John was sitting across from his therapist, deliberately keeping his arms apart so she wouldn't accuse him of being 'closed' or 'defensive'.
"I'm glad you decided to return, John."
"Well, under the circumstances…"
"Your friend's de-."
"Right." John cut her off. He didn't want to hear her say anything about Sherlock, let alone that.
"So, how have you been spending your time?"
Conversation between John and Greg
"I gotta ask, since you're asking me all these questions," said Lestrade. "Did you ever ask Sherlock about his drug history? You had just met him, right? When we had that first case?"
"Oh, yeah, with your fake-but-not-really drugs bust?"
"That's the one. Your reaction cracked me up. So did you ever bring it up with him?"
"No, there just never seemed to be a good time, seeing as it was only a short while before I had sort of accused him of possibly being a serial killer and then he was off with the real killer and then he was…just…being Sherlock."
"Yeah, that alone really discourages conversation."
"Doesn't mean I didn't wonder about it, whether he'd been an addicted and to what – some people use but they don't get hooked, though it sounds like that was not the case for him."
Greg shook his head, agreeing with John's assessment.
"You're looking a little tired," said John. "Do you want a break from all of this?"
"No, no, don't worry about it. Besides, we've only got a bit before the part of the story where you show up, and I figure you can take it from there."
Sherlock is playing the violin. There's an occasional wrong note here and there, but he's really, really good, the quality of each note is just exceptional. Lestrade's tastes don't usually tend toward the hoity-toity, so classical music is not precisely his forte, but he knows the difference between some grade-schooler scratching away and something that sounds like professional music.
Just one more incredible thing in case Greg forgets to be impressed with him.
Sherlock stops playing quite suddenly, in the middle of the melody, not at a natural stopping point. "You should know," he says, "that I don't, that I am not-" His eyes dart from side to side as if searching for a word. He apparently doesn't find it because he resumes playing from exactly the point where he stopped.
It has been two weeks since Greg overheard Sherlock and his 'dealer'. Since then Sherlock has stayed at his flat about every other night, eyes bloodshot. He is obviously using more heavily.
"I want you to lock me up."
"Well, I'm sure you'll find there are a lot of people out there who want to see you locked up. So how long are you planning." Lestrade turns the page of his newspaper. If he really thinks about what Sherlock is saying, his reaction would be different, but he hasn't had his coffee and it sounds like another crazy plan.
"I believe anywhere from one to four weeks is customary."
Lestrade rewinds the conversation in his mind. "You want to detox?"
"I have weighed all of the variables and I-"
"Sure, I can do that. I'll find you a nice cell down by arson so you won't run into anyone you know."
Sherlock says nothing. Lestrade wonders when his last hit was.
"I've got two conditions," says Lestrade. "First, you tell me exactly what you've been taking for the past year so I've got some idea what your withdrawal is going to look like. Second, I'm being up front with you that I will call in a doctor if I think it's necessary. I'm not asking for your to be cooperative or anything – I'm realistic – I'm just letting you know that it could happen."
"I've taken caffeine, nicotine, ethyl alcohol, cocaine, and heroin."
"Heroin? Fuck! What, did you just do a little internet search for things you could take that would actually be worse for you than cocaine?"
Lestrade knows the term 'speedball'. It's a potent combination of cocaine and heroin, meant to enhance the high and smooth the crash of each constituent drug. It's also the cause of dozens of overdose deaths each year.
"But I last did one of those approximately five weeks ago, so I believe I'm past any withdrawal specifically from the heroin."
"Well, all right then." Lestrade stands. "Let's go."
"No, next Tuesday. Yes, of course right now! Grab a couple blankets. The ones they have there are shit."
"So the Commonwealth does actually have some empty prison cells."
"Well, you know, I set a few arsonists free to make space for you. One of them was pretty clever and he threatened to do it again, so I might have made a new case for you to solve along the way."
"Job security," mused Sherlock.
"Go on, then. Get in there."
Sherlock hesitates at the door to the cell before screwing his eyes upward, breathing deeply, and stepping inside.
