Original Story Title: The Mind Has Mountains
Original Story Link: http://kate-lear.livejournal.com/15806.html
Original Story Pairings: Sherlock/John
Original Story Rating: R
Original Story Warnings: Contains references to bipolar disorder, please don't read if this will upset you
Remix Story Title: Comfort in a Whirlwind
Remix Author: thirdbird_fic
Remix Beta: garryowen
Remix Britpicker: melaszka
Remix Story Pairings: Sherlock/John
Remix Story Rating: R
Remix Story Warnings: None
Summary: When boredom takes Sherlock, it takes him completely.
"Comfort in a Whirlwind"
When boredom takes Sherlock, it takes him completely. He ought to know, after all these years, that it won’t last. There will be another case eventually; the world won’t seem this weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable forever. When things are at their worst, though, he thinks with blind terror that this time the next case will come too late, and his mind will have eaten itself alive.
He’s tried different approaches to this problem at different stages of his life, and now that John is a factor in the equation he tries this:
“Harder.” Sherlock wraps his fists around the iron bars of his bed frame and braces himself to take the full impact of John’s thrusting weight. “Harder, John. More. I need--"
“Stop talking.” John pulls back until they’re barely connected at all, causing the noise inside Sherlock’s skull to shrill to an overpowering buzz-saw whine. "I know what you need. Jesus. Stop thinking.”
“Make me,” Sherlock begs, twisting his head back and forth as if he could shake loose the clamour of restless panic. It’s been three weeks. He’s been checking his website and phone compulsively, every few minutes, driven to distraction by the thought of what will happen if nothing comes along soon. “John--”
“Shh.” John grasps hold of Sherlock's chin and kisses him gently. It’s intolerable. Sherlock wants to be bitten, not caressed. “Not yet,” John warns, and clamps both hands around Sherlock’s crossed wrists above his head. Better. “Let’s start over, hmm?” He pulls out and backs away, waiting, while Sherlock shudders deeply, takes a long breath in and out, and forces himself to go pliant again.
At home, as a boy, Sherlock had begged his parents and Mycroft for puzzles when he got bored. Mycroft was the most patient about it. He gave Sherlock endless chemistry equations to balance, cryptograms to solve, locks to pick, maps to memorise. (It wasn't until much later that Sherlock had begun to suspect he was being groomed for something, and had rebelled.)
Even Mycroft had his limits, though, and occasionally when Sherlock came to him for amusement, he told his little brother to go outside and run around the house five times instead. Ten times. Twenty times. A hundred.
Nine-year-old Sherlock, stubborn show-off, obedient soldier in the one-man army of Mycroft Holmes, ran every single lap without cheating. First to prove he could, and then because he found the rigorous, mindless physical activity soothing in its own way. And because being fast and skinny had its own advantages.
Sex with John is like that, a bit. Not only in the sense that it’s demanding physical work with useful side-effects, or that it causes a release of pleasurable chemicals in his brain. Sherlock has missed the feeling of obedience, of subjugating himself to someone else's will without question. Following orders, John would say.
John is good at giving orders. Sherlock generally doesn't sentimentalise sex enough to remember the details of any given experience he's had, but he does remember the first time John spoke to him in that particular voice, with that particular note of calibrated intent. Voice like a pistol being cocked. Voice like a needle and a length of rubber tubing. Come here. Now, Sherlock. Stop talking. Clothes off.
Remembers it and still wanks to it. No one speaks to Sherlock like that. But John is unusual, in all sorts of unexpected ways.
“Shh.” John’s hands are on him again, now, forcing Sherlock’s attention back into the room, his bed, his body. John knows how to touch in unexpected places, varying the weight and rhythm of his strokes, using his tongue, his teeth, light fingertip-brushes, sharp pinches. Distracting Sherlock, keeping him guessing. John can draw this out for hours, wringing sensation out of him until he’s reduced to his component parts: a quivering pleading endorphin-sodden wreck with no brain to speak of. It’s agonising. It’s glorious.
