You can tell a lot about a person by how they spend their nights.
The upper-floor apartment in 221B Baker Street had two bedrooms. One was unexpectedly tidy, belying the tendency of its bed to be used at odd hours, for various durations and with inconsistent states of dress. The drawers had a sock index.
The other bed belonged to a doctor who, despite being a textbook PTSD case, had not been having trouble sleeping in that particular bed.
John Watson lay awake at what he knew was some ungodly hour in the morning, staring at the ceiling. Occasionally a car would drive past outside, causing flashes of light to speed across the ceiling and disappear again. Gaps in the curtains.
It had been three days since the Pool. John had written on his blog about it just today and been flooded with replies. He'd then read what he'd written and realised how absurd it sounded. Like something out of books. Comic books, even. Shoddily written, cheap comic books the type school kids read because it's all they can afford with their lunch money. A giggling villain? A giggling villain who changes his mind every damn minute but neglects to dispose of the heroes at his mercy for mysterious reasons, a phone call out of the blue?
Ridiculous to believe that such a thing had happened to him.
But there was something about night time that lent your thoughts a stark sobriety. Now, lying in bed with eyes wide open in the relative silence of an out-of-the-way London street, it was all too easy to remember the weight of the jacket with the bombs on him, the stinging smell of chlorine in his nose and the red pinpoints of light dancing across his chest and across Sherlock's face oh God his face, if he never had to see that wide-eyed, frozen look again he would die happy-...
John realised he was gasping for breath and caught himself, taking a deep breath and shutting his eyes against the memory. But now what sprang to mind was the voice of the old woman His voice was so soft and then, in the space of a heartbeat, silence, and seeing Sherlock go utterly still...
John realised he was thirsty – or at least decided that it would be a welcome distraction – and sat up sharply in bed and struggled to his feet in a jerky, awkward movement. He limped over to the door before he caught himself, scowling.
In the pale light filtering through the drawn curtains, the living room looked mysterious, with its plethora of jumbled oddities, curiosities, equipment, brutalised remains of devices, chemical apparatus, and of course plain old junk. John miraculously made his way past all that and towards the kitchen.
He then spent three minutes standing in increasingly frustrated contemplation. He preferred to spare his dilated pupils from the trial of flipping the light switch – and besides, it might wake his flatmate, and the last thing he wanted right now was interaction with another human being. Or Sherlock.
At the same time, it was obvious that there were chemical, biological and quite likely existential hazards in trying to find a genuinely clean cup to make himself tea in. God only knew what horrible chain reaction might be triggered if he knocked over an Erlenmeyer in this place.
John sighed and made his way back to his room, too worn out to be properly angry. He sank back into bed and stared at the ceiling some more. At the strips of light skittering in the wake of passing cars.
An hour passed.
Red pinpoints of light moving across the ceiling, across his chest, across Sherlock's forehead-
John only realised he'd drifted off when he woke up suddenly, covered in sweat.
And was startled again when he realised that there was someone else in the room.
He blinked the bleariness out of his eyes and his random flying thoughts of improvised weapons near him screeched to a halt when he saw Sherlock - sitting in a chair across from the bed, leaning forward, fingers steepled thoughtfully. He was staring at John. Or rather, staring through him, at some abstract point that happened to be located in the general vicinity of John's face.
He was also still wearing the same shirt and jacket and trousers he'd worn during the day, and seemed to have not a blink of sleep in his unblinking eyes.
Sherlock was still staring at him. He didn't seem about to acknowledge that John was now awake.
John stared back, mouth slightly agape. He closed it. This was Sherlock Holmes, after all. Compared to marinated feet and severed heads and human eyeballs, watching people sleep was practically benign.
John opened his mouth, cleared his throat, and forced words to come out.
"Uh... Sherlock? What the hell are you doing in my room?"
Sherlock's eyes focused on him now, eyebrows drawing together slightly as if the question were marginally confusing. For a long moment it seemed like he wouldn't reply, then he said quietly...
"Just checking..." His voice made it clear that his thoughts were far away.
A typical Sherlockian so-very-helpful answer. They stared at each other a while longer. Feeling genuinely sleepy for a change and eager to take advantage of it, John let some of the exasperation he felt creep into his face.
"...And how long are you going to stay here?" he asked.
