Bedtime was oddly complicated, despite Mrs. Hudson claiming it was quite simple.
Put away the toys, with Emily’s theoretical assistance; a sippy cup of milk slightly warmed up and snuggles while reading two favorite books. A bath every three or four days, hair washed once a week, with additional baths as necessary. Teeth brushed nightly, with the smallest amount of toothpaste and an adult getting the hard-to-reach spots. Upstairs to bed, making sure Elfin was under Emily’s arm, then the nighttime nappy (darker in color, don’t use a regular nappy lest the sheets need changing come morning), pajamas which were ridiculously difficult to assemble. Turn on the nightlight, turn off the overhead light, turn on the white noise and ensure the black-out curtains are drawn. Close the cupboard door very tightly lest monsters escape. Elfin at Emily’s side, sheep at her feet, rabbit on the floor. Sit in the rocker and recite one last story or sing one last lullaby, and then a goodnight kiss and the same words every night: “Goodnight, Emily, sleep well, I love you.”
“I’ll just leave you to the last bit,” said Mrs. Hudson, and she guided Sherlock to sit in the rocking chair, settled Emily on his lap, and handed them both a book.
Sherlock and Emily watched Mrs. Hudson leave the room and close the door softly behind her, and then looked at each other at precisely the same moment. Emily bit her lips and clutched Elfin tighter to her chest. She did not appear entirely certain how she came to be left with the man in the rocking chair.
“Well,” said Sherlock. “That wasn’t complicated at all.”
Emily didn’t say anything, and Sherlock opened the book to see an elephant wearing pyjamas. He sighed, and closed the book again.
“Emily,” he said, “I’m going to tell you the story of how I met your daddy. It started with a woman who very much liked the color pink...”
The car was waiting, just as Mycroft had said it would be, when Sherlock left 221B. Mrs. Hudson was happily watching her telly programme, and much to Sherlock’s surprise, Emily had fallen asleep during his careful explanations of the deductive methods he’d utilized during the Study in Pink, all details which he was quite certain that John had neglected to tell her about, and certainly which he had left off his blog entry.
Sherlock had stayed in the rocking chair, Emily curled in his arms, and watched her sleep. He didn’t know how much time passed before he noticed that his arm had gone numb, or that she’d left wet drool marks on his sleeves. He studied the shape of her ears and the curls in her hair, the dark lashes over her eyes and the pearly teeth. Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm, and her comfortable warm weight made him feel grounded and safe.
Odd, Sherlock thought. That such a small, fragile, unexpected thing could make him feel safe. He hadn’t expected that. He ought to have been tucking her away in the closet, putting padlocks on the door, guarding against anything that would try to destroy or hurt her. Instead, she was sturdy and strong and independent, and he had no doubt that every thought that went through her head was fully-formed and rationalized. She was a force of nature, and here in the dark, he wanted to sit and rock her, and pretend that she wasn’t afraid of him, when she was awake.
He wanted to do that…but the shadows in the corners began to creep up on him, and the white noise machine didn’t quite cover the swoosh of the traffic outside the window, and he could hear the soft murmur of Mrs Hudson turning on the telly, and the tinned laughter of some inane sort of program that she would have watched with John.
John. Who was waiting for him at the hospital, still asleep. Their bond was a comfortable, solid knot in his stomach. Sherlock moved Emily to the bed, and tried to tuck the covers over her, not entirely sure how to arrange the stuffed animals to her liking. It didn’t matter, he supposed; she would sleep through the night. Mrs Hudson had said.
Mycroft’s assistant was in the car already, typing away on her ever-present BlackBerry. “Are you texting with my brother?” demanded Sherlock.
“Tell him I need to discuss matters of extreme importance with him. Lestrade should be present. And it needs to be a secure location. Tonight, as soon as possible.”
The assistant didn’t respond for a few minutes. “He says he’ll arrange it.”
Sherlock sat back in the seat and pressed his fingers together. He closed his eyes and imagined himself back in Emily’s room, the chair slowly rocking, the gentle sounds of the white noise machine soothing against the backdrop of London traffic. The light sounds of her breath as she slept.
Quietly, the turmoil in his head stilled, and shuffled into neat, orderly rows. When the car came to a stop, Sherlock was ready.
