Fuck, it's cold.

Snow fell thick and solid, moisture pounding through awnings, shoes, cloth, and no surface was safe.

The man shivered wildly from more than just the cold, pulling the edges of his loose jumper towards his chest. Where is God's name had he left his jacket? He couldn't recall.

Withdrawal ran rampant through his system, sending violent spasms throughout his limbs, and cold penetrated his core. In the seediest section of the city, he wasn't sure whether it would be safer to seek shelter here or to risk hypothermia, perhaps death, to find a more secure location.

His rapidly-numbing limbs made his decision easy, and Sherlock collapsed onto the nearest doorstep, folding his stick-thin arms and legs into a ball, curling into the door frame, one heavy arm reaching up to grab at the door handle.

The door snaps open, and the twenty-seven year old man, his entire body shutting down from the winter chill, fell like a rock onto the dirty carpet of the unfamiliar flat. Footsteps, and a warm face hovers over him.

Lined face, dark circles under his eyes (indicating increasing age and disrrupted sleep, from guilt, no, recurring night terrors), and a concerned expression. Suddenly, he's being dragged inside, a hand pressed to his neck to check his pulse (Early thirties, hands steady and tanned up to the wrist. Soldier, then. Afghanistan or Iraq?) and he is dragged into the mans' flat.

"Your...flat?" Is all Sherlock can manage. If this man truly does have sinister motives (which he doubts), then Sherlock hopes to be able to leave a clue to his brother on who hacked him to bits, or whatever this man's plan was.

"Nope. Harry's," the man replies absentmindedly, as though Sherlock is supposed to know who Harry is.

Suddenly, the room is spinning, and the last thing Sherlock sees is the stranger's deep, dark eyes.

~xXx~

Shit. John strips the man of his soaked clothing and wraps him in blankets.

Harry would kill him if she were here, dragging a random addict into her flat. But John couldn't just leave the man! Besides, Harry couldn't possibly know, she was currently out, drinking herself into a stupor whilst Clara began the first stage of moving out: packing her bags.

Boxes lined the entire space, and John pushes through them to find a pillow for the man's head, yelling for Clara to dial for an ambulance.

"Can you hear me?" he asks, tapping at the man's face. Pupils blown wide, misted with perspiration, even in the freezing temperatures. Clearly a drug user.

"Clara, tell the paramedics to come to the back entrance of the apartment. This is one of the nicer buildings in the area, and some pretty sketchy people hang out outside the front." John waves his hand in front of the junkie's eyes, which give a delayed attempt to follow it before rolling back in his head.

~xXx~

When Sherlock awakens, he's lying in a warm bed, an IV in his hand, his entire body, and more importantly, his mind, craving stimulation, the only stimulation fit to sustain him.

"Good morning," a cheerful voice rings out, and Sherlock nearly growls out of distaste as a tall, tanned doctor entered the room (had a wife, two young children, girlfriend on the side, one still in college, two small dogs), clipboard in-hand. "Lucky you made it here when you did, Mr. Holmes, you were in the beginning stages of hypothermia, not to mention a rather threatening case of drug withdrawal. You've been unconscious for two and a half days. Welcome back!"

And before Sherlock can even open his mouth, the doctor's pager cries out in his pocket, and he sweeps out of the room.

Who was that man last night? Sherlock traced his memory, opened his mind palace.

A glimpse of a phone beneath the man's splayed fingers. To Harry Wa...from...ara xxx. "Alright, it's alright. Can you hear me? My name is John, I'm going to get you some help."

Harry? Then, clearly not the man's phone. Cousin? No, Brother.

A soft voice. Reassuring. Calm. A soldier.

One who would drag a dying, homeless drug addict into his flat? Obviously not threatened in dangerous situations. Probably carried a gun in his home.

A soldier who loved danger and had saved Sherlock's ass?

Who was this man?

On the chair beside his hospital bed lay a set of unfamiliar clothing. The shirt appears far too loose, and the trousers much too short for him, but they looked incredibly warm. Sherlock pulled the IV from his skin and climbed out of the bed, feeling as though he might keel over at any moment. Running his fingers over the soft material of the scarf, he felt a smile pull at the corners of his mouth, a sensation he hadn't experienced in a very long time.

Who, indeed.

"Sherlock?"

Mycroft Holmes stepped through the door, a disappointed look plastered across his otherwise normally expressionless face. An umbrella is tucked under his arm, his tie knotted perfectly at his neck.

"Again, Brother? An overdose, this time?"

"Don't lower yourself to asking for information you already have obtained. A small case of hypothermia. Nothing more."

Mycroft tuts, making no movement to take a seat on the pleather chair and wrinkle his razor-creased suit, and instead begins leaning upon his umbrella in a stately manner.

"Where's John?" Sherlock asks, limping over to the bed once again, sitting down to begin pulling on the winter clothing.

"John?" Mycroft questions, genuine surprise in his voice. "Who is John?"

Hmm. Perhaps...perhaps...Mycroft did not know as much as he claimed to. "The soldier. He was the one who phoned for an ambulance. Flat number 188D. Really, Mycroft, and you call yourself the British Government. Then again, I supoose you don't."

Mycroft, once again, tutted, though the younger Holmes suspected it was more at himself than it was directed at Sherlock.

"What in the world are you talking about? And where did you get those atrocious clothes? Mummy would roll in her grave..."

Sherlock rolls his eyes. "John loaned them to me, I suspect."

"Brother, really. They were most likely donated by the hospital. Don't put those pitiful things on. I brought you some decent clothing."

With a dramatic sigh, Sherlock grabs the familiar suit from the hands of his brother. He can feel the pounding, the ache inside his veins, the pull. He needs a fix. Now. He steps shakily into his clothing, sweeping the long coat over his frame.

"Where do you think you are going?"

"Out," Sherlock replied briskfully, threading the scarf around his neck. "It's quite boring in here."

~xXx~

Sherlock was ready for a fix. He had cleverly avoided his brother's gaze for three weeks, and that alone was an occasion to celebrate. It had been a day and a half, however, since his last hit, and he felt horrifically sober.

