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26 March 2014 @ 12:27 am
Title: Countdown
Characters: Sherlock, John, mind palace!Mycroft, Q, Mummy and Siger
Rating: PG-13
Warnings/Triggers: a bomb situation, maybe a bit bittersweet, swearing
Pairings: John/Mary (background)
Spoilers: The Sign of Three
Word Count 2,302
Summary: Sherlock has to disarm a bomb—properly this time. Luckily, he has some help.
Author's notes: Set in the Trio 'verse.

I was really intrigued by Sherlock's mind palace in Series Three, and I thought it might be a neat challenge to see if I could write it. I ended up doing Trio verse, because that's where the ideas came from. Vaguely post-Series Three.

It will hopefully be apparent, but in case it isn't, anything in Italics is going on inside Sherlock's head.

Um, bombs probably don't work this way, but there's only so much you can Google before it starts to get weird...

“Please tell me that is not a countdown. Do not tell me that's a countdown. Is that a countdown, Sherlock?”
“....are you lying?”
“Yes, of course I am. We're chasing a wannabe terrorist, John, it's hardly going to be football scores.”
“All right. Fuck. I fucking hate countdowns.”
“Shut up, let me think.”
“Can you turn it off?”
“You better not be playing with me. Is there a switch?”
“No. There is no switch. I need to think. Shut. Up.”

Damage assessment:
Lives at stake: 129
Possibility of running away: May make it to safety, but probably 'immoral' to let everyone else die—John will be upset.
Best course of action: attempt to disarm bomb.

“Sherlock,” John said. “Staring is not accomplishing anything. What do we do?”

Sherlock held up a hand. “Stop speaking. I need to think.”

“You're staring with your mouth open, it's making me nervous,” John said. “Could you start to do something, please? Just, anything.”

“There's no point until I've decided what to do, and you are wasting time distracting me,” Sherlock said. “Stand there, shut up.”


”What will happen if we fail, Sherlock?” Mycroft asked.

“People will die,” Sherlock said. “129 people will die.”

“No, wrong,” Mycroft said. “You've miscounted.”

“131, including myself and John,” Sherlock said.

“Is that acceptable?” Mycroft asked.

“My death is acceptable,” Sherlock said.

“And John's?” Mycroft pressed.

“No,” Sherlock said.

“What will happen if John dies?” Mycroft said. “Who depends on him?”

“Mary and the baby,” Sherlock said.

“And will they be all right without him?” Mycroft said.

“Mary will,” Sherlock said.

“And what's the affect of a loss of a father on a child?” Mycroft said.

“Devastating,” Sherlock said.

“Proof?” Mycroft said.

“Experience,” Sherlock said.

“So, what is the first step?” Mycroft said.

“Make John leave.”

“Go outside,” Sherlock said, pointing to the door. “Leave the room.”

“What, why?” John said. “I haven't said anything. I haven't even thought anything.”

“I need you to go to the next room over,” Sherlock said. “I think the computers are hooked up through the wall. There might be a switch on that side. Go and check. Now.”

John left the room. Sherlock stood up, grabbed a chair, and closed the door. He put the chair to block the handle, and locked the door. Then he returned to the computers. John started to bang on the door. Sherlock ignored him.

”That won't help if the bomb goes off,” Mycroft said. “He won't run. He'll try to help you.”

“The bomb is in sections,” Sherlock said. “If I can figure out the codes, I can disarm parts of it. I might be able to contain the blast to an acceptable level. If I could disarm enough of it, he might only be injured. The door will block some of the force of it.”

“Sound plan,” Mycroft said. “Get to work on the codes. Who do we have to help us?”

Sherlock went through the corridors. He knew where he was going, but it wasn't a door he liked to open very often. He gave it a knock. It opened immediately, and he stepped in.

“I need help,” he said.

Father smiled, and stood up from his desk. “Let's get started, then.”

Sherlock pulled a chair over to the computer. The cursor blinked on the screen, waiting for input. There were codes; he'd seen the codes. They were safely in his mind palace. He hadn't had time to assess them yet, but they were what he needed to disarm the bomb. Three codes to be solved. Two minutes. He could do this.

“Where do we start when we have a mystery word, Sherlock?” Father asked. “What's the first step?”

“Look for patterns, find repeating words or letters,” Sherlock said. “Find and decipher E. Look for letters on their own; they have to be I or A.” He put the codes up on a whiteboard and grabbed a marker. “What if it's a stacked cipher?”

“Then we start with one level, and we work on from there,” Father said. “Don't get ahead of yourself, Sherlock, you're a clever boy. You are capable of this. Begin now. Go.”

Sherlock began to fill in letters and remove them, crossing them out, putting them back in, wiping it clean and starting again.

“Yes, that's right,” Father said. “There's nothing wrong with your work. Keep going. That's a S, put a S there.”

Sherlock filled it in. “Serenade,” he said. “Serenade. Is that right?”

Father looked over it. “Yes. It's right. You're done.”

Sherlock entered 'Serenade' on the keyboard, and pressed enter. The code was accepted.

“Damage?” Mycroft asked.

