It was a gruesome murder, to say the least, though (quite unfortunately) in John's experience it was certainly not the worst. The local force was a bit shaken, though, and DI White's countenance and surname had never been more of a pair. A man found in the sitting-room of his comfortable Sussex home, his head almost completely blown off by the sawed-off shotgun that had been rather conveniently placed right on the dead man's chest. The policeman on duty, who managed somehow to be both enormous and unassuming simultaneously, very nearly ran out of the room as soon as Sherlock marched in to take control of its contents, the crime scene with its blood-soaked and brain-encrusted upholstery and everything.
While Sherlock hopped around the body, John leaned against the windowsill, pretending to not rejoice in the open window that diminished the overpowering scent of blood. It was only maybe about thirty seconds between when John settled there and when he called Sherlock's name, speaking with probably more genuine excitement than he ought to have shown to a room of police gorged upon Sherlock's reputation and starved for evidence that Sherlock wasn't mad as a hatter.
"Sherlock, come here. Look at this." John pointed to a mark upon the sill, faded and browned by now but still quite recognisable as a bloody footprint. Sherlock's eyes lit up upon seeing it, and even more so upon the discovery of the muddy prints behind the curtain, but then he started going off about dumbbells and practically flapping his hands in his excitement and John was completely, hopelessly lost again. It was a state with which he was becoming ever more horribly familiar.
Everything had happened quite suddenly that morning, when DI Dimmock, who by now at least tolerated Sherlock, which was practically the same thing as liking him, rang to say that there'd been a murder in Sussex and DI White was rather frantically trying to get a hold of Sherlock through the Yard and no, Lestrade wasn't on this case and please, would he just get down there already thank you? Sherlock, who'd taken to awaiting his next case sitting hunched up in his chair, glaring at his violin as if it were withholding vital information from him, didn't need much convincing before they were off. But the promise of a rapidly-spoiling and constantly-manhandled-by-idiots-who-can't-tell-a-social-worker-from-a-telephone-salesperson-and-how-can-these-people-even-function-John-how-are-they-not-all-dead-from-stupidity-by-now-John?-Sherlock-the-vast-majority-of-sane-humans-don't-give-half-a-damn-if-you're-a-social-worker-or-not-you-know-Hmmm-is-that-true-John?-Huh-they're-even-duller-than-I'd-thought-Well-that's-a-frightening-thought-How-do-you-mean?-I-hadn't-thought-it-was-actually-possible-for-your-estimation-of-average-humans-to-fall-any-lower-Ordinary-people-are-full-of-unpleasant-surprises-John-Yeah-and-what-are-you?-because-your-surprises-certainly-aren't-pleasant-Oh-are-you-going-to-insinuate-that-I'm-ordinary-now?-God-no-why-would-I-ever-do-such-a-thing?-It's-a-fool's-errand-John-Yeah-and-I-won't-even-try-I'm-no-fool-no-matter-what-you-say-Whatever-makes-you-think-I-think-you-a-fool? crime scene made them hasty, and it wasn't until the late afternoon until John realised they'd probably be here for the night, as he'd feared, and he hadn't yet found them a place to stay. The area was popular with tourists; how was he supposed to find something affordable and convenient at this time of day?
So that was why he had to explain to Sherlock over dinner about the bed and breakfast, Birlstone Lodge, with its single room that was all he could get for a sane price, and about the room's bed. Its only bed.
"I'll kip on the floor, don't worry."
Sherlock frowned. "It'll be bad for your shoulder."
"Yeah, well, it's not like I haven't slept in odder places before. And the shoulder can take it, it's been over a year now." John shoved a mouthful of bland beef into his mouth, and glared at Sherlock pointedly. Sherlock sighed and deigned to take a bite of his own food. He grimaced at it. Picky posh git.
"Still, it's not worth the bother it'll cause you. I might not even sleep tonight."
"I'm not going to be able to sleep if you're up and muttering to yourself, Sherlock." Even the smallest sounds awoke John instantly, his senses still hypersensitive from a combination of battlefield reflexes and Sherlockfield reflexes (which by this point were really the same thing, except that there was more violin here than there'd been in Afghanistan) It'd been several months before he was able to ignore the little sounds from Sherlock in the sitting room at half four in the morning, and that was when they were on different floors. In the same room and he wouldn't even be able to close his eyes.
