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fic: (Sherlock / BBC) Nightfall (1/4)
Rating: R (P16)
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.
Disclaimer: Leave it all to the BBC, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. I'm actually quite happy with them having it - even if the BBC could be a bit quicker with passing it on to us.
Author's Notes: Prompt fill for LJ Kink Meme: http://sherlockbbc-fic.livejournal.com/21697.html?thread=127735745#t127735745
The request was that both John and Sherlock jerk awake after a nightmare, and both are so terrified that they want to check up on the other to see if he's okay, end up meeting in the middle and spend the rest of the night curled up together on the sofa. No est. relationship.
I hope I got the military aspects/fact right, tried to read up on it a bit, but couldn't find the answer to some things, so some of it had to come from logic...
Set shortly after Sherlock's return (after TRF); this story assumes that Sherlock and John live together again then, so it is also set before S3E2 (trying to avoid spoilers here, that's why I'm so cryptic ;) - story is spoiler-free though). Basically you can assume they've just solved their first case since Sherlock's return. I don't know how and when this turned into a "dealing with Sherlock's absence and return" story, but it did at some point, so I went with it ^^

It had been a dreary day, in every sense. Their latest case had just been closed, one of a serial killer who had sadistically tortured his victims and then left them to die, and when they had finally caught him this afternoon, he hadn't shown anything even close to remorse; instead he had laughed them into their faces, boasting with what he had done. Everyone working on the case had been visibly affected by the man's, this monster's demeanor, even ever so self-controlled and seemingly emotionless Sherlock Holmes.

Like in a bad horror movie, even the weather had fitted the general mood of the day; dark clouds hung over London, bringing occasional rain, icy wind, even menacing thunder further away, like a nightmare looming in the distance.

By the time Sherlock Holmes and his friend and flatmate John Watson got home, the storm had reached the city's center, keeping streets empty and, out of an irrational fear, homes securely locked for what appeared to turn into a very long night.

Neither man was in the mood to talk as they settled into their living room to drink a cup of tea, to sooth body and soul at least a bit; to warm up after spending most of the day in the autumn cold. John was the first to say his good night, the prospect of a shower and some sleep more appealing than ever. Sherlock's reply that he'd try and do the same, catching a night's rest, surprised John for a moment, but he was too tired to address it with a comment as he usually did when his friend decided to retreat to his bedroom for its actual purpose.

Not half an hour later, John lay down, falling asleep immediately the moment his head hit the pillow. His mind, however, was wide awake.

"Mama, when I grow up I want to be a soldier," the boy, not older than nine, exclaimed when he walked into the kitchen, pose taut and childishly innocent features frozen to a serious frown, like he'd seen the men on the telly do it so often. His mother only smiled, a kind, loving expression that gave away her thoughts.

"Oh darling, you should only decide that when you're old enough."

"But I want to fight for Queen and country," he recited and did his best to salute, earning himself a gentle laugh from his mother.

"You will, John, but for now I want you to be my little boy who doesn't think about fighting," she told him as she crouched down and hugged her son, a gesture he returned fiercely, small arms clutching her tight...

...and he held on to his friend and comrade, begged him not to die. The sounds of battle, of victory and loss, of pain and death surrounded them as they sat in the bushes, hidden from the enemy. John tried in vain to still the bleeding of his friend's wound, but it was as if the red fuel of life found its way through every crease John couldn't cover. His friend would die; die on a battlefield somewhere in the heat of the desert, and he couldn't do anything about it.

He'd always been proud to have become a soldier; had wanted to serve Queen and country ever since he'd been a boy. He remembered how once his mom had told him that while being faithful to your own people was a good thing, fighting and war weren't. Nothing was good about people dying. His naive self, the young man he'd been when he'd signed up for the British Army, had believed that as long as death was only on the enemy's side, everything would be fine. Sooner than he had expected or wanted to he found out that death was never a good thing - period. And that it was rarely limited to the "right" side.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered to his comrade when he felt the other man's life slip through his fingers; how his breathing slowed, how his painful moaning stopped... and then his heart. He gave his friend he'd known ever since his basic training days one last fierce hug, angry at himself for the tears he couldn't stop from rolling down his cheeks.