"There's a good lad," says Lestrade, "I knew you had it in you."
"I'm entering acute withdrawal and still you insist on tormenting me with your mawkish sentimentality?"
They are six hours in.
Sherlock is pacing restlessly in his cell.
Lestrade is singing along with pretty much anything they play on the radio. Anything.
"Girls who like boys / who like boys to be girls / who do boys like they're girls / who do girls like they're boys"
It's what he always does while he's doing mindless paperwork.
"Brown sugar / how come you taste so good?"
He'd be bored out of his mind otherwise. Irritating Sherlock is fun for Lestrade and it gives Sherlock something to think about other than the cravings.
"Sweet dreams are made of these / who am I to disagree?"
He's not a particularly good singer, but Sherlock does see fit to remark on the impressive breadth of his lyrical repertoire. ("I suspect there is a connection between your remarkable ignorance on matters of criminal deduction and your decision to fill your mind with an incredible array of such nonsense.")
"It ain't me / it ain't me / I ain't no millionaire's son"
"Now you're doing it on purpose! That song isn't even from your era and the grammar is atrocious."
"I've got a half-brother who's fifteen years older than me," says Lestrade. "He made sure I grew up with the classics."
They are twelve hours in.
"Bored. Bored. Bored! Bored! BORED!"
"You're like the opposite of the Incredible Hulk."
"I neither know nor care what you're referring to."
"Oh, it was a comic book when I was a boy. He always says, 'You won't like me when I'm angry!' and then starts smashing stuff."
"Quality literature. Explains your advanced educational development."
"You're the same way though, except for boredom instead of anger. When you get bored, something's going to get destroyed."
Lestrade shook his head and returned to his newspaper for a moment before hollering, "SHERLOCK SMASH!"
"This place is filthy." Sherlock is scratching at his arms.
"Her majesty's finest," agrees Lestrade.
"There are, there are lice in here." The scratching intensifies.
"No, there aren't. You brought the blanket in from my flat, remember?"
"I can, I can almost, I can see them. They're under my skin. They're moving. They're moving inside my skin. I can feel them."
"And you thought this would be boring," says Greg blandly while fiddling with his phone, trying to keep one eye on Sherlock. He's not quite drawing blood; his nails aren't that long and he's a bit too lethargic to really go all out.
"I wonder if these are a new species of insect," Lestrade muses out loud, trying to keep Sherlock distracted because it will be a good while until the doctor arrives. But of course she does, eventually. It's really only twenty minutes, but it feels longer and Lestrade really hopes this doesn't happen again.
"Sherlock, stick your arm through the bars. This is Dr. Hooper, she's going to give you something for the bugs."
Molly Hooper gives a little wave and a little smile as Sherlock staggers to the front of the cell.
"The dermis," huffs Sherlock, "shouldn't be detaching from the lower layers like this. I hope you-" he smacks an invisible bug on his thigh "-have accounted for all of the variables."
"Stay still," she replies, as she presses a thin needle into his upper arm. "You should lie down," she says, "because you're going to be doing that anyway, and it's better to be closer to the ground."
"Damn you! Don't just sedate me! I'm not delusional! They're real, I can feel them moving about! This is a plot! This…is…" Sherlock collapses to the ground.
Molly shakes her head. "I told him to lie down. Much easier on the knees that way."
"Thank you for coming by," Lestrade smiles. "Now we're even for that thing in Portsmouth," he says with a friendly wink.
"Right then," says Molly. She blushes slightly. "Who is he? Not just a regular prisoner, I assume."
"A…ah, well, let's say he's a friend of mine. He's a genius, if you can believe that."
"I can. He looks sort of…I don't know, sort of peaceful or contemplative lying there."
Lestrade snorts. "I wouldn't call him either of those."
"Well," says Molly, writing quickly on a scrap of newspaper. "This is my cell. If he gets worked up again, give me a call."
Sherlock is lying flat on the floor of his cell, blanket over his face.
