The first time they fall asleep together, Sherlock is lying in bed in a private hospital room, drowsy and drugged and in pain. It is mid-afternoon, but the pale pink curtains are mostly closed and the sunlight is merely a warm glow over the room. John sits at his side, hunched over in an uncomfortable plastic chair, his right arm cradled against his chest in a sling.
John is drifting, awake but not present. Sherlock’s voice, deep and hoarse, brings him back into the aches and bruises of his own body. “How do you feel?”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow. “Stupid. What am I doing here?”
“You’re in hospital. You’ll be fine, just catch up on your sleep.”
“Fine. I’m fine.”
Sherlock sags against the bed, staring into space. He looks paler than usual, if possible, and his hair is limp. The white bedclothes look strange after his dark suits and coat. “Did he--did Mycroft?” Sherlock is clearly not thinking very fast, and he looks frustrated at his inability to articulate.
“There wasn’t a body,” John says, leaning his good elbow on the edge of the bed and slumping forward, head in his hand. Sherlock is silent, but after a moment John feels long fingers on his wrist, pulling his hand down against the bed. John looks up, and Sherlock is frowning at him, but he looks even less lucid and after a moment his eyes close and he lets out a slow, deep breath. John leans back in his chair, but he doesn’t pull away from the loose grip Sherlock still has around his wrist.
John barely notices he’s slipping into sleep himself, as Sherlock’s fingers on his pulse soothe him into calm.
Sherlock is silent and sullen in the cab on the way home from the hospital and John is in pain, trying to concentrate on anything but his broken arm, so conversation is minimal. When they get home to Baker Street Mrs. Hudson fusses over them. She leads the way up the stairs and makes them sit down on the sofa, and they obey, looking like two tired and grumpy children sitting three feet apart.
“I’ll make tea, dears, you just sit and rest. Just this once, of course, as you’re injured. I’m not your housekeeper.”
John musters up a smile for her, but Sherlock kicks off his shoes and curls up on his side, staring at the coffee table, his toes brushing John’s thigh. “Thanks, Mrs. Hudson,” John says. He shrugs his jacket off his good arm, flailing a bit to strip it all the way off. John doesn’t know what to do now. He’s not sure he has the energy to read, and watching telly sounds loud and obnoxious and too colourful.
“All right?” John asks.
“I’d be better if you weren’t sitting in my leg room.”
“Sorry, not moving.” John sinks down further into the couch, and closes his eyes. They fly open again when something jostles his legs, and he looks down to find Sherlock’s legs in his lap, his feet tucked down between John and the arm of the sofa. “My legs are going to fall asleep if you leave those there.”
Mrs. Hudson brings the tea and clucks over their bickering, and John is comfortable. Despite Mrs. Hudson’s eternal promises to make the tea “just this once”, she knows exactly how they drink it, and John feels safe and mothered. He balances his mug between his stomach and Sherlock’s ankle, and the pain dulls and ebbs. Mrs. Hudson leaves them to it.
Mycroft has had the windows replaced during their stay in hospital, and the curtains are closed, just letting in the faint hint of late afternoon sunlight. Sherlock holds his tea against his chest but doesn’t drink it, just enjoying the warmth of the mug. After a while it cools and he sets it on the floor.
“It’s nice to be home,” John murmurs.
“Be able to get something done,” Sherlock mumbles, face pressed into the sofa cushion.
“Yeah. Maybe later.”
John feels it when Sherlock relaxes, his legs go boneless against John’s, and he takes a deep, shuddering breath. John has never seen Sherlock sleep so much as he has since the explosion at the pool, and he knows it must be frustrating for him that his body needs to spend so much time resting when his brain wants to be thinking and solving the problem.
Sherlock falls asleep first. John’s last conscious memory is of tucking his empty mug down the side of the sofa and slumping sideways. By the time he’s fully asleep, his nose is pressed against Sherlock’s lower back and he’s breathing softly against Sherlock’s shirt.
When John wakes again much later he’s alone, stretched full length on his back on the sofa with his coat spread over his stomach. He falls asleep again in moments.
Early one Sunday morning John wakes from a nightmare. Tom, an army comrade, bleeding out on the floor of 221B’s living room with John, frantic, failing to stop the bleeding, failing to save the man’s life. The horrifying dream all the worse for taking place somewhere John, against all odds, feels safe. John wakes, eyes blurred with frustrated tears, still seeing blood through the fog.
He takes long slow breaths and swipes at his eyes, lying flat on his back with the sheets around his hips. When his vision has cleared he tilts his head to the side and realises his bedroom door is open, Sherlock leaning in the doorway. John just looks at him, silent, knowing that he knows, but not knowing what he’ll do about it. The clock on the night table reads 5:48, and John wonders what Sherlock’s been doing while he’s been asleep, what experiments he’s run, whether he’s ever wanted, just for a moment, to sleep when everyone else sleeps, to wake when they wake.
