Characters: Sherlock, Lestrade, John
Rating: PG-13 for some language
Warnings: Some description of injuries, nothing graphic and no blood
Spoilers: Refers to an entry on John's blog, but no episode spoilers
Pairings: Mentions of John/Sarah, otherwise Gen
Word count: Approx. 2500
Summary: When John goes on holiday, Lestrade learns that being Sherlock Holmes' sidekick is a very tough job.
Author's notes: Inspired by this entry to John's blog and the comments made in it. The story takes place post - The Great Game and near the beginning of Scandal in Belgravia. As usual, thanks to my mum and sister-in-law, the kick ass nurses who let me ask them weird medical questions. I'd like to apologize to the warehouses of London. I'm sure far fewer nefarious activities go down in them than you'd think from how often my villains use them.
“Is this what it's like being John?” Lestrade asked, as he limped along behind Sherlock. “Because if it is, I can see why he went to New Zealand. I'd need a holiday too.”
His ankle, which he had sprained during a fight with a suspect, was now so swollen that he'd had to remove his shoe. He carried it with him, because it was a bloody expensive shoe and he wasn't leaving it behind. The fight had culminated with the suspect kicking him in the head, so he had migraine brewing as well. It also seemed he was getting a cold, judging by the way his nose was running.
Sherlock had come out of it with a cut on his forehead. It wasn't even a big cut. It had stopped bleeding within minutes. Lestrade's only consolation was that he was fairly sure he'd broken the suspect's nose. Then the suspect had locked them in a giant, disused warehouse. A broken nose was a small consolation.
Sherlock stopped and whirled around. Lestrade raised his shoe instinctively, ready to use it as a weapon for whatever startled him.
“Wait,” Sherlock said. “John's in New Zealand?”
“Yeah...” Lestrade said. “You didn't know that?”
Sherlock frowned. “I noticed this morning he wasn't there. The milk had run out. I thought he was just staying over at that doctor's place again.”
“Sherlock, he's been gone for three days,” Lestrade said, incredulous. “How did you not know?”
Sherlock looked a bit mystified. “He talks a lot, I mostly tune it out,” he said. “Three days, really? That would explain why no one's brought up the mail. I thought we weren't getting any. And why he keeps answering my texts with variations on 'leave me alone'.”
He shrugged as though this were one of life's less interesting mysteries and returned to picking his way through the rubble. They were trying to find an alternate exit. All the doors they'd tried were locked from the outside.
“You really didn't notice he wasn't in the flat?” Lestrade asked, following along behind him. He wiped his nose on his sleeve for lack of a better solution. Bloody runny nose.
“I was working,” Sherlock said. “I was focused on other tasks. I can't notice everything.”
Lestrade shook his head. “I don't know how he puts up with you,” he said.
“One of John's greatest assets is his imperturbability,” Sherlock said.
Lestrade thought that was probably the nicest thing Sherlock had ever said about anyone.
Sherlock made an excited noise and hopped over some old crates to get to the wall. “Aha! I knew it. These sorts of places always have something like this,” he announced.
Lestrade limped the long way around to see what had him so pleased. A ladder was rigged to the wall, open at the bottom but disappearing into a sort of large metal pipe a short ways up.
“This will lead to the roof,” Sherlock told him. “We can find a way down from there.”
“Right,” Lestrade said, trying to sound neutral. “Good.”
Sherlock frowned at him. “Is something wrong?” he asked.
A few months earlier, Sherlock wouldn't have noticed anything. It was a sign of his growth. Lestrade attributed it entirely to John.
“No,” he said. He didn't sound convincing even to himself. “It's just...I'm not really fond of tight spaces.”
Sherlock looked like he was running this through some sort of system in his brain for analysis. “You're claustrophobic?” he asked.
“Well, that's a bit of a strong...no, claustrophobic is about right,” Lestrade said, feeling embarrassed.
“Can't you just not be afraid?” Sherlock asked.
Lestrade laughed. “That's not how it works, Sherlock,” he said. “Don't you have any phobias? Spiders? Flying? Fire? Clowns?”
“I do find clowns unsettling,” Sherlock admitted. “But I don't see the point in phobias. They aren't logical.”
“There is no point to phobias,” Lestrade said. “You can't control them.”
“Really?” Sherlock seemed genuinely surprised at this. “Anything I was afraid of as a child one of my family members would explain to me and then I wasn't afraid any more.”
