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Can't Rewind Now We've Gone Too Far

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Characterisation Notes: Sherlock is 19, Mycroft is 26. Neither are yet as aloof or self-confident as they are on the show. Mycroft is still working his way up in the government and thus doesn't have as much free time to devote to being omniscient. Sherlock is still a genius but lacks the motivation to apply himself, so instead of going to uni early he started at a normal age (meaning 18 in Michaelmas '03, turning 19 just before Hilary '04, story begins during Trinity term). He isn't really sure whether he's trying to rebel or conform and thus tends to vacillate between the two. No mind palace yet (though perhaps a proto-version) and he still hasn't figured out how to delete things on purpose. And drug addicts aren't emotionally stable people, so don't be alarmed if he shifts from optimistic the one moment to miserable the next. Also he swears a lot, on account of being a teenager. I think it's kind of funny to be honest but might seem out of character.


1. We'll End Up Numb

It started with an experiment.

His hypothesis was as follows: 'If the stimulatory effects of caffeine and/or nicotine improve focus slightly, then a more powerful stimulant will improve focus significantly.'

Obtaining the drugs hadn't been difficult. He was, after all, surrounded by university students. The boy in the room across the hall provided him with plenty of contacts, and he'd soon amassed a decent-sized sample set from which to conduct his tests.

First were the semi-legal substances. Ritalin was calming, languid. While he appreciated the lower volume his thoughts seemed to take he soon found that without his brain scratching itself half to death against his skull he lost all drive to do much of anything. He spent the afternoon watching a group of squirrels gather acorns outside his window. Quite tranquil. Serene. Unfortunately not much good for coursework.

Dexedrine was next. It gave him plenty of energy, incredible focus. He finished three papers and half his maths work before the urge to get up and do something drove him to clean his living space, re-alphabetise the bookshelf and write a treatise on perfume scents. Too much, he determined as he came down. Far too much. It would take him weeks to get his room back into some kind of acceptable (dis)order.

Methamphetamine hardly did anything. He out-smoked three tweakers (whose presence he'd only agreed to put up with for the use of their pipes) and found himself awash in a sort of bland contentment. Peaceful, but disinteresting. Too boring, he decided. Plus it required an enormous amount of product to work. He gave the leftover crystals to his erstwhile lab partners as payment for their assistance and spent the next hour watching them smoke themselves into varying states of psychosis.

Cocaine was the last drug he tried. Contrary to what the term 'snorting' might imply, he found inhaling the soft white powder much easier than expected. All it took was a light intake of breath to draw it up the paper roll and straight into his sinuses. The flesh along the way seemed to fall numb on contact, a sharp burning followed by total loss of sensation spreading outwards from his nose and down the back of his throat. He coughed instinctively, rubbed at his tingling cheeks and waited for something to happen.

Two seconds, three. Nothing. Was this going to be like the meth? How long should it take? Surely it would have kicked in by now. Maybe he hadn't done enough. Should he try cutting another li-?

His eyes widened and he abruptly stopped poking his face.


Oh... hell. Bloody hell. Holy shit fucking-

It came on like an explosion. Blood was suddenly screaming through his veins, bright spots in his vision danced and faded and flared again. He collapsed bonelessly backwards onto his bed with a gasp as his body went haywire. But his mind... god, his mind did exactly the opposite. A million racing thoughts, the backdrop of normal consciousness, all seemed to stutter to a halt and shred like confetti. Torn fragments of ideas and feelings and long-past snippets of memory drifted down in flurries of snow, falling softly to cover his brain in a white blanket of silence. Calm, cool and pristine like a field in winter. January in his brain. He sniggered stupidly at the mental image and closed his eyes with a happy sigh. This. This was it. This was perfection. This was his.

When the initial high wore off he found himself left with an excess of bright, happy energy. He could do anything, the world was his to command. So he tidied his room and finished assignments, eradicated the latest batch of his brother's listening devices and waved cheerfully at the MI5 agent loitering in the quad outside, humming a jaunty tune all the while. Good lord, this was incredible. He had to figure out how to feel like this all the time.

As soon as Mycroft's bugs were all safely flushed down the toilet he set out to find the coke dealer again. He was going to need a lot more powder.


Over the next few weeks he underwent a transformation. Buried in the soothing snowbank of a near-constant cocaine buzz he became a new person. A better person. No longer a freak, a psycho, a danger to be avoided. (Unless he wanted to be.) He could control himself now, didn't have to be so damned clever all the time.

Not that he stopped knowing things, of course. Quite the contrary actually, since it was far easier to focus on relevant details when didn't keep getting so distracted by streams of extraneous data. It was just that now he could consciously decide which facts to point out and which to keep to himself. When he saw things nobody else could possibly have noticed - even if they were amazing and smart and quite likely emotionally devastating for the subject in question - he didn't have to say anything. It was like waking up to find you'd been missing a limb your whole life. Only instead of finding himself miraculously able to walk or play piano he was just given the ability to control what came out of his mouth. Such a stupid simple thing, but it made so much difference.

Back before cocaine he'd lived in constant dread of speaking aloud to anyone. It wasn't that he minded the people (though most of them were idiots and a good majority were obnoxious about it) but that he absolutely hated the helpless resignation of knowing that no matter what he promised himself there was no way to stay in the moment enough to monitor what he said. Conversations by their very nature it seemed were incredibly boring. Everyone kept expecting him to pretend to care about so many things that weren't the least bit interesting; pets and children and the weather and stupid subjective rubbish like hopes and feelings. Acting like he wasn't bored out of his skull was bloody exhausting, and quite frequently damned near impossible besides. His head was just full of so much stuff, all connected in complicated impossible infinite ways. The slightest thing could have him a million miles away on a train of thought no one else could follow.

How could one possibly stay focused on someone's silly story about a cat after all when the chemical structure of taurine was so much more fascinating? And that led to sulphonic acids, laundry detergents, enzyme inhibitors, kidney disease... on and on because there was always something more interesting than listening to ordinary people talk about themselves.

But then out of absolutely nowhere it would be his turn to speak again, and he'd be thinking of nothing even close to what they were supposed to be talking about. So his choices were to reply with whatever was on his mind, which was always too tangentially connected for anyone to see the relevance of and made him seem insane, or try to hide the fact that he'd been daydreaming by responding with whatever the last conversation-related thought he remembered having was. Depending on how far off in his head he was this could happen more or less automatically, bypassing any sort of conscious approval and taking him as much unawares as the other person. More often than not he'd snap back to reality at the sound of his own voice pointing out a detail about another person's habits or appearance he'd noticed about a hundred mental cycles ago and resolved not to mention. When the only danger was offending people this was simply a bit of a nuisance. However he frequently had secrets or thoughts that really did need to stay private, and in many situations the complete lack of self-control could prove devastating.

So he took to texting and email whenever possible, since the extra step of reading over the message before he sent it assured his thinking-brain could never be overridden by his talking-brain. Drinking obscene amounts of tea and coffee also sometimes seemed to help, and he discovered that putting his body under physical stress could boost adrenaline and make it a little easier to concentrate for short periods. Cigarettes had thus been an experiment to test the hypothesis that stimulants were beneficial somehow, which he'd conceived of after coming across nicotine's effects in a biochemistry book. Swiping a pack off one of the house servants had been simple, hiding the resulting dependency from his brother had not. It didn't matter that Mycroft made him stop anyway since the negligible positive effect hadn't been worth the hassle of obtaining the foul things.

Starting up again at uni had been an act of desperation. There were too many people around and too many unavoidable conversations, and while nicotine didn't actually do much to stop his getting distracted by everything it at least put a damper on the whole reflexive responding-without-thinking business. In an environment where most would not hesitate to thump him for revealing their poorly-kept relationship statuses even this slight benefit became invaluable. More than worth the loss of lung capacity from having to practically chain-smoke to maintain it.

Of course in situations where keeping mum was not an option he was still pretty well screwed, since nothing seemed capable of controlling his general tactlessness. But he'd eventually learned to accept that. It was just one of the facts of life: water is wet, grass is green, Sherlock Holmes says rude things and gets punched.

But cocaine... cocaine had changed the facts. In the shimmering white snowfield nothing could move without his knowledge, everything was too clear and clean and uncluttered to let him get sidetracked by stray thoughts. Moreover it was finally possible to stop, sit down and carefully arrange each sentence without worrying about unintended words and tangents butting in when he said them. Statements finally came out exactly as he'd planned, nothing slipped in without being approved first. Suddenly how he presented himself was within his power to decide; he could be heartbreakingly eloquent or callously vulgar, a Shakespearean actor or a polite vicar. He could behave literally any way he wanted. He could even pretend to be normal.

And he soon discovered something amazing: people liked normal Sherlock.

Well, strangers did anyway. The folks who knew him already - Sebastian, Adric and Natalie and others he saw regularly at meals or lectures - seemed more disturbed than anything by his new Regular Human persona. He supposed that was understandable - it was after all quite a big change, and since he was careful masking the signs of his developing habit there could be no discernible cause for them to attribute it to. He kept the act up around them anyway because their befuddled expressions every time he said something polite were entertaining to watch, not because he gave a toss what they thought of him.

No, the people he actually cared about fooling were the new ones. People he'd just met, the strangers and casual acquaintances who didn't know he was actually a freakish sociopath under the false charisma. He smiled his Normal Smile and said his Normal Things and they smiled back and didn't seem at all offended. A few even asked to see him again, as if they wanted to have a second conversation, or even a third. As if they wanted to be friends. As if they liked him. It was such a new and strange way to interact with the world. Not interesting in the sense that chemistry was interesting but it captured his attention regardless, it was fun.

He thought he might finally be beginning to understand what the rest of humanity saw in this whole being social thing.


