Response to this prompt on the kinkmeme: Character A was raped as a child. They're fine now, honestly; it was decades ago, it doesn't affect them much. They've learned how to cope, and they rarely think about it or remember it. But when they do have a flashback/nightmare/panic attack, it can be vicious. Fluff and as much hurt/comfort as possible.

WARNING: I think it goes without saying that there are references to childhood sexual abuse in this fic. If you somehow missed that in the warnings and summary, this is the last warning. There are no descriptions of the act in this fic, but this has the potential to be very triggery by the very nature of the prompt. Proceed with caution.


"I want you inside me." John returned to the open-mouthed kisses he was pressing against the side of Sherlock's throat. The pulse under his lips quickened. A good sign. He sucked carefully at the skin just below his lover's ear, exhaling almost harshly as he straddled his naked thighs. "God, I want to ride you."

The fingers of his left hand stroked along Sherlock's jawline and then down his neck, bobbing over his Adam's apple when the pale man swallowed hard. Why had it taken him so long to realize this was a good idea? It seemed like a natural progression. The way Sherlock trembled beneath him seemed to be a very good indicator that this was a very good idea. Perfect. It would be perfect.

"Are you sure that's-" Sherlock bit his lip when John's teeth grazed over his collarbone. John touched his lips to the center of the other man's chest, just above his heart as Sherlock took a deep breath. "Are you sure that's a good idea? I thought you preferred-"

"I prefer you," John replied. They'd stashed the lube and a condom under one of Sherlock's pillows so it wouldn't be thrown off the bed or kicked away with the sheets. He retrieved them now, pressing another open-mouthed kiss to Sherlock's jaw as he leaned forward. "It'll feel amazing, I promise."

Preparation was slow-going, as it had been several years since John had been penetrated by more than a solitary finger during a wank. It was more than a quarter hour before his body was relaxed enough for him to crawl back on top of Sherlock and unroll the condom. The pair of them were tested and clean, but this made for a simpler cleanup. More time for the cuddling Sherlock would never admit to enjoying.

John smiled fondly to himself, briefly wondering how he'd gotten lucky enough to be here, able to think about the fact that in a little while, he'd be engaging in post-coital cuddling with Sherlock Holmes.

He guided Sherlock's lube-slicked fingers to wrap around himself. His own hand joined a moment later, stroking in unison until their fingers slid up and down effortlessly. The look on Sherlock's face-all flushed and momentarily wide-eyed-made John want to take a picture of the detective for posterity. He rarely saw him so uninhibited; so close to the edge of losing control.

It took a few tries before they managed to figure out a proper angle, and when John finally slid home, his thighs were straining. He knew just how much his body could handle. The heated stretch was uncomfortable, yes, but as he adjusted to the sensation, he knew it would get better. And then there was the sheer knowledge of it-of Sherlock inside him, moving with him, filling him-which seemed to be enough to bring his wilting erection back to life.

"God, Sherlock," he gasped. He moved his hips only slightly, not yet ready to move much more than a tantalizing wiggle that held so much promise. The hands on his hips were gripping him hard, almost bruisingly so. Somehow, he didn't care. Let Sherlock mark him. Wouldn't be the first time.

"You're perfect," John whispered. "Absolutely perfect. Fuck." John leaned back a bit. His palms momentarily supported his weight on Sherlock's thighs for a bit of leverage so he could rearrange the position of his knees. He wanted to lean forward and kiss that slightly dazed expression on Sherlock's face; wanted to taste the sweet victory of making the great detective's brain short circuit like this.

Sherlock shifted below his weight, his hips moving enough to make John's eyes flutter. John was about to speak-he needed more time, he wasn't ready for Sherlock to move much. His body had nearly acclimated to the slick stretch and sensation, but...

"John." Sherlock's voice was low, just on the inside of a warning. John wondered if it was too much; if it was possible for Sherlock to already be close to the finish line. He didn't know how long it'd been since the other man had been on the giving end or, in fact, if he'd ever done it at all. "John, I need-" He cut himself off with a deep gasp for air that inflated his chest like a pale, flushing balloon. "John."

