A/N- Another one that takes place between the events of The Great Game and A Scandal in Belgravia.
I had no idea that there were so many cracks in this ceiling, Sherlock thought, exhaling carefully through his mouth. Mrs Hudson should really get those fixed. Then, with a grimace, he brought himself back to the task at hand – edging his hand over to the legs of the wooden stand where John usually put his cup of coffee. The clock had already ticked over thirty-four minutes and counting while he'd been running this new and painful experiment. There wasn't much else he could do, lying on the floor with his legs slung awkwardly over his armchair.
But the flat downstairs was as silent as a tomb. Mrs. Hudson had probably said something the day before about her going out, and where she was, and how long she'd be about it, but he had been thinking through a case yesterday and not listening. He knew exactly where John was, though – very inconveniently in the midst of a nine-hour shift at the dull clinic he still worked at.
Sherlock lunged again, fingertips just touching the wooden stand. Pain like a red-hot poker stabbed viciously at his back. He yelped, then clenched his teeth. There was, after all, an up-side to his being stuck in this predicament with nobody home. There'd been nobody around to hear that.
With one last effort, he looped his fingers around the stand and dragged it forward. It teetered and then crashed down, missing his neck by about an inch; his phone, which had been resting innocently on top of it, skittered across the carpet toward the fireplace. After a blind scrabble with his fingertips, Sherlock's left hand closed around it and hooked it toward himself until he was scrolling through his list of contacts. Emergency contacts, in this particular case.
Success. The purr of the dial tone against his ear sounded positively triumphant for three or so seconds before the call dropped in.
"It's me," Sherlock said. "Come to Baker Street. Now."
"Hang on, just a sec." There was a muffled series of footfalls and the snick of a closed door. Lestrade had taken refuge in the privacy of his office. "Yeah, you know, 'hello' or something wouldn't go astray once in a while," he said in a louder voice. "And I'm in the middle of something important right now, Sherlock."
This was, for a change, not a lie. A family of three, a mother and two young daughters by the name of Hinkel, had been found stabbed to death in a flat in Neasden the day before. The ex-husband had a criminal record, including several charges for beating the living daylights out of Lona Hinkel. He also had a rock-solid alibi, since he'd been in the drunk-tank at Bishopsgate Police Station at the time his family had been killed. In such a case, 'not the husband' could well mean 'absolutely anyone.'
"Okay, let's hear it, then," Lestrade said. "What's so important that I need to come out to your flat right this minute?"
"I'm sort of… stuck."
"You heard me perfectly."
Insistent silence on the end of the line. Sherlock let out another slow, careful breath. "Yesterday I sustained… some damage to my lower back…"
"Brilliant. How'd you manage that?"
"I was chasing a dangerous, armed perpetrator through a - fine. I lost my oyster card and did it jumping over a ticket barrier at Waterloo station, happy?"
Lestrade groaned. "And I suppose you want me to do a bit of sucking up to the transit police for you."
"I couldn't care less about the transit police."
There was a couple of seconds' pause before Lestrade finally tumbled to the correct deduction about the situation. "You're on the floor, or something, and you can't get up. Did you fall?"
Sherlock hedged. How exactly was he supposed to explain to Lestrade that he'd voluntarily got down on the floor to read more comfortably, without sounding like an idiot? "More of a misjudgement, really..."
"Can't this wait?"
"No. I've already been here for three hours waiting for Mrs. Hudson to come home, and I am now running a serious… bladder emergency and if you laugh, I'm never solving one of your cases for you again."
Lestrade coughed explosively. "Okay," he managed to say. "Okay. No laughing. Promise."
"This is serious…"
"Oh, yeah, I know. It sounds like a crisis of international proportions. The thing is, Sherlock, I dunno what you think I do when you're not around, but there's plenty of it to go around right now. I could probably come out there, but I'm on the clock, so I need to explain where I'm going and why…"
"Tell them I've been injured chasing a… carjacker…"
"Can't do. They'll ask for actual details on that one. Can I tell them about you jumping the railway barrier if I don't mention the bit where you're stuck on the floor, desperate for a piss?"
Sherlock hung up and threw the phone. It bounced back from the base of John's armchair. Would it be beyond Lestrade to just shut up and help him for once?
Apparently, it wasn't. What felt like hours later, Sherlock heard the street door downstairs open and shut, then Lestrade's heavy, purposeful tread on the stairs.
"Shut up," he said, just as Lestrade arrived in the living-room doorway. He turned his head toward him but, to his credit, Lestrade wasn't laughing.
