It was an unusually sunny Tuesday afternoon and Sherlock was slumped haphazardly across the sofa, blazing with a spectacular headache. The headache he reagarded as spectacular because of his appreciation of the finer points of pain. He understood the spreading out of agony across nerves and tiny points beneath the skin responding to inflamed blood vessels or other internal stimuli. Even through the reverberating pain that echoed around the back of his head, hanging from temple to temple like an invisible laurel crown, he cataloged the sensations for future use in cases. Who knew when the sensation of a severe headache could be useful in solving a crime? It was the least he could do to enrich himself at the moment.
Illness and pain rarely bothered Sherlock. In the past, he'd solved double murders with the flu, located an art thief while coughing up his guts with bronchitis, and even texted his way through an entire kidnapping investigation with his voice lost to laryngitis. But a headache? How cruel it was to make thinking a pain. When the pressure became to much, he forced himself to hibernate his mold experiment in the fridge (John won't complain too badly) and seek refuge on the couch with the curtains drawn. Every noise seemed magnified, every slit of light from the indecently bright four o' clock sun as blazing as a supernova. Well, he would compare it to a supernova if his data on astronomy weren't so lacking in detail.
In the distance, Sherlock caught the familiar sound of 221's door opening. The light thud of boots up the steps indicated an individual coming home, the occasional skid of a dragging foot implying a long day, the gait obvious to the world's only consulting detective as belonging to Dr. John Watson.
With his arm still fully blocking his view of any possible light, Sherlock pictured perfectly how John eased open the door with his foot. A slight rustle clarified the plastic Tesco bag in his right hand, his left shutting the door with a click that went off like a shotgun to Sherlock's sensitized ears. He knew in less than three seconds John would see him on the couch and make a dry comment about his state of lethargy. The Tesco bag (a clunk of a milk jug, muffled by bread, possibly a tin or two of kippers?) hit the counter and Sherlock started counting.
"So, is two days without a case really that unacceptable? That string of museum thefts must have spoiled you by going on so long," John said as he plopped down onto his favorite chair. Sherlock gave somewhat of an inelegant grunt in response. Not worth the sparkling nodes of pain to form words for that particular remark. He heard John shift the Union Jack pillow that likely jammed itself into his back. The noise of upholstery on cotton meant John had removed his jacket already. For once, Sherlock dearly wanted to stop deducing every element his sensory organs could pick up.
"What's wrong?" John asked after a few minutes, A few minutes of utterly silent and still Sherlock meant that he wasn't in a sulk, sending John into his doctor mode. He slipped easily from the armchair and knelt beside the prostrate detective. Sherlock felt the back of John's hand on his forehead (no fever), a quick brush of fingers through curly fringe (no head injuries) and up the sleeves of his dressing gown (no injection marks).
"Have you eaten today?" he tried. Sherlock thought a loud "No!" at him, but no part of his rational being believed the message could be sent. John muttered, "Probably not, you nutter," anyway.
The detective shifted on the sofa, allowing one sharp grey-blue-green eye to look condescendingly at his doctor. Usemymethods, the look said. He hope it said, because another wave of absurd pain made him squeeze his eyes closed until they watered.
"Right," John said. Message received. He looked around, taking in the lack of hazardous experiments or toxic materials. The curtains were drawn tight, the lights were off. Sherlock was thrown across the sofa, but not in a dramatically childish way. He wasn't moving or speaking. No case on, no experiment, little light or sound...
"Right," John repeated, "It's a headache, yeah? Quite bad as you're photosensitive. No experiments lying about, so you probably ignored it until it became too much. It's so bad that it hurts to talk or move, so it's likely a migraine."
Sherlock smiled under his partial veil of arm and dressing gown, but he couldn't be sure that John saw. The doctor's finger's returned, parting places in his hair as though looking for something. It felt surprisingly pleasant, despite the leaden ball of hurt rolling around in his skull. When was the last time another person had touched him? Other than John? Maybe in the emergency room at the age of twenty-five as he struggled to outlive an overdose. Maybe Mycroft laid a hand on his head as he slept through the first hours of withdrawal in an induced coma. But no, Mycroft wouldn't hold with such sentime-
"Ahh!" Sherlock gasped as John pressed a spot on his crown. His arm slipped from his eye and he caught John's apologetic wince.
"I'm sorry, I should've warned you about that. It's definitely a migraine."
The dangerous look from Sherlock's watering eyes was plain: Yourobviousnessastoundsme.
"Yeah, yeah. Now shut up and close your eyes for a second."
Sherlock rolled his eyes before closing them, not enjoying the prickling of pain it caused. John wandered off to the kitchen before the detective's tired brain could even formulate a witty response. When he returned, John put something heavy and soft over Sherlock's eyes and forehead. It smelled of something reminiscent of Mrs. Hudson's kitchen and the warmth spread over Sherlock's sinuses like a relaxing bath in winter. He reached up to feel the cloth bag, packed with what could be rice. How odd.
"Yes, it's a bit old-fashioned. But I wasn't the one who dissolved all of the paracetamol in an "experiment" last week."
Sherlock crossed his arms and huffed. That experiment had beenimportant. And now he had some pin-cushion full of perfumed grains on his face. He started when he felt a hand curl around his own. John's warm hand spread Sherlock's fingers and began to massage the little webs of skin in between.
"Now just relax. I can't promise it'll go away, but I'll do my best to help," John said from somewhere close to Sherlock's right. He must have sat on the floor to get so near. Sherlock tried to stem the endless flow of data that taunted the headache. There was only John's fingers and John's voice. His fingers and his voice.
John started talking in that quiet, steady way of his. It's a tone that Sherlock used to associate with fathers or even grandfathers teaching a young child some vital life skill. Perhaps swimming or riding a bike. Now he associates it with doctors because that's who John is: Sherlock's doctor. Only ten percent of his brain listened to every word, something about a patient with chronic migraines and his recommendation to a local neurologist. The rest of his brain soaked in a warm, pleasant feeling he couldn't pinpoint. Perhaps the perfumed rice was addling his senses? But no, it wasn't the rice. It was something about the combination of methodical massage between his fingers and the steadfast rhythm of John's voice.
The tension eased from Sherlock's shoulders as he sank deeper into the couch. John kept talking, kept squeezing the skin in between Sherlock's long digits. In five minutes the migraine vanished. In ten, the heavily pull of slumber surprised the insomniac detective. He closed his fingers over John's, stopping the rhythmic squeezes.
"It's all gone," he murmured sleepily. He bag still covered his eyes, but he could feel a smile from his doctor.
"That's good. That's really good."
Sherlock squeezed John's hand. "It's gone because it's all here. You're all here with me."
John squeezed back. "Of course I'm here with you. Where else would I be?"
John's response turned the key in the lock of Sherlock's restless mind. Dazed from his migraine, he fell fast asleep on the living room sofa. When he woke the next day, he wouldn't remember who brought him a pillow or tucked around his angular form the spare blanket from the linen closet. And he assumed, of course, that the soft kiss on his temple had been from a dream within a dream.