One Friday night at supper he shocked Seb speechless by asking if there was anything on for the weekend. After a few rather tiresome minutes of convincing the other boy he wasn't planning to run an experiment involving poisonous gas on any crowds of students Sherlock managed to get himself invited to his first social gathering. It was exciting, but probably not for the right reasons - he was mostly just looking forward to compiling more data to add to his ongoing study of normal human behaviour.

That night he carefully ensured his brother's spies were all busy following someone who looked a lot like him and had been paid to wear his coat for the evening. Clad in a school hoodie, dark jeans and plain trainers (more or less his default outfit since leaving Eton, those horrid uniforms had put him off formal attire for a good decade) he joined up with Sebastian and another boy he didn't know the name of at the door to the residence hall and set off across town to try his hand at the world of university keggers.

The club was both very loud and very crowded, conditions that if he were sober would have driven him into an overstimulated meltdown within minutes. Luckily for him and everyone else though he was nowhere near sober. He'd done two massive lines before they left, figuring the dim lighting would be enough to hide his dilated pupils and any ensuing nosebleed could be attributed to being elbowed in the crowd. And in a rare moment of foresight he'd even thought to bring extra cocaine in case he was out long enough to start coming down. All in all he felt very prepared.

Seb didn't stick around to introduce him to anyone, which was just as well as the econ student's customary method of presenting Sherlock to people tended to be something along the lines of 'this is the freak who lives in the room next to mine, he's a massive prick' and Sherlock wanted to make a better first impression than that. He wandered the maze of bodies like an explorer in an uncharted jungle, cataloguing everything and taking reams and reams of mental notes. It was all so fascinating. People dancing and laughing and talking to each other. None of it looked like it was all that difficult. How had he ever thought himself incapable of this?

Pretty soon he was chatting up a trio of giggling fresher girls - not because he found any of them particularly attractive, but because he'd decided an interactive approach to scientific observation would best suit his purposes and they'd been nearby. When one of them broke off from the rest and dragged him over to a dark corner he followed, wondering what on earth she thought might be over there that would interest anyone. Once obscured from the sight of other partygoers she whipped around and shoved him roughly against the wall, and for a panicked second he thought he'd said something to offend her without realising again. He opened his mouth to apologise (for what? he hated not knowing what he'd done, cocaine was supposed to fix this what had-) and suddenly her lips were pressed against his.


He blinked, feeling her fingers tangle in the curls of his short hair as her lithe body pressed closer. She was...? Hm. Well... alright then. Kissing. Apparently they were kissing. Sherlock desperately called up everything he knew on the subject and determined he was woefully ignorant. He decided to just improvise. Couldn't be that difficult, right? He wound his arms around her waist and reciprocated the best he could. It all felt extremely uncoordinated and probably wasn't anything close to correct, but luckily it didn't seem to matter much because despite the hour the girl was incredibly drunk.

Snogging, he decided, was not nearly as enthralling as everyone made it out to be. After a few minutes of sloppy making out he was starting to wonder what the actual point of all this was, since this couldn't possibly be an end of itself. Far too boring. Then one of her small hands suddenly moved out of his hair and found its way to the front of his jeans. The unexpected contact to a very sensitive area startled him into breaking away, and he stared down at her as she knelt down to fumble with his belt buckle, blond ringlets fluttering as she giggled drunkenly. Oh, he realised. That was the point. Well then. He... supposed he could give it a try. It was part of the experiment after all. Had to at least make an attempt. For science.

He frowned as she continued to be thwarted by his belt. This should... probably be a lot more exciting. Human males were supposed to get all hot and bothered by the mere thought of sexual contact with a woman, weren't they? But he really wasn't aroused in the least. He was also getting a bit annoyed by the girl's constant, shrill giggling at her own inebriated state as she utterly failed to comprehend the mechanics of a simple square frame buckle. A 'bit annoyed' in this case translated into a prodigious feat of irritation, considering the enormous amount of cocaine in his system. She would be absolutely unbearable if his high wore off. And who knew how long this whole business would take, considering he wasn't even slightly erect? No, no. Too much risk, he decided. It would take forever and he refused to be caught anywhere near this woman when he began to sober up.

Catching her hands before she could figure out the fiendish contraption at his waist Sherlock made a token attempt at pretending he'd gotten an urgent call on his mobile, then strode quickly away. He stopped on the other side of the writhing knot of bodies that made up the dance floor and glanced through to where he'd been, seeing the girl had already moved on and found another bloke to snog. The two seemed happy enough, so he made a mental note about promiscuity in women and wandered on. He stopped at one of the folding tables dotted around and appropriated a bottle of water, downing half of it in one go. Cocaine had the bothersome tendency to make his mouth extremely dry. Receiving a donation of saliva from some plastered girl had admittedly alleviated the problem somewhat, but was also vaguely disgusting, so Sherlock quickly drained the bottle and grabbed another one as he set off toward the bar he'd spotted. Maybe alcohol would make girls more interesting. If nothing else it would be useful to know how he reacted to it while high.

He ordered a vodka mixer at random and sat on one of the tall stools facing the crowd, letting his eyes wander over the throng of bodies and deducing, deducing, deducing. The girl near the speakers slept with nearly the entire rowing team over the course of last term; the one dancing next to her keeps a yorkshire terrier but only puts up with its incessant yapping because it belonged to her late mother; the boy over by the stairs is dating three different women at once, one a professor and none the girl he's currently flirting with; the two girls to the left think they're fraternal twins but their mother had an affair and one of them is an illegitimate half-sibling. Sherlock forced himself to stop as the bartender set down a glass of clear red liquid on the bartop behind him. Apparently it was open bar (some wealthy lad's birthday, no doubt) so he grabbed it without worrying about paying and spun back round on the stool to observe some more.

He took a careful sip of the drink, not entirely sure if his taste buds had recovered from the cocaine numbness yet. They had. He scrunched his face up instinctively at the disgusting half-rotted taste. Ugh, he could always taste the alcohol.

"It's not so bad if you just chug the whole thing," a voice said from beside him. Sherlock forced the childish grimace off his face and turned to find a very handsome young man had claimed the next stool over.

"I'm fine," Sherlock replied tetchily, unwilling to give the stranger an excuse to ridicule him for not being able to handle a vodka cranberry. He attempted to take a larger swallow of his mixer to illustrate the point and ended up immediately spitting it out again in revulsion.

The other man chuckled warmly, shaking his head. "You're alright, mate. Here try this one."

He was holding out a stout glass half-filled with some light blue concoction. Sherlock found himself flushing slightly as he realised the man was offering to share a glass he'd already drunk from - something like indirect kissing, he imagined. His groin gave a vague stirring at the implications, making him stop short and blink in confusion as he reached out for the glass. Wait. Waaait wait wait, he'd just had a woman grab his crotch without so much as a flicker of arousal and now he was getting excited at the mere thought of sharing a drink with someone? And was it just him or had he described the man as handsome earlier?

Oh good lord I'm gay.

He froze. How the- how had he not- no, no he couldn't be. Surely he'd have realised sooner. He was nineteen for Christ's sake, that was far too old to just now be discovering an orientation. People noticed those kinds of things during the early adolescent years when their hormones were raging... and he'd spent that period of his life in an all-boy's boarding school, for god's... he wouldn't have been able to help noticing if he was... was attracted to... oh. Oh.. dear. Sherlock's eyes widened. Various buried memories began to shake themselves loose from the snowbanks in his head.

Fourteen years old, trailing unobtrusively behind an older boy named Micah Allen and trying not to blush when the senior referred to him as his 'pet genius'; doing the other boy's assignments even though they were boring because it made Micah smile and pat his head and say 'good boy' in a way that was somehow not as condescending as it should be; discovering confusing feelings and a lot of unidentifiable desires which he'd attributed to puberty and shoved firmly to the back of his mind where they whispered terrible things in the darkness; refusing to sleep at all during the holidays lest his brother deduce the content of his dreams; becoming a target for bullying the following year when Micah left for Cambridge, fair game now that he no longer 'belonged' to an upperclassman; spending the rest of that half learning the hard way how to defend himself, Father finally getting fed up with his slipping grades and informing him he had until next hols to improve; forcing himself to overcome his aversion to the horrific stillness of study hall because he didn't want to find out what the unspoken consequences of failure would be; no more time after that for any thought besides 'shut up' or 'focus' or 'idiot' repeated over and over ad nauseum...

A hand suddenly broke into his flashbacks, waving in front of his face. He blinked.

"Alright?" the man next to him asked with an odd sort of half-smile. Sherlock realised he had frozen with his hand still halfway out to take the offered glass and was now leaning awkwardly to the side with his mouth half open, staring at nothing. He snapped himself forcefully out of the swirling eddies of recollection and grabbed the other man's drink, taking a much larger swallow of the blue liquid than he'd intended.

"Ugh!" he immediately sputtered, clapping a hand to his mouth and nearly retching as he shoved the glass back to its owner. Oh god it was even worse than the cranberry - some kind of appalling mix of pineapple and melon juice with the foul rot of liquor permeating everything like a disease. How did people stand this stuff?

The stranger was laughing good-naturedly at his violent reaction. "No good, eh?"

"That's disgusting," Sherlock moaned, digging into the front pocket of his hoodie for the plastic bottle he'd stowed there earlier. Unfortunately the lukewarm water did very little to remove the cloying aftertaste of decayed fruit; he grimaced at the flavour still clinging to his tongue.

"Yeah I'm not too fond of it either," the man said, grinning. "But hey, it's better than straight shots. What's your name, by the way? Don't think I've seen you around before."

