John drifted awake in the middle of the night, wondering what had awoken him. He lay still, on his back, listening to the darkness and the small sounds it contained, but there was nothing amiss. Beside him, Sherlock was breathing deeply and regularly, sleeping peacefully. No nightmares from his husband to startle John awake. No other sounds in the flat, or beyond it, at least not unusual sounds. Even at this hour, on this day, there was still the faint murmur of traffic outside.
He opened his eyes and let them adjust. Faint orange light crept in around the edges of the thick and heavy curtains, and the thin green light from the digital clock on Sherlock's side of the bed added to the weak illumination. After about a minute, he could make out the details of Sherlock's face, not just his form. The younger man was asleep on his side facing John, one hand buried under his pillow, the other resting on the mattress between them, his dark curls falling across his cheek.
Somehow, they had ended up in a pattern where Sherlock slept on John's left side. John thought this had been established the very first night, just over two years ago now, after Sherlock had woken him up to ask about his reaction to Molly Hooper's death. It was strange, because it was certainly less than ideal, since it was John's left shoulder that was injured, but they seemed to make it work. Once or twice, usually following some crisis that necessitated one of them collapsing into bed wherever he fell, they switched places, but not often.
John let his eyes trace over Sherlock's still features. It was a rare treat to see Sherlock so calm and settled, and so unaware of being watched. Even with his back turned, Sherlock always seemed to know when John was looking at him, and usually deduced what John wanted in that look. He said it was based on John's breathing, smell, and the pattern of his silence, but John still suspected that Sherlock could read his mind some days.
But in the middle of the night, with Sherlock asleep, he was free to look and enjoy without being evaluated himself.
There was nothing but rest in Sherlock's features right now – he hadn't had a nightmare in well over two months, since The Bridge. It was as if Moriarty's death had flipped a switch in his brain, and all of the fear that had been inflicted following the crash was gone. Although he still didn't sleep very long at night, six hours at best most of the time, he slept well. It was a relief. John himself still had troubled dreams, but that wasn't uncommon for him. He'd been having those since Afghanistan.
Despite the more restful dreams, Sherlock still moved about in his sleep a lot, and John still used the well-practiced art of recovering his blankets in the middle of the night. He had noticed, though, that since their first anniversary, even that had toned down. It was as though one year, the first milestone, really, had given Sherlock permission to relax into their marriage, to trust that it would work. John had never thought Sherlock distrusted it before then, at least not consciously or deliberately. He suspected the younger man was wary of blindly accepting something good in his life. Sherlock was not especially used to permanence in his relationships, but then, he'd never really given himself or anyone else that chance. John had to admit, though, given whom Sherlock worked with on a regular basis, and Mycroft's constant intrusions in his life, well meaning as they were, this wasn't entirely surprising.
John knew part of the reason Sherlock's sleep was less troubled now was finding out he'd been right about Sam Waters still being alive. That had been the day before their anniversary, and John knew Sherlock had considered not telling him that evening, because the little bugger was getting good at discerning the difference between personal and important, as well as personally important. He hadn't wanted to overshadow the following day, but he also hadn't wanted John to have a row with him for withholding information.
The next day had been more than John had been expecting anyway. He knew Sherlock expected that John thought he'd forget. This was getting into murky mind reading territory, proving to John that Sherlock wasn't the only one with the eerie ability to tell what was going on in the other's thoughts. But John had genuinely half believed Sherlock would forget, because it was Sherlock. He had gone to work that day as per normal, leaving Sherlock at home working on some experiment that worryingly seemed to involve drain fluid and the old leather binding from a book, and had come home to a sparkling clean flat, everything that was Sherlock's mess carefully tidied away, and a home cooked meal of pot roast and roasted potatoes kept warm in the oven. There had also been a fresh salad, a favourite for John after Afghanistan, even now, and a very, very expensive bottle of champagne.
Sherlock had admitted, rather sheepishly, that Mrs. Hudson had cooked the meal, as if copping to not having cleaned the entire flat and produced a masterpiece dinner was somehow admitting failure. John had been more than a little touched and had found several ways to prove that.
He smiled at the memory and stretched, checking to see if his left shoulder was aching, but it was all right. Sherlock shifted suddenly then, moving in his sleep to toss an arm across John's stomach and to settle his face against John's chest. He exhaled sharply and John could feel his warm breath through the fabric of his own pyjamas. John curled his arm round Sherlock's shoulders without thinking about it, lacing his hand into Sherlock's hair. The younger man made a contented noise, nuzzling his nose into John's chest.
"John?" he murmured and John raised his head slightly, but it was impossible to tell if Sherlock was awake.
"Yes?" John replied quietly.
"Why're we out of goats?"
John grinned. Sherlock was sleeping.
"We'll get more tomorrow," he assured him.
"I like you much better than Charles," Sherlock murmured. John's lips twitched again – he knew who Charles was, of course; Sherlock had told him ages ago, shortly after they'd become a couple. John was fairly certain Sherlock had told him because Mycroft had pressed him to, in the interests of full disclosure, or something like that, as if Mycroft Holmes really should be worried about that. It was slightly hypocritical, given Mycroft's own habits regarding the truth.
"I'm glad," John replied.
"You make much better tea," Sherlock sighed and John rolled his eyes. Well, at least he was good at something.
