Characters: Sherlock, John, OMCs
Notes: This was written for an independent project that unfortunately fell through. So here it is!
Warnings: Language, murder.
Disclaimers: BBC Sherlock is owned by its various creators.
Summary: The boys head out into the American wilderness. One of them (guess who) is woefully unprepared. Dark/humor.
John tapped the bottle of pills hard against his knee in a steady rattle.
The night rain falling through the trees had eased up some. The downpour that threatened to extinguish the camp fire had turned into a drizzle. Every now and then a great icy drop would fall from an over head tree branch and somehow always land directly on the back of his neck.
Sherlock was sort of sleeping in the one and only tent.
The standard-issue nylon tent might fit two but John was quite content to spend the evening shuddering in frozen rain rather than try to jam himself in there with … that.
He sighed at the bottle in his gloved hand.
At that very moment Sherlock performed an extra impressive flail inside his flimsy shelter that ripped the securing pegs from the mud and sent the collapsed structure rolling into a shapeless clinging mass around its occupant. The rain took that moment to pick up again and John realized he should probably extract Sherlock before the man accidentally water boarded himself.
But not just now. Not just now at this very moment with the wind whipping chilled wet across his face and his jeans plastered and frozen to his thighs.
In fact, now that he really thought, it would probably not happen tonight.
Heaving out a sigh, he wrapped himself tighter in his dripping parka to at least create the illusion he had any body heat left to conserve. The hopeful fire he'd built was sputtering but still going. Shaking out the tarp, he lay down among the twigs and clumped leaves. Dragging the plastic over himself, he shut his eyes and tried to sleep.
But despite the cold, a drugged Sherlock, and rocks digging into his side, what he was really concerned about was one other thing. It was very difficult to ignore the two very armed and watchful men sitting directly opposite of him in the weak flicker of the flames light.
If hypothermia didn’t get him, he was fairly certain a few bullets would.
24 hours earlier…
It was a pleasant drive for late summer. Driving farther and farther north away from the city of New York and into the roll of unending green mountains, showed a very different side of the empire state. John had all the car windows down and he could smell that edge of autumn in the early morning air. He hadn’t been to America in a long while and had forgotten how vast it could be, how long the drives were between towns and the nearest petrol station.
In fact, a glance at the road map told him the next turn off was the last time he could fill up before reaching his destination still hours away. The ‘town’ was barely more than a street with a few shops and a single blinking red light over an unpaved crossroad. The petrol station doubled as a supply store and after pumping some petrol John ventured inside to the welcome scent of coffee. Wooden planks creaked under his boots as he took in the clutter of fishing poles and sagging shelves of dusty tins and bottles.
“John. John Watson. Is that you?”
This was the last place on earth he thought he’d see a familiar face.
John looked back at the rusted screen door and then to the large man sitting behind the counter as if that would explain it all. Because the last time he’d seen this particular man it was in the back of a Humvee in the middle of a desert.
“Ha ha!” George smacked his thigh. “It is you!”
John’s shock wore off enough to return the sudden rough embrace of his old friend. He’d known lots of Americans during his last tour and this particular solider had been one he’d liked very much. A mostly quiet sort that John preferred to sit with during the long nights, sharing smokes he didn’t really care for and talking about the world outside the war. It was wonderful he realized, to see the man out of uniform and sitting in this far away place quietly threading fishing lures to the sound of a fuzzy radio station.
“What are you doing up here in my woods?”
He’d read the brief file back and forth on the red eye to New York, the one Sherlock had included with his first class ticket. The file hadn’t said much other than to meet Sherlock in the remote regions upstate where very little existed besides woods. Not a local case and nothing of national interest as far as Queen and Country were concerned. He could have spent the entire flight wondering what in that sparse folder of documents had interested Sherlock enough to go dashing out of the country without so much as locking the door. Naturally, the case involved a missing person. John felt he could tell some of the truth.
“I’m, ah, looking for someone. Someone who has gotten into some trouble.”
“Oh!” George perked. “Working for the law now?”
“So to speak.”
“You‘re here for that British guy.”
“Pardon?” John had a brief flash of annoyance at the American assumption that all Brits somehow knew each other.
“Yeah, some Limey who was going through the dumpsters.”
“I didn’t know that was a crime?”
“Not until he started going through the camper’s trash,” George shrugged. “Then breaking in to the RVs. Scared a load of hippies to death. They called the cops and well, they’ve been holding him in lock up waiting for the county sheriff to show.”
“My buddy Harold, he’s the deputy up there,” he said. “Told me the guy was kinda weird. You know, like in the head.”
