Hey there everyone! We've come to the final chapter. Thanks to all of you who reviewed and inspired me to go on, I'm enormously grateful for your participation. For those who reserved their comments - it's your last chance to share with me your joy, or sadness, or horror. Are you silently reading it and hating it? I hope not ;D Anyway, here we go and enjoy!
John's eyes flicker open at the measured, periodic beeping, fairly recognisable to every doctor and, technically speaking, to everyone who has ever come across movies with people who are hospitalised and put under monitored care. That's why, as soon as the sight in front of his bleary vision clears into a white, achromatic ceiling, John already knows he's in a hospital ward. His heartbeat changes, its rate mildly elevating, and John expects a nurse to pop in any second. What's happened to him?
Shortly afterwards the mystery duly unfolds, revealing its uninteresting, common place explanation: during the course of one of their banal criminal pursuits, John managed to earn himself a craniocerebral injury, in the aftermath thereof he spent a fortnight in a state of coma. Further details are later discovered and elaborated, not without Sherlock's help; his friend coming to check on him forty minutes after John woke up. Sherlock looks pale, although it might be just his usual countenance intensified by the bleached surroundings of the ward.
"I'm glad to see that you're okay," says Sherlock, carefully settling on the brink of the hospital bed and resolutely ignoring the visitor's chair. "The prognosis wasn't very optimistic."
John's forehead is slightly wrinkled at the last remark, bandages that tightly encased his head incapacitating him from being too expressive. Sherlock seems to have been worried about him. Interesting.
"I'm not easy to get rid of," John says, shrugging. "Well, care to share with me what you've been doing all that time while I was unconscious? Is the flat still inhabitable? What's in the fridge?"
The corner of Sherlock's mouth curves up a little.
"Baker Street's the same. A few dead mice in the fridge, though."
"I don't even want to know why they're there. I hope as soon as I'm discharged, you will get rid of them."
"I can't promise anything." Sherlock shrugs, smirking.
It's all back to normal. They talk, they smile, they exchange jibes and taunts – nothing's changed. John doesn't mention the dream he saw in a coma. Sherlock doesn't mention he visited him so frequently that half the medical staff already tacitly abhorred his person – courtesy was never Sherlock's forte.
John is discharged in a couple of days, and over the course of that uneventful waiting he strongly forbids himself to even think about the perennial misadventure he has just disembarked from.
Later on, Sherlock takes him home. If this was the Sherlock from his coma land, John would've said that he fussed over him like a mother hen. But this Sherlock doesn't give off the impression of appreciating John's attention and nor does he take it into his head to talk about suicide and, of course, this Sherlock never kissed him. It has been plainly just an incredibly vivid dream. His subconscious was in charge and was to be held responsible for imagining things differently, for imagining Sherlock differently from the person he really was.
"What are you thinking about?" Sherlock asks him, out of the blue.
John fights back a shiver, realising he's been staring at Sherlock this whole time, and averts his eyes, turning to gaze out of the window of the cab at the everyday scenery that drifted by in a dull flux of identical houses and rattling vehicles.
"I'm thinking about dreams," replies John, "and their impact on our subconscious."
Sherlock just lets a dismissive noise at that, bringing an end to their barely started conversation.
As a matter of fact, John has been thinking about dreams. What can be said about his subconscious, if he thinks he has been woken up by Sherlock kissing him in his dream?
Baker Street is the same old Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson greets them cheerfully at the threshold, pulling John in a tight embrace. She came to see him at the hospital the other day, but she greets him like he's been absent for ages.
"John, dear," she keeps saying as they make their way upstairs, enter, and John finally plumps down on a chair next to the fireplace, "You should rest, I'm going to make you tea. But only today, I'm not your housekeeper."
Sherlock sits in the chair opposite John's, not bothering to take off his coat.
John offers him a smile.
"Good to be home."
It's all back to normal.
# # #
The alarm bursts out ringing at six thirty on the dot. John bolts awake, engulfed in the most distressful sense of déjà vu, flicks an anxious glance at the date and, relieved, blissfully flops back onto the pillows.
It's all been just a dream.
Sarah has granted him a week's leave due to his injury, and John has nowhere to rush to. He doesn't feel much enthused about staying in bed for long and, at length, forces himself to scrabble out of the warm blankets. When minutes later he is in the shower, John makes plans for the day. He has to, he just has to go and buy a new alarm clock. The old one gives him creeps.
After meticulously making his bed and putting some fresh clothes on, John finally pads his way downstairs into the living room.
Predictably, Sherlock is not sleeping – he hunches at the desk and types away on his computer.
"Morning," says John. "Tea?"
"Yes," nods Sherlock, not sparing a glance in John's direction.
John trudges into the kitchen, places a kettle on the stove and ventures a glimpse inside the fridge.
"Sherlock?" he calls out, cautiously. "What's with all the food in here?"
"A horde of people stormed by to pay a social call while you were comatose. Apparently, they reckoned their duty to drag along almost half the supply of the local grocery shop, which frankly doesn't strike me as being an immediate circumstantial illation, for I see no logical connection between the two."
"Well, tell everyone you wouldn't be able to cook anything if your life depended on it. Though, sometimes it really does depend on it," he makes a noncommittal sound and inspects the interior of the fridge. Amongst the cornucopia of comestibles, they appear to have fresh milk, eggs and a miniature jar of strawberry jam.