Luckily, with the thick blue scarf wrapped tightly around his neck and the long woolen coat surrounding his thin frame, Sherlock was sheltered from the harsh chill of the London air.

"Hey! Hey!"

And him, the soldier, was before him, nodding in...respect? Well, that was new.

"John," he breathed, eyes widening in surprise. Still suffering from recurring nightmares, most likely from the war. Partially psychosychosomatic limp, at least.

The man just nodded in acknowledgement, his eyes holding an unknown humour. "Yeah. You're looking... better."

A smirk quirked, once again, on the corner of his lips. "Hmm. I believe last time we met, I was unconscious and experiencing hypothermia. Wouldn't be hard."

"And high out of your fucking mind."

Odd. Wasn't politeness a social normality? Obviously this man didn't follow that particular rule. No matter, social guidelines were dull anyways.

"Nice to see you again. Now would be a good time to tell me your name."

Though he wants to snort in rebellion, he manages to swallow it back. "I'm Sherlock," he sniffs, holding out a hand.

Instead of shaking it, however, John grabs the frail hand and pulls the young junkie forward, jerking back the sleeve. Track marks were scattered across the forearm, the skin extrodinarily pale and thin.

"When's the last time you've had something to eat?" John questioned, pointing to his thin frame. Sherlock shrugs. He doesn't want food, he's craving something stronger.

A strong chill whips around them, and John urges the taller man into a warm cafe, and Sherlock cannot help but smile at the warm temperature. He's been kicked out of his latest flat, and had managed to slip away from Mycroft's security. It's been quite a while since he has experienced the warmth of an indoor environment. Not that this place would meet any health standards whatsoever. Cracked kitchen tiles, traces of mold, man behind the counter who failed to wear a hair net, even with startling long and greasy hair.

He takes a seat, and only moments later, a warm cup of coffee is placed into his hands, one he sips on hurridly. How long has it been since his last cup of coffee?

"Thank you," he murmurs, because, what else can one say? His usual "piss off" when someone offered him kindness seemed quite inappropriate here.

"So?"

"So...?"

John smiled, shaking his head. "So, tell me about yourself."

How... peculiar. John in particular, but this conversation, he supposed, in general. From his basic understanding of social normalities, inquiring about past drug-abusing experiences seemed quite out of the ordinary, and unaccepted as well. But John seemed to have no qualms of treading the territory, no discomfort on his face.

"What else do you need to know?" he shoots back, feeling quite smug, as he always does when he proves his superior logic. "I'm clearly an abuser of drugs, cocaine, obviously. Haven't eaten in some time, a deduction you've so cleverly made. A homeless, starving junkie. Not good company to a young soldier, am I?"

The man across from him raises a brow. "Really? There's nothing more to you than what you inject into your body? Does that summarize who you are entirely?"

Once again, Sherlock's drug-starved mind takes a slow moment to catch up to speed. "The rest of society seems to have honoured me with the label. Why shouldn't you?"

"Because I know that drugs aren't the whole story, you're still a human being, still just flesh and blood like the rest of us. You had to have come from somewhere, I assume you didn't just hatch. Who knows what you've been through the past few years. Who the hell am I to label you and determine whether or not your excuse is an acceptable one?"

Only two meetings in, and Sherlock already likes this man, whoever he was. "I assume you have gained this remarkable piece of wisdom by dealing with your own brother's alcoholism?"

He freezes.

Well, the perfect end to a bizarre somewhat-friendship.

"What?"

Sherlock then rattles off a rapid-fire string of deductions, starting at the engraved phone and ending with John's acceptance of substance abuse, and his lack of judgement, as well as his willingness to assist Sherlock in his time of need (as he had most likely been taking care of his brother during heavy drinking binges, as well as his protective soldiering instincts).

"Brilliant. Fantastic, that truly was incredible."

Nearly choking up his coffee, the younger man coughs sharply and wipes his mouth with the paper napkin with an alarming sense of dignity. "Really? That's not what people normally say... Did I really get everything right? That almost never happens..."

"Nearly," he stutters. "That was amazing. Fucking fantastic! What, are you some kind of genius or something?"

"Something like that," he replies cooly, sipping at his warm coffee to hide his grin. God, it had been a long time since someone had been genuinely impressed with him. Perhaps never.

John shakes his head in disbelief. "God, what are you doing on the streets? You could be, I don't know, solving world hunger or creating international peace. Why did you give it all up?"

"My brain, it's constantly running, processing, like a computer that never shuts off. I... I get bored easily. I need a constant stimulant, or else I'll completely go mad."

"Then solve puzzles, read, play chess for Christ's sake! Sherlock, you're an absolute genius, and you're throwing it all away. You could be making a difference in the world!"

"Hmm, says the soldier."

"Army doctor, actually." John runs a frustrated hand through his cropped hair. "Not the point! You could be putting all of that intelligence to use and you don't even care!"

The young man sighs. "No, I don't. I'm a sociopath, I don't care for anything. Or anyone, for that matter."

Though he wasn't intending to, Sherlock can tell he's starting to get quite annoyed.

"But do you really want to die on the streets? Is this really what you wanted out of life? You could be so much more, you could prove to everyone that you're more than your past." John leans closer, hovering over the small cafe table between them. "Do you really want to be one of those junkies that you see nearly dead on the side of the road?"

Sherlock flinches. No, he certainly did not. Nor did he ever think his drug use would escalate to such proportions. But he is still in control. He has complete control over his body. Doesn't he?

"Save it. I've heard this speech enough from my brother."

"Sherlock, I'll make you a deal. Meet me, just once a week, in this location. I'll buy you a coffee, lunch, whatever you need, and we'll just... talk, alright?"

Long ago, Sherlock had come to the conclusion that it was within human nature to act on their own schedules and agendas. Everyone had an ulterior motive. "Why do you insist on helping me?" Sherlock questions, swallowing the rest of his cooling coffee. "I'm just one addict amongst a city of them. You've been discharged from the army, is this your way of feeling like you've contributed to the good of mankind?"