And then it’s over, and nothing has changed. Not really. Sherlock’s mind is already gearing up to cannibalise itself again, even though his body still aches pleasurably the next morning. John may be the best panacea he’s found yet, but the disease of being Sherlock has no cure.
And here’s another thing: John is going to leave him, eventually.
It’s the inevitable conclusion to their current arrangement. Sherlock is horrible to live with, he knows, and John has an annoyingly wide conventional streak. He'll become weary of always chasing after Sherlock and living in a tip. He'll meet someone less troubling, decide to settle down.
Or he'll get killed. Or very badly damaged. Entirely possible.
So. If John’s going to leave--no. Cross out the "if." John is going to leave, so it’s better that it happen soon. No sense putting off the inevitable.
It’s not a test. It’s more like a mercy killing. Having reached the conclusion, Sherlock begins his campaign right away. He’s noticed John’s reactions to his supposedly thoughtless actions and remarks in the past--noticed and catalogued them. Sherlock's already in a mood. He doesn’t need to feign anything, not really.
Step one: an all-night experiment, with maximum mess and odour. Chemical spills, broken glass, tainting of John’s favourite kitchen utensils with foul-smelling sticky goo (non-toxic, but John won’t know that for certain). At six a.m., Sherlock lies on the sofa surveying the destruction of the flat with gloomy, weary satisfaction. He shreds a few sheets of blank paper into long careful strips, shreds the strips to squares, then shreds the squares into geometrical confetti that will get all over everything and take multiple hooverings to clean up.
Step two: turn his back and ignore John’s entrance into the room. Ignore his offer of breakfast. Ignore the look of exasperated concern that Sherlock can practically hear, and the small sigh John thinks he’s managed to suppress.
Step three: insult, insult, insult. John’s soft spots are ridiculously easy to hit. Upper left jab to his profession, elbow to his reading taste, roundhouse kick to his intellect. John is determined not to even try to defend himself, which is unbelievably infuriating.
Step four: television on, volume high. It’s a joke. Surely John must realise what Sherlock is doing. But no, he’s an idiot. One more gut-punch of an insult and his patience snaps. He shouts, Sherlock shouts back, adrenalin soars, and--result.
The echo of angry words and slammed door is drowned out by the noise of the television, and by the blood singing high in Sherlock’s inner ears. He’s shaking a bit, he realises.
How many more times will they need to reenact this scene before it’s the final one? Not many, he hopes. The thought exhausts him, and he goes to curl up on the sofa again. He draws his dressing gown tightly around his shoulders, thin armour against the room’s chill. It’s possible he’s even finished the job this time. Such a bloody child.
“I am a child,” he’d told Mycroft. Sherlock had been perhaps ten years old, a mess of snot and blood and tears. Shattered glass on the floor of his bedroom, chemical stains splashed in dark starbursts on the pale, immaculate walls.
“You’re not.” Mycroft’s patience was implacable, but his voice was no longer kind. “You’ve had the mind of an adult since you were five, and you’ve still got the temper of a two-year-old. It’s grotesque. It disgusts me, and it disgusts Mummy and Father. So. You may continue destroying your possessions and screaming yourself sick, if you like; we can’t coddle you any longer, Sherlock. No one in this house will have anything further to say to you until you learn manners and control.”
“I’ll starve myself!” Sherlock shrieked after him, when Mycroft stalked from the room and turned the key in the lock. “I’ll take poison. I’ll die!” Sherlock could hear his hesitation just outside the door. Then: then nothing. Footsteps walking away, quickly muffled and lost in the thick white carpeting that blanketed the Holmes house like snow.
John always leaves him alone for a minimum of several hours when he’s behaving like this. This is good, Sherlock decides. This is fine. He prefers solitude. He can do just as he likes now.
He’s too exhausted at the moment, though. He can’t even get up to turn down the volume on the telly. He melts into the sofa, aching with fatigue.