John took a deep breath. “I think I might know him, actually.” It figured Sherlock was already hard at work.
“You packin’?“ George glanced at the sedan sitting out by the pumps. “Customs can’t have let you bring much.”
He’d barely made it through with a packed Swiss army knife. The rest of his gear that came through was woefully mediocre. John gave a short sigh. “No. I haven‘t got much.”
“Well, you came to the right place.”
John stepped to the side to look into the small closet George opened behind the counter. It was better stocked than most police arsenals. Apparently one could shop for more things than petrol and jerky in American gas stations.
“Isn’t there some sort of waiting period here in the states-”
“Come on, doc,” George‘s smile showed a few gold teeth. “It’s just a loaner.”
John found himself returning the smile with a grin. “I was also told I would be doing some camping as well.”
“Course. Take a look around and find whatcha need.”
“Thanks George,” John meant it more than he could say. “I really appreciate it.”
“Aw come on. You patched me up more than a couple times. All I’m doing is returning the favor.”
Turning to look around the shop, John spotted the perfect green drab backpack that could hold everything he might possibly require.
“So,” George got down to business. “You still like carrying around a pistol?”
Water bottles. Packaged food. A decent compass. Weaponry. John was starting to feel a lot better about his near future.
The local jail didn’t really look much like a jail. When John pushed open the glass door (that let out a pleasant chime to announce his arrival) he felt more as if he was entering an old convenience store that had been abandoned in the 1970s. There was a desk with a television on it. The man sleeping on the duct taped sofa in the corner looked comfortable enough.
He was about to interrupt the deputy’s nap when a strange smell hit him. He had to squint at the strength of it, gagging a little as it started to leave a bad taste in his mouth like burning rubber. Coughing, he considered walking right back out into the fresh air.
“Oh… well, hey there,“ the man snorted awake. “You must be the doctor. Georgie send you?”
John nodded. “You must be Harold.”
“Yeah, he said the perp’s ‘doc’ was gonna come.”
“I guess that would be me.” John nodded again. “I’m his doctor. Yes.”
“He’s right back there,” Harold yawned. “Door ain’t locked or nothing.”
John hurried past him and down the only hallway. There was a restroom, another empty office and then one last door that was closed. Looking through the glass pane he saw the familiar rumpled heap of dark tweed and too long legs. Sherlock lay on a cot with his hands steepled over his chest. Finally. After the long trip it was a sense of relief to see him. Not bothering to knock, John opened the door only to find the horrible stink quadruple in force and slam into his senses like a physical wall.
“Christ, what is that… smell?”
“Smell?” Sherlock asked.
“Do they use this station as a morgue?” John choked. “A very badly refrigerated morgue?”
“Oh, that.” Sherlock waved a dismissive hand.
“But what the hell is it?”
“It’s me. Obviously.”
Sherlock managed to look even more smug than put out. “Well, not actually me, of course. It comes from an oil based musk produced by a Mephitis mephitis from the family Methitidae.”
“Sorry, a what?”
“A monochromatic North American mammal. I never imagined they grew to be that large,” Sherlock tiredly stood and ran his hands over his rumpled dress shirt. “I landed right onto the thing jumping out of a skip. Very stupid animals really, you think it would have heard me coming-”
“Sherlock,” John tugged his sleeve over his hand so he could hold it over his nose and mouth. “I think we should fetch your things and leave right now.”
“No need, I’ve got it all right here.”
John stared at the coat in Sherlock’s hands.
Sherlock reached into the pockets and produced a small torch and what appeared to be a brand new phone.
“That’s all you’re bringing into the woods?” John grit his teeth. “A coat, a flash light and a phone?”
“It’s a satellite phone, John,” Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Do you really think l’d go tramping through wilderness expecting cell phone towers? You don’t put much stock in me do you.”
John clamped down on his response and followed him out the door, giving a nod to the curious officer waiting for them by the entrance.
“By the way,” John asked as soon as they were a safe distance to the car. “Why wasn’t your phone confiscated?”
“I told the good officer it was a calculator.”
“You could have rang me,” John said. “It would be nice to know a bit more before I'm sent scrambling across international borders on some bloody camping trip!"
As ever, Sherlock was delightfully oblivious.
“Problem?" He demanded. "Right, come along John."
It was another few hours to the camping grounds which were spent in windy silence. The wind because of all the open windows (John was pleased to discover that Sherlock was correct, the reek of skunk did fade with exposure) and the silence due to lack of conversation.
