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Slow Burn

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Leonard spit out his coffee, spraying it over the counter of the kitchen island. "God! Oh, Jesus—"

"Good lord!" Sheldon snatched his tea off the contaminated surface and glared at Leonard from his seat. "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup, Leonard, and certainly not in mine." He fastidiously checked the outside of his mug for splatter.

"Well, excuse me, your highness," Leonard grit out, wincing. "Geez! God, that's hot!"

He squeezed his eyes shut against the burning sensation and sucked in a sharp breath. It did little to help the pain. The roof of his mouth and tongue still hurt like he'd attempted to drink a bonfire.  

"I told you to brew a test cup first, but did you listen to me?"

At the condescension in Sheldon's tone, Leonard opened his eyes and scowled in his direction. "I got a new coffeemaker, not a thermonuclear reactor!" he snapped.

"Well, I should certainly hope so! If you consumed radioactive material, the only buzz you'd receive is from a Geiger counter. Not to mention I'd have to elevate the mess you just made to a level 4 biohazard."

"Oh, for the love of—" Leonard tried strangling an undignified noise in his throat, but failed entirely. "God!" It hurt. The pain burned deeper, throbbing as Leonard wheeled around and slammed the refrigerator open.

"How's that 'totally pointless' thermometer sounding now?"

Leonard could feel Sheldon's gaze boring into him, but he couldn't give two damns about appearances. He chugged down half a bottle of water, barely stopping himself to gasp air back into his lungs. "Come on, Sheldon," he managed to whine. "Could you please just drop it?"

Sheldon gave him a hard-edged look, then reached across the counter for the nearest napkin. "If by 'it' you mean 'wisdom', then yes," he replied. "I've been dropping 'it' all morning long. For instance, did you know that coffee contains numerous polyphenols which make it remarkably adept at staining woodgrain?"

There was a stretch of silence while Sheldon took the time to polish a single speck of coffee off his cup. He looked between the larger mess and Leonard expectantly.

Leonard groaned. He should've seen that coming. "Yeah, yeah," he grumbled, but otherwise gathered all the necessary supplies from under the kitchen sink.  

At least he could clean on autopilot thanks to years of repetitive procedure.

"You missed a spot," said Sheldon, less than twenty seconds in.

Leonard's fingers gnarled. "Oh, did I?" he sneered, scrubbing harder.

Either Sheldon didn't catch Leonard's growing irritation or he didn't seem to care.  He reached out, finger poised mid-sentence. "It's riiiight--"

"I know where it is, Sheldon!" There was a discernable crack in Leonard's voice as the roof of his mouth and tongue made contact. Cringing, he threw the paper towel on the counter and wedged a knuckle between his teeth. "Fuck!" he cried. "God, you are so not helping, you know!"

For a long moment afterwards, neither of them spoke. Leonard stood, glaring as Sheldon straightened with an air of alarm and forced composure.

"Very well..." Sheldon finally said. Clearing his throat, he poked his napkin towards the last blotch of coffee, then carefully daubed it from existence. The counter looked as spotless as ever for all the good it did Leonard's mouth.

"Thanks," Leonard said drily.

With a soft huff, Sheldon pinched the paper towel between his napkin and held it at arm's length. "Leonard," he said, "as difficult as this may be for you, stop talking."

Leonard stared, incredulous as he watched Sheldon rise from his seat. "I should stop talking?" he sputtered.

"Shh." Sheldon spared him a sharp glance and tossed the trash in the wastebin. "Unless you intend to further aggravate your burns, I suggest you start heeding my advice. Now let's get a move on, Mister." Jerking his head, he motioned for Leonard to follow him down the hall.

Leonard's frown only deepened. "Why?" he asked sourly, though he found himself trailing not far behind.

They didn't make much more than a foot's worth of progress. Leonard had to come to a halting stop as Sheldon abruptly turned and sighed in exasperation. "Do you want relief or not?" he demanded.

When Leonard opened his mouth to retort, something in Sheldon's expression made him falter. The annoyance Leonard had seen from the get-go was evident.  At this distance, however, Leonard also noticed that the anger he'd expected was largely absent from Sheldon's eyes. They searched Leonard's own as if Sheldon actually cared how bad he felt, as if he were waiting for Leonard to determine whether his concern meant anything to Leonard at all.

Slowly, Leonard closed his mouth. He felt less inclined to argue all of a sudden, indicating with his hand for Sheldon to lead them to his desired destination.

"I always knew you were a smart cookie," Sheldon said with a solemn nod. The smirk came later, small, but curving his lips discernibly at the corners.

Sheldon couldn't have given Leonard a greater incentive to follow him if he'd tried.

Altogether eager now, Leonard hurried at Sheldon's heels, hopes soaring.

"Your alleviation from pain awaits," Sheldon announced grandly, then he swung the door to the bathroom open.

"Ugh, really?" Leonard said. It came out before he could stop himself, but not before Sheldon had thrust Leonard's toothbrush and toothpaste into his hands.

"The mint produces a numbing sensation that will cool the burn region," Sheldon explained, ignoring him. "Also it will cleanse your mouth of that ghastly coffee breath."

"Hey, it's not that bad."

"Less blather, more lather," Sheldon ordered, loading his own brush with paste.

Leonard rolled his eyes. Of course Sheldon would use this opportunity to attend to his oral hygiene. With a look of resignation, Leonard shuffled to the sink beside him before carefully popping his own toothbrush in his mouth. It stung initially, but the scrubbing became easier after the paste started to foam, he realized.  

Sheldon finished first, following the same routine as ever.

"Ten more seconds, Leonard," he said.

By the time Leonard had reached the end and rinsed, Sheldon was watching him with the same smirk that he had given Leonard in the hall.