His answer was a long silence from Sherlock and something curiously resembling a petulant glare. Then, moving with slow and passive-aggressive deliberation, Sherlock got up and walked out of the room. The door was left open.
He actually made it seem like John was the one who'd done something inappropriate and insulting. It was almost inspiring.
John let out a breath and sank back to the pillows.
When John awoke, it was past nine in the morning. After a momentary flash of panic, he remembered that it was Saturday.
Which was still odd, in a way. Being Sherlock's flatmate meant rarely having the chance to sleep in. If it wasn't a case, it was tinkering with something in the living room – including, at worst, minor explosions, or emptying bullet rounds into the wall – and if it wasn't that, Sherlock's habit of spouting monologues at John regardless of whether John was actually there was usually enough to render alarm clocks obsolete, the wall notwithstanding.
Even more peculiarly, the door was still ajar.
John became aware of it when he froze in the middle of stretching to lock stares with Sherlock, who was sitting in an armchair in the living room and had just looked up from some case files. Junk aside, the position of the armchair provided an uninterrupted line of sight through the open door to John's bed.
"...Good morning," John said finally.
"Morning," Sherlock echoed from the next room, his eyes dropping to his case files again. He was still wearing the same clothes. He didn't look like he'd slept. He didn't look like he needed sleep, either.
John frowned, shook his head and resolved to postpone addressing the issue of Why The Hell Are You Watching Me Sleep until he had the energy to deal with it. A trip to the bathroom and some wasted toothpaste later, John was dressed in trousers and a jumper, settling into the other armchair to the reassuring noise of the kettle boiling. By daylight, at least, the kitchen looked like a wasteland slightly less hazardous.
Waiting for the tea to boil, John turned on his laptop. He checked the weather, the news. He cast a puzzled look over the rim of his screen at Sherlock, who was still thumbing idly through the papers Lestrade had left them earlier. The silence would have been awkward if it weren't for Sherlock's utter disregard of what did and didn't feel awkward.
Thinking that it would be something to start a conversation with, John opened up his blog to check the traffic counter.
Error: Server not found
John sighed and checked his connection. It was working. Puzzled now, John opened the weather forecast again. Working as well. Perplexed, he tried his blog again.
Error: Server not found
John stared. Then he shut his eyes, letting out a controlled puff of breath. Well, it was a conversation-starter too, at least. Possibly even better. Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Vanishing Blog. He almost chuckled at the thought. This was probably some criminal's inspired scheme to keep the people of London from finding their crime-solving messiah.
"My blog's gone," he announced to the world, then glanced at Sherlock, waiting to see his reaction.
A brief glance, then nothing. "Interesting," Sherlock said in an impassive tone. No move to open his own laptop – or, more likely, demand that John give him his. John waited for some wretchedly lazy request to be handed the mobile phone from his own pocket, but none came.
A sneaking suspicion formed in his mind.
"Sherlock, do you know what happened to it?" John asked, doing his best to keep neutral tones. Sherlock didn't reply. "Well? Do you?" John demanded again, his voice much sharper now.
"I deleted it," his flatmate replied levelly.
"You wha-" John started, then cut himself off. He closed his eyes, counted slowly to ten. Opened them again. Sherlock was looking at him in an oddly expressionless way, but looked down at his papers a moment later.
John decided to skip the "How?", not being in the mood for insults concerning his password security, as well as the 'What the hell do you mean you deleted my blog!", which would be therapeutic but far from productive.
Instead, he settled on "Why?"
Sherlock didn't answer.
John watched him. A minute passed. The kettle finished boiling. Watching him, John also realised Sherlock had been staring blankly at the same sheet of paper for at least several minutes now.
His voice full of controlled fury, John asked again. "Why, Sherlock? As in, why did you delete my blog? Am I being unclear? Dammit Sherlock, answer me!"
"Yes?" Sherlock turned to look at him, his gaze oddly vacant.
"What do you mean, 'yes'? You can't just hack into someone else's blog account and delete everything!"
"Evidence suggests I can," Sherlock replied, his voice calm and dispassionate.
