Fortune Favours the WetFandom:
PG-13 (with one R-rated word). Imperiled John. Word Count:
I do not own these characters or their world.Summary:
Things go wrong for John during a case.A/N:
Written for watsons_woes
July Writing Prompt #13: One of those days
. It's late, sorry. Would have been posted sooner, but John wanted a damn good reason for the events happening to him, so I got a bit carried away and now there's parts of a plot or something in here too. *handwaves* Beta/s:
Betaed by ciaranbochna
and Brit-Picked by irismay42
. Also thank you to the kind folks at sh_britglish
for the legal terminology brainstorming. Any remaining errors are mine.-.-
Fortune Favours the Wet
There was something to be said about the quiet of the bottom of a well. It was the sort of 'something to be said' that would not be printable in the Sunday Times, but it was definitely something to be said.
John said it, vehemently, disrupting the quiet.
The close, moist air smelled green. Murky water slapped against the centuries-old water-rounded well-slimed fieldstone walls. Treading water to stay afloat, John was not inclined to admire the architecture. He shouted again. "Sherlock!"
Ock-ock-ock echoed the walls of the well, mocking.Probably hasn't even noticed I'm gone.
When Sherlock did notice, he'd probably text. John's phone was safely in his jacket pocket, easily reachable, fully charged and entirely submerged in the water. Useless.
John and Sherlock had come out to this old field somewhere north of Dudleston Heath in the rare afternoon sunshine looking for a hidden cache of supplies squirreled away by a murderous thief. They'd been trudging around the near-invisible ruin of an old crofter's cabin when something had set Sherlock running off full tilt in a seemingly random direction. He must've caught sight of an old out-building, or a patch of nettles, or a stagnant pond, or god only knows, perhaps something was off in the flight pattern of the butterflies.
John had, as always, run after him, but in avoiding the crumbling remains of a wall he'd managed to find this old well with both feet. It had been helpfully covered over with rotting wood, overgrown with moss and weeds, looking like a small hill. Sherlock must have avoided it, or perhaps flown right over it without noticing. John decisively hadn't.At least I didn't go in head first. Or crack my skull on these stone walls.
The bits of rotten wood that had fallen down with him had been no use at all as floatation devices, being too small to make any difference in his buoyancy, and had broken to even smaller bits when he'd tried pushing them between slime-slick stones that hadn't moved for centuries in an attempt to make rudimentary hand-holds.
His legs were getting tired. His arms were getting tired. His shoulder was reminding him sternly that it had been shot a few years ago, thank you very much, and did not like cold and wet at the best of times, never mind being immersed in them and being required to paddle for... How long had it been? John's 'water-resistant' watch had died quite quickly. A long while. A very long while.
During military training he'd had no difficulty treading water in full kit for half an hour or more at a time. John and his fellow soldiers had been bemused by that part of the training, considering they all knew they were almost certainly being shipped out to desert or inland areas and large bodies of water wouldn't be a common obstacle.
However, that duration of water treading was before the shoulder wound and the long period of lessened physical activity, random Sherlock-chasing aside. Also the coat and trousers John was wearing, unlike military-issue fatigues, weren't designed with a great deal of physical activity in mind, never mind being water-logged. His coat in particular felt like it was made of lead, and fought his every movement. There wasn't enough room in the well to remove it, or even to float for a while and give his limbs a rest from the sculling motions keeping him afloat.
The walls were too far apart (and he suspected also too slick) to try bracing his legs across the well like mountain climbers did in crevices and walking himself up the sides. All his attempts at climbing had failed. In a burst of faint hope, John pushed towards one wall to try again to find any sort of grip on the smooth, algae and weed-covered stones. He raised himself almost six inches before his grip slipped and he fell back into the water, spluttering. Still as slick as soap.
Panic would not help. The best, and perhaps only thing he could do to help himself, now that the options for getting out on his own were exhausted, was not panic.
Eventually Sherlock would notice he was gone and find him. He would. John felt like a tit for falling into a well and getting trapped, but he knew Sherlock would come back for him, and figure a way for him to get out of this bloody well. Provided Sherlock didn't get side-tracked for three hours, painstakingly examining every single item in whatever cache he might find, leaving John alone to drown in this bloody stupid
well when his arms and legs became too exhausted to respond and he-Stop.
John closed his eyes and took a steadying breath, paddling. Don't panic. Think about something else.
