A/N: Someone (maybe more than one person?) once asked me to do a story about Sherlock detoxing, so here it is. I meant not to publish anymore Sugarverse stuff until I was closer to finished with Otherwise, but I've had this one written for months and finally decided just to post it. I am indebted to AGirloftheSouth for her comments and suggestions and to danflan for her feedback.
Warnings for: drug use, violence, someone being restrained against his will.
"This is the last time!" Lestrade snapped as he braced himself and heaved the nearly unresponsive body to its feet. It was easier – sometimes – to think of it as a body and not a person. But Sherlock Holmes had a way of shattering all of his illusions and did so now by throwing his arms around Lestrade's shoulders.
"Lestrade!" he slurred. "Hullo!"
"God, are you drunk as well as high?" Lestrade snapped.
"Nooooo," Sherlock giggled and Lestrade grunted, stumbling back a step, setting his jaw.
"Yes you are. Come on. You're done with all of this, Sherlock. I've had enough."
He felt a grin against the side of his face and – aggravatingly – a kiss on his cheek. Great, now he's in the friendly drunk stage, the DI thought, grateful that Sherlock hadn't thrown up on him. Yet.
And at least he was alone today – there were needles and trash strewn everywhere in the hovel he called his flat, but there was no one else with him and Lestrade hadn't had to pull him from a crack shack like the last time. Or track him down sleeping in a gutter like the two times previous to that.
"I haven't had enough," Sherlock said and tried to pull away, obviously going for a needle. Lestrade tightened his grip and there was a momentary scuffle that ended with him sitting on Sherlock, handcuffing the younger man's hands behind his back. He resisted the impulse to knock Sherlock's head against the floor – if only because then he'd have to carry an unconscious body down two flights of stairs. Sherlock was stick thin from a diet of cocaine with the occasional side of alcohol, but he was also six-foot-two and Lestrade knew from experience how hard it was to carry dead weight.
"Come on," he said, hauling Sherlock to his feet, steadying him when he stumbled.
"God you're boring," Sherlock complained.
"Damn right," Lestrade snapped back. "I hate fun in all forms. Especially the fun that makes a bloody goddamn genius destroy his own brain. People would pay for the kind of intelligence you have, Sherlock, and you're just snorting it away."
"I use needles," Sherlock retorted.
"Right, good, that makes everything better, doesn't it? Because dirty needles don't lead to things like AIDS at all. How much high risk sex are you having with other junkies, too? Use condoms? Ever? Do you want to die?"
"I want to think!"
Lestrade spun Sherlock round, taking care not to let go of him altogether because Sherlock would bolt at the first opportunity – cuffs or no cuffs. He felt his right hand curl into a fist and saw Sherlock flinch the moment before he got himself under control, exhaling a hard breath.
"You stupid bastard!" he yelled. "You think better than half my bloody constables together on their best days! You want to think? You want to think! Think about how it will feel when this stops you being able to think! When you're a goddamn vegetable having your drool wiped up by some nurse who hates you!"
Sherlock actually look startled and Lestrade took the moment to haul him out the door. The younger man stumbled after him but the DI refused to slow his pace even for Sherlock's drunk and stoned unsteadiness. He left the bloody door wide open behind him – no one would bother coming in but the other cokeheads. This place needed to be condemned.
"I don't want– no–"
"I don't bloody care what you want. Sherlock Holmes, you're under arrest–"
"You have no charges–"
"Possession! And if you don't bloody cooperate, this time I'll make it stick!"
"You're not the drugs squad, you're homicide, you can't–"
Lestrade spun him around again, pressing Sherlock against his car, seeing the startled look in the bloodshot red eyes as Sherlock tried to find his footing on the slick snow.
"Consider this me stopping an attempted murder," he snapped, then hauled Sherlock away from the car again, using the constant uncertainty to keep himself from the manic strength he knew the underfed, strung out genius possessed when he was high. But Lestrade was working on anger fuelled adrenaline – for once in his life, he thought he could really take Sherlock if he had to.
He yanked the door open and shoved the younger man unceremoniously into the back seat.
"Harassment," Sherlock protested and Lestrade snarled. Even as high as he was, he could still outthink almost anyone – and it only made him more bloody aggravating.
"Tell it to someone who cares," Lestrade replied and slammed the door shut. He took a deep breath then slipped into the front of the car, jamming his key into the ignition.
The DI twisted to see the hunched, thin figure in the back seat, sallow skin starkly pale against his greasy and dishevelled dark hair, the circles under his eyes so deep a purple they were almost black, like bruises.
"Fuck your brother," Lestrade said.
Sherlock's lips curled into that maddening little smirk.
"I'll tell him you said so."
"You do that," the DI muttered, turning away again and starting the car. He'd met Mycroft Holmes – on more than one occasion but always under the same circumstances – and in his opinion as a police officer, the elder Holmes brother wasn't helping the situation at all.
Smug git, Lestrade thought.
They made it about halfway to the Yard before Sherlock threw up all over himself. Lestrade pulled off into a bus stop, flicking his lights on, and dragged himself back out into the early morning winter cold. He hauled Sherlock out of the car and held him with one hand, pulling his hair expertly from his face with the other as the younger man threw up again, this time on the pavement. Lestrade kept him there, breathing hard, until he vomited again, coughing and retching, hands twitching to try and wipe his face. He groaned when he remembered he was cuffed but Lestrade had no pity – they'd danced this destructive dance too many times.
"You're done, do you hear me?"
Sherlock moaned and threw up again, his knees buckling. Lestrade let him sink to the frozen, snowy pavement, crouching down beside him. He pulled a tissue from his pocket and wiped the younger man's face as best he could, pitching it into the snow when he was done.
"One hundred pound fine," Sherlock managed.
"Shut up," Lestrade said. "You reek."
"Take me home."
"Not a chance – and you don't have running water in that dump anyway. We're going to the Yard."
"No," Sherlock moaned as he was hauled to his feet again. Lestrade spun him around and glared, ignoring the sick all down his front.
"No? No, Sherlock? No, please take me home and let me keep shooting that shit into my veins? Let me go home and curl up in my filth and my sick? Let me keep working the cases strung out and hallucinating?"
Sherlock shook his head, a jerky side-to-side motion, but Lestrade forced him back into the car. He'd have to take it in to be cleaned – the techs wouldn't thank him.
He didn't care.
At the Yard, he hauled Sherlock inside, letting him feel the indignity of being manhandled through the station with his own vomit all over him. He bypassed booking and took the younger man straight to the showers, ordering one of his constables to bring some spare clothing from the barracks. With grim efficiency, he started to strip Sherlock down, which meant uncuffing him, which meant being subjected to Sherlock draping his arms over Lestrade's shoulders, smiling a quirking, suggestive smile.
"Yeah, right. First, not interested in men. Second, even if I were, you stink of puke and booze and you're filthy. Who knows what you might be carrying."
"Come on," Sherlock purred and Lestrade rolled his eyes.
"Bloody cokehead," he muttered and shoved Sherlock into the shower, turning the cold water on full, earning a startled cry. Lestrade let the freezing water run for a moment then tempered it with some hot – but it seemed to take care of Sherlock's mood. The younger man was huddled under the spray now, hunched over as if to make himself smaller.
"Wash," Lestrade ordered. Grumbling and moaning, Sherlock did as bidden. The constable dropped off the clothing without comment but with a raised eyebrow.
"As you were," Lestrade snapped and the man left. The DI sighed but put it out of his mind – rumours were the lifeblood of the police force and if anyone wanted to think he was carrying on with a strung out cocaine addict, then let them. He could defend himself easily to the brass if need be and he knew most people would think better of him than that.
When Sherlock was something approaching clean, Lestrade shut off the water and pushed a towel at him, watching as the younger man tried to dry himself clumsily. His hands were shaking now and his movements were jerky and uncertain.
Fuck, Lestrade thought. His wife was going to kill him.
He sucked in a deep breath and pushed that aside.
"You're worried about your wife more than your reputation?" Sherlock asked and Lestrade bit back on a curse – of course the bloody genius had picked up on it.
"Shut up and dry off," Lestrade ordered. "Good. Put these on."
Sherlock shuffled into the sweat pants and sweatshirt and Lestrade made a mental note to have one of the forensics people come in here and take away the old clothing to be incinerated. Before Sherlock could react or even realize what he intended, the DI handcuffed him again.
"What?" Sherlock said, his voice somewhat slurred. "No."
"Yes." Lestrade led him to one of the smaller barracks and checked it for any other occupants, glad to find it empty. He tipped Sherlock onto a bunk and snagged his bound wrists, using another set of handcuffs to secure him to one of the bed posts. Sherlock's lips stretched into that suggestive little smile again.
"I wouldn't have pegged you for the type," he murmured.
"There's all sorts of things you don't know about me."
"Oh, I doubt that."
"You won't be so bloody smug when you're detoxing," the DI snapped.
Sherlock sighed, rolling his eyes, and Lestrade resisted the fierce urge to smack him.
"Mycroft'll come for me. He always does."
"Well Mycroft isn't a bloody cop, is he? I don't care if he is the bloody British government, he can't change the laws at his whim and take you. You're under arrest, Sherlock."