Sherlock knew exactly how to find the ICU, and strode purposefully toward it. Every step signaled confidence and even possessiveness, both qualities that propelled him past the guards and the nurses, none of whom dared to stop him for anything so trifling as identification. He suspected the guards knew exactly who he was, anyway - Mycroft would have had them well-briefed. The time alone with Emily, and then again in the car on the ride to the hospital, had left Sherlock so convinced of his deductions that he would not have been one bit surprised to see John sitting up in bed, ready with an admiring "Amazing" on his lips.
Instead, he found the last person he expected to see, and stopped dead in the doorway, every positive and confident emotion fleeing for cover.
"Gregory, look at the lovely black eye you've given my son," said Aurora Holmes. "Well done, you."
"Mother," said Sherlock, and tried to ignore Lestrade, grinning from a corner of the room.
"Be grateful," said Aurora. "If Gregory hadn't hit you, I certainly would have. As it is, I might just wait until the bruising has faded and slap you then."
"I knew I liked your mother," said Lestrade, amused.
"Get out," said Sherlock.
"Righty-ho," said Lestrade. "I'll just be wherever it is your brother has in mind for whatever dénouement you've cooked up. Christ, the things I didn't half miss."
Lestrade walked over to John's bed and rested his hand on John's leg. Sherlock's reaction was immediate and predatory; he stepped right up to the detective inspector and fixed him with such a look that anyone other than another alpha might have withered or at least stepped back. Lestrade did neither, and both men faced off, with the pheromones suddenly rolling off them both in waves.
Neither of them heard Aurora Holmes stepping up beside them, but they both felt the thwap of the rolled up magazines as she swatted them both over the head at precisely the same moment.
"Worse than a pair of hunting dogs," she sighed.
"Mother, did you just discipline me with a rolled up magazine?" demanded Sherlock.
"Ow," said Lestrade, rubbing the back of his head, but still clearly impressed.
"Thank God Mycroft is a beta. I don't know how I would have survived your childhoods otherwise," said Aurora briskly.
"The same as you did, Mother - nannies and boarding schools and solitary vacations to Switzerland."
"Aren't you leaving?" Sherlock snapped at Lestrade, who glared back before turning to John again. This time he rested his hand on John's, but not without a defiant, challenging look at Sherlock.
"Tomorrow, John. And I was right, it'll be a beaut."
Lestrade smirked at Sherlock - or to be more precise, the rapidly forming black eye - and with a polite nod and respectful "ma'am" to Aurora, left the room.
"Honestly, Sherlock, I fail to see how you manage to have friends at all."
"And how are you on a first-name basis with the good detective, Mother?"
"You've been gone three years, you can't expect us to remain stagnant in your absence," said Aurora as she settled herself on the chair nearest the window. She picked up her needlepoint and started working again. "Besides, Gregory is quite a good friend to John and Emily, and I have it on excellent authority that you once leapt off a building for him, so clearly the feeling was at one point mutual."
Sherlock slowly lowered himself onto the chair next to John's bed. The scrapes on John's hand were healing; the bruises on his face looked less severe. His chest rose and fell with a steady rhythm, and Sherlock was glad to see that even if the intubation tube remained in place, the ventilating machine had been pushed to the far corner of the room - ready, but clearly not expected to be brought back into service.
"He's doing marvelously well," said Aurora. "His blood oxygen is very good, EEGs normal, and the swelling and internal bleeding have stopped. The doctors see no reason why he shouldn't wake soon, but of course they're unwilling to say as much. I don't understand why the doctors here need to be so dour; your doctor very rarely is anything but hopeful, no matter how dire the situation."
Sherlock nodded, and held John's hand carefully, his eyes on John's face.
"You shouldn't keep Mycroft waiting, darling. I'll stay with John until you return."
Sherlock didn't care if Mycroft waited the entire night, but there it was - the little bit in the back of his mind, anxious to impart what he had determined. "Show-off," John would have said.
But his mother was in the room, and though she had said nothing of substance about Sherlock's supposed death, he knew that it wouldn't last. He could feel her discontent with him, even if she stabbed mercilessly at her needlepoint, even with his back to her.
"I had to go, Mother," said Sherlock finally.
"This has been explained to me, of course. And I quite understand why you felt the deception was necessary. I believe that others would have done the same in your place. Perhaps without the theatrics, of course. I had to talk to your aunt Charlotte after the funeral, Sherlock. Charlotte."
Sherlock sighed dramatically.
"You and Charlotte, both exactly alike. She tried to make your death all about her, too."
"It was my death, Mother, of course it was all about me."
