This story was written for the Secret Santa Fic Exchange 2014 at the BBC Sherlock Fan Forum.
The story is for Kerkerian-Horizon and her prompt were 5 keywords: snow, batteries, book, towel, escape
She would generally like to read about: Johnlock (fluff with suspension first), Things which might spice it up: a fight and/or a misunderstanding and/or a mysterious disappearance of Sherlock or John and/or some whump of sorts and/or another location than London...
Thank you very much to WhoLocked and Liberty for beta-reading.
Please note, this is my second fan fiction in the English language. I am not a native speaker, therefore every advice for improvement of grammar, sentence structure or spelling is appreciated :-)
Chapter 1 – Dusk
John is dead.
The pounding in Sherlock's head reached a crescendo due to the chaos and noises around him – people shouting, sirens wailing. The wound on his temple was still bleeding. His ribs ached with every shaky breath he took. But all of this physical pain was nothing compared to the screaming agony inside his heart as Sherlock observed the abandoned warehouse burning and slowly crumbling to pieces – together with the body of John Watson. John was still inside there somewhere when the explosion ripped the building apart.
John is dead.
"Sherlock, look at me!" someone was shouting and shaking him.
Sherlock turned his gaze away from the building and the flames. Lestrade was holding his upper arms firmly and looking at him with great worry.
The DI had never seen Sherlock in such a state before. He seemed to be catatonic, his facial expression was blank, exhibiting almost no emotions but for his eyes which showed his inner turmoil. He was obviously in shock.
"Sherlock," Lestrade spoke in a calm voice, hoping the other man would listen to his words. "Fire department has the flames under control. We don't know where John was held captive. The building is not completely destroyed. It's still possible we'll find him alive."
Lestrade knew it was a small hope, but still. John himself had told him about situations he witnessed during his time in the war, where people could be rescued from the ruins of a bombed building after several hours or even days. The DI refused to give up hope for his friend – not until they found his body.
"Sherlock, did you hear what I just said?"
The detective was trembling now but Lestrade assumed it was probably from the cold. Snow had started falling again. Sherlock didn't say anything but gave a tiny nod. Lestrade hoped it was meant as an answer of understanding.
An ambulance finally arrived and Lestrade carefully guided Sherlock towards the paramedics who had bounced out of the vehicle and hurried towards their patient.
"Take him. He's in shock, head wound, probably a concussion, maybe some fractured ribs."
One of the men nodded and put a blanket around Sherlock's shaking frame.
"Sherlock," Lestrade once again tried to get the detective's attention. "The fire is almost extinguished. We'll start searching with a salvage team as soon as possible. "
Sherlock nodded weakly, although he wasn't sure why.
"They'll take you to hospital now. Stay there. I have to organize the rescue but I will come as soon as I can. OK?"
This time Sherlock didn't acknowledged that he understood. All Sherlock could hear was the rumbling of falling concrete from the building behind him.
John is dead.
Sally Donovan was barking orders over the radio while simultaneously shooing some of the officers around to secure the scene. Sally didn't understand it. No matter what an abandoned area it was, as soon as there was a crime to watch gawkers were crawling out of their holes like rats. She had just spotted some reporters lurking near the cordon the officers had hastily put up.
"Simpson!" she called towards one of the officers and gestured towards the paparazzi who were unpacking their cameras and slowly heading towards the ambulance. The addressed sergeantnodded and hurried over to get rid of the unwanted visitors.
This was the last thing everyone needed now, some sensation-seeking reporters spotting Sherlock in this state. Sally glanced at the ambulance, where Sherlock was being guided towards a stretcher by the paramedic. His posture was slumped as if all energy had suddenly left his body. He looked defeated. Sherlock's cries of John's name as they had dragged him out of the building were still ringing in her ears…
Sally rushed into the room, two other officers following behind. Lestrade had just finished untying the rope that had held Sherlock on a chair. The detective was pale; blood was streaming from a wound on his right temple.
"Did you find John? He's still here!" Sherlock jumped from the chair as soon as Lestrade removed the bonds, but immediately began to sway. Lestrade had to steady him to prevent him from collapsing.
"We have to get out, NOW!" Sally yelled. "Two minutes!"