"Oh, er.. no, you wouldn't have. I've... been a bit busy with coursework lately, not much time to go out." Not entirely a lie. He pasted on his Normal Smile and held out a hand in greeting. "Sherlock Holmes."

The man took his hand and Sherlock resolutely ignored the stirring in his pants as warm, calloused fingers closed around his. No amount of cocaine in the world could quell the vivid images his brain was conjuring up right now concerning those fingers. "Victor Trevor," the man said. "Very nice to make your acquaintance," he added with a wink, and Sherlock abruptly realised he was being flirted with.

Brilliant! I mean, er... how fascinating. He decided he should really flirt back. The experiment was still on, after all.

"And yours," he replied in the same teasing tone of voice as the other had used, smirking slightly to add emphasis. Ha, flirting was easy.

"This place is a bit loud for a conversation, don't you think?" Victor pointed out with a false air of nonchalance. "What do you say we find somewhere more... private to talk?"

More stirrings. This was looking much more promising than the girl had been. "After you," Sherlock said, indicating the other man lead him. The two of them abandoned their drinks and made their way upstairs.

They didn't end up doing much talking.


He saw Victor several more times over the following weeks, the steadfast young man becoming what Sherlock guessed was his first real friend. Not his boyfriend, because people didn't date sociopaths and neither of them were much for exclusivity anyway, but they did shag several more times in several interesting places. As far as Sherlock was concerned it was the perfect relationship. He didn't have to worry about Victor breaking up with him over something he said because they weren't together, and he could use whatever persona he wanted around the man because Vic had figured out his act within the first hour of their meeting (to be fair, Sherlock had been a bit too distracted to worry about his cadence at the time) and didn't seem to mind when Sherlock flipped rapidly between various characters. He'd been building a small repertoire of them and needed the practice.

They even struck up a bit of a cooperative association at bars. Vic would spot a likely set of targets, Sherlock would deduce their orientation (his 'party trick', as Vic called it - he'd tried to explain it wasn't a trick and got an eyeroll and a lesson on figurative colloquialisms; Vic was apparently reading linguistics) and together they'd conspire to seduce every gay man in the establishment. The sea of disappointed faces when they ended up leaving together at the end of the night was extremely entertaining for no real reason he could identify. Vic would laugh though, and he would too. It was simply... fun. For the first time in living memory Sherlock found he was genuinely fond of another person's company.

The rest of his life seemed to improve just as dramatically. Studying was easy now that he wasn't constantly compelled to check his surroundings for cameras. Lectures were dull, but he could sit through them without feeling suffocated by the stillness. And the inconspicuous men his brother assigned to follow him from building to building stopped being aggravating and started being a source of entertainment. Mycroft was wasting taxpayers' hard-earned money to pay various agents to tail him around the city, he figured it was his civic duty to at least create a bit of a challenge for the poor sods. Sherlock very swiftly became the worst mark ever.

He started taking the most convoluted routes he could possibly think of, twisting and turning and ducking in and out of alleys whenever the mood took him. Whenever his pursuer was forced to break cover or risk losing him he'd invariably stop short, turn to face them with a winning smile and perform a deliberately incorrect military salute before walking off again. Once or twice he even managed to get himself flipped off doing this, which was incredibly funny considering the distinguished military histories of those typically sent to shadow him.

Eventually he deduced that the Follow-Mr Holmes'-Baby-Brother-Around-Oxford mission was seen as something like a work holiday for more experienced agents, and a safe training venue for rookies. With this in mind Sherlock began keeping a close eye on the approximate rank of his tails and modifying his behaviour according to seniority. Veterans got either the dull routine or an unpredictable combination of both circuitous and direct paths depending on how haggard/bored they looked. Newer recruits invariably ended up dogging him around the most complicated pattern imaginable. After the fourth junior agent got lost he stopped seeing anyone with less than ten years' service shadowing his movements, which was gratifyingly amusing if a little disappointing. Not that it mattered in terms of his privacy of course - he could lose them all equally easily when he needed to - he'd just liked feeling as if he was making a contribution to the training regime.

The thought of being watched used to be enough to drive him mad with paranoid anger - his focus on school would shatter as he fought to get out from the path of what he perceived to be constant judging scrutiny. Not so anymore. Now it was just a sort of silly background event. All these people scurrying about in some massive undercover operation to watch a nineteen year old swot about in the lab and write essays, it was almost comically absurd. Especially when considering that somehow, for all their being a bunch of proper paramilitary spies, they couldn't even seem to outwit said nineteen year old.

Granted that was hardly fair to them, as he was a genius. But still. Not one of them had caught him buying or using drugs (which he knew because Mycroft had yet to descend from the heavens to smite him), none had managed to tail him all the way to a bar (it seemed he knew Oxford far better than they and could always find a misleading alley) and none had picked up on his frequent trysts with strange men at said bars (because, again, lack of smiting. Or a snarky phone call. He wasn't entirely sure which was more likely but neither had occurred so it was a moot point.)

It was all rather pathetic.


Contemplating the switch from insufflation to injection had ostensibly been an innocent idea to curb nosebleeds. They kept happening more and more frequently lately and for far less explainable reasons. It only made sense, therefore, to find a different way to use the drug before someone figured him out. Simple problem solving, really. That was what he told himself. He knew the real reason was because his tolerance had risen too much to let him feel the rush from snorting lines anymore, and he missed the giddy feeling of a snowstorm in his brain.

Sherlock wasn't stupid; he understood what he was doing to himself. His mind and body were already showing signs of breaking under the strain of being on a near-constant coke high. Victor had mentioned several times how starved he'd begun to look, bones sticking out sharp under too-pale skin. He often forgot to sleep for days on end, too buzzed to feel tired but afraid of the inevitable crash if he let himself come down. Going too long without the drug brought on a crippling miasma of miserable desperation and guilt, a vicious migraine and the feeling of being trapped in a thick, soupy fog. It was easier to keep going till he passed out, and that was usually what happened. He hadn't ended up in hospital yet but it was only a matter of time. He had to slow down. Start taking smaller doses and wean himself off like he should have done months ago. But it was so close to the new term and he'd need to be-

No. Shut up. He was too good at nearly convincing himself; had to stop listening to that insistent little voice.

Adopting an even more addictive route of administration wouldn't be an appropriate solution to anything, he told himself firmly. It would, in fact, be monumentally stupid, breathtakingly dangerous and quite probably borderline suicidal. He wasn't going to try it. Never. Not for anything.

The thing about cocaine though was that while you were high it made everything seem like a good idea. Even dangerous, monumentally stupid things. And despite his rising tolerance Sherlock still managed to spend the majority of his waking hours (of which there were now far more than was strictly reasonable) halfway to completely shitfaced.

So without really thinking it through one afternoon he swiped a few syringes from the medical department as he went to survey the cadaver storage area (which he wasn't technically allowed anywhere near, being a chemistry student, but that was irrelevant). On a whim the next day he looked up instructions and safety precautions on a drug-users' forum, having borrowed (not necessarily with permission) a stranger's laptop so Mycroft wouldn't see the search history. And on a quiet Tuesday night the following week he casually shook his ever-present tail (at the moment a former SAS who now did desk work and low-priority missions for MI5, owned a grey tomcat and recently widowed after a marriage of nearly twenty years, called Darrell, distinctly uncomfortable that Sherlock knew all this) and found a dark alcove behind one of the science labs where no camera could see. He'd just try it once. Just to see if it was any different. An experiment. For science. Then he'd never do it again.

As the needle entered his vein he had a vivid realisation that he'd gone too far. He would never be able to rewind from this moment. The moment when Sherlock Holmes had, officially and without any possible question, become an addict. Everything from now on would be a long, slow spiral to the end. He wanted to pull the needle out but it was too late now, wasn't it? The plunger was already down.

A pervasive sense of dread filled his chest as his ears began to ring... he was going to die.

Seconds later he no longer cared.


Sherlock made it a month before the inevitable happened. The night had been going poorly; he had the new term on, six different papers he'd been trying to write and an experiment running that simply refused to react properly, plus Seb was being an annoying git and trying to drag him off to some bar and fuck off you stupid tosser I'm busy. Seb left him with a parting shot about psychotic junkies (Wait, what!? When did he-? Oh, hell, the track marks. Fuck. Well whatever, who was he going to tell, stupid bastard.) and Sherlock flipped him off before storming back into his room to try and get some work done.

He yanked down his sleeves angrily (why did he keep forgetting not to roll them up?) and surveyed the messy space. Disaster zone; clothes and books everywhere. His peacoat was on the floor, expensive wool probably wrinkling but fuck it, who cared. Glanced behind him, at the desk.

His pre-mixed 7% solution sat tranquil and innocent in its unlabelled Erlenmeyer flask on the stained wood. Shouldn't, but... no, he should. These essays were important. He checked the position of Mycroft's cameras (still pointed where he'd left them) and quickly fished a needle out of the false bottom of his desk drawer. He drew up a moderate amount of cloudy liquid from the flask into the syringe. Maybe just a touch more than usual, since he really needed to focus. Not too much though. Just a tiny bit. He'd be fine.

Ten minutes later he was pacing. Nothing was going right. Couldn't focus couldn't slow down couldn't think. This wasn't working, he needed more cocaine. The snow was melting in great patches from the soft white of his mind field until the whole thing was mottled and ugly with mud. Impossible to think around mud. Another quick flurry would fill in the gaps and leave it pristine again, then he'd be able to work. Just one more hit. It had only been a quarter hour since the last but surely he'd be alright? It was only a 7% solution after all, and his tolerance was so high - he'd barely even feel it. He'd just take a few more milligrams. It would be fine.

Five minutes later he hit the ground gasping as a savage blizzard tore through his head.


