Summary: Awoken by nightmares, John and Sherlock seek each other's company at night. They find more than either of them knew they were missing.
Warnings: Graphic descriptions of violence (in memories), hence the rating.
Part 1 -- Part 2
There were many things uniquely Sherlock John had gotten used to around the flat; things that assured him his best friend was still there, still home.
Overnight experiments were one part of it; sometimes Sherlock would start something in the evening, and let it get its needed rest period during the night so he could finish it in the morning.
Then there was his mobile lying around; Sherlock would never leave the house without it, but he sure left it somewhere, anywhere, in the flat when he was at home. It amazed John time and again that his friend found his phone, no matter how much clutter was covering it.
What always reassured him Sherlock was at home - had given it away even before that fateful day at St. Bart's and had always been used by John to find out whether he'd have expect some surprise appearance by his friend - were his coat and shawl. The coat, the same he'd been wearing all those years back - or maybe it was just a lookalike, who knew - was there, at the rack right next to the living room door, and nothing was more comforting to John than to see it hanging there. And then there was-
"John. I thought you were tired."
-the man himself. John could only do so much to keep himself from jumping into a defensive position, the impulse clearly there, when he suddenly heard the familiar voice from his right where Sherlock must have entered the kitchen through the door leading from his hallway.
"Jeez, Sherlock, would you mind not tiptoeing through the flat?!"
"I wasn't, John. Although the fact that I am barefoot may just have the same effect." John merely raised an eyebrow, then slumped onto the sofa and looked at Sherlock who meanwhile had followed his flatmate into the living room.
"What are you even doing here," the older man gestured to nowhere in particular, "I thought you wanted to go to bed." A strange expression crossed over Sherlock's features; he looked almost haunted, but just for the fracture of a second.
"My experiment. I wanted to check on it." There was a moment of silence in which neither of them moved; they just stared at each other. John continued to keep quiet even when Sherlock, without having taken so much as a fleeting look at the kitchen table with mentioned experiment, hesitantly walked towards the couch and sat down next to John, leaving enough distance between them to not touch the other man however. "You haven't answered my question," he stated matter-of-factly, throwing a side-glance at his friend.
"Last case left me a bit restless." It was at least half the truth. Unfortunately, it didn't convince Sherlock, judging by the look he gave him. "Makes me wonder what other nutcases are running around out there. You know, because there are people we... care about," John so added, deliberately turning away his head and taking great interest in looking around the room. His answer was as close to the true reasons of being awake as he allowed himself to reveal.
"I see." To say his friend's reaction surprised him was an understatement. Whenever something was up, anything, Sherlock would only refrain from switching to his deduction mode - or at least switching out of it again - when John stopped him. Loudly. But then, the consulting detective had more than once amazed him by being sensible in unexpected moments. Although, if he carefully eyed the man beside him now, it looked more like Sherlock was exhausted by the burden of his own problems. In fact, he appeared to be more exhausted than John had ever witnessed.
"Are you all right?"
"Sure, fine. Perfect," Sherlock's too-quick answer betrayed his words, as did his sudden almost hectic activity when he jumped up and strolled through the room. "You mind if I turn on the telly?" John came barely as far as to shake his head before his friend had the remote in hand and the TV running; face in a deep frown, he wondered about his flatmate's antics where he had thought nothing could still irritate or surprise him about Sherlock Holmes.
Now the man who was irritated at most by television was switching through the channels, and unnerving whirr of noises filling the room, and John considered going back to bed; maybe his mind was done with nightmares for now, after he'd seen and talked to Sherlock, and would let him sleep. But if he was honest to himself, sitting here where he could be assured his friend was alive and well and still there, sounded much more appealing than being alone in his room.
So he stayed, didn't even complain when the younger man fell back onto the sofa next to him, this time so close their shoulders and knees touched and personal space turned into a faint and faraway idea.
A rare occurrence as it was, Sherlock, on his part, was very aware of how close he had sat down next to John. To him, closeness in general served as a way to better deduce situations, objects and persons - he knew that some people considered it rude to invade what John had explained to him as personal space, but if it fulfilled a purpose, he saw no necessity to heed any complaints.
Right now it was different, though; this wasn't about deductions - it was the only way to convince his mind that his friend was all right. The blood that had been on his hands in his dream clung to him despite his now wakeful state, and the warm body of the man beside him was the only thing that held the capability of convincing his deeply rooted anxiety that the owner of the imagined blood hadn't lost any of the same.
He had stopped switching through the programs at some point, not really paying attention to what he had turned on; only now he realized that it was some late night quiz show, a dull pastime with stupid questions and even more imbecile callers attempting to answer them. Every other time, he would have complained, corrected participants and host, and then soon lost patience, turning off the TV in frustration. Now, he just watched on, barely registering what was talked about, his brain automatically solving riddles that really weren't any, all the while it progressed his nightmare over and over, trying to make sense of it, rationalize it, and store it away.
It didn't work.