"Just one more moment, Sherlock," John said, repositioning himself carefully. If Sherlock was that close, the slight movements could be the trigger that ended everything before it really began. "I promise, Sherlock, anything, just give me a moment."

"John, I need you to-" Another breath. He seemed to be fighting with himself. John appreciated the effort, but he didn't understand how this reaction was so warranted quite so soon. "God, John, I'm sorry." Sherlock's hands slipped from their vise grip on his hips to clench in the sheets and John expected to feel the tell-tale pulsing inside, but there was nothing, just Sherlock, laying with his eyes squeezed shut, fingers flexing almost confusedly in the bedclothes.

"Sherlock-"

"John, I need-I need you to get off me," Sherlock said suddenly.

Well, that certainly hadn't been what he expected to hear.

Before he had time to question it, Sherlock was retreating while simultaneously pushing John away. The way their bodies forcibly disengaged was uncomfortable and startling, leaving John splayed to one side of the bed, bracing himself and trying not to crack his skull on sharp edge the bedside table. He didn't get to ask Sherlock what was going on-his lover had disappeared into the en suite bathroom without a word, the door slammed shut and secured behind him.

John looked around Sherlock's bedroom hazily. His arousal was subsiding, leaving a dull, slick ache in its void. He rested his head on the pillow he'd come to think of as his own and watched the closed bathroom door. On the other side, the water began to run, but John didn't take even the slightest invitation from it. Instead, he closed his eyes. He'd ask Sherlock what the bloody hell had happened once they'd both had a chance to calm down.

-o0o-

John's eyes opened slowly as his mind dragged his unwilling body back into consciousness. His fingers trailed over the cool, empty space next to him in the bed. Sherlock was already awake, then.

He stretched out for a moment before the night's events came back to him. Their failed encounter hit him like a punch in the chest. Had Sherlock ever even come to bed or had he gone off to perform some kind of feral experiment in his agitated state? Bit not good. Their rent had doubled the last time they had a row. This was by no means a legitimate quarrel, but if Sherlock lost his temper, the walls might end up covered in jam-flavored brain matter.

He'd have to get out of bed and deal with it eventually. Didn't mean he wanted to.

But then John realized that the shower was still running on the other side of the bathroom door. His own body felt too sleep-slackened for his venture into dreamland to have been a short nap. They'd gotten into bed around midnight. John reached for his phone on the bedside table and illuminated it for the time.

3:32.

It'd been at least two and a half hours since Sherlock had gone into the bathroom. That couldn't be right.

John climbed off the bed, wincing when his feet made contact with the cold wood of the floor. His bath robe was draped across the chair next to the bathroom door and he pulled it on to fend off the slight draft in the room. There wasn't any sound from the other side of the door except the running water. He raised his hand and knocked shortly. When he received no answer, he shuffled on his feet and licked his lips before knocking louder.

It wasn't uncommon for Sherlock to get lost in thought, but John couldn't remember a time when it had ever happened in theshower. The last thing he needed was a pneumonia-ridden detective on his hands. He tried the knob.

Locked.

Fantastic.

Fortunately, living and working with Sherlock Holmes meant that John Watson had become quite adept at lock-picking. After finding an old credit card and a knife, he was able to jostle the lock into submission.

"Sherlock?" John inquired as he poked his head into the room. He expected to see Sherlock in his mind palace beneath the spray, maybe staring off into space while absentmindedly shampooing his hair into an early grey.

He didn't expect to see the fully-grown man curled into a ball in the corner of the stall, eyes blank behind the crystallized door.

John cried his friend's name and slid the glass door to the side, momentarily getting rained on by an icy spray before he managed to turn it off. The space wasn't made to hold two people who weren't paying close attention to the way their bodies were angled and John was sure he'd have a bruise on his left hip in the morning, but his first priority was to get the trembling detective to warmth.

His mind didn't even register the cold water soaking his feet and knees as he knelt next to Sherlock. "Sherlock, can you hear me?"Are you okay? was the instinctual question, but it was useless at this point. And what did I do wrong? would come with an answer John didn't think he wanted to know just yet. He settled for shedding his bathrobe and wrapping it around his lover. The thin material clung to pale, wet skin on contact. It wouldn't do much good at all, but the effort made John feel like he wasn't useless.

