It was the boredom.
The intensity of it.
Sherlock desperately needed a distraction, something to take his mind off the incessant craving that was eating him alive-but he'd exhausted all his options. He knew that. The only thing keeping him still now was John, seated across from him, calmly reading in the armchair. Sherlock watched him flip the page as if nothing was wrong.
And it wasn't.
But it was.
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably. His nails were digging into his palms as he attempted to push the urge back down, but it kept coming back to the forefront of his mind. His skin crawled and the old scars on his arms itched with a painful longing that was becoming more and more difficult to ignore.
He bit his lip and tried to focus on the latest case he'd heard about. Lestrade hadn't come to him about it, but that was likely because they hadn't realized it was too complicated for them yet. They would, eventually, and then perhaps he could immerse himself in solving it and just for a moment he might forget-
"Sherlock?" His consciousness came flashing back to the living-room at the sound of John's voice.
He blinked. "What?"
"I've said your name twice now." John had shut the book in his lap and was looking at him with a look akin to worry. But no, it couldn't be that.
"I was thinking. Busy. Case."
"I didn't think you had a case." John slid a bookmark between the pages of his book and set it on the floor by his chair.
"Well, not yet, but I expect I'll be getting one soon. It should prove to be interesting enough."
"It had better be. I can tell you're getting antsy here with nothing to do." Ah, so that had been it. John was worried that Sherlock would be disagreeable, and unpleasant to deal with. Of course.
Sherlock leaned back and rolled over on the couch, discreetly scratching at the scars through the fabric of his dressing gown, though it didn't do much good. It might have made it worse. The icy steel blade slid its way into his thoughts and made him shiver inwardly and lick his lips. It seemed too much of an effort to push it away, to decide against it. It wouldn't let him if he'd tried.
If only he were alone in the room, if only John would leave so he could have some peace and quiet, and an opportunity to make the craving stop. To relieve the need that pulled at him like a riptide, never really ceasing but coming and going in waves that he could sometimes control and other times not. But if John left-
He became aware of a presence above him, and glanced back. John was standing over him with his arms crossed in an annoyingly motherly sort of way.
"What do you want?" Sherlock didn't bother to keep the growl out of his voice. It was too much to bother with.
"I'm just wondering if you're alright. You're being more... Sherlock than usual."
He laughed harshly. "What is that supposed to mean?" So this identified him. Of course it did. It WAS him. It consumed him.
"Uh..." John seemed to realize the oddity of his words. "I mean... You're more out of it. And something's got you bothered."
"I don't get BOTHERED, John. Nothing bothers me, I don't have time for anything except work." Even as he hissed these words he felt his thoughts reverting back to IT, and his voice lost emphasis on the last syllables. If John noticed, he didn't say anything.
"I know, I know. Work." John shrugged heavily and turned to go upstairs. "I'm going to bed. Call if you need me."
"Why-ever would I need you?" Sherlock rolled back over and waved a hand dismissively. The stairs creaked as John disappeared upstairs and he was finally alone.
Sherlock sat up slowly. He wasn't honestly sure if he wanted to do it. But that had no bearing; even if he tried to resist he couldn't do it. He had to give in.
He got his feet and paused there by the coffee table, taking in the room, judging the silence to be sure John wasn't coming back downstairs any time soon. Only when he was satisfied that everything was safe did he step purposely across the living-room and seek out his little hiding spot behind the grate in the fireplace. He removed a small wooden box and brought it back to the couch with him.
Flipping open the locks, he paused again to savor the calm. This would be his last chance to choose not to.
Sherlock swallowed and took a deep breath. The need was welling up within him again, drowning his better judgement and choking out any thoughts to the contrary.
Addiction was never easy to refuse.
John stifled a yawn as he came downstairs. He had risen early out of habit, even though today was Sunday and he didn't have to go to work at the clinic. He had laid in bed for a while before deciding it was no use trying to go back to sleep and gotten up.
The light was on downstairs, which wasn't surprising. Sherlock probably hadn't slept at all.
John shook his head tiredly and went to the kitchen to start the coffee. It was only when he heard a quiet groan that he realized Sherlock must still be downstairs, but he'd been so still he hadn't noticed him.
"Sherlock?" He put down the spoon he was holding and walked back out into the living-room.
John's brow furrowed when he found him sitting on the floor, leaning against the armchair. He noted that Sherlock seemed paler than usual, and when he lay a hand across his forehead he found it to be cool to the touch.
Sherlock scowled and tried to push his hands away, but didn't have the energy. He blinked drowsily and shook his head. "'m fine..."
"You're not fine, obviously. I'm not completely stupid. Are you sick?" John's mind immediately went into doctor mode and he skimmed through his prior knowledge of conditions with these symptoms. He came up with a few, one of which was blood loss, but he skipped over that one because Sherlock had no apparent wounds. And besides, he'd tell him if he did.
"You're not well. Come on, let's get you to bed, alright?" John was speaking, but it sounded slow and far away. Not important.
So Sherlock only shook his head and did his best to stay right where he was, because here was comfortable enough and if he moved his head might start swimming again and the room would be covered in black spots-but now John had knelt and wrapped his arms around him and had hoisted him up to his feet, with considerable effort.
A searing pain flashed behind his eyes and he tried to kick back, but the spots threatened to invade his vision again and he quieted.
John dragged him into his bedroom and heaved him onto the bed as carefully as he could. Sherlock lay there feeling jarred and sluggish, trying to force his limbs to find the energy to sit up and tell John off for being such an overprotective nag, but he couldn't.
He'd managed fine the night before, and gotten everything cleaned up nicely. Very nicely. Clever of him.
But now he just felt tired and heavy and slow. The slowness was painful, it was frustrating and excruciatingly limiting, though not half as excruciating as the headache that was starting behind his left temple.
"Any nausea?" John was asking him a question, pushing for an answer, expecting one.
Sherlock parted his lips and summoned his most normal, unaffected voice. "A little." He was surprised at how small and croaky he sounded... Not at all the unaffected sound he was going for.
John pursed his lips and frowned. "You don't sound too good, either. Any coughing? No? Hmm." He thought for a minute. "I'll get you a cup of tea, maybe that'll help a little."
Sherlock was too tired to respond as John went out the door and left him alone again in the quiet room.
Should he tell him?
Tell him what, exactly, Sherlock? This might not have anything to do with what you did to yourself last night. In fact, it probably doesn't. Maybe you really are just sick. A cold, perhaps.
Sherlock didn't get colds.
He stared up at the ceiling, trying to make sense of the conflicting thoughts spinning in his head. He'd never had a problem making sense before...
The door opened again and John came back in with a steaming mug of tea and a plate of something that the doctor confirmed to be toast. He set it on the bedside table.
"How are you feeling?"
Sherlock considered for a moment and decided to go along with whatever illness John decided he was suffering from. "Poorly."
He nodded. "Drink your tea, if you can." He noticed Sherlock hadn't moved. "Do you need help?"
"Of course not. I'm fine." Sherlock snarled and forced himself to sit up-which immediately proved to be a bad decision as the room swam in and out of darkness and it felt as though the devil himself were crushing his head with a boot heel.
John watched with a concerned look that Sherlock barely noticed. He laid his hand on his forehead again. "Still cool... Sherlock, I'm getting a bit worried. I know you're going to hate me for it, but maybe I should call the hospital."