IX: Disaster Button

Hit that button there,
The one that just says 'wrong'.
We'll lose our lives through all our favourite songs.

We're broken. That much I can tell. Too much has been said, and neither of us can take any of it back, and we don't want to. It's good, though, this new understanding of where we truly are; we'd never vocalised it before now, there was always just this silent understanding that whatever we are – were – will never really work, however much we clutch at it. But now it's good. I'm free. And I'm his.

I don't really know how I ended up here, standing outside this imposing gleaming black-varnished door. The numbers are branded into my mind, burning across my vision, and I wonder for a second if two-hundred-and-twenty-one is going to be the only thing I ever see from now on. The brass knocker above the letterbox shimmers dully in the fading London light, filled with smog and broken promises. Toxic. I shudder and reach out but the door is already opening. A woman steps out, tired but pretty; brown hair slung up in a loose ponytail, curling at the ends, chocolate eyes that are darker than my own but somehow appear to be just as dead. There is the soft fading yellow of a bruise along her left cheek. A handprint, I can almost see the fingerprints along her skin. As I study her, he appears at the door, his expression strained, his posture set in forced nonchalance but before he can let himself close the door and let go of whatever emotion he is holding back, it breaks free of him and he takes a step towards her saying one word, a name. Molly. She doesn't look back.

It's only after she has rounded the corner that he sees me, but even so, it feels like he is looking straight through me. His gaze is vague, his expression changeable, as if he is trying to control whatever emotion it is that is threatening to contort that beautiful face of his. I take a step towards him, following the short path to his doorstep, but he doesn't move. He just keeps staring after her, as if she is still there. As I draw closer, I can see that his lips are parted slightly, mouthing something incomprehensible that I dare to think might be her name. It's one of the few times in my life when I have wished to be wrong. He leans down to kiss me, but it's perfunctory; just some twisted form of a bad habit that he's trying to give up. A vice – like smoking – that debilitates him, leaving him unsatisfied and guilty. I think it breaks whatever is left of my heart.

It seems that I've swapped one silent argument for another. But I step past the imposing mahogany door anyway. I suppose I must be a sucker for punishment, even if I'm not sure what I've done to deserve it.

"So you left him." It's not a question.

"Yes. What was she doing here?" We walk into his bedroom. I ignore the clutter as always. It doesn't feel homely.

He ignores it. "I thought so. You looked determined. It was only a matter of time. You just couldn't handle it."

I open my mouth to speak but he cuts across my unspoken indignation. "Oh, don't look at me like that. It was too much for you. That's why you came to me. You can pretend all you want that you're doing this for some sort of release, some 'getting out of my skin' sort of adventure. We both know it's a lie. You need me, Rose."

I open my mouth again, but there's no point; Sherlock Holmes is talking so everyone else had better shut up and listen. It makes me sick.

"So what happens now? You think I'm going to replace him? Fill some hole in your aching heart and raging hormones? I'm not him. I don't want to be. I'm not cut out to be domestic, it's not me."

"No."

"So…what? What, Rose? Why are you here? You leave him and come running straight to me. Why?"

This is too much and everything finally comes spilling out again. Verbal incontinence. It's becoming something of a habit for me.

"Look, don't take your personal crap out on me! You're just pissed off because 'Little Miss Domestic Abuse' didn't want to stick around! I saw the bruise on her cheek, Sherlock. You think I want that? You just can't handle that you have feelings. Real, proper, human emotions like everyone else, and you hate it because it makes you normal and that's something you've always dreaded being. You wanted me because I was an uncomplicated fuck. I was unhappy, and it was easy for you to psycho-analyse me, which gives you some pathetic sense of one-upmanship. Well I don't want it, Sherlock. I'm in this for simplicity too. You were the one who told me that you love me. Or have you forgotten that?"

The silence between us is heated, some almost-tangible electricity hanging in the air between us. We both breathe heavily, fully aware that tactful honesty isn't either of our strong points. He crosses the room in two strides, pressing his lips against mine and tumbling us onto the mussed sheets. I only wonder for a second if she had a hand in messing them up. The spark of jealousy is too much. I shut it out…for now, at least.

His fingertips skitter across the bare skin of my arm as we lie side by side, resolutely not looking at each other. The calm is anything but peaceful; so many unspoken things jostling to be said. It's really just a question of whose resolve will break first.

"He let me break her. That's what kills me. The bastard let me break her…and I can't even blame him for it." His voice is bitter and I'm taken aback; I've never heard him talk like this…but then again, I've never really heard him talk. Not normally, not humanly. I wonder if this is what it would have been like with Him…to watch him shatter and to be unable to pick up the pieces. Humanity has never been a strong point in either of them. Maybe that's why I'm so inexplicably drawn to them; maybe I just enjoy the challenge, breaking down the fortress walls, understanding their alienation.

But the moment is over almost as quickly as it began and I never find out who 'He' is. His long, slim fingers trace lines along my leg and suddenly he's making me writhe again, his fingers moving with that painfully detached sense of concentration that he wears so well and that I just can't seem to resist. It brings me home, even as it drives me further away. As his fingers dance across my over-sensitive skin, I realise that I want to touch him but I can't, because this moment is his and he's lost in another woman, just as I'm dreaming of another man with the same long, slim fingers and careful demeanour. I need his arrogance, I need it to bring me crashing back to Earth because I can't stay in this fantasy of memories and still stay sane. I don't love him, in the same way that he doesn't love me; we just need each other, we need this moment of loss and we need to recreate it again and again because it's the only way we can live with ourselves.

Sometimes I hate him. But that's ok; I think the feeling is mutual.