Even after all this time, Sherlock still doesn't want John to know.
A/N: This is from the same universe as my other fics, but I think it works best as a standalone;
all you need to know is that Sherlock and John are in an established relationship here.
Of course it was important that John not find out, because John, for all his good qualities, was still quite conservative about certain things - rather reductive, generally.
Just because somebody had once told him drugs are bad, he'd swallowed it whole-sale, no discretionary thinking whatsoever. He couldn't comprehend that, for a person with a brain like Sherlock's – an atypical brain, an extraordinary brain – it was possible that different rules might apply.
A genius like Sherlock might be able to handle the judicious application of recreational chemicals – was, in fact, an exceptional student of chemistry, thank you very much. Sherlock had been using irregularly for years and he was fine - Mycroft always overreacted anyway, Mycroft had always wanted to control him - he was fine.
And there were no cases.
A murder, a blackmailing, even an embezzlement – anything was better than this unrelenting monotony. There hadn't been anything in weeks – weeks. Unless you counted that ridiculous purported suicide which had been committed by (of all people) the person that had reported the crime.
Sherlock could feel his brain shriveling even as he paced, he could feel each neuron and synapse drying up, turning brittle and flat, could feel the whole world going slowly grey.
He had experienced dark moods since he was a child. He could remember fits of impotent fury, in school, when people wouldn't give him the credit he deserved, or when he was forced to slow down to a pace that others could understand. The fury of being held back, when he longed to rush ahead.
He'd never had someone to sit with him, and whisper poor Sherlock, and feed him bits of chocolate and rub his back, until John. It was addictive. He wanted John to always stay there, coaxing Sherlock to have a sip of tea, Sherlock, just a sip, for me, there now, that's a good man.
John, who everybody liked and who would probably have only raised Sherlock's ire in school for being thick and ordinary, liking rugby more than chemistry, and having a good laugh with his friends in the corridors after class, while Sherlock hurried to the library with his head bent over his books.
(He'd been blind, thought Sherlock vaguely, now. He hadn't really understood).
But John had a responsibilities, John had patients. John couldn't be there every minute of the day. And it was impossible for his flat mate to really comprehend what it was like, to be under-stimulated - so many things were amusing to John: prime-time tellie, the Daily Sun, secrets about the lives of celebrities … John could be entertained for an entire evening simply by making a new dish for supper.
So now John had gone off to the surgery and Sherlock was left to fend for himself.
The first question was, how to get the drugs? He suspected that Mycroft (that bastard) was still reading his texts, and it was his brother who had seized control of his finances the first time, when he had made an unexpected trip to London and found Sherlock in a stupor on their aged Uncle's antique couch.
So calling or texting any of his old suppliers was out. But did he really dare to go in person, and risk being spotted on one of the interminable cameras that dotted the city?
No, better to summon one of the Irregulars to the flat and hope they understood the coded charge to buy only quality product. Someone trustworthy, somebody who wouldn't steal the money themselves, or be arrested making the exchange.
There was only a short list of homeless people who were steady enough for the task, and Sherlock texted what he hoped was his best candidate – a solid woman named Marta, who was likely quite aware of the drug trade given her occupation as a prostitute, but who could probably be trusted to return with the drugs if she was promised twice the value of the sale as payment.
For the hour after he sent the text, Sherlock paced.
John had moved in during an active period of cases, many of which (Sherlock realized now, with the benefit of hindsight) could be connected directly back to Moriarty. Therefore he hadn't felt the urge to use nearly so often, except for one rather fabulous weekend when John had gone to a medical conference in Leeds and Sherlock had enjoyed a guilt-free festival of excess.
In fact, for a while, he'd almost believed he was done with the black moods, allowed himself to hope they would never return.
But now there were no cases.
It's just - sometimes he needed them, the drugs. His brain would overheat without them, he would all go to black, that was best to be avoided, and really it was perfectly safe if you knew what you were doing.
Which he did.
