"What was her name?" Sherlock asked quietly.

Lestrade looked up at him from the body of the young girl on the ground. "Why?"

"What was her name?" Sherlock repeated.

Lestrade frowned. "Eliana Miller."

"Can you spell that?" he asked, scratching on his notepad.

Lestrade looked confused, but obeyed without asking any more questions. The photographers were finishing up, and the coroner was moving in to zip her up in a bag and take her away.

Sherlock apologized to her silently.

I'll make it up to you.

With that, Sherlock was done, nodding to Lestrade. The DI would let him know the results of the autopsy, which would no doubt show the stab wound as the cause of death. The interrogation would be dull, and Sherlock didn't even want to know the outcome of that.

He couldn't help but wish he'd beaten the man to death. Perhaps then he wouldn't have to do it.

No, he realized, he still would. But he'd feel better.

He took a cab home, coat collar turned up.

What if.

What if John was with him, instead of at home with his pregnant wife? What if he'd taken the tube instead of a cab to where the girl was being held? What if he went left instead of right when the hallway split? What if he'd realized the reagent he needed to determine the kidnapper's location sooner? What if Molly wasn't off sick with the flu, and she'd been the one to do the autopsies on the previous victims instead of some spotted boy Sherlock didn't know?

Would Eliana Miller still be alive?

Sherlock hated that he could never know.

He paid the cabbie without a word (didn't try to kill him, always a nice surprise) and headed up to the flat. His flat. No longer their flat.

He could hear Mrs Hudson bustling around, likely in her kitchen, but couldn't deal with her at the moment. He had things to do.

He chose the upper thigh. Right, outside. A bit tricky to get to with his right hand, but he could make do. He certainly wasn't going to do it with the left hand, he'd end up with something illegible.

And he couldn't do that to her.

Her name was relatively easy. Mostly straight lines, not many letters with curves, making it easier for him to drag the scalpel across his skin. (Gabriella Monroe was particularly hard, lots of curving, lots of tearing rather than cutting.)

It didn't take him long, and he dabbed at the area with sterile gauze. (He wasn't stupid. He knew how to avoid getting an infection.)

When the bleeding slowed, and finally stopped, he taped a fresh piece of gauze down, just to be safe. He'd bled on his pyjama pants before. Never again. He rinsed the scalpel and set it aside to be sterilized again. He lived in hopes of never needing it again, but that was far too optimistic. Sherlock was a realist.

Within a week it would be comfortably scabbed over, by the end of the second it would be pink new tissue, by the end of the month it would only be a scar. He knew from previous experience that he healed quickly. He'd done it enough times.

The first time was the hardest. He started out fine, with the craft knife he'd taken from school, held under a bunsen burner flame until the metal glowed. The first cut was shaky, and he'd lost his nerve by the end of 'Powers' so it hadn't scarred. But 'Carl' was still clearly visible on his left calf. The 'C' was wobbly, but it was the first name he'd done. By no means was it his first cut, but the first one that he'd used to make sense of things, to keep track of things he wanted to delete, and yet, remember.

Carl was the first. (He didn't fail to save Carl, not really, but he failed to reveal the truth of what happened to him. He rationalized it to himself, of course, he was only a child himself, why would anyone listen to him? But he still did it.) No more names had come for a long time after that, until he nearly overdosed, and the boy next to him did. (He wasn't sure why, or how, but he felt responsible for it.)

Then after he got clean and began working with Lestrade, he failed far too much for his liking. In fact, just before he met John, he calculated at the rate he was going, he'd run out of skin before he died, and that was with his realistically low life expectancy taken into account.

But after John... Sherlock didn't know what it was about the man, but he made Sherlock better. The flow of names slowed, and Sherlock calculated that he would die without every inch of his skin covered in scarred names. There were still people he failed to save of course, because no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't be perfect, but John Watson made him better.

Soo Lin. The elderly woman. (He thought for a while about putting The Woman's name somewhere near his heart, but that was too sentimental. In the end he hadn't decided by the time she came back to life, only a week later.)

He thought about putting his own name there too, since he did fail to save himself. But then he'd also have to put John's name, since he failed to save John. Just not in the most obvious way. (Making him watch was cruel, so cruel, but he had to-)

It had crossed his mind to carve 'freak' or 'failure' in his skin instead, but that would just make him angry, all the time. Instead he carved the names of the people he didn't save in his skin instead, to inspire him. To motivate him. To make sure the next time he would be better.

(It hadn't worked yet.)