(Warning-ish? John has one of his nightmares, which involves people dying, but not graphically. I hope this still makes K+ status.)

John couldn't stop puttering. He cleaned the tea kettle, twice. He edited the grammar in several of his blog posts. He ordered take-away, ate his portion, waved Sherlock's portion in front of him halfheartedly before boxing it, and then read his detective novel (which was rapidly becoming irritating because the main character didn't keep heads in the fridge or sulk on the couch for long periods of time). Eventually he cleared his throat a bit, went upstairs, got into his pajamas, came down to shower (inefficiently taking off his pajamas before putting them on again), went back upstairs, realized he was thirsty, came down to the kitchen again, got a glass of water, went back upstairs, decided he wanted to read his book some more, came back downstairs to fetch it, and caught the eye of an irritated consulting detective, who pointedly slapped another nicotine patch onto his forearm.

"Err, good night, Sherlock."

Sherlock grunted. The case was dragging on past three hours, and John blushed, wondering if his outburst about the skull was the cause of it. That's not to say that Sherlock wasn't making use of the skull; it hadn't left his hands since John had placed it on his chest, his thumb stroking up and down the back, and the rest of his fingers occasionally tapping out the rhythm:

Frontal, Parietal, Occipital, Temporal, Sphenoid, Zygomatic, Nasal, Maxilla, Mandible.

He looked for all the world like an otter clutching a particularly interesting oyster, and for half a second, John considered how nice it might be if he sprawled out on Sherlock's stomach, chin resting in the middle of his chest and dozing to the feel of the detective's fingers running through his hair. He licked his lips thoughtfully, and wavered in the middle of the sitting room for a couple minutes longer than strictly necessary, before tearing himself away and walking up the stairs.

He flinched at an obvious sigh of relief from Sherlock's direction as he exited the room.


There were five of them, and the sound of gunfire was the only tenuous thread dragging John Watson back from where they were, tragically in front of him, by 100 ft, tragically caught in the open while John was able to dive into a closet from where he stood in the gutted remains of what looked to be a child's bedroom. Technically he wasn't attached to their regimen, so he knew that if he cowered back where he was for long enough the opposing side wouldn't know to look for him. His breath came rasping out in horror as he heard their screams through the thin walls. He would die if he went out to help them now; if he was lucky he'd get two of the enemy before being gunned down himself, but if he waited much longer here there would be no hope for them. He pressed his ear to the wall, one was screaming, shrill and long, one was gasping out a prayer, one was shouting a name, probably his girlfriend; John had seen a picture of her yesterday. The other two were quiet. John was happy for them.

God, if only he could DO something. His hand twitched helplessly on his gun, for half a second he considered that perhaps putting the gun to his temple and pulling the trigger would help somehow but after a moment he recognized the delirium of panic. Oh god. Anything but this helpless cowering, please.

Suddenly the door to the closet banged open, and John's mouth dropped open. "John, are you all right? I could hear you screaming."

Sherlock bloody Holmes was casually standing in the gun blasted doorway of a child's bedroom closet, leaning against it in languid interest. Why the hell Sherlock Holmes would be in Afghanistan wearing nothing but a white sheet was beyond John at the moment, but suddenly hope flared through him. If nothing else, he could protect Sherlock. He'd done it before with the cab-driver, and had at least tried with Moriarty at the pool. John scrabbled to his feet, thinking to jump on the ridiculous idiot and stuff him in the closet behind him.

But suddenly there was the blast and whiz of a gun, and there was red spreading across Sherlock's torso. Three more shots, more red. God, the man should be dead where he stood, collapsing limply over John like the rest of them who were outside, no longer screaming. But the (literally) bloody idiot kept talking while John kept screaming, which he hadn't properly noticed he was doing until now.

"God John, wake up. You aren't breathing properly."

John's eyes flew open, and he scrabbled around his bed, still caught up in the aftershocks of the dream. "Gun, Sh'lock, need my gun, they got you but I'm a good doctor, I'll fix it, find me my gun I'll get them…" His chest was tight, but the blood rushed through his heart; it was beating too quickly and he groaned as the panic attack coursed through him, his breath coming out in short wheezing gasps.

Sherlock frowned, pushed the window open, and pulled John out of bed toward it. "Look, John, London. It's too cold for Afghanistan. I'm fine. Breath the cool air, you'll feel better."

John clutched Sherlock's shirt. Thankfully, he noted with mild interest, he wasn't wearing the sheet right now, or John's manic grip would probably have yanked it off. He would have to have a long discussion with his subconscious later about why Sherlock pranced around his dreams, even the dreams about the war, in that ridiculous bed-sheet.

The taller man absently rubbed up the back of John's head with his thumb, and it was all John could do to keep from breaking down in a fit of giggles. Here he was filling in for Sherlock's skull again. What did that make Sherlock to him?

As if reading his mind, Sherlock murmured, "I haven't needed the skull since I finished rehab, though it is soothing occasionally. The silk-rubbing is merely a bad habit. I just don't like being downstairs when you're having a dream. It derails my brain completely."

John blinked up at him blearily. "So the whole thing about needing the skull to sleep was a ruse so you could prevent my nightmares? Why didn't you hide the skull better?"

Sherlock shrugged. "I assumed that if I was unwelcome, you would find it for me, and if I wasn't you wouldn't. I didn't anticipate you finding it for me because you wanted to help me."

John yawned, and found himself smiling into Sherlock's chest. "You are an idiot. Are you finished with the case then?"

Sherlock looked down, then up, then out the window. John's breathing was back to normal, and the cool night breeze was putting goose-pimples on his skin. He closed the window, and lead John, who kept alternating between yawning and drooping his dozing head to Sherlock's chest, back to bed. "The case isn't quite solved. I suppose for once I can wait until morning."

"Oh?" John was barely conscious as he rested his cheek against Sherlock's shoulder.

"Yes. Apparently there are more important things for me to take care of."

John didn't respond, except for a soft breathy sigh.

Sherlock tugged the blanket over John and himself, the skull forgotten completely in the living room. The World's Only Consulting Detective pulled his Army-Doctor closer, rubbing the soft hairs on the back of John's head with his thumb as he drifted off to sleep.