"Sherlock." John's voice was more direct now, but he wasn't getting a single sign that Sherlock could hear a word he said. "Love, please." He swallowed as Sherlock's teeth started to chatter audibly. It was the first change in his state since John had entered the room. John got in front of Sherlock-a most uncomfortable squeeze, but it gave him a better chance to see the other man. He put his hands on Sherlock's shoulders and squeezed gently before rubbing up and down, hoping for some blood flow.

"Sherlock, I want to take you into the bedroom and get you warm. Can you help me? Sherlock?" John stared directly into Sherlock's blank eyes. The vibrant blue that usually answered him with a childlike curiosity was gone; gray slate stared back and made John feel like he was talking to a wall. A shaking, catatonic wall.

Think, John, he chastised himself as he tried to lift Sherlock from the floor. He was strong, but there was very little friction to help him and the consulting detective was practically dead weight. While it could've been worse (Sherlock could've been forcibly resisting), John tried to use his increased deductive reasoning to make an educated diagnosis.

What brought this on? Well, obviously, the sex, but why the sex? We have sex four nights out of seven when a case isn't on, sometimes more if Sherlock's feeling the nicotine withdrawal. This isn't a man being self-conscious about premature ejaculation, about not pleasing. He's terrified. Why?

John realized belatedly that Sherlock was struggling as they got closer to the bed. He stopped a few feet away and just held Sherlock, letting him breathe, grateful that the other man wasn't drawing away from him. His eyes were closed as he drew deep breath after deep breath and his teeth chattered. John felt more determined to warm him up, but the living room was so much farther away and it was certainly the only other place that Sherlock might find comforting.

His eyes drifted up Sherlock's face, taking in the taut line of his jaw, the thin set of his normally full lips as he tried to clamp them together with his chattering teeth. Those eyes were moving beneath their tightly-shut lids and John couldn't help feeling that there was an admonishment going on behind them, as if Sherlock were berating himself for his behavior.

The sudden clarity of his deduction covered John like ice water. He's terrified, but he's alert enough to think himself ridiculous. He could feel Sherlock's heart pounding under his fingertips where he held Sherlock's arm. He can't calm down, but he's actively trying. Trapped.

When you've eliminated the impossible... But, PTSD. Why would he have PTSD?

There were several stops along the way to adjust Sherlock's weight, switch sides, and untangle arms and elbows, but he got Sherlock onto the couch without either of them falling onto the kitchen table. Small victories.

He wrapped Sherlock in a blanket and made sure he was sitting properly on his own before leaving him for a moment to get towels. "I'll be back in a moment, I promise." Whether his words did any good or more harm, he didn't know. He said them for himself; there was a guilt to leaving Sherlock behind in that state, even for linens. When he'd had nightmares, Sherlock had never left-not even after John had fallen back asleep.

PTSD. Shock, mild catatonic state triggered by... sex? No. Penetrative sex, giving.

John hesitated at the cupboard as he pulled at a stack of towels. It was a long moment before he could take another breath. There were so few options. There was only one option, really, with a dozen variables, and he didn't want to consider it. Didn't want to take into account what he knew; what he didn't.

Sherlock's reactions. They'd been willing, hadn't they?

I didn't give him a choice, John thought. He sank down onto the bed as he passed through the bedroom. Oh, God, I didn't think twice about asking if it was what he wanted.

And Sherlock had immediately felt so dirty, so vile that he'd rushed off into a hail of frozen water.

What kind of person am I, that I didn't see?

John covered his face with his hands. Now he was the one who felt grimy.

No, he told himself sternly. You can't break down, too. You have to go out there and take care of him. He's taken care of you.

John found his pyjama bottoms on the floor of Sherlock's side of the bed. After pulling them on, he picked up the towels again and returned to the couch. Sherlock was still chattering, though there was a bit more color in his skin. His curls were still stuck to his forehead in inky swirls.

Rather than rubbing the water away from Sherlock, John began to cocoon the other man in all the towels and blankets he had on hand. By the time Sherlock began to look like himself again-still pale, but less of the pallor kind and more of the "my skin rarely sees the light of day" kind-John was about ready to fret himself into a state.