Sherlock muttered something else that was unintelligible, then drifted down into deeper sleep. John lay for awhile, but sleep would not reclaim him. He raised his head slightly to see the clock over Sherlock's shoulder. A little after three in the morning.
He smiled again, then sighed.
"Sherlock, roll off," he said. "I need to get up."
Without waking up or protesting, Sherlock rolled onto his back, then onto his other side, dragging all of the covers with him. John was always impressed how well this worked, and it was pretty much the only time Sherlock listened to him unquestioningly. He slid off of his side of the bed and found a jumper, pulling it over his shoulders, and then rooted around in a drawer for some socks. John headed into the livingroom and sank down onto the couch, unballing the socks and pulling them on.
The livingroom was lit in the muted greens and reds from the lights on their small Christmas tree. Sherlock had brought it home one day about the middle of the month, startling John, then had rigged up some device to keep it upright, after which John pointed out that they could just use the tree stand John had purchased the previous year. Sherlock had scrunched up his nose at that, stating that it was no fun to do things the easy way. They had gone out together to buy more ornaments, since they had really very few from the previous Christmas, and John now felt that since they'd passed their first anniversary, they needed to start establishing some traditions of their own. Invitations from Mycroft to spend Christmas with him were ignored, although they'd agreed to visit Sherlock's parents on Boxing Day for dinner. John had wondered what Harry was doing, and had rung her, but she was busy with some friends from her AA group. It occurred to him that he should be hurt about this, but he was really just pleased with the prospect of sharing Christmas with Sherlock alone.
The base of the little tree was covered in gifts, and two small stockings hung on the mantle were stuffed with small odds and ends, most of which John had purchased, even for himself, although Sherlock had added a couple of small packages to the mix. The presents under the tree, though, were a mystery. John had no idea what Sherlock had got for him, and was looking forward to finding out. The previous Christmas, he'd been surprised by the results, until Sherlock had rolled his eyes and reminded him that he was, after all, a consulting detective. Picking up on clues was his job. Still, John was impressed, and pleased, that Sherlock was applying those skills to other parts of his life. He doubted anyone else merited this much attention.
He had bought several things for Sherlock, mostly equipment for experiments, which would make him happy, and a couple older books that were hard to find that he knew Sherlock would devour. The strangest gift, though, was a pair of bunny rabbit slippers. Sherlock had found them online – John still didn't know how – and had emailed John the link five times a day until John agreed to buy them. They were the most ridiculous things John had ever seen, and for a man with such keen taste in clothing most of the time, Sherlock had some strange ideas about what he liked to wear about the house. The dressing gown he had worn when they'd first become flatmates had been long ago replaced by John's old bathrobe, which was faded and thinner now than it had been when John had got it. But Sherlock loved it – like he loved that paramedic's blanket he'd got the day of The Bridge.
He was an eternal and fascinating puzzle.
John nudged the wrapped box containing the bunny slippers with his toe, smiling, then stretched out on the couch. It was still far too early to be up, and the city was as silent outside as it ever got.
What felt like a moment later, there was a hand on his cheek and John blinked himself awake to meet a pair of soft grey eyes and a smile. Sherlock was crouched down next to the couch, his left hand resting on John's face, his thumb stroking John's lips and cheek gently. He watched those grey eyes evaluate him quickly, looking for some sort of indication that something was wrong, since John had left the bed.
"Couldn't sleep?" Sherlock asked. John wondered what tiny hint of expression on his face had given that away.
"No," he agreed. "Woke up and couldn't get back to sleep for awhile." He paused, then smiled. "Also, you were talking in your sleep."
There was a flash of dissatisfaction at that – Sherlock hated when he talked in his sleep, since he had no control over what he said. The displeasure made John's grin grow.
"What did I say?" Sherlock demanded.
"Well, first you asked me why we were out of goats, then you told me you liked me better than Charles, because I make better tea."
"Charles?" Sherlock asked in surprise and John could tell it wasn't feigned – by the look on his face, Sherlock probably hadn't thought of Charles since he had told John about him.
John sat up, swinging his legs to the coffee table and Sherlock settled down beside him, snuggling against him.
"That isn't the only thing you're better at," he said, dropping his head against John's shoulder. John smiled, turning his head so he could kiss Sherlock's temple.
"Glad to hear it," he said. "I'd be worried if it were."
"You're also infinitely better at making biscuits than he was."
John swatted his husband's shoulder and Sherlock laughed, raising his head to kiss him.
"What time is it?" John asked then.
"Just after five."
John nodded; that was still very early, but he was used to getting up shortly after six for work, and he doubted Sherlock would want to go back to sleep anyway. They had no plans for the day, for napping during the afternoon would be possible, at least for him. Providing, of course, that Sherlock did not set off any small explosions with the new equipment John had bought for him.
"I'd like my slippers now," Sherlock said and John chuckled. He disentangled himself from his husband and picked up a box. The livingroom was still bathed in the dim glow from the tree lights, as well as the faint edging of light from the outside lamps around the breaks in the curtains, and it was pleasant to be in the semi-darkness. It felt safe and warm and peaceful.
He handed the carefully wrapped box to Sherlock, whose eyes lit up at it.
"Merry Christmas, Sherlock," he said.
Sherlock raised his eyes and then leaned over to give John another peck on the lips, his own lips and breath still tinged with the warmth of sleep and the smell of their bed.
"Merry Christmas, John," he replied.