“98 lives,” Sherlock said.

“Including John?” Mycroft said.

“Yes,” Sherlock said.

“Next code then, Sherlock,” Mycroft said.

Sherlock wiped the whiteboard clean and put up the next letters. “This one is harder,” he said.

“You've solved harder,” Father said. “I gave you harder ones than these, and you solved them. Plenty of time, over 100 seconds still. You're doing fine, Sherlock. Keep going.”

More letters erased and filled in. But it was harder, it was taking longer.

“It's wrong, that's not right,” he said.

“Think like the person who wrote the codes,” Father said. “Stop thinking like yourself.”

Sherlock tried again. He couldn't find the E, but he found the L. The L led him to the S. He found the E. After that, it was child's play.

“No time to double check, put it in,” Father said.

Sherlock typed 'Ballister' in. It was accepted.

“63 lives, John included,” Sherlock said.

“Carry on, you have time,” Mycroft said.

Sherlock put the last code up on the board. He couldn't find a pattern in it.

“What do I do?” he asked. “How do I solve it?”

“Think like the writer,” Father said. “Stop thinking like yourself. What would he cherish? This is the last code, the last straw. This is the last layer, it will mean something to him. What would it be? A name?”

“I don't know, maybe,” Sherlock said.

“Hobbies. What does like to do?” Father said.

“Blow things up!” Sherlock snapped.

“Why? Why is he blowing things up?” Mycroft said. “There's always a why, isn't there? When we solve a mystery, we ask ourselves why. Why, Sherlock?”

“It's a protest, it's anti-government,” Sherlock said. “He's making a point about security. He's showing us we're not safe.”

“Why?” Mycroft pressed. “Why?”

“Someone...someone died,” Sherlock said.

“You're panicking. You're fine, relax,” Father said. “Plenty of time. Don't panic, think.”

“Who died?” Mycroft said. “Why is this important?”

“His sister, she was killed in the 7/7 attacks,” Sherlock said. “That was what started him on the path. That's his point of origin.”

“What was her name?” Father said.

“I don't know!” Sherlock said.

“Yes, you do, come on,” Father said.

“It's... it's.... Elizabeth! But that doesn't fit,” Sherlock said. “It doesn't work.”

“Nicknames,” Mycroft said. “People have nicknames, don't they?”

“It could be anything!” Sherlock said.

“Not if we look at the pattern,” Father said. “What does the pattern tell us?”

“The first two letters repeat,” Sherlock said. “So...erm...sounds that repeat—Elel? Bebe? Li...Lili. Lilibeth? Lili...Lili...Lisp, he had lisp as a child...he might have called her something wrong. I used to call Trevelyan 'Trevy-lyn'...so... maybe... Lili...bess. Lilibess! “

“Now, put it in now,” Father said.

Sherlock typed in Lilibess. The computer accepted it. The clock didn't stop ticking. There were no more codes. Twenty-five seconds left. Sherlock threw himself down to the CPU, and ripped off the side. There were explosives inside it. The countdown was on for them.

“Status?” Mycroft asked. “Lives at stake?”

“Two,” Sherlock said. “Myself and John.”

“Is that acceptable?” Mycroft asked.

“No,” Sherlock said. “No, but I can disconnect some of it. I can make the blast smaller. I need someone who knows how to wire.”

“Get him, then,” Mycroft said.

“Trevelyan!” Sherlock yelled. A small boy with a pirate eye patch ran eagerly into the room. “No, not you. You're too young. Older. I need an older one.”

“Stop yelling, I'm right here,” Trevelyan said. “Always such a drama queen. Am I ever not here when you need me? You just need to ask, but you never do.”

“Help me,” Sherlock said.

Trevelyan knelt down beside him. “Get your multi-tool,” he said. “Follow the wires. What connects to where? That's your power source, there. He's trying to destroy evidence. Disconnect from that. Follow the wires.”

“My hands are shaking,” Sherlock said.

“You need to relax,” Trevelyan said. “Think of something soothing. Find something soothing.”

“Shall I play, Sherlot?” Mummy asked. “You like that.”

“Yes, play something,” Sherlock said.

She put her viola to her chin and they were in the music room at home. Father read a newspaper. Trevelyan's fingers bounced on his knees, humming. Sherlock took a deep breath and followed the wires.

“Yes, cut there,” Trevelyan said. “Cut now, Sherlock, you're running out of time.”

Sherlock snipped the wire. A red light went dead. Another didn't.

“Five seconds, can't do any more,” Mycroft said. “Take cover. John is fine outside the door. Take cover now. Find something.”

“Find something,” Trevelyan agreed. “You taught me physics, Sherlock, how do we distribute the force?”

“Get behind something solid,” Sherlock said.

He looked around and dove for a metal table. He flipped it on its side, the top facing toward the computer hub. He lay behind it, flat on his stomach, face to the floor, hands over his ears.

“Here we go,” Mycroft said.


Sherlock was thrown against the wall, the table bouncing off of it. His head hit the wall, making the room turn blurry. All the oxygen went away as it was displaced from the blast. The windows shattered. Fire bloomed everywhere.

