"You're not sleeping with me."
"Why not? It's perfectly reasonable to wish to test this hypothesis and you already live with me anyway."
"You're NOT. Sleeping. With me."
"But John," Sherlock whines, following him around the kitchen like an unhappy toddler in a too-expensive scarlet housecoat. John wants to kick him. A familiar impulse, that. "There have been many claims already made that sleeping with a bedfellow improves the quality of sleep. I honestly see nothing against sharing a bed with me for a certain amount of time to serve as a sleep study of sorts. It would have been incredibly useful data for this case."
The case he is referring to was more than a little ridiculous and absolutely no reason for John to allow Sherlock to nip into bed with him. A woman from Brentford had found her husband dead in their guest bedroom. They had been sleeping apart due to his dreadful snoring, and according to her sleeping apart was so detrimental to his health he might as well have dropped dead just like that. It had been fairly easy for Sherlock to deduce in under two hours he had in fact been murdered by their neighbour who was so angry with him for consistently parking his car in front of his house he’d snuck in through the window and smothered him with a pillow. Still, her outlandish theory appeared to have awoken Sherlock’s curiosity, and despite her being proven more than a little bit wrong he had thrown himself unto several articles and two books on sleeping patterns and was now apparently looking for empirical evidence gathered all on his own.
"Just the fact that you see nothing against it is reason enough to say no. If there's studies out there already can't you just take those at face value?"
Sherlock looks so aghast at those words John might as well have suggested the ritualistic butchering of a basket of baby bunnies. He supposes that for a man of science like Sherlock taking another's test results at face value might, actually, be much the same. He also has the niggling suspicion that Sherlock wouldn't look nearly that horrified by the actual butchering of a basket of baby bunnies.
"What could you possibly have against sharing a bed for a brief period of time? Are you worried people might talk? The walls of my bedroom aren't made of glass, John, London won't be able to see us, nobody has to know."
"People already talk, that's hardly the problem," John says gruffly, wiping down the surface of the kitchen counter with a dishcloth decisively. It's rare for it to be empty enough for a proper wipe down, so he decides to make the best of it now he can.
"Are you worried something might actually happen? Fascinating."
"I am not - Sherlock. No. I just feel I've given up enough of my privacy living with you as it is, can I please keep a couple of hours to myself every night?"
Sherlock's face screws up with discontent and he turns with a huff, the housecoat swishing around him dramatically. John is fairly convinced that's the only reason he wears the damn things, anyway. They add something of a theatrical element to his moods.
"It'll just be for a week or two," Sherlock says a few hours later as they are sitting in a cab, on their way to a fresh crime scene Lestrade called them to. "Fourteen days, at most."
"No," John says.
"We'd aim for a set number of hours of sleep every night, perhaps the common eight, and see if it makes a difference with our usual sleeping habits when there is a partner present," Sherlock says as they are both leaned over the headless corpse of what, judging by the unusual outfit, appears to be an aging circus clown.
"No," John says.
"I'm sure it's got to do with natural instinct, after all when sleeping with another present there are two individuals who might detect potential predators and subconsciously one might feel safer and therefore sleep more deeply," Sherlock says as they are prowling about the campsite of an almost abandoned circus, the scent of sawdust and old cotton candy tickling up John's nose.
"No," John says.
"I suppose going to sleep every night at midnight and sleeping until 8 would be good, and not too difficult to make work with your shifts at the surgery," Sherlock says as they are slumped behind a dumpster painted an alarming shade of yellow while behind them a very angry aging acrobat waves a gun in Lestrade's general direction.
"For God's sake," John says.
"If the hypothesis is proven to be true it'll be beneficial for you, too," Sherlock finally tries that evening while John is scraping red paint off his shoes over an old newspaper. "You'll be more rested. It would improve your focus."
"Oh don't even try to pretend you're doing this for my sake like some kind-hearted benefactor," John says through gritted teeth, driving a screwdriver through the ridges in the soles, feeling his resolve peel away like those flecks of paint from the worn rubber. It bothers him that Sherlock can apparently win him over by just being a whiny, persistent prick.
“It’s for science, John,” Sherlock says like that’s the only justification anyone ever really needs. John puts down his shoe, and puts down the screwdriver, and feels like a gullible idiot.
