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The fragility of genius

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Sherlock distantly heard the beakers on the kitchen table rattle as John slammed the door behind them, but disregarded it amongst the rushing sound in his ears that blocked out all but the loudest of noises. His vision had narrowed to a fraction of his normal expansive view and his skin felt tight and hot. Breathing hard he tried, and failed, to stop his fingernails from drawing blood within his own clenched hands as he reached for calm within himself, desperately searching for control of his roiling emotions.

 

He could faintly hear John's voice penetrating the fugue in his head. His flatmate was still shouting something about deaths, and sympathy, and the family, and Lestrade and it was all too much. John had been on a tirade since they left New Scotland Yard and yet Sherlock had heard virtually none of it he'd been so wrapped up in his own anger and frustration.

 

Sherlock turned to stride toward his own room, needing the quiet and solitude if he was to stand a chance of regaining some semblance of stability in his own mind. However, as he crossed the lounge John roughly grabbed at his upper arm and swung him around hissing, "DON'T you walk away from me!"

 

Sherlock wrenched his arm away and spat back, low, menacing and vicious "Take your fucking hands off me, John."

 

John's hands fell to his sides and he looked up, mouth agape, eyes wide and shocked. In the years they'd known each other, he’d never heard Sherlock swear. Through danger and death, and even when in excruciating pain, Sherlock's language had never contained anything beyond a whispered damn. The use of the F-word and with such a tone clearly rocked the shorter man and Sherlock's lip rose in a dismissive sneer as he again started to stalk away.

 

But John wasn't done yet, the soldier was only briefly shocked before re-joining the battle, "SHERLOCK!" he shouted before taking two steps toward the retreating figure, now half way through the kitchen.

 

Sherlock turned and stood, fists balled at his sides, and he added with a voice laden with contempt "WHAT? What could you POSSIBLY have to say that would contribute to the situation?"

 

John straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin, "I was just saying..."

 

Sherlock's eyes flashed dangerously, "Just saying what, John?.....what ELSE do you want to bludgeon me with?"

 

There was another flash of doubt in John's eyes before he continued, "Just that...you could have handled that better. They lost their children Sherlock. I don't expect you to understand what that...."

 

"FUCK OFF John!" Sherlock picked up a beaker from the table and hurled it toward the lounge room, John ducking to avoid the spray of shattered glass as it hit the wall. Sherlock took another two steps down the hall to his room.

 

John stormed after him and gripped Sherlock by the upper arms and pushed him back against the wall. Pressing up on his toes he crowded into Sherlock’s personal space. “NOW LOOK…I don’t know what….”

 

Sherlock used his greater height and leverage to push back and force John against the opposite wall of the hallway. Looming over the shorter man, Sherlock reached up and fisted a rough hand in John’s hair and wordlessly crushed their mouths together. John’s hands dropped to his sides as his mind went blank trying to process what was happening.

 

Before he could gather his thoughts, the warmth of the lips disappeared and by the time John looked back up, Sherlock had retreated to his room and the door slammed behind him.

 

John and Sherlock had had some spectacular arguments in the past, but none had devolved into physical attack….or…..snogging against the wall. Sherlock didn't swear, and he didn't throw things. It seemed, well....out of character didn’t even begin to cover it. Something was badly wrong. As John’s own anger bled away and he stared at the closed door in confusion the question became, what should he do about it?

 

@@@@@@

 

Tea…tea always helps. In the midst of the worst of his parent’s tirades, Harry and John had learned three things:

  1.     Give it time. Sometimes, the best salve to abraded nerves and feelings was a little time. Not too much, just enough to catch your breath and have a bit of a think. John set the timer on the stove to fifteen minutes and proceeded to step two
  2.     Make tea. Shouting at people is thirsty business and the best peace offering at the end of fifteen minutes is a nice hot cup of tea. John busied himself with cups and bags and put the water on to boil.
  3.     Be ready to say sorry. There’s always two sides to every argument, otherwise there wouldn’t have been one. Even if you can’t agree, try to see their side. If it turns out you were wrong, admit it.

 

As John leaned back against the bench, idly tapping a spoon against his waiting cup he replayed the past couple of hours in his head.

 

The case had been a nightmare. Not enough time and never enough resources and in the end, two small children who’d been playing in an abandoned building had paid the ultimate price. Hour upon hour of people looking to Sherlock for yet another miracle in spite of the fact that there were no clues to follow and nothing to deduce.

 

With the harsh lens of hindsight, Sherlock had coldly explained to the parents that if they’d only thought to tell them that the children had worn long socks on the day they disappeared, they’d have been taking their children home instead of planning funerals. John had heard the shocked gasps of those around them and had guided the detective away as the mood turned ugly.

