Title: Three Times Sherlock Was Scared Of Falling (And One Time He Fell)
Disclaimer: Don't own anyone.
Pairings: Sherlock & Mycroft brotherly love, Sherlock & Lestrade first meeting, Sherlock & John epic friendship.
Warnings: Phobias, heights, mentions of suicide.
Spoilers: SPOILERS FOR ALL EPISODES.
Word Count: ~2500 words.
Summary: Sherlock has a fear of heights. Until he doesn't anymore.
It's nearly dinnertime and five year old Sherlock still hasn't turned up at the house. Any other mother would be panicking at this point, but Mummy is a Holmes as well as the one who gave birth to two geniuses, so she simply asks twelve year old Mycroft to go out and find his baby brother and carries on cooking.
There's a storm brewing, the summer day clouding over quickly, and the sky is black and brooding, so Mycroft walks quickly even though he hates it. He searches all the most obvious places, of which the orchard is fourth on his list (a good place for fallen fruit and spotting animal tracks), and that is where he finds Sherlock.
To be perfectly correct, he finds Sherlock right at the top of one of the tallest fruit trees, clinging to a branch with all his might.
He approaches noisily so that he won't frighten Sherlock when he speaks and make him fall out of the tree altogether. "Mummy says come in for dinner."
Sherlock shakes his head - Mycroft just about sees it - and shouts down, "No."
The wind picks up; Mycroft huddles his coat around him. "It's going to rain, Sherlock, get down." He doesn't have time for his bratty little brother's antics, he's hungry and he has a ton of reading he wants to do tonight. School really does get in the way of one's reading.
"No," Sherlock says obstinately. And then, more quietly, "I can't."
Mycroft's hatred of getting cold and wet battles with his hatred of any exercise whatsoever and wins out. He sighs and starts to ascend the tree. It's difficult, irritating work and he's breathing heavily by the time he reaches Sherlock. He hates trees. What is the point of them?
Sherlock is in his school uniform - having run off to explore as soon as he got home - and his arms are wound around the thickest branch he can find, his eyes wide with fear.
Mycroft has never seen Sherlock afraid before. He has to force himself not to stare.
"Come on," he cajoles. "Mummy's worried." Not strictly true, but there we go.
Sherlock tightens his grip on the tree. "I can't. I'm scared."
This is completely baffling. Mycroft doesn't know how to deal with this.
"Well you got up here, surely you can get back down."
"I came up here to get rid of it," Sherlock says miserably. "It didn't work."
Mycroft frowns. "Get rid of what?"
Sherlock's five year old face screws up in agony, as if he is being forced to confess to a murder. "I'm scared of heights," he says.
Mycroft - who doesn't mind heights as long as it was a quick and comfortable lift that got him to those heights and not a flight of stairs - is baffled all over again. But the rain's picking up, and he's worried that eventually exhaustion will win over Sherlock's frail body and he'll drop to the floor like a stone.
"I'm here," he says as patiently as he can. "You'll be fine. Just keep your eyes on me and follow my lead."
Sherlock looks at Mycroft and knows it is hopeless to protest any further. He nods, still looking adorably pathetic as only a five year old boy can. Mycroft slowly descends down the tree, ensuring that he is taking the easiest, safest route rather than the quickest, and Sherlock follows him obediently and silently, with only a few whimpers here and there.
They are both shaking when they get to the bottom - Mycroft from exertion and Sherlock from fear - but at least they can both stand. They start walking home slowly; Sherlock is silent, and Mycroft watches him flip the collar of his coat up - something he has done ever since he was given his first coat - and glower at the floor, face like a mini version of the thunderstorm above.
"You don't have to be worried about it," he says offhandedly. "Plenty of people are scared of heights. It's a perfectly logical evolutionary fear."
Sherlock makes a face, jumping over a tree branch that Mycroft effortlessly steps over. "Geniuses shouldn't have any weaknesses," he says sulkily.