"Wasn't processed. Isn't legal."
"Watch me get around that."
"You can't get around Mycroft."
"I will bloody well do my best."
"He'll get me out. He'll take me to one of his lovely facilities and I'll be home in a week. 'S my life."
"And I'm sick of watching you snort it away. How many people do you think are blessed with your level of intelligence, you stupid git? How many people do you think would give their right arms for half your smarts?"
Sherlock growled, a low, dangerous sound in the near darkness of the room.
"How many of them would do the same? To think – to shut it off."
"You can't have it both ways! You can't have it at all!"
Sherlock's lips stretched into another lazy, arrogant smile.
"I can do whatever I want."
"Not according to the law. Not according to me."
"Piss off, Lestrade."
"Is that the best you've got? Fuck you, Sherlock."
"I have offered," the younger man purred. "You're so hung up on your wife."
"Too bloody right I am. And how many people have you fucked in back alleys this week, hmm? Did you even know any of their names? I don't even want to know. You should sleep now, while you can. It's going to be a long night."
"Is that a promise or a threat?"
Lestrade swallowed on a retort and found a chair, spinning it around and straddling it backwards. He knew Sherlock was going to try baiting him until he started to come down – then it would be begging and wheedling and threatening. He'd been there before. They both had.
This was the last time.
He knew if it wasn't, the next time he hauled Sherlock out of his squalor, he'd be collecting a body, not a person.
"You can't do this anymore," he said simply.
"It's my choice."
"No. This is not a choice."
He folded his arms over the back of the chair and bit his tongue against anything else.
Treat him like a suspect, he told himself. Don't give up anything. That was next to impossible with Sherlock Holmes – at least with Sherlock Holmes at his peak. When he came crashing down, it wouldn't matter what Lestrade said or didn't. Sherlock wouldn't be listening to him at all.
It was going to be a long night. He'd have to figure out a way to explain this to his wife – and to his kids.
What're you gonna say, Greg? he asked himself. Daddy had to take care of a coked up junkie?
Well, maybe, he admitted privately. Maybe if they knew how it went down when someone came down, they wouldn't be tempted to do it themselves.
He sighed and settled in for the wait.
It was sometime after six in the morning when the door opened and Sherlock groaned as the thin sliver of light cast over them. Lestrade blinked, looking up into Sally Donovan's face. Her nose was wrinkled against the smell which he could no longer detect – but he knew what was. Sweat and stale alcohol. He was lucky that was all.
"Sir?" she said and he shifted stiffly, wincing as he tilted his head side to side.
"Sergeant, I don't bloody care if his uppity bloody brother is here. Tell him to get the hell out of my station or I'll have him arrested for trespassing. Or something."
"It's not him, sir," Donovan said and there was a certain hesitant note in her voice.
"Oh, got tired of this, did he? Send one of his minions? Can't say I blame him. They still can't have him. Not this time."
"No, not that either. I think– well I think you'd better just see for yourself."
"What?" Lestrade asked, casting a concerned glance back at Sherlock who was shifting restlessly on the bed, murmuring incoherently. Donovan said nothing, and Lestrade sighed.
"Fine, I'll go. You stay with him. Just– make sure he keeps breathing."
Donovan looked as though she was going to protest, then swallowed it down, giving a curt nod. Groaning at the twinges in his muscles, Lestrade pushed himself to his feet.
"Your office," Donovan said.
"Sorry about the smell."
"You shouldn't waste your time on him."
"I know what you think, Sergeant, thanks," Lestrade replied, ignoring Donovan's sigh as the door swung shut behind him. He blinked in the brightness of the corridor and gave himself a moment to work some of the kinks out of his muscles before heading wearily up to his office.
Despite what Donovan said, he was still expecting one of Mycroft's aides or the man himself and had a number of arguments lined up for why they couldn't have Sherlock.
The woman waiting for him made him stop, all of his protests draining away. She had been seated when he opened the door but rose in one smooth, fluid movement, turning to face him with a sharp, hard self-assurance. She was in her late fifties, dark hair that was fading to a startling white swept off her face, making her look taller than she was, accentuating her long neck and pale features. Her expression was unreadable and unwavering as familiar light grey eyes raked over his face, carrying away only god knew what.
"Detective Inspector Lestrade," she said, extending a hand, which he reached to shake automatically. "My name is Sibyl Holmes. They tell me that you have my son."
Pounding. Drums. No– heart, head. Gasping, heart racing, he needed to move. He needed more. Calm the heart, calm the mind that never stopped evaluating even now: light behind closed eyes so not night, nor curtains drawn, but warm and subtle, sunlight, not electric lights. Breathing – his own, hard, fast, gulping for oxygen that wouldn't come, someone else's, measured, steady. Rustle of paper – newspaper – shift of clothing.
Something heavy, sticking – cotton clinging to skin soaked with sweat. Disgusting. Water, he needed water – no, he needed more. Needed to calm the storm in his mind, the sensations, rasp of fabric against damp skin, hair plastered to his face, something on his wrists –
He tried a movement, tugging, groaned past a gasp. Restraints. Something about Lestrade, handcuffs – nowhere near as fun as that could be but Lestrade was no fun anyway and would probably be a dull shag – the Yard – but the light was all wrong and the breathing was too. No admonishments, no cursing, faint smell of lavender disguising his own smell – of sweat but not vomit and – he swallowed hard, fighting down nausea.
Needed it. Now.
Tugged again on the restraints, shifted his legs, tried to push up. Had to get out, had to let go – it wasn't cuffs, he could get out of cuffs if need be, if given a chance, if his hands were bound together but they weren't. Stretched on either side of his body and he curled his hands into fists, pressing his head into the pillow, feeling damp hair against warm cotton – disgusting, disgusting – Just let me have some and it won't be disgusting –
And a movement, calm, composed – listening to the sounds, the body who made it was tall.
Of course, of course, but then a voice said:
"Don't get up on my account."
Sherlock snapped his eyes open, gasping again, fighting nausea, disorientation as the room spun then righted itself, resolved itself, pale walls, light curtains tied back from windows to admit the sun that made him squint and groan, white sheets covering his body, his restrained body – and the figure at the end of his bed blurred then sharpened into his father.
William was standing, folding his newspaper, putting it on the chair, turning back, arms crossed.
"Father," Sherlock managed.
"Oh, well done. You haven't completely destroyed your mind. That's excellent news." Dry voice, no inflection – angry? So hard to tell. Impossible with William. Could be bored. Could be anything.
"You're at home."
Obvious, obvious. Not a hospital, not like this, not even the best. No Mycroft then? A thin sliver of light but then the realisation – in Buckinghamshire, bound to a bed in his parents' house. No cocaine. Doctors, nurses, probably security. His parents. Mycroft would be here, somewhere.
"Let me up."
"You can't do this," he whined, tugging on restraints again, ineffective. Breathing hard, god he needed to get up, to run, run, keep pace with his heart, it was going explode in his chest – if they just let him up, just let him have some, he'd be fine. Brilliant. Always brilliant, he was always brilliant, but they didn't understand. He was in charge. Not the drug. Never the drug.
"It's illegal," he added.
William's lips curled, faint smirk, eyes gleaming. Dangerous. Sherlock pulled back – no that was wrong, had to be wrong, his father wasn't dangerous.
But he saw it, beneath those cultivated layers, just a moment, because he'd been allowed to.
"So is cocaine," his father said and the expression was gone. No, not gone. Buried. It was still there, like a mask under a mask – he couldn't see it but oh could he feel it, radiating like heat.
"You can't keep me here."
"You're my son."
"Your son, not your slave."
William moved toward the bed, easy movements, Sherlock watched the pulse in his neck, couldn't see it so he didn't understand, he didn't know, god he needed to move, just one hit, just one and he'd be fine, then he'd stop if they wanted, no, no he wouldn't, who were they to tell him what to do?
His life, his life. His choice.
He heard Lestrade's voice, yelling at him.
The Yard, Lestrade, Donovan, then nothing.
But no memories.
"Let me go. Father, let me go!"
"You can't do this!"
"I think you'll find I can. I have. And I will continue to do so."
There it was again, the gleam, the hint of anger – William? No, it was wrong, he must be wrong, but there was a hard edge in his expression. Not fleeting, there. Staying. Sherlock gasped, fighting nausea again, he wanted to throw up but couldn't sit up, wasn't going to give William the satisfaction.
"It's my life."
William unfolded his arms, slipped his hands into his trouser pockets, regarded Sherlock levelly with that hard hint still there, steel underneath silk.
"Do you know you've upset your mother?"
Sherlock gasped then laughed, a harsh sound, short, callous. Like a shot, William's right hand was on his face, holding his jaw, so deceptively lightly, the promise of a vice-like grip right beneath the surface.
"I don't take kindly to people who upset your mother." Words delivered on the knife edge of a whisper. Sherlock froze.
"What will you do?" he managed. "Take away the money? Take away your love? I don't need the money – never had your love."
Silence but William's hold changed, losing the anger, softening.
