The case is long — days long — and the taxi home is warm after the chilly London night air. Sherlock hasn’t spoken since reeling off his deductions and wrapping up the case. John watches as Sherlock’s blinks get slower and slower, lulled by the motion of the car.
“Look at you,” John says. “You’re exhausted.”
“I’m not sleepy,” Sherlock insists, with a pout.
“Okay,” John replies.
A few moments later Sherlock’s head drops down and jerks back up. John turns away to hide a smile.
“John,” Sherlock says, disapproving, but can’t work up enough energy for more speech.
Several minutes pass before the cab pulls up outside 221B. John nudges Sherlock, whose eyes are open but staring unseeingly into the middle distance. It takes four, maybe five long blinks for him to focus his gaze.
“We’re home,” John prompts.
“Obviously,” Sherlock says, managing to rouse himself enough to get out of the cab and to the front door.
John pays and swiftly follows after him, opening the door and following him up the stairs. Instead of his usual bound Sherlock takes them slowly, as if considering every step. In all their time together, John has never seen him like this. Not when Sherlock previously stayed awake for days on end pursuing cases, not even when they got together and John was allowed to see the more intimate, private sides of him. Now, Sherlock stands in the living room, as if lost, until John gently nudges him into their bedroom.
“C’mon, love. Sleep time.”
“But John,” protests Sherlock, as John removes his jacket and shirt for him, “I haven’t even brushed my teeth.”
“Yeah, but you’re dead on your feet.”
John manhandles Sherlock onto their bed, works off his shoes, socks, trousers.
“I’m not thleepy,” Sherlock lisps into his pillow, eyes closed.
“What was that?” John asks, smiling. Did Sherlock really just lisp? He’s never heard him do that before. He’s normally so sharp and precise with his words.
“Mmnnghh thleepy,” repeats Sherlock.
John leans over and kisses his forehead. For probably the millionth time since they first kissed, John is blown away by how much love he feels for Sherlock. He once thought that he loved a girl at uni, but that was a pathetic crush compared to this. This is overwhelming.
“I love you,” John tells him.
Sherlock’s eyes open, and a slow, sleepy smile spreads over his face. “John.”
John smiles back, certain that he looks completely soppy and not caring one bit. “Alright, under the covers now.”
He helps Sherlock move under the covers, adjusts his pillow so it’s just the way he likes it.
“Are you thleeping too?” Sherlock mumbles into his pillow.
“Yeah. I’ll be with you in five minutes, okay?”
There’s a long pause, long enough that John thinks he won’t get an answer, then, “Mm no. Too thlow.”
“God, you’re fucking adorable,” John says and ruffles Sherlock’s curls. As he leaves the bedroom for the bathroom he hears Sherlock whine in sleepy protest.
John is ready for bed quicker than he would’ve previously thought humanly possible. He doesn’t want to waste a single second away from his love. He comes back into the bedroom floating on a cloud of love for Sherlock, ready to sleep. To his surprise, Sherlock is still awake, eyes squinched and nose wrinkled as he yawns. He’s probably running on stubbornness alone at this point.
“Huh, I was sure you’d have fallen asleep by the time I got back,” John says.
“Not without you,” Sherlock replies, clearly struggling to keep his eyes open.
John smiles and slides into bed. He opens his arms. “Come here then, little bee.”
The frown line that John so loves appears between Sherlock’s eyebrows. “Little bee?”
John shrugs and helps Sherlock move into his arms, onto his chest. “Trying a new one out. What do you think?”
“Little bee. Yeth. I like beeth.”
John grins. “Beeth,” he repeats.
Sherlock’s head is a comfortable weight on his chest, anchoring him in this moment: the two of them, breathing together, pressed close in their cosy bed, Sherlock trying to fight sleep.
“Give in,” John whispers with a smile. His hand drifts up Sherlock’s back to stroke gently through his hair.
Sherlock’s eyes droop. “Wanna thtay ‘wake with you,” he mumbles.
John drops his nose into Sherlock’s hair as his smile gets wider. “I’ll be here in the morning,” he says softly.
“Here now,” Sherlock states, as if that’s a whole argument in itself.
“You stubborn thing.” John tugs lightly on a curl and watches Sherlock pout at it.
“Yesss,” Sherlock agrees, hissing the S carefully to prove how awake he is.
John huffs a quiet laugh. “You wonderful thing.”
Sherlock preens as much as he can preen while on the cusp of sleep.
“You clever thing. You beautiful thing.”
Sherlock makes a noise that’s half yawn, half happy sigh. John kisses the top of his head.
“I love you more than I thought was possible before.”
“When you remove…” Sherlock starts replying, but doesn’t finish.
“Yeah, I know,” John says. “But loving you is not improbable.”
Sherlock gives a slight wriggle that John knows means he’s filled with happiness.
The blankets and pillows have warmed to their bodies. The bed is soft and cosy. Sherlock’s hair slides softly through John’s fingers. Sherlock’s fingers, curled beside his head on John’s chest, tighten slightly and John takes it to mean I love you too. A few more deep, relaxed breaths and Sherlock is fast asleep, the stubborn fight gone from him. John isn’t tired, certainly not as tired as Sherlock, but the only way he’d move now is if the bed spontaneously burst into flames. And if that happened he’d scoop up his sleeping love and carry him to the safety of another bed where they could be quietly together.
“I love you,” John tells Sherlock again.
And Sherlock sleeps.