They are in sight of the house; Mycroft can almost taste their mother's meat pie. "Everyone has a weakness," he says. He's been reading Machiavelli. He thinks this probably shows.
Sherlock is silent for a while until they reach the beginnings of the garden. "What's your weakness, Mycroft?" he asks suddenly.
Mycroft stays quiet, and when Sherlock looks at him, he realises Mycroft is looking right back, with a gaze that is completely unfathomable. It's almost as if he's in pain, except he isn't distressed by it - it's like a happy sort of agony.
It will take Sherlock years to work out what that look is.
Newly minted Police Sergeant Lestrade wouldn't be anywhere near the scene if it weren't for the fact that he was the one who spotted the jumper. He was getting out of the tube, on the hunt for a good café to eat at, and he just happened to look up and see the man, small against the building rain clouds, leaning precariously over a balcony many, many flights up in the sky. If Lestrade hadn't looked up just then he would be enjoying a nice steak in some greasy spoon somewhere, rather than babysitting the man on the ledge until the proper authorities turned up, he thinks grumpily as he alights the stairs.
The room leading onto the ledge is a hotel room, the window the man had climbed through still open. Lestrade approaches it and peeks out.
The jumper is somewhere in his late twenties, with long black hair that flutters in the wind and a truly impressive coat. His hands are clamped on to the balcony railing, so hard that his knuckles are white, and he is leaning over, staring at the street and muttering under his breath.
"Hello," Lestrade says, not quite sure what else will suffice.
The man looks briefly over at him. "Oh," he says dismissively. "A policeman."
Lestrade is not wearing one piece of police clothing. He stares at the stranger blankly. "How did you know that?" he asks.
The stranger transfers his gaze back to the ground. "The same way I know you're a recent divorcee with a more than recent promotion, and that you're a heavy smoker," he says. He would have an arrogant tone to his voice if it weren't trembling with fear at the moment. "By looking."
Lestrade doesn't know what to say to this.
"Don't worry," says the would-be-jumper. "I'm not going to jump." He takes in a shallow breath, clutches at the iron railing again. "I was going to, but then I got here and I - " He takes in another breath. "I really hate heights."
Lestrade takes quick advantage of this. "Come on, then," he says, beckoning. "If you're not going to jump then come back inside. I can at least call off the police."
Not as tactful as the experts maybe, but not totally awful, Lestrade judges.
Unfortunately, the stranger acts like Lestrade has said nothing at all. "You have no idea," he rambles. "What it's like. I get so bored, I'm so clever and I get so bored. I just wanted to feel…something." He stares over the railing. "I can see everything about everyone," he says distractedly. "I saw your divorce in your hands, your recent promotion in the lining of your coat. I see everything and I can do absolutely nothing with it. It's so frustrating!"
For the first time, Lestrade wonders if drugs are playing a bit of a part here. Half of those words came out too fast and were slurred when they did. He feels a new alarm spike inside him.
"What's your name?" he asks.
The stranger is trembling all over now, and Lestrade would bet that it isn't due to the cold rain that is starting to fall. "Sherlock," he says, then adds as an afterthought, "No laughing."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Lestrade says as calmly as he can. He thinks for a moment, then says, "Right then, Sherlock, listen. I don't think you wanted to jump at all."
"No?" Sherlock asks a little breathlessly.
"No," says Lestrade. "You said you were scared of heights. You wouldn't want to die by falling if you were scared of heights. You'd want to take an overdose or something. I don't think you want to jump."
"But the only thing back inside is boredom," Sherlock says dryly, but with a rather panicky edge.
Lestrade muses over all he's heard. "Ever thought of helping out the police?" he asks. "We could use a man of your skills."
He doesn't really mean it - he just wants this strangely compelling nutter off the ledge before he does something he doesn't really want to do - but Sherlock stares at him, eyes gleaming like he's found the holy grail.