John smiles, behind the rim of his own drink. "Sure. Let's go with that."

~xXx~

Sherlock has discovered that this location is not monitered by Mycroft's cameras, and has been religiously meeting with John. The man never gives him money (too bad, he's been running low), but always insists on buying him a meal, a coffee, before making their way to the park, talking about absolute nonsense. He does, however, ask Sherlock to deduce passerbys on the bench as they eat.

And the most shocking thing of all was that he had made no comment of Mycroft ever pulling him into that ridiculous black car and threatening him. Clearly, he hadn't, or else John wouldn't continue to come. No one else stuck around, after that.

Nevertheless, their regularly lunches continued on. Upon being questioned, John came up with a colourful array of excuses behind his interest in Sherlock. They ranged from I'm an ex-army doctor with shaking hands and a bloody limp, what the hell else do I have to do on a Sunday afternoon? to the sarcastic I payed good money for that scarf. How am I supposed to know that you haven't sold it for drug money unless I check up on you?

Not that anyone would ever hear the confession fall upon his lips, but in all honesty, Sherlock greatly enjoyed John's company. He was the human being that regarded him with respect. He didn't understand Sherlock's actions or lifestyle, but he certainly didn't pretend to, either, or consistantly pester him to clean up his act. In return, Sherlock didn't mention the limp, nor did he acknowledge it in any way, shape, or form or comment on his rather peculiar living situation or his relationship with his brother. No pity was exchanged between them. And it worked.

It was at the point that the wait staff knew their orders, and whenever Sherlock would walk up to the counter while John waited outside (he hated going up the steps of the cafe with his cane), they would already have the food warm and waiting.

In order to receive his weekly meal and company, Sherlock could not, under any circumstances, show up high. That was the rule, plain and simple, and one that Sherlock could follow. Not to say that he hadn't considered showing up completely buzzed, just to piss off the army doctor, but quickly dismissed it. It was rare for him to find any member of the human race relatable, and wasn't quite finished on his observation of John. They also kept quite seperate from one another, meeting for coffee, never anything more. Sherlock did not know anything about John, besides what he could deduce, and John knew nothing about Sherlock, other than the few details that he had decided to share.

It was an unlikely friendship, certainly, but one that seemed to work.

Today was warmer than most, and the pair sat perched on the park bench, digging into their meals, people watching.

"Married," Sherlock informs John, pointing to the handsome man making his way down the path. "But he's got two, no, three lovers on the side. Two of which are men. His wife is quite aware, but doesn't say anything about it. Most likely because he's wealthy."

John huffs, shaking his head as he bites into his sandwich. "Are you kidding me? That's awful! Would it be so terrible for people to stay loyal to the ones they love?"

The entire area has gone silent, the two men alone, nothing but the whisper of wind through the trembling trees. Sherlock steeples his fingers beneath his chin, draping one long leg over the other. "You've been cheated on, haven't you? No! You've been a third party, a you've seen the effects, you're not bitter... just... sad. So, your parents. Clearly, you've struggled with it. You've certainly become a disciplined man, tough and sturdy, so you must associate yourself with your father. So, your mother cheated on your father. Left him, too. How interesting."

Despite his unusual acceptance of the man's deductions, John stiffens. "Don't, Sherlock."

"I've upset you," Sherlock states after an extended moment, watching John carefully as the shorter man avoids his gaze.

"A bit, yeah. It's not something that I like to think about, alright? Not something that I like to have thrown in my face... I guess that doesn't mean much to you, does it? Holding off."

Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong. John had never seemed terribly offended by Sherlock's deductions, but this was evidently different. "What was it, exactly, that I said? The mention of your mother's affair or her abadonment of your family?"

Wincing, John begins to flex and clench his hand along the top of his cane, avoiding the man's gaze. "It's not... Sherlock, it's not that. Well, not entirely. My father... well, let's just say that is not a time in my life that I like to remember."

"And that's why you joined the military, right? As soon as you turned eighteen. You not only got an escape from home, but it gave you an opportunity for a university education, one you wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. I... I didn't mean to-"

"It's alright," John mumurs, "I...it was a long time ago."

Without another word, Sherlock reaches over and gives the man's hand a reassuring squeeze, before letting go immediately, though the heat of the soldier's skin lingers.

~xXx~

Hearing the chime of the doorbell, Clara brushes the threads of blonde hair from her forehead and makes her way towards the door of the flat, balancing a cardboard box on her hip.

She was picking up the last of her things from their...Harry's... place. How could it be that everything that they had shared could be packed away and erased from the flat in only a few boxes? They had been alright, and Harry's drinking had been... well, not good, but not entirely out of control. But upon hearing news that her brother had been shot in Afghanistan... She fell apart, drinking herself into a stupor before she learned that he had, in fact, survived. But the damage had been done.

Brushing the tears from her cheeks, she opens the door.

A man, tall and looming, stood before her. He had cropped black hair, matched to his dark suit and tie. The dark figure, as well as his frighteningly muscular build, sent a shiver of discomfort down Clara's spine.

"Who lives here?" his low voice boomed, nearly startling the woman into dropping the box.

"Umm, my ex." Jesus, that was hard to say. Ex. Odd, how one simple word could be an entire sentence.

"Name?" he demanded.

Now Clara Wats... Clara Martin was not a foolish woman. Sure, she was quite a few years younger than her partner, and she had the altogether countenance of a pixie (with long, silken blonde hair and and youthful face), but she had grown up in on of the worst neighbourhoods of London. She could stand her ground, and put up a damn good fight.

"Why? I don't see how it's any of your concern," she spat, resting her hands on her hips.

What the hell has Harry gotten herself into, now?

"Government business." Christ. The man whips out a polished badge, flashing it once before tucking back into the breast of his suit.

"Clara Martin. Look, my ex is out for a couple of hours, if you need her-"

"Not necessary. Are you currently the only occupant of this residence?"

