Disclaimer: Only in my dreams ;)

A/N: Entirely and unashamedly angst, because I can't help it. Grab your tissues, and forgive any unintentional occ-ness. ^_^ AR

Clarifications, just in case, although it should be pretty clear overall:

"this" = dialogue

'this' = thoughts

"This" and this = past events

Crushing Fears

They had walked straight into the trap like idiots. At least, that was what Sherlock kept shouting at them in a continuous rant about their apparent uselessness. Of course, he didn't appear to include himself in that group of 'incompetent morons', even though it had been partly his fault that they has rushed in mindlessly without waiting for back up.

Sherlock, John and the rest of DI Lestrade's team had been investigating a crime scene at an industrial factory. The victim had been found been found by the janitor on his rounds and he had immediately phoned 999 for help. This in turn led to Scotland Yard's involvement and Lestrade calling Sherlock at 9pm to join him at the factory.

"John, time of death, if you please."

John looked up at Sherlock in disbelief at his polite command, far more used to simply being ordered around by the demanding genius. Anderson, however, interrupted indignantly right away.

"As the forensics expert on duty I am more than equipped to give out that information."

"I think we have disagreeing definitions of the word 'equipped'" responded Sherlock without missing a beat.

John rolled his eyes and produced to crouch down by the victim's body carefully examining the prone figure with gloved hands. He was sure Anderson could do the job, in fact he was certain this information had already been taken down long before he and Sherlock arrived at the scene. Still, he knew that what Sherlock wanted was confirmation from a second party, so he set to his task without paying any more attention to the two bickering men.

"I don't have to take this abuse from you!"

"Don't worry, I do it free of charge."

"Enough!" called Lestrade, striding into the room purposely in an attempt to diffuse the increasingly tense atmosphere that was forming around his forensics expert and consulting detective. "Anderson, have you finished collecting evidence for your report?"

Anderson gaped like a fish for several seconds before answering the inspector.

"Er, yes sir, but Holmes here refuses to accept my recommendations and findings, and instead relies on an ex-soldier for information."

"Doctor Watson is sufficiently qualified to give his opinion and I require confirmation of the findings, or in your case, correction of the data. Frankly, I trust his unenlightened analysis far more than yours."

John looked up from the corpse in exasperation. "Thanks Sherlock, it's nice to know my idiocy is slightly lesser than Anderson's."

"You're welcome." replied Sherlock, completely missing the sarcastic tone in the doctor's voice."

"Anderson, Sherlock and John are here as consultants, so try to be civil. Sherlock, Anderson is more than capable of analysing forensic data, so try to reign in your need to make yourself feel superior to everyone else. Now, what have you found?"

"Well, if anyone's interested in what I have to say," began John from the floor, "this man has not been dead for long; an hour and a half at most. Rigor mortis has not set in yet, so unless something else has been done to slow it down, he was killed very recently. There are several shallow stab wounds to the abdomen, although none punctured any major organs. What killed him is clearly the slash wound to the throat."

"That is what I said in my report, Inspector" protested Anderson.

"Lestrade, make him quiet." Sherlock pouted like a child and the Inspector rubbed his face while begging to a higher power for patience.

"Inspector, why you keep letting in this man interfere is everyone's question. Now if you let me continue with my work I could tell you that this man was killed by a slash to the throat and that the killer, once finished, abandoned the murder weapon and fled through that door." Anderson pointed first to the knife lying next to the victim and next to the door on the other side of the room.

"Lestrade, why do you keep letting this incompetent moron interfere is any intelligent person's question!" Shouted Sherlock, using Anderson's own words back on him.

"Inspector, you can't let allow a civilian to treat members of the force with such disrespect!" Sgt. Donovan tried to gain Lestrade's attention.

"I only disrespect those who need to be informed of their-"

"I don't think that's the knife that killed him!" John called out interrupting the bickering trio and the frustrated inspector.

"Well, we won't know for certain until the blood results come back, but it makes sense that the knife lying by the victim is the knife used to kill said victim." Anderson's tone of voice was cocky and belittling toward John making the soldier wonder why he even tried to control Sherlock. Indeed, perhaps Anderson really did need someone like Holmes to bring him down from his pretentious cloud.

"Anderson, would you please cease your innate prattling before the black hole that is your brain sucks in all the remaining intelligence in the room!"

Anderson's eyes flashed and he looked as though he was about to launch himself at the consulting detective. At the same time Lestrade and Donovan shouted "Sherlock!" and "Freak!", one in disapproval and one in outrage. John merely rolled his eyes, used as he was to Sherlock's insults and anti-social behaviour.

The young genius huffed in annoyance but reigned in his tongue, choosing instead to direct his attention to the doctor.

"I had already determined that the knife on the floor was not the one used on the body from the size of the fingerprints on the handle and the position next to the victim." Sherlock explained dismissively.

"How can you determine that from the fingerprints? We haven't even sent them to the lab yet!" Anderson was certainly annoyed at what he perceived was the consulting detective's flippant guessing.

"I am not guessing, Anderson" spat Sherlock, reading the other man's thoughts on his face, "The handle of the knife is rubber, and it has a clear indentation where a ring was pressed into it. The corpse on the floor has a ring that rather matches that indentation, not to mention the fact that the size of the rest of the print is of the same shape and size as his hand." He said, pointing between the knife and the victim.

"In addition, if you had paid any attention, you would have noticed that the knife was held in a left hand which, as said, matches the victim, while the stab wounds and slashes on the body were clearly delivered by a right handed person. However, I take it that John has yet another reason beside these." Sherlock looked down toward the doctor.

"Uhm, yeah... it's just that... I don't know if you noticed Anderson, but the slash on this guy's neck was made by a serrated weapon, probably another type of knife, while the knife on the floor doesn't have any serrations."

"Are you certain John?" asked Lestrade.

"Yeah, look here. See the torn skin instead of straight cuts, it's obviously another type of knife."

The DI, the consulting detective and the doctor all stared at Anderson for a moment making the man stutter and glance about nervously, quickly shuffling through his notes of the case. "It would have come up in the blood work anyways." He muttered to himself, but Lestrade was kind enough to move the spotlight away from him.

"What else have you determined, Sherlock?"

"The victim and his assailant did not begin their fight here, I'm sure you noticed that."

"Yes, there's blood in the hallway outside, and bloody handprints on the walls. There's also upset furniture and other clear marks of struggle." Responded the DI, trying to prove to the young genius that he was Detective Inspector for a reason.

"The assailant chased his victim, they struggled, injured each other," Sherlock said these observations while moving about in the room as though recreating the scene, or rather as though he was following the events in his mind's eye. "They ended up in this room, the assailant had a significant height advantage over the victim so he was able to overpower him quickly."

"Height advantage?"asked Lestrade.