Sherlock tried to break free from Lestrade's grip.
"NO! We need to find John!"
"THERE IS NO TIME!"
Lestrade and Sergeant Simpson grabbed Sherlock by his arms and dragged the struggling man out of the room and down the staircase towards the exit, Sally following close behind shouting orders into her radio.
"EVERYBODY LEAVING THE BUILDING NOW! BOMB ON LEVEL 2! ABOUT ONE MINUTE LEFT! HURRY NOW!"
It was almost impossible to understand any replies coming from the device due to Sherlock's shouting.
"GET OFF ME! I NEED TO FIND JOHN!"
Sherlock was struggling and fighting to free himself. Under normal circumstances Lestrade and Sergeant Simpson wouldn't be able to hold their grip on the man. But his injuries had weakened him noticeably.
It felt like an eternity before they reached the ground floor and ran through the main entrance into the open.
"EVERYONE OUT?" Lestrade yelled, still struggling to hold his grip on Sherlock.
Sally looked around, scanning the officers, searching for everyone who had entered the building with them a couple of minutes before.
"Yes," she said in relief. "Everyone out." Everyone but John Watson, she thought.
Just then the second storey of the building exploded. The sound of the explosion mingled together with the desperate cries of a man Sally once thought was incapable of human emotions.
Terrified, Sally began to realize how close their escape from the inferno before her had been. The few intact windows of the building had burst, flames licking from their holes. The whole building seemed to shake as it lost its structural integrity and began to collapse. The roof and top floor slumped down and the pressure of the destroyed walls pulled the next storey down.
Sherlock gave up any resistance. He was panting heavily and holding his ribs with a painted expression as he sank down on his knees on the cold ground, his face mirroring the horror they all felt while watching the debris falling.
"John," he whispered.
Sally had known Sherlock for quite some time and had never expected to see him in such a state of devastation. She was well aware that both men were close friends but now she witnessed how much Sherlock really cared for John Watson. It shouldn't have been a surprise though; the detective threw himself from a building to save his friend's life after all.
Guilt welled up inside her at the thought of that incident. She hadn't liked Sherlock back then, true, she had despised him. She had been so engulfed in her resentment towards Sherlock's oddness that she had let her prejudices cloud her judgment. In the month following Sherlock's suicide, Sally went through a long process of guilt, defiance and realization. She had always been the type of person who hated to admit a mistake - one of her great weaknesses, she knew that. But through the process of self-reflection and even some talks with a therapist, she managed to formulate a sincere apology towards Lestrade and John. She had even visited Sherlock's grave once.
When Sherlock returned, the old feelings of repulsion had welled up again combined with anger. How could he have done something cruel like that, faking his death, jumping from a building, making his friend watch? After learning the details of Moriarty's sick game she felt shame and guilt once again. She had allowed herself to be manipulated by this mad man. With all her heart, Sally swore that she would never let something like that happen again.
The doors of the ambulance were slammed shut just as DI Lestrade approached her.
"How is he?" Sally asked, trying to let her voice show that she indeed was concerned for the man.
"Unresponsive. Shock. They'll take him to hospital."
A tense silence settled between them as they watched the ambulance disappear. Sally was about to say something when Lestrade spoke again, determination in his voice.
"We'll need to talk to the fire and the salvage department. I suppose we can't enter the ruins before dawn but I want to start searching for John as soon as possible. Set up a meeting with the whole team, everyone we need for the rescue, at Scotland Yard at 1am. And we'll need the blueprints of the building. Get every map and every diagram that could be useful to plan the search."
Sally nodded. It would be a long night without any sleep for all of them. But Sally doubted she would be able to get any rest anyway after the events of today. They would need daylight for the search; rummaging through the ruins of a bombed building during the night would be too risky. Sally looked at her watch. It was nearly 10pm now, still several hours before dawn. She looked over to the building, where the fire department was still working, although there weren't any flames visible anymore. The fire from the explosion hadn't been big. The flames didn't have enough fuel in the empty building to burn long. That was good. They wouldn't need to worry about too much frozen extinguishing water then. Unconsciously Sally wrapped her jacket a bit tighter around her. It was cold. The snowfall had intensified a bit and begun to cover the debris around them as if trying to erase the reminders that a good and brave man had probably lost his life today.
