Something I wrote last night after a rabid plot bunny bit me at four in the morning. You know how it goes. Anyway, this is one of my ideas on how coping post- Reichenbach reunion could go. Sorry for any errors, I did fix some things, but not everything.
This fanfic stems from my slightly embarrassing and complete fascination with the heart and heartbeat. I figured that John, as a Doctor, may suffer the same affliction XD.
NOT Slash, just platonic fluff. I love me some Bromance, but I draw the line at slash.
John Watson jerked awake, chest heaving, vision blurry from tears shed in his sleep, his body slicked with sweat. He looked around in his disorientation for the source of the noise, his heart dropping as he realized that he'd jerked so violently in the throws of his nightmare that he's smashed the bedside lamp. Absurdly, the first thing his mind decided to point out to him was the fact that Mrs. Hudson would be very unhappy about that.
The next thing his mind pointed out was the fact that footsteps were racing up the stairs and in his direction. At first his breath hitchced and his heart jumped in panic- a break in? But then he remembered...
Three Years Earlier. . .
John hadn't been able to sleep properly since Sherlock's death. He'd stay awake as long as possible, working himself to the bone with as many shifts as they would give him, determined to save as many lives as possible, even as his own was falling apart. By the time his body finally took control he had no choice but to fall asleep wherever he sat, often in his chair at work as he prepared a set of papers. He never slept for very long though.
Nightmares, recollections of Sherlock's dive from the hospital roof, haunted his every waking moment unless he kept busy. The same memories consumed his dreams with a hunger he couldn't fight. Images of Sherlock's bloody face, his soaked hair, his blank and staring eyes, stuck with John every time he tried to sleep, causing him to become ill and haggard. The only thing that helped him was his work, the work of doing everything in his power to ensure another life wasn't lost, another heart didn't stop beating.
Since he'd been so powerless to save the one life he had been closest to.
The first time he'd lost a patient since the fall, John broke down. He shut down almost completely, incapbable of comprehending what had happened. And then, unable to hold himself up anymore, the crushing feeling of failure consuming him again, John collapsed in exhaustion and grief, sobbing as though the woman who had passed had been his own mother.
Mary was the only one who understood. She'd helped John back to his office while others just stared at him, taking pity on him and suggesting that he go home and take a week off. John was so tired he didn't argue. When he tried to come into work later in the week, Mary sensed what the problem was, and made an offhand comment, her hand squeezing his briefly, that sometimes the sound of a human heartbeat helped soothe people who couldn't sleep. It was mostly used for infants, but it was an instinct deeply ingrained in the human brain- it should work for anyone.
That night, John downloaded sound files of a human heartbeat and trapped them on his MP3, filling his ears with the poor recordings. They only helped a little.
But it was better than nothing.
Sometimes, just because a tinny recording wasn't enough, John would pull his stethoscope from its place by is bed and place the bell on his own chest, the much closer and more real sound of his heart helping to calm him.
But it only helped some. It didn't change the fact that the heart he was missing had been silenced so brutally before him, or that his own, in too much pain, beat too fast for comfort.
But it was better than nothing.
Now, years later, John was sitting up in bed, Sherlock standing in his doorway, looking concerned. And John didn't know what to do. His MP3 player was sitting by his bed, abandoned, in hopes that Sherlock's return would erase the memories, erase the horror that had been revealed to be no more real than a scary film on the television.
But John should have known better. Three years of pain and damage brought on by the grisly images could not be banished by an explanation and the fact that Sherlock had been back for three weeks. Three weeks wasn't even close to the amount of time it would take.
"John, are you alright?" Sherlock's soft baritone carried through the bedroom, hesitant and timid, as though he knew the answer to his question but didn't want to think about it. There was no doubt that Sherlock realized that John's nightmares were his fault.