If they could find this hypothetical cache the murdering thief had laid by for he went on the run, Sherlock was certain he would be able to determine what the perpetrator's plans were and where he planned to go, so the Yard or Interpol could get there first and catch him. John particularly wanted to ensure this man was caught; he was a bad one.
Over the past week a string of vicious armed burglaries had been committed in a quiet area of detached houses in Enfield. In one the home's occupants had been brutally attacked and were still in Intensive Care, and in the most recent the sole occupant of the house, an elderly man, had been shot dead.
Sherlock had provided the Met team with enough data to conclusively identify the murderer as the elderly man's estranged grandson, a man who had had many minor dealings with the police before. He had committed the other burglaries and assaults in an attempt to cover up the planned killing of his grandfather and the theft of several extremely valuable family heirlooms. Sherlock had said, given the character and average intelligence of the grandson, now that he had achieved his aim of grand-patricide, the burglaries would stop, and the man would flee capture. With some harrumphing, the DI on-site had deemed it enough evidence to bring the grandson in, but insisted the murderer was more likely to strike again, or if not, to go to London to sell the stolen goods, not light out to points unknown.
An argument had broken out then, involving Sherlock spouting a load of amazing nonsense about nettles and pond-weed in the West Midlands, and the harrumphing DI in charge dismissing it all as immaterial tripe, subsequently having them both escorted from the crime scene with a terse "Let the professionals handle this, boys, and thank you for your time," and circulating an All Points Warning for the grandson, now wanted for Murder, GBH and Aggravated Burglary. This, in the end, is why Scotland Yard were stolidly laying in wait for the murderer to either attempt another burglary in Enfield or pawn his ill-gotten goods in the less savoury locales of Central London, while Sherlock had dragged John off to the fields of northern Shropshire, fuming all the way about the heinous collective intelligence of the Met.
This was also incidentally why John was now treading water in a dank old well with limbs that felt like they were made from a particularly painful kind of molten rubber, which in turn was why his mouth and nose had begun dipping below the waterline.
John coughed, gasped and paddled harder. "SHERLOCK!"
Ock-ock-ock laughed the walls.Where the hell is he? He must've run halfway to Wales by now.
A shadow occluded part of the circle of light above him. John breathed a sigh of relief and looked up. "Finally! Sherlock, where-"
John's mouth snapped shut. Unless Sherlock had shaved his head and gained about five stone since John had been trapped in the well, the shadow was not Sherlock.
The shadow laughed, rough and ugly, echoing down the well. Oh. That'll be the murderer we're after then. Of course.
"Well hello there, little fishie." The shadow's arm extended, something metal glinting at the end. "Look at you, all alone in your barrel."
"Christ!" John shoved water in front of him, splashing, fighting to press himself against the stone side of the well as best he could using the fleeting energy from the spike of adrenaline.
The muzzle flash lit the well like lightning, the shot deafening, reverberating in the enclosed space. Water sprayed up in front of John and he cried out. No pain, other than the burning in his arms and legs. Not hit, but the gunman wouldn't be able to tell that. Play dead,
John thought. Maybe he'll go away.
The problem was that playing dead meant sinking into the water. Between the weight of his clothes, the tiredness of his limbs and the very likely chance that this fellow would take another pot-shot or two, the prospect not as advisable as it otherwise might seem. John beat his exhausted arms frantically against the water to keep his back tight to the wall.
"Still swimming, fishie?" The shadow's arm moved, the glint centring on John.
Cursing, John pushed against the slick stone behind him, shoving himself far below the waterline.
Under the water, all sound cut off, muffled. John quickly thrust away from the wall with arms and legs, crossing the small space of the well to cling as best he could to the other side, sinking slowly. He opened his eyes in the green murk, looking up. The shadow-occluded circle of light rippled above him, but no second shot cut into the water. Yet. He made himself as small as he could against the side while trying hard not to sink too much further down into the cold dark. His lungs soon began to register their preliminary annoyance.
Light flashed bright above him and he flinched back, a small burst of air escaping though his nose, but even deadened by the water covering his ears, the sound of a second shot didn't come. Peering up, the well's opening seemed unobstructed now, a circle of rippling light.Maybe the shooter's stepped back, waiting for me to come up for air.