Sherlock awoke with a deep groan. His head hurt. No, scratch that, everything hurt. It took him a few minutes to muster up the energy to open his eyes. When he finally managed it was only to immediately screw them shut again at the sight of a round, pale face looming over him.

"Pis'ffm'croft," he slurred indistinctly. Despite having just woken up he felt exhausted. In his head the snow had all melted. Brain was full of slush now - nothing but a vast lake of frigid wet slop sloshing back and forth. It was painful and wet and way too fucking cold.

"And a very pleasant evening to you too, little brother," Mycroft's voice quipped in a tone of bland civility. "I trust you slept well."

Sherlock cracked one eye open and fixed his unwelcome guest with a baleful glare. Mycroft's voice may have been civil but the rigid posture and tightly drawn face betrayed how utterly furious the man was under his careful demeanour. Under normal circumstances Sherlock might have congratulated himself for that - managing to piss off his emotionless statue of a brother so spectacularly was a rare accomplishment, after all. At the moment however he was having a hard time finding the enthusiasm. He felt like he'd been run down by a bus, and his brain might as well have been swapped for a toaster for all the good it was doing him. He slowly shifted himself around until he managed to manoeuvre into a sort of half-sitting slouch against the pillows, shivering violently. It was bloody freezing in here. With a scowl he tugged the thin hospital blankets as far up as they'd go and set about resolutely ignoring his sibling.

Mycroft sighed very slightly when it became clear Sherlock wasn't going to acknowledge him.

"Perhaps you could explain something to me," he continued in his artificially pleasant voice. Leaning away briefly he retrieved a thin sheaf of papers out of a pale beige folder sitting on the bedside table and made a deliberate show of scrutinising the text, despite having doubtless already memorised it. "I seem to have a report here claiming you were admitted to the hospital following a series of severe seizures, which according to the attending physician appear to have been induced by a blood cocaine concentration in excess of two and a half milligrams per litre - an amount I'm assured is, to use his exact words, 'bleeding ridiculous'."

Sherlock rolled his eyes to the ceiling. As amusing as it was to hear Mycroft swear he found he was distinctly not in the mood for his brother's usual prevaricating bullshit. "Do you really," he intoned dully, forgetting about the silent treatment he'd planned on.

"I do," Mycroft replied, tone light. "It's very troubling, because the implication appears to be that you've been abusing a highly illegal and dangerous substance behind my back for long enough to develop a tolerance. You and I both know that you would never be so stupid, however, so the only possible explanation is that someone in this hospital is fabricating toxicology results. I have no idea why anyone would do that. Perhaps you'd like to weigh in on the matter?"

Sherlock sighed heavily. His brother was such a condescending prat.

"It's not my fault your spies are idiots," he muttered, ignoring Mycroft's specious sarcasm to answer the question he knew was actually being asked. "Wasn't even a challenge to hide it. They never check the camera coverage after first placement, just have to shift them by degrees until there's blind spots." He wasn't sure why he'd explained that - now he'd have to find another way to fix the cameras. But Mycroft's face pinched in that particular way that meant he was seriously peeved and oh right, that was why. Hah. Naught-two Sherlock.

After a brief staring contest (during which Sherlock may have allowed a bit of a puerile smirk to creep onto his face, which may have been specifically designed to piss off his brother, which mightn't have been the best decision in the long run) the affable politicians' demeanour suddenly evaporated into a look of cold steel fury. Mycroft tossed the papers sharply back onto the table, leaned forward in his chair with a false air of nonchalance and locked eyes with his younger brother. Sherlock's decent mood vanished as he tried not to let himself recoil too obviously. For all his sibling's roundness and pomp the man really was capable of being quite terrifying when he was angry.

"For god's sake Sherlock, what were you thinking?" Mycroft nearly snarled. Sherlock refused to flinch.

"It was just a slight miscalculation," he replied more quietly than he'd meant to, eyes sliding away from his brother's gaze to look at the far wall instead. Not because he was intimidated or anything like that, just... bored of looking at that fat face. Right. "I simply overestimated my tolerance, that's all," he explained in what he hoped sounded like flat disinterest.

Mycroft looked distinctly unimpressed. "You know that's not what I meant."

Sherlock shrugged, shivering under his blanket. Fucking hell, could Mycroft not feel how frigid it was in here? Was his fat insulating him? For fuck's sake, the man must be part whale. His mind abruptly switched gears on him again as he cast his eyes around in search of a thermostat or some other kind of gauge.

"Focus, Sherlock," Mycroft snapped. Sherlock startled slightly and flicked his eyes back to his brother's face.

"What?" he asked irritably.

"You nearly died, do you even realise that?"

"Of course I do." Who cared? Dying was boring. More pressing was the fact that his teeth were actually chattering now and it was proving quite difficult to huddle effectively under the blankets with all these tubes and wires sticking every which way. He glared at Mycroft through a violent shudder. "Look, if you're quite through being concerned would you mind getting someone to turn up the thermostat? It's bloody freezing. I'm aware you can't even feel it through your blubber but do try to remember not all of us were switched at birth with a walrus."

Mycroft's eyebrow raised ever so slightly at the convoluted insult but he made no other movement, apparently choosing to completely ignore his younger brother's really quite reasonable request. Sherlock was royally pissed off. What, the bastard was going to just let him freeze? Fucking git! With a fierce scowl he shifted about and finally managed to extricate his left hand far enough to flip his brother off over the top of the sheets.

With an alarmingly quick motion Mycroft's hand suddenly shot forward and grabbed Sherlock's fingers, who yelped as the hand shifted to latch onto his bony wrist with a deft motion and yanked his arm out from under the covers. Ignoring the string of rather creative expletives this elicited Mycroft carefully turned the limb over to expose the underside of the forearm. His expression rapidly darkened as he studied the pattern of tiny scars and puncture wounds scattered over the pale skin.

"How long?" the older man asked icily, letting go of the too-thin wrist. Sherlock jerked his limb back under the covers with a sullen glare.

"None of your bloody business," he retorted.

"I'm checking you in to a rehabilitative facility."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "You wouldn't dare. Father would have a fit."

"If it's a choice between Father's disapproval and your death, Sherlock, I would gladly choose the former."

"Disapproval?" Sherlock repeated scathingly. "Mycroft, he'll be furious. I'll be lucky if I'm just disinherited."

"Perhaps you should have thought of that before you began injecting cocaine directly into your bloodstream," his brother sniped back. Sherlock huddled in on himself and scowled at nothing. Mycroft had no idea what he was bloody talking about. As if he hadn't reminded himself of every single horrible scenario a thousand times, as if he'd chosen to let it get this far. And how, exactly, was he meant to have talked himself down when not even the knowledge of certain death had stopped him? A deep pit of anger was forming in his stomach. Mycroft could go fuck himself.

"Honestly Sherlock, why-" the man started again.

"Why? Because I couldn't bloody think, that's why!" Sherlock cut him off in a half-screeching snarl. The wild-eyed glare he shot at his sibling would probably have been more effective had he not still been swaddled up in his blanket like a child.

Predictably Mycroft just sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose delicately in a condescending look of exasperation. "Ah yes, of course. My security team 'distracting' you again, I imagine?"


"And you felt an illegal stimulant was your best solution to the problem."

"Yes!" Sherlock snapped. "Yes, I bloody did! I tried everything else, Mycroft!"

"Oh?" his brother asked drily, lowering his hand to fix him with a flat stare. "Like what, pray tell?"

Sherlock bristled. "Oh I don't know, like perhaps asking you outright to stop spying on me so much? Telling you how much the cameras bloody bother me and having you completely ignore me like usual? Getting rid of them myself only for you to say I was being unreasonable and threaten to go to Father if I didn't stop destroying government property? Any of that ringing a fucking bell, Brother Dearest?"

Mycroft opened his mouth to reply but Sherlock didn't let him get farther than "Sherlock you know why I have to-" before he was shouting again.

"But of course you didn't listen, did you?" he ranted in a vicious snarl. He didn't want to hear his brother's stupid reasons. He'd been given all the excuses before and was bloody sick of it. The lake of slush in his head had begun to bubble and steam with righteous fury. "Why would you? After all nothing that bothers me is actually a problem, is it? No, it's just Sherlock being a stupid freak again! Let's all ignore him until he decides to get over this silly little eccentric phase! Surely he'll have to figure out how to function like a normal human being eventually. Why should anyone bother being the least bit helpful in the meantime?"

"That's not-" Mycroft started. He looked rather alarmed by the unexpectedly emotional outburst. Sherlock was aware he was breaking every rule of decorum they usually held firm like a protective barrier between them, but he was too far past the point of caring to stop. His head hurt and everything hurt and he was so fucking angry and he wanted Mycroft to understand.

"No! Shut up!" he screeched. "Look, I was sick of being so fucking useless while you ran about with your perfect grades and your perfect manners and your perfect bloody life so I did my best to ignore the spying but I just couldn't, because I'm not like you and I can't just quit seeing things so I asked you to stop but you just went oh Sherlock you pathetic idiot why would I ever do that-"

"I didn't-"

"Shut up! So since I couldn't change the environment the only option left was to change myself and guess what I bloody succeeded! All it took was one little chemical! And if I recall correctly, you seemed to think it was a massive improvement! After all I seem to remember getting a nice little congratulations on my recent upswing in grade point average from a certain oblivious whale of a sibling a few months back. How did you even think I managed that? Did you think I'd just gotten over being driven mad by your cameras? Were you all smug and satisfied because it obviously wasn't really distracting me, I'd just been whinging like usual?"

"Of course not," Mycroft said faintly.

