Chapter 1: Talk
'Come over. Need to talk. -SH'
Greg Lestrade glanced back at the screen of his phone for the third time since he'd gotten into the cab that would take him to Baker Street.
The text had been unexpected, and that, combined with the brevity of it, made him uneasy. Greg's first response had gone unanswered, and he typed out another as the cab turned the corner.
Still no answer.
Soon he was out and on the doorstep, tugging his coat tighter around himself against the chill and pressing the doorbell somewhat forcefully. He waited a minute before he tried again, and then tested the doorknob.
The smell of dust and chemicals and something else indistinguishable hung in the air inside, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant. Anything was better than being out in the cold.
He paused on the first step, but the silence from above drew him forward. The door stood open, and most of the lights were on, though with the curtains drawn it didn't do much to cut the gloom. The TV was on but the sound was turned almost all the way down, and there were several open books strewn over the table and chairs, in various states of completion.
"Sherlock...?" Greg stepped farther inside cautiously.
"Kitchen!" There was the sound of a drawer shutting with a snap, and as Greg rounded the corner into the kitchen Sherlock was just turning toward him from the table—which was set up with some sort of experiment that appeared to involve... something. Maybe a tongue?
Greg didn't want to look at it too closely.
"That was fast, considering the traffic. You beat my estimation by..." Sherlock glanced at his watch, sounding impressed. "...two and a half minutes."
"I texted you." Greg tried to keep the irritation out of his voice.
Sherlock looked at him for a few seconds, and then something seemed to begin to dawn on him. "This was a bad time, wasn't it?"
"No, you knew I wasn't busy... You always seem to know..." He trailed off quietly. "How... do you always know..."
"Good. Sit down, if you want." Sherlock turned back to the kitchen with a flourish of dressing gown, nonchalant again.
Greg glanced over the chairs, which all seemed to have books, boxes, and who knew what already sitting on them, and decided to ignore that.
"John's taking a holiday. Something about his sister's birthday, I think? Anyway, he'll be away until Tuesday evening."
"Uh-huh..." Greg nodded, watching him as he moved over to the coffee pot and poured himself another cup.
"How many of those have you had so far...? Look, you've already got a full cup over here, mate." Greg picked up the forgotten cup from the desk and peered into it carefully, just in case.
One never knew, in that flat.
Sherlock waved a hand. "You can have that one."
"Iced coffee." He flashed a somewhat distracted smile.
"Suit yourself..." Sherlock shrugged and took a sip of his own. The fingers of his other hand drummed against the counter-top quickly for a moment, but then he was moving again, leaving the mostly full cup by the sink.
"Tell me why I'm here...?" Greg crossed his arms over his chest and let out a heavy breath.
"Just a second..." He stayed bent over the thing on the table for a minute, and then held out a hand. "You've got patches. I know you do, you're quitting again."
Greg's eyebrows rose. "You did not just call me out here for me to give you a bloody nicotine patch. Tell me you didn't—" He spun on his heel and walked halfway across the living room, shaking his head. "I waited in traffic! I thought something might have happened to you! I was worried, you git! Do you have any idea—"
Sherlock looked up at him. "No. That's not why I asked you here."
"Good! Spit it out, then!"
He was left hanging for a long moment as Sherlock just stood there, looking down at the table. He scratched at his cuff, apparently avoiding Greg's gaze, and then straightened his back and lifted his head. "Like I said in my text... I need to talk. I could use a sounding board, someone to help me think, and since John's gone you're the next best thing."
His hands were shaking very slightly, Greg noticed now.
"Right..." His eyes passed over the little crescent shaped indents on the inside of Sherlock's wrist, as of fingernails dug into skin, and back up to his face.
His voice softened a little. "So... really... what was it exactly you wanted to talk to me about?"
Chapter 2: Stay
"So... really... what was it exactly you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Nothing in particular." Sherlock gave a little half shrug.
"'Nothing in particular?' You're joking." Greg left an unspoken 'you'd better be joking, or so help me god.'
"No, really. I didn't think it was necessary."
"You 'didn't think it was nec'—I feel like we're having some kind of disconnect, here. I don't think you're hearing yourself. Do you see what I'm saying? Really?"
Sherlock certainly wasn't catching the sarcasm.
Either that, or it wasn't bothering him in the slightest.
"You called me here..." Greg went on, speaking slowly, step by step. "So you could talk to me... about nothing?"
Sherlock nodded slowly. "Eh..."
"You're havin' a go..." Greg turned toward the door and took a few steps, even though something in him told him not to leave.
He wasn't planning to go, really.
"Wait—" There was a sudden edge of stress in Sherlock's voice that, just for a second, dipped into urgency. "Please."
Greg felt himself tense a little, as his suspicions seemed instantly confirmed. He let himself settle back on his heels and looked back, watching him quietly. "What do you need me to do...?"
"You don't have to do anything... Just... stay... for a while..." Sherlock's eyes darted about, anywhere but toward Greg, and there was an intensity in them that verged on feverish.
The false calm seemed to be slipping.
He tangled his fingers in his curls agitatedly, as he seemed to have been doing at some point before, judging by the look of them. He took a deep breath and tried to let it out. "I'm okay... I am okay..."
"You're craving, aren't you?" Greg's voice sounded a little too loud in the quiet room, and Sherlock's eyes flicked toward him. "Heroin, or...?"
Sherlock didn't reply, and stood absolutely still, barely appearing to breathe.
One of the lamps flickered slightly with a very quiet electric buzz.
The clock ticked incessantly, off beat.
"Just..." Sherlock shut his eyes. "...stay..."
Greg bit the inside of his cheek and glanced around the flat quickly, taking in the chaos in the shadowy glow of the lamps. He looked back at him again, and cleared his throat. "Right... first of all, you need to get out of here for a bit. Staying here in the gloom for days is enough to make anybody go mad. Get changed, we're going to get something to eat, you look starved. How many days has John been gone? And stop with the coffee already, you need to get some damn sleep. Okay?"
Sherlock blinked. "I..."
"Chips alright with you?" Greg picked up Sherlock's coat from the back of a chair and tossed it to him. "It's cold, wear something warm."
Words seemed to have failed Sherlock momentarily, and the look on his face was honestly not something Greg was accustomed to seeing. His lips parted, but no sound came.
"I... Yeah, that's fine... Chips are fine..."
"Good. I'll call a cab. But... one thing." Greg watched his eyes flick back to him again. "Call me sooner next time."