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Just This Once

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John couldn’t say what wakes him, of the arm tightening and relaxing in turns over his torso or the barely-there caresses against the back of his neck. He opens his eyes just long enough to look at the alarm clock – 3 am – and fully intends, when he closes them again, to go back to sleep.

But then, his brain starts making sense of those caresses. They’re not touch, not really, but the gentle displacement of air.

They’re whispered words.

Sherlock is doing it again – keeping himself awake when he should sleep, keeping his memories a little longer. John is about to turn in his embrace and chide him when Sherlock’s arm tightens again right as he says, “Never.”

Curiosity winning for now, John stays quiet, stays still, and listens carefully until those whispers take meaning.

“Never thought I’d ever want this,” Sherlock is saying; to himself, to John’s subconscious, to no one in particular, maybe. “Not with anyone. Tried. Did I tell you I tried? I must have. At uni, I thought I’d see what the fuss was about. Not just sex. Relationships. Having someone to claim as mine, someone I’d let claim me as theirs. I thought maybe there was something I didn’t understand, something that’d be clearer once I had that someone in my life. And I was right, I did, I understood, but not back then. Back then the relationship experiment was a complete failure. I didn’t even want to try again to check the validity of the results. It was years before I got it. We’d been sharing a flat for a while already and you brought me tea right when I was thinking a cup would be nice and then you just went on reading a book while sipping on your own mug and it was just so… domestic. And I thought, I could get used to this. Not you making tea for me, but just… being there. Sharing my life. And at the time I wouldn’t have called it love, and I certainly wouldn’t have made grand declarations or asked anything more from you, but I think that’s when it started, maybe. With that cup of tea. And a million other things. I never want to forget all these things. And I wish I hadn’t forgotten probably a million more that happened since then. I don’t want to forget, John. I want to remember it all. All these people out there get to remember so why can’t I? I don’t want to forget the way you looked at me tonight or the way you sounded when you asked me to take you to bed or… anything. I don’t want to forget anything.”

He should stop him, John thinks, squeezing his eyes just a little more tightly shut. Either talk to him or quiet him with a kiss. Anything to stop that tiny thread of desperation in his words.

And still, he pretends to sleep. Just one more day; they can have that, just this time. A few more hours to share before they have to start over. Maybe it’s selfish from John, maybe it’s irresponsible, maybe it’s a mistake, maybe…

Just this once.