"Liar," Sherlock spat. He'd worked himself out of his blankets with furious gesturing during his tirade and the chill on his arms was raising goose pimples. He also felt vaguely sick. Mycroft seemed a little shell-shocked, so rather than maintain the staring contest they'd habitually fallen into Sherlock instead curled forward miserably over his knees, hugged his arms to his chest and shivered for all he was worth.

"... fuck's sake turn the bloody heat up," he mumbled after a moment of silence. To his surprise, Mycroft obeyed. The thermostat was hidden behind the bedcurtain somewhere to his right, judging by the footsteps. Seconds later the sounds of a baseboard heater clunking to life filled the room.

Mycroft moved back to his bedside but didn't resume sitting. "The room was being kept cold because they needed to keep your core temperature down," he explained quietly. "Cocaine-induced hyperthermia. But I'm sure you knew that."

Sherlock didn't reply. He heard his brother step away again, a cupboard on the other side of the room opening and closing, and suddenly another blanket was being tucked around his shoulders with more care than he was prepared to process. A horrifying pricking sensation collected behind his eyes, but he sniffed forcefully to ward it off. He was not going to cry in front of his brother. His sinuses were throbbing slightly from the abuse but he ignored them in favour of glaring at the bed railings. Why were they up? And the velcro cuffs... had he been restrained for some reason?

"You're bleeding," Mycroft cut in abruptly. Sherlock blinked and looked down at the sheets. They were indeed becoming speckled with blood.

"Oh," he realised, his nose had started up again. He shrugged. "Happens."

"I'll get a doctor," his brother muttered, sounding slightly nauseous. Sherlock raised his head enough to see the older man's face and quirked an eyebrow at the sight of Mycroft's rapidly paling complexion.

"... Does blood bother you?" he asked curiously, eyes narrowing in interest. He tried to remember if his sibling had displayed any hints of haemophobia during their childhood, but came up blank. As far as he could recall neither of them had ever been hurt badly enough for it to come up. Not even Sherlock's frequent excursions up trees and straight into multiple hazardous situations had ever necessitated much more than a sticking plaster and a kind word from the nanny. By the time he got to far enough along in school to start getting beaten up in earnest Mycroft had been away at university and he'd been at Eton.

"No," Mycroft denied firmly. Too firmly. Sherlock's brow climbed further. "I simply- it's running all down your face, Sherlock. It's ghastly."

"I don't care."

"Well I do," his brother snapped, and turned smartly on his heel to walk right out the door. Presumably he was off to flag down half the hospital staff to come stuff gauze up his little brother's nostrils. Sherlock rolled his eyes and scoffed; figured the man who ordered assassinations left and right would be put off by a simple nosebleed. What a ponce.

A movement by the wall caught his attention, and he looked over to see one of the curtains blowing in a faint breeze. The window was slightly open. Intrigued, he craned his neck but couldn't quite manage to see outside. He looked down at his body with irritation and tried to gauge what exactly he was hooked up to. Heart monitor? No, just the pads. The leads had been disconnected by someone. He'd probably been pulling at them in his sleep. That just left the IV and pulse-ox metre. He ripped the tube out of his right arm and tossed the pulse-ox to the side. A pillowcase made a decent enough rag to stop up his leaking nose as he climbed out of the bed and shuffled over to the window, clutching the extra blanket around his shoulders. He nudged aside the curtains and looked out.

Ground floor. Mycroft had put him on the ground floor.

Getting sloppy, Myc, he thought snarkily.

It was the work of less than two minutes to locate a set of hospital scrubs from the linen cupboard, change out of his thin gown and hoist himself out the window. He padded silently around the building, keeping a lookout for sentries (not a single one; Mycroft must not have had time to set things up properly, explained why he'd been so tense). He quickly made it off the hospital grounds well before anyone had a chance to stop him and headed for his college. With any luck he'd be back at the hall before the first cravings set in.

The slight twinge of guilt at the thought of how distraught his brother would be when he returned to the room to find it empty made him consider turning back for a split-second. He resolutely shook the feeling off. Who cared if he worried Mycroft? Bastard deserved it. Sherlock kept walking.


For the second time in as many days Sherlock awoke in a strange bed in a strange room. Not a hospital this time, but something very like one. There was a clinical air about the place. Smell of antiseptic. Starchy sheets. Tubes and wires and bed railings. Not normal.

He wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten here. For some reason he had a dark, slightly paranoid theory that his brother had something slipped into his cocaine while he'd been busy walking back to Brasenose. There was after all a rather troubling blank period in his memory stretching from around the time he'd made it back to his room and found his stash exactly as he'd left it (suspicious..? maybe, he'd been too desperate to give it much thought) to, well... waking up here. Wherever here was.

As rooms went it was pleasant enough, he supposed. Everything was done up in tasteful greens and goldenrods - colourful but understated. Perhaps a hint of wealthy refinement in the artwork and furniture. Quite classy. If he weren't feeling rather like a passenger train had been rerouted through his skull he might have even taken a moment to appreciate the design aesthetic. As it was, however, the room and every single object in it were conspiring to slice viciously at his nerves. Wave after wave of intense, pointless fury ran in a vicious monologue through his aching head.

-landscape paintings are hackneyed what a sickening shade of green who the fuck chose that trim that chair can piss right the fuck off christ what an ugly tile pattern why the lace curtains for fuck's sake what is this a care home how much is that fat bastard paying for this I hope it's bloody exorbitant-

He grit his teeth against his own shrieking thoughts and curled into a tight ball under the covers of the unfamiliar bed. Too much. Feelings, thoughts, sensations. All the things usually muted by the blissful serenity of cocaine were rushing straight back into his consciousness like a tidal wave of perception, and he could no longer swim. He'd spent too long courting a false sense of normality, believing in a fantasy world of self-control while all his careful coping mechanisms atrophied and died under a smothering blanket of white. Now the snow had melted and left a field of skeletons in its wake. No tricks left - just him and the screaming jet engine of his own overactive brain.

-ets smell of bleach someone wearing expensive cologne here not long ago the nurse is left-handed around five foot four room too bright nobody thought to close the curtains don't lift head stay out of the sunbeam migraine ow ow ow someone talking in the next room angry paranoid arguing with a doctor what day is it surely not Friday shit I never got that essay done Thompson's going to be furious should have started it earlier too distracted by Victor wonder if he got that bloke from the rugby team to come out yet christ my head hurts couldn't they at least have left some paracetamol wish I had my violin wait no I don't too loud ugh the last person in this room was a heroin addict how disgus-

His hand shot out from under the blanket, grabbed a pillow and shoved it roughly over his head. It didn't help. God, was this really his natural mental state? How had he ever functioned? So many thoughts scattered every which way and all of them so vacuously inane. Details registered in a constant buzz of unwanted knowledge through his consciousness but none of them made even the slightest glimmer of sense over all the cacophonous noise. Everything was too close, too loud, too... too. Christ, he needed a hit. Needed to slow things down before he went completely mad. Just one. A little bit would do. The tiniest speck. Forty milligrams. No... twenty. Ten. Five! Anything. Coffee, a cigarette, any kind of stimulant just make this stop stop stop dear lord stop turn it off.

But no. No, of course he wouldn't get drugs here. It had taken far too long but he finally realised where he had to be. Rehab. Mycroft. Bloody fucking bastard Mycroft. He had spiked his drugs - cut in some sort of sedative and... and what? Abducted him? From his own bloody room? At two in the morning?

My brother is a psychotic despot, he thought savagely. Another spike of pain shot through his skull and he instinctively curled tighter around himself in search of comfort. A tug at the back of his hand caught his attention. Tape, iodine scent, plastic tube. IV line? Why? No, wait, obvious - more drugs. Mycroft again. Never content to leave him to his misery. Had to be sedatives. Causing the migraine? Probably. Get it out. Out out out. He uncoiled just enough to shift his other hand around and ripped the tubing fiercely from his flesh without even bothering to peel back the tape first. Blood oozed from the torn vein and he tucked it tightly under his chin to stem the flow. Refolded his body around the injury, closer than before. Small, safe. Nobody could get him. He'd stay like this forever.

Over the next few hours he heard several nurses come and go. They all stopped to talk to him, polite and kind and trying to coax him out of his cocoon. He ignored them. He was never moving again.

When he finally gave in and emerged (because it was getting stuffy, not because they'd offered him a glass of water and a cigarette) the staff seemed to collectively shift their efforts towards giving him medications. He refused everything. Not because he thought it contaminated; the crippling paranoia of earlier had thankfully run its course. Now his obstinance was down to pride. Sherlock was a genius, he didn't need their stupid pills. His body was his to command, his brain a masterwork; a little silly withdrawal wasn't going to defeat him. He didn't need anything. (Of course when he'd actually said as much they pointed out that he'd been happy enough to accept the cigarette. He'd pointed out that they could go fuck themselves.)

He was just settling into another round of sullen brooding when a new nurse stepped into his room. He glared venomously, eyes flicking up and down to pry all the secrets from her form. The last woman had run out in tears after he listed off every last one of her failed marriages (jewellery, hairstyle, shoe brand, obvious) and this one looked to have been sent in as backup. Happily married, at least two children, mid to late forties, no pets, no illnesses... damn. She was too well-adjusted to torment. He scowled as she deftly fixed the new IV he'd been fitted with (they said it was just fluids, he didn't believe them because if that was true why did they seem so insistent on constantly replacing it), then walked away to fill a paper cup of water from the sink in the en suite. He waited until she was a full three metres away from him before reaching down and tearing out the tube again.

She sighed as she turned back around and saw what he'd done. "Please stop doing that."

Tiny hint of irritation, mostly just exasperated. Professional, he thought. Used to this behaviour. Some kind of nursing veteran. Twenty year career? No... thirty. Look at the shoes. Hm, necklace, tan lines... Oh, she was talking again.

