John awoke to find Sherlock's side of the bed empty and cold. There was no indent in his pillow either. Obviously, Sherlock never came to bed last night though he had promised to do so "soon" when John had turned in at eleven the night before.
After briefly mentally congratulating himself on a successful deduction at half six in the morning, John yawned, stretched and got out of bed. He hoped Sherlock had crashed on the sofa or something, but of course, he knew he wouldn't have.
After a detour to the loo, he went through to the kitchen. It was as he feared, Sherlock sat exactly where he had left him before, at the table peering into his microscope.
He padded quietly over to him and ran a hand through his slightly wild curls. They hadn't gone out the previous day as they had wrapped up a case the previous evening, and so he hadn't bothered to put product in it.
"Yes, yes John I heard you" Sherlock said, waving his hand a trifle impatiently. "Go on to bed and I'll join you later."
"Sherlock? It's morning. Have you been sitting here all night?"
Sherlock straightened up and blinked looking around the room as if he needed to get his bearings again, and John had guessed he had been deep inside his mind palace. "Oh. I'm sorry, John. I lost track of the time."
John bent down, pressed a quick kiss to his temple and went to the kettle. "It's all right. Missed you though. The bed is lonely without you in it."
"I just wasn't tired" he stood and stretched, rolling his neck and shoulders. So many hours hunched over was apparently murder on the shoulders and spine.
A comfortable morning silence descended on them while John prepared them each a cup of tea and toast for himself. Two slices because Sherlock always snagged one off his plate.
He did that fairly often. Decline food when it was offered, but steal little bits of John's. A few chips here, a shrimp there, and a slice of toast every morning. John didn't mind. As long as Sherlock left him the pineapple chunks in his pad thai, then he was welcome to his plate. Anything to get him eating willingly.
They chewed their way though the toast with jam and a second cuppa in silence, their ankles hooked around each other under the table.
After they ate and they (John) cleaned up, John went for a quick shower before his shift at the clinic, and Sherlock went to the sofa. John usually took the opportunity to drag his boyfriend into the shower with him, but honestly, Sherlock looked absolutely knackered this morning.
However, John wasn't terribly worried. It was pretty normal for Sherlock to be a bit keyed up for a couple of days after a particularly difficult case, which this last one that involved kidnapping, murder and someone's pet turtle, certainly was. He would barely sleep for a couple of days until the "high" wore off and then he would crash and sleep for sixteen hours. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but it seemed to work for Sherlock. Not to mention, John had definitely made sure in those periods when he wasn't working for a week or so at a time that sleep came in very regular intervals, and often used highly "creative" ways to knock him out. A sex marathon and then cuddling usually did the trick.
No, what John really dreaded was The Boredom. He didn't have any idea what it was like to have a brain like Sherlock's. One that tore itself apart when it didn't receive enough fuel. It broke John's heart to see the man he loved most in the world hurting so badly. It killed him to see Sherlock pacing and tearing his hair out and not be able help him.
Usually, there was a few days of a grace period after a case where Sherlock was relaxed, pliable and happy before the boredom would set in, and John would start to see The Itch start to set into Sherlock's eyes. Before they started their romantic and sexual relationship, that period was a single day. But John had been able to stretch it to about three days, give or take. Most of the time, that was enough time to start another case, or find a project to engross himself in.
But the boredom coming on was the same as it always was. He'd start refusing meals, not dressing, playing melancholy violin at one in the morning, creating malodorous experiments in the kitchen and indulged in loads of vicious bitching from the sofa.
John emerged from the shower, brushed his teeth, decided he did not have enough time to shave, and got ready for his shift.
When he went into the sitting room, he found Sherlock laying face up on then sofa, fingers under his chin and his eyes closed, immovable as a statue. His classic Thinking Pose.
And John was struck yet again how beautiful Sherlock was. The man looked like a bloody painting. He'd never get tired of looking at him. Especially now that had seen and become very intimate with all of his body and its secret hiding places.
He knew Sherlock wasn't asleep. When he actually deigned to sleep, Sherlock slept in an inelegant sprawl all limbs and open mouth. So he bent down and kissed him quickly. "Off to work now. I fancy Indian tonight. Sound good?"
