Title: By the Side of the Road
Characters: Sherlock, Lestrade
Warnings: Some discussion of dead bodies
Summary: A trip for a case goes wrong when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and Lestrade learns that a good way to get Sherlock to talk is being stranded with nothing to do.
Author's notes:This is a story for g_c who gave me the very awesome prompt of 'Lestrade and Sherlock get stranded on the side of some far-off, country road because Sherlock forgot to put [petrol] in the car'. I've taken some liberties with Sherlock's background.
"I don't understand how you can be such a genius and such an idiot simultaneously," Lestrade grumbled.
Sherlock was bent sideways trying to get a signal on his mobile. Lestrade was somewhat impressed with his contortion abilities. "It's really your fault," Sherlock replied. "You've known me for five years, you should have predicted that I wouldn't remember something as mundane as the petrol."
"Well, funnily enough, when you said 'just be ready, I'll come get you', I assumed you had taken care of everything we needed to get to Penzance," Lestrade said. He was currently sitting on the side of the tiniest road he'd ever been on, his back against the rear wheel of the car, which was entirely out of petrol. He really wanted a cigarette. And a cup of tea. And a sandwich. But mostly a cigarette.
"Again, your fault for assuming," Sherlock retorted. He was on one leg now, and stretched sideways. Lestrade was sceptical that it was helping, but it was at least entertaining, so he didn't state the thought aloud. "I'm here to be a genius. I leave the trivialities to the idiots like yourself."
"Cheers," Lestrade said, dryly. "I wanted to take the train."
"Yes," Sherlock said. He hopped to the right. "And I said it was impossible. I've been banned from trains for a month, after the Seagull Incident."
Lestrade rolled his eyes. "How many forms of transportation are you banned from now?" he asked.
"Just the one," Sherlock replied. "Mycroft got me off the no-fly list again. He refused to do the same for the trains, however. He said I needed to learn a lesson, but I have no idea what lesson I'm suppose to be learning." He took another hop, this one backwards. "Well, if you want to be accurate, I'm also banned from all tuk-tuks in Thailand, but that's hardly relevant to our current situation and that was just a misunderstanding anyway."
Lestrade was about to ask for more details about the tuk-tuk incident, but Sherlock made an excited noise and frantically pressed buttons on the phone, then held it to his ear.
"John!" he said, after a moment. "Yes, I know you're with a patient, I can hear her coughing. I've broken down. I don't know, something to do with the petrol. It's Lestrade's fault." Lestrade's mouth fell open and he gave a disbelieving laugh. "I need you to call someone to fix it. Well, I don't know who to call. One of those people who comes and takes the car somewhere. Yes, that's it. I'm..." he looked around and gave a very precise location. Lestrade would have only been able to answer 'some godforsaken road between Exeter and Penzance'. "Good. Tell them to hurry." He ended the call without a thanks or even saying goodbye. Lestrade thought John Watson deserved a medal. Another medal.
"What's happening?" Lestrade asked, as Sherlock sighed and came over to lean against the car.
"John is going to call a mechanic for us," Sherlock replied. He looked at his watch. "At the very least we've got an hour to wait. At the most, closer to three."
"Fuck," Lestrade said, with feeling.
"Agreed," Sherlock replied.
They fell silent. Sherlock opened the car door and sat down in the driver's seat sideways, legs out of the car. About thirty seconds later, he stood up again. Then he sat down again. Then he lay back across the two front seats. Then he sat up again. Then he got out of the car again. Then he began to pace, stepping over Lestrade's outstretched legs with each pass.
"Sherlock!" Lestrade complained. "Relax. You can't make them come faster by fidgeting."
"Bored," Sherlock said.
Lestrade privately agreed. How did people live in the country? He liked to get out of London once in a while, but he got twitchy after a bit. Too many plants and cows. He was too much of a city boy. He suspected Sherlock was much the same, although he always seemed to fit in wherever he went, like the atmosphere just bent to his will. He didn't actually know if Sherlock was born in London. He didn't know much about Sherlock in general.
"Where did you grow up?" he asked.