The adventure, the thrill, the sense of doing the right thing, of being part of something bigger - it was what had once drawn him to military service. The adrenaline was what he needed, when it came from being on the winning side. Even now, even after knowing all the horrors of war, after he had faced death more often than he dared to count or admit, there were moments when he almost enjoyed this thrill, this feeling of power if gave him when he knew he was playing his part in righting the wrongs in this world.

Seeing comrades die, seeing friends die, had never been part of the thrill though. It never should have been. Despite everything John knew, his trust in good triumphing never really subsided. That was until he saw the first soldiers of his side fall; until he witnessed the death of people he'd known for years.

The man in his arms had been at his side for so long; they'd shared so much. Whatever they went through, they were there for each other, helped and advised each other on so many things, professionally and personally. Rick had already been part of the division when John was assigned to it, their paths finally meeting again after John had decided to study medicine, after years of rarely seeing each other and mostly communicating via email and phone, and he made it his task to take John under his wing; help him get to know everybody, feel welcome and as part of the group.

And now, too soon, he had to say his final goodbye. One last look he allowed himself at his friend he wouldn't even be able to bury...

...and stumbled backwards when not Rick, but suddenly another familiar figure lay on the ground before him. Sherlock. Battered, beaten, bloody, a broken heap of body on pavement amidst bushes and desert head, a gruesome personification of so many memories he kept locked away. It didn't make sense to him what he was seeing, what was happening; there was panic, unspeakable terror, engulfing him, a force wrapping itself around him, strangling him almost.

"John... help me," Sherlock whispered, trying and failing to lift a hand and reach for his friend. John heard the enemy close in, foreign voices surrounding their hideaway that would soon be spotted. Instinct made him reach for his firearm, but his hands were met by emptiness, a nothing where he expected their sole chance of survival. The voices were only a few meters away now, and John - John couldn't do anything. In vain he looked for his rifle, the weapons in form of knives hidden in his clothes. It was all gone. And when he wanted to ready himself to at least defend his helpless friend with his bare hands, he was unable to move.

Then blurred faces appeared all around them, weapons poised, and all John could think of was that he was unable to act.

That he was unable to save his friend.

With a gasp, an almost-scream, John jerked awake, sweaty and panting hard, entangled in his sheets, mind not yet fully awake, eyes still seeing the faces, ears still hearing threatening voices, scuffling footsteps - and the pleading whisper of a friend.

Desperately the doctor shook his head; he needed to clear his head, get rid of the nightmare. This is not real, this is not happening, he repeated to himself over and over again, face buried in his hands, willing himself to forget the pictures, forget the past, the pain of lives lost; forget his fear of losing another friend.
The memory of the horrors of war soon vanished; he'd long since learned to leave that behind, at least in his waking hours. But the image of Sherlock Holmes, the man he by now called his best friend, of his broken body as he'd seen it in his dream, as he'd seen it more than three years ago on the street, stayed with him. Three years the picture waited, buried in his mind, to his own surprise never much bothering him - until now, now that his friend was back, now that, in some twisted way, pain and loss were much more present than they had been since the other man's assumed death.

Sherlock was all right, he was just on the floor below. Or was he?

The weeks after Sherlock's suicide had him often walk through the flat at night, in search of his friend, his best friend, hoping against hope that he'd find him, that the consulting detective would just be back. Like he always was. Understanding, acknowledging even that Sherlock wasn't there anymore, that he'd never come back, was something he couldn't do. He rather wanted to live with the thought that his friend was just out, venturing across the city in search of clues for their latest case.

But every time he wandered through the rooms, all he was met by was emptiness. When he finally couldn't take it anymore, the harsh reality of another friend lost, he moved out and swore to never look back. And yet here he was, back in this flat where everything had begun, where he'd made a friend on whose presence and companionship he sometimes had thought his life and sanity depended, something that had proved to be true after Sherlock had been gone.

Sighing, John pushed back the covers and let his feet search the floor for his slippers, while he rubbed his eyes and face, chasing away the remnants of sleep and the nightmare. Just this once, he wanted to go and find Sherlock. Just this once, he needed his mind and heart to know that this nightmare of his waking hours had truly ended.