"I'm going to make tea," John said once he deemed Sherlock more stable than before. Tea seemed like the sensible thing to do, if not the British thing to do. Warm tea, the kind that would calm Sherlock further. No sugar; no need for the crash that would come from the sweet.

He watched the kettle and kept an eye on Sherlock, but he felt helpless in regards to both. The kettle was ridiculous; there was nothing he could do to boil water faster or, when it did, to steep the tea more quickly. And with Sherlock, there was nothing he could do to drag him out of whichever room of his mind palace the genius had retreated into.

They sat in a resoundingly absolute silence and John let his tea sit on the coffee table next to Sherlock's untouched cup and saucer. He didn't know how long it was before Sherlock's sharp intake of breath startled him, sounding entirely like the man was coming back to life with all the air the room had to offer.

He can have it, John thought. He can have anything.

Sherlock blinked twice and his eyes scanned the room, taking in any changes, before he finally turned his head and looked at John. His lips parted silently, no longer trembling but still seeming unable to form words. He looked very much like a fish out of water.

John moved closer to Sherlock on instinct, wanting to fill Sherlock's brain with words and his lungs with air and his heart with the warmth the detective had always been denied.

"John, I," Sherlock stutters, "I-John, I'm so sor-"

"No." The word was more forceful than John meant for it to be and he softened his tone before continuing, "No, Sherlock, you are not apologizing right now. Don't ever apologize for this."

Sherlock closed his eyes as if he hadn't expected John to figure out what had happened. For a moment, thoughts flash in the back of his mind, making him wonder if he should have played dumb. But the pained look in the other man's eyes when he opened them again-a deep and empty sort of hurt that show a sheer vulnerability-made John sure he had taken the right path.

"No one," Sherlock said, fidgeting. "I've not-I've never-I couldn't-" There was a level of frustration that Sherlock Holmes rarely reached, the one where he could tangle himself in the inability to formulate his lightning-paced articulations. He was reaching that point and John, who had only seen it happen once before, didn't know how to react.

Fortunately, Sherlock took a deep breath, paused, and started over. "I've never... told anyone."

This didn't surprise John. He imagined it would've been something Mycroft would've briefed him on if he knew.

Oh God, what if it was Mycroft? John's stomach twisted further into a knot.

"You don't have to talk about it, Sherlock." His hand hovered hesitantly before resting on Sherlock's lower back above the blankets. "You can calm down and drink tea and talk about it when you're ready. Or never. Whatever is best for you. Don't feel like you owe me an explanation."

Sherlock clenched his teeth, his entire body tensing with the movement. It was another moment of small circles being rubbed into his back before he relaxed marginally. "I was fourteen."

John winced. He felt guilty about his flinch; Sherlock would've noted it, even with his eyes closed. So much for being a receptive, supportive partner. Why is it okay for him to leave rotting kneecaps in the ice box but he can't talk about this?

His mind answered him immediately: You can't fix this.

"She was my summer tutor. Twenty-eight. Live-in. Latin, German, French." He may as well have been reciting a grocery list, but even through the lack of emotion, John fixated on what he imagined was the key word in the bunch.

She. Immediately, his mind flew back to hours ago, when he'd climbed on top of Sherlock's pliant body and announced his intentions only to be greeted with immediate apprehension. He'd written it off as performance anxiety. Now he knew better: It had been a trigger; one that open-fired memories even Sherlock Holmes couldn't lock deep enough away.

The room was silent until a rustling of blankets and towels brought John out of his silent fuming. Sherlock was reaching for his tea.

"Let me get you a fresh cup." John reached for the saucer, but Sherlock held it out of reach with one hand while grabbing his lover's wrist with the other.

"Stay," he said quietly before adding a childshly broken, "Please."

"I'm not going anywhere, Sherlock. Not now, not ever." His fingers held Sherlock's wrist loosely before twining their fingers together. The angle was awkward, but the sentiment was there. John moved closer and he slipped his left arm further around Sherlock's back. When they settled a moment later, they were sitting in the center of the couch, Sherlock's left hand wrapped with John's right, John's left arm settled along the curves and folds in the blankets to rest on Sherlock's right hip. There were so many blankets. It was like John was hugging a linen space pod.