"One set of footprints which can be observed partially from the bloody imprints on floor, is larger than the victim's.

"Which indicates he was probably taller." Lestrade nodded, agreeing with Sherlock's assessment.

"Also," added the detective, "The stab wounds to the victim have a slight downward trajectory."

"I noted that on my report!" chimed Anderson.

"Bravo, you're not 100% brainless; I think the world might implode from this revelation." snarled Sherlock.

Anderson chose to ignore the jibe, although he did glare murderously at the lanky detective who continued to dance and flirt about the room, reading clues that no one else could see.

"Ah! John!"

The doctor jumped slightly at the genius' sudden call.

"How long did you say this man had been dead?"

"An hour and a half at most." John replied.

"And at what time did the janitor find him, Lestrade?"

"He put in the call at seven thirty five. Sherlock, you don't think the maintenance guy did it, do you? I mean, look at the amount of blood here. The man wouldn't have been able to get rid of that blood that easily. And what would he call 999 for?"

"No, not him! If the janitor found him so soon after he'd been killed, he must have been right on the heels of the murderer. When did the paramedics arrive?"

"They were on scene less than ten minutes after the call. We arrived shortly after, and then you came about an hour later. What?"

"Don't you see? This room only has two doors. The killer and the victim fight, stabbing each other, the killer gets the upper hand and slashes his victim's throat, letting him fall to the floor. He hears footsteps outside, the night cleaner doing his round, so what does he do?"

"He runs out the other door." John put in.

"Exactly. But in less than ten minutes the place was surrounded by paramedics, and soon after by the police. He's covered in blood, injured as well..." Sherlock looked at them meaningfully, willing them to use their heads.

He received mostly blank looks.

"Arg! He's still in the building!" Sherlock shouted at them, frustrated by their slowness. Without a second thought he rushed out of the room through the door the killer must have escaped through. His steps echoed on the corridor outside, and it took the occupants of the room a second to register what had happened and spring into action.

John, his soldier reflexes kicking in, was the first out the door and after the young detective, shouting "Sherlock!" and muttering to himself about what an idiot his colleague was.

Donovan and Anderson took a couple of seconds longer before they also took off at a run after the other two, leaving Lestrade in the room with his walkie-talkie calling to the other officers to inform them the killer was still in the building.

Sherlock raced down the long corridor, following the small trail of clues; a drip of blood here, a scuff mark there. A half opened door loomed at the end of the hallway, and Sherlock sped through recklessly. He knew his quarry had had over an hour to hide and lay low, waiting for the police to leave so that he could make his escape. However, the man was injured, if he was to judge by the traces of blood on the knife next to the victim and the drippings along the corridor.

Behind him, Sherlock could hear John running toward him but he didn't slow down in his pursuit. Pushing the door open, Sherlock peered down a set of metal stairs that descended to the basement of the industrial factory. Stepping unto them slowly but purposely, the young detective willed his eyes to adjust quickly to the change of light, from the bright fluorescent of the hallway to the dull orange of the basement floor.

His steps clanked loudly on the metal rungs, so Sherlock slowed his descent in order to muffle the sounds better. He was at the bottom of the stairs, looking about for clues when the door opened again and John appeared at the top of the stairs, framed in profile against the bright lights of the corridor.

"Sherlock?" John stared into the relative darkness of the basement, spying Sherlock's silhouette at the bottom of the stairs and silently made his way toward him. The detective didn't answer, but instead started to make his way across the basement, noting the various places a man might hide. The place was large, very large, with cables and pipes crisscrossing the low ceiling, and empty crates, work tools and other equipment piled in different corners.

Sherlock's attention was drawn to another opened door set into the far wall. It seemed to be the door to a furnace, judging by the LED panel on the side of the door.

As he approached the door, noting the splatters of blood on the floor and the door's metal handle, he heard Donovan and Anderson come through the upstairs door.

"Holmes? Watson?" whispered Sgt. Donovan, mindful of not making much sound, but needing to ascertain where they were in case the killer emerged suddenly. Anderson stayed behind her, briefly wondering why he had mindlessly followed Sally when he should have waited upstairs where it was relatively safe. After all, Sally was a sergeant, Watson was an army veteran and Sherlock, well, Sherlock was crazy, but they could all handle themselves in a fight, whereas he had to admit, he wouldn't be much help against a murderer. On the other hand, he didn't fancy being called a wuss by one Sherlock Holmes, so he made sure he stuck close, but safely behind, Donovan, under the pretense of covering her back.

John followed close behind Sherlock, drawing the gun he'd been smart enough to bring, and noting that Sgt Donovan behind him did the same. Reaching out to tap the detective on the shoulder, he conveyed to him how stupid he thought he was being, and gestured toward his gun, implying Sherlock allowed him to go in first.

The genius glared at him and then proceeded to ignore the doctor and push forward. Coming up to the door, Sherlock stood to the side, carefully glancing into the small room, and he frowned.

Sticking his head into the room his frowned deepened as he realized that it was empty. Sherlock stepped into the room, ignoring John's annoyed whisper of his name.

The room had obviously been occupied by the killer given the splotches of blood on the floor, yet the killer wasn't there. The young genius turned in a circle, trying to read any more clues from the sparse splatters.

"Where is he?" he muttered to himself. There hadn't been any other trails anywhere else in the room. He'd been careful to note the blood trail as well as the trail of disturbed dust, and there wasn't anywhere else the killer could have gone to.

John, Sally and Anderson stepped into the furnace room as he completed his circuit, his mind rapidly going over every detail.

"So freak, where is he? Lead us on a wild goose chase, did you?" quipped Donovan.

Sherlock was about to reply when he saw that one of the footprints in the dust didn't quite match the others, as though someone had stepped on it twice. The detective's eyes widened as he rapidly realized what the killer had done, and he only had a second to begin to shout "The door!" before said door suddenly shut from outside with a heavy clicking thud, leaving the occupants of the room in darkness.

"You moronic bunch of incompetent-"

"Sherlock!" John shouted, interrupting him. John could see Sherlock pacing back and forth waving and gesticulating violently in exasperation. Donovan and Anderson had thankfully been carrying torches, so at least they were not in complete darkness anymore.

"Why would you all come in here like idiots? Of all the brainless, ill-thought-out-"

"Sherlock! In case you didn't notice, you were the one who rushed in head first into this situation." replied John, halting his rant once again.

"Knowing I had some form of backup, a backup that should have kept outside and watched the door!"

"You barge in here like you own the place, like you're sure you know where the killer is, and you blame us for your failings, freak?" barked Donovan.

"Alright, alright! This will get us nowhere. Stop it!" John put his hands out, doing his best to keep Sherlock, Sally and Anderson from going at each other's throats. He knew someone needed to be level headed in this situation, and it might as well be him.