"I need it, I need it, I need it, I need it, I-"
"That's nice," says Lestrade in a bored sort of voice. "Why don't you take a look at the case I brought you?"
"It's not a real case," snaps Sherlock. "I am not a child to be patronized with make-work projects."
"It is a real case; it's just an old one. It's from 1981. I bet that's before you were born. Come on, you could be the world's first prenatal detective."
"I need it, I need it, I need it, I-"
"Victim was clearly shot in the head. There's a shell casing on the ground. The bullet wound goes straight through the skull and into the middle of the brain where it stops, but there's no bullet there. The wound is clean; no one went in there with tweezers or anything to pull it out. But they never found the bullet."
Sherlock sits up. "Did she know any electricians?"
There is a man, standing in the corridor and leaning on an umbrella. He's well-dressed, too fancy to be from NSY itself. And detectives wouldn't usually be down here anyway. Contrary to Sherlock's oft-stated opinion, Lestrade is not a complete idiot; he draws the logical conclusion.
"You're the man from the hospital, Sherlock's brother," says Lestrade, "aren't you? How did you get in here?"
"You'll find that Sherlock is not the only genius in the family."
"Yeah, that's lovely, but you're not supposed to be in here."
"I am, like you, merely concerned about his well-being." The umbrella swings in a vertical arc. "You are, I am certain, aware that acute detoxification is only the first stage of rehabilitation. I simply wished to offer-"
"Mycroft!" hisses Sherlock. "Get out of here!" Sherlock leaps to his feet and glares menacingly through the bars. "Get out!"
Mycroft smiles patiently. "I appreciate what you've done for him thus far. Here, my card. Please contact me when he is ready to leave this place."
"Yeah, I'm sure Sherlock knows how to get in touch with you himself," says Lestrade, keeping his hands firmly in his pockets. "He's a clever bloke."
Lestrade takes the card. He really doesn't know who this Mycroft is or why Sherlock dislikes him, but he does know the law and the law says that unless they're utterly crazy, adults get to make their own decisions. He leans his head back toward the cell. "Sherlock, you want to do the honors or shall I?"
A hand reaches out from between the bars. "I'll take that."
Greg hands it over, never looking away from Mycroft Holmes. He really tries to keep a serious face, but it's damn difficult when he hears Sherlock unzipping behind him. ("And you want to know the craziest thing, John? He's got perfect aim. Right on the card. Seriously, it was uncanny.")
Mycroft sighs mightily and mutters something about 'immature' and 'dramatic.' He begins to walk away, then pauses. "Sherlock, please, please do not allow this to dissuade you from continuing, but I am terribly proud you have made it this far."
Conversation between John and Greg
"You actually stayed with him while he detoxed?" Having spent time with Sherlock while he was in nicotine withdrawal, John felt this was an unusually large sacrifice.
"Not the whole time, but for a while, yeah. I had a bit of leave built up, nothing better to spend it on. I figured he shouldn't be alone in case he starts having a heart attack or choking on his own vomit or something."
"Physical withdrawal from cocaine is actually fairly benign."
"Well, that's not exactly my department, is it? I just looked it up on Wikipedia. There were a couple of guys down in corrections who owed me favors and they agreed to keep an eye on him when I couldn't be around."
"I'm sure he appreciated your company." John thought back to the few substance abuse cases he had dealt with and added, "In his own way."
"Once he started really getting down to it, he was an absolutely miserable son of a bitch, just lying there on the ground shouting that this was intolerable. He didn't even have enough energy to be clever about his insults so he was just calling everybody stupid and moaning about how he hated them."
John nodded. "Cocaine withdrawal is really quite a lot like a severe depression."
"Well, and most of what he said, you just ignore it, right? I mean, you know that maybe his brain's a little different and he doesn't quite get all that politeness stuff. And you know that it's just the craving talking, so it should really just roll right off of you. But there's knowing and there's knowing, right?"
"What did he say?" asked John. It was fairly obvious where this was going.
