Disclaimer- Sherlock Holmes belongs to Arthur Conan Doyle; Holmes and Watson's personalities and traits in this particular story are based on Guy Richie's 2009 version in partnership with Warner Bros.
A/N: Thank you to all who reviewed! They are appreciated! AGAIN this is NOT the last chapter, I will be writing one more chapter.
Chapter 6- They must be Suffered to Slumber
Taphephobia: Fear of being buried alive.
A shiver ran up his spine, but he couldn't let it show, not with the little girl running around his bedroom, taking in every little gesture he made and then asking him why I did it.
It was strange seeing her face.
While trapped, Holmes had a completely different face for her; one that his mind created to fit her voice.
His side began to ache, tremors pounded on his chest.
Stop! You're out! You're fine!
He wasn't afraid anymore; he wasn't afraid to begin with. He was free, he was alive, he was breathing and talking and…
Dammit, stop shaking!
"Mr. Holmes," the woman knocked before coming in, even though the door was wide open and her little creation was running mad around his bed. "I sent my boy to the address you gave me. I would expect your brother to be here in no more than a couple of hours." Holmes's eyes fell to the sheets covering the lower half of his body.
He told the woman Watson was his brother in hopes that she would be in more of a hurry to send for him. If she knew he was just a friend, she might not have seen it as such an importance, that or argued that the detective should send for a family member…
Shakily, he reached for the cup of water on the table next to his bed and brought it to his lips.
The last person he wanted to see him like this was Mycroft.
"Are you dead?" Madeline asked for the third time in one day. Holmes answered with a curt "No" and turned his head out the window. Maybe if he ignored her, she would get bored and go away.
An hour later, it was officially dusk.
The sky was red and orange, getting darker by the minute. Madeline was put to bed, finally, and Holmes was left alone.
Only hours ago he had spoke with the woman's husband, one of the men who found him.
The man's name was George Handle, the graveyard's caretaker. He was pleasant, a family man for sure, but oddly cautious of what he said and how he said it in front of the man he had found dying in a coffin beneath a boulder in his graveyard.
The man's assumption that Holmes's mental state was anything less than before he'd been trapped infuriated the detective to no end.
Of course, physically, he wasn't quite back to normal just yet, but mentally?
Ha! He was already over it.
He kept telling himself.
"Do you need anything, Mr. Holmes?" The woman asked as she stopped in the doorway of the room.
"Another glass of water, if you don't mind." The woman gave him a small smile and nodded, her footsteps fading down the hall.
A glass of water.
What if Handle hadn't been there to hear him?
What if he was left to die in his own waste, his life sputtering away while he consciously stared into the dark?
Holmes swallowed the sinking feeling in his stomach and grimaced.
It was foolish to dwell on such things. What did it matter now? Handle did find him. He was safe, he was breathing, he was sitting up…
It was over.
You're not dreaming.
You're not dead.
"Ethelred's restaurant. You remember where that is, don't you?"
"Stay here. It's too dangerous, you'll be alone."
"I wouldn't be going alone if-" Holmes stopped, the feeling that he'd said this before sitting on the end of his tongue.
He was on the floor, nothing out of the ordinary, kneeling in a pile of papers. Notes, maps, descriptions, directions… all scribbled down in a messy fashion across the wrinkled and ripped pages.
He was in his room at 221 Baker Street. His possessions littered the wood floor and completely covered all tables and chairs.
Everything was normal,
"Holmes, it's me. Can you hear me?" Watson suddenly blurted. The detective lifted his head at the odd statement.
"What sort of question is that? Of course I c-"
He turned to face his colleague, stopping mid sentence at the scene; nothing…er no one.
"I suppose no promises were broken…"
There was no one there. The doorway was empty.
"…You didn't answer me when I asked you."
He was alone, but why could he still hear him?
"Watson?" The sound of a door slamming shut painfully cracked in his ears. "Watson!"
"If the fire goes out," The whisper whistled passed him and died away. "the room will get cold."
"If the…the room will…" He repeated. He'd heard that before. The haunting words seemed to be carved in his mind like a scarring memory.
"Are you a vampire?" A little voice suddenly broke him from his stupor. "Mamma!" It screeched.
"Madeline." Handle's daughter. What was she doing at Baker Street?
"You never answered me…" Watson said again with a bit more force.
"Answered what? What did you ask? Where's Madeline?"
"…The room will get cold…"
Holmes kicked the pile of papers, scattering them across the floor.
"Stop saying that! Where are you?" He shouted, his face reddening with anger.
"Here." The voice changed abruptly. It was deeper now, thicker.
Holmes turned on his heel, following the now down to earth sound coming from behind him.
There, standing in front of the open window, was John Watson.
He wore a light grey coat and matching pants (his favorite set, if Holmes wasn't mistaken) holding a black leather bound book in his right hand and a pistol in his left.
"I told you." Watson hissed. The pistol in his left hand rose slowly, its barrel pointed at the other man's head.
"You shouldn't have gone alone, I told you. Now look what you've done." Something about his friend's voice didn't match up. It was deeper… rough sounding….nasally, it didn't…
"I'm afraid you've eavesdropped on the wrong person, my friend..."
The detective's mind went blank.
The floor beneath his feet creaked and gave out underneath him causing him to fall back, the man, still standing safely on the unbroken floor above, changing back and forth from Watson to Moriarty's thug.
"Wake up!" The man shouted as he disappeared.
