Sherlock grimaced at his reflection in the mirror as he gently prodded at the swollen and darkening flesh around his left eye. His gaze drifted down his naked reflection pausing, only briefly, to acknowledge the bruises forming across his arms and the two raw marks on his wrists. He turned slowly to examine the damage done to his back. It was clear of bruising, but snaking red scratches stretched across his shoulders. He wasn't sore yet. But he knew he would be. And soon. Sherlock could already feel the familiar stinging arriving in his backside and he suddenly had a very desperate urge to vomit.

He flung himself headfirst into the toilet, his hairline dipping a bit into the still water, and he released the contents of his stomach, a few mints, and a pastry he'd managed to nick from the bakery round the corner that morning. His head reeled as he inhaled the smell of his own vomit and continued to dry heave. The aching in his backside seemed to intensify. Sherlock could feel wetness against his cheeks and he groaned in a mixture of pain, frustration, and shame. Tears, he quickly thought to himself, were a useless display made by those without power. Like himself, he added at the end.

"Are you alright in there, pet?"

That voice made Sherlock's stomach churn all over again. He groaned again, pushing himself up off the floor, wincing. "Fine."

He gathered himself a bit before pushing the door open and strolling back into the bedroom, without so much as a cringe at the pain in his bottom. Jim smiled at him and it made Sherlock's skin jump. Their client was gone he noted glancing around the room briefly, only his soreness and the smell of blood and sex to remind him of his previous engagement. Sherlock's fingers began to twitch and fidget. God, he needed a fix. The cocaine always helped him relax, helped him forget, fractionally, about his pathetic, useless life.

"Clean yourself up, my little pet," Jim said, his chagrin in his voice. He slapped a wet cloth against Sherlock's bare chest. It was warm, and the feeling was a sort of comfort that Sherlock wasn't really accustomed to and it scared him. Jim's black tailored suit crinkled as he moved about the room, picking up a blanket from the floor and tossing that to Sherlock as well, who caught is but immediately wished he hadn't. It smelled like the client. Sherlock spotted a stain near the bottom of the old ratty piece of comforter: his own blood. He dropped it, more like threw the blanket to the floor glared down at it, as if it was the cause of all of this. The reason why he was stuck in this hell, slowly dying day in and day out as Jim, the bastard, sold his own body out to strangers in exchange for notes and drugs.

A sudden hand on the small of his back made Sherlock cringe. Jim's cold fingers moved up and down his spine in what would have been a soothing motion had it been anyone else. "I'm sorry the bad man hurt you, pet."

His voice made Sherlock want to crawl into a dark hole. The hand moving against his bare skin made him want to scream and for tears to roll endlessly down his cheeks. He'd never experienced true hatred before, but he would have imagined this is what it was like. The fear and the rage and the dependency all rolled into one. It made him sick. Every day he spent in Jim's hold he grew more disgusted with himself, closer to emptiness.

"Once you cleaned up and no longer look like a whore you can get your fix." Jim straightened his lapels for a moment before sending Sherlock a grin and leaving the room. His footsteps faded slowly down the stairwell outside the room and Sherlock began counting. He made it to thirty two before his throat swelled and hot angry tears began to blur his vision.

He'd made it to forty, last time.

"Okay, Mr. Liles, I'm going to need you to sit down," John said with a resigned half sigh, gripping a tongue depressor in his fingers and hoping he wouldn't end up snapping it. Said Mr. Liles glared down at John, his wrinkled face suddenly gathering even more creases and stubbornly widening his stance.

"Oi, you, listen here. 'M not sick. I'm jus a little tired."

John straightened a bit, his white coat swishing a bit with his movements. Christ he hated clinic. He brought his fingers to rub the bridge of his nose and chanced a look at Mrs. Liles whose plumb frame was sitting on a small stool in the far corner of the room. She was clutching her small pink handbag a bit too tightly, her knuckles white and her face red. "Charlie, you sit there and listen to the doctor, you useless man. 'M so sorry, Doctor Watson, Charlie can be such a child sometimes."

The last bit she emphasized with a pointed look at her husband before returning her eyes to John with a small apologetic smile. Her scolding seemed to have its intended effect, Mr. Liles huffed but sat back on the table all the same. John shifted a bit, his leg giving him a twinge of discomforted, before finally beginning his examination.


John stiffened, his hands on Mr. Liles's collarbone went cold. He exhaled loudly through his nose. It wasn't real. He knew that voice and he knew it wasn't real. He knew he was in Bart's Hospital, not in some hell hole in the Middle East getting shot at. He was in London. He shook his head for a moment, trying really to shake the hallucination away. John's fingers moved down Mr. Liles's collarbone to his neck, his gloved hands pressing momentarily at the lymph nodes there.


John squeezed his eyes closed, trying to will away the voices. He lifted one hand to tug at a tuff of sandy hair and the other went to his throat that was suddenly very dry. Gunshots. Shrapnel. Sand grinding between his teeth, caking behind his eyelids and filling here ears. He stumbled back, his leg screaming, and reached out to blindly grab for his weapon. If his CO found him without it there'd be hell to pay.

"Doctor Watson, listen to me," two hands gripped either side of his face, pulling him head first out of the horror. The voice was soft, with hands equally so. She spoke again, firmer this time, and John recognized the voice, "John, it's okay, we're in Bart's, remember? Yes? London."


John cracked his eyes open to see her face, flushed and covered with panic. It was fake. All of it. He was in London, at Bart's. Jesus, he'd just lost it in front of a patient. John's head shot up and he looked over to Mr. and Mrs. Liles who were watching him wide eyed. They flinched when they met his eye contact. He could feel his ears and cheeks heating up. John breathed in deeply, trying to steady his thumbing heart, the smell of the room, alcohol and latex, was suddenly making his nose burn.

"Please," he mumbled, his voice a bit croaky, "excuse me."

He pushed his way past Sarah and out the door. He didn't recall moving to stand outside but when he rubbed his eyes, fighting to keep those blasted tears from running down his face, he felt the chill of the November afternoon. The smell of his own sweat mixed with a faint scent of sewage from the ally in which he'd found himself only intensified his own embarrassment. He leaned his head back against the brick wall of the hospital and chocked back a sob.

The hell was wrong with him? This was the third time in a month that he'd been plagued with flashbacks at work. It had been almost nine months since he'd left the Army, more like been rudely kicked out on his ass, he thought with a grim chuckle.


He automatically cringed into himself at the sound of Sarah's scolding. "Sarah," John started, his voice a bit hoarse, but she held up a hand stopping him. Her eyes were some mixture of empathy and rage that made suddenly feel small and useless. And he hated it.

"Just…don't." She was rigid. Her small, delicate arms folded harshly under her breasts. John allowed himself, just a moment, to remember how soft and pliant she'd been in his arms all those months ago. The way she felt around him and the flush of her cheeks and how the tint matched the color of her nipples so perfectly. Her warmth and softness. The memory was one he rather enjoyed. But that had been almost five months ago. Things were a bit different now.

"John, I know it's difficult for you," she began. He could tell she was fighting to keep the venom out of her voice for his sake. "But it's been a while now. I cannot have you putting your patients or coworkers at risk." Sarah's eyes, just as soft as her skin, shifted finally, planting themselves on the ground in front of her. "I think you should take some time off."

"No." John almost whined. "No, Sarah, you know how much I need this. You know. I can't…not work. You know."

"Your break will start immediately." She turned back and moved to open the door but stopped short, "Please get help, or don't bother coming back to work." And she left him standing in the ally, the smell of filth the only company to John's own shame.