Sherlock let out an exasperated growl and pushed past the three of them to ram his shoulder against the door repetitively. John stood in the middle of the small room, looking around him for some, any solution, before joining the young detective at the door.

Together they shoved the metal door relentlessly, until John stopped the younger man.

"Sherlock, stop, it's not going to budge. It's an electric lock, it won't work, and I'm not going to bust my other shoulder on a pointless endeavour."

Another desperate snarl escaped the genius as he kicked the door in rage, angry at the situation, angry at Donovan and Anderson, and even John, but more specifically angry at himself for having been caught so absurdly easily. He should have seen that the killer stepped back on his own footprints to hide probably under the stairs behind the crates piled up under there.

He had expected a mindless criminal, given the nature of the crime and the obvious lack of premeditation and style, so he had let his guard down, and now they were trapped like rats.

Sherlock paced back and forth twice before striding up to the door again and pounding on it with his fist.

"This building is surrounded by police officers, your best option is to free us and give yourself up!"

There was no response from outside, making them wonder whether they could even be heard from out there.

Sherlock's breathing was hard and panting as he repeatedly pounded on the door.

"Lestrade! In here! Lestrade!"

"Sherlock! Let's just calm down for a moment." John was surprised, to say the least, at his friend's frantic, almost manic, behaviour. Sherlock resembled a caged animal trying to escape. John grabbed the young detective by his upper arms and stilled his erratic movements.

"Sherlock! This isn't helping. What's wrong with you?"

"What's wrong? We've been trapped in a tiny room by the most boring type of criminal, and we fell for it!"

"The freak's just pissed that his great brain didn't see through it. He can't handle being bested." quipped Anderson.

John saw that Sherlock was about to go off again and restrained him by the arms once more.

"Calm down." he told him, astonished that Sherlock was acting like he was. "And Anderson, if you don't have anything constructive to say, why don't you shut the hell up!"

The forensic expert was about to throw his own acidic response when Sally interrupted him.

"Watson's right, as much as I hate to say it; this is getting us nowhere. We should be trying to figure out way to get out." Normally she would be willing to join the 'let's put Sherlock down' party, but not when it impeded her own comfort and safety, or that of others.

"And Donovan shows one ounce of brains, I think I'm in hell." Sherlock retreated against one of the walls, his eyes closed and his arms wrapped around his body tightly in a pose that clearly indicated he was unhappy and did not want to be disturbed.

"Sherlock! Not helping!" John shot him a 'behave' look, and then glanced apologetically at the sergeant. He might not like her, but she did have a point.

John waited for a few seconds, his soldier instincts taking over as he assessed the situation and their options. He looked around to get an understanding of their surroundings. The room, as Sherlock had said, was tiny, but it was also tall. John recognized it as some sort of furnace or chimney stack, probably used for disposing of non-dangerous materials. The room was rectangular in shape, but it seemed to curve into a circular shape the higher it went, several dozen feet. At least, that's what John remembered from when he originally went into the room given that now he could only see a few feet up thanks to the poor light from the torches.

"We don't have reception down here." Commented Sally, her mobile in her hand. Immediately John and Anderson took theirs out to check whether their signal was any different.

"Lead-lined walls." Sherlock muttered without glancing at them, and John nodded mutely.

"Ok… we're not going to get out by pushing the door, but Lestrade and the rest of his team should have been right behind us, correct? So, it stands to reason they should be looking for us, right?" John looked to Sherlock for confirmation, but the detective looked like he was barely paying attention to them. He stood rigid against the wall, his entire posture tense. His kept his head bowed, and John imagined he was internally seething while putting his super mind to the task of getting them out.

"Shouldn't we be trying to get someone to hear us then?" offered Anderson, and John had to agree that that appeared to the only course of action available to them. He glanced toward Sherlock for confirmation or approval, but the younger man seemed to be blocking their voices.

The doctor approached the door once more and raised is fist to it, similar to what Sherlock had done before, and pounded on it several times.

"Lestrade? Anyone? Help? We're trapped! Hello!" John pounded on the door in intervals, hoping that the basement would echo enough for them to be heard even on the upstairs corridor.

After a full minute John stopped; he could feel himself developing a headache from the reverberations, and he knew it wouldn't be good for them to make themselves ill just yet; especially seeing how they didn't know how long they would be trapped.

"Any other ideas?" John looked around in resignation.

"We should probably do that every five minutes or so in case someone walks by. Like Mike said, they'll be looking for us, and there were only so many routes we could have gone. Lestrade will find us." Said Sally, her voice full of confidence; or at least she hoped she conveyed this. Despite the fact that she allowed John to sort of take command, she was also aware that she was the only officer in the room, so she wanted to project confidence and control.

John nodded at her and walked over to Sherlock, while Donovan and Anderson took to the other side of the small room and sat down on the floor. The room was barely six by ten, so they weren't able to sit as far from each other as they would have liked, in addition the dim glow from the two torches barely afforded them any proper light at all, making the closed space look even smaller than it was. In the gloom, John noticed that Sherlock had barely moved at all, and the doctor imagined he was sulking.

"Hey, despite what those two say, it's not entirely your fault, ok. We were all sort of stupid, but hopefully Lestrade will get us out soon enough." He whispered to him.

Sherlock still did not respond, and as John really looked at him for the first time since he'd stopped him from clawing his way through the door, John noticed Sherlock's purposely controlled breathing and the manner in which his hands clenched on his own arms in what could only be described as painful.

"Sherlock?" the doctor's tone changed to one of mounting concern.

The detective, on his part, felt like he could hear John through a very long tunnel. He was fully aware of what was happening to him and he was trying to exert all his mental abilities to stop himself.

'Concentrate, concentrate, you're fine, concentrate!' he kept repeating over and over in his head like a mantra, but it was all he could do to remain appearing calm and collected. Sherlock focused on controlling his heartbeat and breathing, keeping his body tightly bound in order to prevent himself from totally losing it.

"Sherlock what's wrong?" John asked slowly.

'Please John, don't ask me. Please.'

John placed a hand against his friend's shoulder, trying to draw him out of his stupor, and Sherlock's breathing suddenly hitched, almost imperceptibly. 'Damn! Not now!'

"Sherlock, talk to me."

It took the young genius all of his strength to raise his head and open his eyes marginally to look at John, hoping to convey in his gaze the fact that he couldn't respond.

John's eyes widened as he took in Sherlock's pleading gaze, never having seen it before in the younger man. For a moment John wondered whether it was the dim light playing tricks on him, but Sherlock's eyes shut again as though trying to block out any visual input.

"What's wrong with him?"

John slightly jumped at Donovan's voice, and he gave her a backwards glance, shaking his head slightly to convey that he wasn't entirely sure.