"Christ," he said. "I thought you might've been exaggerating. Or just lying to me again. Where's your handler, anyway?"
"At work. Just help me up."
"Right." Lestrade retrieved one of the dining chairs from nearby and put it in front of Sherlock, giving it a pat. "Come on, then."
Sherlock lifted his head slightly to look at him, but the withering effect was lost under the circumstances. "You're joking," he said.
"I'm not. Mum's eighty and thinks she's twenty, and I've been through about sixty million occupational health and safety videos at work, and this is the way we're doing this. If you weren't so worried about looking cool, you probably wouldn't have done your back in in the first place. Roll over. Need a hand?"
Sherlock did need a hand, but hell was going to freeze over before he asked for one. Finally he managed to roll over and then, gripping the front legs of the chair while Lestrade held it down, pulled himself to his knees and then up to his feet.
"Sit down for a sec," Lestrade said. "Let your head clear… oh, fine, do it your own way," he continued as Sherlock grabbed for the arm of John's armchair instead, swaying unsteadily for a moment before beginning to make his way across the kitchen in the direction of the bathroom. "Really hoping you don't need me to hold it for you..."
"You are ridiculously childish," Sherlock growled as he slammed the door after himself.
Just over an hour later, John arrived home to assess the damage. He found Sherlock flat on his back on the sofa, phone clutched in both hands, frowning in the dim lighted reflection of the screen. John paused in the doorway, watching him in amusement for a few seconds. "Greg's already given me the details," he said, letting his satchel slide from his arm and onto the floor at his feet. "What are you looking so tragic for?"
"The Internet says I've broken my spine," Sherlock announced, throwing the phone down onto the cushion at his elbow. It promptly toppled onto the floor, taking the phone with it, but Sherlock appeared not to notice. He looked down despondently at his bare feet and wriggled his toes, as if checking that they still worked.
John pulled a wry face. "Yeah, well. The actual doctor in the room says it's really unlikely that you've broken anything. You've probably just pulled soft tissue and need an ice pack, a cuppa and a ticket from the transit police to learn your lesson. I told you you were going to hurt yourself with that bloody Zorro act." He stooped to retrieve both the phone and the cushion and put them on Sherlock's knees. "You know," he said, "when I told you to stop calling me at work, I didn't mean you couldn't call me if you injure yourself. Would you seriously have stayed on the floor until I got home, if Greg hadn't picked up?"
Sherlock shrugged. In truth, he might have been compelled to call Molly Hooper for help. Despite the fact that there was a half-full cup of coffee at his elbow, he was about to open his mouth to ask John for another one when there was a rap on the open shutters leading to the kitchen and Lestrade poked his head in.
"Okay, that's me off, then," he said, giving a vague sort of salute.
"Sure you won't stay?" John asked.
"Yeah. I left Donovan in charge. She's a good worker, but it's all hands on deck for this bloody Hinkel murder case."
"Getting anywhere with it?"
Lestrade shook his head. "Everyone who has a motive has an alibi. Nobody without an alibi has a motive. Anyway, I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Sherlock sat deep in thought as Lestrade clattered down the flat stairs. On a scale of Coma Inducing to Magnificently Interesting, the Hinkel case rated about a three - the husband's alibi was the only thing that raised it above the sort of case he'd even skip if he saw it reported in a newspaper. But Lestrade's commentary on alibis and motives had been interesting. If everyone who had a motive to kill the Hinkels really was accounted for, it was just possible that this was the work of a random psychopath. And those were always interesting.
"John!" he exclaimed, just as he heard the thud of the door downstairs opening. John, who had been in the kitchen rummaging around for something to eat, appeared in the doorway.
Sherlock attempted a leap to his feet, which turned out to be a bad idea; he had to settle for a dramatic arm gesture. "Go with Lestrade. Hurry up!"
"What? Why?" Without waiting for an answer, John stepped onto the first-floor landing. "Greg," he called down the staircase. "Hang on a minute." He turned back to Sherlock. "You want me to check out the case for you, give you the details?"
Sherlock raised one eyebrow a little.
"Thought you said it was too boring to be bothered with-?" John sighed and resigned himself to a long night and a late dinner. "Fine, okay." He patted his jeans pockets and looked around for his wallet, swiping it up from where it sat on the coffee table. "Stay by the phone, okay?"
Sherlock glanced at the phone in his lap. "I don't think that will be a problem," he said.