It had started several months after they’d met, at the end of a gruelling case where all Greg wanted to do was sleep for a week, and all Sherlock wanted to do was bounce off the ceiling in excitement and demand food. Greg, already well aware of Sherlock’s tendency to disrupt anything around him but too tired to care, had pointed Sherlock in the direction of his kitchen and relinquished the remnants of wakefulness for sleep.
He would never know what he’d have done if he had been marginally awake that night and demanded Sherlock remove himself from his bed, of if Sherlock had gone back to his temporary room at Mycroft’s instead of hanging around like a stray cat. As it was, when Sherlock invaded the comfy warmth of Greg’s duvet, Greg could only bring himself to grumble something about not stealing all the blankets.
Sherlock was gone by the time Greg woke.
The next time was seven weeks later, after Sherlock had moved into a damp-ridden attic in an area Mycroft certainly didn’t approve of and Greg’s wife had come back from her extended business trip. That day, though, Greg had been in bed alone.
‘Your wife’s at work,’ Sherlock said, unnecessarily, closing the door he’d broken in through behind him. ‘Go back to bed.’
Greg frowned at him, running a hand through his sleep-ruffled hair. ‘What do you want?’
‘There’s a leak over my bed.’
‘You could have texted.’
‘Easier this way.’ Sherlock quickly removed his soaked coat and shoes with a slight grimace and headed purposefully towards Greg’s bedroom. ‘Are you coming?’
‘That’s my bed.’
‘You didn’t mind last time. And I’ll be gone before five.’
‘Your back won’t forgive you if you sleep on the sofa.’
‘You could sleep on the sofa.’
Greg rolled his eyes, and decided that he was too tired for this argument. Staying up all night wrapping up a gruesome case and then getting rained on on the way home at dawn had done him in, and his wife was stuck in meetings all day... ‘Fine, but wear a pair of my pyjamas, you’ll get the bed wet. And don’t hog the covers.’
‘I don’t,’ Sherlock grumbled, and he didn’t. He even stuck around for a very late lunch when they woke up much later, although he disappeared before Greg gave in to exhaustion again.
It was only later that Greg found out that the leak in Sherlock’s flat was entirely Sherlock-inflicted, but by that stage he didn’t care.
It was only after two more shared nights that Greg found out what was going on, the first time that they ended up in Sherlock’s bed. It had been another long case, and Sherlock had rapidly declared that Greg couldn’t drive in his state and that he may as well get some sleep at Sherlock’s, in the bed because Sherlock had an experiment running on what passed as his sofa and getting to most of the floor required a full archaeological excavation.
Sherlock had his no arguments expression, and Greg had to admit he was right. Exhaustion, London traffic and a car weren’t a good mix, and he was mildly intrigued about why he wasn’t being immediately chucked out.
He worked it out when, several hours later, he woke to find Sherlock shuddering beside him, bound up in a nightmare. On instinct Greg rolled over and pulled Sherlock to him in a hug, letting him gasp into his chest when he woke up with no comment, just a soothing hand on his back.
‘Is that why?’ Greg asked a few minutes later when Sherlock had recovered himself and reluctantly removed himself from Greg’s arms to lie staring at the ceiling in a rare display of an awareness of social acceptability.
‘You could have told me.’
Sherlock gave him a look, but Greg couldn’t decipher it in the dark. Eventually Sherlock sighed, flopping back on the pillow. ‘I had to be sure,’ he admitted.
‘Ok,’ Greg said. ‘Is there…’
‘Thought you’d never ask,’ Sherlock muttered, resuming his place curled up against Greg.
Greg rolled his eyes, but his heart had long since gone out to Sherlock, so he let Sherlock stay where he was.
Over the next few years Sherlock turned up in Greg’s bed more times than he had excuses for, silently demanding a readily given hug. That was how he weathered boredom, cravings, failures and much more Greg was never told about, and about which Greg never asked. But he always made his appearance while Greg’s wife was safely away. Greg wondered how many times Sherlock would have made an appearance if it hadn’t been for his wife, and wavered between worrying about Sherlock and thanking anything he could think of that Sherlock appeared to have some boundaries. Only some, but this was Sherlock, who always picked the lock just because he could despite his new key.
Then John moved in with Sherlock, and Greg wondered if that would be that.
‘Thought you had John for this now?’ Greg asked as Sherlock settled down next to him one early morning, appropriating Greg’s stomach as a hand warmer.
Sherlock snorted. ‘Have you seen what he’s like when everyone assumes he’s having sex with me?'
‘This is different, though.’
‘Yes, but I'm used to you now.’
Just the occasional… cuddle… when he wants it, Greg thought. 'Have I become your teddy bear?'
‘Don’t be an idiot, Lestrade,’ Sherlock said grumpily. ‘You would even if you had.’
Greg thought about the harder nights, the ones they never talked about. He would.
Greg wondered if Sherlock was part of the reason his marriage fell apart, or his working hours or the fact he and his wife had never been the perfect partners. Sherlock, at a crime scene but away from prying ears, bluntly pointed out that things hadn’t been working out well before they’d started sleeping together, at which point Greg firmly told him that however accurate that description was, Sherlock was not to use it again.
‘Does she know?’ Sherlock asked.
‘Don’t you know?’
‘I don’t make a habit on spying on your marital affairs. I presume she does or your guilt complex would have kicked in by now. But I might have made a mistake in my calculations.’
With a sigh, Greg shooed Sherlock towards the exit. ‘She seemed ok with it. We’ve known each other for years, I thought…. Well obviously there was stuff about our relationship I didn’t know about. But, yeah. I told her the morning after the first time, if you must know.’
Sherlock suddenly engulfed Greg in an awkward hug. ‘Come over to Baker Street tonight. No sleeping, just for a meal. It’ll do you good.’
‘Who’d think you would be the one mothering me?’ Greg said, considering the other reason he put up with Sherlock as he leant his forehead on Sherlock’s shoulder. ‘Thanks.’
Greg’s impending divorce seemed to signal a change of sorts. Sherlock had no reason not to turn up as and when he wanted to, and took full advantage of that fact for experiment and case related purposes as well as the promise of a hug.
If he was honest with himself, Greg didn’t mind the extra presence in his too-bare flat, even if said presence left a trail of chemicals and the occasional body part in his wake. Then there was that other reason, Sherlock’s rare but welcome bouts of comfort, sometimes barely noticeable, sometimes very obvious.
Really, Greg could have done without Sherlock’s mid-Scotland Yard declaration that Greg looked far too tired and that he should go to bed earlier, but it gave everyone a good laugh, and Greg wondered if that was the point. Sometimes it was hard to tell with Sherlock, but he’d been laughing too.
Life settled again, Sherlock still refused to use a key, and didn’t point out that their arrangement was much easier without Greg’s wife in public, and even apologised afterwards, and explosions were kept to a minimum.
Life settled until Moriarty took it all away, and Greg was left floundering in a sea of grief and shock, desperately wishing that Sherlock's death had never happened, and that his bed was once more the occasional home of his Consulting Detective.
It might have been different if Greg was more awake than he was. It might have been different if Greg wasn’t still in denial about Sherlock’s fall, if he hadn’t, in the deepest part of his heart, still held on to irrational hope. It might just have taken a few minutes longer.
‘You’re alive then,’ was all Greg said to the man who had just walked back from the dead and into his room to search for pyjamas.
‘Obviously,’ Sherlock replied. ‘Move over.’
They dealt with the explanations and reasonings in the morning. For the night, Greg just held Sherlock tight.