It wasn't often that John was awoken by the pain in his shoulder, not anymore, but it seemed like the previous days activities had jarred the muscles and tendons, leaving each nerve screaming with agony. He gasped and winced at the burning, clawing, sensation that flared down his arm as he sat up, and looked at the time on his bedside table alarm clock, squinting through the murky gloom and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Just after 6 am, not too early to be up in the grand scheme of things, but much to early to be up on one of his days off. He had wanted to have a bit more of a lie in. Needed to have a bit more of a lie in. Sleep was a rare gift in 221B, after all, one he greedily took hold of whenever possible. Living the life of a doctor and the assistant of a mad, eccentric, genius detective, meant a lot of stress, fatigue, and paperwork. Grumbling unhappily, John dragged a t-shirt on over his head, shivering a little at the chill of the room compared to the stuffy heat of his covers, and began his descent downstairs to get his painkillers.
The flat was silent, which was always suspicious, yet John tried to perceive it, for his own state of mine, as a positive, and tried to go down the stairs as carefully and quietly as he could, so not to wake or disturb Sherlock. He entered through the kitchen, filled a glass with water and swigged down two of his pills, before turning to head back.
A shadow at the window immediately froze him to the spot with sharp alarm senses blaring high for a quick second before he realised who it was, feeling stupid by the number of times the man startled him. It was Sherlock. Obviously. The halo of his frizzy curls, the lines of his shoulders, arms, waist and legs, dyed by the lights of the Christmas tree from his side and the street lamps in front of him as he stood silently in his pyjamas, stock still, seemingly entranced by something outside.
“Er… Sherlock? Y'okay?” John asked nervously, his alarm creeping back over him while he tiptoed over to check on his friend, unsure if Sherlock could hear him or not, if he was aware of anything that was going on around him. He'd seen Sherlock move, walk, and talk while in his mind palace. Had even seen Sherlock fall asleep on his feet and sitting ram-rod straight. “What's going on?”
“It’s snowing,” Sherlock whispered quietly, tentatively, like they were sharing a secret. “It’s hypnotising. Snowfall. Tranquil in a way nothing else is.” He took a large, shoulder lifting inhalation and then let it all back out, fogging the surface of the glass in front of him, enough for it to erupt higher than his head. John could, now that he had relaxed enough to widen his focus, see the movement on the other side of the window, see the floating of feathered shapes as they fell. “Radiant. Exquisite. Enthralling - Concurrently beautiful and disconcerting in its blankness. Like an untouched canvas, and empty page… the start of endless possibilities, or a torturous vacancy...”
John expected, as he walked over, to see a standard London snowfall, small, pasty white flakes that promptly melted into the ground where it had fallen, but instead he was surprised by huge flakes that danced in the beam of the streetlamp, already building up and upon the pavement, “Oh wow...” he said quietly, coming to stand beside Sherlock to look out of the window at it all, at how vastly it already covered the buildings, streets and winding roads. “That's certainly beautiful… I've never seen snow like this. Not this thick.”
“Mm. Neither have I. Not here, at any rate,” Sherlock replied, still keeping his voice down, and tilted his head. He leaned further forward to peer up at the cloud-filled sky, at the masses of white that tumbled to earth. “For once, the weather forecast was quite on point in it's estimation…”
“S'very Christmassy,” John commented, leaning forwards as well, tipping towards Sherlock as he adjusted his stance. It slid their elbows together and he gasped when he felt how cold Sherlock's bare arms were. “God, you're freezing! How long have you been standing here?”
Sherlock blinked and turned his head to look at him, “I’m… not precisely sure. What time is it?” he asked, tone still low and calm as he lifted his hands, curling his fingers and rubbing them together idly, eyes lowering to the floor to where his clearly frozen toes were tightly curled. "I assume it's—"
“Early, yeah,” John responded and swiftly span on his heel, heading over to his chair where he lifted off the large warm blanket from the back, carrying it over to shake open and throw across Sherlock's broad shoulders, tucking it in around tightly once it was settled into place, giving him a frustrated look. "Need I remind you the words you said to me? Hm? One word in particular, comes to mind. Ridiculous." Turning him aside, John peered up into Sherlock's down-turned face and briskly rubbed his hands up and down his covered body to warm him up. “What were you thinking about?”
“Far too much,” Sherlock mumbled, sighing, brow crumpling, then smoothing. “Not all bad though. Some of it was… good. Things I’ve not thought about for a very long time.” Lifting his chin up faintly, he regarded John for one piercing, examining moment, eyes a pale grey in the light, reflecting the Christmas tree and cascading snow that drifted down to the street with a glisten of winter. “I thought about you too.”
John smiled slowly, continually running his hand up and down Sherlock's arms, unaware of the way he squeezed at Sherlock's hidden hands until Sherlock turned one of them to entrap John's index finger, “About me, eh? What, uh, what were you thinking about, about me?”
“Predominantly about when we first met. Our first case together. You, standing amongst the flashes effervescent blue, waiting casually, watching me, trying to look nondescript with a smug little smile on your face,” he replied, exhaling a huff of laughter and returning John's smile with one of his own. “Hiding in plain sight.”