"Don't be silly. Funerals are meant for the living, otherwise why have them? And I'm your mother, if anyone should have been the focus, it should have been me."
"John was rather catatonic, love. He spent most of the funeral and the wake sitting in your room. It was quite some time before he would even speak; almost as if he folded in on himself. I thought perhaps he was trying to hold onto the bond, but of course it was only later I realized it was Emily he tried to protect."
Sherlock set John's hand down on the bed, not wanting to hear anymore. He leaned over to pressed his forehead against John’s. His skin was warm and dry, and John’s hair between his fingers felt achingly familiar. "I won't be long," he said quietly. "Don't let Mother order you around."
"I never order anyone," said Aurora haughtily.
"Only if they need it," she amended. She set aside the needlepoint and took up Sherlock's chair next to John. "Now, John, I wanted to discuss Emily's course of study at Oxford—"
"Cambridge," Sherlock corrected her.
"I thought History, so much more practical than Philosophy..."
The room Mycroft had sourced was not far, and Sherlock found it easily. He had his doubts that any room within the hospital complex was truly secure, but he also did not relish the idea of leaving John again quite so soon. At any rate, the wing was completely empty, devoid of both patients and nurses, and indeed much in the line of beds, chairs, or other medical equipment. Plastic sheeting covered the walls and a thin layer of dust and debris littered the floor. Power cords, saw-horses, and sheets of dry wall were scattered down the corridor. Under construction, then - Sherlock supposed it was fitting, since much of his life appeared to be that way, too.
"Sherlock," said Mycroft when Sherlock entered the room at the end of the corridor. It was large, clearly meant to be some kind of waiting or recreation room. Large windows looked out onto the city skyline, or would have had they not been covered in additional plastic sheeting which allowed a chilled wind to sweep through the room. The light was dim but serviceable, enough to ensure that the room offered no secure hiding place. Sherlock took a moment to walk around it, examining anyway.
"I assure you, it is as secure as I can make it. I did not imagine you would want to leave the hospital."
"No," said Sherlock. He glanced at Lestrade by the windows. "Detective Inspector, what have you learned about the car's driver or Moran's whereabouts?"
Lestrade tensed, and saw Mycroft sigh with disappointment. Sherlock half thought he could hear John groan and give him a gentle, correcting nudge. Clearly, he was supposed to have offered some kind of peace offering. He ignored the sensation.
"Moran leased the house four months ago, on a six-month rotating basis. He paid the first six months in cash, but we haven't found any bank accounts with his name on them. He wasn't employed, nor did he receive any sort of pension, at least not under his name. The house shows no sign of anyone else having been there, except for yourself. No prints or DNA. No neighbors recall him very well - kept himself to himself. No car, a driver's license that is due to expire in another year. He never troubled the landlord with complaints or requests for repair. He is not listed on any manifest for any airline in the last week, nor has he attempted to rent a vehicle or purchase long-distance train tickets. We're trying facial recognition now to see if we can determine any aliases - so far nothing, but that can take some time so it's possible we won't hear anything until tomorrow afternoon. Moran has just...disappeared."
"And the car?"
"Dead end. Moran wasn't in it, we know that much. The owner didn't recognize his photograph or name."
Sherlock nodded and pressed his fingertips together, tapping his mouth thoughtfully. "Slipped through again," he murmured to himself, and after a moment, spoke aloud.
"I assume Mycroft has explained why I faked my death three years ago."
"I have," said Mycroft.
"Four months ago I destroyed the last cell which Moriarty controlled. However, I did not do so entirely successfully, because I expected to find Sebastian Moran within it, or at least information that would lead me to him very quickly. Instead, I found that Moran had slipped through my fingers, and moreover, there was a strong likelihood that Moran knew that he was being targeted, though not by whom. It would not have been hard to guess; after all, who else would have such cause to attack Moriarty but me? Moran led me on a merry chase, but now I believe that is all it was - with me as the goose, and Moran safely ensconced in the cottage in Chistlehurst. I believe he returned here with the intention of carrying out his original mission. He has two, perhaps three, associates left to him, and thus he secured their assistance in the theft of a vehicle and the actual attack on John. Once he learned I was returned, he fled London, presumably to wait for his next opportunity to strike."
"Wait a minute," said Lestrade. "That doesn't make sense. The original mission was to kill John, Mrs. Hudson, and myself if you didn't jump off the roof of Bart's. So if Moran knew you were alive, why didn't he just come back and kill all three of us?"
