Sherlock lies at the bottom of the river and inadvertently realises he's not completely invincible. Character Study.
Warnings: Spoilers for season one, senseless Sherlock-chomping/mind-warping and John being a hero, swearing, S/J friendship and that deranged mixture of hurt/comfort/anger.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock which is under the ownership of the BBC and creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss
A/N: Before you bash me on the choice of car, we used to have one of those things and I hated it. I've simply taken my revenge here. Please let me know if you see any mistakes and critique is always welcomed! :)
Edited, thanks to the lovely LinzPhantom for pointing out a mistake :)
It takes for the car, which was partially floating like driftwood on the river, to suddenly nosedive in the muddy water and begin to sink for him to admit that things had not gone fully according to plan.
Being stuck in the boot of a car is claustrophobic for any person, but for Sherlock it borders on the absolutely unbearable. There is simply no space. Thanks to the car nose-diving due to the heaviness of the engine, his back is now slammed up against the back wall of the boot, his arms crushed underneath with the handcuffs biting into the already tender flesh of his wrists. His knees are painfully folded up against his stomach, piling on his chest and making breathing hard to come by. He has already attempted to lie on his back, but all that's gotten him is an embarrassing knock to the head from the tiny roof and a painful carpet burn that runs across his shoulders.
Sherlock scowls at the hideous brown Vauxhall Carlton and its stupid design that causes it to sink. He can't see in the pitch darkness, but he can certainly feel the water rushing over metal and the vehicle creaking and groaning in a pathetic protest. The currents near the surface had been pushing the temporary car-boat along at a gentle pace on the Thames just outside of London. He hadn't been able to guess accurately how long the car had been simply gliding along, only that it was roughly the middle of the day when he first got in it. But now it was sinking at an alarmingly fast rate at a forty-five degree angle, with the deeper waters transforming the current swirl of elements into an angry, possessed body of water which had grabbed the beaten up Carlton and was now dragging it across the riverbed. Sherlock is then pelted forward when the car then smashes into a sand bank, still at that angle, and the car is inevitably stuck there for the time being.
"Damn it!" He kicks the wall of the boot in frustration and then gasps at the pain that shoots up his sore leg. A day's worth of confinement tied up in basement, now a spell in a car boot has done nothing for the condition of his muscles. His hands had been handcuffed behind his back for a few hours to stop him from doing anything smart and his wrists were suffering badly for it. The man responsible had an impeccable habit of keeping his victims in confinement. Milverton's latest, a young, petite journalist from Leeds, was in this boot a few days ago. Thing is, she was dead when she happened to end up in here. Lucky thing. At least he had the decency to kill her first before stuffing her in this god-awful place. Sherlock was being made to suffer in here alive.
Damn Milverton. Curse him to hell for choosing this method of death.
Sherlock starts to work on the cuffs, carefully easing out his poor wrists without trying to do any more damage. He thinks of Charlie Milverton in absolute hatred as he slowly turns around in the boot, minding his burnt shoulders. He is no one special. Nothing but a columnist writing about faceless 'celebrities' for a local London gossip magazine. He was generally more worthless than a chocolate teapot but happened to make too much money for the job he was doing. John recognised him vaguely, mentioning some other pointless names and some story which at some point involved blackmail. Ugh, boring. Sherlock didn't care for blackmail. Blackmail didn't even register on his crime scale. Murder on the other hand was a lot more fun and Milverton appeared to be pretty good at it, or at least he thought he did. He was no gem in the criminal world and all it took was some transferable car stickers in the shape of flowers, an air bag, a homemade burglary kit and some curtain rail and boom, as usual, Sherlock had him covered. Signed, sealed and delivered.
Well, almost. Signed, certainly. There was more than enough evidence, this heap of wreckage called a car being one of them. Sealed, Sherlock could pinpoint every aspect and piece of the murder of Rose Jones, even how she was piled up in the boot.
As Sherlock is able to be free of those ugly restraints he can't help but think that his real mistake was not letting John come with him, not letting him know that he planned to break into Milverton's illustrious flat in north London in order to obtain some papers that would really wind Lestrade up, and basically not actually telling him what he was up to. On his own, there was no-one to watch the stairs leading up to the flat, and then there was no one to tell him that Milverton was entering because he was home early from work. There was no-one to help Sherlock fight him off, and then there was no-one to help him with the handcuffs and the bindings.