Donovan and Anderson were looking at them with matching confused expressions.

Keeping his voice as low as he could, although he knew that sound would carry well in their small metal enclosure, John concentrated on Sherlock.

"Tell me what's wrong. This isn't anger or boredom, this is different. What is it, Sherlock? Are you sick?"

The ex-soldier felt a tremor pass through the detective, and he noted how his arms seemed to tighten even more around his thin frame.

Sherlock was finding it more and more difficult to control his breathing and heart rate. Before, when everyone was shouting and scrambling, he found it easier to ignore the oppressing feel of the walls around him and the smell of dust and smoke and damp that brought back memories he'd buried deep inside his mind. But now everyone was silent, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain his strenuous control over himself.

"Sherlock, you're worrying me now." John's doctor instincts were kicking in now. He was mostly certain the young genius was physically fine, but his behaviour was so unlike him, John couldn't determine what was wrong. If he didn't know better, he would have said Sherlock was scared, but it was unlike any other time when he's seen the young man scared. Not even at Baskerville, when the detective had even admitted he was scared, had he looked this out of sorts.

Keeping one hand on Sherlock's arm, John brought his other hand to the detective's neck, feeling his pulse; it wasn't too elevated, but it certainly wasn't normal either. On the other hand, John also knew Sherlock had the ability to lower his heart rate at will, which made him worry even more.

"Leave him, Watson. He's just begging for attention." sneered Donovan, who had been watching John's movements from her place on the other side of the room.

John wanted to lash out at her, but he focused his attention on his friend's distress.

"What's. Wrong?" he asked again, willing Sherlock to answer him.

Eyes tightly shut, Sherlock swallowed thickly trying to find the voice with which respond. He racked his brain for a way to convey, in as succinct a manner as possible, the root of his problem, but his mind was assaulted by feelings and memories of being trapped, alone and scared. Try as he might, he couldn't push them away.

Opening his mouth and taking a breath of the dank, stale air of their cell, Sherlock forced his lips to form in to the word "Small", hoping that would be enough for John.

John frowned, unsure that he'd heard Sherlock or merely imagined his whispered, almost silent, confession.

"Small? What's small?" John tried to encourage the younger man, but Sherlock shook his head again, his breathing more erratic than before.

"Alright, alright, calm down. I can figure it out." 'Small, small… Sherlock's afraid, that's clear enough, small… the room is small… could it be…?' John's eyes widened.

"Oh my God, oh, Sherlock." He said sadly, suddenly understanding the genius' entire behaviour.

"What is it?" Asked Donovan who had been listening in to John.

"I think he's claustrophobic. Am I right, Sherlock. Just nod if it is."

The consulting detective hastily nodded, his composure at the end of its tether.

"Hey, hey, it's going to be alright, ok? Just breathe Sherlock. I know that's what you've been doing, and it's very good. Let's sit you down on the floor ok." Sherlock nodded his assent again and allowed John to guide him to the ground slowly. On some corner of his mind he knew John's suggestion was to prevent him from passing out too quickly if he started to hyperventilate.

"Claustrophobic? Him? He's barely human as it is."

John ground his teeth as Anderson's comments, refusing to be baited. He knew Sherlock would never willingly put on such a display, which meant that what little he was seeing was only the tip of a deeper problem.

"Donovan, would you try calling out again." John turned back to Sherlock, "Is that alright? Would the noise trigger you more?"

Sherlock shook his head mutely in reply, his arms now wrapped around his long legs, holding them close to his chest. His body was trembling steadily now as the silence and the darkness equally wrapped themselves around him.

Sally stood up and went to the door and the small enclosed space was quickly filled with the thunderous reverberations of pounding on metal. John noted that although Sherlock indicated the noise did not bother him, he nonetheless jumped slightly when Donovan's fist hit the metal door over and over. Sherlock couldn't help but be reminded of a much younger version of himself shouting something very similar once, and he fought the urge to clamp his hands over his ears.

"Lestrade! Help! We're here! Hello! Anyone! Help!"

The sergeant turned around and shrugged in the dim light, frustrated that she didn't seem to have accomplished much.

John's face fell as he considered how long they would have to wait to be found, and how long Sherlock could last. While some claustrophobes were very mild and could stand being in a closed environment for extended periods, Sherlock had already proven to be barely holding on. His phobia was apparently quite overpowering, and John could see the strain of control was getting to the young man.

However, his hopes were suddenly lifted, however, when an answering pounding came from outside the door. In an instant both Donovan and Anderson were at the door, shouting their relief, but their brief happiness was slightly dampened when they realized they could only hear muffled calls from the other side. They couldn't even make out who was talking, instead they could only echo the pounding from outside with their own.

John looked between Sherlock and the two officers by the door then back at his friend, the sliver of an idea making its way to the forefront of his mind.

"I'm gonna try something, ok. I'll be right back." John made to get up only to be stopped by a hand clamped around his wrist.

"Don't go, please." Whispered Sherlock desperately, clinging to John like a lifeline.

"Hey, I'm just going to the door. I have an idea that I want to try. You'll be able to see and hear me. It's just a few feet away."

Sherlock had still not opened his eyes, hoping that by doing so he might prolong his inevitable breakdown, and now that John was threatening to move away, Sherlock felt himself slipping. He shook his head violently, opening and closing his mouth several times to try to convey to John that he didn't want to be alone, that he couldn't be alone, but each time he did he breathed in that stale air and his chest would constrict as though a heavy weight had settled on top of him. His mind kept turning in circles over the same thoughts, thoughts of being trapped forever, of dying of hunger and thirst, of being alone, of no one being able to hear his desperate cries. Sherlock couldn't escape them, and his only connection to reality was John's presence.

The doctor placed a comforting hand atop Sherlock's, on the hand that was currently wrapped around his wrist, trying to encourage the detective to let go. When the younger man did not comply, John half turned around and called for Sally.

"Donovan, I have an idea for the door, but I need you to switch places with me."

The brunette sergeant raised a thin eyebrow in disbelief and Anderson next to her scoffed in equal bafflement.

"Please, just come over here." John looked at her meaningfully, telling her that this was not the time to play their little feud. Outside, they could still hear pounding noises as though someone was trying to batter down the door in with little success.

Rolling her eyes, Donovan gave in and crossed the few feet over to John and Sherlock, crouching to the floor to match the doctor.

"Sally, he's claustrophobic. For once, put your differences aside and just see him as a person. I only need you to stay by him, let him know there's someone else here, while I go to the door. Can you do that?"

She swallowed and looked at the trembling detective. "Yeah. Go on." She said, sighing dismissively but not entirely unkindly. There was something about seeing Sherlock Holmes in such a defenceless position, folded into himself seeking protection from his own irrational fears that struck her as unnatural. Sure, he was mean, cruel and sometimes even sadistic, and his social skills left a lot to be desired. Certainly, he'd insulted and belittled her on countless occasions, but then she'd insulted and belittled him back. It was like they had an understanding of loathing and contempt for one another that had now been broken by Sherlock's unusually human behaviour.