"Wrong on both counts," he replied, faint gleam of regret. Regret? Anger surged and Sherlock fought his bonds again, scrabbling with his legs, collapsing uselessly.
"I could take the former but not the latter – and no. It would mean nothing to you. I know. I could give you threats about starving in the street or being an unloved son, Sherlock, but they'd be lies."
"So you can't do anything," Sherlock hissed triumphantly.
The buried steel beneath the grip was back. William leant over somewhat, eyes fixed on Sherlock's.
"Oh no," he said softly. "I'll give you the one threat that will work. If you do not stop this now, I will ensure you never, ever work again."
"You're lying." Automatic response, heart faltering at the expression.
"Am I? You tell me."
Nothing but promise in the features, a threat that could be made good.
"Couldn't stop me if I chose to do it. I will block every avenue, Sherlock, remove every contact. I will ruin you."
"Would you like to see me try?"
Struggling again against the bonds, needing to get out, out, to have some, just one, just a bit, it would all make sense then, William could never carry through with his threat, he had no idea, no idea how vast the network was, how complex.
He saw stark truth in his father's brown eyes.
William pulled away, straightened, turned aside.
A pause, an open door, footsteps. A needle – oh yes a needle – but no, it was wrong, it didn't look right, wasn't enough and there was a gloved hand on his arm, a stranger holding him, Sherlock struggled.
"It's a benzo, Sherlock. Sedatives. No, I wouldn't hurt you. It will help you rest and deal with the worst of the withdrawal symptoms."
"Drugging me," Sherlock hissed.
"Not enough," William promised. "Mycroft isn't making the decisions this time. No sleeping through it. You will remember."
"I don't want–"
"It's all about the work. Isn't it?"
He saw it there, real understanding, nodded despite himself. Yes, yes, but he needed to be able to think, to fly, needed to be able to shut it off when it was too much, when the yammering never stopped and how was he going to do those things if they took it all away?
"Which would you rather lose?" William asked. "The drugs or the work?"
But there was no time to answer and he was instinctively counting and made it to three and there was nothing.
It was later when he woke up, cold, clear headed, the light in the room changed, darkness to match his mood. He wasn't alone, no, but William was gone.
Always gone, Sherlock thought, but now it tasted of a lie. He shifted, tugged on his restraints but there was no give.
He knew it was his mother before he opened his eyes – he could hear the quiet sounds, smell the subtle perfume she wore, identify the soft breathing. It made the room seem warmer, which annoyed him.
"And what threats from you, Mummy?" he asked. "Or maybe just insults? Nothing too obvious, I hope, but it's all the same, isn't it? You stupid boy."
There was no answer and Sherlock kept his eyes closed, refusing to play her game. The silence drew out, settling over him, then became suffocating, and he could feel her gaze on him, not hard, not pinning, like a blanket, clinging to his skin. He opened his eyes then, scowling, and met her gaze.
The light was low, framing her against the window that looked out into darkness. She had been facing away from him, left arm wrapped over her stomach, right hand pressed against her lips. Her expression level but her eyes – her eyes. Clear but not cold, not blazing, just full. He saw everything there: fear, pity, disappointment, frustration.
"I've never thought of you as stupid," she said softly and he jerked, shaking his head to negate the words that carried no hint of a lie. "And I haven't thought of you as a boy since you were fourteen."
"So what I am to you? Black sheep? Problem child? Prodigal son? Not returned of my own choice am I?"
"No," she agreed.
"Who did you send, Mummy? Mycroft? Father? One of the staff? Nip down to London, fetch my son. Bring him here. He'll do as I say."
She held his eyes for a moment before replying.
"I went myself."
"You did not."
There was no answer as she looked away again, back over the darkened gardens.
"You're my son," she said eventually. "And you're sick."
"I am not sick!" Sherlock snapped. "This is stupid! You say I'm sick because– what? I do something I enjoy? Something that helps me think when I need to think, to stop thinking when I need to shut it all off? Because I help myself? Because I make myself better?"
Sibyl turned back, movements smooth, belying the tension he could see in her muscles.
"I say you're sick because you're an addict."
"I am not!"
She watched him a moment too long, until it was nearly uncomfortable.
"Because you can quit anytime you want? Because you don't need it?"
"Yes!" Sherlock hissed, tugging on his restraints again. "Yes! It's my choice, Mum! I want this! But no, no, you and Father and Mycroft, you know what's best for me, don't you? You don't trust me, never have–"
"Sherlock, I can't trust you."
"You don't want to!" he snapped. "You never wanted to! And Mycroft – you turned him into you, didn't you, keeping an eye on me, always watching with his cameras and spies and bugs– I can't go one day, one hour when he's not there, looking over my shoulder!"
"No," Sibyl said. "I have never asked him to do that."
"You don't want me to live my life the way I want! It's always expectations, isn't it, Mum? The school, uni, the jobs Father offered, the jobs Mycroft offered!"
"I want you to be happy," Sibyl said softly. "That's all I've ever wanted for you."
"Happy? I am happy! I was happy until you dragged me here and chained me up and had Father drug me! This is not a problem! It's my choice!"
"Killing yourself is not a choice."
"It's not killing myself! You call me an addict but you have no idea! None! Why do you even care? I'm not the one you wanted!"
"What?" Sibyl asked softly.
"No need to pretend – you have the good one! A seven year gap, Mum? You must have been surprised. Must have been disappointing, too, you had it all sorted out, one genius son and look where he is– followed in Father's footsteps but went further, didn't he? Made a good name for himself– for you. Made you proud. Not like me! Not like the accidental one. Or was it that I wasn't a girl– would you have taken Victoria or Elizabeth instead of me? Passed me off to Adele, not quite a fair trade–"
"No," Sibyl said. Sherlock jerked against his restraints again, snarling as he kicked at the sheets and blankets that covered his legs, dislodging them. It served no purpose, only made him colder, but he ignored it, flexing his wrists uselessly.
"No," he spat back. "You stand there and say no but you do this to me–"
He raised his head and met her eyes again and stopped. Sibyl had her palms pressed together, resting on her lips, the tears that slipped down her cheeks tracing the edges of her hands.
"I always wanted you," she said, her voice quiet, edged with a faint tremor. "From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted you. You, Sherlock. Not a perfect image I had in my mind of a child, but you. I thought you'd be a girl – because I always imagined I'd have girls, but when they gave you to me, I knew you were in the right place. That I was in the right place. Seven years – the time in between didn't matter. You weren't an accident. A surprise, not an accident."
"It's the same–"
"It is not. You were wanted."
"And now?" he snarled. "Now what do you want, Mum?"
"I want you to be well."
"I'm fine. This is my decision! You'll put me through this and let me go and I'll go home and do it again because it's my choice. And I'll be the son you don't mention because of how I want to live and you–"
"And I will watch you die," Sibyl said softly, dropping her hands from her face, her grey eyes bright. "I will watch you die and I will bury you and it will kill me."
Sherlock opened his mouth but Sibyl kept speaking.
"I will remember the infant they placed in my arms, less than a minute old, and I will remember this, and I will know I failed you."
Sherlock stopped, swallowed hard.
"It doesn't matter if it's the drug that does it, Sherlock. I am your mother and I will have failed you. And I'm sorry."
She crossed the room, leant over and kissed his forehead, then she was gone, the door shutting softly behind her.
He was alone after someone had come in and fixed his blankets, hours of isolation, his body driving him mad, itches, stiffness, discomfort. His mind on an endless loop, over and over, repeating the conversation, looking for the telltale signs, the lies. He knew – he knew – he couldn't read his mother, not entirely, but she'd let him this time. He raged silently, then out loud, yelling to be released, demanding to be obeyed. His pleas were met by the silent doctor with another needle and Sherlock struggled uselessly, fighting himself, fighting the drugs, failing.
When he awoke it was to the first signs of nausea – not brought on by the alcohol this time, but by too long between hits. He gasped in a breath, fighting it, trying to wrestle the panic down with it.
They'd never done this to him before. Mycroft had always insisted on sedation, drug induced comas that let him sleep through it, let him get up when it was done, go home, and pick the habit up again. A short holiday from reality then back to his routines.
He'd seen it, though, in those who couldn't afford more.
He knew what to expect, but only from the outside.
"Mum," he said, knowing she was there. Soft footsteps approached the bed and Sherlock opened his eyes, squinting faintly against the light, breathing hard against the tightening in his stomach. "Mum, listen to me."
She was reluctant – grey eyes rimmed with red, pale cheeks smeared with faint blotches from crying. She thought she knew what he was going to say, but Sherlock shook his head.
"Mum, listen to me now. Make them stop."
"Make them stop the benzos, Mum. Don't make it easier. Mycroft always made it easy. It's not–" He stopped, sucking in a few deep breaths, swallowing hard against the wave of nausea. "It won't work if it's too easy. I won't die, you have doctors here, probably three so they can do shifts and be alert. And you'll have nurses too. Listen to me, Mum. I know what I'm asking," he lied.
Sibyl watched him and Sherlock held her eyes, breathing hard.
She hesitated again, then nodded.
"Don't let me stop," he gasped. "I'll ask. I'll beg, Mum, but don't let me stop. Don't give in. After right now, you can't trust anything I say."