Marta came to the door with a package and a smile that seemed to say, we are really the same kind of creature, you and I, and given Sherlock's history with prostitutes and prostitution it really seemed better to say nothing. Sherlock paid her precisely what he'd promised and waited impatiently for her to leave, barely registering the loss of another month's rent - but it would be fine, John understood that a consulting detective had a very irregular income, feast or famine, it was perfectly fine.
All this fuss over nothing, thought Sherlock, taking the packets of powder and laying them out on the coffee table.
It just wasn't fair - John used chemicals to treat people all the time, and just because some were legal and some weren't, that didn't necessarily mean anything. If they'd lived a hundred years ago, cocaine would have been sold at the druggists, so would that make it okay then?
These things were all just constructs, they were meaningless, it should be up to Sherlock what he felt was legitimate or not. Frankly, to get technical about it, shooting a man with a Browning was illegal too, wasn't it? Not to mention various other things they'd done since then, all of which had turned out fine in the end. So don't go telling Sherlock what was legal and what wasn't, and expect that to mean something to him.
… But John would be so angry, if he knew.
John wouldn't know: that was why he had only bought one or two doses, so he wouldn't be forced to conceal it around the flat, where John might run into it on one of his cleaning binges. He would use it now, and by the time John came back from work he'd be merely languid and relaxed, finally free of all the tension he'd built up.
He was an adult. He could choose to use drugs if he wanted to. He certainly didn't need John's approval to make a decision. And it was only cocaine. He had promised he wouldn't cut with morphine again, not with the withdrawal he'd gone through last time.
[He could remember, vaguely, the sweating, the crying (involuntary, entirely), the terrible cramping of his intestines, the bone aches, the exquisite sensitivity to pain, the goosebumps, his nose streaming, the hot flashes. He'd soaked through the sheets completely and lain in the mess until Lestrade, of all people, had found him that way, hours later.]
It wouldn't be like that again.
Sherlock laid out a line of white powder.
Then sat back, his hands steepled. For what seemed like hours he sat, concentrating. His fingers had begun to tremble and he realized he had begun to salivate. It wasn't that he needed it, he just wanted it so badly.
It was harmless (but John wouldn't like it). It would make him feel better (but there would be such a fuss if people found out - Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, bloody Mycroft).
He was desperate for the way it would make him feel.
He let his head drop down to rest in one hand, cradling his own forehead. His other hand reached instinctively for his pocket, feeling the smooth edges of his phone, testing its weight. It was cool under his fingertips.
Without looking, he hit redial.
"Sherlock?" John's voice was tinny at the other end of the line.
For a long time he didn't answer, long enough that by all rights John should have hung up. But he didn't.
Finally Sherlock pulled the phone out of his pocket and brought it to his mouth.
"John," he said at last, almost whispering. "John, you need to come home." No, that wasn't coming out right. "Please come home," he tried again.
There was a measuring pause and Sherlock expected him to say that he couldn't, he was too busy, the work was too important. But instead John's voice came back, steady and calm.
"Alright Sherlock, I'm leaving now. Here I am checking out at the desk, and now I'm walking out the front door into the street. Stay on the phone with me, okay? I'm going to catch the bus at the corner. I can see it at the end if the street now so I'm jogging to catch it. Bit awkward, in these shoes, and with my bag. Everything's jiggling. I'm pretty sure people are laughing at me."
John didn't ask any questions. He just continued to narrate the bus ride home: "Just passing Cavendish now," he said. "Caught up in traffic on Wigmore again. Looks like they're doing construction. Ooh, there's a sale at Harrods. New advert on the corner of Weymouth."
Sherlock squeezed his eyes tight shut to listen, blocking out the room and the table and everything but John's voice.
"Lots of people waiting at the stop at Marleybone. Takes forever when they have to queue up, why didn't anybody take the tube today? … Next stop is mine, just a minute here."
Soon, Sherlock promised himself.
"I'm at the front step, just coming up," said John at last, and Sherlock looked up to watch the handle of the door turn from the outside.
"Alright," said John, coming to kneel down in front of Sherlock where he was sitting on the couch, blocking his view of the coffee table. "Okay, Sherlock." He leaned back on his heels to take Sherlock's hands in his own.