"Well, no, I'm moving out, it belongs to Harriet Wa-"

And he's gone with just the sharp turn of his heel, fading into the flickering light of the dull green hallway, his footsteps not even echoing, not making a sound.

What the hell?

~xXx~

Really, it was too good to be true.

Sure, starving off his addiction for a day was a pain in the arse, but it was certainly worth it. Sherlock was becoming rather...attached to John. He had never been praised so willingly, so enthusiastically. His family, all being of abnormal intelligence and lacking in emotion altogether, rarely found excitement in such trivial matters as losing a tooth, getting good grades, getting accepted into every university that was applied for...

It was...pleasant, he found, being praised, even if it was for something as trivial as an extrodinarily detailed deduction or a casual mention that he hadn't been high for nearly five days.

"Thank you, John," he murmurs once more, before digging into his sandwich. Another thing that he had never really taken a part in before. Societal manners.

With just an amused smile, John tucks into his own meal, sitting closer to Sherlock than he usually did on the park bench. "I got a job," he says after an extended period of silence. "At a surgery close to my flat."

Damn. "Oh. I suppose you'll be quite busy now-"

"I told them I couldn't work Sundays."

They both smile.

~xXx~

Sherlock wipes at his bloody nose, wincing at the tender flesh, no doubt beginning to bruise. Bloody drug dealers. He supposed he was lucky the man wasn't wielding a knife (or, he would be lucky, if something as whimsical as 'luck' really existed). With shaking hands, he scoops up the few coins that his attacker dropped after clearing out Sherlock's pockets.

Peeling himself off of the concrete, he spits blood, clutching the brick wall for support, his ankle throbbing fiercely. Normally, alleyways were an ideal location for meeting with dealers, as Mycroft didn't have his ridiculous cameras hidden there. But now, his foot blazing in pain, his ribs aching and the cut on his forehead bleeding profusely, he couldn't help but wish that he was a lot closer to the outside world.

A phonebooth seems to take pity on him and happens to be close to the entrance of the alley, and he fishes out a couple of coins, trying thrice before his trembling fingers could push them through the slot. He could dial Mycroft, but really, that look of eternal disappointment and disgust is more painful than his injuries. Instead, he rings John.

"'Lo?"

"J...John?"

It's three in the bloody morning. He knows it, John reminds him in an unimpressed manner, but as soon as Sherlock explains his injuries, John asks him two questions before hanging up: is he able to walk, and can he meet John at the back door of his flat.

Sherlock does, and nearly collapses in relief when John opens the door. He's led up to John's dingy flat and tucked onto the sofa, a blanket thrown across his lap and a cup of tea prepared for him before John sits down to assess his injuries.

"Hate to tell you this, but it looks like you have a few cracked ribs, a sprained ankle, and maybe a slight concussion. Nothing to hospitalize you over, but you shouldn't be walking around for the next couple of days..."

With a sniff, the younger man replies, "Please. I don't really have anywhere to stay, giving the definition of homeless. I'll be careful, try to avoid another run-in with my dealer. At least for a while."

To his surprise, John sits beside him on the edge of the sofa and strokes his shaggy, greasy hair from his eyes. "You can stay here. Rest. As much as you loathe to admit it, you seem quite shaken up. One rule though: you can't shoot up in my flat. Or anywhere, while you're staying here, alright?"

"Shaken up?" he sniffs, "Hardly. I've been living on the streets for years, this is certainly not a rare occurence."

How odd it is that when he doesn't flinch away when John throws his arms around the younger man and pulls him close, murmuring, "well, you're safe now. Rest, okay? Just sleep."

A hot shower every day, regular meals, and somewhere to sleep? Might actually be worth the lack of stimulant. John's got a telly, and a few medical textbooks. He could handle that, for a few days.

With one last smile and lingering brush against his forehead, John eases himself up off the sofa, making his way towards the bedroom.

"And you have to cut your hair. It's ridiculously long."

~xXx~

A sleek black car pulls up beside him and slows to match his stride, following him like a lost hound for half a block before he finally gives up and crawls into the back seat, coming face to face with his brother, as well as a stiff-backed stranger.

Tweed blazer, unruly hair, elderly but firm and authoritative demeanor? Clearly someone who had attended university for a great number of years (only the well-educated could give off such a superior and condescending presence).

"A psychiatrist. Really, Brother? Are you attempting to get to the root of my drug use? A little late for therapy, wouldn't you agree?"

Before he can even sheath his sharp tongue, the other man pulls a syringe from its hiding place and injects it into Sherlock's already scabbed forearm, the plunger sinking down before Sherlock's drugged mind can react.

And everything goes white.

~xXx~

When the heavy fog lifts enough to allow him to open his eyes, Sherlock wakes to find his thin wrists and ankles tied firmly to a hospital-style bed, strapped down like a psychotic patient.

"Sherlock," a voice sniffs, and Sherlock manages to turn his head enough to see the stranger from before sitting quite pristinely upon a wing-backed chair in what appeared to be a well-ordered study, a small television propped up on a cart beside the chair. "Good afternoon." The man is dressed in a rich, if somewhat outdated brown suit, a pair of thin-framed glasses perched upon his nose, his raised eyebrows the same white, web-like material as his greased hair.

Snorting loudly, the young man struggles for a moment, trying to find a weak point in the thick leather that binds him to the bed. They appear to be sitting in a well-ordered library, one that was so clean and well-dusted that he could deduce that the books were never really read, simply on display to comfort patients at the sight of The Studies of Behaviourism and the (ridiculous) theories of Freud.

"Now, Sherlock," the man sniffs, pushing his eyeglasses up his beak-like nose. "I am here by your Brother's request. Why do you think that you are here?"

"Because Mycroft is a prick."

With a sigh of exasperation, the man sweeps his white hair away from his eyes, never taking his hawk-like eyes away from his form. "No, Sherlock that is not why you're here. Now, I understand that you've been escaping your Brother's observation much more often of late. Why is that?"

"I do not owe you any explanation to my actions!" Sherlock cried, fiercely writhing on the bed. Withdrawal is running rampant through his system, and it is only when the sedatives clear ever-so-slightly that he is able to recognize the IV stuck into his hand.

