It had started their second night home from the Baskerville Testing Site. John tried and tried, but he found that he was still more than a little irritated with Sherlock using him as a test subject without his knowledge. They were polite to each other, but John noticed that they both seemed to give each other a pretty wide berth and their hands had remained decidedly to themselves to the point where Sherlock had flinched when their hands grazed as John passed him the milk that morning.
Sherlock hadn’t seemed surprised that John had gone up to his own room for the first time in almost a month when they’d finally got home, and John had been glad of it. He didn’t want to explain that someone screwing with his head, playing games with his fears, was more terrifying than the actual dog-thing he’d hallucinated. He was a fucking soldier with fucking PTSD, he didn’t need help finding things to freak him out. Most of the time he was so busy chasing after Sherlock and trying to keep them both from getting killed by whomever Sherlock was hunting down that he was able to shove the worst of the symptoms back to a far corner of his mind. In the past month he’d discovered that sharing his bed with someone regularly kept the nightmares as they’d been at bay.
But now they were back with a vengeance. He wasn’t sure if sleeping upstairs was his way of punishing Sherlock for doing this to him, or his way of protecting Sherlock from the fallout John was certain Sherlock never had intended.
That night, John had woken up completely tangled in his sheets, his head spinning and his throat a little sore. He hoped to god he hadn’t been screaming in his sleep. He’d been told by the staff in hospital right after he’d been shot that there had been some rough nights with him shouting out in his sleep, but he was reasonably sure it hadn’t happened since moving into Baker Street. He couldn’t imagine Sherlock wouldn’t have said something about it if it had.
He fumbled for the glass of water he kept on his nightstand trying to decide if maybe he’d just been breathing hard through his mouth, which had dried out his throat, or if he’d actually been screaming.
When he set the glass back down he became aware of a sound from the sitting room. It took him a few seconds to recognize it as Sherlock’s violin. He’d sucked in a breath to holler down the stairs for Sherlock to keep it to daylight hours, but before he could say a word he ended up coughing again.
He drank a little more water and flopped back against his pillow. He could still hear Sherlock playing. Unlike the way he usually started a piece and then stopped and then started something else and then plucked at the strings for a while, it seemed that Sherlock was actually playing something all the way through for a change. John wondered if Sherlock kept anything that might vaguely seem like a ‘performance’ for times when he didn’t think John would hear it.
He thought about hollering down to tell him to cut it out nonetheless when it occurred to him that he had no idea what Sherlock was playing (classical music was never his particular style) but he liked it. It was light without being bouncy, not too slow, but melodious and flowing. When he closed his eyes he saw images of a brook running through a brightly lit woods, flowers on the banks, the whole nine yards, almost like the violin was painting a picture for him. He decided that if Sherlock stuck to music like that at night that he could live with it. He pulled the blankets back up to his shoulders and fell into a deep, easy sleep just a few minutes later.
Three more nights passed similarly. John would wake, panting and shaking and by the time he’d recovered his wits enough to pay attention to anything more than making sure he was safe in his own bed, he heard calm, tranquil music floating up from the sitting room.
The fifth night the dream had been an insane mash up of Afghanistan, a murderer in a planetarium and a giant dog. Even with the music to lull him back to sleep, John didn’t relish the idea of closing his eyes again so soon. He pulled on his dressing gown and crept to the door, sliding down the doorjamb to sit and listen to the Sherlock play.
When Sherlock finished the song he’d been playing when John woke up, he switched to something low and soft. It made John think of the lullaby he remembered his mum singing to Harry when she’d been a baby. Sherlock was playing quietly – either he’d heard John get up and didn’t want to keep him up, John supposed, or was afraid of waking him. Leery of making him stop, John watched until he saw Sherlock cross the sitting room to go back to the window where he was watching the street as he played, then he crept down the steps to hear better, sitting on the fourth from the bottom hoping Sherlock wouldn’t notice him, but knowing the odds of that were slim.
John leaned on the wall, his eyes closing as he listened, even though his mind still didn’t seem to want to quite settle down. He pulled his knees up and rested his head against them. It was as he was drifting off, sitting on the cold stairs, that he had the fanciful idea that this was Sherlock’s apology. His attempt to fix what he’d broken. He smiled a little to himself. It was probably wishful thinking on his part that Sherlock had actually been aware enough of anyone’s emotional state (without John pointing it out to him) to actively try to do something about it.
He wasn’t sure if the music had just trailed off so slowly that John hadn’t really noticed when it ended or if he’d fallen asleep right there on the stairs. He sighed, realizing he actually missed the music. Keeping his eyes closed, prolonging the moment just a little, he yawned and stretched his arms preparatory to getting himself up and dragging himself back to bed.
When he finally opened his eyes he found Sherlock sitting on the step just below him. He wasn’t looking at John. He was staring at the floor between his feet, his violin and bow dangling between his knees.
John felt acutely guilty, like he’d intruded on what Sherlock had intended to be a private moment. He felt a cold rush go through him when he realized how egotistical, how self-important he’d been when he’d thought Sherlock was playing for him. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop. I heard the music and…” He shrugged, not sure what Sherlock wanted to hear from him at that point.
“You were supposed to,” Sherlock said quietly, still not looking back at him.
Now John had no idea what to think. “Oh.”
“You never had nightmares when you slept –“ Sherlock cut himself off like he wasn’t sure how he wanted to finish that sentence. After a few awkward seconds he finally finished with “downstairs.”
“With you?” John asked, realizing that Sherlock was feeling as awkward about all of this as he was.
Sherlock said nothing, just began plucking at the D-string on his violin and fiddling with the tuning peg, as if he ever let his violin get out of tune.
They sat silently, awkwardly, for several long minutes. Surprisingly, it was Sherlock who finally bridged the distance. “Would it help if I apologized again for drugging you?”
John slid down so that they were on the same stair and leaned his head against Sherlock’s shoulder. Sherlock didn’t move, but John could feel a slight lessening of the tension in Sherlock’s muscles as they sat together. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.”
“But I did, didn’t I?” Sherlock asked, moving to the A-string.
John shrugged. Sherlock truly hadn’t meant for any of this to happen. He didn’t want to give him the idea that what he’d done was okay, but he really was ready for them to move past it. “I’m not… hurt, exactly. It just…you know how it is… I have nightmares.”
Sherlock brought the conversation full circle. “You never once did when you slept…” He still seemed hesitant to say it. As if he was afraid that if he brought it up too soon, John would cut him off permanently then and there.
“When I slept with you, I know.” John sighed and leaned more heavily into Sherlock. “I guess if I want to get any sleep any time soon, I should go back to what works, eh?”
Sherlock pulled back a little, his mouth opening a little, whatever initial reaction he had died on his lips as he realized what John was telling him.
“Though I have to say, the music was nice too.” Sherlock had said that John was supposed to hear it. Maybe his little flight of fancy wasn’t so fanciful after all.
Sherlock gave him a bashful smile.
John reached up and pushed Sherlock’s hair off his face. He hadn’t realized how much he missed little gestures like that in the week since they’d been tip-toeing around each other. He leaned in, Sherlock meeting him half way, until their lips touched softly, the kisses they shared chaste and gentle.
John stood up and held a hand out to Sherlock. “Take me to bed? I think we both need some rest.”