start to prickle and oh hell no he was not going to sob into Sherlock's coat. He was just exhausted and if he could only muster up the will, he would get up and head to bed. He took a deep breath and the exhale was shakier than he'd like.
Sherlock gave up pretending like he was still working on the shoulder and wrapped his arms around his blogger. John let him while he pulled himself together enough to pretend that it was all fine.
Eventually he gingerly sat up and was pleased to discover that his shoulder was now merely sore. Sherlock stood up and drifted over to the window while he collected himself.
“Nobody's ever even wanted to lean on me." A pause, "Or Mycroft. I'm 96.2% certain that nobody has ever wanted to lean on Mycroft. He's the more human of us, though.
John was struck by suddenly empathy for Mycroft. Scarily competent could be a coping mechanism as well.
The detective was suddenly back in front of him, hand outstretched. “Better?”
John reached up and took it in his good hand. “Better.”
And Sherlock pulled him to his feet.