This takes place during events depicted in the second-series Sherlock episode "The Hounds of Baskerville."
In honour of Sherlock and John's 221B Baker Street, this is comprised of two parts, each a 221b ficlet (221 words, the last beginning with "b").
I Sit Beside the Fire and Think
Part 1: John Watson
As John had expected, Sherlock toppled like a felled redwood upon returning to the inn, spent and insensate.
John found himself downstairs, welcomed by a roaring fire and Greg Lestrade.
"It's nice, this," Lestrade said. "Beats drinking by the warm glow of crap telly."
"That it does."
"I'm a bit wound up still."
John didn't explain that he could've collapsed almost as easily as Sherlock, given his own exhaustion, but he wished to spare the other patrons of the inn. The "experiment" in the lab, the shooting of the hound, the detonation of the landmine: God only knew what his subconscious would do with such fodder.
He could shout himself hoarse with nightmares when he returned to 221B Baker Street, where such things – though rarer these days, to be sure – were accepted without question or comment.
Lestrade merely nodded.
Claiming the same chair from which he'd witnessed Sherlock's earlier drug-induced meltdown, John wondered at how different it felt in the detective inspector's undemanding presence.
"I'm not his boyfriend." John said this simply because it came to mind.
"And I'm not his handler," Lestrade offered in return.
Together they stared into the mesmerising flames, calloused hands cradling tea and whisky, respectively, until inexplicable mirth waylaid them.
John giggled, shoulders shaking helplessly; Lestrade chuckled, a deep rumble from his belly.
Part 2: Greg Lestrade
Once their fit had passed, along with some minutes of companionable silence, John said, "Good holiday, then?"
"Surprising, what a bit of sun and sleep can do for a man. I'd almost forgotten."
Greg left it unspoken, how young he'd felt with the Kawasaki between his legs, the wind on his face, and the weight of responsibility temporarily off his shoulders.
And how old, when his body made it clear that catching up on countless nights of missed slumber was its chief priority.
He didn't mention how anticlimactic it had seemed, when he finally located the perfect, solitary bridge over the perfect, picturesque stream and, with all of his strength, hurled his wedding ring into the uncomplaining water.
No music had swelled in the background; no lightning bolt had shot from the sky. He'd left that bridge the same man who'd gone to it, though more willing now to look himself in the eye during his morning shave.
"By the end, I was ready to be back," he admitted.
To be needed, he didn't say.
Mycroft's request – not order, despite what Sherlock thought – couldn't have been better timed.
Greg sipped his whisky, digesting the night's dark events.
"Now we return to London," John murmured at last, half-smiling.
"In all its glory," Greg agreed. "And paperwork, crime scenes, and dead bodies."
Vital Stats: Originally written in January 2012.
The title comes from the lyrics of Bilbo's song in Rivendell in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.