Sherlock stopped his pacing to stare at him. Fair enough, the question was out of the blue. "Lincolnshire," he said, cautiously, like it was a trap. "My family home is there. We had a home in London, too, but it was mostly used by my father while he was working. I attended Harrow, however, so much my time was spent there."
"Of course you did," Lestrade muttered. He was a bit surprised at getting a straight answer from Sherlock. Maybe the boredom was affecting his brain.
"Did you like it?"
"Lincolnshire or Harrow?" Sherlock asked, resuming his pacing.
"Both," Lestrade said.
"Harrow was fine," Sherlock said, dismissively. "Lincolnshire as well. They were places to live, they served their function."
That was more of a Sherlock answer. Lestrade decided to keep going while he was on a roll. "What about uni? Where did you go?"
"Cambridge for awhile, then Oxford," Sherlock said. "I didn't finish at either place. Boring." He stopped and stared at Lestrade. "What is this, what are you doing?"
Lestrade shrugged. "Talking?" he said.
"Stop it, I don't like it," Sherlock ordered. He took a few more paces and then stopped again. "Why?"
"Why do you want to know those things?" Sherlock asked.
"It's just small talk," Lestrade said. "I've known you for five years and I don't know a damn thing about you. I know more about John than I do about you and I've only known him for a year."
"It's irrelevant to our working relationship," Sherlock said. "And I have no idea why it would interest you."
"Says the man who wants to know everything about everyone," Lestrade said.
"That's different, my interest is related to cases, I don't care about personal lives," Sherlock said. The pacing started up again, a bit more frantic. "Everything I need to know about you, I've observed or deduced."
"Oh yeah, and what's that?" Lestrade said.
Sherlock ticked off on his fingers. "You're acceptably competent at your job, you have the respect of your colleagues so they'll do what you tell them even if it seems strange, you aren't so pompous that you won't accept outside suggestion, you aren't quick to anger and demonstrate a keen tenacity when looking for answers," he said, briskly."All traits that make it possible for me to work successfully with you, even though you're also an idiot."
Lestrade had been expecting a barrage of insults and now found himself a bit speechless."Wow. That was almost nice."
"It wasn't meant to be complimentary," Sherlock assured him. "It was a statement of fact. Don't mistake it for sentiment."
"Don't worry, I won't," Lestrade said, with a laugh. "Now, for fuck's sake, sit down and relax."
Sherlock made a childish face and kept pacing, but about a minute later, lowered himself to the ground and sat with his back to side of the car, a distance from Lestrade. He fished around in his pockets and pulled out a packet of fags.
"I thought you quit?" Lestrade said.
"I have," Sherlock replied. "But the man I borrowed the car from was being annoying, so I pick-pocketed him. One of John's friends. Kept trying to...chat." He held out the packet with a raised eyebrow. Lestrade hesitated, then took one. If there was ever a time for a cigarette, it was when you were stuck in the middle of nowhere with Sherlock Holmes.
"Keep it to yourself," Lestrade said, as Sherlock produced a lighter and held the flame out for him.
"Your smoking habits couldn't interest me less," Sherlock replied.
For the next few minutes, they both sat and smoked. The only sound was the inhale and exhale and the light breeze rustling the tall grass on either side of the road. There were no sounds of civilization at all. No cars had come by since they broke down. Lestrade wondered if they were actually on a road, or if it was just some convenient streak of dirt in the middle of a hayfield.
"What did you study at uni?" he asked, deciding to see how far he could push Sherlock before he clammed up entirely.
"Chemistry," Sherlock answered, giving Lestrade an annoyed side-look as he flicked some ash off the end of his cigarette.
"Did you want to be a scientist?" Lestrade asked.
"What does that matter?" Sherlock grumbled. Lestrade just shrugged. "I had no plans. Chemistry was what interested me. I wasn't thinking about a career."
"But you dropped out," Lestrade said. "Twice."
"University didn't suit me," Sherlock said, with a sniff.
That was apparently all he was going to get. Lestrade finished his cigarette and stubbed it out on the ground. Sherlock did the same and looked at his watch with a frown.
"We had better not miss the exhumation," he said. "We still have three hours of driving after the car is fixed."
"I think they'll hold off, considering we're the reason they're digging her up in the first place," Lestrade said. He made a face at the thought of it. "I hate exhumations."
