This one slots into my Empty House/The Man Who Holds the Key set; Sherlock died and returned, John got shot working on a subsequent case with him. They live together in Baker Street, there is no Mary, no Scarlet, no Benjamin - it's just the two of them. It's got vague elements of a case in there, and it's going to be slash, but it's taking it's sweet time about getting there. I hope you enjoy the slow burn.

Pip.


Chapter 1

Sherlock woke up. It was dark in his room, but he was aware of a dark shadowy shape looming by his shelves. The panic died away quickly, and he sighed.

"John?"

"Yeah."

"Is there something you need?"

"I don't know." John's voice was vague and confused. "I've got to do that thing… the thing… you know the thing."

Sherlock sat up and looked tiredly at him. "John, you're asleep."

"No, I don't think so. We need to… the thing with the er… the er… hippos."

"Hippos?"

"No, not hippos. Horses."

"I really think you're asleep."

"No, I'm not; I've got to do the thing..."

"With the horses, yes, you said. Maybe we could talk about it in a few hours. It's the middle of the night."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Hence the darkness. Go back to bed now."

"Do you think?"

"Yes. Do you remember where your bed is?"

John snorted. "Yes! Of course!" He padded away.

Sherlock lay annoyed in his bed for a few seconds until his niggling conscience got the better of him, and he launched himself out of his bed and stomped through to the living room, where, as he had predicted, he found John standing in the middle of the room, chewing his lip.

"John, your room's upstairs."

It took a few seconds for John to register him. When he finally did he leapt back in panic and backed into the table.

"Jesus, Sherlock, you scared the living daylights out of me!"

"Ah, now you're awake then."

"Yes of course I'm bloody awake! Jesus!" He calmed his breathing while holding his chest.

"Any clues as to how you ended up in the living room?"

John looked around and a look of embarrassment slowly crept across his face. "Oh. OK. Sorry."

"It's fine. You should go back to bed now though."

"Yeah. You too. I'm really sorry if I disturbed you."

"It's fine," Sherlock said again. He turned and waved his hand as he walked away. "Apparently there's something we need to sort out tomorrow with regards to hippos or horses. I think it can probably wait though."

"Right," John muttered quietly.

He watched Sherlock's door close behind him, waited a few seconds, and slowly climbed the stairs back to his bedroom. It wasn't as much of a mess as it sometimes was after a sleepwalking session. On one morning he'd woken on the floor underneath every item of clothing from his wardrobe, which he'd neatly arranged into colour order. At least on that occasion he hadn't left his room. More often he'd wander around the flat, sometimes going as far as the corridor outside Mrs Hudson's rooms, but more regularly he'd go to find Sherlock. Sherlock would either just turn him around and send him back to bed, or wake him up and shout a bit depending on his mood and when he'd last slept.

That didn't happen often though, and John was impressed that he'd been so calm tonight. There hadn't been a case since John had left the hospital two weeks before. Sherlock's mood had moved through acerbic, beyond irritable, and was slowly getting to dangerously unstable. He was trying so hard to hold it together too, clearly for the sake of John's health, and that was causing both of them further irritation. Even Mrs Hudson had noticed. She'd ordered them out of the house for a nice walk together following a particularly tense lunchtime several days ago. Unfortunately the meal had been too rich for John, and the walk had come too soon afterwards, and though he'd put up a monumental effort, he'd finally vomited behind a convenient tree, and Sherlock had brought him home again, both of them feeling more miserable than ever.

John gathered his bedding now and threw it onto his bed, getting in and trying to arrange it into a vaguely comfortable position. There was a sudden twinge of pain in his side, just above his left hip, but he dismissed it as psychosomatic.

He lay still and wondered whether he'd sleep again. His hand crept to touch the small scar in his side. It looked almost inconspicuous on the outside, fairly round, only slightly puckered and already fading to a pale pink. He suspected it would be silvery before the end of the year. It felt ridiculous, given the amount of chaos it had caused.

Recovery from the shooting had started off quite smoothly. John had been able to sit up and laugh with Sherlock almost immediately. The trouble was that he'd stupidly, really stupidly, pushed it too hard and too fast and had gone on a completely pointless bathroom trip the day after the initial surgery and had fainted, bursting his stitches. A cross doctor had patched him back up again, but it was too late, and the wound in his intestine turned septic. He'd then endured three days of sickness, pain and delirium before he started to drift back towards stability. It had been a further week before he had reached a level where he might be able to survive out of hospital. Even two weeks on, he found the experience had left him weak, tired, and with a ridiculously sensitive stomach.

He knew that Sherlock had stayed with him the whole time that he had been critically ill, and he resented it. Sherlock was a selfish, self-contained individual, who had no aptitude for nursing at all. John had seen patients in the condition that he had been in, and he knew the grimness of it all. He would have preferred for Sherlock never to have seen him that way. He felt he would have handled his recovery better if all the nasty business had been left to the nurses and doctors, and Sherlock could just have returned to the hospital to pick him up when he was better. Instead, the moments of his humiliation replayed themselves through his head over and over again, and so he resented it.

It had hurt Sherlock too. He was exhausted in a way that John had never seen before, and there were dark shadows behind his eyes. Both men had taken to hiding any form of pain or discomfort from the other, and that was causing even more strain and upset between them.

And of course John's subconscious was letting him down badly. He still wasn't able to eat his fill, so hunger caused him to sleep badly and the sleepwalking that he'd grown out of thirty years ago had returned with a vengeance.

To make matters even worse, that traitorous subconscious seemed to have developed a ridiculous need to be as close to Sherlock as possible. He'd noticed it when he was awake too; some level of panic seemed to be fixed just under his skin, and when Sherlock wasn't in the house, John would be anxious and out of sorts until he returned. This was something he could deal with well enough when he was awake, but as soon as he was asleep, his mind would happily walk him down to Sherlock's room to steal things from his shelves, or to sit outside his door to be tripped up over in the morning, or, on one truly humiliating occasion, to get into his bed with him. Not next to him, oh no, John's subconscious was far too cruel for that. He'd got into the bed and climbed on top of him like a cat looking for a comfortable place to sleep, and Sherlock had woken up confused and had fought John off. John had woken up being pinned down by a disturbed, dishevelled and quite startlingly naked detective after what had been the least coordinated, but strangest bout of Greco Roman wrestling that the world had ever seen. Or more accurately and more fortunately; had never seen.

John had scurried away without even managing to apologise, and had slept very late the following morning. There had been several moments when both occupants of 221B had wondered if he'd ever leave his bedroom again.

It had not been lost on him that Sherlock had taken to wearing pyjama trousers at night.

He hoped desperately for a case. A nice murder or something of that ilk. He'd just have to deal with whether he'd be physically able to accompany Sherlock when it happened. At this moment, just a case, any case, just something to distract their minds and relieve some of the damned tension in the flat.

He sat up again to eat three of the crackers that he kept by the side of his bed, and then he settled down again. The image of Sherlock's back, taught and strong, as he went back into his bedroom flittered across John's mind. He winced, cringed and rolled over to bury his face into his pillows. It caused a slight pull in his side, but it was comforting. He went back to sleep.