Sherlock frowns when he hears John's step on the stairs, slow and dragging, like he's injured. He tilts his head a minute to listen, and determines that there is no new injury, but John is limping again, which means that he is tired, and probably also hasn't had a good day. Sherlock isn't entirely sure what constitutes a good day, for John. He's well aware that what he considers a good day does not match anyone else's, although he thinks that John must enjoy some of it or he wouldn't keep following Sherlock around on his cases.
He looks up from the article he was writing when John opens the door, noting the lines of weariness in his face and looking for clues that might tell him if it was more than just a long day. If something happened that he should know about. John might not think it's any of his business, but Sherlock thinks that anything that happens to John is his business, although he's not going to bother to argue about it or even ask. He doesn't have to, he's just going to make sure he knows if he needs to; John won't be able to stop him, especially when usually all he has to do is look.
Today he doesn't see any signs of note, nothing significantly out of the ordinary, nothing that requires additional investigation. Probably. John gives him a tired, absentminded smile as he shuts the door behind him, and shrugs out of his coat with a little shiver that has more to do with sudden warmth than chill - it's cold and windy outside, and even the stairs are drafty. Inside, however, it's very comfortable, the sudden change in temperature provoking a slight shudder as his muscles adjust.
John shuffles over to fall down on the couch with a sigh, leaning his head back and closing his eyes, visibly relaxing as he sinks further into the cushions, rather like he's melting, though there are traces of tension still.
"What a ghastly day," he mutters, and Sherlock frowns again. Did he miss something? He steeples his fingers together and studies John again, more carefully, but he doesn't see anything more remarkable than the signs he's already catalogued.
"Was it?" he asks absently as he runs through a list of possibilities in his head, things that could have happened that wouldn't have left any obvious signs, and which of them might be the most likely.
"God yes," John sighs, rolling his head to look toward the kitchen, clearly thinking about getting up to make a cup of tea, and deciding against it. That is a significantly worse degree of bad off than Sherlock had anticipated, if John is too tired even to make tea when he wants it.
"Anything in particular?" Sherlock asks, fixing his eyes back on his computer screen in apparent disinterest, because much as he dislikes having to ask, there is a good chance that John will actually tell him - people love to talk about themselves, and their frustrations even more so.
John narrows his eyes at him, knowing him well enough to know that he isn't asking just to be polite - that he doesn't ask questions that he considers irrelevant or boring, doesn't ask unless he actually wants to know. Which is slightly discomfiting, but he keeps his eyes fixed on the screen and observes John in his peripheral vision.
"No," John answers finally, deciding to tell him anyway for reasons of his own, and Sherlock spends half a second debating what they are before deciding that the aforementioned frustration is the most likely. "Just a lot of little things, I suppose."
He groans a little as he stretches out his leg and massages the phantom pain there, and Sherlock refrains from frowning again with some effort. It's not like he's worried, just...trying to solve another piece of the continual puzzle that is John. For such a seemingly normal, mundane person, he is surprisingly hard to predict, and even more surprisingly sometimes hard to interpret. It is positively maddening.
"That wind goes right through your bones," John sighs after a minute, apparently deciding to be a little more specific. His eyes are closed again, head tilted back against the couch, his voice quiet and tired. "Had to walk too far in the rain, stepped in a puddle and got my feet wet, didn't get a chance to sit down all day. Busy, and every single one of them the most trying little buggers...lots of children with flu and such," he adds, softer and sighing again. Sherlock knows that children being sick or in pain tend to bother John on the best of days.
"Parents all snappish, worried of course, children crying...just a madhouse. Weather puts everyone in bad moods and short tempers, I suppose. All a bit much, really - seemed the day was never going to end," he finishes, pinching the bridge of his nose in a way that Sherlock reads as a headache. Tension induced, most likely, caused by the strain of the day.
"Mmm," Sherlock murmurs into the silence when it becomes clear that John is done talking, slotting in the information in his John-puzzle, all the factors that can add up to 'ghastly' in a given day - nothing he hadn't seen when he was looking, but hadn't realised the full impact of their combined effect.
John rolls his shoulders a bit, wincing as the sore muscles stretch and opening his eyes blearily, reaching for the remote and turning on the news; probably wanting a distraction. "Don't suppose you'd want to give me a massage," John says half-heartedly, obviously not expecting anything - not even an answer, Sherlock thinks, but he feels taken aback anyway, blinking at John for a moment.
I don't know. The words float into his mind and he's so intensely relieved that he didn't actually say them, he can't breathe. He doesn't know why - why he thought it, or why he's so relieved. He feels confused, and uncertain, and stupid, and he hates it.
"No," he says finally, but he isn't sure that it's John he's saying it to. Isn't sure why he feels the need to say it all, but for the way it pushes all the feelings aside to a manageable arm's length, far enough to ignore. It comes out sounding flat and cold even to himself, which is both comforting and sparks a flash of guilt. The least he could do is not add to John's bad day.
John rolls his eyes at him, and it's oddly soothing. "Aren't you going to come watch the news?" he says, ignoring the entire exchange with apparently more success than Sherlock, which is vaguely annoying.
"Why, so you can use me as a pillow and pretend you aren't cuddling?" he snaps. Perhaps more than vaguely annoying, then. He hates himself quite thoroughly just now.