"Perhaps not, but you will not be released until you answer honestly. Where have you been running off to, away from your Brother's eye?"

Snarling dramatically, he tries to wiggle out of the restraints. Withdrawal was already weakening his body, however, and his arms ached with even the most minute of movements. "Why the hell do you care?" Exhausted, hungry, half-drugged and stimulant-starved, Sherlock gives a defeated sigh. "I've been meeting someone. A... friend."

"I see," Doctor Hawk (or whatever his name actually was) murmured, writing notes upon a leather-bound book, one that looked quite pretentious and stereotypical, though Sherlock refrains from snorting. "Mycroft has told me that you've mentioned something about a new aquaintance. John, correct? Now, is this the same man who found you while you were experiencing hypothermia?"

Sherlock nods reluctantly. What the hell did Mycroft want with John? John was his, and in no way shape or form was a threat to his little brother. If anything, John has been a good influence on Sherlock.

With a repressed smirk, Hawk slides a tape into the VCR (honestly, a VCR? How cryptic), and a security-camera view of a wintery street fizzles into view. Sherlock recognizes himself, delirious and high, stumbling down the street and collapsing into a nearby doorframe. Nearly disappearing from the screen as he tucks himself into the frame, Sherlock sees himself reach up and tug and the doorknob, falling into the building, his body disappearing from view.

"So, you let yourself into that building, did you not?"

Sherlock freezes, a dark, heavy sense building within his gut. "Well, yes. John found me in the lobby and took me up to his flat."

"Which was...?"

"188D."

Another sinister smirk. "Well, Sherlock, I do hate to inform you, but we've done some investigating. Turns out, that flat does not belong to anyone by the name of John. No one in the building has that name."

Sherlock snarls, jerking forward as far as he can go. Hawk looks particularly smug, and calmly slips one leg over the other, leaning back in the rich chair to observe Sherlock like Sherlock observed the rest of the human race. Was it truly this unsettling when someone did this to you? "It's his brother's! He's only staying there-"

"That flat belongs to a woman, Sherlock."

Damn. He truly had no response to that. His own brain is desperately trying to conceive a solution from the data he has received, hindered by his foggy state and his drug-craving mind.

"In fact, we haven't seen any evidence of this man actually existing. Your brother has informed me that you haven't been meeting with anyone under his observation. Why can you only see him when you've escaped Mycroft's watching?"

"I didn't want Mycroft spying on me."

"And why does that flat belong to a woman, not John or his brother, as you've claimed?"

"I-"

"And why-"

"What the hell am I doing here?" Sherlock yells, struggling against the restraints. "Why? Am I being forced into rehab? Is that what this is? Because Mycroft's tried before. It doesn't. work."

Hawk crosses one spidery leg over the other, looking overly smug with himself. He leans back in his rich armchair, steepling his pale wrinkled hands against his dry lips. Hands only calloused from repeated use of a pen, not from extensive or physical labour.

"This is not a drug rehabilition facility, Sherlock. Your brother has informed me of his concern for your mental health, as a result of your recent hallucinations, as well as your paranoid or delusional behaviour. He also has noted your rather startling inability to express emotions, as well as difficulty sleeping, and somewhat childlike activity, as well as your distance from typically normal social behaviours."

Sherlock's mind palace blossoms, and the drugs that slowly are wearing away release his thoughts in a fury.

...mental disorder complex in nature...

...loss of the ability to relax and/or concentrate...

...social withdrawal...

...hallucinations and even delusions are not uncommon...

"What?" Sherlock breathes, heart racing inside his chest. He can feel the pulse against the restrains on his wrists. "Like...schizophrenia?"

Hawk gives him a conceited perhaps you're not as stupid as I originally thought glance, and begins to write in his silly notepad once more.

"That was one possibility that was considered. Normally, this illness begins to show symptoms earlier, but by your brother's words, you've been like this for quite a while. Substances such as drugs can act as a trigger for these illnesses. I will continue to run several tests, though to gain more data-"

"I'm not some damn psychological experiment," the younger man growls. "John isn't a hallucination! He's... real! His brother owns the flat! He called the ambulance for me-"

"Sherlock," Hawk sneers, "That flat belongs to a woman. Likewise, it was a woman that phoned the ambulance for you, a woman by the name of Clara Martin."

No. That didn't make any sense. John couldn't have been a hallucination. Not when he seemed so very real. "Check your security tapes! There will be a man about 5'6" with a cane walk out of the building event-"

"We've checked, Sherlock. You're brother has been careful. No one has left the building by your description in two weeks. The only people that we've seen in this time period are the flat renters and some very questionable characters."

'Tell the paramedics to come to the back entrance of the building,' John had called to an unknown being. 'The front door always gets stuck and I don't know if the guy's going to last long enough for them to mess around with it...'

Of course they had seen no one by John's description. John always used the back entrance. The alley. Where Mycroft wouldn't have had his cameras...

Swallowing heavily and tilting his head upwards, Sherlock tries to look as intimidating as possible while still strapped to the hospital-style bed. "I don't know what game you're trying to play, but I won't be fooled. John is real. We got coffee every week."

"Mmm," the Doctor muses, tapping his pen six times against his chin, raising one silver brow. "Really? Your brother has informed me that he has spoken to the staff at the cafe you regularly attend. According to him, they only ever see you. Alone. No sign of another man..."

Shit. "Well, John likes to wait outside. He has an injury from the war, and it's troublesome to walk up the steps."

"Well," Hawk replies, pushing those thick glasses up his nose. "That's quite convenient, isn't it, Sherlock? That no one has witnessed this John but you?"

Biting back a stabbing remark, the young junkie swallows back the sudden lump in his throat.

Hawk's voice suddenly drops, turning soothing and deep. "Look at your behaviour, Sherlock," he near-whispers, running his bony fingers down the spine of his notepad. "You push those around you away. You're a drug addict, one who makes deductions to humiliate innocent people. You show no desire to care for anyone or anything but finding your next fix. Why would such a man of such...upstanding achievements show any interest or care for you?"