“All right,” Lestrade said, making an inviting gesture. “Explain tight spaces to me, Sherlock.”
Sherlock thought for a moment. “Tight spaces allow the minimum amount of area to be used while still accomplishing the purpose for which they were created,” he said. “Does that help?”
“No,” Lestrade said.
“What if I said the likelihood of your being stuck is slim to zero?” Sherlock said.
“No,” Lestrade said.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, annoyed now. “If you're going to be unreasonable,” he said. “I suppose I could go up and leave you here and come back with help. However, I don't think our friend the drug smuggler will be away for too much longer and will likely bring back-up. You're in no condition to defend yourself.”
Lestrade sighed and looked up at the ladder, knowing Sherlock was right on all accounts. It was silly to sit there and wait to be killed when he could just climb up and be safe.
“Would you prefer me to go first or second?” Sherlock asked, once again surprising Lestrade with his apparent consideration.
Lestrade thought about this. “Second,” he said. “Then I'll have to keep going. Plus, I don't know how well my foot is going to handle it. You may have to give me a boost.”
Sherlock nodded and stepped aside, gesturing for Lestrade to climb first. Lestrade stuck his shoe in his coat pocket, took a deep breath and started to climb. The pain in his ankle was nothing compared to the panic brewing and he barely noticed it, even when all his weight was bearing on it.
He was okay until his shoulders got into the pipe part. Then he started to hyperventilate a little. He had to stop to collect himself.
“Keep moving,” came Sherlock's bored voice from below.
Lestrade ignored him, forcing himself to take a few deep breaths and calm down. “Okay. I can do this.”
He took a few more rungs of the ladder. Sherlock's annoyed sighs kept him moving every time he froze up. It seemed to take a very long time to reach the ceiling. He wiped his nose on his sleeve again and tried the bar mechanism on the hatch. It wouldn't move.
“Fucking hell,” he muttered.
This was where the panic really hit hard. He was trapped, unable to get the hatch open to move up and Sherlock was directly beneath him, so he couldn't move down either. He was having trouble catching his breath and his heart started to pound like crazy.
“You're doing very well,” Sherlock said, sounding surprisingly kind. Not genuinely kind, more like the kind that he pretended to be with witnesses sometimes.
It was such an unexpected thing for Sherlock to say that Lestrade snapped right out of his panic at the surprise of it.
“What the hell are you doing?” he demanded.
“I'm trying to be...encouraging,” Sherlock said. “Is it working?”
“No, it's just creepy,” Lestrade said. Sherlock's odd high-pitched laugh sounded from below and that was another weird thing that kept Lestrade so confused, he wasn't thinking about panicking.
He tried the bar again, pushing with desperation, and it finally gave way and slid out of place. He pushed up on the hatch and the wonderful sight of London sky came into view. He scrambled the rest of the way out of the hatch and collapsed on his back on the roof.
“Excellent,” Sherlock said, hopping out of the hatch like a cat and immediately prowling around the roof in search of the next step to their escape. “You were far less annoying than I expected, given your fear.”
“Cheers,” Lestrade said, waving a lazy hand. He was still on his back, trying to catch his breath. He sat up after a few moments, wiping his nose again and watching Sherlock wander around. “Listen, I would appreciate you not spreading around the whole phobia thing...”
“By the time this is over, I will completely have forgotten about it,” Sherlock assured him. “It's extremely boring. I have no plans to remember it.”
“Uh, thanks,” Lestrade said. “Any luck on a way down?”
Sherlock didn't answer, just swatted at him distractedly. A minute later, he grinned and waved Lestrade over. “Here we go. There's a bit of a jump, but then we're clear.”
Lestrade got to his feet, his knees feeling a little wobbly from left over adrenaline and limped his way over to where Sherlock stood.
“There's a fire escape on the building opposite, that reaches all the way to the roof,” Sherlock explained, pointing. “There isn't too big a gap between the buildings. We can make it easily.”
“You don't have a dodgy foot,” Lestrade said, sceptically. He looked down at the large drop in front of him.
“You're not acrophobic too, are you?” Sherlock asked.
“If that means 'afraid of falling to your death', then yeah,” Lestrade said.
Sherlock sighed and threw up his hands. “Once again, if you can find a better option, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'll just save myself and you can make up your mind,” he said. He took several steps back, ran full tilt and leapt easily across the gap, landing in a pouncing position on the other roof.
