AN: Sequel to Scream, but could probably stand alone.
Warnings: Past mentions to rape and violence. Established Sherlock/John.
John comes running when Sherlock screams, every time.
He still remembers Sherlock, bloody, torn; beaten ragged and screaming at the end of that time that's still a blur in his mind. Moriarty, a room, torture.
If you make one sound, utter a word, Sherlock.
There's screaming now.
I'll shoot him.
John bursts into Sherlock's room, to find the detective drenched in sweat, clutching his sheets so tightly his nails have torn holes in them, the frayed material sticking to his fingers and hands, wrapped around his legs. His mouth is open, hoarse yells bursting from his throat, more infrequent now as his voice gives out. He doesn't see, doesn't hear John come in – essentially he's still asleep, but John knows all he has to do now is hold him and it will be fine, everything will be fine…
He wraps his arms tightly around Sherlock's shoulders and rocks him gently back and forth, whispering that it's alright, that he's here now and they're alive. Sherlock slowly calms down, shuddering and gulping, almost sobbing, his hands clutching at John's back and digging through the material of his pyjamas. Some of the sheets are still stuck to his fingers, wrapping them up tightly in the white material.
Every time this happens he swears he's going to get Sherlock help, and then in the morning he realises just how impossible this mind would be to a stranger, a person trained to deal with trauma with normal brains.
Besides, Sherlock's face when it had first been suggested was enough to almost break his heart.
"You alright?" he whispers. Sherlock, now awake, nods, trembling, and sits back. His hands start moving, back and forth quickly, but they're too blurred in the darkness.
"Wait," says John, shaking his head. "Let me put the light on."
He does, and the room is flooded with the sickly yellow glow that can only come from a bedside lamp. Eight separate movements, all fast and furious, but John's had to learn quickly.
T and H and A and N…oh.
"You're welcome, Sherlock. It's alright." At least he doesn't have to use that stupid laminated card any more, the one with all the hand symbols on it, although he's going to have to start to learn more words if they're going to be able to carry on communicating. Sherlock's vocabulary increases daily, but John's still struggling along at the twice-a-week course he enrolled in a few weeks ago.
It's not that Sherlock can't speak – he just won't.
John accepts that. But still he hopes that, one day, Sherlock will just open his mouth and come out with those deductions just as he used to; it takes him longer to write it all down, and his handwriting isn't always that legible.
John pecks Sherlock on the lips. "Do you want me to stay?"
Sherlock shakes his head. John stays anyway because he can tell when Sherlock wants him to.
John buys the thing on a whim, when he's coming home from the surgery and sees a vendor in the street, pushing a cart. On it are hundreds of pots, and in them hundreds of little trees. Tiny, tiny trees that look like they've been scaled down with a shrinking ray, fully fledged leaves and trunks but all a hundredth of the size they should be.
He doesn't admit it, but he finds them adorable.
The man at the cart tells him they're bonsai trees; perhaps he has John down for a sucker, because there's no long speech about the heritage or the advantages of them. John buys one, takes an information and care leaflet and sets off home, balancing the little tree in one hand and holding a shopping bag in the other.
Sherlock is typing on John's laptop when he returns – John doesn't even know why he bothers with a password – but he looks up when he hears the door slam. A flick of hands, simple vocabulary John actually has the hang of.
"It's a bonsai," John replies, placing it on the kitchen table and beginning to bung groceries in the fridge. "A mini tree…thing. I thought you might like it."
Sherlock stands and comes over to poke at it, watching the tiny leaves flutter up and down. It has a twisted trunk which branches out three times in separate leafy platforms before reaching the top and fanning out in a feathery mess of new shoots. John picked it because it looked untidy, and the flat tends to be in as much disarray as usual these days.
'What's the point?' Sherlock's hands flit more slowly this time, and John gets the first two words immediately, and guesses the third.
"I don't know. I just thought we could do with a bit of greenery here. Besides, looking after it will give you something to do." Sherlock gives him a scornful look. John shrugs and hands him the leaflet, standing on tiptoes to peck him on the cheek as he does so. "You might as well try it."