"I have several theories," said Sherlock. "Moriarty tended to keep information compartmentalized. I doubt that Moran knew the entire plan, and I suspect that Moran was the sniper assigned to John. The assassins assigned to you and Mrs. Hudson were disposed of a year ago. I was never able to correctly confirm John's assassin, however, but considering the nature of our relationship, I would think that Moriarty would have put his best on him. Moran is undoubtedly the best. It’s the only reason he’s still alive – he’s been the most difficult to track and to corner. As he was part of the plan, I doubt he knew of its scope, and he was likely unaware of the intent to kill you or Mrs. Hudson; thus, he would not assume you ought to be targets now."
"That doesn't explain why he didn't act immediately."
"Hence the other theory. I don't believe that Sebastian Moran necessarily constructed the accident to kill John, though that outcome would certainly have not disappointed him. I believe he wanted to send me a message."
"Send you what message?" asked Lestrade.
"That he still has the power to destroy me," said Sherlock, and unconsciously rubbed his chest above his heart. “If he’d merely wanted John dead, he would have had ample opportunity to do so, while John is lying helpless elsewhere in this hospital. No, he wants John alive. He’s using John to call me out – and now that I’m here, the game will begin again.”
Lestrade, arms crossed, frowned at Sherlock. He turned to Mycroft. "Are Emily and Mrs. Hudson safe? Should we move them from London?"
"I told you, you're not in danger," said Sherlock, and was ignored.
"No one can enter 221B who is not on an extremely short list," replied Mycroft. "In fact, no one can so much as pause at the doorway, and I have secured every building within its sight. There is no window where Moran can hide, and no alleyway where he can creep."
"And John?" demanded Lestrade. "Is it safe for him to remain here? The ICU is populated, but Moran's already killed once indiscriminately, and if he's going to kill innocent people, I doubt he'll hold back for a few nurses or doctors."
"The ICU is not especially safe, no," admitted Mycroft. "But it is the safest place for John in his condition, and we dare not move him while he remains in the coma."
"All your resources and you can't scare up a secret medical facility in a secure bunker somewhere? What about Baskerville?"
"No," said Mycroft shortly. "I have done absolutely everything I can to ensure John's safety, Gregory. Believe me when I say that John is as absolutely safe as houses. Safer, in fact."
Lestrade exhaled and nodded. "Good."
"As for yourself—"
"I don't fucking care about myself," snapped Lestrade. "Sherlock says I'm safe, that's fine by me. And if not - let Moran at me, Mycroft. I can defend myself. Put your resources on John and Emily where they belong."
Sherlock turned to look at Lestrade, somewhat surprised. He already had trouble reconciling the man he'd once known with the angry detective inspector across the room, but here was proof that they were one and the same. Lestrade trusted him, or at least trusted his instincts. Lestrade might be angry with him, might be disappointed in him, might be insane with alpha jealousy and in mourning for his wife, seeking John as a substitute mate and Emily as a substitute daughter - but when Sherlock said that Lestrade's life was not in danger, Lestrade took him at his word, even knowing that Sherlock would have wanted to sweep the board clean of other alphas threatening his own family.
What's more, Lestrade seemed just as interested in keeping John and Emily safe as Sherlock was. Altruistic or not, the end result was the same. Lestrade was on Sherlock's side.
"I believe the protective measures are an unnecessary precaution," said Sherlock finally. "Moran has accomplished his current objective."
"I'm not calling them off," said Mycroft.
"What objective?" asked Lestrade.
"He has brought me out of hiding, thus proving that I am, in fact, still alive. For Moran, this is confirmation of what he may have suspected in the last few months: that I have been working to bring down Moriarty's web, and that there is still his original mission to accomplish."
"Then why call off the guards?" demanded Lestrade. "If John's life is still in danger?"
"Because his original mission was more than killing John Watson," said Sherlock, and he rubbed at his chest again. "It was to destroy me. Killing John Watson now would not accomplish this goal, and so Moran has fled to bide his time and wait."
"What's he waiting for?" asked Lestrade.
"The same thing we are," replied Sherlock. "For John to wake up."
They were on a cliff top overlooking the sea. The mist hung low on the horizon, blending the water with the sky in a white misty smudge. The trees broke just in front of them, allowing the view, and triangle-sailboats danced just out of reach. The grass was damp underfoot, the air smelled like cotton candy and cut grass, and John was angry.
