Title: Like A Child Trying Not To Step On Cracks (Or 5 Times Sherlock Holmes Was Afraid)

Author/Artist: Inclination

Character/Pairing: Sherlock Holmes

Fandom: Sherlock (TV Series)

Theme: #24, fight/flight

And it's hard to take control when your enemy's old and afraid of you,

You discover that the monster you were running from is the monster in you,

Better to hold on to love,

Change will come.

-Darkness, Darren Hayes

i)

Mycroft had told him not to step on the cracks.

It might have been a game. Mycroft likes to play games, and most of the time Sherlock doesn't understand them. Mummy would always say, "Mycroft, don't tease your brother," and Sherlock would think, it was just a game? and Mycroft would smile and smile and smile. Sherlock doesn't have any reason for not stepping on the cracks, apart from that Mycroft has told him to, but somehow, he doesn't want to take the risk.

Sherlock isn't very sure whether he likes Mycroft an awful lot; he always looks like he knows something Sherlock doesn't, and that makes Sherlock feel a little bit uneasy, and a little bit jealous. Sherlock much prefers to know things that other people don't know. It gives him a warm, tight feeling in his chest, like he has a secret that no-one else could know.

Sherlock doesn't like people very much. He especially doesn't like coming into the city. In the city, there are people everywhere, and smells, and noise, and it makes it too hard to think. Normal people don't think the way that we do, Mycroft says, but Sherlock thinks that he didn't know how to think any other way. He isn't really sure what 'normal' is, other than it's something that isn't him.

Sherlock holds Mummy's hand as they walk briskly through the streets of London. Mummy's heels go click click click against the pavement. Sherlock concentrates on the sound and doesn't step on the cracks.

ii)

Sherlock wakes up in hospital. He doesn't open his eyes, or think, "Where am I?" or "What am I doing here?". He already knows the answers to both of those questions. Rather, he lets his mind drift through a blissful blankness that it doesn't usually experience. It's almost disconcerting.

After a while, Sherlock is aware of someone entering the room. Mycroft, probably, by the foot falls.

"Good. You're awake."

Yes, Mycroft. Sherlock doesn't open his eyes. Mycroft has just gotten a job working in some minor, obscure Government position, and is probably wearing some dreadful, bland suit, which seems to be the uniform of civil servants, and a smug expression. Dull, Sherlock thinks, dull dull dull. so dull I could almost die.

"You almost did," Mycroft interrupts, "Mummy is very, very upset Sherlock."

Sherlock says nothing. There is a sigh, and the click of a door handle. Mycroft leaves.

Sherlock opens his eyes. The hospital room is generic, and clean, and a garish shade of yellow which is brighter than it has any right to be. There is an IV sticking into his arm, and Sherlock deliberates pulling it out; someone else will only put it back in.

Sherlock sits up, carefully, and looks at his left forearm; observes with fascination where cold metal slips under his skin, and into his veins, not so dissimilar from the way it did last night. Humans really are pitiful, he thinks, entirely breakable.

He lies back in bed, feeling the mild irritation crawling back into his veins, the constant itching for the next rush. More, Sherlock things, I'll do more tonight. A small smile spreads across his face. He wonders how far he can push it; how far he can until he breaks himself all together. It makes the bottom of his stomach drop in a not entirely unpleasant way.

iii)

It hurts.

Sherlock feels as if his brain is liquidising himself inside his head and pouring itself out of his ears and eyes and nose. He's never felt like this before, never experienced such bone-shaking terror, and never thought he would have to. He's scared, he's afraid, but he doesn't know of what. It's like there's a monster in his brain, and for the first time in his life, his thoughts don't bring delightful enlightenment but rather pain and hurt, and he wishes he could just stop thinking altogether and succumb to the blackness.

It wasn't supposed to be this difficult, giving it up. He was supposed to be able to stop if he wanted, when he wanted. But it got the point when he couldn't, where the burning obsession was taking over, making all other thoughts secondary, chasing rationality out of his brain, and that had been when he knew it had to stop.

Only stopping was worse. He hands shook, and his brain downright refused to work as it should and he felt sick to his stomach. He gave back into his bodies demands more than once.

