A/N: So. I lied. I wrote it. And am posting it before the final chapter. I think the main story might be better for it. I dunno though. Final chapter of Schoolgirl Crush coming tomorrow (I don't see this painting being finished before midnight) but hopefully this'll tide you over. Let me know what you think!
He pretends he is fine. He doesn't know why. There's no one there to pretend to. He's not even pretending to himself because he knows, he has always known, that he is well and truly fucked.
Regardless, he cooks his own dinner the first night she's gone. He's not hungry, but he wants to prove to himself that he can do it. As such, he goes all out. He buys a joint from the butchers that he won't even eat a tenth of. He shoves it in the oven and waits.
He gets bored quickly, and starts peeling potatoes. The shaking of his hands means that he cuts himself three times before he loses patience and throws them into the pan of water roughly quartered, skins still on.
He squats down to peer through the oven door. He scowls at the meat, which, in his opinion, is being decidedly rude by not cooking in twenty minutes, and then turns the oven up to its highest temperature.
He feels good. Though his throat is raw, as though he's smoked a hundred cigarettes at once. He opens his eyes, and the ceiling above his hazy, wisps of grey distorting his vision. He inhales slowly, and then starts to cough. He sits up, wheezing and spluttering, and looks around, his eyes watering.
And then he remembers dinner.
He pushes himself off the bed, and immediately falls to the ground. His legs feel like jelly, which is fine when he's laying down, but less fine when he's trying to stop the flat from burning down. He crawls into the kitchen, and black smoke is seeping from around the oven door. He twists the dial, turning it off, and opens the door. He is immediately engulfed in a cloud of black, and he falls back against the cabinets, hitting his head against the handle of a drawer. He closes his eyes for a second, waiting for the pain to recede, then reaches up to the counter, feeling around for a tea towel. His fingers catch the edge of one and he yanks it down, forcing himself over to the oven so he can lift out the meat. He shoves it onto the counter, slams the oven door shut and then pulls himself to his feet, his legs trembling under his weight.
His lungs feel heavy, cluttered, and so he finds the handle of the window, pushes it up and shoves the window open. He falls against the counter, his elbows holding him up, and waits for the smoke to clear. The chill of the air is perhaps the best thing he has ever tasted, and soon his lungs start to clear.
When the haze of smoke has more or less departed, leaving an acrid stench behind, he moves forward to inspect his dinner. It is black and shrivelled and looks rather like something that would result in a murder investigation.
He takes a knife out of the drawer and digs it deep into the joint, then levers away the the burned flesh. Deep inside, there is still a little juice, and it is still a little tender.
Sherlock lights a cigarette, and starts to pick at the salvageable remains.
He doesn't need her after all.
Mycroft doesn't knock. Or maybe he does, and Sherlock wasn't paying attention. When he comes to, he sees his older brother, looming above his bed, leaning his weight against his umbrella. He tuts softly, and Sherlock rolls over, pulling his duvet above his head.
"Does she know you've stolen from her?"
Sherlock yanks the duvet down again to glare at Mycroft.
"I've done no such thing!"
"Then what is that you're clutching?"
Sherlock looks down at his left hand. His fingers are wrapped around a silver bangle. He recognises it immediately as Molly's. It's warm. He must have had it all night. Or day. He's not entirely sure what time it is. He doesn't release it however. To release it equates (in his mind at least) to releasing her, and that is something he is unwilling to do.
"She must have left it here."
Mycroft smiles that faux warm smile that Sherlock has seen too many times. It's the smile that says 'yes, of course, that's the only explanation', yet really means 'oh how naive and childish of you to think that.'
"Why are you here?"
"I believe it's called a last ditch attempt," Mycroft says, looking down at his umbrella. "And with Miss Hooper gone, I thought it would only be so long before you gave in."
Sherlock sits up. "Did you make her leave? Is this your doing?" He's angry, but he knows full well that squaring up to his brother will only result in Mycroft gently tipping him backwards onto the bed again with the slightest touch of his umbrella. As good as the stuff makes him feel, it's not great for confrontation.
"I haven't spoken to her since I offered you treatment. She left of her own accord, Sherlock. You pushed her over the edge. The girl who stayed when everyone else had abandoned you...How very pathetic you have become."
"She'll come back," Sherlock says. "I know she will."
"She'll go to your funeral, yes," Mycroft agrees. "But come back to this house? To you? No."
"She adores me."
Mycroft shakes his head. "She was a child when the two of you met. She idolised you. And now, her childhood hero has fallen beyond her reach. She can do nothing for you until you want to change."
"I don't need to change."
"You died," Mycroft says. "You had no pulse. And who was here to bring you back?"
Sherlock says nothing.
"Did you thank her?"
"So why should she bother?"
"She doesn't do it for my gratitude," Sherlock spits. "She does it because she cares!"
"But if you don't care about yourself then you'll be forever a burden on her. She has her own life, you know. She's already given up more for you than you'll ever realise."