And, if anything, she told herself, she was the officer in this scene, and he was a civilian; a civilian she wanted to punch in the face most of the time, but a civilian nonetheless, which meant it was her job to keep him safe.

John seemed to read these things in her face, and it satisfied him enough for the time being. Gently he pried Sherlock's fingers off his wrist.

"Sherlock, Sally is going to sit here with you while I go to the door. I'm not far you know. Just… keep breathing calmly.

Sherlock's breathing got even worse as he felt John walk away, but he nodded in acceptance. He could feel the walls coming in closer and closer, but he knew John was only trying to find a way out quicker. It didn't help him control his mind; it didn't help him ignore the perception that the walls and ceiling, which he rationally knew wasn't even there, must have been slowly crushing him to death; and it certainly didn't stop the unintentional whimper that rose in his throat from making it past his lips.

Donovan's eyes widened at this display of weakness, fully aware that Holmes would never allow anyone to see him like this. She was frankly at a loss of how to react.

"Hey… f-Sherlock…" the name sounded foreign in her tongue, "Hey, just do as John said and breathe. You're alright, there's plenty of space here and we've been found, so it's only a matter of time before we're out and then you can run around in the open air to your heart's content, ok?" She wasn't sure how to offer him any form of comfort; she never thought she's have to offer it to Sherlock bloody Holmes! The entire situation, she thought, was borderline surreal; trapped in a tiny room by a desperate murderer, and witnessing the most intelligent, if sociopathic person she knew have a complete mental breakdown. It wasn't a scenario she would ever have pictured.

Meanwhile, in Sherlock's internal world, the rush of blood in his ears was deafening almost everything. He knew on some level that Sgt Donovan was by his side, and he could faintly make out the banging on the door, but it was all muffled before it made it to his ears. He felt trapped, crushed by the weight of the enclosed space, so similar to that other place he'd tried so hard to forget. Was he thirty-five or was he seven? Was he locked in the dirty furnace of an industrial factory or in a cramped closet in the basement of his own house? Sherlock wasn't sure. It had been years since he'd given that place a single thought, for it had been years since he'd been in such an intensely claustrophobic situation. He might be inclined to think he'd even forgotten he was claustrophobic.

But now, it felt like a dam had been opened in his head; the room in his Mind Palace that guarded the things from his childhood that he hadn't been able to delete had burst, flooding his mind with unwanted memories he'd never internalized because he didn't know how. The more Sherlock tried to contain them, the more they slipped past his mental barriers so that it felt like he was battling two fronts: the incorrect sensory perception that told him he was being chocked and crushed, buried alive forever, and the mental assault of his memories in which he was being shoved unkindly into that tiny closet in the basement, left utterly alone.

Sherlock's hands clamped on his eyes, wanting to stop them from showing him the images he was seeing, imagined or remembered.

A few feet away John stood by the door, thinking his plan over. They needed a way to communicate with the people outside, but their shouts could not penetrate the thick walls.

"Anderson, give me your torch."

"What? What for?"

"Just, give it to me, I have an idea."

Grumbling, Anderson passed him the flashlight, glancing between the doctor at the door and Sally and Holmes on the floor. The young detective looked like he was trying to claw his eyes out and, like Donovan, he felt somehow disturbed at seeing the genius so distressed. He wanted to derive some pleasure from it, some sense of satisfaction that the freak was just as human as the rest of them, but seeing another person in pain wasn't enjoyable, no matter whom that person was or how much you detested them.

He switched his focus back to Watson, wanting to see as little of Sherlock Holmes whimpering on the floor as possible.

John held the torch by its lamp and lifted the metal end against the door, tapping it in a pattern several times. He repeated the short pattern twice, waiting thirty seconds between each sequence, and then waited for a response. A minute and a half passed before a rhythmic tapping resounded from the other side of the door.

John grinned back at Anderson, pleased his plan had worked and it took the forensic expert a moment to realize what the doctor was doing.

John had tapped 'H.E.L.P.' and Lestrade had answered 'W.R.K.N.G. O.N. I.T.'

"Lestrade's working on getting us out." John communicated the message to his colleagues.

Turning back to the door, his mind full of his army training, John replied back in Morse code,

'H.R.R.Y. S.H.R.L.K. B.A.D.'

Lestrade response came in a minute later, and John's eyes closed as he worked at spelling out each letter in his head.

'N.O. C.O.D.E. D.O.O.R. B.R.K. L.O.C.K. S. H.U.R.T.'

John frowned as he made sense of the Inspector's reply.

"I think the problem is that they don't have the code for the electronic lock, so they have to find a way to break the door or the lock at least." That probably meant bolt cutters or a blowtorch, John thought, realizing that it would take some time to get them out. Sighing, he turned back to the answer Lestrade's question about Sherlock.

'S.O.R.T. O.F. P.L.Z. H.R.Y.'

He couldn't give much more detail about Sherlock's condition, and he wasn't sure how serious Lestrade would take the diagnosis of 'claustrophobia' anyways. For a severe claustrophobe like Sherlock, it certainly equated to being hurt, and that was serious enough for John.

"They're working on getting us out, but it will likely take a while. I've told them of Sherlock's condition, kind of, so I hope that speeds things up a bit. All we can do now is work."

"That.. was a good idea." said Anderson grudgingly.

"Watson, I think you should come here." Sally was looking at John with frightened eyes and when John crouched down beside her he saw why.

Sherlock's trembling had intensified even though Donovan had placed her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to convey to him that he wasn't alone. His hands were pressed tightly into his eyes and his breathing was coming in short hyperventilated pants. But what struck John to his core, like a cold knife suddenly thrust into his chest, were the two tear tracks down Sherlock's pale cheeks. They were barely noticeable except when the light shifted and glistened against the wet skin, but seeing them, if only for a moment, chilled the doctor.

"Sherlock? Sherlock, I'm here, you're safe. Come on Sherlock, you can do this, just breathe deeply; listen to my voice and breathe." John slowly wrapped his fingers around the young man's thin wrists trying to pry them from his eyes but Sherlock barely responded to his touch.

John was dimly aware of the start of a steady rumbling noise coming from the door, and somewhere in his mind he registered the probability that they were cutting away at the bolts on the door. He was also aware of Donovan staring in silent disbelief next to him and even Anderson a couple of feet away, but he forced his focus to remain on the hyperventilating man in front of him.

The doctor moved a hand to Sherlock's hair, steadily running a hand through the black curls in an attempt to soothe the young genius, but nothing was consoling the detective.