 

He too had been horrified at Sherlock’s unfeeling remark and in the privacy of the taxi back to Baker Street had let his flat-mate feel the full force of his disgust. Looking back now, Sherlock’s stoic silence should have been a warning that something was wrong.

 

John jumped as the bell rang on the stove, bringing him back to the present. He finished preparing both cups of tea and, drawing a deep breath, he padded down the hall to gently knock on Sherlock’s door.

 

@@@@@

 

“Sherlock?”

 

“Go away, John” Sherlock’s voice sounded tired, defeated.

 

“No. C’mon, let me in. We don’t do this, we don’t run from things.”

 

There was a bitter laugh from the other side of the closed door, “And look where that’s gotten us. You and I spend half our lives running toward danger and away from everything else.”

 

John remained at the door; forehead pressed against the wood and murmured softly, “Let me in, Sherlock…please.”

 

There was a long silence before John heard the creak of bed springs and a muffled shuffling before the door opened, leaving the two men face-to-face in the doorway.

 

To John’s eyes, the detective had never looked more fragile. The usual bouncy curls seemed to share his mood and slumped sadly low on his forehead. John suspected from the redness tingeing the corners of his eyes that the man had been crying, but is eyes were dry now, haunted and large against the deep blue/black circles nestled in the hollows below them. John wanted nothing more than to gather the tall man against himself and make that pain go away, but wasn’t sure it would be welcomed.

 

John smiled grimly, “You look like shit.”

 

His flat-mate’s lips twitched up a little, “And that’s your professional opinion, Doctor?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“Is my condition terminal?”

 

“Nah, being an irritating prick isn’t usually fatal.”

 

Sherlock’s eyes softened as he smiled more easily and changed the subject, “Is that tea?”

 

“Mmmhmm, the restorative power of tea is greatly underestimated.”

 

“I’ve heard.” Sherlock moved aside, granting John unspoken permission to enter then turned to the bed and crawled up to lean against the headboard, long legs stretched out, feet crossed at the ankles. John silently took the chair next to the wardrobe and sipped at his cup.

 

“You want to talk about what happened?” John started carefully.

 

“Right….Sorry about that.”

 

“No, it’s…..it was just, unexpected. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so…”

 

“Angry?”

 

“I was thinking upset, but yeah…you were pretty angry.”

 

“I threw a beaker at you…”

 

“I know…I was there.”

 

Sherlock looked chastised, the edge of his lip gently worried between white teeth, “Sorry. Good dodge by the way.”

 

John chuckled gently, “Yeah, had a bit of practice growing up.”

 

Sherlock winced in guilt and repeated, “Sorry; and sorry about the…ummm”

 

“The kiss?”

 

Sherlock coughed awkwardly, “Yes....Sorry.”

 

“Can you stop apologising and tell me what happened. You must admit, it wasn’t like you.”

 

Sherlock stared down at the cup in his hands, brow furrowed in thought. John sat silently, letting him put things into words at his own pace. At length, Sherlock put his cup to one side before he hesitantly began.

 

“People think I’m incapable of caring, that I don’t feel anything. The truth John, is more complicated. I’ve spent most of my life ensuring that decisions that I make, deductions that guide my work are based on logic and reason. I have to, because the only things that can be relied on are facts. I push everything else aside.”

 

Sherlock looked up and made eye contact in the dim light of the room, his gaze seemed to be willing John to understand, for him to accept that his approach was reasonable. John nodded slowly, encouraging him to continue.

 

“I tried to be sensitive to those parents. My mind was screaming at me to shout at them; to tell them that they had killed their children; that their children's deaths couldn’t be laid at my feet; to look at the police around them and ask what THEY had done; to ask why AGAIN, it was all up to me to save them; and why it was MY fault they couldn’t be saved.”

 

Sherlock’s voice, which had risen with the previous outburst, dropped again, “Whatever I may have convinced others to believe, I am…..in the end…only human.” His gaze dropped to the duvet again, seemingly embarrassed, “I do care. I do get hurt. I get scared and sometimes…just occasionally…”, Sherlock’s words trailed off before he whispered, “…I can’t help feeling.”

 

John was leaning forward in the chair, his elbows on his knees and his chin cupped in his hand. The admission was more heartfelt than anything Sherlock had ever shared and as he saw the dim light reflect off a single tear rolling down the tall man’s face, John realised what the words had cost him.

 

Calmly, and without a word, John placed his cup down, stood and walked over to the bed and climbed up next to his closest friend, arms and hips nudged together on the headboard. The truth was, Sherlock’s kiss in the hallway hadn’t been undesired, just unexpected. He honestly hadn’t thought Sherlock was remotely interested. Perhaps the reality could be that the detective was just good at hiding too much below the surface.