"No, I'll not be up thinking. I'll be back at Douglas's house; I need to test a theory."
"Oh. Need me?"
"Mm. Does... does this have anything to do with that dumbbell that you were on about?"
Sherlock smirked. "You'll see."
John groaned. "I've already told you about being all bloody mysterious, Sherlock, and why it's got to stop." To add emphasis, John menaced Sherlock slightly with his fork, limp meat dangling from its end rather pathetically. It slid off the prongs and flopped back to his plate with a small, thoroughly unappetising squelch.
"But I'm not even wearing my coat --"
"It's not about the coat, though it is, a bit, but it's mostly about you just being you."
"That doesn't make the least bit of sense."
"Neither does muttering about dumbbells."
"How do you expect me to stop being 'mysterious' if it's mostly to do with me being me?"
"You could start by explaining this dumbbell rubbish."
"You want me to stop being myself?" Sherlock looked a little less than the amused he ought to have been. John blinked.
"You're trying to distract me, Sherlock, I can tell. And no, I don't want you to stop being yourself, I just want you to clue me in on things every once in a bloody while."
Sherlock sighed. "I want to see if I'm right first. No use in divulging mad theories if they're not even correct, wouldn't you agree?" He pushed his plate away, and moved to take his scarf.
"You know, sometimes it's okay to admit you might be wrong, Sherlock."
"Hmm, not in my experience." Sherlock stood, shrugging his coat on.
"You stuck-up arse."
"That's one way of putting it. See you back at Birlstone Lodge. Room number three, was it?"
"Right. Don't wait up," and Sherlock was gone.
It was three seventeen in the morning. John was awake.
He'd been woken by a small creak at the door, so small it'd taken him a few seconds to realise why he'd woken up so suddenly. He turned to face the door, quietly, and listened into the darkness. He knew Sherlock was rubbing off on him when he'd relaxed at the familiar breathing pattern from across the room.
"Well, Sherlock, how'd it go?"
Sherlock sighed softly, but otherwise was silent. John reached for the bedside lamp. In its patchy golden glow, Sherlock looked... unnerved. And also awfully like a wax figure, standing there stock-still. It didn't sit well with John.
"Not good?" John ventured.
"No, not really, no," Sherlock breathed, and seemed to regain life somewhat. He began shedding his outer clothes, and then stopped. "John."
"Hmm?" John looked over at him from where he was sprawled on the bed in a rather ungainly fashion, rather disliking the idea of getting up and onto the floor so Sherlock could have the bed.
"Would you -- how -- would you be concerned to share a b-- a room with a complete idiot? A dolt, just as bad as the rest of humanity?"
John smiled, tired. "I rather think I ought to be asking you that question instead. So you were wrong, so what? You'll get it right in the end. You always do."
Sherlock had taken to undressing again, but now he stopped, blinked, looked sideways at John. Sherlock didn't move, and his leg was still awkwardly suspended in the air, fingers on his shoelaces, frozen while untying them, but the man's balance was good enough he could stay like that the whole night if he wanted to. And that wasn't even a joke. Sometimes John wondered -- absently or angrily, it depended -- what planet Sherlock'd come from, but he always realised that, in the entire cosmos, only humanity could have produced something so completely bizarre as Sherlock Holmes. The thought made him smile. The thought had also kept him from just up and leaving on more than one occasion.
Sherlock pulled his eyes away from John's face at last, turning back to his laces. "You're tired," he observed.
"My god, how do you do it, Sherlock?"
Sherlock looked cross, and very much like he didn't want to appear amused. "You're much franker now than usual, obviously a product of exhaustion. You're also smiling quite a bit. Good thing you didn't get on the floor, then, if you're so tired."
"Mm, maybe. You going to sleep at all?"
"I've already solved the case, there's no reason not to. Or at least to not try."
"You solved it?"
Sherlock rifled through the battered and bruised navy duffel bag that they'd both thrown toiletries and clean clothes into that morning. The bag was originally John's, but as with many of John's things, "John's" was just another word for "Sherlock and John's" at this point and John had given up on complaining about it.
"Wasn't hard once I realised my mistake. It's actually a bit brilliant," Sherlock added, seeming almost confused, as he unbuttoned his shirt and pulled on a pyjama top in a great exhausted tossing of fabric and appendages.
