When John wakes, it's raining, a soft pitter-patter against the window. The gray light spills over his feet, his arms, his face. John wakes too quickly these days. A sudden jerk, instantly alert, and then all he can feel is the way his breath scrapes his throat raw, the thud of his heart hammering inside his ribcage. It lasts a few seconds, this feeling. It lasts until John remembers that he's in Baker Street now, all its familiarities and comforts. His breathing slows; his heart calms.
The clock on his bedside table says it's 7 am. Sherlock has a potential client visiting at 10am. John should be there to document it on his blog, put it all down in words so that he can look back at it afterwards and marvel that this-- that he ever lived this. It'll be a dream, one day, he's sure. A very strange, very unsettling dream, but a dream nonetheless.
He sits up, and his back complains about the way he was thrown against a wall the night before. The Met has said there is a suspect in custody, so John isn't particularly worried about a repeat performance. That doesn't quite remove the bruises from his back or the twinge in his left knee.
The patch of bed next to him is cold. Sherlock is probably downstairs on the couch, surrounded by the detritus he collects. In contrast, John's room is stripped bare, just the things he needs: his bed, his clock, his clothes. The one and only time Harry visited, she told him it was boring. He needed to spruce the place up a bit, add more of himself to it. There was a time when John would have understood what that meant. He's been away too long, he supposes.
He cracks the window open after he gets out of bed. Not enough to let the rain in, but enough that he can let in a cool blast of air that always smells like London to him. He's hardly Sherlock. He can't tell anyone about the coffee from the cafe down the street or the tires of the car that just went by, but he can close his eyes right here and right now and know exactly where he is.
He does some stretches, trying to get the kinks out his shoulders, his legs. The pain hasn't been so bad lately (even with the bruising). Maybe it's true that time does heal all wounds. Eventually.
The old wooden steps creak underneath his feet as he descends the stairs. He finds Sherlock where he expected him to be, on the couch, a thin robe pulled over his shoulders, eyes closed. He doesn't look as if he's asleep, more like his brain has been put on pause for a moment. Not stopped, of course. John knows better than to think that Sherlock's mind ever stops.
John puts the kettle on, pulls the tea from their cupboard, humming to himself. He likes the familiarity of it all, the way he knows every inch of this kitchen, right down to the formaldehyde in the bottom cupboard and the eyes in the freezer. He finds a newspaper to read as he stands by the stove, and he waits one moment, then two, before the familiar presence of Sherlock materializes behind his left shoulder.
"Good morning," John says without bothering to turn around.
"The bags under your eyes aren't as pronounced as they usually are," Sherlock says. "You had a decent night of rest, I presume."
John finds himself laughing. A warm, gentle feeling spreads outwards from the center of his chest. It's not always like this. Some mornings, all he wants is a chance to punch Sherlock's face in, because he's as infuriating as he is brilliant. There's something thrilling about that, too. After Afghanistan, John hadn't wanted to do much of anything. "Yes," he says. "It helps that you weren't playing your violin at four in the morning."
Sherlock snorts, and John takes a quick glance over his shoulder. Sherlock has somehow managed to drape himself over the hard wooden kitchen chairs, managing to look both bored and thoughtful simultaneously. With most of the people John has dated -- well, perhaps "been involved with" is the better term -- John would have kissed them good morning, but Sherlock doesn't always seem to understand simple gestures of affection. He always assigns them too much or too little weight.
The kettle begins to whistle. John turns around, busies himself with the rest of the routine. Along with the tea, he makes himself eggs and toast. None for Sherlock, as always. John sips his tea and closes his eyes, listening to the sizzling of his eggs as they cook.
"I have potential clients this morning," Sherlock says. His fingers are steepled in front of his face, lost inside his thoughts.
"Yes, yes you do," John says, sliding his eggs onto his plate. "Glad to see that you haven't forgotten." There's no use in asking questions when Sherlock gets like this. The best you can do is hurry him along until he gets to the point.
"You'll be there," Sherlock says. It's not a question.
John says, "Of course. My shift at the clinic isn't until half twelve."
Sherlock snorts, waves his hand as if he already knew that. "You're always there," he says, and all of sudden, John realizes that this is slightly odd, even for Sherlock.
"I thought you didn't like people stating the obvious," John says, settling into breakfast. His tea is a bit stronger than he usually takes it, and he managed to overcook the eggs. He waits. It just makes Sherlock irritable, having John interrupt him when he's trying to put all the pieces together.
"It should be obvious," Sherlock says. "You are clearly a man driven by your routines" -- he says it like it like he's just eaten something distasteful -- "and yet, I find myself doubting..." He stares at John as if John is hiding something, as if there's something there that he still needs to puzzle out. As if--
Oh, so this is what this is about, then. John wants to laugh, but he's learned how to school himself into a reasonable approximation of a straight face. "Don't hurt yourself, Sherlock," John says. He takes another sip of his tea.
Sherlock frowns the way he does when Mycroft visits, eyes narrowing. "This is a joke to you," he says.
John smiles. "A little bit, yes." He chews his eggs and reads a few paragraphs of yesterday's newspaper.
Sherlock's frowns a little bit harder. He leans over the table like John's one of the suspects he likes to intimidate during interrogations. "This wasn't a likely scenario," he says. "Most people don't consider this to be a laughing matter."
John finishes his tea. The clock in the kitchen that is consistently twenty minutes late tells him that it is ten o'clock. He has time to get dressed, to get himself ready for their guests. The rain seems to have stopped, leaving behind a quiet cloud cover, a muted layer of white. He stands up, kisses Sherlock's forehead, and says, "You don't have to tell me. I know, you big oaf. I've known since the case with the cardboard box."
Some of the tension drains out of Sherlock at that, not visibly, of course not, but John can feel it underneath his hands. "Good," Sherlock says, straightening his shoulders, seeming more like himself again.
John smiles even wider, that warm-happy feeling spreading out further, through his arms, his legs, down to his fingers, his toes. "Good," he repeats back to Sherlock. It's all a little mad, he knows. Everything that Sherlock surrounds himself with is a little mad, but John stopped questioning himself months and months ago. For now, this is what his life is. This is what he wants. "Good," he says again, softer this time.
Then he heads back up the stairs, ready to face the rest of the day.