John used to wonder why the shower water was sometimes so cold. He stopped questioning once he paid attention to how long Sherlock took to shower, particularly after long periods without cases. At most, John would take twenty minutes to complete his shower each morning before going to the surgery depending upon whether or not he needed a wank. What was ludicrous however was that Sherlock spent at least an hour in the shower, occasionally at a reasonable time, but more so than not, during the oddest hours of the early morning right before John woke for the day.
John also used to wonder why Sherlock spent so long standing under the head before the water turned to ice, he didn't want to know what Sherlock was doing in there only why he chose to do it (or could he please wait until after John showered to commence with his marathon showering?)
John no longer wonders.
Some nights it is all Sherlock can do to not dive back into the needle.
Nights like these, where Lestrade hasn't called with a case in nearly a week, not even a drugs bust to hold him over. Nothing! Not even a simple little cold case. Bored, bored, bored. So bored that not even finding John's hidden gun was exciting anymore, his hiding spots were more than predictable, basic, elementary.
Long stretches like these would be spent mostly on the sofa, sprawled out in his dressing gown and pyjamas, lost inside his own mind, the world around him a blur. John liked to bark at him to stop sulking but Sherlock didn't sulk, no, of course not. It wasn't that Sherlock wanted this, quite the opposite, but there were days where he couldn't bring himself to get off the couch.
No one else knows what it's like, stuck inside his head.
When Sherlock is able to move he follows a strict routine, first heading to the kitchen to make himself some toast. If he is successful and does not burn the bread he will reward himself by eating it. If not, forget it. While on cases, Sherlock doesn't eat—it's simple. Eating will only slow him down both physically and mentally therefore he simply ignores the signs of hunger. Once a case is solved though, he gorges himself on take-out, ordering two, three, four different items on the menu and devouring it until his body can take no more. That'll shut John up, he thinks, but it doesn't. If anything it troubles John even more to see his friend fast for days and then make-up lost meals tenfold. Right after a case is the only time that Sherlock considers his eating pattern anywhere near normal. Once boredom sets in Sherlock gambles with his meals.
After eating his toast (or not), Sherlock paces the living room thinking over every single deduction from his latest case—it plays over and over again in his head like a broken record, every revelation, every bit of praise from John, every insult thrown at him by Donovan or Anderson. When the abuses are thrown at him Sherlock isn't hurt, he barely winces in fact. Instead he stores the information for later recollection and a reminder that he might just be a freak. Of course these thoughts would pass quicker than they entered his mind but it still sat there permeating, waiting to seep through any vulnerability in his system. One of these days he just might crack.
It's around this time that Sherlock thinks of cocaine. It had been years since his last relapse but he was always so sure that he could find a dealer in minutes, no problem. The pinch as needle hit skin, delving deep into his veins, and the eye opening sensation of the high — so tempting. He could undoubtedly shoot up without John noticing too, he had hidden his addiction from many people for years (except for meddling Mycroft), adding one more to the mix wouldn't be hard. Except he didn't want to hide from or lie to John. In the past, before John, Sherlock had no qualms about lying, manipulating or deceiving people to get his way. If John were merely a pawn in a case there would be no issue. But John had inserted himself in Sherlock's life like an incurable virus, changed him so much in fact that he couldn't imagine writing him off as a puzzle piece. John though, he thinks, does not hold merit over his addictions. Sherlock is aching for substance.
Sherlock, time and time again, will head to his bedroom, throw on clothes and push more than enough money into his pocket. His mind screams at him—you'll be brighter than ever, quicker than ever, better than ever. Just as he ties his scarf around his neck and prepares to walk out of 221B he will hear a noise coming from the upstairs bedroom. It's not always the same noise, a loud snore, a creak in the floor board, a thrash during a nightmare. Whatever he hears will always stop him. Instead of walking out he will turn around and head for the shower.
He doesn't know why it helps him so much, the steaming hot water beating itself against his striking pale skin, marking him red. His skin is anything but flawless, odd chemical burns from experiments gone sour, track marks (some that he is proud of, others not), scars from far-too-close-calls and recent wounds from his most previous case. An interesting assortment of tales from the dangerous life of Sherlock Holmes.
The burning water stings, but it doesn't make him want to turn on the cold water faucet. Standing under the shower head, Sherlock loses track of time for the first time in days. His mind usually can't take its focus away from time.
How long has it been since Lestrade's last text?
How long will I have to stay like this?
How long with John stay?
And just like that, Sherlock will doze off only to wake up realizing that he's stood in the shower until the water has run cold. He will shut the water, dry off and finally get to sleep.
Tonight his routine is knocked off schedule. Sherlock makes it through toast and pacing. He nearly makes it out the door but then turns back, opting for a shower instead. Sherlock still loses track of time and closes his eyes, but this time he doesn't wake on his own accord.
