He didn't remember falling asleep. His dreams had been something else, though. A brogue little man in an expensive little suit, buzzing in his ear. Red fireflies across Sherlock's face. The blooming orange of explosion, like budding lilies that snapped fire at his heels. Trapped underwater, chlorine in his nose, mouth, head still full of the buzzing, something clutching at him, dragging him, wrapped around him.
He didn't remember falling asleep, and certainly not in a hospital. His mind fumbled, key turning but engine flooding as he tried to start it again and again. There was the numb tingle of morphine (oh, he'd know her kiss anywhere) all through him, keeping him still, keeping him from observing. His eyes were certainly open, but he couldn't register the information. Hospital he got from the smell. The sound of a heart monitor. The starched sheet and uncomfortable gown.
He woke up fully, slowly, and it all began to take shape around him. The little man (Moriarty), the fireflies (snipers), the lilies (semtex), the chlorine (in the pool), the something clutching at him (Sherlock's shaking arms, dragging his unresponsive, heavy body; shedding jumper, shoes, sodden shirt to get leverage). The heart monitor was for him, and the IVs shoved into his arm may well have been Victoria Station for all the tubes. His fingers and toes responded to his commands, and he breathed a sigh of relief for that. His throat felt like battle-blasted desert, almost had the thought to call the nurse for water. He couldn't shake the feeling of being restrained.
The arms he hadn't registered gripped him tighter when he tried to shift, and John froze. One arm tucked under his neck. Another wrapped protectively over his chest, a shield, a ward. An entire body pressed up against his side, lined up, purposely. Steady breath in his ear.
He couldn't turn to look (the morphine was lovely, took away the pain he was sure was drumming inside him, but it took away all urge to move), but he knew it was Sherlock. It was nothing to do with the long fingers gripping, the scrawny, bony body all angles up against him. There was no one else it could have been. He supposed that it was a bit shocking, to wake up after nearly being blown apart to his equally-nearly-blown-apart flatmate cuddling him. It was the right word, but John couldn't really feel that shocked at the moment. Maybe later. It was all fine, then.
John didn't wake him. He could tell just by listening (only one heart monitor), feeling (he was in a med gown too, and something sticking out of Sherlock's arm was poking him in the stomach), that Sherlock wasn't supposed to be there. He should've been in his own bed (somewhere close by, this was a private room, thank you Mycroft), but he'd found John instead. He supposed, lulled back to sleep by the morphine and the steady breath, that it was very good to know that Sherlock had made it out, too. That he was all right. Very good.
Sherlock was stirred awake ten minutes later by a (flustered) nurse on her rounds, who quietly but insistently tried to make Sherlock leave John's bed and get back to his own. Sherlock didn't move, told her very plainly that he was waiting for John to wake up and would she kindly get them some water?
He'd been writing. Finally getting around to writing up all that nasty business about Moriarty and the pool (after Lestrade had finally given him permission to release the names and events to the public). Sitting across from Sherlock at his desk, who had been typing furiously about one thing or another. Email, probably, getting back to that woman out in the country who'd been hired as a nanny and complained about a haircut (or something of the sort, John hadn't particularly been listening).
He woke with a sore neck, and his shoulder was pinching and complaining. He gave a groan, rolled his neck, and held the palm of his hand flat there to feel the muscles. Only a blanket got in the way. It was the afghan that John kept folded over the back of his chair, the one he threw over his legs on chilly nights when Sherlock was bored enough to let him flip through the channels and watch mindless telly. He didn't remember leaving the desk to get it, someone must have thrown it over him.
And there was Sherlock, still sitting across from him—laptop closed, one long arm folded across it to lean his shaggy head upon. The second arm had disturbed a pile of papers (sent by Lestrade three days ago, all pertinent information on Jim from IT they could find) and Sherlock's fingers had come to rest just inches from John's. As if trying to reach out in sleep to assure himself that John was still there.
John stood slowly and quietly, shrugging the afghan off his shoulders and moving the curtain aside to check on the sun (which had gone down, naturally). Not long ago, judging by the violet twilight. It would probably snow, judging by the clouds. Or turn to slush before it hit the ground, like it usually did. What a rubbish night. He was looking forward to sleeping through it, in a more convenient location. He hoped to God no one needed a consulting detective at this hour.
John threw the afghan over Sherlock's shoulders absently, rubbed his stiff neck and turned to head upstairs. Sherlock stirred, though, with a sharp intake through his nose and a bewildered, sleepy "John?" from his lips.
"Yeah, Sherlock," John assured him, turning back to the desk.
Sherlock flexed the fingers in the hand that he had spread outward across the desk, then quickly pulled it back into tug the afghan further over his shoulders. He glanced up, nodded. "Nothing." A deft pause. "Thank you."