“Greg isn’t in love with me,” said John.
“You’re in a coma, not blind,” said Sherlock patiently. He sat on the park bench, huddled tightly in his coat and scarf, but John paced around him, back and forth in a remarkably even figure eight, unable to keep still.
“Greg misses his wife. I miss you. We have that in common.”
“If I had stayed dead, he would have tried to mate with you eventually.”
“Greg didn’t hit you hard enough,” said John, and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m on suppressants. It would never have come up.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” said Sherlock, irritable.
“I’m not the idiot,” replied John.
Sherlock looked, but did not see Emily.
“She’s not part of this conversation,” said John.
“I don’t know what it was like, for you,” said Sherlock suddenly. “I thought…I thought you would be going through what I went through, being apart. The loneliness and the empty nights and the way my brain never quite settled. I thought it would be the same. But it wasn’t, for you. You had Emily.”
“I did.” John sat next to Sherlock; he didn’t quite meet Sherlock’s eyes, and had Sherlock not known better, he might have thought John was being shy.
“She loves you.”
John smiled. The skin around his eyes crinkled with it. “Of course she does. She’s you.”
“She’s you,” said Sherlock with some surprise. “She fed me pasta and peas.”
“She points out everything, names everything, tells her animals long stories about everything she sees.”
“She has your eyes.”
“She has your hair.”
“She’s not mine,” said Sherlock, staring out at the water. “Not in the same way she’s yours.”
John let out a huff. “You think I—?”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Sherlock. “It’s a biological impossibility, anyway. But she loves you. I’m a stand-in.”
“She loves you, too,” John insisted. “She kisses your photographs before bed every night.”
Sherlock frowned. “That wasn’t part of the ritual.”
“She does,” said John gently. “I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true.”
“Perhaps she loves the idea of me,” said Sherlock, doubtfully. He glanced at John. “When did you know?”
“Ah.” John settled back and looked out at the surf below. “Mycroft was right. I think I always knew. But it was one of those things you know in the back of your mind, like how a television works or how planes can fly, and you can just ignore it. I spent a lot of time ignoring you, because I didn’t understand why you did it. I didn’t want to understand. It was easier to hate you. And some days, I really believed you were dead, even when that small part of me knew you weren’t. There were a lot of days like that. God, I hated you for it. At first. Hated you so much, I might have killed you myself, with my bare hands, if you’d come around those first few months.”
“You changed your mind.”
“Emily changed it. And once I knew she was coming, I wanted her badly enough that I would have let you live, if you’d shown up at the door. And then once she was here, I wanted you to know what you were missing. What you’d given up.”
Sherlock stole a glance at John; his face was set in hard, angry lines. “You haven’t forgiven me.”
“No,” said John.
“Do you…” Sherlock swallowed. “I can go away again.”
John grabbed his hand and held it tight. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
They sat, next to each other, and the breeze ruffled their hair. A seagull screamed somewhere nearby.
“Tell me about Mexico,” said John.
“It was hot,” said Sherlock. “The sun never stopped shining. The water was grey in the morning and blue in the middle of the day, and Emily will learn to speak Spanish like a native. She can translate for you.”
“I can learn Spanish.”
“No, you can’t. You’ll be horrible at it, and you’ll want to wear your jumpers, and it’ll be too hot. Your skin will break out in rashes, and you’ll complain endlessly and you’ll miss London so badly your bones will ache with it.”
“That’s you, missing London,” said John. “I’ll buy a pair of sunglasses and get a tan and flirt with the girls in the cafés.”
“When will you wake up?” asked Sherlock. “Do you know?”
“Do you want me to?” asked John. “You said yourself, Moran won’t strike until I’m awake. As soon as my eyes open, it’ll begin again. Right now you don’t have anything to lose.”
“Emily is part of me,” said John. “He has to take us both together, you know that.”
Sherlock closed his eyes. “Yes. I want you. Even if you wake up and you hate me, if you never want to see me again, if you refuse to let me be part of Emily’s life, I want to know that you’re awake and alive and going to the clinic and making toast and tea and putting her to bed at night. Even if I don’t get to keep you, I want to know you’re there.”
“Hey,” said John, and squeezed his hand as a reminder. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“We were never going to Mexico,” said John. “Even before you knew about Emily, the day you came back. You know we’re in London for life.”