"That's not what I-" John sprang up and started pacing around the room, swallowing a dozen insults that were ready to jump off the tip of his tongue. "Why did you... Hell, why do I even ask? I can't believe you'd stoop to something like this. Tell me, what was the final straw? Were the case descriptions too vague? I didn't include your analysis? Was it too 'romantic', phrased too much like 'children's adventures'? Too entertaining? Was it the 'Sherlock Holmes Baffled' entry? I can see how you'd hate people reading it and thinking you're a human being with flaws rather than the supreme super-intelligent god you're trying so hard to pretend to be... Ah, what else, what else? Hard to believe even you would be so childish and petty and delete it just because it was more popular than yours..."
"Has it occurred to you," Sherlock's voice rang through the room sharp and cold, stopping John in his tracks, "that it's not just Scotland Yard's employees who read your blog? Tell me. While you were typing out entry after tedious entry about our 'adventures'," he almost spat the word, "our methods and mannerisms, the flat where we live, the places we frequent... in the midst of your pathetic musings about how 'oh, Sherlock actually does value our friendship'... has it crossed your mundane mind even once what it is exactly that you're doing?"
John stared at him, too struck by the icy fury in his eyes to even think about the question.
"I ought to congratulate you," Sherlock continued coldly. "I have never seen such a roundabout, elaborate method of wilful and ignorant self-endangerment. The way you seem to 'get off' on it would make Sergeant Donovan blush, I suspect. Rest assured that if there were any criminals in London with internet access as of yet unaware of the ease and effectiveness with which you can be stolen off the street or out of your very home and used for leverage, the gap in their knowledge has been most brilliantly remedied. Truly, if you pursued criminals with half the energy you pursue Frequent Hostage Miles, the police would be rendered obsolete."
Sputtering, John shook his head, his voice rising, "You're forgetting something, Sherlock. I'm not the one who got into a cab with a murderer and drove off with the police ten feet away just to prove I'm so bloody clever! I'm not the one who lied to my flatmate about a USB stick of national importance just so I could go and meet the most dangerous criminal in London in person, in a deserted place at midnight! I'm not the one who's always running around pursuing hardened criminals and Chinese assassins and God know what else across London's seediest backstreets without even telling anyone where I'm going! And it's not like you haven't been reading my blog from the start! What can you possibly have to tell me about not endangering myself?"
Sherlock's eyes flashed angrily. His lips worked for a moment, but he didn't answer. John was breathing heavily and realised he'd been shouting.
They stared at each other. It was a standoff, and somehow it felt far more volatile than the previous one involving bombs and snipers.
After what seemed like forever, Sherlock looked away - back to the case files still held stiffly in his hands. And that was that.
John let out an angry breath.
"You're holding it upside down," he muttered stiffly as he stormed past.
The door opened to a distressed Mrs Hudson, wringing her hands. "What's all this shouting then, boys?"
"Morning," John muttered, brushing past her and out the door.
"Where are you going?" Sherlock's voice echoed after him and almost managed to sound disinterested.
"Milk," he snapped.
The door to 221B Baker Street opened, then slammed shut.
It was a fairly sunny Saturday morning, as if to spit in the face of numerous weather forecasts predicting rain. John walked through the busy street. It had been at least two hours. He had yet to buy any milk – though he'd only said it to be nasty, if memory served, they really had run out. He reluctantly recalled some experiment about the effect of poisons on the rate of bacterial fermentation.
Even if he considered it, there was something daunting about the prospect of facing those self-service machines again.
He thought about calling Sarah. They could go to the park together. Feed the pigeons. Do... normal people things.
He took out his phone.
Three unread messages. The chimes gone unnoticed in London's din.
They were all from Sherlock.
John sighed, looked around. There seemed to be no fire or mugging going on anywhere at that moment, nor anything else preferable to hearing that arrogant voice again, if only in his head.
Besides, there was always a chance, however miniscule – increasingly so, with every inane demand texted to him – that Sherlock was calling for help and that it really was urgent. Ignoring messages was a show of childish petulance John had grown out of years ago (unlike some others.)
He read them.
10:45 SH: Online again. Go back and edit everything. Remove anything too personal. For God's sake don't turn it into a weepy ten-year-old girl's diary. -SH
11:12 SH: I'm sorry. -SH
11:18: SH: Do try not to get yourself kidnapped on the way home. We still need milk. -SH
John sighed, smiled despite himself, and hit the "Reply" button. He had an apology of his own to make.