John waited, his lungs beginning to burn. Darkness eclipsed the light circle briefly, then cleared again. Despite kicking his feet and waving his hands in the green murk in an attempt to stay stabilised, John was still sinking.Go up, possibly get shot, stay down, probably drown. Or probably drown sooner.
Looking up through the water at the un-occluded circle while little sparks started dancing in the dark areas of his vision while fighting his breathing reflex, John was running short of time and options.Up,
he thought giddily. I've been shot before. I can handle it.
Pushing water down around him in a proper swimming motion now, John kicked his aching legs and released small bursts of air to ease his panicking lungs, pulling himself towards the surface. He had sunk much farther than he'd thought. Come on, Watson, there are far less ridiculous ways to die.
He kicked harder, arms reaching up towards the light.
When he broke the surface, his gasping and splashing were far too loud in the well. If the murderer was waiting for him to surface, he had to have heard. John pushed numbly back against the side, blinking water from his eyes and looking for that deadly shadow at the mouth of the well, breathing ragged.
As his ears cleared, he could make out a funny sort of rustling and thumping noise from outside the well. The shadow's rough voice carried faintly down; "Get off me you mad fucker!"
John shouted upward. "SHERLOCK!"
"John! Are you- OOF!" Another scrabbling thud and an ugly grunt. "Won't be a moment," came Sherlock's suddenly strained voice.
John felt relief wash through him, but refused to let his arms and legs have any or he'd slip beneath the surface again. He tried once more to wedge his fingers into the slick crevices between the water-smoothed stones, but gave up in favour of continuing to tread water.
A final sounding thump came from above and all was silent. John breathed, watching the lighted circle. Please, please,
John thought, not certain who had won the unseen fight.
A shadow popped into the opening. John flinched against the stones before seeing it was a slimmer shadow with far more hair. "Sherlock." John fought again against the relief, breath huffing from the continuing exertion.
"John! Are you all right?" Sherlock shouted down the well, doing some huffing of his own.
"Apart from being stuck in a bloody well and feeling like my arms and legs might fall off at any moment, I'm fantastic, thanks. How are you?" Sarcasm intact. I may yet survive this.
The Sherlock-shadow touched a hand to his forehead, then pulled it away and wiped it on his coat. "Fine. I found the cache - so simple, that idiot DI could have found it - but the grandson had already been there. He's got the rucksack with him."
"Unconscious. For now."
"Great," John dipped under the surface again momentarily and came up sputtering. "Sherlock, please, could you-"
Sherlock's shadow disappeared from the opening.
"Wonderful." He hoped Sherlock hadn't gone far. John hadn't seen much of anything around the croft house's ruins as he tumbled into the well, but he was fairly certain there wasn't a winch or rope anywhere nearby. He'd probably gone to call for- for whatever emergency service pulled unlucky idiots out of wells. They were a long way from the nearest town, and they'd walked out into this field, so a trip to the nearest town for rope would not be a quick one. Perhaps hours.
John didn't dare allow himself to relax yet, despite the pain shooting through his arms and legs now. There was no way of knowing how soon Sherlock might find help, or some way of getting John out of the well, unless Sherlock's scarf had developed magical lengthening properties in the interim. Until then, John had to keep himself above the water however he could. If he went down again, there might be no coming back up.
Above, he heard rustling and thumping again and hoped against hope that the murderer hadn't regained consciousness.
The light was blocked and then split in two by a broad dark bar, and a rope tumbled down from above, the end whacking John in the face.
"Pfaugh!" he said, clearing hemp from his mouth and grabbing onto the rope.
The Sherlock-haired shadow returned. "John?"
"'Salright, I've got it. Lovely. Brilliant in fact. Just- just need a minute." His arms trembled as he held on. Using the rope to keep himself above the waterline now he sucked in deep, even breaths, trying to counteract the fatigue in his limbs with oxygen before trying to pull himself up any higher. The rope was handily knotted at one-foot lengths. "Where'd you get this?"
"It was here, by the well, along with the beam of wood."
John looked up at the rope and the beam resting across the well's mouth, hoisting himself up a little further experimentally. "It's not rope from the original croft, is it? It'd be rotted through by now."
The Sherlock-shadow disappeared again. Bloody jack-in-the-box.
John sighed and gritted his teeth, pulling himself up to reach the first knot, then the next, listening for any sound that might mean the rope was giving way.
Sherlock reappeared in the well's mouth, looking at something to one side. From the height John was at on the rope, Sherlock's face was less of a shadow and John could see a dark spread of blood at his friend's temple.
