A/N: This story contains MollCroft shipping and fluff. No like, no read. As always, I don't own these characters, Moffat/Gatiss and Conan Doyle do. The title of this story and the coded texts are from "Blackbird" by The Beatles.
He awoke in the middle of the night and blinked at the ceiling. It was unusual for him, being up like this; normally, he slept like the dead. He'd learned to sleep when and where he could soon after starting his career. Jobs like his didn't cease at 5 PM, and fatigue led to mistakes, which could have deadly consequences.
Deadly consequences – that's why he was awake at this ungodly hour. He'd set his mental alarm so that he would be awake to receive a text that would provide confirmation of a mission ended successfully. No text and the mission was a failure, and this was one mission that could not be allowed to fail. He tried not to think too much about the agent's promises of success, or to weigh whether those promises were based on reality or the robustness of the agent's ego.
It was two minutes before his burn phone buzzed, during which time he counted the number of breaths he took (thirty-seven) and estimated how much farther his hairline would recede before this operation was over (at least 50 millimetres). When the text finally arrived, his pulse elevated sharply, and then returned to its normal speed after he read the coded message.
I hear blackbirds singing. – S
In the dead of night? – M
It's morning here. – S
Then have a banana. – M
Cryptic instructions sent, he returned the phone to its hiding place and crept back to bed. Pulling back the covers, he gazed at the feminine form on the other side of the bed. At first he'd hesitated to invite her here tonight, worried she might see something she shouldn't, but after her second glass of white wine, his fears were allayed. (It's better than a sleeping pill for her.) She didn't even stir as he brushed an errant strand of brown hair from her cheek.
The corners of his mouth turned up as he watched her sleep. During the day, she was perpetually in motion, a little bundle of nervous energy, but when sleep finally claimed her, she was the image of peace. He was amused at the way she'd often awake with creases not just on her face, but on her torso and hips and thighs from the pressure of bedsheets and pyjamas on her skin.
On another night, he might remind himself that after what he'd done, he didn't deserve her, or that if there were any justice in the world, he'd be the one on the run and Sherlock would be curled up in bed with a… er… what were they, exactly? "Friends" had the wrong connotation, but he refused to use the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." (I'm a grown man, for God's sake.) "Lover" was too vulgar, as well as incorrect. He couldn't say that he loved her, and he knew she couldn't say that she loved him. The thought would have been disheartening to some men and freeing to others, but to him it was neither. It was not a cold truth but a teasing truth, a hint of things that might come.
She sighed in her sleep and buried her face a little deeper into the pillow, like a duck tucking its head under its wing. He stifled a fond chuckle and decided to go back to sleep. His last thought before dozing off was that they didn't love each other, but perhaps someday they could.