Sherlock gave him a surprised look. "You've never showed any signs of being squeamish around dead bodies," he said.
"Yeah, well it's different, isn't it?" Lestrade said. "Freshly dead bodies are still people. All that stuff you do, looking and knowing things about them, that makes them real. It gives me a picture and makes me want to find who killed them." He raised a hand as Sherlock opened his mouth. "I know, sentiment. And skeletons, that's the opposite. They aren't people. You look at a skeleton, you don't know if it's a man or a woman or if they were old or young. I mean, you can, obviously, but I can't. So they're not people. But exhumed bodies are half and half. Not really not human, but not really human either. It's weird."
Sherlock seemed to be considering this. "She's been buried for fifteen years," he said. "The body will most likely be past the more unattractive stages of decomposition."
"You really think you're going to find something on a fifteen year old corpse?" Lestrade asked.
"I expect to find everything," Sherlock replied, pompously. "I said at the time she was killed that it had all the hallmarks of a serial killing, but no one listened. They all blamed the boyfriend, which was ridiculous and even the jurors knew that. He got off in the end. Granted, it has taken fifteen years for the killer to strike again, but I was right."
"How old were you fifteen years ago?" Lestrade wondered.
"Nineteen," Sherlock said.
"You've been pestering us coppers for a while," Lestrade said. "Did you ever think about being a proper policeman?"
Sherlock made a disgusted face. "No. And even if I had, my criminal record would have interfered. I work better without limitations. If I had to follow the letter of the law like you I would go mad."
"You already are mad," Lestrade pointed out.
"I'm eccentric, there's a difference," Sherlock said.
Lestrade laughed at this and Sherlock's lips twitched slightly. Lestrade's legs were starting to fall asleep and he stood up to shake them out a bit and stretch.
"Your juvenile records are sealed," he said. "I tried to get them when you started working with me. I bet you were like one of the Famous Fiveas a kid, though."
"Who?" Sherlock asked.
"Never mind," Lestrade said, with a sigh. "I don't suppose you thought about food when you dragged me along on this seven hour trip out of my jurisdiction?"
"I ate yesterday," Sherlock said.
Lestrade rolled his eyes. For some reason, Sherlock had never grown out of that phase of childhood where everything that happened or was going to happen or was important revolved entirely around yourself. If it didn't affect him directly, he didn't consider it.
"I did too, but unlike you, I eat everyday," Lestrade said. "And I'm a bit peckish."
"You and John are obsessed with food," Sherlock declared. He cocked his head to one side, thinking. "Mrs Hudson was prattling on about something when I was leaving...hold on..."
He got to his feet and popped the boot of the car, then walked around to open it. He began to rifle through the insane things he'd brought with him.
"Is that a tongue?" Lestrade asked, peering over his shoulder.
"Obviously," Sherlock replied. He pulled out a little brown paper bag. "She shoved this in my hand. I was in too much of a hurry to leave it behind. I suspect there's food in it."
He handed it to Lestrade. Inside there was a Thermos of something and a sandwich.
"She really is your mum," he muttered, taking out the sandwich to inspect it. It looked to be cheese.
"I don't know what you mean by that," Sherlock said. He slammed the boot shut and leaned against it.
Lestrade very happily ate the sandwich while Sherlock watched him with a disgusted expression on his face. However, when Lestrade reached into the bag and pulled out a previously hidden tart, Sherlock grabbed it out of his hand like a ninja and shoved it in his pocket. He did it so quickly that by the time Lestrade had even figured out what the hell was going on, Sherlock had already resumed a nonchalant pose with his arms folded over his chest.
"It was packed for me, I can withhold what I wish to," he said, at Lestrade's gaping look.
"So, you like tarts," Lestrade translated.
"Sugar can be useful when I need an energy boost," Sherlock replied.
Lestrade shook his head, wondering how much longer he was going to have to put up with this insanity. He decided he might as well be comfortable and moved over into the grass to lie down by the side of the road. It was a gorgeous day, at least. Not too hot or cold. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't have been so bad.
"What are you doing?" Sherlock demanded.
"Resting," Lestrade replied.
