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 -- Part 3
It was the sun streaming into the room that woke John. And though he was still half asleep, the remainders of his military training put him in a kind-of alert mode immediately - his bedroom was facing to the west; there shouldn't have been any direct sunlight able to shine into his room. Cracking one eye open, relief washed over him when he recognized his surroundings - he was in 221B's living room, on the couch.
Apparently he had fallen asleep during his and Sherlock's nightly TV watching that really had just been an excuse to have some company, at least as far as he was concerned. Thankfully, the idea had served its purpose; he couldn't remember to have had another nightmares in the past hours. He only wondered why Sherlock hadn't woken him to send him back to-
Only now he noticed that there was something very not normal. An arm around his waist. A body pressed against his back. Soft breathing grazing his ear now and then.
And an utter feeling of comfort.
He felt secure, and he felt relieved - the latter in general just because Sherlock was there. With him. Their right hands held on to each other, fingers laced together in a tight knot, as if they never wanted to let go again, no matter what their owners decided. As if they belonged like this.
John would have expected to feel and think a lot if he found himself in the embrace of another man when waking up in the morning. Whenever he had spared a thought to this option - and having been in the military for so long, it had been bound to occur to him at some point, like it did to every other of his comrades - he had always rejected it. He knew that sharing a bed, for purely non-sexual purposes, helped to calm and relax body and soul, as the warmth and presence of another human being usually gave one's subconscious an impression of being protected and cared for, thus preventing bad dreams and restless slumber. Still, the thought of sharing this yet to him rather intimate arrangement with a man had never appealed to John.
Right in that moment, however, he couldn't bring himself to even remotely worry about his present situation. Sherlock was his friend, his best friend, and spending the night together, on the sofa, in each other's arms, for some reason seemed... natural. Perhaps because he hadn't felt this safe in years - if ever. His friend's tall, lean frame came with a curious impression of hard- and at the same time softness; Sherlock felt just as sinewy as he looked, but it wasn't unpleasant. John imagined that this was what it felt like for women, usually the ones on the front end of spooning, although he had had the experience the other way around and the difference because of the lack of soft curves and instead a compact, sharp-edged physique was significant.
... and did he really compare the situation to those with his former girlfriends? John rolled his eyes at himself and then began to carefully move in a helpless attempt to loosen not only Sherlock's arm, but also his leg that had come to lie across his own, without disturbing his friend.
"Good morning, John." The words were spoken in a low rumple, Sherlock's voice even deeper and more resonating than usual, if that was possible. But then was he lying against the body of the man possessing this voice, and thus felt the words more than he heard them, despite the lack of distance between his ear and Sherlock's mouth, as his head was still resting partly on John's.
"Good morning," he replied, sitting up when Sherlock finally let him, and both men came to sit side by side like they had the night before.
Silence stretched between them then, heavy with thoughts and questions and ideas and doubts; the lack of conversation rang louder in their ears than any spoken word ever could have. And among all those things that weren't said an inaudible commando eventually made them turn their heads towards each other in exact the same second.
For John it was a moment in which he had to remind himself to not gasp at what was revealed to him. There was openness in Sherlock's eyes, so many things he had never before seen in them, a never-ending stream of emotions pouring out for countless minutes. Neither of them was sure what to make of their shared night; a night that had shown them something they had never given a thought to before.
Or had they?
John was taken aback when he realized that he couldn't claim to have not at least once or twice thought about it. Just like with his comrades in the army, this was about the need for a warm body next to him in times of dreadfulness; the need of solace when solitude became unbearable. He had never given in to this need then; and he wouldn't have with Sherlock either, had fate not taken matter in its own hands. What he now read in Sherlock's eyes mirrored what showed in his own, John realized. It had been right, it had been desperately needed, for so many reasons, and it now left behind was the silent request to not let it end for good, whatever it was.
So they stared at each other for at least half an eternity, conversing wordlessly about what they weren't able to put into verbal expressions. Only after a long while Sherlock caught himself and schooled his expression; it was then that John, too, put an end of his stream of thoughts. At least for the moment.
"Right. I'll make tea then. You want some, too?" Sherlock coughed slightly before answering.
John busied himself in the kitchen, filling the kettle and preparing two cups with teabags, all the while his mind resumed its for this early morning hour far too complex work. Unusual long it seemed to take the water to boil - and John took it as a sign. Walking back to the archway that led to the living room, he stood there for a moment, watching Sherlock who was still sitting on the sofa.
"Thank you," he said after a short while, and when his friend looked up, they held each other's gaze again for what must have been minutes - despite the fact that water didn't need as long to reach its highest temperature as the moment felt it did. Sherlock regarded John with a thoughtful expression on his face; the doctor could actually see it working in this genius mind of his. Finally, the detective spoke.
"And you." There was the hint of a smile tugging on one side of his mouth, John noticed; he almost missed it, but it was as if Sherlock held it in place long enough to be noticeable for his friend. Then he turned away and busied himself with his mobile. There was nothing more that needed to be said.
For the following few weeks, John and Sherlock happened to stumble upon the other every once in a while, at night and in the darkness of their flat. In the beginning it was once a week maybe; after another particularly gruesome case they shared what had meanwhile moved to Sherlock's bed two nights in a row. Soon, however, the rate of their chance encounters grew, and it became easier to count the occasions on which they didn't spend the night together. Neither of them ever commented on it.
After a month, John gave up his bedroom and moved into Sherlock's after they, in a casual conversation that could very well have concerned the weather, agreed that it would make things easier.
Not even a week later the bed in Sherlock's room was replaced by a bigger one both men would easily find room in - not that it had been necessary since most of the times they snuggled together on one side of the bed anyways.
Neither of them suffered from a sleep-robbing nightmare or insomnia again.