“There’s just one more thing. One more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t. Be. Dead. Would you? Just for me, just stop it. Stop this.”
The first time it happened was completely by accident.
Lestrade had dragged him to the pub again, and two pints in and six months after...well, just after...John realized that he was finally able to talk about Sherlock without the crushing weight of guilt and confusion and grief and betrayal squeezing all the air from his lungs. Greg had mentioned something about the Queen, and John had realized that he had never heard the story of Sherlock going to Buckingham Palace in just a sheet. By the time he finished telling it they were both giggling helplessly into their beers, tears streaming down their faces.
“Bloody hell he was mad,” Greg said with such fondness that the past tense of the verb hardly hurt at all. And so, when he gestured to the bartender for two whiskeys and lifted his with a wry “to Sherlock,” John barely hesitated for a second before clinking his glass and draining the lot. And the next. And one more after that.
He rumbled home feeling a warm, fuzzy disconnect from life that he hadn’t felt since University, fumbling his keys in the lock and stumbling over his own feet until he crashed into bed. He rolled over on his back, settling into the lumpy mattress with a sigh. He closed his eyes, the horrible bare bedsit fading around him, and then suddenly Sherlock was there.
“John,” he said, the pale eyes entirely unsurprised, that posh coat of his enfolding him like an embrace.
“Sherlock,” John answered, unsurprised as well. On some level he knew it was impossible, knew that Sherlock was dead, and yet all he felt was happiness, a blinding flash of it like a thunderclap, settling into a soft feeling of blissful peace. “You’re back,” he said, not even caring how stupidly obvious he sounded. He let the glow of warm contentment show on his face, watched those unearthly beautiful eyes flicker over him, reading his expression, and — even more miraculously — slowly returning it.
“Come here, then,” John said, opening up his arms. Like magic, there he was, somehow fitting comfortably into John’s arms like he were meant to be there, despite all his long limbs and sharp elbows. John buried his face in the curve of his neck, breathing in everything that was Sherlock — the smell of his skin, the faint odor of chemicals, slightly damp wool and a hint of gunpowder.
“I want to be back at Baker Street with you,” John confessed, and again like magic they were there, curled up on the couch together, the street noises familiar and comforting through the half-open window. John could hear Mrs. Hudson puttering around downstairs even as Sherlock nestled closer.
Lucid dreaming, some part of John’s brain was telling him. His mind was guiding the dream, shifting events to suit his fancy. He didn’t care. He simply pulled Sherlock more tightly against him, stroking those dark curls, and let himself feel truly happy for the first time in half a year.
He woke up with a pounding headache, a fuzzy mouth, and grief spiking sharply through his chest in a way he hadn’t felt since the first weeks. He stood under the stream of the shower, shaky and uncertain. He felt like he had regained Sherlock and lost him again all in one night. He hadn’t realized how much the pain of Sherlock’s loss had faded into a dull, numbing misery. Now the newly-raw edge of grief was almost unbearable, but the happiness had been...the happiness had been...
“Fuck,” he told himself, pressing his sweating forehead against the cool tile of the shower wall.
He tried to tell himself that it was a one-off. That he wouldn’t do it again if he could. That lie lasted all of three hours, until he found himself researching lucid dreaming. First wikipedia, then scholarly articles, then message boards, his mind filing away a mental catalogue of triggers. Meditation, sleep interruption, daytime napping...
He tried them all over the next two weeks, embarrassment flushing his face even alone in his bedsit as he stared at his own palm, solemnly instructing himself to become self-aware in his dreams.
Nothing worked, and so on Friday a fortnight later John found himself sitting in his dark office at the surgery, long after the others had gone home, just thinking. He thought about his father — the violent drunken rages that had terrorized his childhood. He thought about Harry, alone in her sad apartment without Clara, drinking wine at two in the afternoon. He thought about it all, long and hard, and then he stopped on the way home and bought a six-pack of beer and a bottle of whiskey.