John trashes wildly as he leaves behind another nightmare. Although he used to dream exclusively of sand and soldiers, he has expanded his repertoire to include pools, semtex and Sherlock. John opens his eyes and begins to focus on his breathing. There would be no way in hell that he could manage to fall back asleep after this one. He told himself that every time and has never been proven wrong. John looked over at the alarm clock plugged in on the nightstand beside his bed; 4:29am. Sounds like the perfect time for a cup of tea. Just as he pulls himself together enough to put the kettle on he hears it. The shower. Sherlock. He shakes his head. Wonder how long he's been in there this time.
Instead of simply ignoring his flatmate's bizarre behaviour, John knocks on the bathroom door.
"Sherlock?" Stupid question, of course it's Sherlock, he continues, "I'm about to put on the kettle, would you like some tea?"
He waits… no answer.
"Sherlock?" God, he hopes that Sherlock doesn't just leave the water running while he's off somewhere else in the flat just to drive John up the wall. He knocks again. "Sherlock, are you even in there?" John presses his ear to the door. The water doesn't sound like it's hitting the tub; more like it's raining down on a body.
It's just then that John begins to worry. It's silly of him, he thinks, this is Sherlock we're talking about, a man with many odd hobbies and behaviours that John should not be concerned about—but this was somehow, in the pit of his stomach, different.
John knocks once more, "Sherlock, I'm coming in." Sherlock holds no value to personal space or privacy so certainly John can make an exception in this case. He twists the door knob to find it unlocked.
Sherlock stands in the middle of the shower, water pouring down on him, staring at the tiled wall as if it were a lifeline. His addictive thoughts are finally calming down and his mind is nearly a clean slate again— finally. He closes his eyes, just feeling and hearing the now frigid water beat against him. And that's when he hears the knock. John. The knock and the eventual sound of his name are muffled under the spray of the water. He opens his eyes and attempts to answer but he can't. Words won't escape and his body won't allow movement. It's as if he wears his mind and body down so much that he falls into a momentary paralysis. He's drowning.
All he can do is stare at the wall in front of him. He doesn't even realise the moment there is a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently, calling his name. He isn't aware of how long this goes on before he eventually he snaps out of it, grabs onto John's hand and takes a deep breath as though he hadn't been able to breathe in hours.
"Sherlock, what the hell?" John says before leaning over to grab a towel and shut the water off. Sherlock's breathing is still heavy and unstable as he throws a towel around his waist, shivering. He still can't bring himself to speak. He steps out of the tub and sits on the closed lid of the toilet, breathing heavily, shaking and rocking to try and find warmth. John steadies him by putting both hands on his shoulders, "Sherlock if you can hear me just show me. I just… I need to know that you can hear me."
And then, like the electricity after a power outage, Sherlock's mind goes back online. He looks up at John and somehow that's enough. John nods and stands away from his flatmate in silence. John isn't sure whether or not he'll get an answer from Sherlock tonight but he sure as hell wants to understand if this is what Sherlock does while he showers for ages in the early hours of the morning. He's just about to leave as Sherlock finally stops shivering and his breathing calms and forces a strained voice to speak.
"Every time I do this it's to stop myself, this is for both my benefit and yours."
"Stop yourself from what?" John was in doctor mode now, what he had just seen was not normal Sherlock behaviour, whatever that was, and had been more troubling than anything else.
"I want to use, so much that my veins ache for it—beg me to shoot up." And it's all Sherlock had to say for John to see. Sherlock was an addict, John knew that, and although they never had a full length discussion on his previous cocaine abuse, the occasional drugs bust was more than enough to clue him in on his flatmate's old habit. If this was the only way Sherlock could stop himself from going out and getting high while off cases then he could deal with that. Perhaps he could be of assistance in finding an alternative that didn't leave him showering in Arctic waters in the morning, John thought. He doesn't want his friend, his good friend, his best friend (and yes, he meant friend this time, not colleague) falling back into his old habits.
John would never find out about Sherlock's never-ending cycle, the gambling with his meals, the hours of pacing, how close he would get to leaving the flat and he certainly would never find out about why Sherlock changes his mind in the first place. The mere sound of the rumbling of John's sheets is enough to bring Sherlock back to Earth and keep him there. In fact, Sherlock's boredom schedule would never be quite the same again.
John used to wonder why Sherlock migrated to his bedroom after long periods without cases. Some mornings he would wake up with The World's Only Consulting Detective lying above the duvet balancing on the edge of the bed as though he were afraid of John finding out about the impromptu sleepover.
John also used to wonder how some nights he ended up with his arms full of Sherlock, his head resting upon John's chest as he slept. Getting Sherlock to sleep was quite the task, but John was up for the job. This beautiful man deserved some peace of mind too and it was better than Sherlock's insistence on taking hour long showers. And hey, it was somehow beneficial for the both of them- John hadn't had a nightmare in weeks. If Sherlock woke up in the middle of the night itching to use, John would be there to bring him back.
John no longer wonders, but he may need a cold shower in the morning anyway.