Prologue

Wounds made at sea heal inland,

But wounds made inland are cured by the sea.

- Spanish saying

Sherlock times it perfectly. Not so soon that people are too sober to be overly cautious with their stash, but not so late that they are too strung out that they don't think to offer the young, handsome guy a line or two. He is twenty-two, and money is tight, cut off by Mycroft months ago when it became obvious that Sherlock was too far gone to be responsible enough to choose food over blow, even willing, now, to sacrifice his solitude for a score.

When he arrives, the house party is in full swing, and it doesn't take long for Sherlock to infiltrate a group of college students doing lines off aluminium paper through a crisp, rolled-up twenty fresh from the ATM. It's reached the point when the lines are almost half a gram long, and Sherlock won't be surprised when one of the girls overdoses by the end of the night, but he doesn't even think to care; that won't be his responsibility. Usually, the only dose of free drugs a person can manage is a swipe at a passed-around spliff, but Sherlock tried that once and never again, hating the way it disintegrated his thoughts, crumbling the letters into amnesic dust, his cognitive process slowed to the point that even time lost meaning and a strange, thick-tongue aphasia took over. But for Sherlock it's ridiculously easy to manipulate them into offering him a taste of white powder; a few charming smiles and softened eyes, a pair of dry, dirty jokes, and Sherlock is in, his skin a coat of faux sheep hair, disguising his claws and sharp teeth. He extracts himself soon after, lighting a cigarette and collapsing into a couch, letting the ash fall to the dirty floor. His heart is speeding up, and he can feel it in his throat, the neurons behind his eyes firing in a wild tempo, and he goes over the equations he had been trying to break at home, nimbly twisting numbers and Xs and Ys into coherent order. Normally, his mind tries to speed at a pace he can hardly control, and the ideas balloon through white and grey matter, suffocating him, until he needs some other kind of stimulation to keep up, to ground his brain into flesh and keep it from dissipating up into philosophical space. The violin had been enough, for a while, something to keep the wild parts of his mind in order, orchestrating the thought process into something manageable. Cigarettes took off the edge, a burst to help his brain catch up to his thoughts, keeping his restless hand occupied, but soon it hadn't been enough. But cocaine, oh, it was perfect, the rush, the focus, the heart that raced to the beat of his thoughts. If only he could get some soluble solution, he'd be set.

The gears in his cold, mechanical brain are whirling madly as he sits, the cigarette now smoke and ash, burning his bottom lip as he takes the last drag, when he feels the couch dip beside him. He tries to ignore it, but an arm is pressing again his, too close, far too close, and he turns to look at an emaciated looking girl, her blond hair sweaty at the temples, falling from the bun on her head to frame her face in wisps. She's intoxicated with a mixture of cocaine and valium, a delicious highlow he would get to know soon.

"You look lonely," she says, and Sherlock calculates how soon he can leave without ruining his chances of scoring here again. He says nothing, and the girl sighs, leaning her head back, exposing her throat. Suddenly, with an intoxicated lack of preamble, she asks, "If the world were ending, who would you think about?" Sherlock stares at her, through the music and the high, trying to dampen his irritation.

"Who would I think about? Why would I think of anyone? Wouldn't it be more conductive to attempt to stop this metaphorical end of civilization?" Sherlock drawls. The girl laughs.

"No, man, those are the rules of the game. The world is ending, you can't stop it. Who would you think about?" Sherlock pauses in the ridiculousness of the question.

"I wouldn't think of anybody. What would be the point?" he replies. The girl roles her head to look at him, opening her eyes to eyelash-framed slits.

"That's the saddest thing I've ever heard," she says, sounding like she means it. Sherlock raises his eyebrows, but says nothing. Half an hour, he calculates, until he can leave without drawing attention to himself.

Sound fills the silence that falls between them. The question drifts away from Sherlock's conscious mind. The music, the moving bodies, the chemical imbalances and collection of puzzles and patters, they go on. When Sherlock leaves, the query is all but forgotten, and yet it remains, unerased, in his mind palace, like an unresolved equation which surfaces to nag him from time to time. But it is a nonsensical question.

Who would you think about

if the world were ending?