Strange Bedfellows

It was half past eleven by the time the doctor entered their rooms at Baker Street. Although his practice technically closed at seven, with Watson's own secretary feeling poorly he had had to file his own medical documents. And then, at nine, a young man with a dreadful laceration on his chest had arrived on his doorstep delirious with pain. It had taken an hour and a half to clean him up enough to take him to a hospital, and nearly an hour to get the half-dead waif a bed, what with all the paperwork and bureaucracy. Watson wanted nothing more than sink peacefully into his bed and sleep, but somehow even before he opened the door to their apartment and found Sherlock Holmes dozing awkwardly in an armchair he knew that would never happen.

Holmes was curled up in a high backed chair; knees and neck at angles that Watson knew were not comfortable ones. He was still in his clothes, with the exception of the coat that lay in a ball on the rug, and a cold empty pipe dangled from one hand. Watson sighed; he must have dropped off mulling over some new case. He supposed he ought to wake him up, but as he approached that option became a less attractive one. The other man was sleeping peacefully and the lines than usually furrowed his brow were gone for once. Without the scowl, Watson couldn't help but notice once again how handsome Holmes was. The firelight was quite forgiving, erasing the shadows beneath his eyes and the scars from hundreds of fistfights. He was still quite young too, despite the residue of his less than healthy lifestyle.

The clock downstairs struck twelve, bringing Watson blushing out of his reverie. He straightened and cleared his throat awkwardly before speaking

"I think its time you got off to bed, Holmes."

He wasn't expecting an answer, and so started back when the stock still and supposedly sleeping man muttered,

"Already taken care of."

Watson raised an eyebrow, mind already rushing through all the dreadful reasons why Holmes would feel the need to sleep in this chair. Had he set his room on fire? Exploded something? Practiced lock picking and accidentally locked himself out? Watson sighed, likely as not the man was just being lazy. He prodded Holmes with the tip of his cane.

"Get to bed."

No response from the detective, so Watson felt the need to specify.

"As in, in your bed."

Holmes looked up and blinked his eyes blearily. The motion was so childlike that Watson wanted to either laugh or pick him up like a sleepy toddler.

"I would, dear boy," mumbled Holmes, "but as there's currently a very delicate experiment on the relative inflammability of certain crystals produced by distilling solutions of oxidized metal and oil taking up my mattress" he took a deep breath "it's just not possible."

Of course. An experiment was keeping him out of bed. Watson sighed and felt he should have known. He wanted to be angry with Holmes, but found it was quite impossible with large brown eyes staring with such childish helplessness at him. So he just sighed again and asked,

"Remind me, why did you set up an experiment on the inflammability of" he paused, having forgotten most of what Holmes had said, "oil—"

Holmes cut him off impatiently, "the relative inflammability of crystals produced from oxidized metal and oil."

Watson gritted his teeth and found that it wasn't that difficult to be angry with the detective after all.

"An experiment, any experiment on your bed?"

The last words were a bit louder than he intended, but Holmes seemed not to notice his irritation and responded condescendingly as if he were explaining something to Lestrade,

"It was clean and relatively flat, besides which I can easily move it closer to or farther from the window."

"Well, you can't sleep out here." Watson snapped, "You'll be complaining about your neck for a week…"

Holmes reached up to massage his neck as if he could already feel it cramping, then shrugged and closed his eyes again. Watson could feel a headache building behind his right eye and came to a conclusion.

"Come on."

He sighed and prodded Holmes harder. The detective merely groaned and attempted to burrow into the chemical stained cushions.

"Come on. You can sleep with me tonight." He immediately regretted the words, which had come out slightly differently than he had intended, when Holmes' eyes shot open and sparkled with mischief.

"Really?" He asked and Watson half-wished he could retract the idea. But only half-wished.

"Only if you MOVE NOW." He said. Holmes stood up abruptly, uncoiling like the spring of a jack-in-the-box.

"Hm. What a lovely room you have, Watson." Holmes said, looking appraisingly at the small but tidy room. Watson rolled his eyes as he set his cane in its holder beside his organized desk.

"It isn't as if you haven't been-" he began, but was interrupted by a loud thud and the sound of snoring. Watson turned around warily, but when he saw what had happened he simply closed his eyes and chuckled. Holmes had fallen face first and fast asleep on Watson's carefully made bed. Watson limped over and knelt to take off Holmes' boots, which were filthy and in danger of getting dirt on his duvet. He unlaced and removed them with care so as not to wake the sleeping man, only to discover with dismay that nine of Holmes' ten jaundiced toes were sticking out of the worn grey socks.

He sighed yet again that night and whispered partly to himself,

"Why don't you ever remember to darn your socks, Holmes?" He tucked the boots under the bed and took the socks, "Or even to ask me to do it for you…"

He put them with his sewing kit, although he suspected that they were too far gone even for a soldier's skilled fingers. Weariness settled over him as he began to undress, slipping out of and carefully putting away his own coat, hat, shoes, gloves, waistcoat, tie, and socks. After that he stopped, unsure what to do. He considered changing into his nightshirt, but immediately scrapped the idea. It seemed somehow… indecent… to sleep without pants next to Holmes. So he settled for partially unbuttoning his shirt so that the starched collar would not leave a mark on his neck. There was another problem, Watson realized as he looked down at his bed. Holmes somehow sprawled across the entire mattress. Gingerly, the mostly clothed doctor lifted his friend's arm from where it lay on the bed and placed it closer to its owner's torso. Watson waited for a long moment, then squeezed himself into the tiny space now afforded him on the bed. When he finally settled his right arm was draped awkwardly across the top of the bed and the two men's sides were pressed together when Watson lay on his back. It would have been awkward, Watson noted, had it been anyone else. But since it was Holmes…His thoughts began to wander as sleep cocooned him. Suddenly Holmes made a funny snort-sneeze noise and, much to Watson's chagrin, flopped his arm over the other man's chest. Watson's eyes shot open as he felt his face heat up. He attempted to move, but Holmes was like a lead weight and he could do little more than wriggle helplessly. At last tiredness overtook him again and he gave up, laying still and trying to relax. He suddenly became aware of just how warm the detective was. Pleasantly so, like a cup of tea on a brisk autumn afternoon. Or his favorite winter coat, pulled tight around him as he walked home through the snow. It was comforting, Watson thought sleepily, having him so close. The feeling must have been mutual, for Holmes let out a contented breath and snuggled closer, putting his head on Watson's forearm.

Even when the doctor had drifted to sleep, a hint of a smile remained on his face.

Watson woke to warm sunlight and an even warmer presence wrapped in his embrace. As his eyes fluttered open he became aware of messy sulphur-scented brown hair against his cheek and large rough hands encasing his.