“Fine. Your bedroom, not mine, fourteen nights, anything weird happens and I’m out.”
“Just weird, Sherlock. “
Sherlock doesn’t press it any further, just sits in his chair looking unbelievably pleased with himself. John hopes he can keep himself from smothering him with a pillow before the experiment is finished.
The first night is so incredibly uneventful John feels silly for having protested as vehemently as he did in the first place. He isn't really sure what he'd been expecting, to be honest. Exhausted from avoiding a homicidal acrobat in the afternoon he'd slept like the dead and assumes Sherlock has done much the same - he'd certainly been sleeping disturbingly peacefully when John woke up, a respectful distance of sheets and mattress between them. Coming out the bathroom after a shave he finds him awake and sitting up, sheets bunched between his bony feet, scribbling furiously in his Moleskine, but decides against asking if the results of the first night are in any way satisfactory.
The second night John learns Sherlock talks in his sleep. He is teased out his slumber by a few slurred syllables which soon grow into what turns out to be a vaguely incoherent monologue about tea. John listens, fascinated, if vaguely annoyed that apparently Sherlock doesn't even shut the hell up when asleep.
John also learns Sherlock prefers to sleep in something of a dramatic belly-flop and is pushed and shoved on more than one occasion by long limbs snaking their way across the mattress. Sherlock either genuinely doesn’t wake up when John unceremoniously shoves him back, or fakes it. Either way John figures he has every right to be incredibly annoyed and contemplates smothering Sherlock with a pillow.
The third night John learns that Sherlock not only talks in his sleep but actually answers questions, too. It might be one of the more delightfully entertaining nights of his life. He’s so incredibly amused he even takes getting accidentally swatted in the face by Sherlock’s hand in stride.
John can't believe he's been sharing a bed with Sherlock for an entire fucking week.
He also has to grudgingly admit he's been sleeping like a baby for a few nights now. Sherlock has finally adapted to sharing his bed and has stopped flailing about like a starfish having a seizure quite so much, and even if he does still have the most fascinating stories to tell every night John starts sleeping through them without a problem. Sherlock asks him whether he feels well rested and he concludes that, yes, he does (which leads to more furious scribbling in the Moleskine for science). He might assume the same for Sherlock - absolutely fascinating, since he didn't think he'd seen the man sleep a completely mundane eight hours a night even once, let alone seven nights in a row. He'd liked to be able to say it made a difference for Sherlock, being properly rested, but it honestly didn't.
On the up side Sherlock could no longer claim that sleeping regularly slowed his brain down. Now if John could only figure out a way to get him to do the same for eating like a normal human being he might just consider this whole experiment as smashing success.
That night John has a particularly surreal dream where Sherlock is secretly an alien insect disguised as an outlandishly good-looking Londoner who has infested him with some kind of parasite, eating him up slowly from the inside, and ends up laying wide awake and paranoid beside him in the bed for a couple of hours while Sherlock mutters nonsensically in his sleep about how the gardener has stolen the bucket of squash please don't tell the maid.
When John rolls into the bed, pulling the sheets up to his neck and wriggling in comfortably, Sherlock is still sitting up, legs crossed, typing away on his laptop. It's nearly midnight - John knows that at the very stroke of 12 Sherlock will, in fact, put the laptop away and go to sleep. It was almost admirable, the way he devoted himself to his experiments to the point of denying whatever natural impulse he might regularly feel to just keep working throughout the night.
"You're getting much more sleep now than you usually do. About ready to admit your body benefits from it as much as a normal person's does?" John asks from where he's burrowed nicely into his pillow.
"It doesn't," Sherlock answers absently, words on his screen reflected in his eyes.
"It must. You're sleeping like a baby every night."
"Yes I am. For the experiment, not because I need it."
"Right. That's. Wait a minute." John pushes himself up, elbow digging into the mattress. "Are you telling me you're making yourself sleep, to meet the parameters stated for your experiment? Despite not being actually tired?"
"Yes," Sherlock answers slowly, like he's talking to a mentally deficit four year old.
"That's physically impossible."