Why, indeed? Sherlock's eyes flutter shut, and, unable to speak, he just shakes his head.

"He was the perfect man for you, Sherlock, because it's what your mind needed. It's what you created. A friend, someone who understood. But he's not real." Hawk straightens his jacket and eyeglasses, setting down his pen and turning to the phone that lay waiting on his desk. "Bring Mr. Holmes to his room. We'll start treatment immediately. Sherlock, my name is Dr. Elder, and I am here to make this John disappear."

~xXx~

If he was being entirely honest, he'd rather have the hallucinations.

So what if he was seen speaking to himself? He was a homeless junkie, everyone would just assume he was high as a kite, and he could get along just fine. He missed John, he missed having someone to talk to, someone who would treat him like a human being, not just a brain or an addict, even if that someone was a figment of his imagination. For here, he certainly didn't feel remotely human.

They had been experimenting with the dosages on his medication, and, after an excruciating detox from the deemed 'street drugs', he was watched like a hawk to ensure that he didn't abuse his perscription drugs. Constant attention, constant watching, and constant pills. And yet, he had never felt so alone. He was always in a hazy fog, shuffling down the halls, his mind slow and stuttering while the doctors attempted to find a dosage that wouldn't cause him to shuffle about like a zombie, but one that would still keep away his only friend.

He wanted John.

And the drugs, those religiously administered drugs... Were they not supposed to be improving his 'symptoms' of social withdrawal? Because all that they did was weigh heavy on his mind, making his thought processes slow and sluggish, make him curl up in his room and not eat or sleep, just lie there, numb and alone.

Sherlock had been told that schizophrenic hallucinations tended to be threatening and dangerous figures, ones that distracted and took from everyday life, but it seemed he was a part of the 'exception' group. John had been comforting and warm, had been an improvement on his lonely existance. In all the twisted and dark aspects in his life, John had been the exception.

Even stranger still, he had been forced to sit through Dr. Elder's near hour-long explanation of how the majority of schizophrenic patients heard harmful and threatening voices rather than saw kind, imaginary figures, especially ones that provided a lone source of security. But then, once again, he seemed to be the exception.

Always the exception.

~xXx~

He didn't come. Damn.

John had been in such a routine with Sherlock (one that, for once, didn't bore him to tears), that being stood up left his mind stuttering. Where was Sherlock? High out of his mind? Or worse, in critical condition or dead in some alleyway? Or perhaps just bored. Bored of a small, broken army doctor that had nothing more to offer than a meek dinner and a warm beverage.

No no, best not to think like that. He couldn't think like that. Sherlock was... well, his friend, and he'd be damned if he'd just let go of him now!

The doctor manages to limp awkwardly up the steps to the cafè, cane clenched in hand, without tripping or fumbling in a too-obvious manner. At least, he avoided more stares than usual...

"Excuse me?" he mumbles to the young woman behind the counter who desperately tries not to let her eyes fall to his trembling knee. "Has a man come in here lately? Tall, dark, curly hair, long coat..." John sighs and looks at the attractive young lady before reluctantly adding "handsome...? Coat collar's always turned up, kind of looks like a mobster?"

Whatever it is that is going through her mind right now, he can't tell, but she smiles in a seemingly condescending 'isn't that cute?' manner before shaking her blond head. "No, I'm sorry. No one by that description has been in here today... You wouldn't... are you 'John'?"

"Yes. Sorry, have we-"

"No," she quickly replies. "But some guy was in here a little while ago looking for you. Not the tall guy, a different one. He asked if I had ever seen anyone by your description named 'John'. I hadn't, I mean, not then, but here you are!"

By his 'description', he assumed she meant a bum leg and a military haircut. But who in God's name would be asking for him? "A...alright. Well, thanks. I guess."

With a sigh of disappointment, John limps out of small cafè, the lingering feeling of loss weighing heavy on his shoulders. He'd find Sherlock. The man was an absolute genius, and somewhat of a miracle granted onto John's life. He was too young to waste his life on this life.

He was a soldier, a fighter. He would help this man.

Yes, he was a soldier, a doctor. But he was also Sherlock's friend. He wasn't going to give up so easily.

~xXx~

"So why am I locked up in this prison?"

Mycroft sighs in his regal manner, tapping his leather-bound foot and rich wood-tipped umbrella to the tempo of some imaginary beat. Damn pianists. Damn himself, too, because he desperately missed his violin, the same instrument which he had sold several years back for drug money. His most prized possession. He truly had reached rock bottom.

"This is not a prison, Sherlock, and you are under the care of Dr. Elder due to your rather concerning behaviour, and you will continue to be under his care until your mind is in a stable condition."

The younger Holmes suppresses the urge to snort. "If you call being in a constant state of drug-induced, hazy, almost-coma 'stable.'"

With a tap of his umbrella against the floor, Mycroft rises from his seat, slowly pacing the length of his brother's psychiatric room.

"Mycroft," Sherlock whispers. "This is ridiculous. We both know that this diagnosis is altogether absurd, and I have no reason to be here."

"You're seeing things that aren't truly there, Sherlock!" Mycroft cries, his minute volume increase holding more emotion than any Holmes has dared show in a very long time. "You cannot grasp the concept of simple social etiquette. You push people away from you, complete social withdrawal! Altogether lack of emotion! Drug use, Sherlock has also been a known trigger-"

With a snarl, Sherlock buries his face into the pillow, letting out a dry, angry sob of frustration. "I'm not crazy! I'm fine! Why won't anyone just fucking believe me? I'm not crazy..."

The room goes silent, save for the obnoxious buzz of fluorescent lights. Sherlock's bed dips and creaks, and suddenly his elder brother's hand his on his shoulder, awkwardly comfortable, soothing and condescending.

"This is an illness, Little Brother. You're certainly not crazy, and having this illness does not pull your sanity into questioning. You can't control it, it's not your fault that you have it, and you have done nothing to deserve it, nor has anyone else who currently resides in this hospital. They say you are suffering from a mental illness for a reason, Sherlock."