“Hm, yeah. - You know, for a moment I felt like Lestrade was definitely going to work it out, but then I saw him talking to you, and I realised that I'd got away with it,” John chuckled, not quite sure what to make of the look in Sherlock's eyes and the emotion that edged each uttered word. “Of course, that wasn't really that remarkable moment of that night. What was, was the passing meeting of one Mycroft Holmes and finding out he was your brother. That was the most remarkable. I'd just killed a serial killer, very well I might add--"
"--yet your brother was the interesting bit. - I feel like there are a lot of stories you haven't told me yet about him, about you, about 'Mummy dearest,'" John raised his brow. "Bet there are tons of family gossip too.”
Sherlock curled his lip and scoffed, “Not really. Nothing worth wasting breath over, anyway,” he mumbled, looking back out of the window. “My family life wasn’t at all as riveting as you may think it would be. Ordinary, really. Boring. Tiresome. Suffocating. A life made all the more unpleasant during the holidays and other soial gatherings. - My family life, my childhood, was as unremarkable as having Mycroft as a sibling. - Even with the privilege of money, a selection of boarding schools, of Universities, of people willing to pretend to be civil with me for their own social standing, my life was nothing. In fact, in my personal opinion, that only made everything all the more banal…”
“...I wish I had known you as a kid,” John said faintly, trying to imagine it. The man already looked youthful, sometimes terribly so when he sulked. “I feel like we'd have been a good team. Started our little sleuthing business early, solved petty crimes between other kids and teenagers. - I like feeling like that, like a team, with you. It's nice to think that we're helping people...” He shivered and made a shaky huffing noise through his nose, wrapping his arms around himself, feeling the cold a lot more now that he was beside the window. Hugging his chest to keep warm, John grinned at Sherlock and shrugged. “Helping people with my best friend is brilliant, basically. That's what I... that's what I was getting that with all that... stupid... stupid rambling.”
“You would have hated me as a child,” Sherlock told him in reply with a hint of amusement, shooting him a sideways look before taking hold of the blanket, slipping half of it over John and pressing close, pulling it around the both of them. “I would have loved you though. From afar. Wishing I could speak with you. - I doubt you’ve changed very much since… morals ingrained within you since the day you understood good from bad. ”
John was momentarily stunned at Sherlock's confession, the emphasised 'love' echoing around in his head, and he smiled warmly up at his friend, pressing closer to the warmth of his body, “Well, I was an anxious kid for the most part, constantly on edge to look after Harry – not that she needed it - and rather distrustful of others because of it all. I didn't like the thought of people taking the piss out of her just because she loved somebody different. I didn't like to see people being bullied, I didn't like seeing the kid with callipers on his legs getting mocked and pushed around.” He chuckled dryly at that, at the memories, at the resurfacing thoughts and feelings from his childhood. “So I suppose, I haven't changed so much… no.”
“Mm, exactly,” Sherlock nodded, pushing his frigid feet alongside John’s, lips turning up into a frisky looking smirk, “so, you would have really disliked me. - I was not very nice. Worse than I am now, I can tell you. So much so that you may have thought me a bully, or a form of one, as I never specifically sought out anyone for their differences alone. I only targetted those whom would give me an advantage, whatever that advantage may be, and for whatever that advantage may be for...”
“I see, yeah. But that's the past. The past is over with now. It's history,” John whispered, eyes focussing back on the snow, which was still falling in white clumps, heavier and heavier by the second. “I, uh, I love our little life that we have, you know. That we've found and, um, made. The Work and us. - Makes us family. You, me, Mrs Hudson, even Greg and Molly. We've got a good, close, if slightly disjointed family, and I'm grateful for it...”
Even from the corner of his eye, John could see Sherlock frown in dramatic confusion, “Greg?"
"Oh for fuck sake—Lestrade! Greg Lestrade!"
"Ah. Right, of course," he murmured, tucking the blanket more securely around them, glancing away and then back. "And Molly? Really? - We hardly speak or see much of Molly outside of the morgue. You really consider her that important? Important enough to include in our disjointed family?”
“Come on, Sherlock. How many people do you trust? And I mean truly trust?” John asked with an eye roll and a tilted head, waiting for a moment, then two, only to sigh. “Precisely. There's not many, is there? There's me, or I'd hope there is me. Lestrade, of course, as I know you have a long history together. Your brother, and don't try to deny it, you love him as much as he loves you, and if you were ever in deep trouble, it would be he who you'd turn to. There's Mrs Hudson, obviously, that really should go without saying. And after that, surely, it'd be Molly? I know for a fact that one of your hideouts, your boltholes, is her house. - She can be a bit… intense with the crush she has on you, I know that, but I honestly believe she would do absolutely anything to keep you safe. And you her, for that matter.”
“...Who told you about that?” Sherlock questioned with a narrowing of his eyes, cocking his head to the side, almost mimicking John's head position, and then squinting with gathering bewilderment. "About her home. Who told you?"