"Mr Hope, I know you're upset right now and believe me that's very understandable," she was saying. Sherlock only just barely heard her over the chattering of his own thoughts. He realised she'd produced a pink and red capsule from the pocket of her scrub top and was holding it towards him. "If you'd just take your medication I promise you'll start to feel better."

"What did you call me?" he asked instead, deliberately ignoring her request. A slight movement out the window caught his attention and without really meaning to he shifted his head to look outside. Leaves falling from a stand of poplar trees; yellow, red, brown, fluttering in the late autumn chill. A large bush of winter honeysuckle just beginning to bud under the windowsill. (Shouldn't put shrubbery in front of windows, invites thieves. Who would steal from a rehab clinic? I would, resolve to do so at earliest convenience.) Beyond that were fields and gardens, a stream, several acres of extensive landscaping. Very posh, if a bit rustic. He had a vague feeling he might be somewhere in Kent.

"Mr Hope...?" the nurse replied, her confused voice interrupting his musings. Sherlock turned back to blink at her. Why did she keep calling him that-? Oh, he suddenly realised. Oh, right. Fake name. Mycroft had booked him under a pseudonym so Father wouldn't find out. How... kind. Almost made up for the drugging and kidnapping.

Wait, no it didn't. Mycroft was a bastard.

The hand with the capsule had moved forward again and was now nearly butting into his chest with its insistence. He graced it the barest of glances before looking away.

"I'm not taking that," he informed the nurse. Studied the clouds; stratocumulus. Dull. Grey. British.

"It's nothing dangerous, dear. Just to help the anxiety."

"I'm not anxious." He wasn't. He had been rhythmically clenching his jaw against the pounding in his skull for the last hour, but that didn't mean anything. His head just hurt, the movement helped. He stopped doing it anyway, to prove he could. There, see? Not anxious. He glared at the fields outside and didn't notice when half a second later his teeth clamped together again.

"Still grinding them dear," the nurse pointed out rather blandly. Sherlock shot her a venomous look and forced his jaw to loosen. So what? Just a habit. Not indicative of any sort of mental state. What does she know anyway.

She was speaking again. Good god, woman, shut up. "The medicine will honestly help, love. It's a-"

"-beta blocker," he finished for her. Obvious. He'd seen the capsules plenty of times in the hands of fellow musicians. Used to calm the nerves, soothe stage fright. He'd never bothered with the stuff. What was the point? Adrenaline made him play better, on the rare occasion he even experienced it during a concert. Stage fright was for ordinary people.

The nurse had shut her mouth and was now staring at him determinedly. She really didn't seem inclined to back down. Sherlock sighed. Ugh, sod it. Just make her leave.

"Fine then, give it here," he muttered dully, holding out a hand for the medicine. She flashed him a relieved smile and handed over the pill and cup of water. He let her check under his tongue to be sure he'd swallowed, then waited patiently for her to exit the room. As soon as she was out the door he made his way over to the window (ripping out his IV on the way again; bloody meddling nurses), pried the capsule from behind his back molar with his tongue and spat it out. He watched the casing slowly dissolve in the damp garden soil below and wondered vaguely if it would soothe the frayed nerves of the honeysuckle bush.

After a few minutes staring Sherlock sighed gustily, scrubbed both hands through his hair in agitation and leant down to rest his elbows on the windowsill. The cool October air raised goose pimples on his flesh but he made no move to cover his arms. Let them freeze, what did he care.

Escape, he assumed with a sort of resigned objectivity, was probably not an option. Not after his stunt at the hospital. Mycroft would made sure to post an entire regiment of guards, with cameras, bugs... he turned his head suddenly and peered behind him as if he could spot the devices through sheer willpower. Quickly turned back around. Wouldn't do for anyone to catch him looking nervous. What had he been thinking about...? Oh, escape. Right. Impossible.

Well. Perhaps not if he had cocaine (cocaine god need to think need the snow back god damn it why can't I just have a little aren't they supposed to titrate you off these things). With the calm focus and heightened energy of his snowfield he could probably engineer a plan to evade whatever measures his brother had taken to keep him trapped here. Where he'd go after that he had no idea, considering everyone he knew was either back at Oxford or connected to his family, but it was a moot point anyway since without the drugs he had no hope of leaving. Planning was impossible; his thoughts kept splintering in a million different directions, he felt more exhausted than he'd ever been in his life and he had no motivation to do anything beyond sit here and marinate in the nebulous mix of swirling hatred and misery that now consumed his brain.

Mycroft was just wasting money guarding him. Sherlock couldn't even- no, no he wouldn't leave. By... by choice. Yes, that was his plan. He'd annoy Mycroft and confuse the hell out of the sentries and camera operators and the listening agents and whoever the fuck else his brother had hired to watch him by being all nice and compliant in his lovely little off-putting green room with the lacy curtains and not trying to get away at all. Mycroft would waste resources and the agents would be bored and overpaid. That'd show 'em. Right.

He grumbled indistinctly at his own stupid thoughts and bent himself nearly double to lean his forehead on the windowsill, arms hanging out into the chilly air and brushing lightly against the damp leaves of the honeysuckles. Everything was shit, he decided. Every. Single. Thing. He wanted coke. He wanted the beta blocker back. He wanted... god, he didn't even know what he wanted. A normal brain. A brother who wasn't a lunatic. A father who wasn't a lunatic. A mother who didn't ignore him. A boyfriend who was actually a boyfriend and not just some bloke he occasionally slept with. Some decent chips with vinegar. (Wait, was he actually hungry? When was the last time that happened?)

Eventually he gave up on thinking in general as a bad job and meandered back to his bed. He'd just go back to sleep, that was easiest. Maybe when he woke he'd be sane again. He sincerely doubted that but it was always good to stay optimistic. He curled into a ball under the pea-green duvet and tried to silence his brain long enough to drift off.

When he finally managed to fall into a light doze his dreams were all about dying. An avalanche rushed down the mountain toward him, impacted like a freight train with a noise like a jet engine and every bone in his body broke simultaneously with a horrifying symphony of cracks. He screamed in pain and awoke with a start.

Fuck, alright, no more sleeping. A bleary-eyed glance at the clock told him he'd been out for around half an hour, and that was plenty of rest. He sat up, kicked the covers off and leant against the headboard to stare fixedly at the trees outside, thinking he'd keep himself awake by counting leaves as they fell.

Around the two hundred mark his eyes started to drift shut. At two-hundred-sixty he finally allowed himself to list sideways and lay in a curled heap on the pillows because sitting up was too much work. He was cold; the window was open and the blankets were on the floor. But that was fine, since he wasn't sleeping anyway. Perhaps he might shut his eyes for a moment, though... they were fatigued. Understandable, as he'd been watching leaves for an hour. He let his lids slide closed. Just for a minute.

This time he dreamt of freezing solid, trapped in a block of ice while blood and flesh gradually coagulated into tiny slicing crystals. Death was slow and silent and agonising. Every time it finally took him he would return again, trapped in an endless cycle of freezing and thawing and freezing again.

He slept for hours.


Sherlock (and/or 'Sherrington', Mycroft was evidently a bit shit with pseudonyms) wasn't quite sure if it was more pathetic or depressing the way the doctors were so easily convinced by his acting. All it took was a few carefully-chosen words, the right physical actions and a few fabricated personal quirks to keep them all completely ignorant of the true state of his mental health. Pretend to respond to medications, participate in therapy and recreation and whatever the hell else they threw at him; do it right, play the part. It was harder to coordinate without cocaine but still not completely impossible, especially with literally nothing else around to occupy his mind. So he became Sherry, the sanguine, affable biology student who thought he might like to be a veterinarian some day but unfortunately had a crippling phobia of rabbits. He threw in a fake girlfriend to pine over, a best mate who liked books (he hadn't realised whilst inventing the obligatory 'friend who assists in making bad decisions' for his character that he'd accidentally given the therapist a perfect description of Victor, which was appallingly Freudian of him but now he was stuck with it) and a gratuitously tragic backstory involving dead parents and a mentally disabled brother.

Pretty soon the staff started referring to him as one of their best patients. They all thought him a pleasant young man who'd simply made a poor choice at some party and got carried away, and his peers in group therapy (which he wouldn't have attended even under threat of torture as Sherlock, but the entire point of Sherry was to be misleadingly oppositive to his true nature so he forced himself to go anyway) seemed to think he was a bit of an airheaded ponce but nice enough to be around. He hadn't breathed a word about all the snow imagery (mostly because he found it distinctly embarrassing to admit that his internal metaphors were so generically obvious) nor of the way cocaine made his thoughts slow down and organize and fall in beautiful perfect patterns. No, Sherry was a bit too dense for all that, he just liked the drug because it made him 'feel brilliant'. Hardly an adequate explanation for imbibing something like fifteen kilos of the stuff over the past four months in Sherlock's opinion, but the staff seemed to accept it with the same gullible confidence they afforded everything else. It was all so pitiful. Fuck's sake, these were supposed to be doctors. He was inventing symptoms and motivations out of thin air with ever-increasing levels of sarcasm, how could they not see how fake he was? Was it honestly possible to be this stupid?

Well, it would hardly matter for long. He fully expected to get caught out. Because no matter how many psychiatrists and nurses he managed to fool with his silly acting lark he knew his brother would be able to see straight through it in seconds. Mycroft's first visit would put an end to this persona of a bland affable idiot and force Sherlock to concoct a new set of lies to keep the doctors chasing their tails. Maybe he'd be a hedonist next, and then perhaps develop psychopathy. He figured he and Mycroft could turn it into a sort of game: Sherlock would make up a personality, his brother would call him on it and tell the doctors, then they'd start the cycle all over again. Mycroft would pretend to be angry at him for not taking his treatment seriously but secretly the older man would be amused, like he always was when Sherlock was being clever. It might even be fun.