"You should get to bed," John advised.
"No, couldn't possibly," Sherlock sighed, stretching his arms before him before settling back into his chair and throwing his laptop open.
"Well, you were doing just fine a second ago," John remarked.
Sherlock shrugged and fell back into the steady rhythm of typing. There was something different or strange, but John decided to leave it and headed up to his room. At least Sherlock would be warm.
He remembered the horrible sound of fist on flesh, Sherlock's body crumpling from the hit, slumping to the ground like a rag. He remembered reaching for his gun, but of course it was tucked in the drawer of his bedside table, safe (lucky Lestrade hadn't found it last week raking the flat for drugs or body parts or whatever he was trying to pin on Sherlock to get him on the case). The case, he'd remembered thinking, that currently had John in a headlock and Sherlock hitting the hard concrete floor.
John remembered breaking his captor's arm, remembered the sound it made, exactly which bones he'd fractured and where.
He remembered the exact medical names for every spot into which he threw full-armed punches (the man who'd cracked his fist into Sherlock's face). Kept on hitting him once he'd joined Sherlock on the floor. Didn't stop hitting him until someone cracked a flat board into the back of his head. He didn't remember anything after that.
It was a good thing that one of them'd had the sense to text Lestrade with their whereabouts (he wasn't sure which of them; it might have been Mycroft. Again).
John regained consciousness with a swirl of colors, flashing lights, and dark curls, his mind circling Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock as his limbs tried to find new and interesting ways to obey him. His hand clapped down on Sherlock's wrist, tightened, turned it over, checked with shaking fingers for a pulse (throbbing blood beating back against his fingertips, the most wonderful rhythm he'd ever felt).
He could hear scuffled footsteps, shouting, most definitely Lestrade's voice, but they were secondary. Tertiary, even. First was Sherlock. Turning him over to be sure he was breathing properly, checking for superficial injuries, for blood. To get him out of danger, out from underfoot of the police chase that had suddenly sprung up around them, and, ten seconds later, the shootout. Prop him up behind the metal container full of guns from Somalia.
Second was trying not to pass out on top of his flatmate.
Sherlock came around just as Sergeant Donovan got the last of the thugs in handcuffs, and John breathed a sigh of relief. Thoughtlessly cupped the side of Sherlock's face as he murmured, "Oh, good." They teetered there for a too-long second, John's thumb running a line again and again down Sherlock's cheekbone (which would bruise from the strike within the next seven hours) and Sherlock's drowsy eyes trying very desperately to focus. Had to, had to, had to do something with John so close. And his head finally drooped into the crook of Sherlock's neck.
Sherlock called for a medic, and by the time they brought John back around, Sherlock was pacing far, far away.
It was searingly cold outside in Moscow. The sort of cold that made the windows crackle like they might break. The sort of cold that seeped in through every unknown crack in cheap hotels, chipped away at all defenses to shore off all uncovered extremities. And Sherlock was wandering around in his pajamas, robe un-cinched and toes bare. Pacing, breath fogging in a way that might have been beautiful (long pale neck exposed with a turn, blue light from outside filtering into the dark room through frosted windows). John wasn't sure Sherlock knew he was looking. Because Sherlock wouldn't let him sleep in the chair, he'd ruin his shoulder and be completely useless should they need to shoot anyone in the morning.
But now he couldn't sleep, knowing that the cold was biting hard and Sherlock was ignoring it despite his fingertips shaking just so he could pace, could think (no violin on this trip, couldn't risk it breaking in cargo).
"Sherlock," he said plainly, and the man in question froze.
He turned his head, eyes lit from the side with a slant of blue light, looking very much like a cat.
"Come on," John ordered.
When Sherlock didn't listen (still cemented in place, an animal awaiting an attack), John threw off the thick covers, stamped over to him to wrench him bodily from the spot, and threw him unforgivingly into the springs. Sherlock protested with a few weak flails of his limbs, but John shoved his way into the bed after him, pulled the covers up and wrapped his arms across Sherlock's to keep them from moving. The man was cold and stiff and muttered long strings of abuses and curses at his flatmate.
But John didn't listen, pinned against Sherlock's back, nose tucked into Sherlock's shoulder just behind his ear, willing the stubborn, freezing man to just give up. He wasn't going to win a fight where his health was concerned.
And as he warmed under the covers, against close and comfortable John, low and steady breath in his ear, Sherlock relaxed for the first time in what felt like decades.
When John woke up the next morning, yellow light torpid through the curtains and the clouds, Sherlock's fingers were weaved inextricably with his own where they'd latched last night, a tangle of fingers knotted against Sherlock's chest. Very warm, very comfortable, and very reminiscent of something he thought he remembered dreaming at the hospital. It was almost nice.