He glanced to his side, taking in his friend's features, undamaged, at peace, painless, and alive, and wondered what it would mean to him, really mean to him, to lose John. Only that there wasn't much to wonder about. He'd been there; he'd faced the possibility. More than once. And he'd decided that it was inacceptable. Hadn't there been any other way, hadn't he come up with a scenario that kept both him and John alive - and, consequently, also Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade - he'd rather have died that day at the roof of St. Bart's than live with the knowledge that their untimely deaths were his responsibility, and their loss his burden to carry.
They were the very few people he cared about. Several years back he hadn't even known what that meant; not in a deeper sense. In general, of course; he'd always felt a certain fondness for Mrs. Hudson, and he respected Lestrade, as much as an idiot he was, most of the times. He didn't mind having Mike Stamford around in the lab, and Molly Hooper sure was a useful, even valuable asset when it came to his work. And his mother and Mycroft - well, he couldn't claim he loved them like people said it was normal, but they were part of his life and he accepted them as such.
But then John Watson came into his life and things changed. How he looked at people, how he felt about them. What he could feel about them. How feelings, emotions and affections could influence his life without turning it upside down, or distracting him too much. Had it made him weaker? Most certainly. He was now willing to give his own life to save those who were important to him, even though they hardly were of greater importance to the public than Sherlock himself, due to his mind and skills. Even so a sense of error in this particular assessment remained absent. All of a sudden he found himself ruled by emotions. Not all the time, not with everyone. Every now and then however, when it mattered, he did listen to his gut, and had been proven right to do so more than once.
And it was all thanks to than man next to him.
John felt Sherlock's stare on him, burning into his skin. He decided to say nothing, not react to it; but something was off, something had happened, and for all he knew, his friend's reasons for being awake weren't all that different from his own. Knowing that the man he'd seen die in his dream, he'd seen die three years ago and believed dead and lost for just as long, now sat next to him, was enough to placate his distress; and if Sherlock needed to rest a stare on him that would have been unsettling in any other situation, but now didn't bother him in the slightest, to calm his own mind, John was more than fine with it.
The body heat radiating from his friend and the monotone sounds from the TV soon lulled his mind back to sleep. His consciousness had already slipped away when his head dipped to the side and came to rest on Sherlock's shoulder, while his right hand wound itself around the other man's thigh.
The only reason Sherlock didn't jump up right away was that he'd seen it coming. He'd watched John's eyelids become heavier; he knew his friend would fall asleep at any moment. He had considered telling him to go back to bed, but for some reason the words never left his mouth.
Proximity he initiated for reasons of deduction and recognition were one thing; without his prior knowledge or approval though he loathed it. He didn't want physical contact, with anyone, as long as it didn't serve a case-related and relevant purpose, and much less did he want it when he couldn't control it. He deemed it unnecessary and distractive at most, an element humans relied on far too much and too often, made themselves dependant on for reasons he couldn't fathom.
Or hadn't been able to until now.
At first, he wanted to leave. It would have been easy to arrange John's sleeping body on the couch, put a blanket over him, and go back to his own room. John would never have known that he had unconsciously fallen into a typical human habit of seeking the nearest person to share their most vulnerable moments with. John would have gotten up in the morning, and Sherlock would have left his bedroom as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened.
He couldn't. There was an amount of comfort, more than what he'd felt previously due to his self-initiated lack of distance, that came with John's closeness and touch he'd never known, much less experienced before; it felt right, even though rationality protested against this notion. Was that what it felt like?
But what was it?
Sighing, he rubbed his free hand - the one not trapped between his and John's body - over his face. Emotionally comfortable or not, this was no position they could stay in the whole night; physically they would definitely regret it in the morning. As careful as possible he so used his right hand to try and loosen John's on his thigh - only to seconds later have his friend's fingers laced through his own when the hand reacted to Sherlock's touch. The grip was tight; had he tried to free his hand now, especially without the help of his other, he would have woken John. And something inside him demanded him very fiercely not to do it.
There weren't really many options left; and ultimately, Sherlock decided for the most pragmatic one. Being close to John, he realized, didn't bother him, so there was no reason to not spend the night at his friend's and flatmate's side. And falling to his left, taking John with him so that he came to lie behind him, while his friend automatically raised his legs to the couch and snuggled into the warm body behind him, was easier and less sleep-disturbing than leaving.
In the end Sherlock found himself on his side between the sofa's cushions and John, his cheek resting against the other man's soft short hair. One arm was wrapped around his friend since their hands were still locked firmly together, the back of John's hand cradled into the palm of Sherlock's, their fingers entwined in quite an intimate embrace.
It was possibly the oddest sleeping arrangement he'd ever found himself in; safe for a very few nights back when he was a child and overwhelmed by an irrational fear of the dark that had Mycroft stay with him, he had always slept alone. Never once had he felt a necessity to seek company, and what for anyways? He wouldn't notice if someone was around when he fell into the unconsciousness a nightly rest came with.
That his theory was now proven wrong shocked, almost disturbed him. Because there was a difference, and he couldn't be oblivious to it. John's warmth, the gentle rise and fall of his chest, even the pulse of his heart thrumming softly in his friend's veins, were calming his mind and body steadily until his eyes closed on their own accord. He couldn't have resisted sleep claiming him even if he had wanted to.