He felt cool fingers wrap around his and squeezed her hand instinctively. Sibyl's other hand came up to brush the damp hair from his forehead.
"I'll be here," she promised.
"You'll need to leave for the worst of it."
"No, Sherlock. I'm not leaving you alone, not in this. If you have to remember, so must I." She leant forward, kissing his forehead again, but there was less resignation this time, more reluctance. "I love you, my boy."
"I know," Sherlock said, managing a nod. "I know."
Sibyl knew what to expect. The doctors had spoken with her at length, trying to prepare her for something for which she knew she could never be ready. Depression, paranoia, and exhaustion would be the worst – the exhaustion would come first and Sherlock would likely sleep through most of it. The depression and paranoia would hit in waves, tapering off before coming back full force within a week, maybe more.
Cocaine lacked the violence of withdrawal from other drugs, they assured her. There would be little physical pain, no screaming, no agony.
It was hard to bear this in mind while she held her youngest son as he threw up, over and over, well past the point that his stomach contained anything but weak acid. While he trembled and gasped in her arms, his too thin body wracked with spasms. While he sweated, hair and clothing plastered to his skin. While he cried between fits of nausea, gulping for air.
The doctors had told her the flu-like symptoms were less common and Sibyl had not once let herself believe that Sherlock would avoid them. If he had, it would have been a blessing. When he didn't, her hopes weren't dashed.
She'd been through this sort of thing before – she did have two sons, after all, and they'd had the same childhood ailments as everyone else. Sibyl had been with them through it all: flus, chicken pox, ear infections, strep throat.
None of it had prepared her for this.
She'd been shocked – terrified, really – when she had gone to Scotland Yard to find her son. Mycroft had rung her as he always did and something inside of her had snapped. She'd insisted her eldest not go, that he leave this to her, and had roused a driver in the early hours of the morning, reaching the capital before the worst of the commuter traffic.
She'd found Sherlock handcuffed in one of the police barracks, stinking of alcohol and sweat, red rimmed eyes wild, pupils blown, still high. Not an immediate high, it had been too long by that point, but far from coming down. She doubted he had any memory of it but it had left her without words, almost unable to move.
He had lost over ten pounds since the last time she'd seen him. He was so thin now that her small, slim fingers encircled his wrists easily – nearly encircled his elbows. His clothing hung off his narrow frame and each time she touched him, she could feel the prominence of bones beneath his skin. The slim, angular man he'd been in his early twenties had given way to gauntness and shadows.
She'd ordered him sedated and had brought him home. She'd seen the look on Detective Inspector Lestrade's face – this was the last time. Not out of lack of patience on his part, but because if Sherlock did not stop, he would die.
Sibyl thought of the two tiny children who had never been, who had never drawn a breath, who did not have so much as a grave marker in their family plot to mark their existence. She thought of the nine months she'd spent with baited breath, waiting for Sherlock to be born, waiting for him to die. She tried to imagine burying him now and found that she could, far too easily, and that it made it so hard to breathe that she'd nearly blacked out.
Now she held him like a lifeline – for which one of them, she was not sure. At his request, she'd sent Mycroft away – not out of the house, since her eldest son wouldn't go anyway, but at least far enough that she could not feel his waiting presence. She knew he meant well, she knew he loved his brother, and she knew how much Sherlock chafed under his overprotectiveness.
She had lied and said she'd sent William away as well. He was in the next room – she knew her husband well enough to understand he wasn't leaving no matter what she or Sherlock might request. Sibyl didn't want to feed her son's paranoia but nor was she going to order his father away. Not right here, not right now.
The room stank and Sibyl knew it did. When she had gone to the Yard, she'd wondered how the Detective Inspector had sat there for hours but now she understood – she couldn't tell anymore. The doctor on duty now had come in a handful of times and she had seen the look on his face; there was no judgment there because this was what he did, but there was a faint wrinkling of the nose that told her he smelled what she could not.
The uncertainty was like a crushing weight; no telling how long it would last. No more than four days, they'd assured her – but could Sherlock throw up for four days? Would she have to have him sedated against his wishes? Would his abused body just give up and shut down altogether?
"Mum," he whispered, hoarse voice rasping through her thoughts. "Mum, I can't do this. Make it stop."
"It's almost over, darling," she lied, pressing a kiss against his temple, tasting the salt from the sweat that coated his skin.
"It's never over," he moaned. "It won't ever stop, it never does. The cravings– I can't do this, Mum. I can't do this."
"You can," Sibyl whispered, rocking him gently. Sherlock tried to respond but heaved instead, retching and gasping into the empty bucket she held for him, managing nothing but a string of saliva. He gagged, body trying to rid itself of something that wasn't there. She felt him sob, thin frame shaking, and he doubled over again, moaning.
"Make it stop," he begged. "Mum, please."
Her heart broke a little bit more, just when she thought the pieces could not get any smaller. She raked his hair out of his face and Sherlock groaned, emaciated frame trembling in her arms as if it would come apart, dissolve into nothing.
"Just a little, just give me a little. Give me something, Mum. Please, give me something."
"I can't," she whispered.
"Why not?" Sherlock wailed, the most force behind his voice she'd heard in hours. He was crying now, jagged, desperate sobs, arching back to try and escape her grip, but Sibyl hung on, shaking her head.
"Because I promised you."
"I lied, Mum, I lied, you shouldn't have listened, I was wrong, I need it! Something, anything, benzos, a cigarette, coke, oh God, Mum, give me cocaine, I don't want to do this, I just want to go back, I need it, I need it!"
"I know you do," she whispered. "I know. But you can't have it."
"Why?" he cried. "Why? Mummy, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, just once more, just once and I'll stop, I promise, just a bit, please–"
"No," Sibyl said, drawing a deep breath to keep her voice from shaking.
"Mum please! Please!"
"I know, darling, I know. But you can't."
"I won't do it again," he whispered, slumping in her arms. "I promise. I promise. Just this one time."
"No more, Sherlock. It won't be much longer."
"Yes, it will. You're lying, you know you're lying. I can't do this. I'll die."
"You won't die."
He nodded against her shoulder, damp hair rasping over her shirt.
"I don't want to do it, Mum. It's not worth it. I don't want to live like this."
"You won't," she said. "This won't last forever. Just for a bit longer."
Sherlock managed a short, harsh laugh.
"The cravings don't go away, you know. I'll want to die. It's too hard."
She pulled away from him, cupping his thin face, feeling the hot tears pool on her fingers.
"You're a genius, Sherlock. If other people can do this, then so can you. You'll find a way."
"There's nothing else," he whispered. "I can't do it."
"There's your work – there's always been your work. You love it."
He shook his head, grey eyes bright.
"He'll take it away– Father–"
"Only if you don't stop. So will Inspector Lestrade. You can't keep working for him if you're high, you know that."
"It's the only thing that makes me think!"
"No," Sibyl said. "It just feels that way."
"You don't know," he moaned. "You don't know."
"No, I don't," she agreed. "I don't."
His shaking hands came up to cover hers and he closed his eyes, his head dropping forward.
"It won't matter," he whispered. "It won't matter if they take it away. I won't be able to do it anyway."
Sibyl opened her mouth to reply but Sherlock tensed then curled forward again, dropping his hands to grip the bucket on his lap. Sibyl moved quickly, pulling his hair back with one hand, rubbing slow circles on his back with the other. He spat, moaned, then tried to throw up again, his tears hitting the bottom of the empty bucket.
Sibyl hadn't realized she'd nodded off until the soft click of the door latch startled her and she looked up, expecting one of the doctors but seeing William instead. He cast a glance at the sleeping form on the bed – Sherlock had stopped throwing up at some point and had fallen into an exhausted sleep. He was almost as pale as the sheets that covered him, his dark hair and the deep circles beneath his eyes the only real colour he had. He was breathing more easily now, and Sibyl allowed herself a tentative hope that the nausea was past.
William turned his gaze to her and crossed the room, crouching down in front of her chair. He smoothed a hand through her hair and Sibyl leant forward, closing her eyes and burying her face in his shoulder. William held her through the silent tears and Sibyl clung to him as tightly as Sherlock had been clinging to her.
"You need to rest," William whispered when her tears subsided. Sibyl raised her gaze to meet his eyes and shook her head, setting her jaw against his insistence. "Yes," her husband continued. "He's asleep, I'll stay with him."
"Right now, he needs sleep. So do you. You're of no use to him exhausted."
Sibyl let her eyes slide away to the figure on the bed. If it weren't for the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, she would have thought him dead, he was so still and pale.
"I'm of no use to him anyway," she said softly.
"Sibyl," William said, closing his hands over hers. "You aren't responsible for this. You aren't responsible for every poor decision he makes."
"I'm his mother, William," she said quietly, sharply.
"And I'm his father. But he's not a child. He made a decision for which we are all suffering the consequences – but he made the decision. He's an addict. He's ill. Would you blame yourself if he had cancer?"
Sibyl's eyes snapped back to him with a bright flare of rage.
"How can you say that so calmly?" she hissed. "How can you be so– so indifferent?"
