Safe. His mind palace would keep him safe. It always had, from the time he was young. It was a retreat. A shield against the world. Here there was no end to the thoughts he could explore and understand. It was harder to stay without a direction for his thoughts, but he had to. It was important for him to stay. He couldn’t remember why, but he had to stay here. He must stay safe. He was waiting for someone. Someone who would help him, and he had to stay safe before then.
He almost retreated from his mind palace at the sound of his name. It took him a long moment, but he submerged himself again, walking through the halls of his childhood home. He must stay safe. He must, he must, he must. He had to do it.
“Sherlock!” John shouted, looking around, shivering in the parka he was wearing. The temperature in the climate-controlled warehouse was still dropping. He’d already been warned that when he found Sherlock, he might not find him alive. But John didn’t believe that. Sherlock had to be alive, he had to.
It was hard to stay in his mind palace. The edges were turning white, ice creeping over the edges of them. Slowly, Sherlock was becoming more aware of his body and he fought to stay safe, stay within his mind palace.
Turning another corner, John almost missed him. The sight of Sherlock curled up in a corner, boxes almost entirely surrounding him, making a cardboard igloo. Or coffin. He raced towards him and pulled out the radio Lestrade had given him. “Lestrade! I’ve got him! Row 35, third section! We’re going to need to treat him for severe hypothermia and potential frostbite!”
He dropped the radio and skidded to a stop in front of Sherlock. Relief washed over all of his limbs when he realized Sherlock was still breathing. His skin was pale and his lips were turning blue, but his eyes were slammed shut and he was breathing. He was ALIVE. “Sherlock!”
In a moment John had Sherlock’s hands (stuffed inside the pockets of his jacket and without gloves!) stuffed under his own shirt and pressed against his skin. They were blocks of ice, but this might save his fingers. “Sherlock, look at me!” He ordered.
He didn’t want to leave his mind palace. He was safe here. But the voice was one he trusted. It was John. John was calling for him. He would be safe if John was here. Slowly, Sherlock withdrew from his mind palace. Then IT came back.
The cold. It had seeped into every inch of his body and had been determined to take him over entirely, so he had retreated to the only place he could trust. His mind. Sherlock shuddered and forced his eyes open. John’s skin was so warm it felt like it was burning his fingertips and his eyes were wide and terrified. “J-J-”
“Don’t try to talk.” John ordered. He pressed closer to Sherlock. “Push your hands further under my shirt. He managed to unbutton Sherlock’s jacket and get his own arms in, not against bare skin, but at least to the silk shirt level. Hopefully enough to keep Sherlock warm. “I’m here. We’ll have you safe.” He whispered. “I’m here now Sherlock.” He promised.
Sherlock pressed his face into John’s neck and struggled to breathe. He was cold. So cold. Even John holding him like this, he could feel the cold creeping closer to his heart.
John straddled Sherlock’s lap and pressed closer to him. “Hold on Sherlock. I’m here. I’m here. I’ll take care of you. I’m here.” He whispered.
John. He had to hold on. For John. He tried to tighten his fingers in John’s shirt, pull him closer, but his fingers didn’t want to move. John. John. John!
Sherlock sat bolt upright in bed and wrapped the blankets tighter around himself as he shivered. He was not a slave to his nightmares. He pushed his fingers angrily into his hair and curled up tighter. They would pass. Just like everything else. They would pass.
He looked up at John standing in the doorway. Pants. Light undershirt. Mussed hair. Tired eyes. John had been sleeping. Deeply. “Yes John?”
John took one long look at Sherlock, who was already straightening, pretending that he had not been curled up, shivering. “Move over.”
Sherlock frowned. “John-”
He didn’t bother letting Sherlock finish. Lifting the sheets, he crawled into the bed and pushed Sherlock over, waiting only a moment before wrapping one arm around Sherlock’s waist and laying the other out for Sherlock to rest on. John waited. It took Sherlock several minutes, long ones filled with silence before his whole body seemed to sink inward, reaching for the warmth John was giving off. John smiled and held him tighter.
Sherlock closed his eyes. Warm. John was so warm. It was easy to forget the cold when John was here, wrapped around him like this. “You’re an idiot.” He mumbled.
John smiled and rested his head against Sherlock’s shoulder after he pulled the blankets up and around him both. “Goodnight Sherlock.”