Sometimes John hated letting the sun go down.
It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the dark, because that was patently ridiculous, and he was a decorated soldier thank you very much. It was the nightmares. But not the fear of them, or the way they kept him up so he was falling asleep in the consultation room, that didn’t bother him so much anymore. What bothered him was that they didn’t bother him anymore. He didn’t want to live the kind of life where waking up with the feeling of blood slicking his hands, juddering gunfire in his ears and the taste of death in his mouth was something he just had to take in his stride.
But he watched a young man in desert camo hit the ground with dead white eyes in the shadow puppet show that he knew so well by now. It was his fault, all his fault. Fumbling forward he crawled on bleeding knees to reach out for the boy. He knew what he would find by now, but the dream-John didn’t, so he had to go through it all with the same old blinkers and-
And his eyes flicked open without any input from his brain. His vision swam for a moment, the memory of the blinding desert sun overlaid by the dark of his bedroom wall. He blinked. This was sooner than he usually woke up. Not that he was sorry to miss the rest of the nightmare, but his combat instincts thrilled in his chest, insisting that something must have woken him. He lay frozen for a moment, trying to locate the source of his dread.
Up the stairs from the living room floated the sound of music. I play the violin when I’m thinking sometimes, whispered Sherlock in his ear, and John tried to force himself to relax. Sherlock was playing in short violent stabs at the strings, like he always did when he was frustrated. It was testament to his skill with the violin that it still sounded oddly beautiful, and John breathed deep.
He rolled onto his back, debating whether he should get up, and then let out a strangled yell.
Downstairs, Sherlock’s violin silenced. After a pause, it started up again, a cleaner and more soothing melody; Sherlock was used to John’s worse nights.
“He doesn’t seem very concerned for your safety,” said Lyesmith from the bed next to John.
John scrambled to a sitting position, clutching his blanket. What the hell?
“Well, at least it’s pretty.” Lyesmith was lying in John’s bed like he had every right to be there. He’d been watching John sleep. Watching him sleep. What?
And he was humming tunelessly along with Sherlock’s violin. John searched for his voice. “Lyesmith?” he hissed. Lyesmith’s eyes crinkled in a smile that John was horribly afraid was genuine.
“Hello again. Is that any way to greet your good friend?” He jerked his head towards the door, indicating the stairs down. “What’s that he’s playing?”
John strangled down the urgent thrumming in his hind brain, the animal urge to kill the intruder. He thrust the feeling down deep in himself, blinked and it was gone. Okay, he thought in his most reasonable headspace. Waking up with a strange man in your bed. No need to panic. If he was being perfectly honest with himself, he’d woken up next to worse-looking strangers than this. And he was a civilian and he did not have to resort to violence. He said, “um.”
Lyesmith took his eloquence in stride. “Sounds almost like Strauss.” He was perfectly at ease, reclining in a suit that was maybe even more expensive than the one he’d worn last time they met.
“He makes it up as he goes along,” John said carefully. Lyesmith looked faintly disappointed.
“Shame. I quite like it.” John breathed in.
“Lyesmith?” he asked.
“Doctor Watson,” Lyesmith replied easily.
“What the bloody fuck are you doing here?”
Lyesmith looked faintly shocked at John’s language, but smiled indulgently and brushed some nonexistent lint off his sleeve. “I’ve come to have an honest conversation,” he said.
John blinked. “A what?”
“That was your advice to me last month, in the bar.” Lyesmith said amiably. “Stop messing with Sherlock and have an honest conversation, and you know, I’ve been thinking you were right. Sherlock really hasn’t done anything to deserve my undivided attention; I should give the man a break. After all, he is so delicate. Some people just can’t take it at all. No sense of humour.” Downstairs the violin picked up tempo as Sherlock apparently assured himself that John was sleeping soundly. “I should lay off him. Besides,” he smiled brightly, “I’m sure you can take it much better.”
John groaned. Balls. If Lyesmith noticed the look on his face, it only made him smile wider. He beckoned with one hand. “Come lie with me.”
John was leaning on his bad arm, and it was beginning to give. That was the only reason he lay down. To get the uncomfortable weight off his old wound. It had nothing to do with the dark storm green eyes, or that trickster’s smile, come lie with me. It was just that exhaustion was starting to creep in like it always did after a nightmare. The first time he’d had this dream at Baker Street, Sherlock had been awake like now, and John had stumbled his way downstairs; listened to his new flatmate play the violin and fallen asleep on the sofa.
“I’m not a therapist, Lyesmith,” he said, settling against the other man. They shuffled for a moment before John lay next to the wall and Lyesmith lay on his back, his head pillowed on John’s shoulder. And that was awkward too until John slung an arm around his slim shoulders and pulled him in. “I’m a GP.”
“Relax,” Lyesmith murmured, and patted his hand. “I’m sure you’ll do fine. Now. It all started back in my childhood... I suppose my father never really loved me enough.”
“If you’re not going to take this seriously, we’re not doing it.” Lyesmith looked up at John, surprised. “You can find someone else to play with and I’ll go back to sleep.”
Lyesmith paused. “This is serious.”
“Really? Because it sounds like you’re lying through your teeth.” John’s eyes drifted closed without him quite meaning to.
“I’m not, though. I’m being sincere.”
“It sounds like you’re doing it again.”
“But this is what I sound like when I’m sincere!” Lyesmith’s voice still had that mocking quality to it, but a hint of petulance crept in underneath. John opened one eye.
“You really can’t stop that, can you?”
“I don’t think I even know what you mean.” The back of Lyesmith’s head dug into John’s chest as he craned upwards, reaching for eye contact. John frowned.
“Right,” he said. “Er, sorry. Tell me about your father.”
Lyesmith lay back down, stretched across John’s mattress and examined the ceiling. “I really sound like I’m lying?” he asked. John paused. He had sworn he heard laughter in Lyesmith’s earlier words, and his outright declaration of intent to mess with John, but...
“No,” he said, “not lying. You just... don’t... sound like someone who’s being honest. Kind of.”
“Oh,” breathed Lyesmith. “I didn’t know that.” He was quiet for long enough that John wondered if their honest conversation was over, then, “My brother’s friends were men... and women... of action. Whenever they needed someone to do their talking, that would always be me. I suppose it was beneath them. I spent a lot of time lying. And almost as much time swearing I was telling the truth.”
John thought back to his own sessions with Ella, and tried to think of something reassuring she would say. He was buggered if he could remember a single thing. “How does that--” he yawned, “--how does that make you feel?”
“Like a liar.”
“Hn.” He let his hand fall slack on the other man’s collarbone. “In a good way or a bad way?”
In the corner of his eye, he saw Lyesmith’s lips pull into a smile.