Sherlock could now access the lock of the boot with his fingertips. He feels the cold metal and the heavy catch and tries to pick the lock. But these mechanisms are blindly stupid in their design, and for the life of him Sherlock cannot even loosen it. He has always been impartial to cars, but now he downright hates them. He is never getting in one again, and he doesn't care what the consequences are. Spare taxis. He then huffs, remembering that they're not exactly safe either. He's a consulting detective; it's his job to find the worst in everything, cars, taxis, journalists, columnists...
Milverton was not exactly experienced at treating house guests, unwelcomed or not. For most of the day the criminal didn't even know what to do with the lanky detective. It was only when Sherlock started to shoot his mouth off and reveal that he could link Jones' murder to his despicable car did he get an idea of how to get rid of him. Sherlock found himself forced at gunpoint into the boot, and Milverton drove roughly thirty miles and landed in dirt track (judging from the suspension of the car, which was appalling, and how it was affected by the road). Sherlock guessed that they were near a river or some other pool of water (again, from the suspension and the sound of wet mud that splashed on the tires on a dry day in March). He felt the handbrake being released and the car rolling forward and he knew then what would happen. It didn't land in the river with a thunderous splash that could gain attention, but rather it glided like some ghastly metal swan merrily going on its way and sending him to his end.
He tried to think when was the last time anyone had actually seen him. He didn't even say to John he was going out. He didn't reveal much about this case. Told John it was nothing special... well it was true. Lestrade had been told to keep his nose out of it for fear of wrecking everything. So to be precise, nobody had seen him for just over twenty-four hours, and importantly no-one knew where he was now.
And who is going to be made responsible for the death of Sherlock Holmes, one of the most brilliant minds on the planet? A columnist.
"Such a clever man!" He is on his own and likely to die. He can shout blessed sarcasm all he likes to the blackness now. "So clever with your ugly car... and ugly upholstery!"
He kicks the boot again. And again. And then his feet are stamping like crazy in a deranged, toddler-like fashion at the lock until his body screams at him to stop. All to no avail. He loathes this car boot, his coffin, with all his being. He's annoyed for receiving death as payment for solving this case. It's all so unoriginal. So boring. And he's panicking and scared and it's aggravating. He is going to die in a most unimaginative way and John will not be happy with him when they pull his body out of the river...
What if Milverton got to John after dumping him here? Suppose he knows who John is, what he is, and takes his revenge a little further? And Sherlock is powerless to do anything. Then again, would he be in a locked car coffin if John had been with him? Breaking into the flat was a two-person job. Sherlock was completely aware of that and he was also aware that John was very much a capable man. Maybe even more than him in certain areas. Yet, ever since that ugly affair with Moriarty, Sherlock half hoped that John wouldn't be so damn interested in his work anymore. That he wouldn't readily do whatever he could to help him. He had to make John understand. He was Sherlock Holmes, a very different, smart but dangerous kind of idiot. And he was John Watson, another unordinary, but nicer, idiot. Fate slapped them together and perhaps Sherlock was beginning wondered how long this was going to last...
Well, it would end rather soon actually.
He moaned aloud at the thought of dying right here. Was there a logical way to die? To make it as painless as possible? Most unlikely. He's had a bit of a personal history when it came to water and drowning and the like, and it has never been all that pleasant...
Everything becomes real again when suddenly, the car slips from the angle and slams onto the river bed. There is a huge amount of noise and then a loud pop. Water begins to inevitably seep into the boot. He is confined, he is going to drown, and there is nothing he can do about it.
It is all so idiotic. In a car boot. I can see it now. "Cause of death: Ugly car boot" Those idiots at the station will be posting all sorts of 'theories' about my death on the twitter feeds. Before you know it, Sherlock Holmes would be the stupid man who died in a stupid manner because he was stupid.
The water slips in quietly and quickly and soon it fully soaks his clothes. He freezes at the contact, the stinging sensation is across his skin and then there is the water closing over his head far too quickly. In the dark, he tries to place his head above the water, resulting in another bash to the head that almost knocks him out. Now fighting dizziness, he manages to take one last full breath before the water hits the top.
He thinks of space and the universe and how ironic it is that in a car boot underwater, it would almost feel like this. Just inky blackness, floating and no oxygen. He sees the stars in his brain and he is reminded of the planetarium from the Moriarty case. That was like this. His heartbeat is audible, and it's beating like crazy. His body is beginning to panic and it uses up his oxygen. I need to escape. He pushes himself towards the lock and feels it again. He knows it is hopeless trying to open the boot from the inside. But for the second time in his life he finds himself in that rare incomprehensible place where he is completely out of options. Well, spare the option of just giving up and dying, but that is going to happen anyway. His fingers brush the mechanism and he tugs and pulls at it, the metal scraping his pale skin. There is always options! After a few seconds it becomes very clear that he cannot escape. But then he feels, rather than hears a banging noise from somewhere outside where he is. What is that?