Sherlock turns his laptop off with a few quick clicks and swishes across the touchpad and looks at John as the screen goes black. "I am in control of my own body. I want the results of this experiment to be as accurate as possible, so I am making myself sleep eight hours a night like proposed."
John stares at him for a moment, sitting tall and skinny with his t-shirt inside out for some reason. "I hate you," he states flatly, turns over and wishes himself to sleep.
It takes him a little more than an hour while Sherlock appears to be gone within ten minutes. He contemplates smothering Sherlock with a pillow, but eventually dozes off while Sherlock tells a shockingly coherent sleep-story about a cow in Trafalgar square.
"How long are we going to keep doing this again?"
"Fourteen nights, at minimum. More if the outcome isn't quite clear yet."
"Does it look like it will be clear?"
"Ask me again in two nights."
Sherlock dreams. John only figures this out after he appears to be experiencing a genuine nightmare and the sleep-talking goes from something funny and oddly endearing into something that tugs painfully at his heartstrings when he finds Sherlock, quite unexpectedly, first asking for his mother and then for Mycroft in a way that suggests to John he's flashing back to his childhood somewhere. He watches him for a while, listening to his murmurs and soft whines as he calls out softly for someone with increasing despair, and wonders if he should wake him up. Upon realising he'd have no idea what to do or say to Sherlock if he would he eventually slides out of bed and sits in the bathroom, on the edge of the bath, until the sounds from the bedroom die down and the dream seems to have evaporated. He doesn't mention it in the morning and Sherlock seems no different from usual. John wonders if the most brilliant mind in London remembers his dreams, and how often Sherlock called out like that as a child, waiting in the dark for someone who wasn't coming.
The morning after the fourteenth night Sherlock sits on his bed surrounded by dozens of sheets of paper, laptop beside him. There are pages upon pages of scribbles and graphs and a complex-looking flowchart twirling around itself on the screen. John picks up a paper and attempts to interpret the graph scribbled on in red and black pen but fails, absolutely missing how on earth Sherlock manages to translate the experience of sleeping well into hard numbers.
"The results to your liking?"
"Hm. John, would you say the quality of your sleep has improved?"
"Not sure. I'm a pretty decent sleeper as it is, regardless of circumstance. I was a soldier, you know, I can sleep standing up if I have to."
Sherlock frowns at the papers, twiddling a pen in his finger and getting drops of ink on his sheets, and John can see what he's going to say next coming a mile away.
"Results are inconclusive. I propose we move the parameter up to a month. More data should help."
"All right," John says.
Sleeping deeply after a particularly harrowing day at the surgery John accidentally kicks Sherlock in his sleep and Sherlock wakes him up by shaking him roughly and informing him of the fact, before promptly falling back to sleep himself. John lies awake for three hours, unable to go back to sleep, quietly seething and considering smothering Sherlock with a pillow.
John wakes up around 7:30 and finds Sherlock filming him. His first thought is 'I didn't know we had a video camera' before common sense kicks in and he shoots up, gathering the sheets around him like some poor affronted maiden.
"What the hell are you doing?!"
"Just getting some footage. For my research."
"Because filming me while sleeping isn't creepy at all?"
"You agreed to participate."
"I agreed to sleep in the same bed as you. As far as I know that's sacrifice enough on my behalf."
Sherlock says nothing and, for some strange reason, keeps filming.
"Stop filming Sherlock, I'm awake. Oh God, have you filmed me sleeping before?"
"Yes," Sherlock says simply as he turns the camera off. It's a tiny thing, fitting as precisely into Sherlock’s hand as if it had been built for him personally, sleek and digital and undoubtedly holding hours of footage of John drooling onto his pillow.
"Please don't... do that again. I do mean when it I say it's creepy. Write down all the data you want, but don't film me without me knowing," John says quietly, staring at the camera.
"Can I keep the footage I already have?"
"If it shows up on the internet somewhere I'm kicking you in the face."
The twentieth night is going to skew Sherlock's test results something awful. He's more than aware of it too, quietly livid on his pillow as an impressive autumn storm blows across London, rain pounding against the windows and thunder dancing lazily across their rooftop at a steady beat. The lightning illuminates the room and John barely manages to count to three until a new clap of thunder drones through Baker street. Somewhere down the street a dog barks back at it, its yaps stuttering through the rain.