John would leave him now, thought Sherlock. Not right away, but eventually. He'd start to question Sherlock's authority, wouldn't follow his lead on cases anymore. Wouldn't let him get away with anything – not if he thought Sherlock's reasoning might be compromised. He wouldn't trust Sherlock anymore.
It was one thing to know that Sherlock had his dark spells, that was bad enough, but now that he knew about the drugs –
It was over.
"You're shaking, Sherlock. Have you eaten anything?"
"No," said Sherlock, pathetically humble. Maybe, if he was very good, John would stay. It could never be like it was, of course, but maybe they could paste together a new, rickety thing, a relationship based on Sherlock admitting he was wrong and doing what John wanted.
If only John wouldn't leave.
"Christ, your hands are ice. Why don't you go take a shower, warm up. This," he motioned to the coffee table. "This is going straight in the incinerator."
"No," said Sherlock weakly, "John, don't."
"Shut it, Sherlock. I don't want to hear it. Up with you." But he took Sherlock under the arms like always, pulling him up out of the seat, his fingers twisted in the belt loops of Sherlock's trousers because he was too short to serve as a good counter-balance to Sherlock's weight. Sherlock let his head drop onto John's shoulder, and John didn't push him away, for a long time.
"Right. Go on, then."
So Sherlock went to the washroom and stood on the rug, still partially dressed in his shirt and slippers. He felt as though he was floating outside of himself, like a puppet with its strings cut, or a machine with no instructions.
"Oi," said John, coming in behind him. "Try turning on the taps."
Sherlock heard the distinctive slither of clothing as John undressed, and then fingers were tugging on the buttons of his shirt, turning him to unfasten them one by one, before it was pushed off his arms entirely. Warm hands took his shoulders and turned him to the tub. "Step out of your slippers, that's it, that's right." He was steered under the showerhead, which was suddenly spouting water.
Sherlock didn't like it under the spray – it felt tepid to him – but John hustled him in and out, raising one of his hands to shade Sherlock's eyes from the water. Slowly he felt the water heat up, or perhaps it was him warming under the water. "There you go," murmured John, "it's alright now. Alright, Sherlock."
John pulled him out of the tub and had him quickly wrapped in a thick towel, rubbing his hair rather vigorously dry with another.
"Bed with you," said John. "You're as white as a sheet, are you hungry at all?"
Sherlock numbly shook his head. He couldn't imagine eating anything now.
"Right, first thing in the morning, then." Too tired to argue, Sherlock nodded. He couldn't seem to think straight, but that was alright – John could be depended upon, to do it for him. Lovely, steady John.
"I'm – sorry," said Sherlock, obeying the arm tugging him up the stairs into John's little-used old bedroom. His towel was unceremoniously stripped away so that he was naked, naked with his chicken-white skin rising up in goosebumps. But it was only a second before he was being settled down on the bed, a quilt tucked around his shoulders.
"Shh," said John. "We can talk about it tomorrow. You look knackered."
He was carefully studying Sherlock's body, looking – Sherlock realized after a beat – looking for the marks of a needle.
"I didn't," said Sherlock. "I didn't use."
But John had evidently decided to use his own judgment here, and although he patted Sherlock's thigh reassuringly, he continued his inspection. In the webs of Sherlock's fingers, behind his knees, which he lifted and gently bent back against Sherlock's chest, in a position that reminded Sherlock of other things they could be doing.
Sherlock let him do as he wanted, even though it put him on display with his genitals cold and sad against his thigh.
"Do you know how they make cocaine?" asked John, absentmindedly, lifting one Sherlock's over-large feet, which he held like something precious, and spreading his toes.
Sherlock had heard him ramble on like this a thousand times, to put his patient's at ease; Now, let me just have a look here – so, did you catch the Tottenham match? 5 over Man U they were, I just saw the last five minutes – ah, there we are, it's not a sprain, just badly bruised …
"C-17,H-21,NO-4," Sherlock muttered. "From plants of the erythroxylon genus." He was a chemist, after all.