In his head, Sherlock could almost hear the footsteps outside his cell, echoing on the basement floor. They were the footsteps of his father; polished shoes tapping against the concrete with a steady step as though his seven-year old son wasn't locked up and begging to be let out. How long had he been kept there and what was the punishment for this time, young Sherlock wasn't sure; he only knew it was torturous, that he was scared and hungry and lonely, and that no one, least of all his father, was helping.

"Please let me out."

John started at Sherlock's whispered, almost sobbed, plea.

"Sherlock, they're working on getting us out. We'll be out soon, you'll see. Just a little longer."

"Please let me out. Please, please." The detective's voice was small and hurt, and laced with a despair that sent a shiver down John's spine. He kept one hand on the younger man's face and ran another through his hair, whispering shushing and comforting sounds, even though he could see how ineffective they were against whatever demons were plaguing him.

"Please… please… I'll be good… I promise… please let me out…"

"John?" Donovan's eyes were blown wide as she glanced between him and Sherlock, fearing the conclusions her mind was coming to. John saw his own apprehension reflected in her eyes, neither of them wanting to believe the one answer that seemed to be coalescing in their heads from Sherlock's behaviour.

"I'll be good… I'll be good… please… please." Sherlock's harsh breathing hitched as he begged shamelessly.

Hesitantly, John leaned in closer to the detective and swallowed thickly before speaking.

"Sherlock… you are good… you're very good, you've done nothing wrong. We'll be out soon, just hold on." John's heart was heavy and his chest constricted as he analysed the meaning of Sherlock's reaction.

"My God, John, you think he was…"

John shook his head in denial. "I don't know… I don't know."

"It sure explains a lot though… doesn't it?" Her words were hesitant, equally unwilling to believe it.

Sherlock's breathing was erratic now, interrupted by small whimpers that he could barely contain.

'Why, why, why! Why am I here? Why?' young Sherlock, escaped from the hidden recesses of Sherlock's mind, kept asking the same relentless unanswerable question. Why was he locked in here?

"What did I do? Please, tell me, please… I can be better, please." a full sob escaped the young detective and John immediately sat down beside Sherlock and enveloped his thin body in his arms.

"Shh, Sherlock, it's not your fault… I doubt it was ever your fault." He added as an afterthought. John looked around at a loss, and saw that Donovan was just as, if not more at a loss of what to do.

A few feet away, Anderson looked like he was going to be ill. The implications of Sherlock's words could hardly be ignored, and Anderson felt just as sick at the prospect of the consulting detective undergoing such treatment as he would for any other person. He was jolted out of his thoughts by tapping coming from the door and he turned his head back to the doctor for a translation.

John's brows furrowed as he interpreted the message.

"They're asking how we are and saying that they hope to get us out in the next couple of minutes." John's frown continued as he realized he should request a paramedics team on standby for Sherlock. The detective was on the verge of making himself pass out, making John worry not only for his mental state, but also for his physical state.

"Anderson, would you come over here?" he requested, disliking his decision, but knowing he was the only one who could answer Lestrade and make the necessary request.

The forensic expert hesitated in the middle of the cramped room, convinced that the last thing he wanted was to be any closer to Sherlock Holmes.

"Please, just sit by him." John said, disentangling himself from his friend and noting how Donovan had already moved closer protectively, placing a hand on Sherlock's shoulder and another just below one of the hands still pressed against his face.

Stiffly and awkwardly Anderson approached the three of them and crouched opposite Donovan, on the spot vacated by the doctor and mirrored her posture by placing a hand on the detective's other shoulder. The young man was still trembling and moaning softly; softly as one might do if they were resigned to go unheard by anyone. Anderson would have called it heart-breaking if it wasn't for the fact that he still couldn't make himself use that term in relation to one Sherlock Holmes.

John was at the door swiftly, having taking up the second torch once again, and currently tapping out a reply, metal against metal.

'H.A.V.E. M.D.C.S. O.N. S.T.N.B.Y.'

'S.R.L.K.' came the questioning reply.

John looked toward his friend sitting on the floor - long legs folded against his body for protection, hands covering his eyes to block out whatever hell he was seeing, thin frame trembling with fear and confusion, and small childlike noises denouncing his torment - and he hastily replied.

'N.O.T. G.O.O.D.'

He really hoped it didn't take long now. He wasn't sure how long they'd spent in the claustrophobic room, but he'd just about had enough of it.

John crossed over to Sherlock once again, nodding his thanks to Anderson, and resuming his position with the young genius wrapped safely in his arms.

Sherlock's previous calls to be let out had been replaced by steady silent crying, an action that was, if anything, even worse. It seemed to imply that Sherlock had given up, and the three observants couldn't help but wonder how many times it had happened in real life. John ran his fingers through the curly black hair of his bowed head as he held Sherlock's shaking shoulders tightly. The exhaustion was clear in his entirely posture.

"Go to sleep, Sherlock. Everything will be better when you wake up. You're safe, and you're not alone. Just sleep."

John massaged Sherlock's temples and forehead, alternating with running his fingers through his hair, trailing his nails gently across the young man's scalp.

"Shhh." He whispered into his ear softly. "I'm here, you're safe."

Sherlock's frame slowly slumped against John, his hands falling from his face and into his lap.

"Is he asleep?" asked Sally in a small hesitant voice.

"I don't know." John placed two fingers against Sherlock's pulse. "I'm not sure whether he fell asleep or passed out from exhaustion. Given that he'd barely eaten all day and now this, I'd be inclined to say he's fallen into an exhausted sleep."

Gently he shifted Sherlock so that he was in a more comfortable position and he continued stroking his head, occasionally running his thumb across the genius' gaunt cheek, noting the errant tears that still fell.

"I can't believe what I've just seen." John wanted to be angry at Donovan's words but he found that he's been thinking something along the same lines.

"I mean… this really explains a lot of things."


"It's abuse, Watson. Likely child abuse."

"Sally, please-"

Whatever else John had been about to say was interrupted by the sudden stop of the rumbling noise that had permeated their cell for the past hour or so followed by a high pitched scraping noise as the metal door was wrenched from its frame now that the lock and bolts had been sawed off and cut.

Lestrade appeared at the door followed closely by a pair of paramedics, just as John had requested. They headed in Sherlock's direction immediately, seeing as he was the only person in the confined room who looked like he was in need of medical assistance.

"He's just passed out, but he might need a sedative if he wakes up. His pulse is still slightly elevated, but he's breathing much calmer than he was a few minutes ago." John rattled off as the paramedics took over, checking his pulse and pressure efficiently before signalling for a stretcher to be brought in.

"What happened here, Donovan?" Lestrade was looking between the doctor, his officers and the unconscious figure of Sherlock Holmes, noting the first three's shocked and tired expressions.

