The moment John woke up, he knew something was wrong. He was a light sleeper, courtesy of Afghanistan, so any sign of danger could instantly jolt him wide awake. And now he clearly sensed that his life was hanging by a thread. However, John decided to be cautious and not to make any unnecessary movements, which might provoke an assault. Instead he just opened his eyes slightly and carefully scanned the room shrouded in darkness. Yes, his instinct didn't fail him. There was someone standing at the door. The stranger was motionless, but John could hear him breathing irregularly, as if he just stopped running and tried to calm down. A shadowy, anonymous silhouette, like a monster from children's nightmares.
John felt fear rising in his chest, but years of being a soldier helped him to maintain his cool. His mind started racing, desperately trying to figure out what to do. He thought about the gun he kept in a bedside table's drawer, but he doubt he'd be quick enough to grab it before the stranger's attack. He didn't know whether the intruder was armed or not, but he had to take that risk. John's muscles tensed. He wanted to jump at the aggressor and overpower him, using the element of surprise to his advantage. He was about to carry this plan out, when suddenly the stranger spoke:
"It's me, John. I know you're awake," Sherlock announced in a subdued voice.
"She-Sherlock?" He stuttered in confusion. "Don't sneak up on me like that or you'll give me a heart attack!" He said reproachfully, but couldn't help feeling relieved. It was just Sherlock, not some thug who wanted to kidnap or kill him. However, after the moment of joy came the realisation: what was Sherlock doing here in the middle of the night, anyway? And why was he out of breath? It didn't happen before.
"Something's wrong?," asked John.
"I'm going to sleep with you tonight," he said firmly, his expression unreadable.
Sherlock didn't wait for any further protests. He rushed confidently towards the bed and the only sound that could be heard in the room was soft tapping of his bare feet. That sound completely mesmerised John. Sherlock lifted the duvet and slipped beside his friend. After a moment of inner struggle, he grabbed John's pyjamas sleeve and clung to it for his dear life.
That certainly wasn't Sherlock's typical behaviour and John got seriously worried.
"Sherlock, what happened?"
"Nothing," he replied calmly. John couldn't make out the expression on his face in the dark, but he heard sadness in his voice. Masterfully concealed, but still audible. If he didn't know him the way he did, he'd probably never even noticed it.
"Don't lie to me. I know that something is not right." When he didn't get any reply, he added gently. "You can tell me."
Sherlock was hesitant, but eventually he relented.
"I had a dream," he confessed grudgingly.
"A bad one, I presume?"
"Yes. A nightmare indeed."
"Well, everybody has nightmares from time to time. They can be nasty, but they're only dreams. They can't harm anybody," he explained in an uplifting tone, trying to forget how his own nightmares turned his life into a living hell. "Whatever you've seen, it wasn't real."
Sherlock kept silent and curled up into a ball. The sadness he felt was almost tangible. Something was definitely amiss.
"Sherlock, tell me what did you see in your nightmare."
But the detective's lips were sealed. He just kept stroking the fabric of John's pyjamas and concentrating on the feeling it produced on his fingertips.
"Sherlock, I am your friend. You can trust me," he insisted patiently.
Sherlock sighed quietly, but started talking.
"You were kidnapped," he said finally, his voice trembling at the threshold of noticeability.
"Well, that's nothing new," John tried to dismiss Sherlock's anguish with a joke but it didn't do any good.
"But this time I couldn't save you, John" he said, gritting his teeth. "You were shot."
"Sherlock..." He didn't really know what to say, what should be said in a situation like this. But Sherlock hadn't finished the story yet.
"The bullet pierced right through your neck, the artery was completely torn. I couldn't stop the bleeding. You died in my arms... You died and I was helpless!"
Sherlock was very reluctant to show any true emotions on a daily basis. He was cold, composed and calculating. Almost like a machine, analytical and efficient. He didn't pay much attention to such trivialities as feelings. But now he sounded so guilt-ridden, so devoid of any hope, that just listening to him was breaking John's heart. He put his hand on Sherlock's shoulder and gave him a reassuring squeeze.
"You shouldn't feel bad about something that happened in a dream."
"But we both know it can happen in reality as well..."
In that very moment John realised at last what was troubling Sherlock. He took a deep breath and started talking in a serious voice.
"Sherlock, look. When I decided to live with you, I knew what I was signing for. I knew the dangers, I knew that our adventures can end badly. I've seen a lot of deaths in my life, I know how cruel one's demise can be. But regardless, I've chosen to stick with you. You... You gave my life a meaning," he admitted artlessly, feeling slightly embarrassed. He wasn't used to saying such things. After this little confession he felt exposed, knowing that Sherlock's eyes were fixed on his in the dark.
"Besides, Sherlock," he added quickly, trying to hide uneasiness and prevent Sherlock from making a comment. "I'm not completely useless, you know. I was a soldier. I killed people," he said with a chuckle.
"You were a doctor!" Sherlock smiled.
"I had bad days!"
That little banter, an echo of the conversation they had not that long ago, visibly cheered Sherlock up. He returned to his true self, which was unfortunately abundant in arrogance.
"Thank you, John. But I think I'm going to stay here for a night anyway. My own bed is too far away. So, I hereby confiscate your duvet," he announced haughtily, tore the duvet off John, and wrapped himself in it, forming a cocoon around his body.
John was enraged at this insolence and let his darker side assume control. He took his pillow and hit Sherlock on the head with vengeful satisfaction. The detective sat up in a flash and squinted his eyes menacingly.
"This means war!" he yelled, disentangling himself from the duvet, and responded to the attack with the second pillow. They kept smashing each other, giggling and hurling insults all around them. John suddenly felt at least twenty years younger. He liked that feeling.
"My God, it's 3 AM, boys!" Mrs Hudson entered the room and switched on the lights, which completely blinded John and Sherlock. It was for the best because they couldn't see the expression on Mrs Hudson's face when she saw bedclothes dragged off and tossed carelessly onto the floor and both of her tenants with dishevelled hair, sweating, panting and clearly looking overjoyed.
"You know that I'm extremely tolerant and in my days I had my fair share of... unrestrained foreplays, but could you please keep your flirtations down? People want to sleep."
John was stupefied at her speech.
"F-flirtations? Mrs Hudson, we didn't-" He couldn't finish his defence, because Sherlock chimed in with a beaming smile on his face.
"We're terribly sorry. We'll try to be quiet. Good night."
Mrs Hudson sighed, shook her head and left the room, switching the lights off. She was still mildly irritated, but she was genuinely happy that those two finally got down to business.
"Sherlock!", snapped John, when their landlady left. "You've practically confirmed that we are lovers! Now the whole London will be gossiping!"
He couldn't see Sherlock's face clearly in the dark, but he was sure the detective was grinning with mischief.
"And that will be a real nightmare, don't you think?" Sherlock asked, reeking of smugness.
"Oh, I hate you so much!" John rolled his eyes and smacked Sherlock right across the face with a pillow.