"Even if I can't- I don't think I could do it, John-I've-I've never wanted to and if you need that-"

"Sherlock, no, please," John said, squeezing both of his hands and resting his head on Sherlock's shoulder. "Sherlock, if you told me right now that you were completely put off sex for the rest of your life, I'd be fine. It doesn't matter to me like you do." It'd be a loss, he wouldn't deny that under any circumstances. Sex with Sherlock was never short of extraordinary. He looked up into Sherlock's eyes and found that they'd gotten most of the blue coloring back. Sherlock was there now; the Sherlock John knew. Loved.

"I don't know that I'd take that drastic a route," Sherlock said. The left corner of his mouth twitched, but John still felt like Sherlock was downplaying his emotions.

"I never want you to feel like you can't tell me something." John pulled his hand away and cupped Sherlock's face in his hand, happy to feel the warming skin in his palm; satisfied with the way the younger man's cheeks were regaining their color. "If we can't communicate, we're rubbish, Sherlock. I need you to understand that."

Sherlock leaned into the touch and closed his eyes. "It's not something I'm comfortable discussing."

Something stabbed at the base of John's throat; a searing realization of exactly what it meant for Sherlock Holmes to be uncomfortable with a topic. Sherlock, who had no filter between his brain and his mouth, had managed to keep this secret for two decades. He had lived alone with it in the back of his mind; taking up valuable space in his mind palace for twenty years like a prominent scar carved by his own silence.

John took a deep breath and fought the urge to get up and punch a wall. Now was not the time to defend Sherlock's honor. "It's not just this, Sherlock. If you hadn't... if-" He stopped himself. He didn't want to bring back the memories of hours past. "What if that hadn't happened, Sherlock? What if we went through with it and started doing that regularly? How would I ever know you weren't enjoying it if you just lay back and think of England?"

"I-I'll try, John, but I." He stopped and fiddled with his fingers. John just watched, giving him all the time he needed to process his thoughts. The man was still probably doing more thinking behind those closed eyes than the average person did in an entire day. He looked up a moment later and grabbed John's hand. "Could we go to bed?"

John nodded without question and helped Sherlock up and out of the fortress of linens that had been built around him. Most of them fell to the floor without a care from the pair of men. They made their way to the bedroom, hand tightly squeezed in hand, holding on for dear life.

Sherlock got into the bed first while John watched from his side. He felt unsure about how welcome his presence would be just then. Even if Sherlock just wanted his companionship for a little while, it was still probably a bad idea to do much touching. The living room had probably been too feely in the first place.

But a moment later, Sherlock turned onto his side and faced his lover before inclining his head in a vaguely hesitant invitation. John didn't need to be invited to the comfort zone twice. He was pulling the covers over himself before Sherlock had time to blink. It was only when Sherlock curled up against him and pressed his face into his neck that John remembered that his love was still naked.

"Do you want to put bottoms on?" John whispered. "You don't like sleeping in the-" The voice of reason, John was. Always. Sherlock hated the texture of the duvet on his calves. No other part of his body, just his calves, so he always had to wear bottoms. Now was probably the most ridiculous time to be paying any attention to the textural needs of the backs of Sherlock's legs, but John wanted to take care of him. All of him, calves and shins and kneecaps included.

Sherlock shook his head. His nose was pressed into the spot where John's neck met his shoulders, breathing warmly and evenly for what was surely the first time in hours. John carefully ghosted his hand along the curve of Sherlock's hip before settling on the small of his back. He didn't fully rest his hand on the other man's skin until he felt a soft sigh on his own.

"Is this okay?" he asked. He'd never assume again; he didn't think he could handle seeing Sherlock like this twice and knowing he'd been the cause.

"Perfect," Sherlock mumbled sleepily. His arm wrapped around John's waist, mirroring him. "Absolutely perfect."

"I love you," John whispered into the mess of moist black curls at his lips.

There was no answer outside of a silent murmur of lips against his throat.

John knew they'd be a sweaty mess of limbs when they woke up; Sherlock was a veritable human space heater. It would be worth it, though, for the even-breathing calm that settled over them just before sleep.