Sometimes the only choice is to change or die; it’s impossible to do neither (but he can still do both).
It feels like something’s missing, sometimes. Sherlock’s not like the people around him, but somewhere there are people like him. Probably. Maybe he just dreamt that up (dreams are real, to him at least, and it doesn’t matter if he has).
The drugs bring him two of them, the sharp person with the yellow eyes who seems so familiar but never talks to him unless he’s buying. There’s cruelty in his or her (no, its, it never liked gendered pronouns) eyes, amusement at his weakness. You belong to me, written in the lines of the dealer’s smile, you belong to me (when we never belong to each other, except to her.)
The girl comes later, when he’s so high he hardly knows himself and she smiles and flits about the dirty flat, all ragged clothes and bright hair like a broken butterfly. She’s not real (she’s more real than anything else in the flat by a long way) just a drug induced hallucination, rambling about flowers that look like stars and telephones that look like icecream. She looks at him like she loves him, sometimes, like she knows him.
When he stops using, needing the high of the cases more than the rush of the drugs, he thinks he won’t see them again. But the dealer watches him from the sidelines at every crime scene, still with you belong to me in his/her/(its) smile.
The nice one, the sweet one with the eye of horus drawn on her face and an ankh at her throat, he only sees when he’s nearly dead. She shakes her head at him, like he’s done something wrong but she’s not really angry, and they talk like they’ve known each other forever. He never remembers what they said when he wakes up.
One day he gives a street artist fifty pounds for the homeless network and the man looks at him with a look too knowing, not for a homeless man but for anyone living. He smiles up at Sherlock, still bent over a picture that lacks any artistic merit whatsoever (it always did, your area not his).
‘Thought you’d be less alone these days,’ says the man, sounding like he knows Sherlock. ‘Wasn’t that the point?’
‘Please endeavour to make some sense, I’ve never met you before,’ says Sherlock. It would be less disturbing if he thought the street artist was mad.
The man shakes his head. ‘I’ll send you one of mine,’ he says, like a promise.
‘Yes, that’s what the money’s for, tell them to look for a woman wearing turquiose heels,’ says Sherlock impatiently.
The man shakes his head, exasperated amusement creasing his face. Sherlock has misunderstood. ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He hands the money back. ‘I’m not part of the network. Ask the girl down the street.’
‘Then who are you?’
The man picks up his chalks and smiles again. ‘No one, these days.’ He shakes Sherlock’s hand and leaves him, irritated and bewildered.
Sherlock sleeps after a day of taxi drivers and poison and giggling at crime scenes. He wakes in a hall where the stained glass in the windows blends seamlessly into the forest outside and there is no roof, yet lanterns hang from something.
There is a man in white, with eyes full of stars, seated at the table.
‘I don’t dream,’ says Sherlock. ‘It’s a waste of mental energy.’
‘I rather thought you’d been avoiding me,’ says the man. ‘How are you liking humanity?’
In the manner of dreams, things make sense here. ‘Ah. You’re me.’
‘In a sense. You passed the Dreaming on to me and I passed humanity on to you. Do you remember?’
(He remembers, giving in, giving up, killing himself to protect his realm, or just to hold on to himself.)
‘Matthew misses you.’
Sherlock flinches and his other self looks puzzled, that hadn’t been intentional cruelty. It usually isn’t with them. (Matthew had wanted to stay with him when he knew he was going to die, had had to be sent away, had made him say please, had accepted a balloon once rather than hurt his feelings over a misunderstood phrase. His first friend, and he’s only just acquired his second.)
Sherlock waves his hand. ‘Matthew’s yours now. I have John. We should manage with one friend each, shouldn’t we?’
They look at each other, mortal eyes meeting a universe of stars.
Sherlock wakes up. This time he’s in his bed, and he can hear the kettle boiling.