John smiled drowsily against Sherlock's shoulder, thought to himself that he could be shocked and appalled later, when he had the energy for it. Right then, in a nest with legs tangled and so wonderfully warm, he could care less if he was in the same bed as Sherlock Holmes (if he was enjoying it).
Three minutes later, Sherlock jerked awake, a gasp of "Oh of course!" snapping from his lips with enough gusto to wake the dog across the street into a fit of yapping. He unwound himself from John in a series of inhuman movements and was sliding from the bed (hissing at the cold floor, moving from one foot to the next in quick hops), his mouth going like a motor. He'd solved it of course, in his sleep of all places.
After they'd run through icy back streets, had a fist-fight with some punks behind the Tretyakov Gallery, collared Mikhail Bakunin who spat in their faces and kicked and screamed all the way to the station, the cold had seeped back into their joints and they all but creaked as they pulled themselves up four flights of stairs.
Sherlock lingered wordlessly near the edge of the bed, teetering on words and his toes, before John rolled his eyes and motioned for Sherlock to join him.
Sherlock had said it was an experiment. The stranger things that had happened to him in the last eight months tended to be labeled as such. He needed to test a theory in order to either convict or free the man that Lestrade had waiting in a cold interrogation room. He had to know whether the man's blood alcohol level had been too high to function as was necessary to match the criteria of the murder (wielding a very heavy, unruly weapon with at least the sort of finesse needed to cleave a woman's head from her shoulders).
He hadn't told John why he was drinking scotch, and by the time John had come home, he'd had enough on his own to invite John to the table for the party. John did a bit of interrogating (what was the party for? was Sherlock sure it wasn't an experiment? how much had he had already?), but the mirth at seeing the uptight detective suddenly so loose and grinning whittled the questions down considerably. He decided an experiment on his part wouldn't go amiss, and seeing how much scotch it took to get Sherlock Holmes raving drunk sounded right up his alley. He was sure Lestrade would get a kick out of the photos, anyway.
John hadn't planned his experiment well. Five drinks later, he was belting the harmony to Sherlock's Don't Stop Me Now.
He woke sometime between night and day, the sky an unreadable gray and the only light coming from the overhead fixture they'd left on in the kitchen. Sherlock was sprawled elegantly over the sofa like he'd been poured into a mold. John was on the floor, had propped himself up against the sofa, and therefore against Sherlock. His eyes opened (slowly, nearly agonizingly) to reveal the softly rising and falling plane of Sherlock's chest where his head had slumped.
John didn't move. Couldn't. Sherlock's hand (cold fingers, long fingers with calluses where they'd long touched metal strings) had curled atop his head, into his hair, holding John firmly but gently in place. Even if he'd wanted to move (did he? oh god), his head still quavered with the aftereffects of the scotch and he was afraid for his balance, his noise level, and above all (oh god, oh god) his judgment.
(Judgment because his head was lying flat on Sherlock's stomach, slept there, held there, buttons pressing into the side of his face and all he could think about was—)
He took a deep breath through his nose, shaky and he didn't know why. He had to get out of there, stumble up the stairs, tuck into bed and just get out of there. Never mind the cool finger pads at his scalp, the two buttons undone at the top of Sherlock's shirt (he swallowed audibly), he had to move.
(—skin right under his, shifting under a thin button-up, snapping those buttons out of the way and—)
John eased out from under Sherlock's hand, which came away with no problem. Sherlock sighed in sleep, however, shifted his head only in the slightest away from John and the edge of the couch. John blinked wearily, hazy eyes following the white line that Sherlock's neck had suddenly become. There was something in his gut, and he wasn't sure he liked it (did he? oh god).
He'd shifted to his knees, leaned in closer as the scotch sloshed from side to side in his head to throw him off. Now he felt shocked and appalled (at himself, himself, so goddamn close and wanting to press his nose to Sherlock's neck, breathe him in, stay there for ages). John uttered a self-depricating groan, needed to move and get away (press his face into the soft patch right under Sherlock's ear where it met his jaw).
He snapped his jaw shut (oh god, had he been kneeling there, staring at Sherlock, mouth gaping and breathing loudly, heavily? oh god). Squeezed his eyes shut to gather everything to focus on standing. And he did. Wobbled once he'd gotten there, but he did it. John didn't dare glance back down when he'd stood up, just hobbled to the stairs and made his way up them as quickly as he could.
His ears could have burned holes in the pillow, and he was sure that the entire block could hear the heartbeat drumming in his throat.