Sherlock nods and his eyes scan the booklet, picking up all that information at double the speed of a normal person. John waits for him to chuck the whole thing out of the window, but instead he just shrugs and retreats to the sofa. John puts the kettle on and follows Sherlock back to the lounge.
"It's a Camellia tree," he adds, sitting across from Sherlock with a nervous smile. Sherlock seems happy today, considering the bad time he'd had the night before. His violin is out and a sheet of music spread over the top of it.
The only thing missing is the skull – Sherlock threw it away as soon as he realised it had no eyes to see his hand movements. John still has it, tucked in the bottom of his wardrobe, but now's not the time.
"Do you want to go somewhere today?"
Sherlock purses his lips and considers for a second, then shakes his head. John tells himself that's alright – no cases for a little while. The kettle ceases to boil, the hissing noises fading away into the background, and he pecks Sherlock's cheek before going to make the tea.
John comes back from a late shift from the surgery the next day to find the flat in total silence. It doesn't really alarm him – just because Sherlock isn't playing doesn't mean anything…does it?
Moriarty is dead, he tells himself. You saw him get shot.
Maybe Sherlock just went out…
No. Sherlock doesn't go out alone nowadays; John doesn't know why, because the man has always been so independent. He doesn't have a problem with cases, and when they're chasing a criminal he's perfectly happy to break away from John, but when they don't have a case he doesn't. John doesn't ask.
He steps through to the kitchen and breathes a sigh of relief – the light is on and Sherlock is there, fiddling with something in the sink. As John watches he brings out the bonsai tree, dripping water from the bottom, and sets it on the table, staring intently. His long pale fingers reach out and brush the leaves curiously, testing and feeling for…well, whatever Sherlock finds interesting.
John can't suppress a very small smile of triumph, but he doesn't reveal himself. Instead he goes to the lounge and switches on the light, beginning to reach for his laptop. Sherlock strides into the lounge as if nothing was different and begins to move his hands.
John follows as well as he can, feeling his forehead crinkle slightly with concentration.
'We're out of…' Milk? It looks like the sign for milk.
"I'll get some milk tomorrow." Mentioning the word in the sentence is like asking if he's got it right without actually admitting how crap he is at this kind of thing. Sherlock doesn't rebuke him for it, so he assumes he's right.
He sighs – the word is advanced, but one he's taken care to learn early on in his lessons.
"Can't it wait until tomorrow?"
Sherlock purses his lips and shakes his head. John scrapes a hand through his hair and closes his eyes for a second.
"Alright; I'll go get milk if you do your exercises tonight." Moriarty had broken Sherlock's wrist in the most complicated way possible – just to be tricky, the bastard – and the doctor had recommended some simple lifts to aid the recovery. Sherlock always forgets to do them.
John nods and throws his coat on over his jacket. Typical – he has to trudge all the way to the shops and all Sherlock has to do is lift a weight up and down a few times. Anyone would say he has the rough side of the deal, but Sherlock comes and tentatively kisses his lips before he goes, and then it seems like he isn't losing out at all.
Sherlock rarely makes the first move when it comes to things like this John thinks, making his way carefully down the stairs. It was understandable – the man is socially awkward and, to most people, completely emotionless. John knows it's not the case, of course, but there are…complications.
Moriarty had effectively raped Sherlock last time. The words are hard and grating in his mind, echoing there and making him shudder. He hadn't done it personally – he'd hired someone else, of course – but it didn't make it better.
When John had asked Sherlock had said he'd been raped before.
It's horrible, John thinks, shuddering. He can't imagine it; anyone else, anyone else, would be traumatised beyond belief and yet Sherlock…isn't. At least, not about that. It seems like he's simply closed off that portion of his mind, half-deleted it and thrown it away from him – he cares, but he's not letting it stop him.
There's a reason for him not speaking, but that's not it.
He sees the man with the stall packing up for the day and buys a second tree as well as the milk.
Sherlock likes the tree, he finds. Whilst John is out getting the milk he continues his examination of it, very carefully inspecting all the leaves and cataloguing the information somewhere in the back of his mind.
His lips are still slightly unused to the sensation of being kissed so often. It's nice – not aggressive or too pushy, just little pecks every now and then that make him feel…nice. It's something they've slipped into very easily, although it hasn't escalated beyond that. He doesn't want it to, not for a little.
