John had gotten worse while Sherlock was gone. Sherlock felt like an idiot for not considering that possibility, but what choice had he had, really? He had had to fake his death, disappear for three years, and make John believe he really had committed suicide. To save John. His friend. He had to keep his friend safe.
But the three years alone had taken their tole on John. He had been thrilled to see Sherlock again and things seemed go back to normal after Sherlock explained. They fell easily back into their routine. They laughed, they bickered, they joked, they got on each other's nerves. All was right with the world and Sherlock felt happier than he could remember feeling in a long time.
That had lasted for about two weeks. Sherlock suddenly realized something was wrong one night when he was up late, playing his violin that he had missed dearly, and heard an awful scream from the bedroom upstairs. He froze, bow hovering over the instrument as understanding immediately sunk in. John's PTSD was flaring up again. Sherlock thought back to three years previous. John had been doing extremely well. It had been months since Sherlock had heard the sound of a struggle with nightmares coming from the army doctor's room. Sometimes Sherlock had all but forgotten that John even had to deal with disorder.
Now it was back. And, if Sherlock was right (and he always was), it was worse than it had ever been. Sherlock knew that John had been at his worst when they'd met, but the danger that living with Sherlock brought had made it better. Apparently the sudden separation from that had opened a chasm and John had fallen in, unable to claw his way back out. When Sherlock questioned her, Mrs. Hudson said John had just been numb for the longest time and then it slowly shifted into something more violent.
By this point, John could make no real effort to hide his pain from Sherlock. They never really spoke about it (John would never bring it up and Sherlock had no idea where to start) but already there had been a few times where Sherlock had had to physically restrain John. The first time it had happened, Sherlock had panicked. He knew and understood PTSD but seeing it first hand was a different experience entirely. And seeing John, John Watson, level-headed, smiling John Watson, completely lose his rationality was terrifying. Of course, Sherlock was starting to have trouble remembering the last time he'd seen John smile, but that really just made it worse.
They'd fallen into a pattern again, like they had before Sherlock had faked his death. But Sherlock hated this pattern. John wasn't himself, he wasn't the same person that Sherlock could tease and laugh with and count on. He was a shell of that person and it scared Sherlock. He never smiled, never laughed. The life in his blue eyes had faded into a deep, tired, painful stare. Sherlock was constantly trying to pull some sort of response out of his friend but to no avail. He was forced to watch John spiral down farther and farther, holding him close and hard whenever John's mind took him faraway from London.
One morning after what had sounded like a particularly hard night for John, the army doctor shuffled down the stairs and into the kitchen. Sherlock was sitting in his armchair in the living room and watched his friend carefully as he glanced around the room, his eyes wider and more focused than usual.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock asked suddenly, surprising himself. He hadn't bothered to ask that question in ages. He already knew the answer. John glanced over his shoulder, meeting Sherlock's eyes dimly before continuing to stare around the kitchen. No, not stare. He was looking for something.
"Nightmare," John answered in a mumble. Sherlock clenched his teeth. He knew that, obviously, and John knew he knew that. Even though they never spoke about it, they both knew that they both knew what was going on. It was ridiculously redundant and Sherlock had to make a serious effort to bite down the frustration.
"That's not it, though." It was a statement, not a question. Either way, John didn't answer. He moved to one of the cabinets, opening it, eyes fluttering about at the contents. Sherlock frowned, going through his memory of what all was in that particular cabinet.
And then the puzzle pieces all fell into place. Sherlock was on his feet and by John's side so fast it had both men surprised. Sherlock shut the cabinet door forcefully and grabbed John by the shoulders, looking hard into his friend's eyes. For the first time in months, Sherlock saw a flicker of life in them, a flash of surprise behind the suffocating sense of death.
"Sherlock..." he started but Sherlock cut him off.
"Don't you dare."
John blinked, confusion taking over the surprise. "What?"
"You can't hide something like this from me, John, you should know better," Sherlock told him through gritted teeth, his fingers still digging deep into John's arms. John raised a hand to try to pry one of Sherlock's hands off.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he bit tersely.
"I've seen too many people kill themselves," Sherlock said, ignoring John's efforts to loosen his grip. "I'm not letting that happen again."
John fell silent, his fingers stopping their scramble against Sherlock's. Slowly, he let his arm fall back to his side and he looked up to meet Sherlock's gaze. They stared for a long while before John finally responded.
"You've seen too many people kill themselves?" he repeated quietly. "What..." He paused, struggling to phrase his question correctly. Sherlock noticed and decided to let his friend off the hook by answering.
"The first time was my sister."
John stared. "You had a sister?"
Sherlock nodded, beginning to loosen his grip finally on John's arms. "Two years older than Mycroft. Everyone loved her. Adelaide was... perfect. Really, she was. No one knows why she did it. It threw everyone off guard and it was a real blow to our family. My mum still quietly grieves over her. Mycroft took to ignoring me for the next eight years, which completely demolished our relationship. And my father... Well, I'll get to that one.
"I was four years old. I don't remember where everyone else was. I'm guessing no one else was home otherwise I doubt she would've done it. I had been outside, playing in the garden. I came through the front door just as she was throwing herself over the railing in the entry way. She hanged herself. Got enough momentum that it snapped her neck." Sherlock told the story very matter-of-factly. It had happened years ago, after all. The pain of it had long since passed, buried under other, worse and more recent pain.