Sherlock would never admit to looking forward to seeing his sibling but he did find himself anticipating Mycroft's first visit. Just a little. Because he was bored, mostly, and Mycroft was always good to alleviate boredom. He was also getting incredibly sick of pretending to be Sherry and a new personality would be a welcome change. So he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It took three weeks for him to finally accept that Mycroft was not going to visit. Or call. Or even text. Sherlock knew what was going on: his brother was giving him the silent treatment. He was disappointed and expected Sherlock to come grovelling to him and apologise for being so utterly stupid as to get hooked on cocaine. Well, forget it. He didn't even like Mycroft. The stupid tosser could go and die for all he cared.

He refused to try and initiate contact, knowing if he so much as breathed a word of complaint about the lack of communication he'd just get one of those tight, condescending smiles and some sort of perfectly plausible-sounding explanation. Mycroft's snobbish voice drifted through his head at the mere thought. 'Far too busy keeping Father out of the loop, Sherlock. You should really be more grateful. I could have just told him the second I found out, but I didn't. Now you owe me. Not to mention I've got my hands full fooling Mummy into thinking her youngest has taken ill with malaria, and do you even know how difficult it is to fabricate the proper documentation for a potential epidemic pathogen? Obviously nothing too challenging for someone like me, but still so incredibly tedious. Plus I've all these complicated laws to write, nations to topple, worlds to rule, you know how it is - there's a million million people out there for me to concern myself with who aren't you, you useless waste of oxygen, yet I persist in spending incredibly valuable time and resources protecting you regardless. But do you ever show even the slightest ounce of gratitude? No, no of course not. Such a selfish child. It's really no wonder our parents always liked me best. In fact I think you were really just an afterthought, weren't you? Some kind of failed backup plan perhaps; not as good as the original but still something to go on should the worst happen to me. You're probably not even legitimate, are you? All that business with Mummy and the stable hand. Do you remember? No, you wouldn't. It was before you were born. Obviously. You really do tend toward the gypsy traits you know, nothing like Father and I. Think how upsetting that must have been for poor Siger, seeing his wife pregnant when he hadn't even been home for months. Really explains why he always seemed to hate you so mu-' SHUT UP MYCROFT SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

With a snarl he clamped his hands over his ears and slammed his face into one of the overstarched pillows on his bed. A long, pathetic whine tore itself from his throat, muffled by the pillow so it came out more of a strangled 'mmmphf!'. It was the middle of the night and as usual his brain was screaming along too fast for him to sleep.

He absolutely had to stop thinking about his brother. Actually to be perfectly honest he absolutely had to stop thinking about anything. It all just twisted into self-loathing diatribes, leaving him depressed and angry and too fed up with the world to even bother with anything. The staff never noticed, of course. Why would they? His mask was perfect. The only person who'd have even the slightest chance of seeing the truth was one Mycroft bloody Holmes, and he was no longer interested in associating with his pitiful younger sibling. With him out of the picture Sherlock's secret identity was guaranteed safe.

So really he was glad Mycroft wasn't going to visit. Nobody to call him out on his lies. Plus it was far easier to focus on keeping his increasingly-elaborate characterisation of Sherry straight without having to worry about a whale with a brolly fetish showing up and ruining it all. It wasn't like he'd ever miss the pompous git. Sherlock was a sociopath, he didn't do things like miss people. He didn't miss Victor after all, and they were almost-but-not-really-because-who-the-hell-would-ever-date-you-boyfriends, so all in all he was fine. He was. Just. Fine.

He shoved his face further into his pillow and wondered if it would be possible to smother himself.


In just three short months Sherrington Hope was pronounced fit to return to society. Sherlock Holmes was not, mostly on account of none of the staff having ever so much as met Sherlock Holmes. If they had he would have been retained indefinitely.

On a dreary Wednesday morning he was told by the nurse that his family would be by to pick him up in the afternoon. By 'family' he understood she meant Mycroft, so while he waited in the lobby later for the familiar black towncar to pull up he occupied himself by absently wondering how he was going to react to finally seeing his brother again. Anger would be appropriate, he supposed. Maybe relief if he was going to be a sap about it. Happiness was extremely unlikely, but he ceded it remotely possible. Very remotely.

The most probable scenario was probably going to be simple indifference. After all emotional responses generally required at least a semi-reactive cognitive state, and Sherlock's mind had gone quite thoroughly numb something like a month and a half ago. Not the comfortable anaesthesia of cocaine but something dark and stagnant, spreading like rot through every corner of his head until nothing could move for the filth. His brain was literally decaying. It had rebelled against the forced dormancy by declaring war against itself and now the battlefield was strewn with putrefying corpses.

Sherlock briefly screwed up his face in disgust at the imagery. Ugh, what was with him and strange abstract visualisations of his mental space? And why was it always either a field or a lake? It would really be better to use some sort of building. Then he'd have a bit more permanence at least, perhaps organised places to keep all his cluttered internal stuff. Should try erecting a tower. Have to wait until the corpses cleared out though. And the mud. The rot. Maybe he was getting ahead of himself.

A noise caught his attention and he looked up as the clinic door opened, catching sight of the smart suit and puffed cap of one of his family's valets. Personal staff instead of a government employee? That was new. Might even have been interesting, had he had any capability to be interested by anything anymore. The most feeling Sherlock managed to dredge up was a faint wave of irritation at the fact that his brother was apparently too much of a lazy arse to walk the ten metres to sign him out himself, but it faded quickly. Too much effort. The manservant handed over a stack of papers, spoke with the receptionist a moment and then initialled a log book before turning to Sherlock and sparing his outfit the barest of distasteful glances.

Sherlock looked down at himself but could see nothing particularly troublesome. Jeans, white t-shirt, navy Oxford hoodie, a pair of still decently-new trainers and the dove grey wool peacoat Mycroft had given him two Christmases ago which he only ever wore because it was easy to hide drugs in the lining (not that there was anything in there now, much to his annoyance). They were the same clothes he'd had on the night of the overdose, which he supposed ended up being sent here out of the convenience of having already been in a hospital bag. Perhaps a little casual, but he hardly felt the need to dress up just to meet his brother. Besides, the only clothing the clinic provided was their stupid uniform of loose-fitting activewear and that was hardly a better alternative.

He conveyed his thoughts to the valet with a bland lift of his eyebrows, and with a very slight look of exasperation the man turned and beckoned him to follow.

The shiny black towncar they approached practically screamed 'pompous ass' in its conspicuous display of wealth, and despite the stifling cloud of dysphoria in his head Sherlock felt a jolt of irrational anger flash through him. Bloody Mycroft, with his stupid bloody cars and stupid bloody valets and stupid bloody... bloody everything. The only reason Sherlock was even here was because that fat meddling whale hadn't been able to keep his nose out of other peoples' business. It was all his brother's fault.

An insult jumped to his lips and as he slid into the back seat he was already speaking. "You're a fucki-"

The slur died in his throat as he caught a proper look at the man sitting in the opposite seat. That... wasn't Mycroft.

... Oh Christ. The valet shut the door and walked around to start the engine, locks clicking down automatically. He was trapped.

The man across from him flashed a tight, false smile.

"Sherlock," his father said mildly. "It seems we have... matters to discuss."


Mycroft Holmes had expected, at half past one in the afternoon, to step into the reception area of the unassuming clinic to find a rather understandably pissed-off younger sibling already there glaring at him, perhaps even displaying a rude gesture. He'd have accepted the behaviour willingly. He had, after all, essentially abandoned the boy. It hadn't been his intent to do so, but between the tabloid scandal, American elections (absolute farce this year, good lord), terrorist threats, and a bloody tsunami last month he'd quite run out of time to do much of anything beyond the demands of his position. As much as he hated to admit it, Sherlock had been put on the back burner. He'd assuaged his guilt with the thought that at least the boy was safe, and that considering how Mycroft had gotten him to rehab in the first place would probably not want much to do with him for awhile anyway.

But instead of his scowling baby brother there was only a receptionist, who calmly informed Mycroft that the only patient by the name of S. Hope had been collected nearly an hour ago. Mycroft allowed an affable smile to flit across his face. It did an admirable job of concealing the very uncharacteristic stab of dread which shot through his gut at her words.

"By whom, may I ask?" he asked her politely.

"Hm, looks like a Mister, er... Siger Holmes, sir?" the woman replied after a slight pause to look up the information. Mycroft's pleasant expression never wavered, even as he felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. "Seems to have had all the necessary paperwork," she continued. "Perhaps a scheduling mixup on your end?"

"Ah.. yes... of course," he confirmed in a voice only slightly strained. He flashed her a tight smile. "So sorry for the confusion."

The woman smiled and assured him it was no problem as Mycroft turned to walk out of the building. There were a million and one troubling questions to answer, chief among them being how in hell's name had Father found out. Before he could tackle any of them, however, there was a much more pressing matter to attend to.

He flipped open his phone as he stepped outside and spoke the instant he heard his assistant connect on the other end.

"Locate my brother immediately."


It took nearly five hours to track Sherlock down. The damned clever teenager had removed the batteries from his phone so he couldn't be traced, then led them all on a merry chase through alleys and parks, side streets and gutters, up fire escapes and along rooftops until even Mycroft's team of MI5 agents lost track of where they'd been. The only way they'd even have a chance at this rate was for Sherlock to stop, so Mycroft reluctantly gave the order to stand down. Sooner or later the boy would have to rest, they'd make sure they were ready.