“Your nightmares have become more frequent since Moriarty kidnapped you,” Sherlock says, shifting his weight against the door jamb.
John winces. He prefers not to think about that portion of that night, of being kidnapped--not in the polite, civilized way Mycroft kidnaps him but with chloroform and ropes around his wrists. He prefers not to think about Moriarty, running his finger up the shell of John’s ear before he attaches the earpiece.
John knows Sherlock sees him wince. Sherlock shrugs. “That is what happened. You should be used to it by now, you do get kidnapped rather often.”
“But I don’t have to be reminded of it at six o’clock in the morning.”
“Sorry,” Sherlock says, not sounding it.
“What are you doing here?”
“You were talking in your sleep. It was distracting.”
“Oh, sorry my nightmares interrupted whatever you were doing, I’m sure it was more important,” John snaps, collapsing back against the pillow and squeezing his eyes shut.
After a pause, John feels something prodding at his shoulder. He opens his eyes to see Sherlock looming over him, poking him with one finger. “What are you doing?” John asks, weary.
“Move over,” Sherlock says, kneeling on the edge of the bed.
John slides to the other side of the bed, against the wall, and then realises what he’s just done. “Wait, why? What are you doing?”
Sherlock climbs into the bed, sliding his legs under the sheets and leaning against the headboard. “Not getting distracted,” he says, arranging the blankets over himself and, in the process, more fully covering John. “Go back to sleep.”
“Are you running an experiment on my sleeping habits?”
Sherlock doesn’t answer, just pulls his phone out of the pocket of his pyjama bottoms and starts texting. “You left the door open,” John says accusingly. “It’s too bright.”
“If you lie down I’ll be blocking the light,” Sherlock points out, shifting slightly. “I’m not getting up again.”
John tries this, rolling onto his side, and finds he’s lying in a comfortable pocket of shadow. After a few minutes, the sound of Sherlock pressing buttons on his mobile begins to be comforting, and in a few minutes more John is asleep.
Sherlock is not a morning person. He is not a morning person in the sense that, when not on a case, he simply does not experience mornings. When they first lived together, John had assumed that when he got up in the morning and Sherlock was not in sight, it was because he’d already gone out for the day. This is not the case. On the contrary, Sherlock considers the hours between six and eleven o’clock in the morning prime sleeping time
He’s always loved the night. As a child he would turn on the light again after he was put to bed, reading until the small hours of the morning. Night is the only time he’s fully alone, but the night is capable of wrapping around him in just the right way so that it never makes him lonely. The world becomes quieter at night, even in London, and he’s able to conduct experiments and solve cases without the distraction of other people living their lives, messy and in his way.
Moving in with John has been a problem, in more ways than one. Sherlock likes problems; they mean brainwork for him and a certain amusing amount of bother for other people. But John’s presence has been problematic in one very inconvenient way, and Sherlock is determined to find a solution.
Nights are no longer as productive with John in the house.
Maybe it’s because Sherlock finds John’s listening skills helpful. That’s certainly part of it. But the night no longer allows for the kind of detachment Sherlock needs to work at his best. The dark living room of 221B is no longer a bubble, nighttime no longer gives Sherlock the means to ignore the rest of the world. He’s aware, as he’s never been before, of someone else in the flat, of John upstairs sleeping and dreaming. Has John ever dreamt about him? Sherlock wonders. They’re not the kind of friends who share strange dreams the next morning. John probably thinks Sherlock considers dreams superfluous and irrational--which he does, of course, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to know.
This is one problem about John that Sherlock hasn’t been trying to solve. He’s been working through it, ignoring it, hoping it goes away. It never does, and since the incident at the pool, since he’s had so many other fascinating problems to solve, it has become intolerable.
The noise of John’s dream has given him an idea, however. Maybe the problem is knowing that John is elsewhere in the house, that he’s doing something Sherlock’s not privy to. If Sherlock is in the room while John sleeps, maybe he will be less distracted.
It’s too late to fully carry out this experiment tonight, however. Sherlock saves the text he’s been writing to Lestrade for later consideration, and sets the phone on John’s night table. John has spread in his sleep, his back pressed fully against Sherlock’s thigh. Sherlock doesn’t see the point in moving; he usually goes to sleep where he’s been working. Here he’s warm and comfortable and John won’t scold him for sleeping here like he does when Sherlock sleeps on the sofa and gets a crick in his neck.
