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Sherlock Fanfic: Caught in the Undertow (JWP 2016 #20) - CaffieneKittySpace
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Sherlock Fanfic: Caught in the Undertow (JWP 2016 #20)
Title: Caught in the Undertow
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Alternate Postings: AO3
Rating/Content: PG13, peril, blood, drowning, stabbing, case-ficlet, Watson whump, mixed POV
Warnings: blood, drowning
Word Count: 1330
Disclaimer: Not my world.
Notes: Written for watsons_woes July Writing Prompt #20: Turn of the Tide. It's been a few years now since I last dropped a Watson in the water, he's about due for a dip. Not happy with this, but time's up.

Summary: On review, John thought as he sailed over the railing, getting into a brawl with a murderer on Tower Bridge had not been a wise choice.

Caught in the Undertow

On review, John thought as he sailed over the railing, getting into a brawl with a murderer on Tower Bridge had not been a wise choice.

He heard Sherlock's alarmed shout, dopplering away behind him.

John hit the water and everything went black.


On the bridge, Sherlock stared over the rail into the water, eyes moving rapidly, looking for any sign of John surfacing.

Behind him a rough voice growled, "One down, one to-"

Sherlock snarled, pivoted, and punched the knife-wielding felon in the face. His nose crunched gruesomely, and he went down like a sack of particularly murderous potatoes.

Before the felon had hit the bridge deck, Sherlock had his phone out, calling 999, running.

"The Hammermill Hachetman is unconscious on Tower Bridge and a man has fallen off the bridge," Sherlock said, running, keeping an eye on the water. "The man in the water has been stabbed. Repeat, stabbed. Send police and an ambulance immediately. And a boat."


Cross your legs and arms, hold your shoulders, hope the water's not shallow, was John's first thought as he woke in dim water that stung in his eyes. All his joints were screaming, his chest felt like an elephant had sat on it, his lungs burned for air. Bit late for that.

He tried to clear his mind but was having no luck. Up is air, light is up. Go toward the light. What little light he could see seemed to be coming from everywhere.

The urge to breathe was overpowering, but he fought it down. Floating wasn't going to happen with his coat on, so John moved to take it off. A burst of bubbles escaped with an involuntary grunt of pain as his struggle was rewarded with a sudden tearing agony in his left shoulder.

Dislocated in the fall? He turned his head left and noted that even in the dimness, the water got very much redder on that side of him.

Oh. Stabbed. Right, John thought woozily as he continued to sink.


Sherlock didn't run to the end of the bridge but across it, diagonally. He skidded to a halt at one of the bridge tower footings, stuffing his still-connected phone - they'll triangulate the location if they aren't complete idiots - into his coat pocket. He then shucked off his coat and shoes before climbing over the railing onto the latticework of iron stanchions.

Flow rate, direction, mass, drag. Time. His eyes kept scanning the water, scarcely looking for handholds as he climbed down towards the access ladder. Come on, John.


Sinking. John's need to breathe was overpowering all thought except one. Sinking.

Opposite of sinking is floating. Floating is up. Up is air.

Clenching his teeth against the urgent need to take a breath and closing his eyes as he wasn't seeing anything useful with them, John kicked hard against the sinking, pulling water past him with his working arm.

Bright sparks shot through his vision as John's labouring motions demanded more air he couldn't get to. Think of anything else. Sherlock's on the bridge with a knife-wielding murderer. Right.

It didn't do a thing towards lessening John's urge to inhale, but it did significant things to his levels of adrenaline. John kicked harder, pulled with his uninjured arm, closed his eyes and hoped their quarry hadn't killed Sherlock.


Sherlock cursed himself for not bringing his torch down with him. It was up on the bridge with his coat. He clung to the last rung of the access ladder, scanning the dim waters for shapes, motion, reddish patches of John's blood.

In the water, something moved. Sherlock waited one second to see it move again, make sure it wasn't some bit of detritus.

Darker blob, small paler spot moving in a slow vague sculling motion. One handed water treading, but too slow. Bubbles.


Sherlock dove into the water.


Another small burst of held breath escaped John as he tried to force his lungs to hold out just a bit longer. He was sure he wasn't sinking anymore, but he wasn't sure of his progress towards the surface, and really, knowing wouldn't matter a damn. He'd get there or he wouldn't and seeing the distance wouldn't change that. Even if he could see the distance at all.

Muscle exhaustion was setting in firmly and the lack of air was making everything worse. The loss of blood wasn't doing much to help either. His stabbed shoulder had stopped screaming for attention shortly after he'd begun trying to kick his way to the surface. Probably just the cold. Get to air first, deal with the rest of it later.