 

John tilted his head to lean against the curve of Sherlock shoulders and muttered, “Sometimes feelings are good, Sherlock. Sometimes….feelings are reciprocated.”

 

The gasp of a sudden indrawn breath was loud in the quiet room and John felt Sherlock’s arm tense under his cheek. John wondered if he’d misjudged the situation.

 

“But it’s OK, Sherlock. It’s been a shit of a day, and you’re exhausted. We can talk about this tomorrow.” John began to swing his legs around and off the bed before a shaky voice near his ear said, “No.”

 

John turned back, “No?”

 

“No…Don’t leave. Please don’t leave John. Not now.”

 

Sherlock’s voice was soft, but it held a hint of something else. A question, a hope, and fear, there was definitely anxiety there too. John turned to meet his friend’s tired eyes, “Tell me what you want, Sherlock. Tell me what you need from me.”

 

Sherlock blinked slowly, once as if convincing himself he was awake, and then again more clearly and decisively, “Keep me safe, John. It’s what you always do, after all….So, for now…Stay here, in this room..in this bed, and let me feel safe again.”

 

John’s brow furrowed, just slightly, before he nodded in assent and leaned in to kiss the taller man; slotting their lips together in a gentle caress. There was none of the force and suddenness in the hallway earlier. This was the language of offer and acceptance; of John giving as much or as little as Sherlock wanted to take. Sherlock responded, his tongue darted out briefly to stroke John’s lower lip before disappearing back into his own mouth. John returned the gesture, but then repeated it, teasing to part Sherlock’s lips and requesting entrance.

 

His hand came up to stroke one long arm that was steadied on the mattress before venturing down to twine their fingers together. The other trailed upward to cup a pale cheek before threading fingers into riotous curls, not gripping, just smoothing through waves of jet hair.

 

Sherlock moaned at the feeling and brought his own hand up to spread fingers against John’s back, pulling the shorter man closer to him, and sinking against his warm solid body.

 

They pulled apart briefly and breathing a little heavily, John looked up into Sherlock’s now more relaxed face, “So…this is happening, yeah?”

 

Sherlock’s deep rumble shivered through to John’s chest, “MmmmHmmm…yes, definitely happening.”

 

“Have I ever told you your voice should come with a warning label?” John dipped forward for another brief kiss.

 

“That would spoil the fun, I expect.” His gentle laugh smothered as he leaned in to nibble down John’s neck, nuzzling his nose into John’s collar.

 

“Too many clothes….There’s too many clothes involved here.” John stuttered.

 

“I couldn’t agree more.” Long agile fingers plucked at the bottom of John's jumper before managing it to draw it, and the shirt below up and over John's head. The sudden rush of cooler air against his flesh making his skin prickle and chill.

 

"In a rush, are we?" John sought out the warmth of Sherlock's long torso, winding his own shorter arms around to pull the man to him.

 

"Efficiency...Very important."

 

"Well then, in the interest of efficiency....help me with your damned buttons." John had begun worrying at the top ones, his enthusiasm and sudden nervousness making his steady doctor’s hands unusually clumsy.

 

Sherlock's hands came down to bracket John's fingers over the buttons and deftly released each in turn, before sliding the fine linen off his shoulders and down off his arms. John took a moment to drink in the lean lines of the man before him as Sherlock did the same to John’s more compact frame.

 

The detective reached out a gentle finger toward a spider-web of scars on the ex-soldier's shoulder and John looked uncomfortable before being reassured, "Don't ever be concerned about this John. This wound brought you to me. I am endlessly grateful to its legacy."

 

The dark head dropped forward as Sherlock began placing feather-light kisses across the puckered skin. None of John's past lovers had ever done anything remotely as intimate as this and it seemed as if Sherlock was thanking the scar for being there, thanking it for his survival and John felt himself shiver as Sherlock's lips and tongue moved between the numb silvered skin and the surrounding tissue.

 

John again threaded fingers into dark curls, but this time gave an insistent tug upward as he playfully said, "C'mon..up here, you. Enough of that."

 

Unexpectedly, pulling on the coils of hair provoked a rather enthusiastic groan before Sherlock surged up John's body and kissed him forcefully, his tongue slipping out once again to lave at John's lips. The passive, hesitant Sherlock had disappeared in a heartbeat as he rumbled, "John Watson....Only you would accidentally do the one thing that drives me mad. I warn you, if you pull my hair again, I won't be held responsible for the consequences."

 

John tipped his head back in a genuine and open laugh, "Anything else I should know?". John placed a palm over Sherlock's shoulder, and with firm pressure, drew them down to lay together on the bed.

 

"Well...If we're sharing....."Sherlock looked smug, "I've been told I give excellent head."