With a sigh, Mycroft pushes himself off of the bed, already on his phone, no doubt to alert his ride that he was ready.

"Try to sleep, Little Brother. You have another day ahead of you."

This time, Sherlock truly does sob.

~xXx~

"Yes, Sherlock. No, I don't know his last name! Honestly, how many Sherlock's can you say you have at that hospital right now?"

With a grumble of disappointment, John hangs up his phone. Every hospital in London had been phoned, plus several outside the city limits, as well as every morgue, all to no avail. John was beginning to wonder if the man had given him a fake name, but really, who in their right mind would have 'Sherlock' as the first name that popped into their mind when questioned?

It had been months since his disappearance, and though John had waited for hours outside the cafè every Sunday, he had received no sign of him. The Good Doctor had taken to questioning other homeless men and women on the streets, though every one of them scurried away as though he was diseased.

He would never admit it, to other or even himself, but he had begun to truly grow fond of Sherlock.

A knock on the door of his dreadful flat rouses him from his wallowing. A woman stands at the door, dark hair brushing the tops of her dark brows, framing her dark eyes, a disregarded Blackberry in hand.

"Name?" she shoots out as soon as the hinges stop wailing.

"M...my name?" he stutters, before feeling quite belittled by her condescending stare. "John...er...Dr. John Watson. I'm sorry, can I help-"

"Get in the car, Dr. Watson," she demands, though her soft voice almost makes it seem like a request.

Once again, the doctor stumbles over his words at the abrutptness of her tone. "I'm sorry, um, why, exactly?"

Another pointed, really?, look, and her eyes flicker down to the phone she manuvers like an expert. "Your phone records are quite questionable, Mr-"

"Doctor-"

"-Watson, and your determined investigation about the whereabouts of one 'Sherlock Holmes' is quite concerning."

Holmes. So he did exist. And apparently, the fact that John was convinced of this is a problem. "Sherlock? You... you have information on Sherlock? Where is he, is he okay?"

The woman turns, as though ready to lead him out of the flat. "It is not my place to say. My employer insists on meeting with you, where you will be able to question him freely on any matters regarding Sherlock Holmes."

John doesn't even bother grabbing his coat as he follows the woman out. Sherlock couldn't...really be a mobster or something, right? Wasn't part of some mafia family or a crazy assassin? Because that just didn't happen in real life. Then again, he was being summoned by a mysterious character who wouldn't reveal his name, but demanded that he allow himself to be transported to an unknown location...

The sleek black car, he will admit to himself, is not a comforting sight to behold upon stepping out the front doors of his shady flat, after following a mysterious woman there in the first place. Nevertheless, his concern lies with Sherlock, and at the nod of the stranger, opens the door of the dark car and slides inside.

Jesus Christ, he'd just stepped into some 1920's gangster movie. Because the man sitting across from him, dressed in a suit that must have been a shade darker than black, with the chain of a gold pocket-watch glinting from his vest and an umbrella in hand, had all the countenance of someone who one felt one should instinctively run from.

"John Watson?" the man sniffs, face expressionless but eyes pooling with a sort of emtion that John couldn't quite place.

Being the soldier that he was, he ignored the question and flipped to the offensive, demanding, "Where the hell is Sherlock Holmes? And what have you done to him?"

The elder man smiled dangerously, lips pressed together and eyes narrowing, tapping his umbrella in a pattern that could have been morse code, for all John knew.

"You're here because of... somewhat of a bet, Dr. Watson, regarding the state of your existence. And I'm not in the least afraid to say that I've lost."

~xXx~

"Come in" Dr. Elder drones at the sound of a weak tap upon the door.

The office is painted a sickly shade of cucumber green, decorated sparsely with rich, heavy wooden furniture. Not quite what he expected from a psychiatrist's office, at least not from what he'd seen on those ridiculous shows on telly. No relaxing photos of trees or flowers or whatever else was supposed to soothe a hysterical patient. No hideous wallpaper in geometric, simple patterns. Only the stark office space and a lot of books. Sherlock peers into the room nervously before stepping in, hands clasped tightly behind his back, toying with the material of his sleeves.

Dr. Elder never looks up from his paperwork, but the man sitting across from his does. The man turns, jumping from his seat. John.

Shit. He thought the medication had been working. He hadn't seen John anywhere, lately. Damn it.

"Sherlock! Sherlock, thank God-"

The younger man's eyes flicker towards him for only a moment, a panicked look settling on his features, before his gaze flickers quickly back to the other doctor. His posture never slips, and he clenches his hands behind his back, trembling. No, no. You're not here. You're not real. Sherlock wanted out. He wanted out of the clinic, he wanted to never see Dr. Elder again. And yet, here was John, strong as ever before. Well, like hell he was going to let him know his meds weren't working. He wasn't spending another couple of months in here to screw around with the dosages.

"Sherlock" the white-haired man asks, pushing those ridiculous eyeglasses further up his curved nose. "How has the medication been working? Do you see or hear anything unusual or that you suspect is a hallucination? Have you been seeing your friend John around?"

Looking pointedly at Dr. Elder, Sherlock shakes his head, refusing to acknowledge the waving figure beside him.

"Sherlock!" he cries. "I'm right here! Sherlock, what the hell is going on? I know you can see me! Sherlock!" But the younger man doesn't look at him, just winces as the volume of John's voice increases. He turns in desperation to the psychiatrist. "What the hell is going on with him? What have you said? Did you tell him I was a hallucination?" Dr. Elder, unable to see him, raises a brow at Sherlock's paling face.

"Damn it! This isn't funny! Sherlock-"

"Sherlock? Are you sure? You seem quite...distracted... It's not your medication, is it? Have you been doing well?"

"Yes," he lies, wanting desperately to get out of the office. He could scarcely hear the doctor over John's shouting, and it was terribly distracting. And Dr. Elder knew something was wrong.

"Tell me, Holmes, and tell me honestly. Have you seen or heard any hallucinations?"