He slides down the bed until he’s sharing John’s pillow, and falls asleep almost instantly, lying flat on his back.
John sprawls in his sleep. He suspects that’s part of the reason he slept so badly the entire time he was living in the awful flat he had before Baker Street--he was sleeping in a tiny bed. His bed in Baker Street is twice as large, and he sleeps soundly most nights now, at least in between his nightmares.
The first time he shared a bed regularly with a girlfriend this was a problem. John discovered his tendency to sprawl extended to clinging, to dropping from cuddling into sleep and simply never letting go. His girlfriend could only sleep in one very specific position, and they spent several frustrating nights trying to find a way to stop John from draping himself across her body and let her get to sleep. The relationship proved short-lived. His tendency to cuddle has also occasionally earned him bonus points with women, who considered themselves lucky to find a man who didn’t kick them out of bed as soon as he got off. Though John has sometimes capitalised on his sleeping habits, it’s rarely been personal. If he wakes up with a leg and an arm draped across a woman and his face pressed to her neck, it’s because that’s simply the way he sleeps--whether or not he has company.
John’s never slept with anyone he wasn’t also euphemistically sleeping with.
When he wakes up draped across Sherlock he thinks he’s dreaming. He slips into a light doze before he wakes all the way, and in his sleep he tries to work out who it is he’s sleeping on. He’s enjoying the warmth of another body, despite the fact that that body has a lot less give to it than he’s used to. His face is buried in someone’s hair. It smells good. John is content to stay just where he is, with his knee folded against someone’s hip and his hand wrapped around someone’s shoulder. His back is pressed against the wall and he doesn’t really want to move ever again.
Then he wakes up properly.
The hair he’s breathing in is dark and curly, the hip is sharp, and the shoulder is unusually far away, the chest flat. The smell is unmistakably of Sherlock, cucumber soap, tea, chemicals, and sweat. John remembers, now, Sherlock climbing into his bed, falling asleep to the small sounds Sherlock made as he worked.
John lifts his head and looks across Sherlock’s chest at the alarm clock. It’s 10:21, so John’s not surprised Sherlock is asleep, but he does want to know why Sherlock is asleep here. He carefully removes his limbs from Sherlock’s person and braces himself against the wall, looking down at his sleeping flatmate.
It’s not as if they’ve never fallen asleep together before, but they’ve never shared a bed, and John thinks he should be more conflicted about this than he is.
He’s trapped in bed until Sherlock moves, and he’s hungry, and he needs the loo. “Sherlock,” John says, poking him. Sherlock swats at his hand, not waking up. “Sherlock, you’re in my way.”
“No,” Sherlock says, turning his face away and sounding like a pouting child.
John continues poking him. “You have to move, Sherlock.”
Sherlock shoves back. “No. Climb over me.”
Sherlock glares, eyes still closed. “Fine,” John mutters, pushing the blankets aside so he can crawl over Sherlock’s legs and tumble out of bed. It’s not very graceful, but it works, and John leaves Sherlock to pull the blankets up again as he goes downstairs to get on with the day.
It begins as an experiment. Sherlock waits until John is asleep, and then he comes upstairs and goes into John’s room to get to work. John’s room is small, and there’s nowhere to sit besides the floor and the bed, so Sherlock gently shoves John over and gets into bed. He has a stack of crime scene photos and several evidence bags from a cold case file, and two books if he solves the case or gets bored of it.
It begins as an experiment, and Sherlock’s hypothesis proves correct. He does concentrate better here. He can hear John breathing, watch the way John moves in his sleep and slowly attaches himself to Sherlock’s side, but it’s not distracting. It fades into the background, and Sherlock doesn’t have to wonder whether he’s missing data by not being there when John sleeps.
Sherlock chooses not to wonder what it means that nighttime is no longer about being alone, that it only works when he’s not alone. The point is that it does work, that he can think.
John stirs once, lifting his head against Sherlock’s hip and looking up. He’s not awake enough to let go of Sherlock, to move the leg that’s hooked around Sherlock’s ankles or the hand on his knee. “What?” John asks, blinking against the pale light from the bedside lamp.
Sherlock places his hand against the back of John’s head, pushing him back down to the pillow. “Hmm?” he murmurs, distracted by a witness statement.
“Have a talk in the morning,” John mumbles half-coherently into a fold of Sherlock’s t-shirt. “In my bed.”
“When you wake up.”
But Sherlock goes to sleep before John wakes, and by the time Sherlock wakes up John has already left for work.
One morning, John wakes up before he needs to, disentangles his limbs from Sherlock’s, and lies in bed for a while, just thinking. After several minutes John feels the bed shift, and looks over to see Sherlock moving in his sleep. When John woke up Sherlock was flat on his back, one arm by his side and the other thrown above his head, pinned down by John. Free of constraints, Sherlock rolls onto his stomach.