"I had a daughter," said Lestrade. "I don't know if I ever mentioned. Her name was Naomi. She died a few weeks after her fourth birthday."
"I'm so sorry, that's awful."
"She had Tay-Sachs disease. Normally I have to explain what that is, but with you being a doctor, I guess you've heard of it."
John nodded. It was an inherited disease of the nervous system, devastating and inevitably fatal. A child could only develop the disease if both parents carried the gene; it probably explained why Greg and his wife never had any other children. "Are you Jewish?" It was most common in Ashkenazi Jews, if John remembered his textbooks correctly.
"No. Cecelia is, but I'm not. It's rare, but it happens. Bad luck, eh? Anyways, Sherlock deduced all of this pretty quickly after we met and I told him that he was never allowed to talk about Naomi, ever. And would you believe, he actually listened? He really didn't bring her up. He really didn't. Until he was lying in that cell, miserable and vicious."
"Oh, god." Sherlock's normal tendency to twist the knife would have been unbearably cruel under those circumstances.
"Yeah. Like I said, I knew not to take it personally, but there's knowing and there's knowing. I had to get out of there. I just couldn't be in the same room as him anymore. I really couldn't, but the guy from corrections wasn't getting out for another couple of hours." He looked up at John apologetically. "See, I had this new Sergeant who I knew wasn't on any cases because we hadn't gotten any new ones since the transfer. So I called her up and asked her for a favor."
"Her…" John echoed, then his face fell. "Not Donovan?"
Lestrade nodded. "Yep, Sally Donovan. Hell of a first impression, meeting somebody when they're detoxing. I really don't know what he said to her but I can imagine."
"Guess that explains her…animosity."
"Try not to be too hard on her," said Greg. "If it wasn't for her, you two might never have met."
"I don't…" John shook his head, confused.
"After going through the whole detox thing, Sherlock was able to work sort of consulting odd jobs at St. Barts, figuring out why a machine was giving the wrong test results, that sort of thing. I tried to help him get a flat, because the common wisdom is that hanging around other junkies just makes relapse more tempting, and his old bedsit was full of 'em."
"Do you think that rule applies to Sherlock?"
"Don't rightly know. He wasn't exactly the peer pressure type, was he? But that place was nasty and dangerous, and it was probably best for him not to run into his old dealer. So we'd find these flats – cheap, very cheap places, but livable. He'd move in, move all his test tubes, but he would keep sleeping over at my flat. Not to mention he'd bicker with the landlord or get in trouble for noxious fumes or body parts or whatever crazy crap he was working with."
"Yes, Mrs. Hudson was astonishingly tolerant."
"Anyways, I'm complaining about it one day and Sally says, 'Well, maybe he doesn't really want a flat. Maybe what he really wants is a flatmate,' and I never would have thought that on my own, 'cause he seems so standoffish, but I started to think that maybe he really wanted to live with somebody."
"So you gave his name to Mike Stamford?"
"No, give me some credit. I'm cleverer than that. I just started casually mentioning that it's too bad Sherlock couldn't afford someplace nice in the middle of London, where he'd be closer to all the crimes and he could get to the bodies before somebody," Lestrade coughed the word Anderson, "messed them all up."
"Let him come up with the idea of a flatmate."
"Right. He didn't like to be led around by the nose, but once he got the idea, he asked around on his own, and that's how Mike Stamford knew he was on the market for a flatmate, and that's how the two of you got introduced."
"I've been…talking with people who knew him. I thought if I could understand why he did it, maybe I would…"
"What have you found out?"
As if John could just answer that question. As if he could sum up in a few sentences Sherlock's life before Baker Street. He tried to picture the events Mycroft and Lestrade had described for him (an eight-year-old Sherlock innocently breaking up his family) (a teenager playing the violin for his uncommunicative mother) (a university student with an infatuated sidekick) (a junkie in a holding cell, scratching at his skin) but all he could see when he closed his eyes was his friend's flailing form plummeting to the earth.
"I found out…" John began, still struggling for words, "I found out that I'll never understand it and I don't feel any better."