Three-quarters of an hour passed before they had a confirmed position. Mycroft refused to let his underlings go in ahead of him (it was his little brother, for god's sake, not some terrorist) and so he found himself striding alone down a filthy London alley, expensive suit contrasting sharply with his surroundings as he hastened towards a shuddering figure outlined by the half-light of the street lamps. Sherlock was sitting slumped against the brickwork at the far end of the truncated street, all tremors and exhausted panting - not particularly surprising as he'd just spent the better part of an afternoon running pell-mell across London. Mycroft crouched down upon reaching the apparently insensate form and gently snapped his fingers a few times in front of the boy's pale face to try and rouse him. His baby brother's unnaturally dilated eyes blinked open, startled, and flicked up to meet his gaze.

"Oh! Heeeeeey Myc, fancy seeing you here," the boy drawled. A slow, perverse smile spread across his face as he shifted to lean his head back against the wall. His every movement was just... wrong. Mycroft withdrew his arm and gripped the handle of his umbrella tightly, forcing his face to remain impassive. His brilliant mind kicked into confused overdrive, trying and failing to reconcile his internal paradigm of Sherlock with this... this stranger wearing his brother's skin. Abruptly he realised he'd never actually seen his brother high before.

Mycroft drew a steadying breath through his nose and forced himself to calm. He couldn't get upset. Sherlock needed him to remain level-headed.

"Are you alright?" he asked evenly.

"I'm marvellous!" Sherlock exclaimed with a grand sweep of his arm. Mycroft eyed the fresh puncture wounds visible under the sloppily rolled-up sleeve of his coat, then focused on visually examining the hands. Scrapes on his palms, very particular pattern, knuckles, thumbs - collapsed, then, not sat down willingly. Possibly tachycardic, almost certainly hyperthermic. Out of his mind on coke. All very bad signs.

If he starts seizing in front of me I will absolutely have a panic attack, Mycroft determined with a sort of detached air of certainty. That would be disastrous for my reputation, my subordinates would never fear me again. Quickly he decided this was a far easier motivation for his analytical brain to accept than the truth of being horrified and sick with worry for his baby brother, so he latched onto the sociopathic indifference like a shield. Crouched down still, he straightened his back as best he could and assumed an air of authority.

"Sherlock, you require medical attention. You must come wit-" Sherlock just laughed.

"Mycroft, darling," he interrupted. "As much as I would love to go with you to A&E or back to rehab or wherever the hell you're planning to dump me next I'm afraid I'm really going to have to decline. I'm simply far too busy, you see," he quipped breezily, indicating the alley around them. Mycroft raised his eyebrows slightly. The lofty wrongness in his sibling's voice had set his insides squirming again, but he refused to acknowledge it. He glanced around at the bins.

"Clearly," he intoned. Sherlock's grin crept another notch towards manic. Mycroft resolutely ignored it.

"Nevertheless," he continued, remaining calm, "I am taking you to a hospital."

"Hah! Like hell you are." Sherlock laughed. "That was a really good trick you know, sending Father to collect me," he went on fluidly, changing the subject without the slightest warning. Despite himself Mycroft cringed. Of course he would think...

"Sherlock, I swear to you I have no idea how-"

Sherlock paid him absolutely no attention.

"I actually thought it was you at first, you know! Nearly called him a fucking cunt before I noticed who it was. Can you imagine, swearing at Father! I'd have been killed on the spot! Mind you I very nearly was anyway, he was pretty well livid. Got myself disowned. Have you ever seen Father really angry, Myc? It's bloody terrifying. But then no, I guess you haven't, have you? You're Mycroft, perfect boy genius. Nobody's ever angry with you." Sherlock's detached, airy voice had begun to shift down into something low and bitter. "Me, of course, I just keep on fucking up."

"Sherlock..." Mycroft cut in, face drawn and probably gone chalk-white by now. A parallel section of his brain had kicked into high gear at the word 'disowned', already running through the cost/benefit analysis of several different revenge plots to enact on their father. In truth he'd already been planning to remove Siger Holmes from their lives for quite some time now, the man was a walking definition of clinical psychopathy and entirely too clever for anyone's good. But he'd been hesitating to start because the task would no doubt prove difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming, and he had enough on his plate with the government and his brother. So for once in his life Mycroft had let himself procrastinate. Now look what had happened. He could practically feel himself forming a complex.

Sherlock was speaking again. "You know frankly I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner. I mean if I were him I'd have done it the moment I started Eton. Fairly obvious I'd never measure up to their perfect little firstborn by that point. Though now I'm thinking you should really just have me assassinated; clean break and all that. Save me the trouble of killing myse-"

"Sherlock!" Mycroft suddenly barked, appalled. Surely he wasn't-! His brother snickered at his reaction.

"Oh dear, you are upset aren't you? Well, don't worry your pretty little head Mycroft. I'm not suicidal. Just self-destructive. You've a few months at least till you find me facedown in a gutter. I expect I shan't feel a thing, if it makes you feel any-"

"Enough," Mycroft finally snapped. He let his expression harden into a look of cold steel. No more. This was absurd. His brother needed help. Deep, uncomfortable emotional discussions could wait for later. When they were both in their right minds. When Sherlock wasn't off his face on coke and Mycroft wasn't beside himself with worry and guilt.

"You will accompany me to my car," Mycroft informed his brother, standing up from his crouched position. Sherlock was eyeing him warily. "If you cannot walk I will have one of my men carry you."

"Make me." The teenager's deep voice seemed caught somewhere between petulant and defensive. Mycroft fixed him with a stern glare.

"Do not attempt this game with me."

Sherlock paled slightly at his tone. Mycroft had deliberately made himself sound like Father. He hated to be so crassly manipulative but it was the fastest and most reliable way to get his brother's attention. The boy scowled. "Fine, sir, whatever you say."

Sherlock made to push himself up from the ground, shaking limbs still weak and uncoordinated after his mad flight through London, and quite predictably stumbled. Mycroft's hand shot out on instinct to grab hold of his sibling's arm before he could fall. He was alarmed when Sherlock jerked away violently at the contact.

"Don't touch me!" the boy screeched.

Mycroft pulled back immediately and frowned. Eyes flitted up and down as he quickly scanned his brother's appearance for any clues he hadn't been able to see while the young man was slouched against the wall. Hair tangled in back trainers recently scuffed jeans frayed dirt rubbed into knees dried stain on right coat sle-

"Oh," he murmured suddenly, eyes widening in realisation. Sherlock bristled.

"Fuck off!" the boy snarled. Abruptly he rammed both hands into his elder brother's chest, and Mycroft stumbled back in shock. Sherlock had shoved him. One of the two bodyguards he'd allowed to keep watch at the mouth of the alley had already rushed over and caught him before he could hit the dingy alley floor. Mycroft managed to right himself just in time to see his second guard charge towards Sherlock, following standing orders to restrain anyone who might pose a threat to his employer. Anyone except his brother.

"Stop!" he ordered sternly, but it was too late; the man had already pinned the aggressor against the wall. Sherlock half-screamed in panic, struggling madly, and in less than a second he'd wrenched an arm out of his captor's grip and jabbed a bony elbow straight into the man's trachea, following it with a swift abdominal blow and a kick to the side of the knee. The MI5 agent crumpled. Mycroft was somewhat less than thrilled to find half of his security detail taken out in under a minute by a drug-addled teenager, but had little time to be annoyed as within milliseconds Sherlock had turned around and bolted off toward the mouth of the alley.

"Grab him!" Mycroft commanded the remaining guard. The man lunged forward and caught a handful of peacoat, wrenching the young man somewhat violently backwards like a dog on a chain. He then caught hold of Sherlock's forearm and swiftly twisted it behind the boy's back in a secure and efficient grip. Sherlock kicked and struggled like a wild beast for several seconds before finally sagging in defeat, panting.

Mycroft's expression was stricken. "I'm sorry. You left me no other choice," he explained. He couldn't let Sherlock escape again, not in this state. Even if it took having him restrained like a war criminal.

Sherlock was glaring venomously up at him through his fringe.

"I hate you," the boy whispered.


Suddenly the teenager was animated again, kicking against the immovable block of a man behind him as he lunged toward his sibling with an incoherent snarl.

"This would never have happened if you'd just kept your fat fucking face out of my fucking business, Mycroft! You destroyed my life!"

That was far too close to his own self-recriminating thoughts for comfort. Uncharacteristically he snapped back without thinking. "I was trying to keep you safe! You're the one who chose to do drugs like... like some common person!"

He immediately regretted his words. Sherlock stilled.

"... Mycroft Holmes," he announced after a pause, voice frigid. "You are officially my arch-enemy."

Mycroft blinked. He... what? Leave it to Sherlock to say something so utterly ridiculous in the middle of a tense emotional conflict. He'd almost forgotten the boy was high as a kite. "... Don't be dramatic," he admonished hollowly.

Sherlock sneered at him. The alley was silent for a brief second.

Then out of nowhere the boy flung his head back with as much force as humanly possible. The back of his skull connected with the guard's nose in a sickening crunch and he twisted in the loosened grip to ram a knee into the man's crotch, ripping his arm free as he did so. The second he was free he was running.

"Sherlock! Stop!" Mycroft shouted and scrambled-scrambled!-after his brother.

His personal assistant shrieked in alarm as Sherlock shot past her. Mycroft just managed to get to the mouth of the alley in time to see the boy wave her stolen phone over his shoulder with a vicious grin.

"I'll be sure to ring you, Myc!" he called merrily. He spun around to face them and flipped a sarcastic salute before taking a brisk turn and disappearing once more into the maze of London's streets like a rabbit to its warren. It could be days before they'd ever find him again. Perhaps weeks. The boy might be dead before the end of the night.

For the first time in many years, Mycroft Holmes swore.