Sally looked up to her boss again, knowing that he wouldn't want to hear what she was about to say. John Watson was his friend too.
"Sir, the damage is severe and we have minus temperatures during the night. We should entertain the possibility that…"
"As long as we don't know otherwise we are searching for a survivor," Lestrade interrupted firmly. "And we are doing that with the most possible urgency! Are we clear, Sergeant Donovan?"
"Yes, Sir," Sally answered.
They both looked at each other for a moment and Lestrade's features softened as he saw understanding in the face of his colleague.
"We'll meet at the Yard. I'll stop by the hospital before hand to look in on Sherlock." Lestrade said softly, giving Sally's shoulder a brief squeeze before turning and walking to his car.
Determined, Sally picked up the radio once more, beginning to organize the instructions from her boss. She would do everything within her power to help to find John Watson. She owed it to him even though she feared it would only be a body they found.
Sherlock heard the doors of the ambulance being shut, blocking out the torturing noises from outside. Shortly after that the vehicle started moving. The paramedics had secured him on the stretcher and began to tend to his injuries. They kept asking him questions but Sherlock didn't reply. What was the point? He had a concussion and some bruising, nothing serious or life-threatening. He would live. Whereas…
John is dead.
He should have been there. He shouldn't have left the building without John. But they had dragged him outside - Lestrade, Donovan and some of the other officers - preventing him from searching for John. He would have found him, he would have deduced where they had locked him up. There had only been a few minutes left, but that wouldn't have mattered. Sherlock knew he would have found him. But he couldn't, he was injured and was dragged out. Now he was here, alive and John...
John is dead.
It was his fault. He should have listened to John. John had wanted to wait for backup. He should have obeyed him. Just this once.
The cab dropped them off at the main road nearby, so they walked the last few yards towards their destination. They stopped at a corner on the opposite side of the street, trying to look insuspicious while simultaneously observing the warehouse. From their current position no light could be seen in the building. The whole area was quiet and dark except for the thin layer of snow that had fallen during the day. Although the snow brightened the surroundings a bit, the area still felt like a ghost town to John. A light breeze fluttered through the street and he began to shiver.
"Jesus, it's bloody cold! I hope Greg hurries up."
Sherlock was fidgeting beside him but it wasn't from the cold.
"Let's go inside. They might be ready to leave any second."
"No," John said firmly. "I don't have my gun with me. And Lestrade will be here soon."
John turned and looked down the street, hoping to see their reinforcements. But the road was empty and silent. When he turned back Sherlock had already crossed the street and was heading towards a side entrance.
"Sherlock!" John hissed and hurried to catch up with his friend, muttering silent curses for the other man's stubbornness.
A few minutes later, Sherlock and John were dragged up the staircase of the warehouse by several members of the gang they were trying to catch. Well, the gang had caught them and John's curses weren't silent anymore.
"Bloody idiot," John snapped towards Sherlock. "Of course, Sherlock Holmes can't be bothered to wait. No, you always need to have it your way. I told you we should wait for the pol-."
"Shhhhh!" Sherlock hissed. Although he knew that John was mainly frustrated and angry because he had forgotten his gun, his harsh tone still hurt a bit.
John kept quiet. Admitting that police were on the way was probably not the cleverest thing to say in front of their abductors. He threw glances towards Sherlock every now and then, but they were filled more with worry than anger.
They reached the second floor and were led through a hallway until they entered a small room with no windows but a second door on the opposite side. The shelves on the side wall were empty, but Sherlock observed a lack of dust and dirt, indicating that they must have been tightly packed not long ago. As they entered, some guys were moving a hand truck with several boxes on it through the back door. So he had been right (of course), Sherlock thought, the gang was leaving.
"Boss? Found these. Were lurking around," The man with an iron grip on Sherlock's biceps said.
A guy almost as tall as Sherlock but twice his muscle mass stepped out of the group of men - Sherlock had counted seven in addition to the two with the hand truck - and took a gun from a holster on his side. He paced between Sherlock and John, looking them both over for several moments without saying anything. Finally he pointed towards Sherlock.
"Tie him up. Lock the other one downstairs."
