Title: Spinning in the Middle of the Air
Prompt: Here. Sherlock isn't fast enough solving a case and something bad happens. He gets high and is comforted/sobered by John.
Word count: 1300
Warnings: Drug use, unintentional self-harm
Category: Um. Somewhere between gen and slash? I'm tagging for both, to be annoying.
Notes: Researching this, I was pretty surprised at how many internet forums there are dedicated to telling people how to take hallucinogenic/psycadelic drugs. You learn something new every day.
Glass is liquid held in ebb.
Sherlock slowly smoothed his fingers across the window, watching the surface not-quite ripple at their touch. A sheet of liquid standing tall, how did that makes sense? The evening sunlight glazed it gold, like honey, and the gold bubbled out of the glass and drifted gently through the room with the dust.
How did that make sense?
He was balancing, way up in the air; balancing on thoughts he didn’t want to examine. His thoughts had been like a nest of snakes, writhing through his mind and devouring him from the inside out, before he had found a way – this old way – to escape them, outwit them for a while, drift.
The glass glowed. Liquid light.
And liquid could cut you open, each little droplet held in its ebb and together, all of them, drawing to a point. Not something he’d meant to do. It had been a wineglass in his hand, sometime earlier. Then the dark wreaths of thoughts had surface and he had clenched his hands – crack.
His left palm was red. Red beads left stripes down his wrist and vanished beneath his cuff. Interesting patterns, although he hadn’t found the meaning in them yet.
Footsteps beat out an approaching rhythm, dulling the harmonies of the golden light. John surfaced up through the deep darkness in the stairwell. He halted at the top. Colours rushed towards his eyes, to be taken in.
“Sherlock?” he asked, and his voice cut patterns through the air in blue and brown.
“I’m here, John,” said Sherlock.
“Yes, thank you, I can see that. What on Earth are you doing?”
It had just melted in his hand, melted into sharp slivers.
John switched on the lights. They created their own colours which fizzed and spluttered against the drab ceiling. The sun was setting behind the skyline, fading. The gold faded too.
“Sherlock, you’ve got blood all over your hand. What happened?”
The red was a good colour. Full of life. Tiny, tiny cells. Solids in flow.
“We lost,” he said.
John took a couple of steps towards him, and then paused again. “You’re on something, aren’t you? What is it?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, of course it matters! What did you take?”
Too many questions. There wasn’t any reason for it to matter, that he could see. What mattered had been the flames and the way it sounded as if the flames were shrieking with their own voices, for just a second, until you realised…
“We lost,” he said again, and felt the dark thoughts begin to stir, finding a way back into him through that memory.
“Is this what you do every time you don’t solve a case?” John asked. He was wary, his colours turning dark. The whole room was turning dark around them, heedless of the light bulbs which should be beating the darkness back. “Get high as a kite?”
“I did solve the case,” Sherlock said, precisely. “But too slowly, and therefore I lost instead. Do get it right.”
“That wasn’t your fault. You were called in too late. So was Lestrade. You couldn’t have done anything – ”
The lights brightened, blazed. Sherlock clenched his hands.
“No!” John yelped, whatever hesitancy he’d been suffering from forgotten as he grabbed hold of Sherlock’s forearms. “Stop it!”
Sherlock opened his hands, looked at the ruby splinters dug into his skin. Completely surprised. “I forgot.”
“You forgot…” John seemed to momentarily lose the power of speech. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
“I’m sorry.” The blood had its own corkscrewing aura. It really was a beautiful colour.
John pushed him firmly down onto the sofa. “Jesus, Sherlock, your eyes. They’re dilated enough to drop a taxi into. Tomorrow we’re going to have a very serious talk on why Drugs Are Bad.”
Lots of things were bad. Far too many to keep track of. You had to prioritise.
Losing was bad. That was right at the top of the list.
John began to talk sternly again, which was uninteresting, and he went away to rummage through some drawers for some things which would also probably be uninteresting. He was back long before Sherlock had tired of watching how his blood slowly walked across and then slid gently down around his forearm as he tilted it.
“Don’t,” John said sharply, spreading a clean towel across Sherlock’s knees and pushing the back of his hand down onto it. John’s hands were cold – they felt like balm where they touched.
Sherlock didn’t have the energy resist. It was too tiring, to be fighting against what his mind dragged up. John had said don’t dwell before leaving for work, and here he was, not dwelling. Fighting against it, in fact, because even after what he’d taken (and he still couldn’t be bothered to remember the name; it was irrelevant) all his thoughts were still there. All getting high did was enhance other stimuli, enable him to focus all of his attention for once on something as usually innocuous as the light on the window, and the rich red of blood, and the pleated shadows cast by the curtains…
It eliminated pain, too. John had already disinfected his hand and he hadn’t noticed. Now he tilted Sherlock’s palm so that the light from a lamp shone fully onto it. He pinched a sliver of glass between the tweezers he held in unshaking fingers and pulled it delicately free, dropping it onto a saucer he had placed next to him. It landed with a gentle chink. Sherlock had the idea for a second that it was melting, but it was just the liquid blood sliding free.
The colours were all dimming, sliding back to where they belonged. The ones which had clung to John were gone, but their impression of darkness remained.
“You told Lestrade you were clean,” John said. His voice held a thick swirl of emotion but none of that showed in his hands, which were still rock-steady. “By that, did you just mean that you were clean at that particular point in time?”
“Would it make a difference?” Sherlock asked. He tipped his head backwards.
“Why?” It certainly didn’t matter anymore whether he had actually been speaking to John or Lestrade that night. Whether he had realised that he hadn’t wanted to…disappoint.
A different kind of losing, this.
John didn’t answer and continued to deftly pick pieces of glass from Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock could begin to feel it, now. He was spinning back towards the ground.
“Everyone loses sometimes,” John said.
John didn’t ask whether it was the loss of the lives they hadn’t saved or simply the loss of the case which had stirred up the desperate, nagging need inside Sherlock. He was learning not to, or maybe he’d known already. Maybe that was the sort of thing you needed to know when you went off to war.
“I’m done,” was all he said as he pinned in place the bandage which he had neatly wrapped around Sherlock’s hand.
“Thank you,” Sherlock said.
John moved the supplies he’d been using onto the coffee table, and sat down next to Sherlock. “Please don’t do this again,” he said quietly.
It was fading, that feeling which felt like distilled clarity while being anything but. Fading, leaving. “I can’t promise that, John,” he said.
“I guessed as much. I just wish you’d be more careful, Sherlock.”
Sherlock was feeling weak now, and tired. He laid his head against John’s shoulder and felt his momentary surprise; felt too, after a moment, John’s arm come around him.
“Please,” John whispered.
“I can’t promise,” Sherlock said again, and felt a regret which surprised him. He wanted to be able to give John this, but couldn’t. “I’m sorry.” He waited for John to move away.
“I’m not asking you to promise,” John said, and didn’t move away. He wrapped his other arm around Sherlock too, and held him tighter.
Held him together.