A clench-toothed grunt.
A fitful stir.
"You're dreaming, John."
Sherlock hasn't shaken John from a nightmare since his touch became the nightmare. Because in that second between sleeping and waking? Well, you can dream the crumbling of a kingdom in those adrenaline moments, you can dream an earthquake and the fall of your one true love over and over and over.
So when John's whimper-mumbling woke Sherlock, Sherlock didn't touch John. Instead he pressed his mouth close to his sweetheart's ear and whispered low, "John. John. John."
John opened his eyes.
They saw nothing.
And then there it was, the dance of a shadow across the ceiling, the tickle of breath at his neck, his own deep sigh bringing reality back.
John turned toward Sherlock, tugged at his t-shirt, then tucked himself small against Sherlock's chest after his skin was bare.
Sherlock waited as John huffed himself calm, because he knew John would tell him about the nightmare. He always did. It was the best way to clear his mind of the misery.
After awhile a grunt finally came. A mumble. Maybe a swear. Sherlock was about to say, "What?" when John got out of bed, then walked heavy and slow from the room.
A blink. Another. Then Sherlock followed fast.
Within two steps he stubbed his toe on his own shoe, leapt around clutching his foot, tripped into the doorjamb and banged his head, and then hobbled into the sitting room where he was in time to see John snatch from their small tree the dancing penguin ornament Mrs. Hudson had given them.
He threw that thing into the fireplace and within the depths of cold ash the cursed thing began doing what it would not stop doing in John's nightmare: It wiggled and wiggled and giggled and giggled and John, suddenly thrown back into that bad dream, stood staring at it in sluggish horror until Sherlock, wounded of toe and temple and in a temper most foul, took up the poker and beat the mechanical thing into a cindery silence.
Two hours and the consumption of six peaty shots of Mrs. Hudson's other Christmas present later, they'd lit the thing on fire, failed to give one another decent blow jobs, and fallen asleep in front of gently glowing embers.
221b_hound prompted this Advent with the Skype dancing penguin, which she adores. So sorry for my cruelty to the wee happy thing my dear, it was sacrificed for art! P.S. As I'm moving slowly on this series, there's always last year's Advent!