John, of course, didn't seem to realize that. He looked sympathetic almost and Sherlock's heart began to lift at the momentary return of the John he knew and loved.
"You were four?" John asked with a small gasp. Sherlock nodded again, his hands finally letting go of John. John rubbed at his biceps absentmindedly as he stared at Sherlock in shock.
"...The second time?" he asked quietly, cautiously. Sherlock smiled sardonically, moving to sit on the edge of the table, next to John.
"My father. I was twelve. He blamed me for Addy's death. Partially because I was the one who saw it, partially because he'd never really liked me. I was the accident, after all." Sherlock shrugged. "So, of course, he took to beating me. Did it impressively well, actually. No one knew. Mum has always been blissfully oblivious to unpleasant things, and Mycroft... Like I said, he ignored my existence for years.
"One night, my father was in one of his rages. We were in his study. He always kept to just using his fists so when he turned to his desk and pulled out a gun, I panicked. But he didn't shoot me. He shot himself. As I bolted out of the study, I ran into Mycroft. He seemed to suddenly realize what had been happening for the past eight years and tried to be the caring older brother he was supposed to be. But it was too late, the damage was already done. I've never really trusted him since."
John's eyes were growing steadily wider as he was bombarded by all this new information: abusive father, ignorant Mycroft, oblivious mother. Sherlock could see that little bits of information were connecting in John's head, things about who Sherlock was now suddenly making sense. Sherlock wondered if maybe he should feel guilty for turning the problem so selfishly on himself but decided it was taking John's mind off his own pain. It was distracting him from his suicidal mission and that was what Sherlock wanted. So he forged on.
"The third time was in secondary school. William was his name. I didn't really know him that well. We were in the same class. We had been working on a project together and I went over to his house one afternoon afterwards to get some supplies I had left there. His mum let me in and told me William was in his room. So I went upstairs and there he was, on the floor, having taken an imaginative variety of pills, breathing his last breaths."
Silence swelled up uncomfortably fast as John obviously fought some sort of internal battle. Finally, he spoke. "Was there... any... were there..."
Sherlock bit his tongue and closed his eyes briefly. He had really hoped John wouldn't ask for anymore. He had hoped that would be enough. He hadn't wanted to tell John about this one, but... Well. He supposed he had to.
"My second year at uni. I'd been dating her for about a year and a half."
John looked up, taken off guard. "A girlfriend?" he asked incredulously. Sherlock smiled, amused at the disbelief.
"Yes. The only romantic relationship I've ever had," he admitted. "Dakota Stark. She was... a lot like Addy. If I'm completely honest with myself, that's probably the reason I liked her so much." He paused, remembering. "I should've recognized the warning signs. I'd seen it happen three times before, after all. And I knew she wasn't okay. She was incredibly stressed out from schoolwork and her home situation wasn't the best. I never realized, though...
"I had an evening class that semester. She usually was on the couch, reading a book, waiting for me when I got home. Then we'd eat some dinner, work on homework, go to bed. One night she wasn't waiting for me. I found her in the bathroom. In the tub. She'd taken some pills and slit her wrists. I got her out and she was still breathing, but just barely." Sherlock had to stop and swallow against the huge lump that had formed in his throat. He was keenly aware of John watching him, his eyes wider than ever. He felt idiotic. This was why he had stopped caring for people. It only hurt in the end and he knew just how much it could hurt. And then John had come into his life and was threatening to make it happen all over again.
"She died in my arms," Sherlock finished, voice strong. He looked up to meet John's wide-eyed stare. "Don't do this, John. Please. I can't... You are the only person I've ever... been so close to since Dakota. You're my friend, my only friend, and I can't lose that again. Let me help you get through this. Please."
John didn't reply for what felt like an eternity, but Sherlock was determined to hold that gaze unblinkingly, the plea still written all over his face.
"I saw you commit suicide," John finally said, voice broken yet stubborn. Sherlock shook his head.
"I wasn't dead."
"I thought you were for three years," John pointed out. Sherlock felt something wilt inside of him. No. No, he couldn't lose this argument. He wasn't going to. He couldn't.
"I know," he agreed, forcing the desperation out of his voice. Calm. Steady. He was Sherlock Holmes, after all. Getting too emotional would do no good. "I know, John, I know. I tortured myself over it the entire time. But I'm here now. And I need you. Let me help you. We can work through this. Together. Please."
Sherlock had raised his hands back up to John's arms and he held on. His fingers didn't dig in this time, though, he just held him. He held him like he always held him after his PTSD attacks. Strong. Firm. Comforting. As much as for himself as it was for John. It was highly frustrating sometimes how the human body got so much out of simple contact with another human being, but right now Sherlock was going to use it to his advantage. His heart was thudding uncomfortably in his throat as he waited, waited for John's response, not knowing what he was going to do if he continued to argue.
John stared between Sherlock's gaze and hands on his arms, relaxing bit by bit under the touch. Slowly, he nodded.
"All right. We can... try to... work through this."
A/N: So I've been reading a lot of dark fics on the kink meme on LJ. I've never been part of a fandom that was so easily dark and it's thrilling. I love it. I've been in fandoms with child abuse and other dark things, but this fandom seems to just have everything. It's amazing.
Basically, this fic is the result of me reading so much dark stuff lately. I hope you enjoyed.
Also, I've fallen in love with Adelaide Holmes and Dakota Stark. It's very possible that I will write something else with them.
I love reviewers and live for constructive criticism!