"We walked into a trap sir, I'll take responsibility for it. We… erm… had a bit of a situation regarding Holmes, sir. He didn't take well to being locked in; it turns out he's claustrophobic." Donovan's usual crisp and acerbic voice was replaced with a small and subdued tone.

"Claustrophobic?" Lestrade glanced at where Sherlock was being moved onto the stretcher with John's help. The younger man looked beat; as bright lights flooded the room from outside it was possible to make out the puffy redness around Sherlock's eyes and cheeks where he'd pressed his hands against his face as he cried. His expression was still pinched, even in unconsciousness.

"Badly, sir." replied the sergeant, glancing at the consulting detective and suppressing a shudder as her mind replayed his childlike pleas to be let out. She doubted whether she'd ever be able to get them out of her mind, and whether she'd ever be able to look Holmes in the face again without wondering what else had happened to him. She'd never wondered before about Sherlock's childhood or how he came to be the way he is, and now she was torn between possibly having the answer to those questions and a desire to never find out any more.

Anderson, Lestrade noticed, appeared just as shaken, making the DI wonder just what exactly had happened during the time they'd been locked in there.

By now Sherlock had been taken out of the small room along with John, and the paramedics were just about to take him up the stairs and out of the basement.

"John." Lestrade called out, "I should really take your statement."

John looked just as shocked and tired as the other two, and a bit lost as well. "Greg, can it wait? I'll call you tomorrow… or you call me, or whatever. Right now… I just want to take Sherlock home, ok? Besides, you can get most of what happened out of Donovan and Anderson. Just… let me take him home."

Not understanding what was going on, but sufficiently stunned by the events, the Inspector nodded in acquiescence, allowing John to cart the unconscious Sherlock Holmes back to the main floor and predictably back home from there.

The ambulance thankfully took them to Baker Street without much protest. As a last resort, John knew he could always give Mycroft a call and have him immediately sort any problems out, but he was grateful he didn't have to resort to the elder Holmes in this situation. The brief glimpse he'd gotten into Sherlock's childhood had left him with more unanswered questions than he'd ever asked for, but one of the ones at the foremost of his mind was where was Sherlock's brother while these events happened?

When Sherlock was brought up to his room and laid on his bed, John thanked the medics and proceeded to remove the detective's shoes and coat as gently as possible to prevent him from waking up. Knowing Sherlock, he wouldn't want to confront what had happened so soon, and John was prepared to give him as much time as possible.

The following morning John woke up on the sofa, having decided to sleep close to Sherlock should he wake up in distress in the middle of the night. It turned out he didn't, instead waking up in the morning, silently heading for the bathroom for a shower and then exciting and starting his day like any other day. With the exception that he ignored John's presence.

Along with everyone else's presence.

John tried to engage him in idle conversation, dropping in how he needed to go down to Scotland Yard to give a statement about the case last night, and how he would stop for milk and other groceries when he came back. He asked offhandedly whether Sherlock wanted to come to the station as well to close up the investigation of the factory killer or whether he was going to blow Lestrade off as he usually did after a case, but Sherlock refused to answer either way.

John left and returned later that day, not only with groceries, but with dinner, and he was surprised when Sherlock actually ate. The detective had been sitting at the table by the window, his laptop open in front of him as though he was working, but his gaze was far away and John had hesitantly placed the plate of food on the table by his hand, hoping. Sherlock ate, but he still said nothing.

Two days later Lestrade dropped by, at John's insistence, to inquire after Sherlock and tell him about the conclusion of the case. Sherlock had stood by the window staring blankly at the outside world while the Inspector rattled off about how they found the killer trying to flee through the fire escape (without mentioning the basement), and how he'd immediately confessed about the murder. Apparently him and his victim had been arguing about some woman and they had ended up chasing each other in their own place of work until one killed the other almost by accident. In his fear of getting caught, he'd hid in the hopes that the police would think he'd escaped right away instead of remained in the building.

Lestrade didn't mention the fact that the killer had trapped the four of them in an act of desperation, without hardly any premeditation at all. He'd already told John how guy hadn't had the code for the door since he didn't have access to the furnace, so he could only lock it, and John had asked the Inspector to spare Sherlock any and all details regarding their time locked in.

After half an hour Lestrade left, promising to call again during the week if any interesting case landed on his lap, and giving John a meaningful glance as if to say 'Hey, I tried'. The doctor was at a loss of what to do except give his friend time. He'd just been through a very traumatic event that triggered memories he'd kept buried deep in his subconscious; John knew he couldn't push him too fast, but he was also worried Sherlock would entirely close himself off.

Three days later John was getting desperate; Sherlock had finally begun to speak again, but it was in one word sentences that usually consisted of 'no' and 'idiot', which John supposed was at least a step in the right direction. Half of the time, however, he only responded in shrugs and annoyed noises, which weren't uncommon for him, John admitted, but they were unaccompanied by the normal biting remarks and protestations of boredom.

Lestrade had called, as he'd promised, asking Sherlock for help on another case, but the young detective hadn't even answered the phone (John got it eventually), and when informed by the doctor, he'd shrugged again and purposely ignored anything that breathed.

The soldier had enough.

"Sherlock, I think we should talk about what happened" He told him, hands on hips, staring Sherlock straight in the face, but the detective merely glared at him and locked himself in his room for the whole day.

"Sherlock, we need to talk." He repeated the following day, trailing Sherlock as he went about the flat.

"Leave me alone."

'Three words, at least that's something!' thought the doctor in frustration. He continued this tactic; he wouldn't let Sherlock drown in his own misery, it was doing no one any good.

"Sherlock, talk to me." He asked relentlessly the next day. He'd been prodding him constantly, twice getting a 'Bugger off' response from the genius as well as several death glares.

"There's nothing to talk about, John!" the detective exploded at last.

"Sherlock! You were… locked up as a kid. It's… there's no way you don't need to talk about it."

John was only given silence. He ran his hands through his hair, seeing Sherlock pace up and down between the sofa and the window, the emotions he'd been carefully clamping down rearing their ugly head once more.

"Who… who did it?" John asked hesitantly.

Sherlock was silent for several minutes, so long that John thought he wasn't going to get an answer for that question either. The younger man paused by the window and extended his hand toward his treasured violin. Long pale fingers wrapped around the violin's neck, bringing the instrument to his shoulder, tucking it under his chin.

John sat down and ran another hand through his hair, upset at his flatmate's apparent indifference of his own abuse. He resigned himself to getting no more answers from the detective, trying to come up with a new course of action, when a deep voice filled the empty space of the room with two small whispered words.

"My father."

Sherlock hadn't moved, he still faced the window, fingers taut on the violin strings, right hand holding the bow against his leg, knuckles on each hand whitening, entire posture tense and stiff and completely wrong for playing.