John hadn't had time to fret and worry and ponder over the momentary weakness he'd experienced staring open-jawed at Sherlock on the sofa (that he'd dreamt about that long white neck, his nose buried in black curls, curious fingers everywhere). Lestrade had called in (called, not texted, this was quite serious) and breathed the word bomber. They had thrown on their coats and were out the door in a careful whirl, John's eyes everywhere.
No one had heard the word Moriarty for four months, no one dared breathe it, as if a mention might stir him from the dust in the air. He'd been licking his wounds somewhere, but no one had a clue where he'd curled up and hid. John had hoped he'd died.
It could be a copycat, Lestrade said. No point in jumping to conclusions. The fact that the bomber had contacted the police instead of Sherlock directly was a sign in their favor. John's blog did have a fairly high readership, and it wasn't inconceivable that someone had liked what Moriarty had put together and wanted to try it for themselves. John had seen the look in Sherlock's eyes all those months ago when the pips came through the line one by one. That had been delight. Whatever this was (whatever John caught in the corner of his eye, Sherlock looking directly at him) wasn't even close. Anxiety. Dread.
But Sherlock had it figured out nearly before they'd taken three steps away from Scotland Yard.
They chased the copycat bomber and his associates all over London for two days. Once they finally had him in custody, John forced them to go home. He hadn't slept in those two days, but it was Sherlock who looked gray and weary (enough for both of them). John had turned off Sherlock's mobile, turned off his own when Lestrade tried to get ahold of him instead, and nearly had to drag Sherlock into 221b and across the threshold into the detective's own room.
"John, please," he heard Sherlock say quickly. Sherlock didn't face him, but John could see him kneading the sheets in both hands. "Don't go." He gave a light curse at his own skittishness. "I want to know where you are."
That had done it. Moriarty didn't even have to show his face to throw a spanner into their lives. It ate at the back of John's throat, that he could do this to Sherlock, and without even a name-drop. He kicked off his shoes, turned out the light, and slipped wordlessly under Sherlock's covers.
When John opened his eyes, Sherlock was already awake. Face to face with him, for God knew how long, not even breathing hard enough to disturb him. John blinked the sleep from his eyes to be sure that it wasn't the last vestige of a dream. And Sherlock didn't turn away; he didn't even frown, or make any indication that John was staring back at him.
By all means, he probably should have felt embarrassed. Horrified, even, going by his reaction to staring Sherlock down in his sleep days ago. But that wasn't what came firstly. It was different with Sherlock looking back at him, eyes blue with the morning, unwavering and serious. It wasn't guilt or embarrassment that came at all.
It made John's heart hammer in his throat. His tongue passed over his lips once without thought (no one was saying anything, should he say something?). He was nervous, yes, but—
John's hand peeked out from under the covers, and Sherlock's eyes flicked to it once before they returned to John's face. Emboldened, John pawed his fingers once through Sherlock's fringe. With a sigh through his nose, Sherlock let his eyes close. And so John did it again, fingers through Sherlock's hair.
He was stupid, and he was crazy. His eyes dropped hopelessly to the curve of Sherlock's neck (oh god), and he was crazy but he was up on one elbow and leaning across suddenly.
Sherlock's eyes snapped open at the movement, and John brushed the collar of Sherlock's shirt open, leaned across and kissed his neck. A test at first, but when no one said anything (should he say something?) John came at him again. Another kiss higher on his neck, open-mouthed and lingering. A puff of hot, careful breath, and suddenly John couldn't stop. Lavishing the curve of Sherlock's neck with his lips, unable to resist the urge to run his tongue over his Adam's apple, which bobbed with an unsteady breath when he did.
John pressed his nose just under Sherlock's ear, kissed the hollow of his jaw, smelled him (like rumpled sheets, like long nights of worry), stayed there for what felt like a very long time. Listened, until Sherlock's lips parted to say something (oh please, don't say anything).
He didn't look Sherlock in the eye when he moved in. He knew Sherlock was watching him and he knew that he'd lose his nerve if he saw those eyes staring straight back at him. So he fixed his lips over Sherlock's and John kissed him solidly.
He must have done something right, because Sherlock's hands were clamped eagerly at the back of his head and jammed them together. All teeth and tongues and two open mouths fighting to get the most of the other fit into their own. John's won (leverage), his tongue searing into Sherlock's mouth and claiming everything (that's mine, this is mine). And Sherlock let him (this time).
John really wouldn't have minded waking up like that every morning.
AN: my first time trying one of these fics, I hope it's acceptable! because the thought wouldn't leave me alone and I had to do it. So blame them, not me, they're the ones that made a nest in my head. anyhow, thanks very very much for reading and being extremely agreeable and lovely people (I love this fandom, we're all so classy), leave us some love, and above all STAY AWESOME!