The rising urge to breathe makes itself heard. It oversteps every other noise, louder than the thundering heartbeat, louder than the banging, and louder than his rising anxiety. He squeezes his eyes shut in a bid to fight it, but the darkness is still the same and his body still needs to breathe. He slams his foot against the ceiling and believes that delirium is ascending upon him when he receives a bang in return, or it's just pressure from the water, or it's just his own heart bursting, or whatever.
He needs air. Now. Badly.
His body violently spasms, loudly demanding air that Sherlock cannot provide. Knowing what's going to happen next, he clamps his hands over his mouth in protest, but traitorous pale bubbles are expelling from him, making a bid for the surface. Within twenty seconds, he is faced with no other choice except to inhale, he can't help it, and chokes on the river water, tasting a strange foul mixture of metal and dirt and dust that burns his lungs.
His mind is going crazy and explodes with panic in the blackness. This is fully real and he is fully going to die. He starts yelling for John but then John is clearly not here because Sherlock is that stupid.
Flashes of light and scenes dance across his face. There's Irene, then Moriarty leering at him for being so thick. Then there is just John, who is staring at him with no expression whatsoever. His final vision is a strange one. In the sudden blackness there is a rush of bubbles like meteorites and a burst of brilliant sunlight filtering though the water. His final thoughts find an explanation and conclude that the phenomenon is, most likely, his oxygen-starved brain deciding to give him a little show before shutting out.
He barely feels at this point. Mere points of touch here and there that makes no sense whatsoever. His brain, that for some reason is still working, tells him that they're hands, and they're familiar to him. The warmness of the water then disappears, but he doesn't know where he's gone to. He is losing this ability to use this sense of the body.
Then there is air, coursing through him but he cannot grasp it and something touches his lips. There's shouting in the distance. Something touches his lips again, and then there seems to be no air at all.
There seems to be a final blast of oxygen sweeping into his lungs, desperate and heavy. His body finally responds and he launches in a serious of tremendous coughs and splutters. The cold mud and the hard ground are underneath, the sunlight is on his face and the clothes that stick to him chill his spine. Someone holds him in a position on his side to keep him from choking as he spits out water, mud and god knows what else he happened to swallow. When he's had enough he is placed on his back again, gasping like some dying fish. He tries to assess the situation. He's not far from the riverbank a few miles from London. He's actually on a river bank and he's alive. With his fingers he attempts to touch some sticky patch on his forehead that starts to throb, but a stronger, warmer hand violently bats them away.
"You idiotic, brainless, hopeless man!"
"What were you thinking..."
"John..." His throat aches, leaving merely a whisper. He squints and forces his sight to focus. This isn't some deathly experience and John is actually there, soaking wet and incredibly angry for some reason and holding him. Everything swims in front of his eyes, colours blur together and suddenly Sherlock feels a rolling nausea developing at the back of his throat. His head tilts back as a groan escapes his lips.
"John..." Help me!
John cradles his head like it's a piece of fine bone china and Sherlock notices he is carefully checking his eyes. Sherlock sees John's eyes, and thinks they are the most stunning scientific specimens ever. More perfect and alive than anything he's ever studied before and not confined to a jar in the microwave, even though they are red rimmed, leaking a liquid of some kind and set within an incredibly pale face. He knows that John is studying him also though he's not quite sure why. He also knows that a lack of oxygen can often lead to delirium and panicked states.
"How... how did you find me?"
John starts talking but Sherlock can barely grab at the words 'Milverton' and 'confession'. He is so incredibly tired. He doesn't notice that he falls rather suddenly into unconsciousness, another general, standard symptom from a lack of air and fried brain cells.
When he wakes, its several hours later in the same day, he's still alive and John is most likely to be incredibly angry with him.
And he has an annoying headache. He finds to his disgust that he's in a hospital. Again. St Bart's to be exact as he looks around. He feels through his body and his chest and head are heavy and sore and bandaged, but as far as he can tell there will be no lasting damage. His left hand has a lingering touch of familiar warmth. He eyes swivel to find John in a plastic chair next to his bed, his arms rigidly folded and his face set. He knows that look from previous scenes where he's found himself in a hospital.
DOCTOR John is assessing him.
John clears his throat awkwardly, and nods, "How do you feel?"
A typical DOCTOR John style question.