John glanced at Sherlock in the rearview mirror, amused more than annoyed that he was sitting in the back as if he were in a cab.
The afternoon sun was slanting through the trees when they arrived. There was a small dirt road that lead to parked camper vans and a scatter of tents. It was a small grounds that hikers used as a base to explore the local mountains and the nearby lake. Most people only ventured as far as that but some chose to walk deeper into the park and camp for days or weeks at a time on mostly unmarked trails.
And that was where John knew they must be headed.
Sherlock only glanced at the giant backpack John had pulled from the boot before turning to study a weathered map on display at the edge of the car park. The trails meandered for kilometers in every direction, and then beyond that it was nothing but unchecked deep woods.
John grit his teeth when he saw Sherlock already headed for the nearest trail, dressed as he dressed everyday. Black jeans, shoes suited perfectly for pavement, and a heavy coat designed for gray London skies. The trail turned to mud the first few meters in and the undergrowth thickened into green walls.
John heard Sherlock softly swear as he ended up ankle deep in a rank puddle.
This was going to be a long hike.
John found his stride within the first hour. He concentrated on his footing along the uneven terrain listening to Sherlock’s progress a dozen meters or so ahead. Sherlock wasn’t exactly hard to monitor however, even when he was out of sight. His long coat caught constantly in the brambles that grew into the path, and every so often before John learned to keep some distance behind, a heavy tree branch that had gotten in Sherlock’s way would whip backwards into John’s face. It felt right settling into the walk, the heaviness of his pack on his shoulders, the steady pace that wasn’t so much pleasant as it was familiar. The feel of a machine gun over his shoulder and cradled against his forearm would have made it all complete; but all things considered, the weight of the pistol at his hip was sufficient enough.
Stepping over a mossy log, John nearly slipped in the slick mud but caught himself in time. He sped up a little intending to warn Sherlock about his footing considering the lack of tread on his shoes and--
John had never really seen Sherlock do anything ungraceful. And it seemed twisting his ankle between two rocks was one of those things the man could do without appearing as if he’d lost all control of his body. Sherlock slightly swayed and then turned to settle hard on a nearby boulder instead of hurtling face first like most anyone else would have done. Along with all his other skills, Sherlock also seemed to be able to defy gravity.
“Are you all right?” John let his pack slip off his shoulders. He wanted to start a tirade of I Told You So. The opportunity almost made him giddy. However, the furious look on Sherlock’s face gave him pause. It wasn’t directed at John though, the glare was all for the offending rocks that had gotten in the way.
Sherlock got unsteadily to his feet. The first step seemed okay. The second was not as sure and Sherlock wobbled dangerously, the weight on his right foot nearly bringing him down on one knee.
“So that’s it then?” John asked. “You’re just going to walk on a sprained ankle for the next 10 kilometers?”
“Don’t… Don’t be so dramatic John.”
“Fine. Good.” John angrily shrugged his pack back on. “Keep right on going as you’re strolling through bloody King’s Cross and not the bloody American wilderness!”
“What does your GPS say?”
Thanks to George, John had one hooked on his belt. He read the coordinates.
“Then this is where we turn off the beaten path as it were,” Sherlock sighed. “And we head East.”
“Why? What’s out there?”
“It was the last position Mrs. Cartwright sent her husband, Leonard Cartwright.” Sherlock gave John a brief but self-satisfied smile. “On her satellite phone.”
“Cartwright.” John frowned. “Cartwright… why does that sound familiar…”
“Because he is an American Congressman.”
“Oh. Right.” John had a sense of dread as he looked up at the waning light. “Isn’t he the one that’s been getting all those threats? To his family?”
“The very one.”
Before John could ask any further, Sherlock had plunged into the trees and began making his way through the bushes. Checking the sky again, John knew they only had a few more hours of daylight before traversing through the woods would start to become a very bad idea.
Following Sherlock’s steps he wondered just when exactly he would have to pull rank.
The going got worse, of course.
Sherlock’s unholy smell had somehow regenerated after he’d managed to get completely soaking wet. The damp had refreshed the musk from the fibers of his clothes and now John could keep track of Sherlock stumbling ahead through the undergrowth based on scent alone.
John actually did feel a bit sorry for him. The ankle hadn’t helped Sherlock much on the used trail but now that they had nothing under their feet but one pitfall after another, it made sense that Sherlock would lose his footing occasionally.
Unfortunately he did so on top of a small ridge that sloped down a few meters into a shallow stream that twisted and gurgled alongside them. John did try and reach out as he saw Sherlock about to tip in the most tragic of directions but he was one second too late.