“This is a dream,” Sherlock said. “You’re only part of my dreams; what you say is only what I want to hear. This is all happening inside my head.”
John grinned at him. “Just because it’s happening in your head, doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
He giggled, and Sherlock frowned.
“You’re making fun of me in my dreams,” he accused John.
“Christ, I wish you paid attention to popular culture,” sighed John, still amused. “Tell me about it when I wake up, and I’ll explain why you’re an idiot.”
“Wake up, and I will.”
John squeezed his hand again. “Are you ready? I’ve been waiting for you, you know.”
Sherlock picked up John’s hand and held it tightly between both of his. “No. But I don’t think anyone ever really is.”
“Good answer,” said John, and touched Sherlock’s bruised face with his other hand. “Greg was right, it really is going to be a beaut.”
“Saves you the trouble,” said Sherlock.
“I’ll take my turn after your mother.”
“If you insist,” said Sherlock, a man headed for the gallows, and John laughed and pulled him in for a kiss.
“Won’t get to do this for a while when I wake up,” he said into Sherlock’s mouth, and wrapped his hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck.
Dreams weren’t meant to have smells, or tastes, or temperatures. John’s mouth tasted like strong tea and cinnamon, salt water tears and blueberries. He clung to Sherlock as if he might slip away with the tide, and so Sherlock took John’s face between his fingers and drew him up, out of whatever dark abyss John was in. He could feel it, nearly, just as clearly as he could hear the waves crashing below and the seagulls screeching overhead. Sherlock licked at the tears he could taste in John’s kiss, a never-ending three-year supply, and he felt John rise up to meet him, hands curling into his coat and pulling himself up and out. The salt was replaced with the grapefruit of John’s shampoo, the cold loneliness by the nubby jumper John wore under his jacket. John smiled into the kiss, reaching up for him, aggressive and eager and at long last, there. The roughness of his cheek, unshaven for a week. And the heartbeat – Sherlock knew it wasn’t possible, but he could feel John’s heart beat in time with his own.
Sherlock felt the rush of blood through his veins, cold and crisp as a waterfall, as John rose up to meet him, came alive under his fingers. Details and questions and facts in Sherlock’s mind went springing and flying into their places, snapping with the connections they made. Clear, everything was so clear, made so much sense, that Sherlock held his breath, and John held his, too, waiting for him to catch up. The muddle and the dark that had chased him for the three years without John were washed away, leaving behind only clear and sparkling thoughts, and Sherlock had forgotten how much he’d relied on John’s bright and clean light.
John broke away, too soon, and Sherlock was left, chest heaving. He could feel John’s heart thudding through his chest, and he rested his forehead against his lover’s. “John…”
“Enough for now,” whispered John. “Still not entirely well, you know.”
Sherlock smiled, and thought he might feel joy. He couldn’t quite remember it. “Three years is too long to wait.”
Sherlock hummed, and John slid his head to rest on Sherlock’s shoulder. “Don’t bring Emily to see me until I’m coherent, please. I don’t want her to be frightened.”
“No, of course not.”
“It’ll take a while. I’ve seen patients out of a coma; it’s never as quick as in the movies. You’ll need to be patient.”
“I’ve waited three years.”
“This is different. I can’t be the strong one.”
“John. It’ll be fine. Just wake up.”
“Working on it,” said John, and he sounded sleepy. Sherlock pressed a kiss to his temple – the only part he could reach easily, and pulled him close.
“I’m here. I’m waiting.”
“Lestrade is in love with you,” said Sherlock again, because he didn’t want to let that go just yet.
“Bully for him,” said John. “I’m already taken.”
A crash from somewhere in the ICU woke Sherlock from his dreams. He didn’t want to wake up just yet; he could still almost smell the surf and hear the seagulls crying out, and he could feel the slight pressure where John’s hand held to his fingers.
Sherlock lifted his head, and looked at John. John blinked.
“Oh,” said Sherlock. “Oh.”
He stood up and rested his hand on John’s cheek. “Hello,” he said, and didn’t care that his voice shook, or that his face broke into a grin. “You did it. You woke up. John.”
John’s eyes looked at him, knowing, recognizing, unsurprised and relieved and slightly unfocused. He blinked again, twice, and Sherlock brushed the hair back, to keep John’s vision clear.
“Go to sleep,” said Sherlock. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
John’s hand squeezed again, gently, and he closed his eyes to slide into sleep.