"It was brilliant, and you're annoyed that you didn't see it sooner," John realised as Sherlock tossed his used shirt into a draw-string bag. "You're actually mad at the case for being interesting but for throwing you off-track." Sherlock didn't reply, a tell-tale sign. He was, after all, Mr Punchline. "You're a nutter, Sherlock."
"That's the hundredth-and-ninth time you've used 'nutter' in that context. You need a larger vocabulary, I think; you're dangerously close to becoming boring."
"I'll use whatever vocabulary I bloody well like, thanks."
Up until this point, John hadn't really been taking stock of the scene, at least from a third person perspective, being far too tired to think about things from other people's points of view. Now, as Sherlock threw off his belt and halted, hands at his flies, and looked at John again, John realised what exactly was happening in the room: John was sprawled sleepily in the bed, watching Sherlock undress as they bickered, and there was only one bed. He met Sherlock's gaze.
"Erm... should I do this in the loo?" Sherlock asked, gesturing to his trousers, and his pants by extension. He looked massively uncomfortable.
John looked at him for a moment, not even aware that he was thinking about this, before he suddenly laughed. Because this was all so stupid -- what was all this rubbish about sharing beds and undressing, anyway? People would talk, he knew, but they did anyway, and it wasn't even like anyone was around to watch (or take pictures, the bastards). It was just them, there could be no misunderstandings between them. At least not where this was concerned. This was all sorted on the second bloody night they'd met, so why was Sherlock still standing there as if they weren't two blokes who'd already seen enough of each other's quirks and little paranoias and bodily fluids than they (or at least John) had ever wanted to see, thanks? This was hardly the time to get uncomfortable, not after all they'd been through together.
"Only if you want to, I don't care." And, just like that, the tension in the room was broken. Sherlock smiled, lopsided in a way that made him look fifteen years younger. Then, seeming to decide that he didn't care, either, undid his flies and squirmed out of his trousers. John yawned. "Did you remember your toothbrush this time?"
"Yes, of course. You made me stick a post-it about it on my toiletry bag, remember?"
"What, and it actually worked?"
"Oh no, I remembered on my own. But the note was helpful all the same." Sherlock bundled his used pants up and shoved them with the rest of the lot into the draw-string bag. He went back to the duffel bag, pulling out a pair of boxer shorts with a rather unnecessary flourish.
"You complained about it at the time. Said you didn't d'serve to be bossed around." John was fading again, he could feel it. Too tired to even offer a half-decent rejoinder. He would have been ashamed of himself, mockingly of course, except that that took energy. And he had precious little of it. He yawned again.
Sherlock drew the string on his pyjama bottoms and held up his not-forgotten toothbrush and John's toothpaste (pilfered, it seemed, except that they'd already established that John didn't own his own things anymore). "Be back in a minute. Try not to fall asleep before then," Sherlock advised, creeping out into the hall to make use of the communal WC.
But John did fall asleep before then, and Sherlock wasn't terribly surprised. Trying his best to be silent, he deposited his things and crossed to the unoccupied side of the bed, even though it was really more of an unoccupied edge since John was lying practically spread-eagled atop the whole cotton expanse. He wriggled in, moving John's arm a little to gain more room; John's eyes blinked open, unfocused.
"Budge up," Sherlock muttered, and John obliged hazily. There was now enough room for the both of them, as well as a comfortable space in between. They may have been sharing, but it wasn't like they were going to sleep on top of each other or something equally daft. That'd just be odd.
John was already off asleep again, so Sherlock reached over and across him to turn out the light; his shirt brushed John's nose as he did so, but John didn't wake. Wondering about the possibilites of nighttime murders conducted with hanging shirts and sleeping noses and whether or not that was statistically worth worrying about, Sherlock settled down, hoping his brain would turn off long enough for sleep, for he really was tired.
It was hard, with a head travelling at 300 miles per hour, downhill and on fire, but eventually he managed it. In that space of time somewhere between four am and sunrise, Sherlock dropped off to sleep, carried off the treacherous track by the even sounds of John's breathing beside him. It was what John always did, saving him from that downhill dive. It was what he always would do, always there and always sane but not, and always steady; it's what he was made to do, at least until one or both of them left for good.
Sherlock hoped, as he was borne off to sleep, that no-one would be leaving all that soon.