“No, stay down,” Mycroft said. “We're not done yet. Wait for it to settle. Wait for help. The blast has dislodged the chair from the door. Someone will come. Wait.”

Sherlock lay in a ball on the floor. It was just him and Mycroft now. It was hot, the room was red. He was sweating, and his head throbbed. He couldn't breathe.

“Someone will come,” Mycroft said. “Stay still, you'll damage yourself further. John will come. He'll come.”



“There, John is here,” Mycroft said. “He's safe. Talk to him. Tell him where you are. Make a noise. He has to find you.”


“Sherlock. Oh God, you bastard. Are you okay? Open your eyes, Sherlock. Look at me.

“Open your eyes,” Mycroft said.

Sherlock's eyes opened. There was smoke and fire and John. John was there.

“I have to get you out,” John said. “We have to get out of here. Okay, erm...no, don't move, I don't want you to move. I'm going to use your coat to blanket pull you, I have to undo it. I'm just going to undo the buttons. There we go, mate. Okay, I'm going to pull you. Keep still and let me do it. I'm worried about a spinal injury, so keep still. I'm going to support your head with my arm. Just lay still. Let me help.”

“Let him carry you,” Mycroft said. “Good boy. Don't fight. You're fine. John will take care of you.

Sherlock was dragged out, with John pulling him by his coat. He slid across the corridor floor, his view mixing what was real with what wasn't. Everyone in his mind palace seemed to have been jostled about, and he had worried faces looking down at him that flicked away and back again. He saw a view of a smoky sky; John had got him out the door. More people appeared; real ones. Homeless Network members came, and John started directing them about. Sirens screamed in the distance.

“Hey,” John said. “Hey, Sherlock, keep your eyes open. You're not allowed to sleep. You have to stay awake so I can yell at you, okay? Stay awake for me.”

“Baby,” Sherlock murmured. “Is the baby okay?”

“Yeah, Sherlock, of course the baby is okay,” John said. “Just relax. Everyone is fine. We're all okay. Except you, you prat.”

“Acceptable,” Sherlock said. “131 lives.”

“Okay, Sherlock,” John said. “Okay. Nope, eyes open. Keep your eyes open. Keep talking to me. Tell me how you were clever and survived.”

“Had help,” Sherlock said. “I had help.”
shadowfireflame: Sherlock in Molly's labshadowfireflame on March 26th, 2014 03:55 pm (UTC)
Um, bombs probably don't work this way, but there's only so much you can Google before it starts to get weird...

Oh, dear. I often wonder if researching for fanfic puts me on government watchlists...

Wow, what a great use of Sherlock’s mind palace. Incredibly moving.

“Is that acceptable?” Mycroft asked.

“My death is acceptable,” Sherlock said.

It makes me so sad whenever Sherlock thinks like this (which is constantly, I know). *hugs him*

I’m also ridiculously touched by how supportive Siger and Mycroft are to Sherlock in his mind palace, and that Mycroft stayed with Sherlock until the very end. And palace!Trevelyan’s and Violet’s cameos were lovely as well. I wonder if his brothers, at least, know how influential they are in Sherlock’s mind and how much he relies on their expertise even if he pretends not to outside of his own mind. Very touching.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on March 26th, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear. I often wonder if researching for fanfic puts me on government watchlists...

Yes, Sherlock especially has had me Google some very suspicious things. I suppose we can always show them the fic and hope they believe us when we say we aren't actually plotting real murders. Just pretend ones.

Wow, what a great use of Sherlock’s mind palace. Incredibly moving.

Thank you! I'm so glad it worked. I was a bit worried it was a mess.

I wonder if his brothers, at least, know how influential they are in Sherlock’s mind and how much he relies on their expertise even if he pretends not to outside of his own mind

I found it very cool and sweet that Sherlock has assigned 'mascots' to the various types of knowledge in his mind palace, to guide him along in accessing it. I like to think they not only help him remember, but make him feel like he's talking to someone familiar and it helps him remain calm and collected when something goes wrong.

I do have a bit of a fic where Q at least knows he's in there, but only because Sherlock is yelling at him for his mind palace self not having the right information. Which isn't exactly heartwarming. I also liked to think Q has a mind computer that Sherlock taught him how to create, he probably has Sherlock and Mycroft functions that help him out when he needs them.

Thanks for commenting!
aelfgyfu_mead: Sherlock and Johnaelfgyfu_mead on March 27th, 2014 02:28 am (UTC)
I like it. Mycroft does seem to do an awful lot in Sherlock's mind palace, and I like how you added in Father and Trevelyan.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on March 27th, 2014 02:38 am (UTC)
Thank you! Mycroft's role in Sherlock's mind palace was something I found very touching and intriguing, and I couldn't help seeing how my own characters might be portrayed in there. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting. :-)
juliaoh1 on April 9th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed your Sherlock/Q stories. I particularly love the relationships between the brothers ...makes a lot of sense that Sherlock is a middle child! Will keep checking back for new entries, thank you!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on April 14th, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoy them! Thank you for taking the time to comment!