"Preposterous," Sherlock complains, crossing arms over the sheet covering his chest.
"It's the weather, what are you going to do," John says. "Your marvellous control over your body not allowing you to sleep through a little storm?"
"Shut up," Sherlock mumbles, kicking at the sheets and scratching at his nose. "I don't see you sleeping, either."
"I'm usually fine sleeping through storms, but not those that decide to camp out on my roof," John says, staring at patterns on the ceiling he's sure his sleep-addled brain is projecting onto the usually perfectly off-white surface.
Sherlock is quiet for two more claps of thunder, insistently rubbing at his nose still. Sleep tugs on the corners of John's brain but he's dragged out of it every time by bright flashes against his closed eyes.
"I may have to forego on counting this night in terms of rest and comfort," Sherlock says next to him. John can still hear his thoughts forming behind the words and knows Sherlock isn't so much talking to him as just talking in general to collect and focus himself. "But this night is still relevant to the final conclusion I may draw. Laying awake through a storm is much nicer when you've got company."
John turns his head to look at Sherlock. He's got his fingers steepled under his chin even like this, on his back in bed. John can see the outline of him in the dim room, all elbows, sharply contrasted for a moment by bright blue lightning. John opens his mouth to say something but is rudely interrupted by a particularly snappy burst of thunder.
"You've never had someone in your bed during a storm?" John asks when his ears stops ringing, even though the answer is clear as glass already.
"Nope," Sherlock answers as expected.
It's the next question John asks that he's really been itching to throw out there, almost desperately curious to get the answer to something he's been guiltily wondering about since he met Sherlock. "You've never had anyone in your bed at all, have you?"
"Nope," Sherlock answers again, as straightforward as if he's just asked him if he likes carrots.
John turns on his side and props himself up on an elbow, letting the storm do its thing before continuing. "Have you ever been in anyone else's bed, then?"
Sherlock looks at him, his eyes bright even in the dark gray of his bedroom. "This is a very roundabout way of inquiring after my sexual experience, John."
John chuckles at this, pulling the sheet up over his shoulders. The wind pushes against the walls of 221B and somehow manages to trickle through, old brick never really managing to keep the draught out. "All right. Cards on the table. Are you a virgin?"
The corner of Sherlock's mouth pulls up, oddly pleased by John's straightforwardness. "Technically speaking, yes. Is this surprising?"
"Not surprising. I'd suspected... I mean, it's you. I can't even imagine... not that I sit around imagining... well. It's just, generally speaking, a bit of an odd idea. For someone your age. Have you really never wanted to?"
Sherlock turns on his side as well, facing him, propping an arm under his head. John feels oddly like a twelve year old girl at a slumber party. "I've been curious, but never enough to do something about it. It seems like such a hassle. I can assure you my theoretical knowledge on the subject is quite comprehensive."
"I figured as much. It just seems odd that you're not willing to accept someone else's data when it comes to sleeping patterns, but you're fine with accepting second-hand information about sex."
John doesn't realise what he's saying until it's already out his mouth, punctuated in disturbingly dark fashion by a mocking badum-tish of thunder. Sherlock is giving him an oddly slack-jawed look on top of it. John isn't sure whether he's just insulted him, or planted a really, really bad idea in that boundless noggin of his.
"Never mind," he backtracks. "You're more than free to just... do what you want. Or not do. Whatever you want. I'm glad you've shared this with me though. Not to sound too weird, but I have been wondering."
"You could've just come out and asked me before, John. It's not something I'm self-conscious about."
"Yeah. That's. Yeah. All right." John rolls onto his back again, sheets pulled up awkwardly to his chin. The thunder drifts away, slowly, while John closes his eyes and tries to catch the coattails of sleep. He can feel Sherlock still watching him and tries not to think about it.
John’s turn to have a nightmare. Nothing he’s never dreamed about before – flashes of desert, dirt roads, pained screams of bleeding soldiers under his hands and the piercing shrill cry of a dying child. He awakens much like he usually does, too, fighting the sheets as if they were holding him down, breathing hard and fast, cold sweat between his shoulder blades and angry tears pushing at his eyes.