"You slept half the way here," Sherlock said. "That's the reason you didn't notice the petrol gauge running down."
"Yeah, well usually the driver keeps an eye on that," Lestrade pointed out.
He received a derisive snort in reply. "Do you have any idea how much is going on in my brain at any one time?" Sherlock said. "I can't notice boring details like petrol gauges."
"It's a wonder you can drive at all," Lestrade said. "I'm surprised you don't cut people up right and left and run red lights."
"My driving training was based on positive punishment," Sherlock explained. "My teacher was fond of stamping on my brake foot. I have toes on my left foot that are permanently mangled from the lessons. I must confess, it was an effective method."
"Who was your teacher?" Lestrade asked, thinking he'd probably be stamping on Sherlock's feet too.
"My brother," Sherlock replied. His voice took on that same frigid tone that always came up when he spoke about Mycroft Holmes.
Lestrade laughed. "I never thought I'd feel sorry for him," he said.
Sherlock made a face. Lestrade wondered what had gone on to make the two so at odds, but he'd guessed he'd probably gone well past Sherlock's tolerance for personal questions. He just lay back in the sunshine and relaxed. This case had only allowed him very little sleep over the past couple of days and he was starting to feel it catch up to him. Well, to be truthful, Sherlock had only allowed him very little sleep, running around at all hours of the day. The man was bionic, it seemed.
Sherlock began to pace again, up and down the side of the road. He worked up a little dust cloud as he went, looking like a cartoon character. Lestrade left him to it.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing he knew he was jolted awake by Sherlock's toe prodding him in the side. "The mechanic is coming," he told him.
Lestrade sat up and looked around. There was absolutely no sign of a vehicle in either direction and he couldn't hear anything either. He rubbed his eyes and stretched, then got to his feet. Sherlock prevented him from walking into the road. A series of equations had been drawn in the dirt with a stick.
"That's gravity," Lestrade said, pointing to one section of it and having flashbacks to Mrs Jenkins' science class.
"Very good, Inspector," Sherlock said, with great sarcasm. He was standing back, holding his mobile up so he could take a picture of the equation. "In fact, it's a rock falling from the roof of a ten story block of flats onto a person's head."
"What does that have to do with the case?" Lestrade asked.
"Nothing. I was just passing the time," Sherlock said. He stepped to the side to take another picture.
"I think your mind is a very scary place," Lestrade told him. The breakdown lorry was visible now and Lestrade stepped over the equation to wave him down, even though they were the only car on the road.
The lorry stopped nearby and a very eccentric looking fellow hopped out. He had a weathered, country sort of face and a big friendly smile.
"Don't get too many folks out here," he said.
"We don't have time for small talk, fix the car now," Sherlock ordered.
Lestrade sighed. "We're in a bit of a hurry," he said, with an well-practised apologetic look for Sherlock's behaviour.
"I'll have you fixed up right away," the man said.
'Right away' appeared to be measured in country time, as the man moved as slow as it was possible. He seemed immune to Sherlock's constant barrage of insults and cajoling. Lestrade feared he might have another homicide on his hands before they even got to Penzance. At least it would be easy to solve. Sherlock Holmes, in the middle of the nowhere, with the equation stick.
Eventually the petrol tank was refilled and Lestrade paid for his services. Sherlock surprised him by offering to cover it, but Lestrade explained that could put it on expenses. Then he had to explain the concept of expenses. Lestrade sometimes wondered if Sherlock knew how money worked.
The lorry rumbled on down the road after the man called a cheery goodbye. Sherlock dove into the car and danced impatiently in his seat while Lestrade walked around to the passenger side. His seat belt was barely done up before Sherlock had the car moving again. Lestrade reached out to turn on the radio, but Sherlock's hand slapped it away.
"No more of your tedious comedy programmes," he said. "I had enough of that during the previous leg of the journey."
"You're just stroppy because you couldn't figure out the rules to Mornington Crescent," Lestrade said, with a smirk.
"I don't see the point of playing games with no logic to them," Sherlock said.
"Well, it's either the radio, or I'm going to talk to you," Lestrade warned.
Sherlock glared at him, gauging his seriousness. He made a face, reached out and turned on the radio.