"I'm not," William replied, a hard edge in his voice. Sibyl stared at him a moment longer, then slumped, suddenly drained.
"I know," she whispered. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."
"I know you didn't."
She sighed and rubbed her face.
"I'm his mother, William. I should have done something."
"Something more than travel to London in the middle of the night to pick him up stinking drunk from a police station and bring him home, you mean?"
"Yes," Sibyl snapped, then hushed her tone when she saw Sherlock stir. She kept her eyes on him a moment, holding her breath until he stilled again. "Yes, William, something more than that. A year ago, two years ago, when he first started!"
"We tried," William sighed. "Repeatedly."
"We shouldn't have tried," Sibyl replied. "We should have succeeded."
He was silent for a moment then put a hand on her face, tracing her cheekbone lightly with his thumb.
"It's not up to us. It's up to him."
"We could have done something," she insisted. "Not let Mycroft take care of it. Have him here earlier instead of one of those clinics. I should have spoken with him–"
"You did," her husband reminded her. "And Mycroft – we thought it would work better that way. We were wrong. Sibyl, you were not the one putting the needle in his veins. And you cannot tell me there is anything we have done in his life to drive him there. He's been safe here, and loved."
Sibyl sighed and closed her eyes, tipping her head back, feeling William's fingers fall away gently from her face. She knew he was right – rationally she knew they had done what they could. That Sherlock had made a choice and that he was an addict and it was no more his fault that he this illness than any other.
Logic was useless in face of what she had just sat through with her son – and what she knew was coming.
"He is strong," William said and Sibyl dropped her head back down, opening her eyes. For a moment, there was a shadow of a smile on William's lips. "He's your son, after all. Of course he's strong."
"Strong enough?" she asked.
"We'll make sure of it."
Sibyl searched her husband's eyes and saw the determination there – and also the fear. Almost no one else would have noticed it, but she knew how to read William. She knew how to read all of them.
He was worried he was wrong.
So was she.
"Come with me," he said. "You need some sleep."
"Will you wake me when he does?" she asked. William gave her another bare smile that didn't reach his eyes and smoothed a hand across her cheek.
"Of course, darling," he replied, leaning forward to press his lips against her forehead. "Of course."
They'd let him up, finally, and even allowed him to leave the room, but it hardly mattered. He didn't want to go anywhere, didn't want to do anything but lie in bed, staring vaguely out the windows, watching the unchanging winter gardens beyond – thin coating of snow, barren earth, grey, dormant trees.
The cravings weren't so bad right now, just beneath the surface but muted like the sun seen through low clouds. He knew what he should be feeling – some sense of optimism, of strength because of the relative mildness of the cravings. But he also knew what was coming: the reality that this was impossible, the understanding that nothing would ever feel the same again. He would not be able to do the work because he would not be able to think as he once had. Nor would he find any pleasure in it – his life was going to be like the gardens he stared at so often. Grey, lifeless, dull.
In the face of that, how could he feel any optimism? Those who did were idiots.
The barest of smiles tugged at his lips, disappearing as soon it had formed.
Everyone else was an idiot anyway. It scarcely mattered.
He hated the moments of sunshine, which seemed unnecessarily bright and glaring. He hated the overcast skies, which dragged his mood down further, robbing him of any flicker of desire to move.
Sherlock consented to get up every once in awhile, for his mother's sake. The doctors and nurses came and went and his father visited but Mycroft had mercifully been kept at bay so far. Sibyl stayed with him most of the time but she had to leave on occasion.
It made sense. She required sleep and would need to do routine things like change and shower.
It was all a lie. She was leaving him because she was tired of him, sick of him, couldn't stand to be in this room all of the time, pretending to care, pretending to be bothered. Went off to report to Mycroft, no doubt, so his brother could lay his devious plans. They could shunt him off to some facility to keep him out of the way, tell family friends he was away on holiday.
Better he be locked away anyway. He couldn't work.
Sherlock sighed, turning his head toward the window a bit more, feeling a cool patch of cotton press against his cheek.
No, he told himself dully. You're wrong. You need to stop.
William had probably already made good on his threat. Even if Sherlock could work, there would be no contacts left, no one would come to him. He would be the only consulting detective in the world – and the only one with no clients.
But who would come visit him locked away anyhow? He wouldn't be able to leave, to investigate. What good would he be?
Perhaps they meant to keep him here, in this bed to which he could be strapped, in this room in which he could be locked. Hide away the disappointing son.
Then Mycroft would be the only one, just as they'd wanted.
No, he thought again, closing his eyes. Paranoia. Stop it.
What would he do with his days here? Would anyone come visit? His lips twitched again. Wasn't it normally friends who visited in these circumstances?
He didn't have any friends.
Lestrade, he supposed. But the DI wouldn't come. He'd be sick of Sherlock, would want to wash his hands of the whole affair, write him off as a bad job and never look back.
The others he knew were drug addicts. Unlikely his parents were going to let them in to visit. They'd bring gifts, of course, but all the wrong kind.
He thought of his flat in London – probably wasn't his anymore. Homeless. Homeless and living in a giant, sprawling manor. Wasn't his though. It didn't matter. He didn't want to leave anyway. They could keep him locked up here and he would stay because even if he had somewhere else to go, it wasn't worth the effort.
The door opened and his mother came in, one of the nurses behind her. None of the staff had been allowed in. Of course his parents wouldn't want the staff to see him.
You don't want them to see you, he told himself, suddenly angry at this stupidity, at his own mind for being so disappointing, for falling into the predictable patterns, for not behaving properly. He watched his mother behind a mask of indifference, saw her smile, felt the warmth in her touch when she kissed his forehead.
That wasn't a lie. He knew that wasn't a lie. No one was that good, not even Sibyl, not against him.
He didn't believe it.
Sherlock closed his eyes against the argument; he was tired of this. Tired of the constant battle, tired of the low level cravings. He wanted it all to end but he knew what was coming next and he was terrified.
"Come," Sibyl said. "Join me for lunch."
Sherlock roused himself from the bed and settled at the same table, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. The room was kept warm and the windows were well insulated, but he felt cold all the time anyway. The idiot doctors said it was because of the withdrawal and because of how little he weighed. His mother said the same thing and he believed her.
The food from the kitchen was rich, heavy and hot. The tea was fragrant and steaming – all made to keep him warm, to help him regain the weight he'd lost. He had seen once how Sibyl's fingers could encircle his wrist easily and had been alarmed. He'd look at himself in the mirror and seen a gaunt ghost, all harsh lines and dark shadows.
The food tasted good, despite it all. Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned. The coffee they prepared for him first thing in the morning was almost better than the cocaine, sending waves of heat straight down his throat to his stomach, radiating outward from his hands where they held the mug.
And the cigarettes. He took his morning coffee with his father in the next room – one of the few occasions he cared to leave this one – and was allowed to smoke inside as much as he wanted. Not in here, because his mother hated it. If he'd been inclined to believe in such things, the cigarettes would be like manna from heaven.
The only time the paranoia was chased away, just a little.
"How are you?" Sibyl asked, pouring him a cup of tea.
Who's asking? he thought, then shook himself mentally.
"Fine, Mum," he replied automatically and Sibyl paused, giving him a cutting look that somehow contained a touch of warmth behind the warning and the scepticism. Sherlock sighed, reaching for his tea.
"The same," he amended. Sibyl nodded, looking unsurprised. Sherlock wondered why he thought she might be – this would never change.
They ate and she talked of inconsequential things – new National Trust arrangements for the public areas of the garden, news of the outside world. As though he cared. He turned his gaze out the windows again, eating mechanically, aware that the food tasted good but unmoved by it. Her words drifted past him until he heard a familiar name, once, then again.
He refocused, somewhat surprised, saw the patient look she was giving him.
"You weren't listening to a word I said."
"No," he agreed. She sighed but reached across the table and closed one of her warm hands over one of his cool ones.
"Inspector Lestrade rang me to ask how you were," she repeated.
"Oh," Sherlock replied, then scowled slightly. "What did you tell him?"
"That you were as well as can be expected."
He looked back out the windows.
"He also wanted to know if he could send some cold cases up here via courier for you to work on."
His eyes flashed back to her, expression tightening.
"And whose idea was that?" he demanded.
"His, I assume," Sibyl replied with equanimity. "Would it matter if it were mine?"
"I don't need to be pandered to," Sherlock snapped and Sibyl gave him a cool look that made a flare of anger heat his chest. He wrestled it for control then gave up, slumping back in his chair, gazing out over the desolate gardens again. Sibyl didn't withdraw her hand but tightened his fingers over his briefly.
"I'll tell him to have them sent up," she said.
"Mm," Sherlock replied noncommittally. He would look at them or he wouldn't. He'd solve it or he wouldn't. What did it matter with old murder cases? Dead was dead. The killers were never as brilliant as he hoped – never as clever or elusive. There were always inexpertly hidden in the details and behind the elation of solving a puzzle, there was always the twinge of disappointment that it could be solved at all.