“Bloody...” Lestrade muttered. Sherlock's coat made him looking like a bleedin' superhero. He decided he was going to get across, just so he could punch him. He walked back a good ways on the roof, giving himself more of a run up than Sherlock had, said a little prayer and went for it.
Sherlock caught him on the other side, taking hold of his jacket collar and yanking him forward. Lestrade had made it all the way across, but was perilously close to the edge and was grateful for the extra momentum. His ankle burned in protest and he landed with far less grace than Sherlock had, but he was safely on the other side with no further damage.
Sherlock was already hurrying down the fire escape before Lestrade had fully regained his footing. He followed more slowly and Sherlock was pacing with impatience by the time he reached the ground.
“You're slowing me down,” he informed Lestrade. “You stay here and I'll go find a phone to call the Yard. And an ambulance.”
Lestrade wiped his nose on his sleeve again, feeling relieved that he wasn't going to have trek after Sherlock through the city. “It's just a sprained ankle,” he said. “I don't need an ambulance.”
“Not for your foot, for your head,” Sherlock said, irritably.
“I don't think a couple of black eyes make it an emergency either,” Lestrade said.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “You've been leaking cerebrospinal fluid since you were kicked,” he said, gesturing to Lestrade's arm.
“I...what?” Lestrade said, looking down at the wet sleeve. “Is that bad?”
“I would assume any scenario where brain fluid is leaking through an orifice is probably not ideal,” Sherlock said, in full sarcasm mode. “But you're coherent and upright, so I don't think it can be too bad. It's probably a basilar skull fracture. John spoke about it once. I put it in my hard drive. It was in relation to a corpse.”
“A corpse?” Lestrade said. “Oh, that’s great. Thanks for letting me know, Sherlock. Why didn't you say something sooner?”
“I assumed you knew,” Sherlock said, and it was clear that he honestly thought this was something everyone should know about.
Lestrade realized he hadn't punched him yet. He decided he didn't have the energy. “I'm not John,” he reminded him. “Thank God. I don't know how he does this everyday.”
“He's much better at it than you are,” Sherlock told him. “I'm going to find a phone. Stay here.”
He hurried away and Lestrade sighed, leaning against the wall to wait. He hoped that whatever the hell a basilar skull fracture was, it wouldn't render him unconscious and alone before Sherlock returned. He didn't think a skull fracture sounded good at all. But he didn't feel too bad, so he decided not to worry about it until he was given a good reason.
He wondered how John was getting on in New Zealand. He hoped he was having a good, long, relaxed break. He deserved it.
And when he got back, Lestrade might just take one himself.
“He left you alone with a head injury?” John asked. He had been home for a few days and had only just found out about Lestrade from Molly. Sherlock apparently hadn't bothered to tell him. He'd come over to Scotland Yard to get the full story. “With cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhoea?”
“I was fine,” Lestrade assured him. John was staring at his forehead critically, as though he could see through to the damage. “I got to hospital before I started to feel really bad. It was a very small fracture. I was only there a few days. No meningitis, which I guess is a risk. Now I'm just on a light duties. A few headaches and dizziness, but I'm fine.”
John shook his head. “Sorry.”
“Not your fault,” Lestrade said. “But I'm glad you're back. Sorry about your girl.” He'd seen John's blog entry, where he'd mentioned he'd broken up with the doctor he'd been seeing.
“It's fine,” John said with a shrug. “Thanks for minding Sherlock while I was away. I better get back to Barts. I swear I can see Dimmock going grey by the minute.”
Lestrade grinned and gestured to his head. “How do you think I got this way?” he said. John laughed.
He and John said goodbye. A few minutes later, his mobile pinged twice in quick succession, usually a sign that Sherlock was texting. He rifled through the papers on his desk to find the phone. Light duties meant no chasing after consulting detectives, a bonus, but lots of catching up on paperwork, which felt like punishment for getting hurt.
He located the mobile and fumbled to bring up the text messages. The first, as predicted, was from Sherlock.
Your replacement is being obtuse. Tell him to leave me alone.
The second was from Dimmock, which simply read:
WTF is a mind palace???
Lestrade sighed and texted back to tell Sherlock to behave himself and Dimmock to ease off. Then he went back to filling out incident reports, where he got to use wonderful phrases like 'then Sherlock climbed the side of the building and retrieved the tortoise'.
He made a mental note to put in a request for his holidays.