“I have my ways...” John replied with a drawl, haughtily looking down his nose at him before giggling, failing to keep it back. “I'm sure you can figure it out, smart man like you. Hm? - Who else knows about it and when do you think I could have gathered that information?—"
"Yes, oh, you big idiot. Your 'network' trust me as much as they trust you. Especially once I'd given them a once over, helped them with their warts and nails and colds. - Big Bertie with the Labrador told me. Don't think he fully realised he was grassing you up though, bless him. I asked, essentially, for hints of where you might disappear to, the area or street name, and he got so comfortable with me that it just... slipped out.”
Sherlock held John’s gaze for longer than was necessary, then let out a slow breath through his nose, leaning back, gaze returning to the window, to the snow outside, “I do trust her, yes. Obviously, I do. I wouldn’t go to her if I didn’t,” he muttered. “I trust her like I trust Mike Stamford.”
“God, yeah. I owe Mike. I'll always owe him, I think,” John responded, “For leading me to you… for finding me a home, a life, a family, and a new opportunity to help people. For, well, for saving my life really. I wasn't in a good place and there were days...” He trailed off, his memories of those long, dark days when suicide danced across his mind, and his fingers twitched towards a certain drawer. “But... but then I saw him and, truth be told I didn't really want to talk to him, yet he insisted and it was, quite frankly, the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Humming, Sherlock unexpectedly, steadily, slid his hand up John’s chest to put pressure over the hidden wound at his shoulder, “Death, or the creeping danger of it, is what really brought us together,” he said, pressing the heel of his palm into it as he moved his free hand to take John’s left, smoothing a tender caressing thumb along the edge of it, then the centre, tracing lines over where the butt of his gun would rest in his grasp. “The reason you are in London, the reason you went out for that walk, it all stems from death. From how it clings to you. How you gravitate toward it, whilst simultaneously, running from it.” Sherlock dipped his head down an inch and gave John a ghosting smile, peeking at him through his lashes and over his brow. “All things I have also done." He guided his fingertips up John's wrist then, pausing to press on his pulse, before stroking the sensitive crease of his elbow. "Things that we will both continue. Flirting, teasing, dancing, dodging and staring at the edge, balancing between the ever reaching hand of death, and the thrum of life. In unison.”
The heat from Sherlock's hand burned a tingling brand into John's skin, the odd electricity returning between them to snap, crackle and burst within the few inches still remaining between their bodies. How had John never felt this sort of heat from Sherlock before this week? How had he never felt this unending pull towards his best friend? Why, all of a sudden, had it all come upon him? What had started it and what would end it? John, chest heaving, looked up, eyes fixing on Sherlock's and then dropped them down to his lips. Was he going to kiss him? That was ridiculous, he definitely shouldn't kiss Sherlock, why was he even considering kissing him? What was happening to him, to them?
Realising that Sherlock had gone still, scarcely breathing, and was simply watching John with powerful intent, eyes zigzagging across his face as if to understand their next move, and John pulled back stiffly, clearing his throat with a spiking nervousness that had his hand running across the back of his head, then giving an altogether unconvincing laugh, “Well, I better get back to bed, I think. It's late… well, early… well… I'm just going to – go. Yeah, I should get going. Only got up for some painkillers really,” he rambled. Sherlock blinked at him and John quickly turned away, getting caught up in the blanket, almost tripping. “Uh. Right. Yeah. Try and sleep, will you please? You – you should sleep.”
Visibly confused, Sherlock grabbed for John’s arm to stabilise him and disentangled the blanket, “Yes. I know. You remind me of the fact I’m pitifully human on a daily basis,” he mumbled, fingers skimming along John’s skin as they fell away. “John…”
“No! No. It's fine,” John replied briskly and reached out to let their fingers brush for the briefest of moments, trying to comfort and reassure by touching him as little as possible, and then pulling back entirely. “Just... don't stand at the window for too much longer or you'll get cold or... something. And... and... um... and—I mean… the snow, watching it fall, it's a bit romantic. It just is. That's why they use it so much in romantic films. Snow and rain. The most romantic sorts of weather. So, yeah, so I was just… and… I'm just gonna go...” He jerked his thumb towards the stairs to his room, backing away, heart in his throat. “Just gonna go try and sleep a bit more. Pills have kicked in. Yeah, must have.”
“I’d… rather you didn’t,” Sherlock disclosed to him, voice almost inaudible. “And... you know you won’t be able to get back to sleep now. - You’re awake. Completely. It would take you a considerable amount of time to reverse that. You will just lie there. Staring at the ceiling as the day rolled on, as the room got brighter, which would only make it that much harder to try and slip off.” He altered his stance, wiggled his toes, gaze down and then leaned against the nearby desk, letting the blanket fall to a puddle at his feet. “You might as well stay. - Please...”
“I know, and thanks but... but… I'm going to go,” John stammered, head bowing low to avert his own gaze, and headed back towards his bedroom without a backwards glance. “Sorry.” He slammed the door behind him the instant he crossed the threshold and slid down until he was sitting on the floor, staring with wide eyes at his own knees, temples throbbing.
What the fuck was that all about?