The two thugs who held John shoved him roughly towards the door.
"No need to get pushy," John snarled, but the guys only hardened their grip on John's upper arm and one thrust his elbow hard into John's lower back so he hissed in pain.
With a jolt, Sherlock tried to break away from his guards. He almost succeeded but the boss immediately noticed his intention, raised his hand with the gun and punched Sherlock hard in the face. The butt of the weapon hit him at the temple. Sherlock stumbled back, his vision blurred and he sank to his knees. He felt blood dripping down his face from to the laceration the blow had caused.
"Sherlock!" John yelled but his guards dragged him out of the room and into the hallway they had come from.
Sherlock tried to get back on his feet, ignoring the dizziness as best as he could. He would not give in! Several pairs of hands grabbed him despite his struggling, shoved him onto a chair and tied him up.
"Now," the boss said, grabbing Sherlock's hair and yanking his head. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"
Sherlock almost laughed at that question. Somebody who didn't know who they were! How… refreshing. He was about to snap an answer when one of the guys who had caught them spoke.
"This is the detective fella from the news. Dunno who the other one is but I think he mentioned the police are on the way."
Damn it John! Sherlock thought. "Any second," he said instead with a huge grin. Distraction, he needed to buy time now. Come on Lestrade, hurry!
It was obvious this wasn't the kind of information the boss wanted to hear. With a shout of rage and frustration he hit Sherlock in the face again. The punch was so hard, he fell to the floor with the chair like a heavy sack of flour. Sherlock was gasping for breath as pain exploded in his head. Black dots were dancing in front of his eyes as he fought against the rising nausea.
"Fetch everything quickly. We are moving now!" the boss said.
"What about the other one?" one of his lads asked.
"He's fine where he is," the boss looked down on Sherlock with an evil grin on his face. "We are leaving a present." he said.
Sherlock drew breath to speak when the boss kicked him hard in the ribs and the air was once again knocked out of his lungs. This time Sherlock wasn't able to hold back and let out a yell of pain. He desperately fought to stay awake but the dizziness was so overwhelming he soon lost focus. He heard the clapping of boots on concrete as the men hurried out of the room. Sherlock thought he might have heard an order being yelled, something like "Prepare the second floor." but finally everything went black.
Somebody was calling his name. The voice was familiar, but it wasn't John. John! The thought of his friend brought Sherlock quickly back into consciousness. He opened his eyes, blinked several times and took some deep breaths, at least as deep as possible. His ribs hurts as well as his head and he was still feeling dizzy and nauseous.
Sherlock finally managed to focus his vision. Someone had put him and the chair up again and Lestrade was kneeling in front of him, a worried expression on his face.
"You with me?" Lestrade asked, after seeing that Sherlock had woken up. He nodded.
"Down…" Sherlock said weakly and, despite the pain in his side, took another deep breath. "Downstairs. They locked him up there somewhere."
"Alright, we'll find him," Lestrade said and began to untie the rope on Sherlock's hands. The detective began to shuffle on his chair.
"Escaped. They were already gone when we arrived. Missed them by a couple of minutes I suppose."
Sherlock's eyes widened as he remembered the words. "Go, find John now!" he said, struggling to get his hands of the loosened rope. "They said they'd leave something! There is a…"
Sherlock was interrupted by the yell of Sergeant Donovan over the radio on Lestrade's belt. "BOMB ON LEVEL 2!"
Lestrade immediately stopped untying the ropes and took the device. "How long?"
"3 minutes left!"
"Donovan get down here," Lestrade answered then looked at Sherlock. The pleading expression of the detective who had instantly realized what the other man was about to do, was hard to bear. But Lestrade shook his head sadly, took a deep breath and spoke into the radio once again.
"WE HAVE A BOMB ON THE SECOND FLOOR. WE'RE EVACUATING. STOP SEARCHING. EVERYONE OUT! NOW!"
The ambulance drove slowly through the snow covered streets. Sherlock turned his head away from the annoying man who was still trying to get his patient to speak. He looked through the narrow window on the side of the car. Big snowflakes were dancing outside in the chilly night. If the snowfall continued like that, London would be covered by a thick layer tomorrow - just like the debris of someone's life.