A burning coffin flashed in front of his face as he fell.
Falling and falling…
"Wake up! Holmes, stop this!"
A sharp gasp mixed with a soft yelp filled the small room and lingered.
Was it him that yelped? He couldn't think…
His eyes snapped open and focused on the ceiling. He was lying flat. His body melted against the soft bed holding him.
He didn't hit the ground.
Why was he so cold?
"Are you in any pain?"
Groggily, he pulled the bed sheets up from his waist to his shoulders. His shirt was unbuttoned again; he realized when his cold hand brushed his bare chest as he pulled the blanket over it.
"Holmes, will you answer me?" The voice was demanding and short, a hint of anger mixed with worry lased in between its words.
He felt miserable. Trembling, shaking… It was odd because he was so comfortable lying on that bed, but his insides seemed to twist, protesting that he feel any relief at all.
"Look at me, Holmes…" A hand clasped gently around his wrist. The detective thought, for a moment, that he should pull away, but his arm never responded.
"Holmes, I said look at me!" The hand was on his face now, trying to tilt his gaze to the side, but his eyes wouldn't leave the ceiling.
Where's Madeline? What hour is it?
He jumped at the sound of his own name.
His stomach crawled with an unexplainable fear…
A fear? No it wasn't fear. It was never fear.
He was not afraid.
Finally obeying, Holmes let his eyes fall upon the man who had so impatiently demanded Holmes's attention.
The smell of damp clothing, tea, and wet grass were the first sensations to snap the detective back to reality; the next was short light brown hair… dark suspenders over a white shirt… blue eyes…
Seeing that his friend was now looking at him, the other man moved from the chair onto the edge of the bed, being careful not to touch his friend's bandaged side.
The doctor looked tired, run down, and messy; a rarity for a man who prided himself on always looking decent.
"Watson." Holmes said quietly as if greeting a man he'd only just seen an hour or two ago.
Watson's hand fell away from his face, but the almost horror stricken expression the doctor wore ceased to fade.
Had he said something in his sleep? Did he really look that terrible?
No. Holmes swallowed his words and quickly decided that asking would probably not have been appropriate… his poor friend looked like he hadn't slept in days. Watson must have noticed the confused look he was receiving and forced himself to smile if only to calm the hurt and shaken man that he had for days searched desperately to find.
"They told me." He said simply, his magnificent blue eyes clinging to Holmes's as if the man might disappear if he dared look away.
"Yes?" Holmes choked out before coughing on the dry throat that one never knows one has until they speak. The human body never fails to humiliate…
Watson hurried to hand him the glass of water and he eagerly accepted it.
"And what exactly did they tell you, John? That I was found on the brink of death, trapped in a box that nearly destroyed my sanity? Embroider a pair of shoes, but they will still only be just a pair of shoes…"
"Don't twist this, don't try to rush past this," The doctor hissed, taking the empty glass from Holmes's hand and setting it on the floor at his feet. "Holmes, you almost died…a terrible one…a slow one… Don't lie to me; don't tell me you're brushing this off-"
"What are you looking for then, doctor?" He didn't mean to spit Watson's occupation, to disrespect... "For me to crumble before you? For me to …"
He didn't know what he was saying anymore, but his mouth kept moving…kept degrading the man who was more family to him than his own blood brother; who had probably searched in every nook and cranny only to fail and be left no other alternative then to sit and wait… hour after hour hating himself for not going with him, wishing he had tried harder to stop him…
How cruel of a person could he be to say the things he was saying to this man right now? How could he be so heartless and ungrateful?
His chest tightened… his face heated up… He was so sorry he could hardly stand the pain, but his mouth still shouted… still insulted.
Before he thought he would explode into a pride crushing, mortifying, and overwhelming display of emotion, he was suddenly pulled forward into a strong and unavoidable embrace, his best friend holding him tightly against his chest.
Not a second of uncomfortable awkwardness passed between them as a breath of air the detective must have been holding in his lungs since he was first knocked out at the restaurant, released.
"I hope you accept my apolog-"
"No need for that..." Watson's voice was low and understanding. "It's good to see you, old boy."
A ghost of a smile crossed Holmes's lips…a smile that was short lived once he thought about what the younger man had said to him.
Funny, it sounded so much like... Yes, very funny... very...
Panic shot through his body like a bolt of angry lightning. Watson must have felt his body convulse because he pulled back roughly and took the man by the upper arms.
"What's wrong? Did I hurt you?" Watson asked his eyes darting to the fresh bandage covering the other man's side.
"No," Holmes answered quickly. The doctor made an uncertain face. "No, don't be ridiculous, I just …" He just what? What was his excuse for almost having a panic attack in his friend's embrace? "I…"
He couldn't breathe again.
"You just… I heard…" He tried explaining. Watson put his hand up for silence.
"Would you be well enough to leave in the morning?"
"I am well enough to leave now!"
"No, you'll stay the rest of the night." His friend said with a "don't argue" look and stood up from the bed.
"You're not leaving…?" Holmes questioned. Watson couldn't help but see a tiny glimpse of fear flash in the detective's eyes…
"No." He answered quietly, his mind still wrapped around what he had seen. "I'll stay and leave with you, that is, if you're well enough. These are good people, Holmes, they won't mind you resting another day or two-"
"No, Watson, tomorrow is fine. I'm fine. I'm just… tired."
Both of them doubted that.
A/N: "Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them." – Edgar Allan Poe