Mycroft takes his notebook out of his breast pocket and flicks through the pages. "Pancreatic cancer."
"Her father. You never asked what he was dying of. Not once."
"She didn't want to talk about it," Sherlock says with a shrug.
"No Sherlock, you didn't want to talk about it. Do you remember the night he died?"
Sherlock racks his brains. He has worn her down, he knows that. The cockiness she had as a school girl has been beaten out of her, and he's the one to blame. But even so, he remembers a night when her eyes were emptier than usual. When she had been a ghost of the Molly he knew. He remembers the tears, and remembers being unable to console her.
He remembers it taking every morsel of energy he had to wrap his arms around her.
"She won't come back. You've destroyed her this time."
Mycroft leaves, closing the front door behind him, and Sherlock lays back down, burrowing deep under his duvet. The bangle leaves deep imprints his fingers, but he doesn't care. He won't let it go.
She'll have to come back and get it at some point.
The library at King's College is nicer than Sherlock had been expecting. He had always considered Molly wasted here, always thought that Edinburgh would have been perfect for her.
He briefly wonders whether he would have ended up hiding in Scottish bookshelves to get his fix, but puts the thought from his mind.
She is sitting on the large round table in the centre of the room, all the other seats occupied by students sporting varying expressions of worry and panic. Molly is surrounded by textbooks, almost like she has built her own fort in which to study. Her eyes scan across pages quickly, while she makes notes, her pencil scurrying across her notepad.
He wants to reassure her. Wants to tell her that she's going to be fine. But then the nasty voice at the back of his mind rears its ugly head, reminding him that it was Molly who left him.
"Still alive then I see?" a hushed voice to his right says.
"Go away, Stacey."
"What, so you can perv on her in peace? No chance!"
"I'm not perving," Sherlock says haughtily. "I'm just -"
Sherlock considers this for a moment, then shrugs. "Possibly."
"That wasn't the best option you could have gone with."
"I don't seem to recall ever caring about your opinion..."
"Are you high?"
"Are you clean?"
"I had a shower last night."
Stacey shoves him, and he stumbles. He huffs, standing up straight and tugging his hoodie down, smoothing it out.
"Why d'you wear that?"
"I blend in," Sherlock says, pretending to consult a book on degenerating diseases, all the while peering over the top of it. Molly's head is in her hands, her long hair casting a shadow over her face.
"Oh..." Stacey says slowly. "Makes stalking easier, does it?"
"Yes - wait, what?" He thrusts the book back onto the shelf and turns around.
Stacey chuckles and strolls off deeper into the maze of bookshelves. Sherlock takes one last look at Molly, mentally imploring her to sleep, eat, and watch some television before she explodes, then leaves, his hood pulled up, his hands deep in his pockets.
He tries to ignore the tremoring, but he's not been in the flat for more than thirty seconds before he's plunging the needle into his arm once more.
She stays with him throughout his high. She's wearing her school uniform, and there are no bags under her eyes. She looks at him with a sparkle in her eyes that he has not seen for far too long.
He cannot breathe. His throat is clogged. He tries to open his eyes but his lids are too heavy. He tries to sit up. He's too weak. His lungs feel shrivelled in his chest and he tries, tries so hard to breathe, but his stomach is bubbling and he can do nothing about it. Panic floods through him and he tries to move. He's taken too much this time, even he'll admit that. He has no strength, his muscles are slack, and all he wants is to feel air in his lungs.
She enters his head. There are tears on her face and he wishes, with all his heart that she were here. He'd do anything to have her back but it's too late. This is it, and she turns and walks away from him. He tries to call her back but can't make a sound, and every second he goes with out oxygen is another second closer to death.
He prays. For the first time in his life. He has nothing left. No hope. He prays that his windpipe will clear, though he knows that's a tall order. He prays that she won't be the one to find him. He prays that she won't blame herself.
He prays that she will never cry over him ever again.
He'll do anything if he gets the chance. Anything at all. He'll run straight back to her and he swears, he will be a better man. She deserves a better man, and if he can become that then there's hope for him yet.
He can feel the bangle in his hand, and tries to squeeze it. It's the last thing he has left of her.
He'll even go to rehab.
Perhaps it is the thought of rehab, or perhaps there actually is someone up there listening. He lurches, rolling off of the bed and landing on all fours. Vomit splatters against the floorboards and Sherlock fights for breath. Every time he thinks he can just about manage to haul some air into his lungs, a fresh wave of nausea hits him, and there is nothing he can do about it.
Eventually, he is empty. His entire body trembles, and he doesn't move for fear of falling down. He takes deep steadying breaths, tears streaming down his face.
An hour later, after a shower and a half hearted attempt at cleaning up the mess he'd made, Sherlock is in the corner shop, his hood pulled up, casting even more shadow over his hollow looking eye sockets.