Sherlock is up on his elbows, observing him from a distance. John stares at him, feeling very caught in the act for some reason, then thrusts himself off the bed and stomps into the bathroom. He cries quietly into the sink for a good ten minutes until he can no longer smell charred human flesh and reality is the comforting whiteness of their own London bathroom.
He stumbles back into the bedroom, barely seeing a thing in the dark, and crawls back into bed. Sherlock is still watching him. John attempts to will him to just keep quiet.
“Are you all right?”
Damn. “Yes. Fine.” He turns on his side and clutches at his pillow with one hand, squeezing his eyes shut.
“John. Do I... do you need me to do something for you?”
It’s perhaps the most honest question John has ever heard Sherlock ask and it hits him right where it hurts. He considers snapping at Sherlock, telling him so, but realises Sherlock is doing his best here and there’s just no sense in needlessly hurting him.
“I’m fine Sherlock. Go back to sleep,” he says tonelessly, and feels the mattress dip and shift as Sherlock settles himself back.
As he drifts back to sleep John thinks he can feel the ghost of a hand on his shoulder, hesitant fingers just about touching, but it never solidifies and he doesn’t remember it in the morning.
John gets up to pee at 4:30 and when he comes back finds Sherlock has travelled to the other side of the bed completely, now curled up on John’s side instead, wrapped completely in the sheets like an overly tall British burrito with great hair. He stands by the side of the bed, at a loss for a moment, before letting out a quietly exasperated sigh and getting into bed on Sherlock’s side, instead. It takes a few tugs to reclaim some of the sheets but he manages, and eventually falls asleep very pointedly ignoring how gloriously warm Sherlock’s side of the bed still is with him and how his pillow smells like very expensive shampoo.
In the morning Sherlock looks more than a little confused but says nothing, tapping away excitedly on his laptop.
Just before falling asleep John realises Sherlock’s study ought to be ending in three days and doesn’t know how to feel about that. Then he doesn’t know what to feel about not knowing what to feel, and Sherlock is sleep-babbling away next to him about a goose in Kent and John is caught on that bewildering precipice of being unable to decide whether he should be laughing or crying about an absurd situation.
The night before their last they hardly sleep at all. A case pops up that ends with the two of them chasing down a skinny boy on a skateboard and turning him in for the murder of a 17 year old girl that had been written off several months earlier as a suicide. They eventually fall into bed well past five am, John not even bothering to change his clothes.
Sherlock still wakes him up at eight, disturbingly well-rested for a man who hasn’t gotten more than three hours of sleep, and starts cheerfully relaying to John how he apparently snores when asleep in his day clothes and isn’t it fascinating how they both fell asleep so quickly even though adrenaline still pumped through their veins when they came home?
John once again contemplates smothering him with a pillow.
Their last night is extraordinarily dull and plain. Sherlock sits and yells at the television before they head off to bed, they say good night, and fall asleep. John sleeps through the entire night, not waking once, not even when Sherlock talks about him in his sleep (the only time he’s done that in the past thirty nights, and the only time John misses it). They both wake up around ten minutes before the alarm goes off and John is already brushing his teeth in the bathroom when the thing starts beeping and Sherlock’s well-aimed fist quiets it.
He finds the report on the kitchen table when he comes home from the surgery that evening. “Are these your results?” he calls into the living room, where a non-committal grunt from Sherlock constitutes a ‘yes’.
“Can I read it?”
“Knock yourself out.” Sherlock walks past the open door, looping his scarf around his neck.
“Where are you going?”
“Out. Morgue. Molly’s got someone in who died from falling off his roof onto his gardening shed. She reckons I might want to see.”
John doesn’t ask anything more after that. He makes himself a cup of tea and sits in his chair, report on his knees. It’s typed. It’s got graphs and pie charts and endless footnotes. He’s probably not going to understand half of it. Even years of medical training would never prepare a man for the way Sherlock Holmes’ brain works, he has learned.
An Experiment in Sleeping, conducted from October 6th to November 5th 2010, S. Holmes & Dr. J.H. Watson
It tickles him that Sherlock refers to him so officially in a report that, for all intents and purposes, will never be seen by anyone other than Sherlock and himself. John doesn’t read the whole thing, glossing over the unexpectedly colourful graphs and most of the tables with numbers that he half expects are just there to look fancy and have no real meaning at all. It does turn out, however, that Sherlock wrote down brief descriptions of every night spent together. Most of them are absolutely dull, detailing only the hours he’d slept and whether it made him function better the day after, but a couple jump out at him, unexpectedly personal slices of Sherlock’s perspective.