Sherlock opened one eye and then the other and smiled up at him. John noticed it didn't quite meet his eyes, but didn't comment.
"All right. I'll be home at five thirty. Try and get some sleep today. I love you"
Sherlock leaned up on his elbows and kissed him properly on the mouth. "I love you too"
It still boggled John's mind to hear Sherlock say it. It did the first time he said it eight months ago, trembling all over at two in the morning about eight seconds before their first kiss in the sitting room, two months to the day of John's divorce and Mary's departure with the baby that wasn't his. And it boggled it now at seven thirty this morning, said matter-of-fact with tea breath and messy hair.
John very gently laid the pad of his thumb on the dark circle under Sherlock's eye. He had slept a little the other night, but not more than two hours, before springing up and pacing, talking about the case before stalking off to play his violin. Then nothing til now. Two hours in two days was normal for Sherlock, but John still worried. "Sleep today, eh?" He repeated, kissed him again and left.
He came home that afternoon to find the flat still and quiet. He crept in and put his bag down by the door before taking off his shoes. Sherlock's coat and scarf were hanging up downstairs, so he knew he was home. He came more fully into the flat, which smelled cleaner than when he left it, and was noticeably tidied. Obviously, Mrs. Hudson had stopped by. Perhaps Sherlock had gone out for a while. He didn't like to be around when Mrs Hudson was cleaning, it made him all tetchy. It would do him good to get outside for a bit. It was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm as England ever was. It might've even raised his spirits a little, which would be a relief.
He tip toed down the short hallway to what used to be only Sherlock's and was now their bedroom and nudged open then door. Sherlock was in there, but not asleep.
"Sherlock? Are you...cleaning?" John's eyebrows were in danger of disappearing into his hair when Sherlock turned to him, wearing a pair of old jeans, a soft tshirt and a scowl.
"Obviously" he intoned with an eyeroll.
"Didn't think you knew what that was for" John teased, nodding at the aerosol can of cleaning spray in his hand.
"I was bored, and I thought you would appreciate this more than me experimenting with acids and your jumpers again." His voice was short and clipped. Definitely The Start then, John noted with an inward groan.
"Yes, I do appreciate that" John came in and kissed his cheek. "You didn't sleep a wink today did you?"
"Tedious." Sherlock turned around and went back to dusting a shelf. "I reorganized the sock index and cleaned the sitting room."
"Well, thank you, anyway. Do you want me to order dinner now?"
"If you want" he replied noncommittally.
"Let me rephrase myself. I'm going to order some takeaway, which you will eat and then we'll relax on the sofa. Understand?"
"I'm not a child." The scowl grew deeper, a crease forming between his eyebrows.
"I know you aren't. You're a grown man who hasn't eaten since breakfast or slept in two nights." John patted his arm. "A shower would also do you some good, yeah?" Sherlock's hair was greasy now and flyaway. "A warm one. It'll relax you. You've been a bit worked up."
"The case was difficult" Sherlock slowly conceded.
"All the more reason to relax now. You spent yesterday writing up case notes, pacing and experimenting. Give that big brain a rest." John leaned up on his toes before brushing a kiss to his forehead. He was feeling a little warm. He then gently pushed him towards ensuite and to his surprise, Sherlock went without protest.
When the water was running, John changed into comfortable jeans and his oatmeal jumper, and laid out a pair of Sherlock's most comfortable pyjamas and a clean dressing gown before going to order delivery.
Sherlock was so self contained and aloof that it was easy to forget that he was more fragile than he looked. He was more sensitive. Some sociopath, really. He beat himself up, endlessly criticizing every little perceived failing. He craved attention and praise (only from John though) He really thought so little of himself, believing his only value was his utility as a detective. And during his black moods, John knew Sherlock was ashamed. He was ashamed of surrendering to the yawning chasm of depression his brain would create. Ashamed of being prone on the sofa for days at a time, unable to rouse himself enough to dress or even play his violin. Ashamed of harbouring dark thoughts of the liquid oblivion that his so-called "seven percent solution" would provide. Most of all, no matter how often John assured him it wasn't true, Sherlock was ashamed of failing John somehow.