 

For the second time that day, John found himself speechless at the unexpectedly filthy words that had come out of his flatmate's mouth. "Ummm...Right...OK..Good to know."

 

"In fact...." Sherlock disappeared from view as he rolled John to lay on his back and kissed his way down his body, "I've been told..." He swirled his tongue in John's navel as he undid the fly and button below, "..that my technique...", his hot breath was now huffing over the soft cotton of John's pants where a damp spot had already formed. John bucked up against empty air, "...is flawless." And with those last words, Sherlock slipped the material covering John's cock down and lowered his mouth over the crown.

 

John couldn't be held accountable for the string of curses that tumbled from his lips. There wasn't be a court in the land that could find him guilty. Sherlock was enthusiastically dragging the flat of his tongue up the underside, toying with his frenulum before swirling around the head, and then alternating that with sinking his mouth down John's length with slow, firm pressure before sucking his way back up again, reducing John to shivered whimpers, aborted attempts to buck up against Sherlock's mouth and reflexive grasping at the sheets. It was only when Sherlock hummed in satisfaction at his success in driving John to delirium that he, in desperation, managed to pull Sherlock away and back up his body.

 

John gasped and struggled for coherent thought, "Christ Sherlock...just......I don't want to know where you learned that....but....wow"

 

Sherlock had resumed nuzzling John’s neck, nibbling and sucking and John could feel the gentle sway of Sherlock’s hips as he idly rutted against him.

 

“Trousers…” The words came deep and muted against the skin of his throat,”…stupid invention.”

 

“Then let’s get you out of them, hey?” John’s voice sounded husky and ragged, even to his own ears. He brushed his hands over the straining material, eliciting a groan from against his carotid artery as Sherlock applied more pressure with is teeth and then sucked hard against the spot. He made quick work of the clasp and zip before pushing the waistband down over angular hipbones, hooking underwear at the same time.

 

Leaning up, there were quick minutes of shuffling as the trousers and John’s jeans joined the growing pile of clothes discarded on the floor leaving them both suddenly naked together for the first time. Although the desire to look at each other was strong, the need to feel their skin touch was stronger and they were quickly back on the bed, pressed along the length of each other.

 

As gentle muscular curves and sharp bony angles slotted against each other, finding natural hollows and dips to accommodate them, John whispered quietly, “Feeling safer yet?”

 

The baritone rumble seemed to resonate through thigh, stomach and chest as the reply came, “Getting there, definitely getting there.”

 

With the unspoken understanding of two people who have long experience of each other’s needs and boundaries, chests and hips aligned without another word being said. Quiet, gentle touches became more insistent; kisses became more demanding; and light, glancing brushes of skin on skin became conscious and directed strokes slicked with pre-cum. John found his hand guided to fist in Sherlock’s curls, silently begging to be tugged and in return, Sherlock found his hand wordlessly dragged to the small of John’s back and then down to knead his arse. The occasional groan and whimper communicating all that was needed to assure them both that their instincts were leading the right way.

 

The pace built slowly, both seeking intimacy as much as they sought completion. The horrors of the day bled away from them as they moved together in the refuge of 221B. Together was safety, acceptance and now they both knew, love. They may not be ready to say it yet, but it was there. In the care with which they touched, and stroked, and kissed, the words would come later.

 

But gradually, the tension built, sounds of ragged panting punctuated the more primal sounds of flesh against flesh and the regular rhythm of the sounds beginning to falter as both began to lose coordination of their strokes. With a whimper of pleasure and need, pale blue eyes meet those of deeper cerulean, and an abrupt nod of John’s head reassured that Sherlock was in safe hands.

 

There was a breathy gasp as John tugged particularly hard on the hair in his hands and Sherlock’s muscles tensed and his back arched, lifting his chest up and his lips away from John’s below him as his mouth opened in a soundless ‘O’ and eyes squeezed shut as pleasure swept through him. One more thrust and John was there with him, bowing up to clasp at Sherlock’s torso, pulling him back down to grip him tightly, riding out wave after wave together.

 

They lay there, breathing hard. Sherlock’s lithe weight pressing down and John happy to have him there, arms still clasped around him, palms stroking random patterns on Sherlock’s shoulder blades.

 

A satisfied rumble of contentment reverberated like thunder through the room and John’s smooth chuckle joined the sound as he softly murmured, “OK…that was fantastic. Didn’t see it coming though.”

 

Sherlock leaned up on his elbows and stared down at John, a look of amused disbelief clear on his face, “Really? Didn’t expect this?”

 

“Well, maybe didn’t see it coming…today.”

 

Sherlock looked down seductively and smiled wickedly, “What about tomorrow?”

 

‘Oh…I think I can see this happening tomorrow…definitely.”