I never intended to actually put this scene in the finished story; I just wanted one good angsty hurt/comfort PTSD!John nightmare scene with some manly physical contact. So here it is.
They drove back to the hotel in almost dead silence, stifling yawns.
"Do we tell Mycroft tonight?" John asked as they pulled into a park outside the hotel.
"Nah," Greg shook his head, grinning wryly, "tomorrow's plenty soon enough for him to upset our plans."
John yawned, "Alright. I'm off to bed. Sherlock, if you come in late, don't wake me up."
Sherlock made a noise of agreement.
"Thanks. Goodnight, Greg."
Sherlock blinked and opened his eyes.
Oh. He'd fallen sleep. How dull.
He rolled over and sat up in one smooth movement (still fully dressed, fell asleep on top of the covers; removed shoes and jacket, at least), reaching out a hand to pick up his mobile from the bedside table and swiping a thumb across the screen. The harsh light had him blinking rapidly, waiting for his vision to adjust so that he could actually see the screen.
Three oh seven.
Mindful of the fact that John was sleeping in the next bed, he didn't give vent to a grunt of annoyance. Not that he would have wanted to sleep for another three hours anyway - sleeping was such a waste of time, he tried to minimise the time needed for it while taking into account the biological needs of his body; but rather because now he would have to wait until one of the others woke up to provide adequate company for him.
Sighing softly, he switched on the bedside light, grabbed his book, moved to sit lotus position, and found his place.
He'd read eight and a half pages when he found himself glancing across the room to John's bed. Odd. There was no logical reason for his eyes to want to do so, and yet they were doing it. John wasn't shifting around or making excessive noise - he wasn't making any noise, in fact, except for the muted sound of his breathing - so there was no rational reason for Sherlock's brows to be inching downward in a frown of thought and/or concern...
Stillness, muted (not just quiet but shallow, come on, Sherlock, don't be lazy, don't just assume, assumptions get people killed or worse; it's shallow) breathing, probably a tense frown on his face that Sherlock couldn't see as John was facing away from him...
He should have seen it coming. The tiredness, the comments earlier ("It's... it's like a war zone out there, in the Red Zone. Made me feel like I was back in Afghanistan for a moment... all those gaping holes where buildings used to be, the debris and building dust everywhere, the area absolutely deserted..."), add to that the presence of his old army mate... John was having a flashback.
Sherlock cast a desperate look at the wall between their room and Greg's; not that Greg had any more experience in dealing with nightmares than Sherlock - in fact he had less, having not lived with John for the last year or so - but he was certainly better at the touchy feely sentiment side of human nature.
He just hoped John wouldn't do anything too dramatic, like -
John woke screaming.
- like waking up screaming.
(Oh alright, more a yell than a scream, but certainly dramatic enough.)
The yell was cut off as soon as John realised what he was doing, but he couldn't stop the harsh sobs or the tears that flowed down his cheeks or the hand that lifted, white knuckled, to clutch at his left shoulder. Sherlock watched for a moment, frozen with indecision, and then slipped off the bed to stand beside John, who was now sitting up against the headboard, knees to his chest, head bowed.
Sherlock lifted a hand, paused for a moment, and then continued the movement to grip John's free shoulder in a wordless gesture of something that was hopefully comforting. He could feel John's body shaking beneath his hand, the only sound in the room his panting breaths and stifled sobs.
There was a soft knock at the door, and then it opened and Greg poked his head in.
"Does he look alright to you?" Sherlock's counter question was probably harsher than it needed to be, but combined worry and helplessness were making him somewhat freer with his emotions than usual.
Greg just raised an eyebrow and nodded, as if that had been the expected response. Leaving the door open, he turned to look down the hall toward the other bedrooms - obviously either Mycroft or Anthea were curious about the incident.
"Situation's under control, you can go back to bed."
He kept watch down the hallway for a minute or two, and then came forward into the room.
"Hey, Johnny," his voice was soft, rising and falling in a deliberately calm rhythm, "How are you doing?"
John shook his head without looking up, and spoke through clenched teeth, the word choked, strangled, "Hurts."
(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; he had a nightmare of when he was shot, the wound will be paining him - psychosomatic or not makes no difference.)
Sherlock glanced up, "Heat pack. In the kitchen."
Greg nodded and slipped from the room, returning a few minutes later with a chemical heat pack wrapped in a tea towel. He came around to the other side of the bed and lightly tapped John's knee.
"You'll need to lean back, Johnny, I can't get to your shoulder while you're hunched over like that."
John took a deep breath, braced himself, and leaned back slowly against the headboard, relaxing when the anticipated increased pain didn't make an appearance. Greg prised his hand off the bad shoulder and applied the heat pack, murmuring a soft apology when John hissed at even the slight pressure. His breathing was slowing, now, settling into a more normal rate and depth, and he scrubbed a hand across his face and sighed.
"Sorry," the word was rough and soft, barely a whisper.
"It's hardly your fault," was Sherlock's immediate response.
"I have to agree with the genius, there. It's fine, John. Don't worry about it."
John nodded. One hand crept up to claim the heat pack from Greg, rubbing it gently against his shoulder; the other was clenching and unclenching spasmodically at his side. They sat in silence for a full ten minutes, Sherlock still standing to the side of the bed, Greg perched on the bed on the other side of John, and John in the middle. He was gradually increasing the radius of the rubbing motions, and flexing his shoulder in tiny movements.
Finally John shifted his weight and cleared his throat softly, "Okay. Um, I'll be fine now. Thanks."
Greg stood, "Alright. I'll be next door if you need me."
He glanced at Sherlock, hesitated, but stayed silent and retreated from the room, closing the door behind him.
John sighed and rested his head back against the headboard, "Thanks, Sherlock."
Settling himself back lotus style on his own bed, Sherlock frowned, confused, "For what?"
"The, uh," John made a motion with his hand up his torso, "the hand on my shoulder. It's good."
"I though it would be... comforting," the word tasted alien in his mouth.
"It is," John was staring at the wall, displaying the inherent British dislike of strong emotion, "It's one of the best techniques for helping when I've just had an episode, actually. Keeps me grounded, gives me something warm and human and alive and here to focus on."
"That's, uh... well, that's... good."
"Very good, yes."
Silence for a few minutes, and then John shifted to lie under the covers again, "Well, g'night then."
Sherlock paused a moment before replying, "Goodnight, John."