"Whatever you think best," he added. Sibyl squeezed his hand again then released it and he realized suddenly how tired he felt. The idea of sleeping – once so contemptible – now held so much appeal. It shut out the world, even if only for a few brief hours. He wondered if they could start giving him the benzos again now, something to make him sleep. Perhaps he could just fall asleep and not wake up, letting his life pass him by in a haze of semi-consciousness.
"I'm going to bed," he announced, pushing his chair back and standing. Sibyl nodded and began to clear their dishes back onto the serving tray despite the fact that the food was only half eaten. He didn't care. There would be more later.
Before he could crawl back into the bed, Sibyl touched his arm lightly. Sherlock turned and felt a mild shock of surprise when she pulled him into a warm hug, holding him tightly. For a moment – just a moment – he felt grounded and safe. The feeling vanished before she released him though, and he wondered if he'd imagined it. He couldn't trust his own mind, not now. Not anymore.
"Sleep well," she said, pulling him down gently to place a kiss on his forehead. Sherlock watched her leave then crawled under the covers and tried not to feel cold.
When he awoke, it was to what he had been expecting – dreading – the past week: the cravings were stronger and with them, the depression had deepened. He lay silent and still, trying to swallow against the sensation, trying to convince himself that it was temporary, trying to remember what it had felt like only a few hours ago, when he had wanted the cocaine only a little.
Now he itched and burned with desire but it was too much – he couldn't be bothered. His body screamed and his mind listened blankly, wondering if there was any point in opening his eyes.
He could get up, he could leave, he could make his way back to London and find someone within minutes who would sell him some – good product or bad, it didn't matter – if he got it into his veins, then he'd be flying, soaring, thinking. He could imagine himself there, in his old flat, he could picture himself leaving this all behind, running down the drive, running all the way to the train station, perhaps just commandeering one of the cars – he could imagine all that but he couldn't bring himself to move to do it.
Sherlock swallowed against another wave of nausea and forced his eyes open, biting his lip against a groan at the light that filtered into the room despite the overcast day. There was a lamp on the bedside table but reaching over required too much energy. He stared at it, feeling his skin crawl as another sudden craving made the sheets and his pyjamas seem like sandpaper, searing across sensitive flesh, prickling and prodding. He tried to shift but couldn't find the energy, couldn't move his burning arm to turn on the light.
There were files on the table where he and Sibyl had eaten and he felt a flare of desperation – why those and not the cocaine? He couldn't solve the puzzles without it and why bother trying? Without it, he wouldn't see the patterns, wouldn't make the connections. And it would be dull. Tedious, boring, predictable. Pointless. Why did Lestrade even care about these old cases anyway? Who still mourned these victims? Waste of time. Waste of his time.
Life was a waste of time. Breathing was so unnecessary – if he could just stop it, trade it for more cocaine. He'd trade everything, anything, whatever was asked. The house, his trust fund, the years he had left, all of it, any of it, just for one. One hit, one hit. That was all he wanted.
It was too much.
It was never enough.
He closed his eyes, turning his head away, laying still and silent until sleep claimed him again.
Sibyl found her youngest son sitting on the floor in the middle of his room, wrapped in all of the blankets that had been stripped from his bed. He refused to meet her eyes, curled in on himself, staring resolutely at the floor.
The room was a disaster. Sherlock had torn apart everything he could. Drapes and cushions were heaped into haphazard piles, furniture was pulled away from the walls, tipped over or left at random angles. The single painting had been taken out of its frame, which now lay splintered beside the abandoned canvas. His clothing was strewn everywhere and the books he'd requested several days before were spread across the room, some of them torn in two.
The only thing that hadn't been touched was the small pile of case files Inspector Lestrade had sent up from London. Sibyl made herself cast a critical eye over them; even the tablecloth that covered the table upon which they rested was undisturbed. He had very deliberately gone nowhere near them.
Sherlock hunched his shoulders even more when she stopped in front of him and crouched down, his expression – already dark – turning to thunder. No need to ask what he'd been looking for. In his current paranoid state – and with Mycroft's well intentioned surveillance – it was no stretch to imagine he'd been searching for bugs or cameras.
There weren't any, Sibyl knew. Not only did she know how to spot such devices, she knew Mycroft was aware that she'd personally have his head if he'd tried anything like that here.
Sibyl didn't miss the flicker of irritation on Sherlock's face when she righted one of the chairs and restored the cushions so she could have somewhere to sit. She curled into the chair, watching her son carefully. He was still pale but had put on a bit of weight – not much, a couple of pounds only, but it was a start. The dark circles under his eyes had begun to fade somewhat, looking less like punishing bruises, and he'd regained some of his scant colour. When he looked at her, his eyes were clearer – but he'd traded the manic look for weighted disinterest, a dull, seemingly unending despair.
He wouldn't look at her now, huddled in on himself, hands clutching the blankets across his chest.
He stayed like that for two days, refusing to speak, refusing to eat or drink, refusing to move except for when he had to use the bathroom. They'd taken the lock off the ensuite door and there was nothing in there that could hurt him. Even soaps and shampoos were removed when he wasn't using them, in case he tried make himself sick by eating it. Sibyl didn't think he would – Sherlock would know it wasn't poisonous, at least not in the small doses he was provided, but she didn't want to take any risks.
She and William took shifts and she felt her life narrow to the tiny suite and the adjacent room where she slept when her husband was with their son. The doctors and nurses came and went, never staying long. She left only to shower and to speak to her older son, who was at least honouring her request and keeping his distance for now. She knew Mycroft wanted to see Sherlock – that he was worried and upset – but she also knew precisely how Sherlock would receive his brother at the moment.
Settling down on the bed in the next room at some unknown hour – she'd lost track of time – Sibyl tried to remember when things had been good. She searched through her memories, trying to find a happy one. His birth. The way he'd been as a child, fully of curiosity and questions. His graduation from Cambridge and how proud she'd been.
They all felt like stories someone else had told her. She knew this wouldn't last, but it seemed to stretch out before her, the mythical, promised end vanishing in darkness. She couldn't picture it – she couldn't even imagine it. They'd been fighting this battle for so long, not just since she'd brought Sherlock back from London, but since he'd started using cocaine.
She understood the desire to quiet the mind, to be able to focus more clearly.
She'd always found other ways of managing it.
With a soft, dry chuckle, Sibyl realized that she could use some of that peace right now. She turned off the light and lay in the darkness, listening for any sound from the next room. There was none. Sherlock kept his stubborn, angry silence and William kept his quiet vigil. She listened until the silence finally turned into an exhausted sleep.
Sibyl was halfway through a shift when Sherlock pushed himself to his feet, blankets still draped around his shoulders. She assumed he would use the bathroom and wished he would shower – he hadn't bathed in over two days and his curly hair was becoming lank and greasy. He hadn't changed, either, nor had he consented to release his blankets so they could be washed.
To her surprise, and without a word from him, he began making the bed, working with quick, economical movements. Sibyl watched him but made no comment. Her son said nothing, working in silence until he'd finished, then climbing under the covers and settling down with his back to her. He dragged a pillow over his head and curled up. Sibyl watched him until she was certain he was asleep – he was good at faking sleep but she was his mother and she knew how to tell the difference.
Then she let herself relax, only the smallest amount. She had no idea if it meant anything – maybe he was simply too tired to stay awake any longer. But it was a change and she'd take it as a good sign.
When William came in, Sherlock was still sleeping, unmoving except the slow rise and fall of his shoulders. Her husband looked at their son, relief flickering across his worn features. For a moment, Sibyl was shocked. William looked older than she'd ever seen him do, faint circles under his eyes, paler than normal and drawn. She rose immediately and crossed the room, wrapping her arms around him. The embrace seemed to startle him for a moment, then he relaxed, winding his arms around her waist, holding her tightly in return. Sibyl laced one hand into his hair and rubbed long, slow strokes along his back, tracing tense muscles with her palm. He had been the one giving her support this entire time and now she wondered how often he'd lain awake in the next room, listening as she did.
"Do you need more rest?" she whispered, pulling away slightly. William's lips twitched wryly and he shook his head.
"No," he replied quietly. Sibyl held his gaze – he was clearly lying and she knew that, but she wasn't going to start a row over it. They both needed more rest. All three of them needed this to be done.
"I'm going to shower then I'll come right back," she said. It was their usual routine now and William nodded. She kissed him lightly, then again, then hugged him fiercely. He returned the embrace hard this time, clinging to her as if she was the one with the answers and the strength.
"It's almost over," she said, wondering if she was trying to reassure him or convince herself.
Sherlock awoke to an unusual silence that told him he was almost alone. His father was there but asleep – he could hear the even, patterned breathing, too deep to be his mother's. He shifted carefully on the bed so that he could see his father. William was asleep in a chair, head dropped back against the cushion. Sherlock stared at him for a long moment, waiting to see if he'd stir.
Really, what was so exhausting about babysitting him? He hadn't made any demands, hadn't spoken, hadn't done anything.
More fool him, he thought and wondered why.
They had righted the room and probably put in more bugs. He hadn't found any the first time but he knew they were there. A house with Mycroft in it meant he was listening and watching – always peering over a shoulder, meddling, stealing control. They watched him from afar and they watched him in this room, never giving him a moment's peace.