John swallowed reflexively, gazed fixed on Sherlock's form, trying to determine what to say. He'd suspected it would have been Sherlock's father, it often is, but now he had confirmation.

"How old?" the doctor couldn't stop his question, although it came out as a croak as it passed his constricted throat.

"Seven… till I was… eleven, I think." Sherlock's voice was equally coloured with a hint of emotion.

"God…" breathed John, "Where was your mother? Where was Mycroft?"

"My brother had more important things to occupy his time."

John's eyes widened unwilling to believe that Sherlock would simply have been left alone in his father's grasp.


"Don't, John. Please. Just, stop. Please." It was that request, whispered in a tone so similar to the one he'd whispered at the factory, which made John's chest tighten as though a hand was squeezing his heart and lungs.

John kept his silence and Sherlock brought his right hand up, gently scrapping the bow on the violin's strings, producing a soft, somewhat melancholy tone for the first time that week since, what John had deemed 'The Event', happened. The doctor left him to it, although he wished Sherlock could see it to confide in him.

Two weeks later Sherlock was back to speaking, more or less normally, but he still hadn't accepted any new cases from Lestrade.

"You're bored, and you're going to drive me insane. Call Lestrade and tell him you'll take the case in Soho."

"I'm not interested."

"Not interested my ass. I saw how your whole face lit up when you heard the particulars of the case. You're not the only one who can 'observe' mister great detective. Now call Lestrade."

"I can't."

"What do you mean you can't? Arg! Fine, I'll get your stupid phone for you." John marched over to Sherlock and shoved his hand into his flatmate's dressing gown pocket, grabbing the phone and handing it to Sherlock. The detective protested and tried to stop John, but in the end accepted the proffered mobile, although he made no move to use it.

"Call. Lestrade." John insisted pointedly, but stopped when he noticed Sherlock's downward gaze, a shadow passing over the genius' face.

"What is it, Sherlock?" he asked, his voice softening.

"I… can't face them." came Sherlock's whispered admission.

The doctor instantly knew he was referring to Donovan and Anderson.

"Sherlock, you… you can't stay hidden forever. You can't hide from them just because they saw you at a weak moment. You never give up, so don't start now." John understood where Sherlock was coming from, but he couldn't coddle him or allow him to sever himself from society any more than he already did.

"Call Lestrade."

Sherlock looked down at the mobile in his hand and then back at John, and he dialled Lestrade's number.

Sherlock marched into the crime scene like he owned the place, the usual swish of his long coat and an air of superiority. John was right, he needed to get back into his usual schedule instead of allowing his fears to control him.

Following Lestrade to where the body was found, a young healthy woman found dead for no apparent reason on her bed in her bedroom. The body had been found two days before, but so far there hadn't been any progress on how she was killed. Sherlock began his usual dance about the room, reading the clues that no one could see.

He was in the middle of his examination when he spotted Donovan and Anderson staring at him from the doorway to the bedroom. Rather, he could feel them watching him, even though every time he caught them they averted their gazes unsubtly. They hadn't made any comments about how they felt he shouldn't be allowed on the crime scene or called him names; it was unsettling. He knew what they were thinking, he could see it in the way they refused to look him in the eye. They were embarrassed, pitying him for his breakdown.

It was distracting as hell.

It was also a nagging barb in Sherlock's confidence, something he hadn't experienced since his drug days; a sense of failure and embarrassment that made him wonder whether his father had been right all those years ago.

That was also distracting.

Sherlock tried to ignore them, focusing on the crime scene, half listening to Lestrade's summary of who'd found the victim and how. He continued to pace about, noting the slightly splintered window sill, the uneven threads on the carpet, the barely visible scratch marks on the bedposts, the few knocked toiletries atop the dresser, while he ranted his explanations and theories at the speed of light.

He'd just finished pointing out how it must have been the next door neighbour, who was clearly having an affair with the dead woman, when he whirled around to face Donovan and Anderson in exasperation.

"If you two aren't going to behave normally, you might as well get the hell out!"

Everyone in the room, especially the two addressed officers, jumped at Sherlock's abrupt and loud outburst.

"Sherlock-" begun John, in warning, but Sherlock wasn't done.

"I'm not made of glass and I'm not going to break, so stop looking at me like I would!" Sherlock stopped looking at the stunned faces around him, breathing hard as he realized what he'd done.

"Arg!" He growled in frustration, shoving his way past Donovan and Anderson and out of the room as fast as his long legs would take him.

"Sherlock!" John sped after him, catching up to him before he left the residence, grabbing him by the arm.

Sherlock was about to respond with a nasty comment when Sally and Anderson rounded the corner and stood in the hallway, each one painfully aware of the awkwardness of it all.

Finally Anderson spoke up, keeping his voice as normal as possible, although Sherlock and John could hear the hesitance there. Anderson even attempted a sneer as he addressed the detective.

"So, does this mean you're done? No other clever piece of information you need to give us idiots? Or maybe you've run out of steam."

The silence that followed was palpable and could, as the expression goes, have been cut with a knife. Lestrade had joined the four in the hallway, and they were all aware that there were other officers in the open room to the left who had stopped what they were doing and were watching in anticipation.

Sherlock looked hard at Anderson and Donovan, their faces purposely blank, but their eyes revealing how uncomfortable they were. He saw a look of regret flash over Anderson's face, and he felt John's hand tighten imperceptibly on his shoulder. He understood that they were trying.

"Of course I'm done here. If you had been paying any attention you would have seen that. Do let me know how it goes with the neighbour." Sherlock kept his voice even, mirroring Anderson's attempt at normality. They stared at one another for two more seconds before Sherlock spun about in his patented flourish and opened the door.

"Hey freak," Sally's voice rang out, stopping him in the doorway and making him glance back, "don't be a stranger, ok?"

His gaze shifted between Donovan and Anderson, noting that they weren't looking at him with pity anymore, but neither were they looking at him with their usual hostility.

Sherlock couldn't help but feel a twinge of gratefulness for their effort. "Can't let you two muck everything up, can I? Someone has to uphold the good reputation of the force." He replied, but his voice, equally, was not as cutting as usual and lacked its typical derision. A grin threatened to blossom on his face, satisfied that not much had changed after all, but he controlled it.

"Lestrade, call me when you get a properly interesting case." shouted the consulting detective, waving his hand absentmindedly as he walked out of the house and into the street followed closely by John, who did look back toward the two on the doorway and felt, for the first time, a sliver of respect for them.

A/N: There will be an epilogue, so stay tuned!

I hope everyone enjoyed it; I'm only mildly claustrophobic, but there have been instances where I've had to run out of a place because it's become unbearable, so I imagine it can be pretty bad for a severe claustrophobe, especially if there's trauma involved. However, I do admit I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. Let me know what you think!