After crashing through several saplings unlucky enough to be in the way, Sherlock had ended up face down in less than a foot of water. And he was so still for a moment that John thought he might have struck a rock with his head.
But he hadn’t.
He had laboriously stood (now that his heavy wool coat was ten times as heavy) and slowly withdrawn his utterly useless telephone. After Sherlock struggled back up the steep slope, John let him retake the lead; mostly to be out of his line of sight. Because what Sherlock lacked in experiencing embarrassment, he always made up for with an abundance of outrage. An hour went by and they silently passed Mrs. Cartwright’s last reported coordinates with nothing of note but more endless trees. The sun was becoming a dull red glare through the dense weave of branches.
Just when John was finally going to suggest they stop before they were left in the dark, Sherlock came to sudden halt in a small clearing amongst the evergreens.
“Hm.” Sherlock sank to a crouch. “Interesting.”
It was a camp site.
An empty one.
“The fire pit,” Sherlock declared. “It indicates this camp is more than a day old.”
John circled the soot covered stones set up around the charred logs of wood and had a thrill of knowing, for once, Sherlock was not correct. “No,” he touched the wet ash. “Less than that. It was used last night.”
“You might know tobacco ash but I know a fire,” John said. “I followed enough insurgents around for too many years.” He looked up for some mild gloating but Sherlock was already distracted and moving further around the camp as if that detail never mattered.
“There were three people here,” Sherlock stooped down to look into the abandoned tent, his gaze then intent on the mud surrounding it. “Two males and one female. A heavy one.”
“Yes,” Sherlock attempted to swing around again and momentarily stumbled on his bad ankle. “Apparently the wife of the congressman is not only an outdoors enthusiast, she is also of plus size. The three went off in that direction, and- uh…”
With a groan, Sherlock slowly sank down into a portable canvas chair that was left beside the tent. It seemed when the hunt was at its pause there was nothing to do but acknowledge one’s own body. Most importantly sprained joints.
“I just need a moment-”
“Yes,” John was already in his back pack fishing for the bottle of pills that would at least bring some edge off the discomfort. “I brought these just in case.”
Sherlock’s eyes lit up.
“Don’t get excited,” John tossed the bottle to him. “It’s just Tylenol.” Grinding his palm against the child proof cap, Sherlock shook out a handful and chewed them like candy. John tried, but failed, not to wince. “Now take off that wet coat,” he looked around and was pleased to see dry firewood under a tarp. “It’ll be night soon and we need to stay warm.”
Evening in the woods. Some hot dogs and beans. And a real actual tent that may keep them slightly out of the elements. Well. Maybe one of them. It was small. John glanced up as he felt the first drops of rain dripping from the trees. The fading sky was an unpromising shade of gray. If they were lucky it wouldn’t turn into a full on squall during the night…
Life was never good when he heard his name spoken by Sherlock in that particular slow and halting way. And it was right about then when he felt something nudge hard between his shoulder blades. He knew enough to know what that meant. Raising his hands, he turned slowly to look at the person behind him with the rifle.
“George?” John didn’t want to sound that surprised. “What… what are you-” His hand slid towards his hip, the pistol there and ready. However, the butt of the rifle under his chin stopped that idea fast enough.
“Sorry old boy.“ George smiled in an apologetic way. “I wasn’t expecting to see you out here either. Thought you were here just to pick up your friend. But now well, don‘t take it personal. It‘s just business.”
John swallowed. “It seems we’ve both gotten new jobs out in the world.”
“I’ve got even better news,” Sherlock interrupted.
John was alarmed to see Sherlock lounging in the sagging chair with an odd grin on his face. Sherlock shook the now near empty pill bottle and his grin dissolved into a soft laugh.
“S’not Tylenol John,” he explained with a delighted slur. “It’s oxycodone.”
John watched another man appear out of the woods behind Sherlock, just as armed as George and with an even more disturbing smile on his face. Good old deputy Harold. Just as Sherlock said. Three pairs of tracks. Two males and…
“What’s oxy-what-done?” George asked.
“Don’t you know?“ Sherlock stood and spread his arms out wide, letting the rain fall on his upturned face. “A wondrous and beautiful narcotic. Besides being an excellent pain killer it also provides an euphoria that even makes even you lot seem excruciatingly less… worthless.”
“Oh god,” John was trying to keep his eyes on the rifles. “Why would those be in a bottle labeled as... Oh never mind.” John should have known better to trust labels in his own home. That he shared with Sherlock.