He sat up carefully, quietly, and slid from the bed, easing his way out of the room and down the hall to where he was allowed to smoke. There was no getting out of this wing of the house – he'd seen the burly nurse who kept guard. But he was allowed free movement between his room and this one. If being monitored by nurses and doctors and cameras counted as free movement.
Sherlock settled into a seat overlooking the garden and lit himself a cigarette. The acrid taste filled his mouth and nostrils, making him feel heady after two days of no food or drink. His vision swam with the smoke for a moment and he closed his eyes, savouring the sensation. He took another drag and felt a pang of nausea that he ignored. He was tired of his body being weak and demanding. It had let him down – it let him down all the time. It wanted food, water, sleep.
It wanted cocaine so badly that his nerves blazed suddenly, making him wince and almost choke as he tried to inhale another lungful of smoke. He exhaled hard then curled forward, gritting his teeth. The craving settled in his stomach, screaming at him, refusing to abate as he sucked in slow, deep breaths. He pressed the heel of his right hand against his forehead, trying to focus on the pain, but it wasn't enough. He felt cold suddenly, then dizzy, his mouth dry, his body aching.
Just one hit. He'd begged and pled all those days ago with his mother for just one more and she'd said no. They kept saying no, they kept denying him, and the case files Lestrade had sent sat untouched on the table because he knew he couldn't do the work now. He'd see nothing but disjointed information. He couldn't make the connections because he was not permitted to think.
They'd robbed him of himself and they had no idea.
He felt angry suddenly, then more pain, just managing to swallow on a moan. Sherlock fisted his left hand, digging his fingernails into his palm. It helped, but not enough. The craving came in waves, leaving him shuddering. The smell of smoke filled the room as his cigarette burned unheeded, the tang of the nicotine underscoring the sharpness of the craving.
He opened his eyes suddenly and moved his hand without thinking, leaning down to press the burning end of the cigarette against the bare skin on the sole of his foot.
His body screamed. He gasped, eyes widening, and pressed harder, biting his lower lip to keep from crying out, grinding the cigarette deeper into his flesh. The pain seared up his leg, setting all of his nerves on fire. He felt the tears stinging in his eyes and smelled the stench of burning flesh.
Then his father was there, grabbing his wrist, pulling it painfully away from his foot, and Sherlock hollered at the sudden shock of pain as cool air hit the fresh burn. William barrelled into him, pushing him back against the chair and pinning him there, shoulder digging into Sherlock's chest right below the hollow of his throat, making him gasp for air. He pushed back, scrabbling for purchase, trying to free himself, and felt his father let up. With a triumphant hiss, Sherlock started to sit forward again a moment before he felt the blow across his face. His fingers loosened on the cigarette he'd still been clutching and through his shock, he saw his father grinding the butt into the carpet. He opened his mouth, closed it again, trying to think, having no time to process the reality that his father had struck him before he was being hauled to his feet and dragged back to his room, stumbling on his injured foot. The pain seared through his skin, echoing the sting on his face, leaving him too stunned to fight back when William dumped him on the bed and strapped his wrists down. A moment later, the medical staff were invading the room, the doctor cursing at the burn, the nurse expertly injecting something into his arm, and the world faded to a comforting black.
Sherlock was sitting on the edge of his bed, hands folded on his lap, staring out the window when Lestrade came in. Grey eyes flickered slightly then Sherlock turned his head slowly, a look of complete distaste cross his features at the sight of the flowers Lestrade was carrying.
"It's traditional," the DI said, setting the vase on the table near the window. Sherlock followed his movements silently, making no comment aside from his stormy expression.
Lestrade cast a quick glance around the room – it was rather plain but better than a hospital room, even those rehab facility rooms that were essentially institutional behind the attempts at comfort and security. He didn't miss that the bed was a hospital gurney with wrist restraints on it, but everything else was homey and simple. It would have been almost pleasant, he thought, if not for the patient.
He studied Sherlock openly, aware he was being evaluated in return – it always made him a bit uneasy, which Sherlock probably knew, but at least the consulting detective was using his mind. He looked better than Lestrade had ever seen, his eyes clearer, his skin less swallow, his hair and clothing clean and tidy.
"Put on a couple of pounds, then," Lestrade commented, glad of it.
"Two and a half," Sherlock said tersely.
"Oh, well, of course," Lestrade replied, rolling his eyes. He settled into one of the chairs near the window. Sherlock watched him fixedly, which was unnerving. He was used to Sherlock's intense gaze but not like this. It had lost some of the manic quality and was more focused than he'd ever experienced. It was like being watched by a laser.
"Come to check up on me?" the younger man demanded.
"Checking up – sure, if you want to call it that. Or visiting a sick friend." He wondered which word Sherlock would pounce on: 'sick' or 'friend'. It was even odds, Lestrade figured.
"I haven't got any friends," the consulting detective growled in reply.
"Nope," Lestrade agreed. "You have one. Singular. A friend. That'd be me."
Sherlock held his gaze and said nothing. Lestrade crossed one leg over the other and waited a few moments. He knew he'd be the first to speak again, but he wanted to see if he could make Sherlock at least a little uncomfortable in the silence he was imposing on them now.
"How are you getting on?" he asked, ignoring the small stack of files on the table that didn't look as though they'd been touched. He'd sent them up to Sibyl Holmes earlier that week and had hoped they would help distract Sherlock from himself. He hadn't really expected that his sole consultant would have disregarded them altogether.
"You've spoken with my mother," Sherlock replied shortly. "Surely her judgment is better than mine. She's not an addict, after all."
Lestrade raised an eyebrow but didn't ask how Sherlock knew he'd spoken to Sibyl. Probably the lack of tea being brought into the room. It had been offered him when he'd arrived but he'd declined. He got the impression the Holmes weren't the type to forego social niceties just because one of their sons was in the middle of rehab.
He hadn't thought much of Sherlock's parents when he'd first met the younger man. In Lestrade's experience, most of the junkies had some issues they were trying to escape – abuse or neglect or addicted parents. He'd wondered what it was – and kept right on wondering.
He sighed inwardly, resisting the urge to shake his head. Some people just made bad choices and paid for it. He'd seen that, too. He may not be a genius but he was a bloody good cop and he was practised at reading people. If Sherlock came from an abusive home, he'd eat his badge.
Talking with his mother only reinforced that opinion – he hadn't met the father, but Sibyl Holmes was not a woman who was frightened or controlled by her husband. His brother was overbearing, but older brothers were. Lestrade knew that. He was one. It was probably a bit different when one's older brother occupied a key position in the government or Secret Service or whatever it was – but the fundamentals were the same.
"I did talk to her," he agree. "She said you've been clean two weeks now."
Sherlock's lips twitched and he gave a wry chuckle that was little more than a huff. He turned his gaze away from Lestrade, looking out over the barren winter gardens beyond the window.
"Not by choice."
"Bollocks," Lestrade said and Sherlock's eyes met his again, surprise flickering across his features. "Oh, I don't doubt you hate the choice, but you made it. You don't fool me for a second, Sherlock. A place like this? Bloody prison cells can't hold you – and I know that from personal experience. You could have had one of those windows out of its frame in seconds and been out. London's not that far, you'd manage. You could get home – if you want to call that dump a home – and be back on the drugs in less than a day if you wanted."
"If I wanted?" Sherlock snarled.
"I believe you want the drugs, yeah. But I also think you want to stop."
Sherlock's eyes slid away again and the anger Lestrade had seen there – that moment of passion – faded.
"I do so enjoy not being able to think," the young man murmured. Lestrade thought it wasn't just wry sarcasm in there, but also hint of defeat.
He didn't offer any platitudes – he knew Sherlock was also aware that this phase was the worst and the longest. The man was more than genius enough to be aware of all the standard cocaine withdrawal stages. Knowing them and believing this would end were two different things, though. Lestrade understood well enough that it probably felt permanent and no amount of reassurance would change that.
"Anywhere we can have a smoke?" he asked. A bare smile twitched across Sherlock's lips. "Good god, you haven't tried to kick that at the same time?" he demanded to which he received a derisive answering snort.
"No," Sherlock replied, easing himself off the bed. Lestrade noted that he was favouring his right leg. He raised an eyebrow at the faint limp but didn't ask and Sherlock offered no explanation.
He followed the younger man out of the bedroom and down the hall to a small sitting room that smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. There was a package resting on low, round wooden table beside the wingback chair into which Sherlock lowered himself before lighting a cigarette. He offered the package to the DI, who shook his head, pulling his own from his coat pocket.
"Not my brand," he said. Sherlock just shrugged, puffing on his cigarette, eyes drifting away.
They smoked in silence – it wasn't quite companionable but it was close. Lestrade didn't bother trying to think of anything to say or ask. No matter what he could come up with, Sherlock wouldn't want to talk about it. He was not a chatting kind of person and would probably accuse him of asking for redundant information. That was true – Sibyl Holmes had filled him in on what he was suspected was pretty much everything. Not the reason why Sherlock was limping and probably not some of the other less savoury details.
But he knew that Sherlock had asked her not to give him the easy way out this time. Looking at him now, it was obvious he hadn't taken it at any opportunity.