John shook his head, fumbling for his MP3, his hands shaking too badly to properly pick it up. Instead, he knocked it on the floor to lay among the shattered pieces of the lamp. Cursing, he moved to get up and grab it, but Sherlock was already next to the bed, picking it up for the sake of feeling like he was helping. His fingers brushed the buttons on the bottom of the device and it lit up the dim room, casting a bright glow over the detective's features. Sherlock paused, squinting as his eyes took in the title of the track. John swallowed, embarassment and nerves taking the place of the panic from the nightmare.
"Do these help?" Sherlock asked, finally handing the MP3 player back to John.
John chuckled darkly. "I thought they did. They kept the nightmares back for a while, but never completely. Stupid to need them now though. I mean, you're right here aren't you? Why can't my brain bloody get that information solid?" John's anger and exhaustion sharpened the last few words into gritted points.
"Did the nightmares from the war leave you that quickly?" Sherlock asked.
John looked at him incredulously. "No, of course they didn't. Why do you think I had my limp, you bloody moron?"
"Then why would you expect the nightmares from my suicide to fade so quickly?"
John flinched at the word 'suicide' before he could help himself. He turned away, pulling his sheets up harshly. "Because it wasn't real."
Sherlock sat on John's bed. "You thought it was. And I made it as real as I could, John. For three years you thought it was. That's not going to disappear overnight. The brain automatically stores things that are traumatizing more sharply, endorphins and other sharp sensory markers burning the memory into place. Why should a much less intesne moment, the moment when you realized it was all a lie, change things? Somewhere John, your subconscious still thinks I'm dead."
"Stop it!" John suddenly snapped, unable to look Sherlock in the face.
"It's true John, it's chemistry."
"I don't care what it is! I'm not supposed to dream this anymore because three years of hell was enough, all right Sherlock?" He looked his friend in the face, all of his pain and anger and wearienss evident. "I'm supposed to be alright again."
"Then why do you still have this?" Sherlock asked, holding up the MP3. "Very few adults need this to sleep
John could feel anger and embarrassment rising up again. "Thanks Sherlock. Are you done insulting me? Can I go back to sleep now and have nightmares in peace? Or do I need to be petted and gotten warm milk like I'm five years old?"
Sherlock's lips pressed together, silenced by John's outburst. "I don't think you're being childish John. I think you're trying too hard to be strong", he said softly.
This silenced John. He didn't know what to say to that, and the raw sincerity in Sherlock's gaze and tone startled him.
"What am I supposed to do, Sherlock?" He asked, voice cracking finally, his shell breaking way to the raw hurt. "What do you want me to do?"
"Listen." Sherlock said quietly. Before John could predict what Sherlock was doing, the detective had drawn his arms around John, pressing one hand against the side of John's head, gently folding him into a close embrace. John tried to shift his head, but Sherlock's hand was firm, and suddenly John realized why. Sherlock had pressed John's ear right next to his beating heart.
John was stunned at first. When he'd first hugged Sherlock at the detective's return, he'd felt the solid, warm flesh of Sherlock's body. He'd felt Sherlock take a breath, felt the heartbeat as it pulsed faithfully behind Sherlock's ribs.
But this was the first time in over three years that John had heard Sherlock's heart beating. And it was so much better than any recording. This was strong, clear, and alive. He wasn't listening to the trapped and ghostly echo of a moment in someone else's life, a life that very well could have been extenguished a long time ago. He was listening to the very real, very solid thump of Sherlock's life. The life that had never actually left his body. John was so overwhelmed he found himself clutching Sherlock's shirt in his hand and sobbing.
Sherlock let him, doing nothing but to shift them so they were both laying down, stroking John's soft hair with his long fingers.
John didn't mean to fall asleep like that, but the simple relief of hearing the gentle thump that kept Sherlock alive was too soothing for him to resist.
And the nightmares didn't stand a chance against the actual warmth and solid life that Sherlock's body proved to him that night.
Hope it wasn't too OOC, I figured John would be clingy, and Sherlock, even if he isn't completely comfortable with the idea of snuggling up with his flatmate, he would want John to get better. And this is a practical way of doing it ;)