He kissed my forehead. From him, it might as well have been a proposal.
Just in case there was ever any doubt, PTSD is a bastard.
Earlier that day, I had been riding home in a cab, which is a perfectly normal, everyday sort of activity. A stone suddenly kicked up from the road and struck the cab's window hard enough to crack it. Still not out of the ordinary, but the sound of it had me back in Afghanistan. A sharp, staccato crack noise, and a spray of shrapnel ripped into the vehicle. My brain worked double-time, trying to process what had just happened, so it seemed like slow-motion as the driver raised his hand to his bleeding face. Somebody was shouting, but I had to struggle to make out the words.
"-no place to stop-"
The man in the front passenger seat grabbed the steering wheel to help steady our course. Blood spattered his sleeve.
My body was in motion before my brain had quite caught up. Gauze and disinfectant in hand, I squirmed forward until I could reach the driver. As we lurched along, I cleaned his wounds and applied pressure. When the bleeding had slowed, I had my needle out to cobble his face back together. He was going to look a mess, but a plastic surgeon could see to it later.
The cabbie's shout brought me back to the present, and I realized that I had been trying to get to him over the seat. I paid him twice the fare and fled out onto Baker Street. Bloody PTSD. Shaken by the memory and its sudden onset, I slammed into 221B and stormed up the stairs. I didn't bother to see if Sherlock was home. I didn't care. Retreating into my bedroom, I dropped onto my bed.
The nightmares don't usually come in the daytime.
Mentally cursing, I pulled my pillow over my head. Why that incident, of all things? Getting shot, landing heavily on my knee, these moments I relived time and again, but the shrapnel hadn't crossed my mind, not once. At the time, I had found it all very stressful, irritating even, but it hadn't seemed to cause this level of trauma. Here I was, reduced to trembling beneath my... blanket?
Cautiously, I peered out from beneath my pillow. I hadn't heard Sherlock come in, but there he stood, staring at me with a totally unreadable expression. I hoped it was concern, but it was more likely curiosity. I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes.
"Sorry," I mumbled. "I feel a proper fool."
"You were in a war, John."
Whatever response I had expected, that was not it. I dropped back onto my bed and pulled the blanket over my head. Then I amazed myself.
I told him.
Muffled beneath my blanket, occasionally choking on my words, I described the incident I had just relived. Sherlock listened to every word. When at last I was silent, I felt his hand on my back. He sat with me like that for a long time, probably playing with his phone with the other hand.
"Bet his face looks awful," I muttered. "Frankenstein's bloody creation."
"And? You stitched him up while he was driving. Maybe he's alive because of you."
I tugged the blanket down to stare at him. Was Sherlock There-Are-No-Heroes Holmes really saying what I thought he was saying? Well, then, heroism is overrated. Which I said aloud, and he chuckled.
"Well, if it were me, I'd thank you all the way to the plastic surgeon."
"Yes, I know. You're very vain." I managed a smile. God, but I felt tired!
Sherlock's hands drew the blanket up to my chin. I thought about those hands more than I liked to admit; they seemed like a summary of his person. Long and thin, graceful, definitely the hands of a virtuoso, they were also bony, unforgiving, and often charged with fearsome intent. While my brain was still turning in circles about his hands, he murmured, "Go to sleep, John." Then his lips pressed to my forehead.
The following morning, I went downstairs for breakfast. Sherlock was in his chair, yelling at the television. He didn't even glance at me as I passed. Body parts occupied a space in the refrigerator. The last of the milk stood out on the countertop, next to an empty mug and a half-empty coffee press.
Business as usual. Life goes on.
It was somehow reassuring.