"Really?" he says.
"Sure," Lestrade replies casually, not meaning a word. "Just come back inside."
He holds out a hand into the wind and the rain and the cold, holding it out to this strange, dark-haired Sherlock, and Sherlock doesn't even hesitate when he takes it.
His hands are freezing. They haul Sherlock back into the room together.
Later, when the disgruntled experts have turned up to find their work has already been done for them and Lestrade is back to pondering what he'll have for dinner, Sherlock catches his eye.
"You didn't mean what you said about me helping the police, did you?" he says.
Lestrade dithers, but there's no point lying and its not like the man is going to burst straight back out of the window again - at least not any time soon. "No," he says honestly.
Sherlock grins madly. "Tough," he says. "You're never going to get rid of me now."
They're on top of the roof of a warehouse in Surrey with a thunderstorm blazing above them and several huge thugs with pitch-forks and flaming torches running after them when John finds out. Which, to be perfectly honest, is not the best time to find out the completely unusual detective has a completely usual fear, but then they don't really have normal days.
They scramble across the roof, Sherlock running as fast as John, right up until they are about five paces from the edge, and then he screeches to a halt.
"Argh," he says. "No. Nooonono…"
He starts to reverse; John grabs his sleeve.
"It's fine," he snaps impatiently, "This is a bloody mattress factory - there's a load of faulty mattresses down there, aren't there? Remember we saw them?"
"That's not - " Sherlock starts to pull back again and John holds fast. "No, John, I don't like - I mean I - " He takes a deep breath. "I'm not good with heights," he confesses.
John stares at him. "There's a bunch of megalomaniacs baying for our blood because you just uncovered their secret cult to the police, Sherlock, and they've got pitchforks. You don't have to be good with heights, you just have to jump, come on!"
He starts to pull Sherlock forward, but Sherlock digs his heels in again.
"John, please," he begs.
It's the begging that really gets John's attention; he stops and looks properly at Sherlock.
"You're telling me," he says incredulously, "That the great genius Sherlock Holmes is scared of heights."
Sherlock nods wretchedly.
Sherlock nods again.
John is completely flummoxed, but pulls himself together when he sees the hoard of men running at them. "You don't have to be worried," he says as calmly as he can when his heart is racing. "We'll land safely."
"It's not the landing," Sherlock says, starting to shake, "It's the falling. I don't like the falling. I feel like I'll die falling."
The thunder rumbles upon them, rain falling down and extinguishing some of the mob's flaming torches with glee. John stares at Sherlock.
Then, ever so gently, he leans forward and takes Sherlock's hand. His grip is tight and warm and comforting.
"We'll fall together then," he says quietly. "How about that?"
It's moments like this - moments when John is so understanding of everything Sherlock is, so caring - that quite take Sherlock's breath away. It's moments like this that make him adore John with all he has in him.
The mob is behind them and getting closer.
"Okay," he says, and they turn heel, and run, and jump together.
They fall together. It's the single most terrifying experience of Sherlock's life, the whole thing, but the feel of John's hand in his makes it a bit better. It means that he still has his wits when they land - softly and easily - on a disused mattress, and it means he can run afterwards, John's hand still in his, so they do just that, running into the thunderstorm together.
He remembers what he said that day, when he is standing on the top of Bart's and there is another storm above him and Moriarty is dead behind him. He remembers he said, I feel like I'll die falling. But he won't. Not even here. Falling will not be his end. He will cheat it, here, now, he will fall and live through it, and then he will come back renewed and revived, and he will never be afraid of heights again.
He looks down at John, so far away down there, begging for Sherlock not to do it, don't do it, and realises that of course heights will no longer be his weakness.
He has a new weakness now.
It's at this point he remembers the look on Mycroft's face, all those years ago. That happy agony. Ah, yes. Sherlock understands what it is now.
It's a much better fear to have than his old one.
And with that new knowledge in mind, he jumps.