The young man nearly winces as John's voice increases in volume, now screaming and yelling. "NO," Sherlock cries, before trying to reign himself before that sinister smirk on Dr. Elder's face grew wide enough to stretch the heavy wrinkles smooth. "No, I haven't."

And suddenly, as though Sherlock's mind itself had short-circuited, the room fell silent at his words. Utterly, completely silent, save for the hum of the fluorescent lights and the whirl of the ceiling fan.

"Sherlock!" John begs quietly, staring with hatred at Dr. Elder's calm demeanor. "Sherlock stop it! What the hell is going on! Sherlock, please! I'm here, Sherlock. I'm alive! Look at me!"

The pounding. Oh God, his head pounds. Throbbing with the force of two eager voices trying to push their way into the front of his mind. It's too much, the pressure, the stress. He can't do it. How can he deal with this for the rest of his life? Oh God. Oh God.

He cracks. "Stop!" he shrieks, grabbing a dusty book from the desk and throwing it at the apparation. It hits with a solid thud!, and John huffs a breath of pain, bending over at the middle. The book's spine splits, releasing a throng of papers that flutter to the floor, covering the cull linoleum with parchment and spidery writings. Dr. Elder winces.

Winces.

It's over. Over. Reality and illusion all thrum together inside his mind and he can't think and the drugs make the conclusion come all the more slowly as he tries to sort through what has just happened and-

"John", he whispers, relief dousing the fire in his lungs.

Dr. Elder shakes his head in disapproval, as if Sherlock was just another file in his cabinet, another mind to unweave. "You've been quite dishonest, Sherlock, about being able to see your 'friend' John. If he had truly been an apparition, how could we treat you properly if you have been lying-"

"Fuck you," the army doctor hisses (and how those simple words directed at one man can be so beautiful), throwing his arms around Sherlock, pulling the trembling man into his embrace, his warm, firm, real embrace, smoothing down the wild curls with a steady, sturdy hand. "If someone doesn't tell me what the hell is going on-"

Sherlock's arms are around him, clutching him, burying into his flimsy jacket, shaking. He tells him everything, everything, between sobs of relief and murmurs of thanks to the higher being that he doesn't believe in, no matter how many Sundays he was dragged out of the house by Mummy. It's the drugs, he tries to tell himself, that are making him weep into John's shoulder like the tears will somehow wash away the last few months.

"I'm so glad you're here," Sherlock cries, burrowing ridiculously further into John's coat and hideous jumper. "I thought... I thought-"

"It's alright," John mumbles, tugging his jacket further around his shoulders. "I'm here. I'm real. It's alright. You're alright."

And for the first time in a very long time, Sherlock truly believes him.

~xXx~

The small flat is... well... small. But it certainly is better than sleeping on the streets, even if the sofa is lumpy and a bit musty. Sherlock dumps his tiny bag on the floor beside his make-shift bed, smiling at John.

"Thanks for this, by the way. Especially for arguing with my brother for two hours until he finally agreed to let me out of his sight... I just... I don't know-"

"You'll have to get a job," John informs him firmly, though he looks at Sherlock like he's never been happier to see him. Perhaps he hadn't. "Mycroft has already gotten in touch with the Scotland Yard about a possibility of some detective work for you. They're willing to...look the other way about your questionable past as long as you're off drugs, thanks to Mycroft, but if you get high one more time, this'll fall through. You need this, Sherlock, this might be exactly what you need to get yourself on track again. Don't take this for granted."

Sherlock nods eagerly, silently hating the tone of authority that John has taken with him. He swallows any comments, because honestly, he's grateful for the place to live.

With a small smirk, John hesitates only a moment before wrapping his arms around the too-thin man, waiting only a brief time before he receives a response.

"Scared the hell out of me when you didn't show up for the first Sunday. I thought... Jesus, I was worried. I'm...uh... glad you're okay, though."

"Yes. I am, too."

Though he'd never admit it, Sherlock savours the comforting touch, hoping to hold onto John as long as he can. No drugs, a warm place to sleep, a steady job, a...friend. Perhaps not an ideal situation, but it was certainly an improvement over the past few years.

"Thank you. " Sherlock whispers, burying his face into the crook of John's neck, feeling so at peace and at home that he tries to convince himself that maybe he can do it, that he can stay clean and hold down a job and continue to live with John... That he can have a life, a real life. He'd never take domesticity for granted again. At least, not for a while, until he was bored and the whole ordeal was either deleted or pushed to the back of his mind palace. "Thank you for not giving up. For... finding me. I'd still be there if you hadn't, thinking that you were all just in my head, the only-" The only friend I'd ever had was all in my head. The only person that could put up with me was my own mind.

John smiles and splays his palm over the thin man's back, circling twice before pulling back. "You'd think with a name like Sherlock, you'd be an easier man to find. I hope this is what you need, Sherlock, to be able to start living. You're...God, you're brilliant, you deserve another chance. Who knows, you might even like detective work," he says with a laugh.

"Not likely." Though the idea does excite Sherlock, he can't deny.

John chuckles before heading towards his own room, getting ready for his own work at the surgery. "And who knows, maybe you'll get along better with the deceased, start to prefer people to be dead."

The bedroom door closes behind his new flatmate, and Sherlock reclines back on the sofa, smiling to himself.

"Not all people."

~xXx~

Alright, so this was VERY loosely based off of the movie 'A Beautiful Mind'. Just a little side note, I tried to update this to a modern day retelling as far as treatment and symptoms of schizophrenia go, but the Dr. Hawk/Sherlock relationship is totally made up, as I figured these would be the type of people that would work for Mycroft. Better stated: totally unrealistic for a doctor. But this story needed a doctor that everyone loves to hate.

I drew from my own knowledge of this illness, talking to someone who suffers from this, as well as other sources to make this as realistic as possible. I also wanted to make it clear that drug use is not a cause of schizophrenia, but can act as a trigger when someone who has not yet begun to show symptoms takes them.

I have had this story in my drafts FOREVER, and have finally decided to post. This story is unBeta'd, so my apologies for any mistakes!