He knows he won't this time. He's already decided that that part of his life has to end; he's destroyed the last of his stash (hidden in the spare teapot) and the needles and syringes and everything tainted by it, rolled down his sleeves to hide the almost-invisible pinpricks on his arms, has bitten the bullet, and gone cold turkey.

It hurts like hell. His blood burns under his skin, his body convulses and shakes; he cries and his nose runs. He vaguely remembers being sick, more than once. Disengaged thoughts fly through his head; he feels as if he is floating, simply watching his body below him, only it hurts too badly for that to even be possible. He is dying. He's sure of it.

iv)

Sherlock meets Mycroft for coffee. Or rather, Sherlock sits down in a coffee shop, and Mycroft appears at his shoulder approximately thirty seconds later, smiling that irritating smile of his.

"Good afternoon," Mycroft greets him.

"Putting on weight again?" Sherlock asks, and Mycroft grimaces. "You've gained a good six pounds since I last saw you."

"Government troubles," Mycroft answers, and Sherlock raises his eyebrows, but says nothing.

The silence continues, both parties too stubborn to break it; it is charged with too many things left unsaid for too many years, however, it also contains an odd kind of familiarity. Mycroft delicately clears his throat.

"I assume you're finally clean then?"

Sherlock's back stiffens; he should have known, of course that's what Mycroft would want, always prying. That particular... experience was too painful to warrant thinking about without a very good reason, and Mycroft did not happen to be a reason good enough. Sherlock's fingers twitch – he aches to have his violin in his hand, the music a careful barrier between himself and his brother's annoying habit of getting too close for comfort.

"Yes."

"Good. I have been worried about you , you know."

Sherlock smirked, "You've never felt concern for anyone other than yourself in your entire life, I should imagine."

Mycroft's eyes hardened. "Just because you don't have a heart, please don't put others on your own level, Sherlock," he said lightly.

"You say it like it's a bad thing. What use would I have for a heart?"

Mycroft gives an indulgent smile, as if talking to a petulant child. "One day, you'll learn to care about someone. It'll be a miracle for mankind." Sherlock snorts into his coffee, and Mycroft gets up and leaves.

A miracle for mankind. The words stick in Sherlock's head, niggling away irritatingly during dry patches in years to come; in hours of boredom, more than once, Sherlock takes the memory out and inspects it. Is it that strange not to care about people? Sherlock wonders, do normal people care?

He stares out of the window sometimes, watching people crawl past like insects. Who do you care about, normal man? he thinks, then but I am not normal. He snaps the curtains shut with an angry swish.

v)

Sherlock can feel his blood singing through his veins.

His hand is shaking slightly, but it's pure adrenaline. He knows there's a tiny, red dot dancing on his forehead, one that is identical to the one he can see on John's head. There's a bomb on the floor, and the pungent smell of chlorine is coating the inside of his throat; he can almost taste it in the air.

Jim Moriarty is stood opposite him, smiling. It's a dare, Sherlock knows, and God, this man is brilliant. Deadly, yes – evil, yes – but brilliant all the same, with a mind like a knife's edge. Where have you been all of my life? Sherlock wants to ask, because now he doesn't care about Moriarty making him dance, about the clues and the puzzles and the threats and the bombs, because it was worth it all, worth it all for this. What a brilliant game, Sherlock thinks, and his finger tightens fractionally on the trigger.

He sees Moriarty's smile widen, just a little – he already knows, Sherlock thinks, he already knows that I mean to do it.

He can see John out of the corner of his eye, and suddenly Sherlock feels an entirely alien feeling settle in the bottom of his stomach – because it isn't just his own life he's gambling with, it's John's life too, and John didn't ask for this, even though Sherlock knows, just knows, that John would follow him to the ends of the Earth.

Thoughts cross Sherlock's mind, but they seem haphazard and disjointed; the decision is already made.

A miracle for mankind.

The fragility of human life.

Will it hurt? Sherlock wonders, will it hurt as badly as coming clean?

Don't step on the cracks, Mycroft had told him. Sherlock smiles; he pulls the trigger.