Fell asleep at roughly 0:15. Both me and J. slept quite undisturbed, most probably due to strenuous activity during the day. J. very quiet sleeper. Checked on his breathing four times during the night, wondering if he’d perhaps died on me.
Fell asleep at roughly 11:55. J.’s preferred position for sleeping is curled up in the foetal position on his left side (back to me). When sleeping lightly he lies on his back, one arm over his head. My preferred position for sleeping is on my belly with right leg pulled up. Do not know what position I lie in when sleeping lightly. Should perhaps ask J. More often than not now he sleeps in the foetal position, suggesting he does indeed enter a deeper, more rewarding sleep when presented with a bedfellow.
Fell asleep at roughly 0:06. Purchased a camera during the day to film J.’s sleeping. Fascinated by his utter silence paired with the REM clearly visible as he enters deep sleep. Have started clocking how long he remains in the REM cycle, but find myself falling asleep while counting which is far too counterproductive for my liking. Should perhaps leave the camera running all night, as to collect data later.
Fell asleep at roughly 11:58. Bad dream during night. J. doesn’t seem to have noticed. Interesting to note bad dreams still occur with calming presence of a friend nearby.
Fell asleep at roughly 0:35. Slept v. well. So did J. Results still inconclusive. Proposed the study be bumped up to 30 days rather than 14. J. agreed, surprisingly. Feeling v. rested and oddly at peace with the world. Not sure I like it.
Fell asleep at roughly 0:05. Slept v. well. So did J. J. does not agree to being filmed. Pity, as his movements and facial expressions during sleep are still incredibly useful. Still allowed me to keep and use the footage I already have, so at least that’s something.
Due to thunderstorm results on sleep for this night are not utilizable. Have however learned that braving a storm helps develop a strange sense of kinship between people. J. felt inclined to discuss some personal topics. Felt v. comfortable with this. Fascinating.
It is, however, the entry for the 22nd night which really stumps John. It is empty. It says, right there, Day 22, but has nothing on it. No data, no observations, no nothing, a full blank page right in the middle of the thick report. John digs in his memory and stutters to an astonished halt when he realises that was the night of his nightmare. He stares at the empty entry and realises Sherlock must have kept it that way just for his sake, not wanting to comment on his frazzled state any more than wishing to fill the entry up with cold data like it hadn’t happened at all, and John is hit with a wave of raw gratitude so great it nearly drowns him.
He puts the report back on the kitchen table and sits on the sofa with a book that fails to hold his attention, waiting for Sherlock to come home. When he does it is with intensely disturbing if enthusiastically told stories about livers with gardening utensils stuck through them but John smiles and listens attentively.
John sleeps like shit and listens to Sherlock rummaging around on the floor below the entire night.
John sleeps like shit. Sherlock starts playing the violin at precisely 3:42 am. John contemplates smothering him with a pillow, but that seems much more difficult to accomplish with him down in the living room and John up in his own bed.
John hasn’t slept well in almost a week and Sherlock has barely slept at all, he reckons, save for the one morning where he came downstairs to find him slumped across his desk with not one but two yellow post-its stuck to his forehead, and John can only stretch so far until he snaps.
It is nearly a quarter to twelve when John switches off the television right in the middle of the show he’d been watching and stands up. “Let’s go to sleep,” he states, just a bit too loudly for it to still sound sort of casual.
Sherlock stares at him, sitting at the desk behind his laptop, quite blank until he catches up delightfully quick. He smirks, a corner of his mouth curling up while his fingers perform the tell-tale dance of switching his laptop off.
John changes into his pyjamas and brushes his teeth. Sherlock is already in bed when he pads into the bedroom, curled up on his side, just a dark mop of curls peeking out from underneath white sheets. John switches off the lights and gets into bed.
He is lulled to sleep by a most disjointed story Sherlock sleep-tells him about bees that comes out half French, half English. He sleeps like a baby.