"I trust that my minty fresh recommendation managed to take the edge off?" His self-satisfied smile said that he already knew it did, but Leonard nodded in confirmation.

"Yeah," he admitted, running his tongue over his teeth. "Better than I thought it would, to be honest."

Talking didn't hurt like death at any rate. The skin on the roof of his mouth didn't feel like it wanted to leave his body.

"Excellent," Sheldon said. Grabbing Leonard by the wrist, he led him back to the living room with long, confident strides.

Leonard stumbled after him.

"Sheldon, what--"

Sheldon held up a finger as if to bid him silent, but didn't snap or express displeasure. Instead, he plopped Leonard down on the couch, then claimed his spot with his posture drawn straight and tall. "Now for the final step in wound therapy, I'm led to believe it is often customary for a loved one to kiss the injury better."

Leonard was speechless for a second. "Um," he said. "It is. Yeah, uh-huh." He nodded in earnest.

Sheldon's brow creased at his fervency. "Then I have your consent to proceed with this course of treatment?" he continued.

Leonard scooched closer, waggling his eyebrows. "You can kiss me wherever you want, Dr. Cooper."

Sheldon scoffed. "Be serious, Leonard, please."

Leonard's grin melted to a warm, fond smile. He knew Sheldon usually preferred to keep their kisses chaste or limited to the more sanitary parts of their bodies.

"Sheldon, as long as you're comfortable administering the treatment, I'm more than happy to receive it," he assured him.

Sheldon looked into Leonard's eyes. His gaze held fast with a singular kind of focus. "Then it's settled," he said. Wetting his mouth, Sheldon closed the distance by pressing his lips against Leonard's own. It was a surprisingly soft gesture of affection, gentle and lacking the firm technique that Sheldon typically employed.

Leonard made a quiet noise of approval and leaned in. He needed to be closer.  

It was almost surreal when a moment later, Sheldon shifted to accommodate. He angled their bodies to align, outer thighs brushing as he tilted Leonard's jaw to draw him nearer. "I couldn't help but notice you've gotten better about scrubbing those back pockets," he murmured against Leonard's lips.

Dazed, all Leonard could say was, "Huh?"

Sheldon cupped both sides of Leonard's face and barely pulled back to exhale. "Your oral hygiene, Leonard. You've greatly improved your methods."

He'd only done so because Sheldon had been watching him like a hawk, not that Leonard was about to confess his sins. Sheldon had already started kissing him again, lips solid and parting within seconds. Leonard mirrored him instantly, permitting it, but moreover silently begging to receive.

A surging warmth began to spread through him as Sheldon slid his tongue inside his mouth like the smoothest velvet. It wasn't at all like the few unsuccessful times they'd tried to kiss like this before. Sheldon had never been this emotionally present in the past. He'd never wanted to take the initiative to explore. That was to say, until now, because his tongue was still seeking deeper.

Leonard went slack-jawed in no time flat. His eyes grew heavy-lidded. The whimper wasn't planned, but the sound escaped from Leonard anyway without a chance of stopping it prematurely.

Sheldon drew back as if on cue. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Did I hurt you?"

Shaking his head fiercely, Leonard tugged Sheldon down again. "Keep going. I'm fine," he panted.

"You're wrinkling my shirts, is what you're doing."

Leonard blinked and stared into the scant space between them. His hands were indeed fisted in Sheldon's shirts, so he flattened his palms on Sheldon's chest instead.

"Better?" he murmured.

Sheldon nodded through a swallow. "Leonard," he said, "just to be clear, I have no intention of engaging you in coitus this morning."

To Leonard's mild amazement, he found that he didn't really care. "We don't need to have sex, Sheldon," he told him honestly. "In fact, I was perfectly happy with that PG-13 vibe we had going on here." Smiling, Leonard rested their foreheads together. He neither pushed for more nor attempted to pick up where they'd left off without Sheldon's lead to guide him.

It seemed to relax Sheldon, who leaned in, brushing his lips over Leonard's again. "Well, if that's the case…"

Their noses touched as Sheldon deepened a kiss for the second time that day. It was just as good as the first had been: gentle yet somehow bold, at least for Sheldon's standards. Leonard still couldn't get over how softly Sheldon moved his lips against his own. He couldn't suppress the small shivers when each swipe of Sheldon's tongue felt more like a caress than a simple movement.

Sheldon didn't seem to be in any hurry. He took his time reactivating the mint with his breath, then soothed his tongue over all the burnt surfaces until Leonard was moaning freely.  He moaned himself, quiet but loud enough for Leonard to both hear and feel at once.

When they broke for air, it was never for too long.

When Leonard whimpered again, it was with a smirk that Sheldon answered.

Leonard kissed Sheldon back for it, wanting to reciprocate even half of the affection that he'd received so far.  His tongue twinged from the added stimulation, but it didn't stop him. The hitch in Sheldon's breathing was too intoxicating to ignore.

They continued for what could have been hours, but was probably minutes in true time.

Sheldon was the first to draw back, face flushed, eyes darkened. His lips shone an attractive, spit-slick pink. "Leonard," he gulped, "I'm going to need you to do me a favor."

"Oh?" Leonard sat forward playfully. "What kind of favor?" he asked.

"Fix me a fresh cup of tea?" Sheldon wet his lips with a strange expression on his face. "Apparently kissing for extended periods makes my mouth all sticky."

Well, that was the end of that. Leonard didn't have it in him to feel too disappointed, though. How could he when Sheldon Cooper had just been sucking his face at all?

Leonard gave him a crooked smile. "Sure, Sheldon," he said. He got up from the couch and even poured Sheldon's old cup of tea down the sink.

"You're such a lamb." Sheldon grinned from his spot. "Oh, and Leonard?"

"Yeah, Sheldon?"

"Use the darn thermometer this time."