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Cuddling

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“Are you all right, John?” Sherlock’s voice was soft, careful, every pitch calculated perfectly.

Sitting in the armchair, newspaper in hand, John nodded automatically. His gaze remained fixed on his lap, however. “Fine.” His tone was flat, emotionless, not a good sign.

“You’ve been holding that newspaper in your hands for over half an hour and haven’t turned a page or even looked at it. I don’t believe you’re at all fine.”

John tried to laugh, but it came out more like a strangled sob. He didn’t look up, though, not even when Sherlock came over and took the newspaper from him. The main headline was about several people recently taken as prisoners of war. Things like this were unavoidable, really, but most mornings Greg was able to go through the paper and remove the worst possible triggers. But last night, around three in the morning, Greg had had to rush out on an urgent case and hadn’t been home since.

“What can I do for you?” Sherlock asked.

John shook his head, bit his lower lip, and didn’t answer because he didn’t know. Whatever was wrong with him, no one could help.

“Give me five minutes.” He waited for a nod from John, which was almost imperceptive, before disappearing up the stairs. Not long after, Sherlock was tugging lightly on John’s hand. “Come with me.”

“Where?” John asked, looking lost in his own flat but getting up out of the chair anyway. He limped slightly as he walked, seeming unaware of it.

Sherlock led him to the dining room table, which had been covered not in a tablecloth but a half dozen sheets. When Sherlock pulled one back, John saw that beneath the table was a nest made up of almost every pillow and blanket in the house, including the ones off their bed. “I made it just for you. Will you come in with me?” Sherlock asked. It was a place where the war couldn’t get to them, a place Moriarty couldn’t get to them.

John hesitated for a moment, but then took a deep breath, hunched over, and crawled under the table. Sherlock gave him a minute to get settled in before crawling in after him. The blankets were warm and smelled familiar, the pillows were soft and thick beneath them. And the moment Sherlock lay down on his side, John cuddled up close.

This wasn’t usual. The last time they’d done this, John had just hugged the blankets around himself and sat for a few hours with Sherlock, sometimes in silence and sometimes just talking about nothing important whatsoever. They hadn’t touched then. But, this time, John didn’t seem to want to stop touching. He snuggled as close as he could get, breathing into Sherlock’s pinstriped shirt, grabbing hold of Sherlock’s arm and belt.

John seemed content enough like this, so Sherlock knew better than to ask how he felt. He just wrapped his arms around John, holding him tight. It wasn’t long before the bedsheets were pulled aside, revealing Greg squatting in front of the makeshift tent.

John lifted his head, his eyes bleary for a moment as they adjusted to the light. Then John freed an arm from the blankets and reached out for Greg. He caught Greg’s tie and pulled. Chuckling, Greg crawled in as well. After a little bit of time shifting blankets around, the three of them lay stretched out on pillows under the long dining room table, Sherlock on one side, Greg on the other, and John cuddled in-between. Once in a while, John brought his head up to rub noses with Sherlock or to kiss Greg, but mostly he just hid his face amidst the blankets until he felt like he could face it all again.

This time around, it lasted almost the whole day. Sherlock and Greg took turns, giving each other quick loo breaks as needed. They brought sandwiches and snacks into the tent. They even brought John’s laptop into the tent. It had been a while since the doctor had updated his blog, and getting his thoughts out there—even if it was just a case recap—always made him feel better. John lay on his stomach, writing, with Sherlock on his right and Greg on his left.

It was well after dinnertime when John crawled out on his own. He didn’t limp as he walked about the flat to put his laptop back on the desk in the study where he kept it. He folded up the newspaper dropped it in the recycling bin, unread. And he wandered into the kitchen to look at the display of delivery menus tacked to the side of the refrigerator. Sherlock and Greg came in, and they decided on Indian food and what dishes to order. Then Greg made the phone call and John stood awkwardly in the center of the kitchen, arms hugging his chest.

He looked up at Sherlock with uncertainly. “Look, I’m sor—”

Sherlock placed a finger on John’s lips. “You never have to apologize for that. We all need things from time to time, don’t we?”

“Suppose so,” John mumbled. “But I wasted your whole day.”

Finished with the order, Greg hung up the phone and came over, wrapping his arms around Jon’s waist. “Let’s get one thing straight: cuddling you is absolutely never a waste of time.”

John gave a weak smile. “I’ll have Dr. Thompson review my meds. I can’t keep asking you two to cancel your days in order to sit with me.”

Sherlock cocked his head slightly. “I don’t remember you asking.”

“Happy to do it, love,” Greg added.

They cleared the components of the tent away, dropping some of the sheets and pillow cases into the washer for a cycle. Chairs were pushed in and table settings laid out properly by the time the delivery girl arrived with the curries. As they ate a late dinner, Greg told them about his latest case; Sherlock tried to look surprised when it turned out the wife was the guilty party. Sherlock told them about an experiment he was planning to run that might pinpoint more accurately a time of death, if only Mrs. H. would let him use the downstairs freezer to store a few essentials. And John just sat and ate, basking in the feeling of normality.

It was so strange how one second, out of nowhere, he could feel so depressed and anxious and vulnerable, and the next he could feel none of those things. It was awful that he could be held in his lovers’ arms and not feel their love and then, minutes later, he could be sitting across the table from them and feel it so unquestionably strong. He was already thinking about going to bed that night and being able to properly enjoy their cuddles this time.