An alternate scene from The Hounds of Baskerville. In which Sherlock doesn't get there in time.
This is only the first half, so please stick around!
"No, come on, come on!" John pleaded as the security machine beeped its "ACCESS DENIED" message. He was still partially blinded by the lights, deafened by the alarm. His hands were shaking with fear, betraying him as he reached for his mobile, pleading again that it would get signal in the lab…
"I know you, don't be ridiculous, pick up!" He whispered, rambling into the handset. Sherlock's phone had rung, but he hadn't answered. He must be lower then, below even the weak reception that John was getting; enough to connect the call but not enough to talk.
He shoved the phone back in his pocket. His eyes were getting better now; he could see the eerily orange-lit sheets on the cages. Just like that his thoughts turned back to the bent metal of the end cage. Something had gotten out. Something had been strong enough to rip and twist the metal and it was free. Trapped in the room with him.
Fear was creeping in; fear he remembered from time spent on the battlefield. Claustrophobia, paranoia, even in the wide space of the lab it was still so very dark and quiet. He knew there was something there, though, and he strained to see it in the gloom. Anything. If he knew where it was he would have a chance to fight it.
He let the beam of his torch skip from one corner to the other, letting it rest for mere seconds on each of the cages, each of the silhouetted machines and tables.
Maybe it was only that machine that was faulty. Even if he couldn't see the creature he knew he needed to get out of the lab as fast as possible. There was help out there, he knew it, but first he had to get out.
He lifted his card, mere centimeters from freedom: and froze. Somewhere in the midst of his own frenzied breathing and the various swishes of sheet fabric shifting in the breeze of fans, he'd heard it. A low growl, he couldn't quite place it but he could feel it redoubling the fear that was already coursing through him. Until this moment he had been prepared for Sherlock to break down and admit that it had all been a farce, one of the mind games he was so fond of, but now he knew it was real, felt what Sherlock had been feeling that night in front of the fireplace.
It was utter doubt and bewilderment. It was a growl, no, a scrape of claw against tile, maybe both. John covered his mouth and nose, both in the hope that it would disguise the sound of his own breathing and allow him to hear the creature more clearly. He was breathing too heavily though; adrenaline had already made holding his breath a near impossible task. His heart beat wildly, reveling in its newfound freedom. If the hound could sense it he was done for.
He had to find safety. He still couldn't see the beast but he could hear it more clearly now, its breathing was growing louder with every passing second. It was gaining on him and he could hear the snapping of its drool-covered jaws. It was running too. John wouldn't have much time before the scrabbling sound of its running became the sound of his own tearing flesh. With one last instantaneous pan of the torch, he took off himself. He might not be able to make it out the door, but he could make it to a cage, and that would give him time to try Sherlock's mobile again. Hopefully the detective had noticed his absence by now and was waiting for him outside.
His panicked hands struggled to lift the sheet and open the cage. He managed, locking the bar behind him until he was sure the beast couldn't open it. Then he sank down to his knees, feeling slight relief wash over him. Meh, small triumphs.
His mobile rang and only years of training stopped him from throwing it across the room. Sherlock! About bloody time!
"It's here, it's in here with me!" He whispered, it was as quiet as he dared go, hoping Sherlock would still be able to hear, and that the hound wouldn't.
"Where are you?" Came Sherlock's confident reply.
"Get me out, Sherlock, you have got to get me out." John said, "The big lab, the first lab that we saw." Another sound came, more of a bark this time, and John stifled a sob. A second or so passed before Sherlock responded.
"Now, Sherlock, please!" his voice squeaked as he tried to contain the welling terror. The hound had bent its way through the bars before, why was Sherlock wasting time? Why wasn't he ready, why wasn't he here now?
"Alright, I'll find you, keep talking." Was that a hint of fear from Sherlock's end? Was he really in that much danger that Sherlock Holmes was afraid for him? He gulped back another sob and looked out the bars of the cage. So far he still couldn't see the monster, even though he could hear it baying wildly, clipping instruments and toppling equipment as it made its way towards him. He was a dead man if it got all the way here, there was no way Sherlock could disable it. At best he might be able to distract it before it tore them both to shreds. He couldn't give the hound any more reason to attack him.
"I can't, it'll hear me."
"Keep talking," Sherlock insisted. "What are you seeing?" He paused for a second; John stayed quiet. "John! What do you see?"
A ruffling sound distracted John for a second, drowning Sherlock's words. John stayed as still as he could, peering out between the bars of his confined space, aware that there was nowhere he could go without Sherlock's help. Then, for the first time, it came into view. It scrabbled around a stainless steel table and right up to a cage two spaces down from where John was where it set about snuffling at the base of the sheet. Come on, Sherlock!
It was huge: massive ripples of genetically engineered muscle coiled easily under short velvet fur. Its eyes glowed red with a mix of hunger and hate; its mouth, three times the size of any creatures' John had ever encountered dripped with foamy saliva and razor like teeth. It was then that John decided he was probably not getting out alive.
He'd seen patients who'd been attacked by large animals, if not in person at least in photographs projected on the wall in med school. He'd seen people with gruesome scars and gaping claw marks from bears and mountain lions. They were pictures that still haunted his dreams. In the Army he had encountered a fair amount of flesh torn by bullets and shrapnel, skin burned through to fat and bleeding. He knew the human body could sometimes take that sort of beating and survive, even though it was still a battle. But this creature… it looked not only bred to kill, but also designed to. There was a sickly delighted look to it that suggested that it was toying with him, playing with him like a mother who is trying cheer up her child by pretending she can't find him.
"Captain Watson, answer me!" Sherlock was still there. He'd nearly forgotten in his terror.
But at the same moment John heard Sherlock's voice so did the hound. It turned toward John, bounding to his cage faster than should have been possible. Its massive jaws closed around one of the bars and tore it away as though it were rubber. John flinched backwards, dropping his phone. The hound pushed its way inside; the thick muscle of its shoulders bent the rest of the bars away. There was no way for John to put up a fight, and no way to run. The beast bore down upon him.
John felt the beast's claws in his flesh, and it wasn't the instant death he had expected from such a well-bred killer. It didn't go for the neck, but instead raked it's razor sharp claws down John's side, ripping fat and muscle and scoring the bone beneath. It was more pain than John had ever felt and it felt, John thought, as though the beast were being gentle.
As the claws took another swipe, this time across his chest, with blood welling up in the scorings and bone shining sickly muted in the laboratory's orange glow, gentle seemed the highest form of cruelty. Worse, it seemed as if the hound were doing it on purpose. As if it seemed to know that it wasn't killing, but torturing. Somehow, the beast had been designed not for getting rid of intruders, but for some cruel intelligence to hurt and maim before finally letting its poor victim die.
Death. The wounds inflicted by the creature were too bad. He knew even in his wretched state that if Sherlock came in right now and somehow managed to get the beast away from him, there was little chance of his survival. There was blood on the floor, soaking into his jumper and leeching out onto plastic tile flooring. If the attack had happened in the car park of an A&E, he might have lived, but they were a several hours' drive from a hospital out here on the moors, and it was unlikely they had a full trauma center on base. But again, this was only if Sherlock managed to get here in time.
The lights came on suddenly; they were harsh and far too painful and John closed his eyes against them, also blocking out the continued gnashing as the hound ripped at his flesh. It was a bad idea to close his eyes, but it had been a reflex action, and John was barely fighting death as it were. Sound stopped, light stopped, pain stopped, and John Watson fell into oblivion.
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