“Well,” Sherlock abruptly yawned. “I’m to bed. See you in the morning.”
And with that, instead of entering the small tent, Sherlock collapsed directly on top of it.
And this is how John couldn’t stop rattling what was left of Sherlock’s drug supply in the middle of a rainy night. Right on his knee. Bang. Bang. Bang. Staring viciously at his captors didn’t seem to help at all. So while said captors were smoking a joint, he rolled up into some plastic tarp and did what he always did. He made the best of it.
He had a strange dream about Sherlock trying to choke him with a sock.
But John did actually manage to sleep a few hours wrapped in the tarp. If the army gave him anything at all it was how to pass out even during duress. Until he was awakened by the rifle poking him in the back. To his surprise, Sherlock was already up and standing at the edge of the clearing examining the cloudy sky. He was swaying a bit, but he seemed as alert as ever. John hoped. Sherlock’s lips weren’t completely blue anyway.
“Ok boys, we got enough light now.” George gestured with his rifle into the trees while Harold gnawed on a granola bar. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” John stumbled to a stand, his limbs stiff with the cold.
“Where she did.” Sherlock took the lead.
“They’re keeping her somewhere?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Shut up!” George ordered. “The both of you.”
“Bodies, John,” Sherlock was doing the best he could with walking. “There are hikers all over these woods. You’d want to dispose of a body properly.”
“The wife, she’s dead then?”
“Of course she is.”
“I said shut the hell up!”
John saw Sherlock shoot a look back over his shoulder but it wasn’t directed at the two men holding the weapons. It was for John. And John knew what that look meant. There was only one thing for it and John was the only one at the moment able to run. Easy enough. Checking his watch, he clocked an hour of what felt like a blind wander through the evergreens. They had to wait until they were close enough to their destination, to the body, and then….
Like with all violence, it usually happens quickly and in a blur. John took off into the woods knowing to dodge rifle fire and knowing at least one of the two men would follow him. He’d been hoping it wouldn’t be George but it was. It felt very wrong to remember exactly where his former friend had been shot, to crush the kneecap and deliver as much pain as he could without ending the man’s life.
Taking the weapon, he left the solider panting in the wet leaves, retching from the pain and cursing John’s name.
The forest was oddly quiet outside of that.
There was a faint reply of, here here over here, a tone that John knew was impatience and not danger. Stepping over the crumpled body of deputy Harold, John could hear the sound of water. He could smell it. The gentle lap of waves and the strong scent of mildew, rotting wood and fresh dirt. Through the damp branches he spotted Sherlock standing on a small rise, the forest giving way to an open expanse of black water being delicately dotted by a soft rain.
“I was wrong,“ Sherlock said quietly. “She wasn’t plus sized.”
John began to climb the muddy incline that lead to the lake’s edge. “What?”
“The female. The wife.”
“You found her?”
John swore as he slipped and both hands and knees went into the thick mud. He struggled to his feet and tried to catch his breath.
“She was carrying something.” Sherlock said. “Something heavy.”
John stilled at the sight on the stony shore.
There was a very small body laying in disarray in the sand. Face down. Pale matted hair clinging to a water soaked pink down jacket. Chipped lavender nail polish on tiny white fingers.
John shut his eyes.
Sherlock turned and started to limp carefully down the bank.
“The other body.” John shook, his sweat chilling his already damp clothes. “Are you looking for the other body?”
“Check your lovely friend for a phone.”
“I was wrong again, John.”
John could barely hear him as Sherlock paused to look out over the rippling water. “There was only one person sending the Congressman threats,” he said. “She hired those men to stage and commit murder but didn't feel much like dying herself. Make sure Mycroft is informed she could be anywhere within 100 miles and most likely using Canadian roads with a forged passport."
John knelt down next to the body letting his fingers touch an ice cold hand. Sherlock heard his unspoken question and answered softly.
"Revenge. Money. Mostly revenge. But it doesn't really matter does it?"
Adrenalin was fading and turning everything back into dizzying and sickening reality. When John’s knees hit the stones he’d realized he had gashed one right open taking George down. An ache in his jaw told him his lovely friend must have gotten in a few good ones somewhere in between. John was about to stand back up but it felt too terrible to leave her alone. His trembling hand rested on her head. John was suddenly so tired. So bloody tired.
He looked up to see Sherlock had continued his walk down the water’s edge.
“Where are you going?” John called. “Sherlock!”
Sherlock did not turn around.
“The phone John,” he answered. “Get the phone.”
“And then what?”
Sherlock gave him one last look.
“We go home.”