There were strong arms around him when he woke from the dream. Nightmare. Several years of battle-tested training kicked in and just as he was about to deliver a swift elbow to the chin or solar plexus or whatever other vulnerable spots he could reach, he heard a very quiet, “It was just a dream. You’re home, safe, in your own bed.”
The words were spoken so close to his ear that he could feel the occasional brush of them against his skin as the words were formed.
All at once, everything that meant home rushed in on him. The feel of his own sheets, the sounds of London out the window, the smell that was uniquely and ubiquitously Sherlock, the sound of his roommate’s voice. However, having Sherlock pressed up against his back, whispering to him that he was safe and just having bad dreams was new.
He discovered, though, it was in no way objectionable.
The next time it happened, the next time he woke from the horrible visions of bloody bodies surrounding him and his own skin ripped open in front of him, Sherlock pulled on his shoulder until John rolled to face him and then Sherlock pressed gently on the back of John’s head until John buried his face in Sherlock’s pyjama top, breathing in deeply a scent that he hadn’t even known in the time his nightmares take place. Impossible to conflate that place and this smell. He snuggled in closer, letting Sherlock rub his back as he drifted back off.
The nightmares became more frequent. From once a fortnight to once a week to nearly everyday as That One Day approached. And every night he needed him, John found Sherlock there holding him, rarely speaking at all, even the next morning.
John would probably never know how Sherlock found out. He’d certainly never told him and he couldn’t imagine who Sherlock might have known to contact to find out. But on the evening of January 27th, Sherlock was standing at the top of the stairs, already in his pyjamas and dressing gown when John came out of the shower.
“Tonight will be bad,” he said quietly, but with extreme confidence.
John decided that it wasn’t worth pretending he didn’t know what Sherlock meant or even interrogating him to find out how he knew. “Probably. If history holds.”
“It usually does,” Sherlock agreed, following John into his bedroom. John puttered, pulling back his military neat bed and pulling an extra blanket down from the closet. The news had warned of cold snap moving through over night. When he heard paper tearing and rustling he turned to find Sherlock ripping the top page off his page-a-day calendar, crumbling it up and throwing it out into the hall.
John sighed. “I changed it already. You just threw out tomorrow.”
Sherlock sank into the chair at John’s desk, but didn’t say anything. John studied him for a minute before realizing that it was a symbolic gesture. Sherlock wanted to skip the next day. Wanted John to not have to endure it. He appreciated the gesture.
“Let me stay tonight.”
“We both know I’m going to end up in here anyway. Might as well save myself the trip down and back up the stairs.”
John smiled at the typical-sounding Sherlock reaction, but he couldn’t find even a trace of the usual self-centeredness in Sherlock’s voice. He found himself studying the floor, knowing that he would surely lose the battle against the tears gathering in the corner of his eyes if he looked at Sherlock. He wasn’t used to people caring about him this much. He found himself almost as ill-equipt as Sherlock to respond to it.
He was startled out of his thoughts by a hand on his shoulder. Using almost the same touch as when he got John to turn to him after the nightmares, Sherlock was bringing John around to stand in front of him. “Please.”
John just nodded. There really was no use fighting it. The two anniversaries of the day he’d been shot that had already passed had been hellacious. The first had been mere days before he’d met Sherlock Holmes. He’d been living in a cubicle where he checked daily to make sure he had at least one bullet for when it finally got That Bad. Weeks of nightmares leading up to That One Day had gotten him damn close to using it.
Last year he’d simply decided not sleep at all the night before which had left him tired and cranky the next day and he and Sherlock had had a spectacular row just after lunch about… about… John couldn’t remember now what it had been. He just remembered yelling and screaming at Sherlock for so long that he’d be hoarse for three days afterward. And Sherlock had simply sat there and taken it, occasionally adding fuel to the flames when it seemed like John might be winding down.
John closed his eyes and leaned into Sherlock’s chest. Christ, it had taken him a year to realize that Sherlock hadn’t just been… being Sherlock that day. He’d been giving John a chance to rant and scream and vent the frustrations that had built up between one horrid anniversary and the next. He’d not realized until that moment that even back then Sherlock had known and Sherlock had cared and Sherlock had done what he could to help John get through the day.
He felt Sherlock’s long cool fingers ghost over his cheek before tilting his head up. John wasn’t sure at first if Sherlock realized how close that put their faces, but when he felt cool lips brush over his own he knew this was no accident of Sherlock not always understanding personal boundaries.
The kiss was light and chaste and John realized that it was entirely possible that perhaps, if he could look forward to more kisses like that, if he could wake up with those thin, strong arms around him when it got bad; it would be entirely possible that he’d make it through the next twenty-four hours.
He let Sherlock take his hand and lead them both to bed.