John watches, stifling giggles, as Sherlock smashes his face into the pillow, arms flat against the bed by his sides. He can’t possibly be comfortable, but he hasn’t woken up. John hopes he won’t suffocate.
It should bother John, but it doesn’t. He should be confused, conflicted, aroused, but he’s not. He does want to know why Sherlock has started falling asleep in his bed every night, but the curiosity isn’t as urgent as it probably should be. John sleeps better when he’s not alone. He never did graduate from Sarah’s sofa to her bed, and since the Moriarty incident he’s spent less and less time with her.
He’s been hesitant to question it partly because he likes that Sherlock is so comfortable with him. He likes that Sherlock trusts him, trusts that John won’t reject him, or read more into it than he means, or succumb to the social pressure that says this isn’t normal. It isn’t normal. Sherlock isn’t normal. John is beginning to realise he himself isn’t so normal, and more importantly, that he doesn’t want to be.
So he adjusts the blankets over Sherlock’s shoulder, and rests his hand, gently, on Sherlock’s back.
Sherlock talks in his sleep.
John is dressing for work one morning, Sherlock still asleep in bed, when John looks up from buttoning his shirt and sees Sherlock’s lips move.
“Not the wife,” Sherlock mumbles.
“Are you awake?” John asks, stepping to the side of the bed and touching Sherlock’s shoulder.
“It was the sister, obviously.”
Sherlock’s eyes are still closed, his breath heavy, and his mouth barely moves when he speaks. “Sherlock, are you deducing in your sleep?”
“Arrest the sister, she was at the sheep farm.”
John snorts out a laugh and goes back to dressing. He used to wonder whether Sherlock slept at all, but this makes more sense. Sherlock has to sleep--he doesn’t have to stop making deductions when he does.
Moriarty comes back.
Of course he does. They had never expected otherwise. He keeps them running all over London, they nearly die twice, they save countless people’s lives, and no one wins. The game continues, but as it continues it looks less and less like a game--even to Sherlock.
At least this time there are no major injuries, only scrapes and bruises and exhaustion. Sherlock is still running on adrenaline, but by the time they get home it’s been fifty hours since John slept.
He slumps against the counter in the dark kitchen and looks at the kettle, and decides he’s too tired to make tea. He watches Sherlock take off his coat, walk a circle around the living room, and then turn towards the kitchen. Sherlock turns the light on and takes a seat at the table, considering the mess of experiments half-finished.
“Go to bed, John. If you collapse before you get there I’m not carrying you upstairs.”
“Hang on,” John says, closing his eyes for a moment. “I’m not sure I have the energy to walk up all those stairs.”
“Don’t be stupid. You’ll be fine.”
John nods and opens his eyes. He has to push himself off the counter to get moving, but once he does he makes it all right. He turns at the door. Sherlock is still looking at everything on the table like he doesn’t know what to do with any of it. He must be almost as tired as John, but he carries exhaustion better than John does, has more stamina.
“You don’t have to wait until I fall asleep,” John says quietly.
“What are you talking about?” Sherlock asks, not turning.
“You always wait until I fall asleep before you get in bed. You don’t have to. If I haven’t told you to stop yet, I’m not going to.”
“You know I don’t want--”
“I know. It’s fine.”
“You’re sure?” Sherlock turns finally, twisting in his chair to look at John, probably searching for more data. John is too tired to look anything but honest. He should never have waited until he was practically asleep on his feet to have this conversation.
“Go on. I’ll be a moment.”
John smiles, trying to look reassuring. He’s not accustomed to needing to reassure Sherlock, and it feels strange, but that’s okay. Sherlock is tired and probably overstimulated, and it’s just this once. In the morning he will insult John, and John will hand him a cup of tea, and life will go on.
He turns and climbs the stairs, leaving Sherlock behind in the kitchen to collect himself.
Sherlock appears in the bedroom doorway just as John finishes changing into pyjamas. He’s also wearing pyjamas, and he’s not carrying anything. He’s not planning to work, won’t even have the excuse of being in John’s bed for some other reason before he falls asleep there.
John crawls into bed, barely even glancing at Sherlock. He lies down against the wall and stretches, staring up at the ceiling. Several moments pass before he feels the bed sink and the covers twitch as Sherlock gets in. Already half asleep, eyes closed, John rolls toward him, not quite touching. Sherlock rolls too, onto his stomach, but he lifts one arm and John slides under it, warm and utterly comfortable.
The first time they mean to fall asleep together it is midnight, and they have been awake for far too long.