It’s a genuine shock when the window slams shut, announcing John’s defiant reappearance. This is not how the scene was meant to go. Sherlock is put out at the sight of him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m not leaving.” John’s voice is tight and clipped; he’s still angry. He’s not looking at Sherlock, nor is he looking at the paper he’s scooped up from the floor as a pretence before settling back down in his chair. “It’s my flat too,” John points out, and proceeds to flip through the pages of the newspaper. He’s clearly not really reading anything, clearly determined not to react to the noise of the television, which is still blaring its inanities.
Sherlock watches him, and his irritation at John’s useless presence finally begins to give way to curiosity. What made him return to the flat? Misplaced sense of duty, Sherlock thinks, studying the set of John’s slightly uplifted chin and the occasional little throat-clearing noises he makes without realising it. Stubbornness. His face looks weathered and tired and painfully easy to read, even more so than usual. I’ve lived through Afghanistan, I can suffer through another temper tantrum, John is thinking, or something very like it.
But why? Why put himself through this? The sex is good, yes. But surely not worth--
John’s gaze shifts over to Sherlock, and his eyes soften; Sherlock looks away quickly, but he can still feel the weight of John’s intolerable expression. Pity. He’s being pitied. And diagnosed, too, no doubt. Sherlock rather likes that look of John’s when he’s done something to himself that can actually be fixed. John fussing about his well-being, and Sherlock grumbling about it, has already become a comfortable routine.
This is different, though. John can take charge of Sherlock's body, if he likes, but he has no business trying to get inside his mind. Sherlock snaps at him again, snarls. Any sane person with an ounce of sense or self-preservation would get out, now, and for good.
Instead, John comes right over to the sofa and demands to get closer.
Fine. He wants to get inside Sherlock's head? He'll get a lapful of it. The full weight of the most brilliant brain in England (in the world, he thinks privately; inconclusive, but more than likely) plonked down like a sack of uncut diamonds on the thigh of this drab little Army doctor who thinks crosswords are an intellectual challenge. He'll shred him to ribbons, Sherlock thinks with mean satisfaction. He'll gouge chunks from John's skin, leave newer, deeper scars.
If Sherlock were a different sort of man, he'd be trying to drive John off to spare John the pain of being with him. He's not that selfless. He's doing it because...
He is so terribly tired. It's more taxing to go without sleep than it used to be. John's fingers are suddenly rough in his hair, angry, pulling, and it feels amazingly good--just what he needed, after all. Unexpected. Inexplicable. John growls at him, something angry with the words for fuck's sake in it, and that's a shock, too, like a blow catching him off-balance in just the right spot.
It's not news, that John can do this to him, that Sherlock's body will react in this simple, animal way. It doesn't change anything. But the fact that he'll keep on doing it, keep trying, even when Sherlock is actively trying to drive him away....
He'll have to come at the problem from a fresh angle. He's not thinking clearly. Later on. Tomorrow. He can't possibly be defeated by the simple physical pleasure of a warm, strong hand in his hair (gentling now, beginning to stroke); there are reasons he can't allow John to do this, even if he can't recall them right now. Perhaps he's ill. That would account for it, he thinks gratefully--that would absolve him of all responsibility, and allow him to yield without further resistance to the pressure of John's fingers against his scalp. Calm. Steady. When did the television noise change? John's hands are amazing. It's just unfair for him to have hands like this.
Someone had done this for him before, once, after one of those not-quite-childhood tantrums. Someone picked him up off the floor, uncurled his fists from the scraps of paper in his hands, cleaned his face with a warm damp flannel and worked the tangles from his hair with patient fingers. He pretended to be asleep, because if he'd been awake he'd have had to fight them away. Also, if he didn't open his eyes he could pretend the hands belonged to Mycroft or Mummy, penitent and relenting, and not one of the faceless servants who came and went so rapidly that it was a waste of space to try and remember their names.
Sherlock sighs without meaning to. It feels like John is pushing him into sleep, holding him down until he succumbs. And, at last, Sherlock yields: to love, to gratitude, to the oblivion of unconsciousness. Transient and flawed, but for the moment, complete.
Remember to leave feedback for both authors!