"They take the dry leaves and sprinkle them with powdered cement, to start," said John. "Then they soak that mix in barrels of gasoline for a day, and then they press the liquid out. Then they add a bucket of battery acid and powdered caustic soda, and they run it through a cloth. Of course, this is all before it gets transported across the border up somebody's rectum."
Sherlock rolled his eyes at this unnecessary crudity.
"This is what you wanted to put it your body," said John, mildly, as if they were discussing the weather. "I'm not even talking about the additives they put in it … baby powder, if you're lucky, but it could also be rat poison."
"You're talking about it," Sherlock pointed out, feeling more like himself.
"Or horse laxatives. Or drain cleaner."
"And I suppose you know all the potential side effects … renal failure, pulmonary and systemic eosinophilia, kidney diseases, hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke … "
"John, this really isn't necessary."
"… Panic attacks, paranoia, psychosis …"
John managed to haul himself back. "Sorry," he said.
"I didn't take it," said Sherlock. "I haven't taken any, in, " (months) "years." He sighed. "I just - I just get so bored, sometimes."
"Macramé," John suggested. "I'm begging you. Or do the crossword, play online poker, watch some porn. Christ, plan a murder – anything other than this."
"You'd really rather I kill someone … ?"
"Well, I didn't say carry it out," said John. Apparently satisfied with his inspection, he reached for thick woolen blanket, which he spread over the bed. "Here, now," he said, tucking the edges down around Sherlock's side. "Sleep, Sherlock."
He sat on the edge of the mattress, and Sherlock doubted it was an accident that John's weight pinned down the blankets.
"You're not going to use," John whispered. "I'm not going to let you. It'll be alright, you'll see."
"I don't know," said Sherlock.
John's hand cupped his cheek, lifting his face up to check his expression, then stroked his hair back from his forehead, gently pressing his head against the pillow. "Go to sleep," he said.
John laid down next to him on the bed, sliding close enough that Sherlock could feel the line of him through the blanket. "Bit better?"
"Maybe," said Sherlock, into the pillow. "A bit."
"No more of this," John said, close to his ear. "You're going to stop this nonsense, you're too smart for this. Idiot." But his hands were warm and steady, holding Sherlock's pieces together, and it didn't seem like he was preparing to let go.
Sherlock rolled so their foreheads were pressed together, as if he could offload some of the painful buzzing thoughts that hammered his skull, and take in John's nice quiet reflections instead.
He had never in his life wanted anybody else's thoughts in his head.
"Why do you want to be with me," he asked. "What could you possibly be getting out of this?"
John kissed his forehead and tugged him in closer to the animal heat of his body. "I love you, you dolt," he said, pulling at Sherlock's ear the way he liked to do. Sherlock turned his face into the pillow to avoid further tugging. Obligingly John stroked the short hairs at the back of his neck instead. "How can you possibly have missed that for all this time? Are you a genius, or what?"
The tone was fond.
Sherlock tipped his head back in case John wanted to kiss him. John, it seemed, was not averse.
"Close your eyes," said John. "Go on."
So Sherlock did, and John rewarded him by tracing his features with a gentle finger – smoothing down his bushy eyebrows, the line of tension on his forehead, circling his temples.
"How am I supposed to sleep if you're touching me?" Sherlock grumbled, but he notably did not move away. John's affection was like a warm ball in his stomach, spreading slowly outwards as he concentrated on it, to his fingertips. Greedily, Sherlock curled around that ball and squeezed it.
"I'm sorry," said John. "I should have seen how bad it was getting. I knew you were struggling - I shouldn't have left you. Next time I'll stay with you, okay?"
Sherlock's mind clacked away like a computer, recording each sensation; the faint scratch of wool where it brushed against his cheek; the dips and folds of the wallpaper where the plaster buckled. The distant whir and hum of London, a million voices shouting and laughing and crying out. But Sherlock was far away in a quiet room, and John was there, his eyes attentively fixed on Sherlock's face, and it was close and warm under the blankets.
"Okay," he said.