He's not fully comfortable with himself yet. After the first time…he promised himself he wouldn't let anything like that happen again, and not even Mycroft knows. About the first time.
No-one apart from John knows about that. He'd been young, and high on god knows what, and he couldn't have expected to remain safe in that state for long. The whole experience is blurred, half-deleted, and he tries to avoid it as much as possible, but it's why he tries to make the streets safe – so people can walk up and down them and not be scared. He hasn't managed it yet.
He knows John wants him to start speaking soon. He'll try sometime, when he can get over the sinking feeling that every time he opens his mouth something terrible will happen to John. Moriarty had said that if he spoke he'd kill John, and Sherlock still can't stand the thought.
He blinks a couple of times and goes back to the tree, prodding a small food pellet into the soil that surrounds the base. It's like the tree thanks him for it, standing a little straighter and taller. He feels a small thrill of pride to see it like that. Apparently this kind grows flowers, and he wonders for a brief second what colour they will be.
The special weight to help with his exercises is lying on the worktops, so he picks it up and begins to lift it gently, just as the doctor ordered. It twinges, but he's getting better at it.
The door creaks open again and he snaps his head up to see John push through it, the milk clutched in his hands. He looks slightly surprised to see Sherlock actually doing the exercises, which makes Sherlock glad he decided to.
"Here's your bloody milk," says John good-naturedly, and Sherlock thanks him with a flick of his hands, using the full word rather than just letters, as John is fully awake this time. "And I bought you this."
He holds up another tree, this one spindly and rather sickly looking, but already coming out in tiny purple flowers. It has a twisted trunk that spreads out into a wide bush of leaves that should be green and almost poufy, but lack of water has left it slightly withered and yellow.
John hesitates for a second, untangling the word in his mind – Sherlock can see him working at it slowly, but it doesn't irritate him as much as it used to. "Yeah, well…I just thought you seemed to get along with that one."
Sherlock scowls, but his lips twitch slightly. 'Thank you.'
"You're welcome." John pecks his cheek as he goes over to the fridge and places the milk inside it. "I don't know what kind that is, and it needs a little work, but I figured it needed someone to help it."
Sherlock smiles. 'It's fine. I like it.'
John yawns. "I'm going to bed, but feel free to wake me if you need anything." Sherlock knows he almost said 'call me if you need anything', but he doesn't mind too much. He tells himself tonight will be different, that John is perfectly safe.
Perhaps he'll wait just a little longer to go to bed then.
He soaks the second bonsai tree in the sink for ten minutes, and then leaves it on the draining board to dry. He places the first next to it and compares them, studying them. They're just plants, but he knows they're his plants, his and John's plants, and it makes him slightly warm with pride.
He sleeps more soundly that night, slumped on the kitchen chair. It's almost like they're watching over him.
But that's stupid, isn't it?
John is usually woken only once in his whole sleep now, and that's by his alarm. It surprises but pleases him. Things are getting better, he's sure of it; Sherlock has seemed more relaxed of late.
The number of bonsai trees is growing. There's something that appeals to John about them, although he won't admit they're cute. What started off as two trees – well, one and a half, the half being rather pathetic – has spread to four. John has names for all of them – Camellia, Sickly, Sunny (because it has a yellow pot) and Gardenia. Sherlock does not know about the names.
Gardenia has a very distinctive, comforting smell, and Sunny is another unknown, but has sprouted large amounts of white flowers that are silky to the touch. Camellia has a couple of flowers as well, bright pink, and John likes the way they look together, lined up height order – Sherlock's idea, not his.
They'd had a case last week, and the bonsai's had begun to whither, but Sherlock attended to them as soon as they got back and they've perked up nicely, almost as if they want to oblige.
John has an idea, a memory that has come to him over the past days. When he'd been little Harry had bought a small pot plant from the nearby garden centre, but despite her best efforts the thing had begun to wilt and die. When she'd gone to their mother she'd told her that to help plants grow you have to talk to them.
It's an old wives' tale, he knows, but perhaps, if he just suggests it…
Sherlock is in the lounge, flicking through a book contentedly. John has the surgery in an hour, but he makes enough tea and toast for two and takes it through. Sherlock waves an absentminded greeting as John sits opposite him and pushes toast in his general direction.