The black moods caused him such pain and embarrassment. And right now, John knew he was walking a delicate line. That black mood could either be avoided altogether or happen tomorrow. It was up to tonight.
So John ordered dinner. Chicken vindaloo for himself, kofta zafrani for Sherlock (he didn't handle spice too well) and naan for them both. While he was waiting, Sherlock came slowly into the room, wearing the pyjamas and dressing gown that he had laid out for him. His hair was a clean, fluffy cloud around his head.
"Thank you, John" he sat down in his chair.
"You're welcome. Do you feel better?"
"I'm fine." He looked up at him, seafoam eyes boring into his. "You worry far too much."
"I think I worry just enough, thanks." John nudged Sherlock's foot with his own.
Sherlock looked like he wanted to reply, then thought better of it and remained silent.
John put on the telly and moved to the sofa, patting the space next to him in invitation. "We've got about twenty minutes before the food arrives"
Sherlock stood up and slunk over to the sofa and sat down. After trying out a few positions, he decided to lay down with his head on John's lap, facing inward towards his stomach. John immediately dropped a hand to his damp hair and began to slowly run his fingers through it. "You sure you want to lie like that? You can't see the news."
Sherlock merely snorted and said "boring" before curling his knees up towards his chin and pressing his nose into John's jumper, inhaling deeply and exhaling with a relieved sounding sigh.
He could only smile and continue petting his hair while keeping his eyes on the television.
After a couple of minutes of quiet, Sherlock stirred. "Tell me about your day."
"You never ask me about the clinic." John replied, looking down at him.
"I'm...talking. Isn't that what people do? Talk about their days?"
"People yeah, sometimes. But not you. Plus, can't you deduce my whole day anyway by, I dunno, a stain on my bag over there, or a rogue hair on my shirt?"
"I. I want to hear the sound of your voice." Sherlock admitted, clearly embarrassed for asking.
"Oh. Well." John's heart squeezed painfully in his chest, but he never stopped stroking his hair. "My day was boring as usual. I had a few patients with the flu. It's coming early this year." He went on to talk about his whole day, everything included. He talked about the nurse that he had hired to replace Mary. He talked about the bees flitting in and out of the window in his examining room. He talked about what he ate for lunch and about the tube rides he had taken to and from work.
He finally looked down to see Sherlock, not sleeping but definitely heading that way, breathing slowing down and eyes closed. So he kept stroking his hair the way he knew Sherlock loved and talking.
The sudden doorbell heralding the food's arrival startled Sherlock into nearly falling off the sofa, for once his cat-like reflexes failing him. He got up with a mutinous look thrown at John who dared to start laughing.
John merely rolled his eyes, used to Sherlock's epic sulks, got up and went downstairs to pay.
Dinner was eaten in a moody silence, all sleepy afternoon cuddles gone. Sherlock did eat though, listlessly stirring his rice around and taking small bites. John knew Sherlock was tired, so he took the mood in stride. He was encouraged though. He had been clearly falling asleep on the sofa, and was eating.
Sherlock managed half his portion and a slice of naan which was just fine by John. Honestly, when he was in a strop, it was a chore to get him to eat at all. He merely boxed the leftovers and put them in the refrigerator, avoiding what looked to be toes in a bag on the bottom shelf.
"Right then." John padded back into the sitting room. "How about a film?"
"Whatever you like." Sherlock stood and pushed past John into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and took out his bag of toes.
"Nope." John came over and plucked the bag away, its macabre contents shifting grotesquely against one another. "Absolutely not. No experiments tonight." He placed it back on the shelf. "I told you. You're to relax tonight. The toes'll keep til tomorrow."
"For God's sake John!" He nearly shouted in frustration. "I am not a child!" Sherlock ran an agitated hand through his hair.
"No. Again, I agree with you there" he replied patiently. "But. I don't want you winding yourself up and be not able to sleep tonight"
Sherlock stomped through to the sitting room and threw himself onto the sofa. Oh, he was in quite a mood now. Very reminiscent of the toddler that skipped his nap. John took a deep breath, summoned all of his patience and went in after him. "What do you want to watch?"