John stares at him, his train of thought clearly derailed, his expression utterly bemused. "No," he says slowly, drawing the word out, "because you like to watch the news. And you aren't getting anything done over there, so you might as well."
How does he know that? Sherlock thinks, a bit affronted and rather unsettled. He's quite sure he kept his expression as focused as if he was reading something - mostly sure - yet John had seen through it with apparent ease, in spite of being exhausted. John is not the most observant of people, but he does see things, sometimes important things, sometimes he even knows what they mean. Sometimes Sherlock forgets that.
Being transparent, even a little, is very uncomfortable, and for a split second he wonders if that is how John, how everyone else feels when Sherlock looks at them.
"Busy," he says shortly, aware that he sounds sulky but not caring. John rolls his eyes again, and again it is strangely soothing, almost comforting.
"Right then," John says softly, nearly breathlessly (as if breathing properly takes too much energy just now) and mostly to himself, sounding faintly amused but very, very tired. He is watching the telly as if he is paying attention, but his eyelids keep drooping, and Sherlock has the insane desire to tape them open.
He presses his lips together in a stubborn line and stares determinedly at his laptop, willing the words on the screen to make sense, but all of his senses are focused on John and are determined to remain that way, and they seem to be even more stubborn than he is. He frowns again, frustrated and wishing John would just stop looking so bloody tired and pale and...alone.
"Fine," he says abruptly, getting up and walking straight past John into the kitchen, going about making a cup of tea just the way John likes it, and absolutely refusing to think about why he's doing it. Stupid, stupid, stupid feelings, damn it all, they make no sense.
John is looking after him bemusedly, and obviously it doesn't make sense to him either. Even when he brings the hot, steaming cup out and hands it to John, John is still staring at him as if he's grown an extra head. He clearly doesn't quite believe it even as he takes the cup and stares down at it, too, as if it might suddenly disappear.
"I'm dreaming, aren't I," John says to himself, and it is Sherlock's turn to roll his eyes.
"Oh for God's sake," he mutters disgustedly, giving up and dropping down beside John on the couch, slumping back into the cushions and staring at the telly with a sullen expression. No sense, none of it makes any sense, John doesn't make sense and he seems bent on making Sherlock make no sense as well. "It's tea, that's all," he says sharply. "Don't get excited."
"You never make tea," John points out, but he looks sleepier than ever, his eyes half closed as he sips the tea with a grateful sigh, finally relaxed for real and with a bit of colour creeping back into his cheeks, a faint trace of a smile and Sherlock suddenly has so many feelings he can't even tell what they are.
He freezes instead, watching John warily out of the corner of his eye, heart thumping in his chest for no reason at all, and John keeps smiling, sipping his tea until it's gone and then absently setting the cup aside, sagging sideways as his eyes fall shut and now he's leaning, ridiculously warm weight against Sherlock's shoulder and really, this is not what he signed up for. Not that he'd signed up for anything, that is not the point.
John's head is resting on his shoulder, slow even breaths making his chest rise and fall, and Sherlock finds himself counting them as if he'd been worried they might stop. This is all so absurd and stupid and pointless and he has no idea why he's still sitting here, much less why he's shifting a little to take more of John's weight, resting his cheek against the top of John's head and staring blankly as the news anchor drones on. It might as well be in Chinese, he can't understand a word of it.
Such a confounded mystery, John Watson. He doesn't make sense, he doesn't fit, but he fits perfectly and no one else ever has and the biggest mystery of all is why Sherlock keeps refusing to let him go, keeps wanting him around, wanting him close, even, in spite of how obviously dangerous he is. This kind of distraction is a terrible, terrible thing, surely he can't afford it, he should never allow it.
None of which explains why he finds their fingers tangled together without remembering having reached out, John's hand cradled in his own, and he doesn't want to let go. John is sleeping against his shoulder, he thinks, and he was so tired. Sherlock will stay and let him sleep, just a little bit longer.
And if a strange, uncomfortable, painful emotion that is something like affection, something like gladness, maybe almost tenderness wells up in his chest when John finally stirs, and smiles sleepily at him, and mumbles into his shoulder, well, nobody else is there to see it. Nobody has to know that John being open and unguarded enough to look at him like that, smile at him like that makes his heart do a senseless, inexplicable funny little trip and fall thing in his chest, makes him want irrationally to find ways to make John look like that more often.
"Y'warm," John mumbles, and then he yawns, rubbing his cheek against Sherlock's arm in a way that is disturbingly...something, maybe endearing? - something he doesn't have a name for, never felt before, he has no idea what it means or what to do with it.
Sherlock is fairly sure that John would never do this normally; he must still be very out of it, too tired to think to filter or hide or refrain from taking liberties that he knows Sherlock would normally shrug off impatiently (and why isn't he, what is wrong with him) and that is - well, yes, it is somewhat worrying, and rather reminds him of a kitten, which is absurd and nearly as bemusing as the words that hover in his mind, stick in his throat, even after he swallows them back.
No, he thinks, you are. So warm, and that is the next mystery. He will have to investigate. Tomorrow. For now he will just sit here until John moves away and breathe and feel his pulse skittering oddly in his veins, leaving him with a strange, somehow thrilling slight dizziness as the warmth spreads through him. He thinks he might like it.
He has no idea what any of it means, but making sense of it all can wait, for now. At least until tomorrow.