He lets out a long sigh, "Fine, perfectly fine"
DOCTOR John doesn't last long in this circumstance and soon runs off. "Right. Fine, okay. So long as you're fine"
"I am fine"
When John doesn't offer anything else, Sherlock deems it okay to ask a question he's had in his mind the second he woke up.
"Did I get here in an ambulance?"
There is a split second when John looks like he will seriously lose his temper at such a seemingly random and irritable question. Sherlock can see it in his face as John relentlessly bats down the anger and unfolds his arms and mentally explains away such behaviour. He wasn't completely accurate in his personal thoughts within the car boot; he has never yet been able to uncover the worst in John.
Though today he may have come pretty close.
"What the- Yes! You went in an ambulance!"
"Sherlock, what is the matter with you?"
"Spare being drowned in a car boot?" Sherlock readily snaps back, "Nothing. I'm just peachy"
"Right! Because not telling me where you are, going missing for almost a day and then having Lestrade telling me they've tracked some car you told them about and found it in the bottom of a river is just fine!"
"I don't see why you're upset-"
"God alive Sherlock! I am not upset, I'm furious! Furious at you! It's another- another one of your damn single crusades! Didn't it ever occur to you, did you ever observe, that when you do things by yourself, you usually come pretty damn close to major bodily harm?"
He turns his head away from John because he has nothing to say on this matter. Because he doesn't want to admit that he's furious at John for being furious at him. Why can't the man understand?
There's a dull silence where there is just the sound of Sherlock's heart through the monitor making that incessant, slightly elevated noise.
"You just had to be in the bloody boot..."
"I could rescue you from any other place, but the boot? Lestrade had to get a lock pick"
"Lestrade was there?" It was getting better by the second. If Donovan and the rest of the happy bunny gang were there, there would certainly have been pictures.
"He was. Thank god. He happened to have a lock picking device that let me get in the boot. Otherwise you would have certainly drowned..."
Sherlock turns his thoughts to the ceiling. Well, it looks like Lestrade did sometimes reveal that he had uses. If rarely. And most of the time they are not that helpful. But now John has triggered something in his mind and Sherlock scans through his memories whilst staring at the ceiling.
There was the persistent banging noise...
"That was you?" Sherlock asks, not even realising that outside his head the question makes no sense.
John is not interested in replying and it takes Sherlock a full thirty seconds for him to realise that he hasn't received one. When he turns to look at him, he is startled to find that John is bent over, his head in his hands, the left slightly trembling. Sherlock sits up a little straighter in bed, and places a tentative hand on his shoulder. Comforting irate companions was not his forte.
His head snaps up in anger, knocking his hand away as he gets to his feet. "Shut up, Sherlock, seriously. Shut up. For once in your life, shut the hell up"
Sherlock physically flinches. A slap would have caused as much of a shock. Not that he's not ever been told to shut up. He would need more fingers on both hands if he could count how many times Mycroft would tell him to shut up in a single day. But this is John. John Watson. Someone who lets Sherlock go about his way without ever trying to stop him, without ever trying to tell him to shut up... Perhaps the elemental mistake is there. Without John, he cannot be allowed to go about his way without suffering for it. He begins to open his mouth and offer some explanation, but John is far too angry and beats him to it.
"Do you actually know what it does to you, when your..." John waves his hands about, and paces around the room. He takes one look at Sherlock.
"You know what, I can't describe it. I can't explain to you what it's like, because you clearly do not know."
Sherlock visibly flinches again, and this time John does notice. He notices this time that he has perhaps gone too far, he as actually hurt him. He hadn't been asking for a physical punch to the face this time, but John gave him a mental one that struck more deeply than being confined in a car and made to drown. Both cannot help but think about the pool situation, where both were suddenly made to realise what it meant to lose everything in a split second.
John sits back down on the chair and clasps his hands together. Sherlock stares into space. He is attempts in vain to retreat into the confines of his mind where nothing can hurt and there is only senseless logic.
"I'm sorry Sherlock-"
"It won't happen again." Sherlock turns a serious look on John, who can't help but smile.
"Not without me there. You're invincible with me there"
"We're both invincible"
"I would like to think that"
Sherlock grins inanely, thinking he's got the John he knows best. But then DOCTOR John is suddenly back in the room, showing his sorry self and his presence is more agitating than ever.
"Where are your charts? I didn't like how the nurse took your temperature the first time"
"She couldn't have been that bad"
"Sherlock, you were a drooling, unconscious mess on the bed while everyone shouted over the top of you. I don't think you're liable to comment"