Suddenly the muffled-water world he was suspended in made a loud sound, followed by thrashing noises. The rest of John's air escaped him and his eyes flew open underwater, suddenly thinking of boats and propellors. He thrashed his arm around, kicking away, but the ache and numbness had set in, too far gone for another burst of adrenaline to do anything.

Don't breathe, don't breathe, don't... don't... no...

As John focussed solely on the hopeless fight not to inhale, his exhausted limbs and sodden jacket dragging him down again, he saw something pale approaching fast in the dim water.

But his vision constricted to blackness before he could see what it was, or feel the strong hands catch the collar of his jacket and begin pulling.


Sherlock erupted from the water, spluttering and pulling John up to the surface, latching one arm around his flatmate and swimming for the cement tower footing.

"John!" he shouted as he kicked and swam one-handed, even though John was only inches away. "John!!" A wave washed over Sherlock's face and he coughed.

John didn't respond. With one arm wrapped around John's chest, Sherlock couldn't feel John's chest expanding. No breathing.

No. "JOHN!!" Sherlock reached the cement footing and pulled John around so he was right against the wall. On the bridge overhead, sirens wailed.

It didn't matter, nothing mattered if John wasn't breathing. Sherlock stared helplessly at John's pale face. John had to breathe. John did not get a choice in the matter.

Gritting his teeth and biting out a curse, Sherlock punched John's injured shoulder.


Pain exploded. John inhaled.

It felt like he inhaled for a week but almost immediately began choking and coughing. He tried to roll on his side, he was still in the water, what, something was restraining him, he couldn't he had to swim up, he thrashed.

"John!" came Sherlock's voice, "John! Don't struggle! I've got you!"

It took a moment and some heavy coughing and another week-long breath before John's head cleared. "Sh-sherlock." Another wet breath. "Did you just punch me, you prick?"

Sherlock laughed, keeping them right against the cement footing while awkwardly folding the front of John's jacket up and over the knife wound. "Had to wake you up somehow. Sleeping on the job like that. Hardly professional. Brace yourself."

John coughed then nodded. Sherlock pressed the folded material against the still bleeding wound in John's shoulder, pushing him back against the cement.

Hissing, John swore vilely in two different languages before he had to cough and draw in another deep breath, closing his eyes against the renewed pain.

He could feel Sherlock staring at his face. "No blood when you cough. Didn't hit the lung. Good."

"Too high. Just under the clavicle. 'S'fine." John breathed. "More worried about the exposure to Thames water."

"What?" Sherlock said blankly.

John grinned, eyes still closed, beginning to shiver. "Open wound. So many pathogens. I'll get infected with a dozen different bacterial colonies." He coughed. "You'll love it. Turn my shoulder into a bloody bio-hazard lab."

Sherlock snorted. John giggled, but it quickly broke into further coughing.

"Did he get away?" John asked in time, throat rasping.

"Not unless the police can't catch an unconscious man."

"They do have their bad days on occasion." John smiled.

Sherlock smiled back. "There's handholds and a ladder up, or they should be bringing a boat shortly."

John looked up at the distant underside of Tower Bridge, then down the river to where a spotlight with blue flashing lights was approaching at speed.

"If it's all the same to you," John said, "I think I'll wait for a lift."

(that's all)

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8 comments or Leave a comment
borgmama1of5 From: borgmama1of5 Date: July 21st, 2016 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellently nerve-wracking!!!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 22nd, 2016 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
donutsweeper From: donutsweeper Date: July 21st, 2016 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, excellent! But no, Sherlock, punching someone in a stab wound is not the standard way to administer aide! (Although, I guess, it is effective and that's what matters)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 22nd, 2016 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
It really isn't (though my vague memories of the history of rescue breathing have something about causing the person pain to make them gasp, maybe?). Them both being in the water and John tending to sink would have made the more St. John's Ambulance approved in-water rescue breathing methods impractical, awkward and really slow, so Sherlock went for a painful punch.
gardnerhill From: gardnerhill Date: July 21st, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, a real nail-biter!

And sadly, Sherlock would love a chance to study all the nasty things that infected John's shoulder, wouldn't he?
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 22nd, 2016 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
He definitely would!
capt_facepalm From: capt_facepalm Date: July 24th, 2016 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
"Did he get away?" John asked in time, throat rasping.

"Not unless the police can't catch an unconscious man."

Such wonderful snark!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 24th, 2016 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
8 comments or Leave a comment