"Sherlock, your head-"
Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. "Unimportant. John, the cover, it's been moved frequently. The moss is growing on
the wood, not growing over
the wood, and the weeds were just pushed and flattened to cover. The plant stems are damaged from repeated bending. It was deliberately hidden!"
"Fantastic." Pulling himself higher, John's legs emerged fully from the water. He wrapped them around the rope above lowest knot, bracing his weight on it, letting some water drain from his clothes before continuing. "You can show me everything when I get out of here, yeah?" His shoulder, arms and legs all threatened mutiny.
Flicking out his magnifier, Sherlock leaned over the well to peer at the rope knotted around the wooden beam. "This rope, it's new. No variation in the colour around the knots. Less than a month of weathering if it's been here by the well the entire time."
"Good to know, not likely it's rotten then." John said, forcing himself up higher on the rope in what felt like slow motion, another knot-length, another.
"Not at all! And this beam, the marks, raw where the rope has abraded, the indents from the edges of the well, this man weighs nearly eighteen stone- John! He's hidden something in the well!"
"Brilliant," John grunted, forcing his rubbery limbs up another knot-length and repositioning his feet and legs on knots below him before winding his right arm along the rope to give his screaming left shoulder a moment's rest.
"Look around, can you see any differences in the walls?" Sherlock pulled out his torch and shone it around the walls, glinting off the damp algae.
"Sherlock, really, I just want to get out-" Something caught John's eye. "Wait, no. Go back and down a little."
Sherlock's torch beam swung back.
John chuckled. "There is exactly one
rock down here with no slime on it."
"That's it, John! Can you reach it? Or should I-" Sherlock put his hand on the wooden beam as though to shove it.
"Nonono!" John shouted in alarm at the thought of the beam he was swinging from moving in any way. "It's fine Sherlock!"
Sherlock took his hand off the beam.
John rolled his eyes. Why not, while I'm down here anyway...
Taking a fortifying breath, John edged back down one knot-length, turning slightly, and probed with his chilled fingers around the non-slimed stone. A groove ran along one edge. John dug his short fingernails in and prised it out of the wall, letting the loose stone fall down into the well. Before John could ask, Sherlock had rounded the well to aim his torch into the space where the stone had been.
"Canvas bag." John reached in and pulled it out. It clanked and tinkled.
"The jewellry and easily-sold items from the other burglaries," Sherlock declared. "Of course he wouldn't keep it in his cache, too easy to spot. This though, this is almost smart."
John stuffed the bag into his sodden jacket, not really caring at the moment if it held the Crown Jewels or last week's used tea-bags, and went back to climbing up, one laborious foot at a time.
When he got up high enough to grab the sturdy wooden beam and wrap both shaking arms around it, Sherlock grabbed the back of John's coat and hauled him onto the edge of the old well.
John lay across the well's rim breathing for a moment. Sherlock plucked something from under John's collar with a triumphant cry."Potamogeton friesii!"
"Same to you," groaned John.
He wasn't looking at Sherlock's face but John could practically hear his I am beset with idiots
eye roll. "Flat-stalked pondweed, plague of the old canal system, endangered in parts of North America, once thought extinct in Shropshire in 2002, though it still occurs in the region."
Flopping over the rim of the well like a numb sea lion, John landed with an 'oof' next to the very unconscious murderous grandson who was tidily trussed up with his own belt. He rolled away from the criminal and onto his back, feeling water trickling out of his everywhere. "Yeah? Pond-weed." He breathed up at the bright, unconstricted sky. "Fascinating. You could write a monograph."
"It must be growing down in the well. Our murderer picked it up when hiding the items stolen in the other burglaries, then tracked it into his grandfather's house during the murder. I'd been looking for a pond or old canal section. It's always something." Sherlock clapped his gloved hands together and smiled down at John. "Excellent! It was very lucky you found this well, John."
John snorted. "Fantastic luck. Sure." He pulled the canvas sack out of his jacket with a squelch and tossed it in the general direction of Sherlock's feet. "Tell you what though, next time? You
can have my luck."
(that's all)Post A/N: The strain of getting through this without making a reference to the old TV series Lassie ("What is it, Lassie? Did Timmy fall down a well?") was painful.
Tags: fanfic, sherlock bbc, watsons woes jwp
Current Mood: nervous
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