Sherlock glances up and inclines his head. John takes a breath, glancing over at the row of tiny trees, visible through the archway that separates the kitchen and the dining room.
"You do know, to help plants grow, you're supposed to talk to them."
He says it naturally, delicately, but Sherlock's bristling in an instant, ready to attack. John doesn't try and look innocent – he just gently pecks Sherlock on the ear and stands up to go. "Just think about it, yeah?"
Sherlock presses his lips together, but nods. John smiles.
Sherlock sits for a long time after John leaves, looking at the trees and thinking. He weighs all the options, one after the other, and thinks.
On the one hand, he knows his fear is stupid. John probably won't get hurt if he goes up to the trees and says something to them. On the other, there's still a chance he might. It's a very small chance, a chance that goes pretty much with every day life, but it might be there. Sherlock has never been superstitious, but he doesn't think it's worth it to jinx the situation.
Then again, he wants the trees to grow. John's myth holds a grain of truth – carbon dioxide from his breath would help the trees to photosynthesise and grow, but he could just as easily stand and breathe on them.
He wants John to stop worrying about him, he wants to open his mouth and talk, but he can't quite bring himself to, not with John out of the flat, maybe in danger without either of them knowing it. Sherlock goes so far as to stand up and walk over to the trees; he even opens his mouth, but then he decides no.
At the same time, he doesn't want to give up. He's never really been that kind of person.
He says to himself he'll try when John is back, but he won't let him know – he doesn't want to get John's hopes up, and he wants to be able to keep an eye on them. It's an ideal compromise, one he feels pleased with.
For now he fills the sink with water and begins to soak the trees again.
John returns from the surgery with another tree – he knows this is getting ridiculous, but he can't help it; he likes them. And this one is slightly different, a miniature pine that'll probably take far more maintenance than he has time for.
Sherlock doesn't seem to be there, which worries him at first, until he sees the note taped to the table – Went for a nap. Please don't disturb. Sherlock.
It's unusual for Sherlock to sleep in the day, if at all, but John takes the whole thing in his stride and places the tree on the table. The pine is bigger than the other bonsai trees, and he doubts it'll fit there for long, but for now it'll have to do. Sooner or later, if that man with the cart stays on the route from his work to home, their home is going to be full of greenery. The thought appeals to him.
He automatically checks for the others, and is surprised when he sees they're gone. Sherlock probably has them in his room; the thought of Sherlock asleep, surrounded by miniature trees, makes him smile.
It's just then his mobile rings, and he glances at the caller – Lestrade. It's odd for him to ring John, but Sherlock sometimes misses his text alert – no point in ringing him now – if he's really tired.
"Hello?" he says, tucking the phone under his ear and reaching for a yoghurt, in case he isn't able to eat for the next twenty-four hours or so.
"I've got a case," says Lestrade; it sounds like bad reception, and his voice crackles. "Locked doors and windows, dead body, the usual. The forensics can't make anything of it. It's probably ridiculously simple, but we could use his help, if he's not too proud to haul himself over."
"I'll ask him," John replies, his voice slightly muffled by the yoghurt he's cramming into it. He passes through the corridor to Sherlock's room, and hesitates for a second. He can't hear anything from behind the door, but Sherlock always wants to hear about cases – surely he won't mind being woken for that?
He knocks on the door twice and waits. The response is surprisingly fast, and Sherlock opens it irritably. He doesn't look sleepy, and he's still wearing his clothes, but John doesn't register it properly, gesturing at the phone.
"Lestrade. Got a case with locked windows no-one can make sense of."
Sherlock tips his head on one side, thinking for a second, then nods. John's glad – it'll do him some good to get out of the flat.
"Right. Yeah Lestrade, we should be there soon."
As he takes the address Sherlock emerges from his room with the bonsais and, one by one, returns them to the table.
The case is easy, but Sherlock recognises it as one of those ones where normal people simply can't fathom the answers. A quick scan of the body and flat and a single lab test tell him who the killer is, and he writes it down on a piece of paper and hands it to Lestrade before leaving. Simple – Anderson and Donovan aren't even there to harass him.