Narrowing his eyes skeptically, John pulls a rustling package of flour out of the cupboard. Come on, it can't be true, can it? But the batter poured into the bowl blends just swimmingly, and the first pancake comes out practically perfect. John dislocates it onto a plate, stations the plate onto the table and examines it, suspiciously. Sherlock enters the kitchen to catch him doing just that.
"Is something wrong with it?" he inquires.
"I can't make pancakes," explains John, still inspecting the obvious proof to the contrary.
"It's too thick for a crêpe," notes Sherlock.
"I can't make those either. I'm generally not very good at cooking."
Sherlock steps up closer, rolls the thick crêpe into a tube and bites off the half of it.
"It's good," he announces his verdict, masticating. "Almost like at Angelo's."
Switching the stove off, John returns to the living room and settles in a chair. From the spot where he sits he can distinguish the gilt binder of the book on the lower shelf. He bounds to his feet, tugs the book out, and doesn't feel surprised at seeing its title that reads "Interior Ballistics of Guns".
"What's with the sudden interest in ballistics? And go finish your pancakes. They're good." Sherlock has followed him into the room and now keeps talking.
John looks up at him with a distracted expression on his face.
"I think I've been discharged too soon," he gets out at last.
"Why?" Sherlock arches a brow.
"I must be going insane." John stows the book into its cranny and sits back, sagging into the depths of the chair. "Did you really learn to play the violin because of Mycroft?"
Sherlock perches on the chair opposite, giving John a long, attentive look.
"It's not Mycroft who told you about it, is it?"
John runs a hand over his head, rubbing the place where he's been hit.
"No," he replies. "That's what I'm talking about. I dreamt of it while I was in a coma."
"You dreamt of it," Sherlock echoes him, his voice impassive.
That's when the levee breaks. His thoughts and words intermingling in a chaotic medley, John tells Sherlock about the day that would never end and about his futile attempts to snap out of it. He tells about the pancakes, about the lectures on criminalistics, about the private lessons he's been taking, about lunches in a café and everything else. Making a clean breast of it and running out of breath, John finally trails off and glances up at Sherlock, visibly preoccupied.
"I can't cook, Sherlock, and I've just made pancakes without any difficulty. I'm fairly sure I can cook chicken, too, and mushrooms, and fish, because Angelo has taught me all of it in my dream. In a dream, you understand? Besides, what about all those facts about you I know; about the jar of sweets, about Mycroft, or about your first case…? How can you explain all that?"
Sherlock harrumphs, deep in thought, watching John with utmost curiosity as though he was a rare specimen or a part of one of his numerous experiments.
"Oh God," sighs John, wiping a hand over his brow. "I've gone insane. Either that or I'm still in a coma dreaming all this."
His sight is still barricaded from the outer world, a palm over his eyes, as John hears Sherlock getting up from his chair and walking towards him.
"Hey!" exclaims John when Sherlock pinches his shoulder, hard. "What was that for?"
"I just wanted to assure you that this is not a dream. I heard it helps. How are you?"
Lowering his hand, John looks up at Sherlock.
"How am I what?"
"Are you sure now you're not dreaming? From my part I can tell you that I do exist. I exist in the real world. Although I have some kind of an explanation for your dream."
"How do you mean?"
"Your doctor said that while you're in a comatose state there is a chance you're able to hear people talking to you."
"There's a theory about that, yes," John nods.
"Well, I talked," explains Sherlock.
John is speechless. His eyes widened, he stares at Sherlock. Sherlock averts his eyes.
"I've been reading random books to you which happened to be within reach. Frankly speaking, I've spent a lot of time here. I take no responsibility for pancakes, though."
"What, did Angelo come to see me, too?" John gawks at him, still astonished.
"Ask him yourself," suggests Sherlock while taking a seat on the couch. His movements give John the impression that Sherlock intentionally avoids making eye contact; probably embarrassed at his previous confession.
"Well, okay," mutters John in an undertone.
For some time silence takes its reign over the room as John tries to make head or tail of what he has just heard. Sherlock was actually worried about him, worried enough to have spent so much time next to his unconscious body entertaining him, speaking to him, without even being sure his talking wasn't falling on a deaf ear. It was so uncharacteristic of Sherlock that John had a hard time believing it. Sherlock's concern sends a warm sensation spreading over his ribcage: he would hardly do anything like that for a person of no importance to him. Of course, John has been long accustomed to the idea that Sherlock humoured him more than everyone else put together, but such confirmation of his affection almost puts John out of ease.
He is waiting for the lump in his throat to dissolve before standing up and approaching Sherlock. The detective sets his mobile aside and gazes up at him in question.
"Thank you," says John, his voice slightly hoarse. "I'm glad you've been with me all that time."
Sherlock nods, calmly.
"I'm glad you're here with me now," he admits.
John smiles lightly at that.
"Well, I better go finish my pancakes then."
John returns to the kitchen, starts mixing the batter again, and cooks further.
The whole thing has turned out in the oddest way possible. Should he tell someone, they wouldn't believe a word of it, neither about Sherlock nor his dream. There is also one moment which doesn't leave his mind: why would he dream Sherlock kissing him? John is one hundred percent sure that he hasn't even thought of that before. On the contrary, he was so dumbstruck at the gesture that he might have woken up just thanks to that. Like he was some sleeping beauty or something, for God's sake.
He turns off a stove burner and slowly comes back to the living room.
"John?" Sherlock asks, turning, as soon as John reaches the couch. "Is something wrong?"
"You see," he begins, "there was something else in my dream. I think I've got to make sure if it was real as well."
With that, he leans forwards and kisses Sherlock Holmes.