"Anything. I don't really give a fuck." He spat out, voice roughened, almost like he was going to cry, crossing his arms over his chest, bringing his knees up to his chest.
John blinked. Swearing was so unlike him. He usually only did it mid orgasm. He usually found much more vicious ways of insulting someone without resorting to swearing. This wasnt a carefully crafted devastating insult. This was raw and emotional. Defensive even. This was beyond simply the start of a mood.
A realization suddenly dawned, and he did a mental calculation. They had had a three day case...so that meant...oh. Oh Fuck. Aside from those two hours, Sherlock was running on almost four full days of no sleep.
'Shit. Shit. Shit. What kind of doctor am I?!' John mentally berated himself. Of course he'd be over emotional. No one, not even Sherlock could go without sleep forever. He'd start hallucinating soon if he didn't sleep. He sighed and formed a battle plan, which started with putting the kettle on.
"Here. Drink this" he handed Sherlock a steaming mug.
Sherlock sniffed it in that ridiculously delicate way he does. "Chamomile tea. Why?"
"Because you're going to relax and go to sleep tonight. And really, I don't want to break out the medicine unless I have to." John answered. "No. Drink" he added when Sherlock tried to hand it back, wrinkling his nose. He drank it down without another word and handed the empty mug to him.
"C'mon" he held out his hand. "Let's put you to bed"
"It's not even seven yet." He protested halfheartedly.
"No, it's not. But you need to sleep. This is bad, Sherlock and I'm so sorry for letting it get this far."
"It isn't your responsibility." Sherlock took his hand and stood, swaying slightly before righting himself.
"No. But I'm your doctor still. It is my responsibility to look after my patients. Especially the one I've lost three times already" he spoke that last sentence in a low, heavy voice.
"Oh. John" Sherlock squeezed his hand and kissed his knuckles. "You will never, ever lose me again."
"No." He agreed. "Because I won't let you kill yourself, get shot, shoot any more blackmailers or work yourself into an early grave."
After he led him to the bedroom, John laid down on the bed first on his back, then held his arms out. "Come on then. In you get"
Sherlock got in next to him and after they arranged themselves, John closed his arms around Sherlock in a loose but protective embrace against his chest. "Do you want me to talk again? It seemed to work earlier."
"Please?" He murmured, face pressed against the hollow of John's throat. "All right, my love. All right" he replied soothingly, and stroked his back.
He began to talk. Of anything that crossed his mind. Of his childhood, stories from his uni days, his time in the army, of floating around London on his tiny pension. He spoke for hours. He spoke until his throat was raw and his voice was gone. And when that happened, he began to whisper about them, about their lives and how much he loved him. It all came pouring out without stopping, and only did so when John finally himself fell asleep, magnificently warm and comfortable with Sherlock's weight on his chest.
A muffled sound sent John from his dreams to that state between wake and slumber. A repeat of the sound sent him from there into waking. He opened his eyes, and noticed Sherlock wasn't laying on his chest anymore.
He went from almost asleep to fully awake and alarmed in an eye blink and sat up, looking around wildly, noticing three things in rapid succession.
The first thing he noticed was the clock next to the bed showed a time of three thirty seven am. The next thing he noticed was Sherlock curled up in the chair next to the wardrobe. The third thing he noticed was the source of the sounds that had awoken him. Sherlock was weeping quietly, a fist in his mouth to block out the sound.
"Oh, Sherlock. Oh my love" John got up and came over to him, kneeling on the floor next to him. "What's happened?"
John had only seen him cry genuine tears twice in all the years he knew him. The first time was on Bart's rooftop during that terrible phone call. He couldn't see his face, but knew Sherlock wasn't shamming. He heard his tears and knew they were real. The second was the first time they made love. When Sherlock finished climaxing, he shuddered and began crying happy tears while John kissed him over and over again. Nothing like this. Despite the medical impossibility, John felt his heart cleaving in two.