John is quiet on the way back, probably tired and hungry, and he doesn't say much back at the flat, apart from to ask Sherlock what he wants to eat. They order a Chinese and munch whilst watching crap telly. It's nice, and he and John sit next to each other on the sofa and swap the bits of the meal they don't like. It's no different from before, only John has his arm around Sherlock's waist and Sherlock sometimes kisses him on the ear when he feels like it.
John goes to bed late, which Sherlock knows he'll regret when he has to get up in the morning. Sherlock searches the internet for interesting cases, but finds nothing. Since Moriarty's death the crime rate, or at least the worthwhile crime rate, has dropped significantly, which also means their income has dropped. People never want to pay for the mundane.
But right now is a perfect time to practice.
He'd been about to earlier, after John got back, but then Lestrade had called. He'd noticed the new tree as well, and deduced a lot about the previous owner in a single glance, but now he decides to go through and have a closer look.
The pine tree watches him, it seems, and he looks carefully back. It's dark here, and the dark provides a sort of safety no-one else seems to feel – it's quiet and no-one can see him. Here, he feels he can do anything.
He's resolved to do it. He opens his mouth, looks straight at the tree and tries to force his voice past his lips. All that comes out, to his disappointment, is a hollow croak, and then the panic sets in, shooting through him like cold lightning. He turns and runs, away from the tree, terrified that John's heart will have stopped beating in his sleep and that he'll be left alone in the flat forever.
He bursts through the door and John sits up with a jerk, Sherlock can tell it's something leftover from the army, the ability to wake so quickly, but then he's in John's arms and holding him, pressing his face against John's neck and trembling like an idiot, unable to stop himself.
"Sherlock?" John mutters, holding him tightly. "Sherlock, what is it? Are you alright?"
He takes a deep breath and nods, wrapping John tightly in his arms. John holds him for a second then reaches for the light, flooding the room with a yellowish glow. Sherlock feels stupid now he can see John's perfectly fine – there was no need to wake him.
"Did you have another bad dream?" He shakes his head in reply, John's hair tickling the side of his face.
John pushes him back and looks straight into his eyes, concerned and unhappy. "What is it? You can tell me Sherlock, I promise."
Sherlock hesitates, but then decides – he has to tell John. It's hard with the limited vocabulary stretched between the two of them, but he spells out vital words John doesn't know.
'I wanted to try and talk. You told me to talk to the trees, and I tried, but then I got so scared that he'd actually kill you if I did.'
John doesn't laugh at him. John takes his hand and rubs his fingers over the knuckles very gently. "He's dead. I'm safe."
'I know. I'm sorry.'
"Don't be Sherlock, wait…" Sherlock stops in the middle of shuffling away, and turns. "We can…we can try together if you want."
Sherlock tips his head on one side, unsure of what John means. John takes his hand again and leads him through to the kitchen, and he lets himself be lead, even though he doesn't like it usually. John leads him to the kitchen, switches on the light and points to one of the trees, the one in the yellow pot.
"Go on. Try. I'm going to stay right here, and I'm going to hold your hand. That way you know I'm safe."
He knows John is humouring him, just doing his best, but he really, really wants to make John happy, and if speaking will do that he wants to try.
He looks at the plant, back at John, and then at the plant again. Its branches are like hundreds of tiny little veins, like the ones that coat lungs in pathways and branch out and out. John holds his hand tightly, and Sherlock grips it back, opens his mouth again.
It's like jumping off a diving board – you do it and then you wonder what on earth you've done.
It's a word, a single word, the first one that comes to his head, and as soon as it's out of his mouth he panics and whips round to face John, half-expecting him to be bleeding, but he isn't; John's smiling. He releases Sherlock's hand and steps forwards, wrapping his arms around Sherlock's waist and resting his head on his chest.
Sherlock grins and buries his nose in John's hair, breathing deeply; he repeats the word, it's so easy now, so easy now he knows nothing is going to happen.
"Yeah. I'm here."
"I love you John."
It's the first time he's said it out loud, but it won't be the last.
Thanks for reading! Reviews welcome.
Sorry if this is awful. I never actually intended to do a sequel to Scream, and this was one of the hardest things I've ever written.