Despite his exhaustion John simply couldn't fall back asleep. His head was still throbbing, his mind was spinning, and not even the knowledge of what Sherlock would most likely do if he found John still awake could get him any closer to sleep.
He could still see the redhead's face in his mind as though she was standing right in front of him, but he had no idea who she was. Yet somehow he knew that he should. It was all quite confusing and not doing a thing to help the dull pounding in his head.
It was nearly an hour later that he finally managed to quiet his racing thoughts enough to fall asleep again, torn between hoping that he had another nightmare he actually remembered so he could get a step closer to figuring out just what was going on and hoping that he could sleep peacefully for once.
John woke up early the next morning feeling better than he had since before the kidnapping. When he caught a glimpse of Sherlock perched in a chair in the corner staring at him, John decided that he was relieved that the remainder of his night had been free from nightmares.
He sat up in bed and shook his head as he glanced over at Sherlock. "Were you there all night?"
Sherlock huffed as he dropped his feet out of the chair's seat and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Of course, John. However can I keep an eye on you if I can't see you?"
John snorted. "I'm sure you could come up with a way, Sherlock." He quickly changed the subject, not wanting Sherlock to think too much about ways to keep an eye on him. "So, what are the plans for today?"
From his expression it was fairly obvious that Sherlock was allowing himself to be temporarily distracted, but John was willing to take what small victories he could. They spent most of the day with Sherlock showing him around the estate, an activity that also kept Sherlock away from Mycroft who arrived just a bit before lunch.
Somehow, even with the tension between the members of the Holmes family and John's frequently occurring headaches and restless nights the days before Christmas passed almost pleasantly. Rani, while displaying some of Sherlock's less irritating habits was none-the-less a very nice hostess, and while John thought that Estram was looking at him a bit too calculatingly when he thought no one was watching he still seemed like a fairly decent bloke.
It wasn't until Christmas morning that everything came tumbling down.
John stumbled into the kitchen, desperately hoping for a cup of coffee to help wake him up and trying to ignore the four pairs of eyes that were staring at him. He flashed Rani a tired smile when she pressed a steaming mug into his hands, but only managed one blissful sip before a bright light flashed through the kitchen, depositing what could only be a group of aliens in its wake.
There were four of them, humanoid with facial features that looked a bit more like a meerkat than a man. They were tall and sturdy, and all four of them were obviously armed though with weapons that were unlike any that John had ever seen.
"You will give us the Doctor." The alien who spoke was staring directly at an oddly calm Estram, who slipped one hand casually into his trouser pocket.
"There is no Doctor here; there never has been. Why don't you try looking elsewhere? I'm certain he'll turn up eventually." Estram smiled, though it looked more like a baring of the teeth than anything else. "He always does when you least expect him."
The lead alien snarled, hand tightening on his weapon. "He ran like the coward he is, and we have tracked him here. Now where is the Doctor?"
John grimaced, trying not to draw the alien's attention. He glanced over at Estram, frowning a bit when he noticed the other man's eyes focused on his coffee mug. When Estram flicked his eyes between the mug and the aliens, John ducked his head in a slight nod. He was fairly certain he knew what the other man was getting at, and it wasn't as if he had any better ideas.
So when Estram smirked at the aliens and said "No" John was ready. As Estram pulled what looked like a large, metal pen out of his pocket John flung his still-hot coffee right in the aliens' faces.
For a moment he thought that the plan was going to work perfectly, then as they yelled in surprise and pain, one of the aliens managed to discharge its weapon. And the last thing John remembered was flying through the air and hitting something rather hard before everything went black.
* * *
John knew before he even opened his eyes that he wasn't actually awake. It was even more obvious that he was unconscious when he did open his eyes as he was lying on his back staring up at the ceiling of the TARDIS console room. At that thought he blinked.
"I remember that this is the TARDIS. I haven't remembered that before."
"It was not safe to remember before now, my Doctor."
At the sound of the voice John jerked up, shifting around until he was crouched on the console room's grating and staring at a golden, glowing Rose Tyler.
She shook her head, golden eyes looking at him sadly. "Only a piece of her, the part that she left behind when she looked in our heart."
John's eyes widened as he slowly rose to his feet. "Bad Wolf." After she nodded, John frowned. "It was you I saw after Sherlock rescued me, wasn't it? You said it wasn't time yet, it wasn't safe. Safe for me to remember being the Doctor?"
She nodded again before morphing into the image of Donna Noble. "They still hunted you, tracked your genetic makeup and your brain wave patterns and your temporal signature. The moment you remembered they would have found you and taken you."
"So you helped hide me. Why?"
She closed her glowing eyes for a moment before looking at him again. "When Rose looked into the heart, the heart looked into her. And we changed, and became the Bad Wolf. And as she touched us to save you, you touched us to save her. And we touched you, and became more."
John's eyes widened. "So you're an amalgam of the heart of the TARDIS, Rose and one of my former regenerations?"
She smiled. "At first. And then, to save ourself and all of reality, we touched Donna. As she became more, so did we."
"Yes." She morphed once more into River Song. "And then at the end of everything, my Doctor was trapped, and so were we. Caught in an endless loop, the Wolf and the River. And every time we touched someone who loved you, we came to love you more." She stepped closer, one hand coming up to rest against his cheek. "When they first found you, they would have killed you. We interfered, gave you enough to allow you to regenerate, but just barely."
John's mind suddenly flashed back to the first dream he'd managed to remember anything from. "I was a baby. I regenerated into a baby."
"We made you human, and blocked your memories so that you couldn't be found. River took Amy, Rory and your TARDIS and tried to lead them away from you, to keep you safe until you could grow up."
She smiled at him, lowering her hand to rest against his heart. "There is still work for John Watson, though the Master has ended this threat to you."
He stared at her for a moment, then let out a snort of laughter. "Of course their father is the Master. Where else could Mycroft have come from?" When another thought hit him, he closed his eyes and shook his head. "And Mummy is the Rani. It makes so much sense."
"You will not remember the Doctor when you wake." She lowered her hand, then stepped forward to kiss his forehead. "When your companions return, you will remember. We will bring them back to you when the time is right."
John sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing. "And in the meantime, I'll be the one who waited. I suppose it's only fair; everyone else's had a turn at waiting. It wouldn't be right to leave me out."
She smiled, her form blurring until she was somehow River and Donna and Rose all at once. And as everything faded and John's vision went black, she spoke once more.
"You will not have long to wait, my Doctor."
* * *
When he woke up he was lying on a sofa, Rani Holmes standing just across the room and Sherlock sitting on the floor near his head. There was no sign of Estram or the aliens.
As soon as he noticed that John was awake Sherlock leaned over him, eyes fixed on John's face. "How are you feeling, John? You did hit the wall rather hard."
John frowned, something niggling at the back of his mind. "I'm sore, and my headache has gone from a faint throb to a dull roar, but otherwise I'm fine." As he absently argued with Sherlock over the state of his health, John couldn't help but think that he'd forgotten something important. After a moment's thought, he gave a mental shrug.
If it was important, he'd remember it later.