"Go to her," Ahmed says, jabbing at the till with his index finger. "She loves you too much to turn you away."
Sherlock doesn't reply, but is already undoing the bottle of Lucozade on the shop counter.
"Have a sandwich, lad," Ahmed adds, and reaches over to the chiller cabinet, taking the closest one. He drops it onto the counter next to Sherlock's cigarettes and drink, and Sherlock hands over his money.
Ahmed gives him his change, and Sherlock pushes it into his jeans. His tin rattles in the pocket of his hoodie.
"Eat, smarten yourself up, and go and find her."
"You giving up?"
He nods again, and something shifts behind Ahmed's deep brown eyes. He gives Sherlock's shoulder a squeeze. "Good lad. Hardest part. Get her back on side and you're home running."
Sherlock takes a moment to organise his purchases in his pockets, the bottle of Lucozade half hanging out of his hoodie. He tears open the sandwich packet, his muscles straining with the energy required. He leaves, with Ahmed calling "Good luck!" after him, and steps out into the rush of the real world.
He has always liked the Embankment. The street lights in particular, with their round white orbs gleaming in the night. He can see Albert Bridge in the distance, lit up like a Christmas tree, the buses trundling across it. He sits on a bench and admires the view. It's been so long since he has stopped and looked at the city he lives in.
He takes his tin out of his pocket and opens it. He stares at his needles and his bottles for one last moment, before he closes the tin once more. He stands, walks over to the edge of the pavement, stopping at the carved stone barrier, weighing the tin in his hands. He launches it into the sky and squints, but loses track of its journey quickly. A few moments later he hears a quiet splash.
From now on, he is a clean man.
He takes a swig of Lucozade, gearing himself up for the walk. The Earl is a mile and a half north west from where he is, but for the life of him, he cannot work out a route in his head.
He starts walking in the vague direction, and slowly, his knowledge of the city starts to return. After twenty minutes, during which people cross the street at the sight of him, he turns left, and sees the hanging sign, swinging softly in the breeze.
Sherlock peers through the window. It looks so warm in there, the yellow glow of the lights, the laughter, the multicoloured flashing of the fruit machines. He craves to be in there, among people, because now he knows. Alone is no good. You live alone, you die alone, a lot sooner and a lot more miserably than those with friends do.
Molly is standing at the bar, and his veins flare with heat when he sees some spiky haired moron leaning casually against the bar, blatantly trying to chat her up. She's not in the mood. He can tell that by the slope of her shoulders and the way her fingers twitch every time this prick opens his mouth.
Of course the dead giveaway is the fact that Molly has standards. Standards which this idiot does not meet.
Molly's fist clenches quickly, and Sherlock's eyes flash as he watches the boy, intent upon finding out what he had said that resulted in Molly counting to three.
Seconds later however, Molly's counting is forgotten. He doesn't care about what the idiot boy said then. What he now cares about are the words that resulted in Molly taking a swing at him, her aim perfect.
Sherlock shrinks into the shadows as Molly storms out, then moves back to window, to enjoy the sight of the boy bleeding all over the pub carpet.
Stacey rushes out, and Sherlock doesn't bother to hide.
"Molly! Molly come back!"
"She'll be fine."
Stacey whirls around, her hand resting on her heart. "Oh," she says breathily. "It's you."
"You might want to stay at your boyfriend's tonight," Sherlock tells her.
"Oh might I?"
"I'm clean," Sherlock says shortly, finding it easier to focus on the pavement. "I'm going to sort things out with her. I'm leaving tomorrow."
"To go where?"
The word swells in his throat, and Sherlock doesn't want to say it. It scares him. More than he'd ever admit to anyone. Saying it aloud means there's no turning back. Saying it aloud means it's now or never.
Stacey drops her Bacardi Breezer.
"You're shitting me!"
Sherlock almost laughs.
"I shit you not, Stacey. I shit you not."
The door feels very very big, and as he approaches, he feels so incredibly small. The brass lion door knocker seems to be snarling just at him, as though it is just as protective over Molly as he, Sherlock, used to be.
He still would be protective over her, were it not for the fact that he's the one she needs protecting from. He stands there for at least a minute, before he reaches his hand up and knocks twice. His heart shrinks in his chest, his stomach tied in knots as he waits for her to answer. He hears something slam, then through the patterned glass sees the shadow of her approaching.
He can tell by her gait that adrenalin is still rushing through her, and resolves not to dodge if she chooses to punch him too. He would deserve it, he knows that.
She pulls the door open roughly, her expression wild, but when she sees him, his hands in his pockets, looking up at her from under his hood, her face softens. He takes advantage of her moment of weakness, and gives her the first genuine compliment he has issued for years.
He's hurt her, he knows that. The lump in his throat grows by the second, now that his body isn't polluted, and that hammers the point home too.
But when she stands aside and lets him in, he knows he can breathe a sigh of relief. She is far too forgiving, and he, by his own admission, is far too fucking lucky.