"Can't sleep" he shuddered, shoulders curling forward. He wiped his face with the heels of his hands.
"Why didn't you wake me?" John pushed the hair back off Sherlock's sweaty forehead.
"Didn't want you to see. 'S pathetic"
"No. No it isn't." John leaned in and kissed his forehead, leaving his lips there a long beat. Sherlock was definitely feverish.
"You were saying such...such nice things and then you fell asleep and I...I watched for a while and god, I'm so tired, John" the crying began anew, making speech impossible, and John couldn't stand it anymore.
He reached and gently pulled the lanky, pliant detective out of the small chair and into his arms on the floor. He cradled all six foot three of him to his chest and pressed kiss after kiss to his forehead, cheeks and hair, which only caused the sobs to grow harsher and for the trembling to become shaking.
This is what lay behind the sulking. John realised. This is what it felt like. Oh god, how he had underestimated this. The enormity of Sherlock's pain felt like a punch to his stomach, and he felt tears in his own eyes. He shushed him gently, rocking him slightly.
Eventually, Sherlock began speaking. "I hate myself John. I hate...I hate the whole bloody stupid thing. I don't deserve you. Why on earth would you possibly choose me? Why?"
"I'll tell you why, Sherlock" John cleared his throat. This was not His Area. But. If Sherlock needed this, he'd do anything.
"You are the most difficult, stubborn, rude, inconsiderate arse of a man I've ever met." He paused. "You've said all that. Remember? At my wedding. But Jesus, Sherlock. You..you brought me back to life. Before you...my life was this...dark, miserable, grey...thing. And you. You...came into it, all...colour and sunlight. You gave me danger, conflict, adventure and madness and every bloody thing I ever needed."
"After Afghanistan, I never thought...anything would ever happen to me. But then I met you. And you gave me so much, Sherlock. You...you gave me a purpose again. You brought me back from the dead."
His voice thickened and he went on, desperate to make this mad, impossible, beautiful, wonderful man in his arms believe him. "The nightmares, Sherlock. I know you play music when I'm having them. You cured that bloody limp. You. Not a doctor, or a therapist. You. You..."
He paused, he never brought this up. "You...died to save me. You went undercover and were tortured and nearly killed. For me. You were shot in the bloody heart. By my wife. And yet you came back. You shot and killed a man. For me. You have done...so...so much for me." Tears fell now, tracking down his cheeks and landing in Sherlock's hair.
"You have proven your love for me again, and again and I am so sorry it took so long for me to see it. And I love you too. So much. When...when you....went away. That...that fucking destroyed me, Sherlock. I was a wreck for two years. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. All...I could think about was seeing you...like. That. Sherlock, please understand that...you're everything. Everything to me. And I can't lose you. Not again. Not after everything we've been through."
Sherlock didn't reply, but gripped John's pyjama shirt more tightly and held on as he wetted John's shirt and John wetted Sherlock's hair.
After what seemed an age, Sherlock's grip slackened a bit and he pulled back to look into John's face. "I...I believe you."
"Good" his voice cracked and they both smiled faintly at each other, not at all ashamed anymore.
Sherlock pushed himself up and held his hand to help John up, and they went out and drank a cup of silent tea in the kitchen, (chamomile for them both) their free hands joined together.
"Do you want a sleeping pill tonight?" John asked after they made it back to the bedroom.
"Please?" He asked softly.
John didn't like him resorting to pills to sleep, given his past and he knew Sherlock didn't blame him. But tonight was different. "Of course." John left the room and came back with a pill for Sherlock and a large glass of water for them both.
Back in bed, laying on their sides, John spooned Sherlock from behind. After a few moments, he could feel Sherlock's body starting to relax. He placed a hand over the steady thrum of his heart.
"John?" Sherlock asked, voice slurring slightly.
"Yeah?" He replied, nearly asleep himself.
"I love you. Now go to sleep. You git."
A few more minutes passed and Sherlock's breathing slowly deepened and evened out.
Just as John was about to join him in sleep, Sherlock's voice cut through the air like a gentle perfume. "I love you too" he then began snoring.
John chuckled very softly and fell asleep.