Sherlock had never wanted to quit before, not really. Lestrade wondered what had changed his mind this time – and he knew he could go right on wondering. It didn't matter. Whatever it was, it was letting him see his consulting detective truly sober for the first time since they'd known each other. He doubted this was what Sherlock would be like when he'd recovered – and he hoped to hell there were no relapses, because a man like Sherlock would relapse all the way to killing himself.
They sat quietly for awhile after they'd finished smoking, too, until the DI knew he had to head back to London if he had any hope of getting home in time for tea.
"Let me know if you need help finding a new flat in the city," he said. "I know a few good places, a few good people. Better than that dump you were living in before. Not that that'd be hard to beat."
Sherlock turned his head slowly, grey eyes meeting blue.
"You think I'm coming back," he said, his voice flat, almost inflectionless.
Despite himself, Lestrade grinned.
"Nope. I know you're coming back. You, out of London, Sherlock? Quiet life in the country, maybe? A gentleman farmer?" He snorted. "Not bloody likely." He ignored the continued silent stare. "Offer stands, if you need it."
There was a long moment of silence then Sherlock gave a single curt nod.
"Let me know when you have something on those cases, too," Lestrade said.
He returned to his room after Lestrade had left and sat on the bed, staring at the flowers that the DI had brought. Pre-made bouquet, riot of colours, a number of different varieties, different petal textures, mixed with greenery as accents. No card, but there was no need.
No one had ever given him flowers before. For anything.
It was an odd sensation to be given a get well present. Did it help? Was it meant to lift the spirits or to offset the bland calmness of the room? Was there some palliative effect?
Before he could think about it too much, he stood, wincing at the flare of pain in his right foot, and limped the two steps to the bedside table, leaning down to sniff the bouquet curiously. He pulled back then sniffed again – the scent wasn't as strong as he'd been expecting. Sherlock looked out the window and realized he was accustomed to the heady perfumes of the flowers in the gardens here. If it had been summer, his mother would have filled this room with the blooms.
With a sigh, he sat down on the bed again and looked at the case files piled neatly on the table. No one had touched them. Not his parents, not Lestrade, not the doctors or nurses.
He stared at the files for long, silent minutes, then he limped to the table, sat down and pulled a folder toward him. Sherlock flipped it open and began to read.
He abandoned the file ten minutes later, no wiser than he had been when he'd opened it. The information was there but disjointed, floating around in his brain like random, unconnected pieces. There was no pattern, no correlations that he could see. Bits of data the police had gathered, written down, deemed useless.
Why pretend he could make more of it?
Once, yes. When he was permitted to think. Now it was nothing but words and pictures, snapshots of a life that was no longer a life but some faded memory.
He closed the file and placed it back on top of the others, arranging it to mask the fact that it had been moved.
Better to pretend he'd never tried. Better to wait until they were taken away – like everything else. His mind, his work. All that had ever mattered.
He limped back to the bed and lay down, pulling the covers up to his chin. He was allowed to be on his own now after several days of being closely guarded. He wasn't going to sit curled up on the floor anymore. He wasn't going to burn himself with a cigarette.
He wasn't going to do anything.
He closed his eyes, and slept.
When he awoke, he was still alone, although he could hear two of the medical staff speaking in low tones in the hallway. He strained his hearing then sighed quietly – their voices were too soft, lost to him and the conversation faded as they walked away from his room.
Sherlock lay still for awhile, wondering how long he would be left alone. They checked on him when he slept, he knew. Occasionally he heard the door open and shut through his dreams or could smell a perfume lingering in the air that hadn't been there before. He could identify each doctor or nurse with his eyes closed and none of them seemed very adept at telling if he was feigning sleep. His mother knew, of course – and possibly his father. They did not sit a constant vigil now, but he wondered why they'd ever bothered. Mycroft had his monitoring devices hidden in the room. Why not use those?
The thought made him angry suddenly and he sat up, ignoring the craving that flared in him as he moved.
How dare Mycroft? How dare he? He had what he wanted – Sherlock locked up, forced off the drugs, unable to think. Nicely and neatly tucked out of the way. Not causing any fuss for anyone.
"Why can't you leave me alone?" he hissed to the empty air. He set his jaw and pursed his lips, staying silent as if awaiting an answer. Mycroft wouldn't give him one. He'd sit in his lofty perch and watch and never bother to come down to this level.
Sherlock made to push himself from the bed – he hadn't found the cameras or bugs last time, but he would this time. The room wasn't that big. Let Mycroft see him doing it – it didn't matter.
He froze when he saw the new item on the table. The files had been moved back to make room for it but for a moment, Sherlock was certain he was hallucinating. He cajoled his brain, trying to remember if hallucinations were a side effect of cocaine withdrawal. He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut hard, then opened them again.
It was still there.
Carefully, mindful of his injured foot, Sherlock rose and padded over to the table, eyes trained on the black case. He touched his fingertips to it – it was warm but the gleaming stainless steel latches were cool when he flipped them open, half amazed that the whole thing did not evaporate under his hands. He eased the lid open and stared at the instrument inside.
It had been seven months since he'd had a violin. He'd sold the last one for money for drugs – one of the wonders of the internet was that he'd been able to sell it quickly and for a decent price. It had kept him supplied for two and a half glorious months.
But this one–
He could sell this and never worry about the money again. He could keep himself in as much cocaine as he wanted for the rest of his life just on this alone. He could name his price and it would be matched or exceeded. Collectors would scramble all over themselves for it – he could kiss his trust fund and his clients and any other money good-bye but he wouldn't need them, not with this.
He followed the contours with his eyes, tracing the warm brown wood, the taut cool strings. The body of the violin shone in the lamplight, reflecting tiny ribbons of gold on its polished surface.
He'd destroy the instrument himself before he ever parted with it for any amount of money.
Carefully, oh so carefully, Sherlock withdrew the violin for its case, marvelling at the familiarity that settled into his hands as they adjusted themselves automatically to hold the weight, to distribute it properly. He fingered the strings and checked the tightness – but of course Sibyl had tuned it before giving it to him.
Sherlock shifted the hold to his left hand and freed the bow from the case, running his eyes expertly along the hairs. It had been perfectly cleaned as well – she couldn't have left this too long ago. He needed to do nothing to it.
Nothing but play.
He closed his eyes and set the bow against the strings, holding it there for a long moment, feeling the anticipation vibrating in his muscles, the small shifts and twitches that were body memory coursing through his nerves, reminding him what to do. Sherlock inhaled deeply, held his breath, then let it out slowly and drew the bow down.
The note was pure, sharp, lingering in the room as he snapped his eyes open. He let it fade before calling out another one, then a third, then a fourth. He closed his eyes again, running through scales over and over, warming up, learning the instrument, adjusting to its tone and weight and character. Movements he thought he'd forgotten came back, smooth and dextrous as if he'd played only the day before.
The music flooded the room and if Mycroft was watching then let him – it made absolutely no difference. He could watch from afar and perhaps even hear the music but it wasn't his. This could not be stolen by his brother. This was something Mycroft would never had, this touch, this connection, this passion. He'd watch and listen, but he would never understand.
He'd sold his last violin and thought he'd deleted all the memories of the music, the knowledge of how to play – but oh, how wrong he'd been about that. It came rushing back now, all of it, so that notes and bars and movements and pieces danced in his brain, racing to his fingertips, demanding to be played. He let them come, snatches of a symphony interspersed with fragments of scales and pieces he couldn't even name.
And then the music was coming instinctively, like breathing, like thinking.
The case – the words and images jumped into his mind and Sherlock nearly faltered, fingers tightening on the bow and strings a moment before he could loosen and relax them. He kept playing through it, letting the vibrant notes swallow the uncertain ones, and tried not to focus. It wouldn't be chased down but it could be coaxed out and – there – there it was again.
The information was right in front of him, shifting like sand, but he began to see the patterns as it fluctuated. Snatches at first, mere hints that were like flickering candles – bright one moment, nearly gone the next. Sherlock stayed where he was, letting them come to him, waiting, playing, the notes moving around him, encouraging the thoughts closer.
And there it was.
He opened his eyes with a gasp, hands stopping abruptly, the notes fading around him until they echoed only in his memory. He stood very still, letting the information settle, checking it, looking for gaps, for errors.
There weren't any.
He was right.
Quickly but carefully, he returned the violin to its case, closed it, and set it gently on the bed. Then, moving too quickly for his injured foot's liking, he stalked to the door and yanked it open. There was a nurse in the hallway – short, dark haired, single, worked too much – who stopped when he appeared abruptly.
"A pen. I need a pen."
"What?" she asked.
"A pen! And paper. Right now. Quickly!"
She stared at him another moment, then gave a startled nod, reaching instinctively for a pocket. A pen was withdrawn and extended toward him and Sherlock limped down the hallway as quickly as he could to snatch it from her.
"Find me paper!" he called over his shoulder, hurrying back to his room. He had nothing to write on – not the files, that made Lestrade angry. He sat down and grabbed the folder, then looked at the bare expanse of his left forearm. It would have to do for now, unless the nurse hurried.
Sherlock flipped the folder open and began to work.