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Three men in a tub

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“Oi!” John shouted, and banged his fist against the metal ceiling. It hurt too much to go on with long, so he turned his fury on Sherlock instead.

“Who,” he said, rounding on the detective, “gets tangled up in the affairs of evil Viziers in the twenty-first century? Tangled up and stuffed in a bloody cargo container bound for Limassol for good measure? No—don’t answer that.” He held up his hand as Sherlock opened his mouth to speak. “The same kind of people who have archenemies. Obviously. Being stupid for a minute there, I was.”

“Not an evil Vizier. A Grand Vizier. Though a bit evil. And not so Grand,” Sherlock said patiently, as if John were the one with a warped view of the world. “The office of Grand Vizier disappeared in the early 1920s. He just hopes to be one. When the Ottoman Empire is restored.”

“When the Ottoman Empire is restored. Right. Because that’s the key to solving the problems in the Middle East. Blimey.” John squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, where a headache born of adrenaline and constant exposure to Sherlock Holmes was building.

When he opened his eyes again, he noticed that Sherlock was still sitting on the floor of the container, Lestrade’s head pillowed on his thigh. John frowned. It wasn’t like Sherlock to maintain physical contact for so long. He would have expected him to have shifted the unconscious detective inspector onto John’s wadded-up jacket, which was lying next to him expressly for that purpose.

As John watched, Lestrade began to wake up, groaning faintly, and throwing up one arm as if warding off a blow. And then things got even stranger, because Sherlock caught the flailing limb, tangled his fingers with Lestrade’s and held on tight.

Putting aside his shock at Sherlock’s newfound ability to act like a human being, John crouched next to them and gently pushed Lestrade back into Sherlock’s lap.

“Easy now, Inspector—you took quite a blow to the head back there.”

“Yes, the hilts of those ancient scimitars are surprisingly hard,” Sherlock added unhelpfully.

John glared at him, and then turned his attention to Lestrade’s pupils, which were of noticeably different sizes, and to the robin’s egg sized lump on the side of his head, which at least didn’t seem to have grown larger or more tender since he’d first examined it.

“I’m going to need you to try and stay awake,” he said, as Lestrade’s eyelids started to droop again. “You’re concussed.”

“Hmm?” Lestrade said blearily, peering at John in a way that suggested he might be seeing more than one of him. Then he lost interest in John entirely and pressed his face miserably into Sherlock’s leg, whimpering a little, and murmuring, “Sherlo’” indistinctly.

And Sherlock—Sherlock curled a long, steadying palm around Lestrade’s face. And if he didn’t actually say “there, there,” he made noises to that effect.

John was reasonably sure that his jaw dropped like a cartoon buffoon’s. This was completely unexpected. He had seen the two men together often enough, and they had never displayed anything more than professional respect or professional annoyance towards each other. But either there was less oxygen in this ruddy container than he’d thought, or—

“Sherlock,” he blurted out, “are you and Detective Inspector Lestrade--? Are you--?”

He was stuck. But Sherlock just looked at him compassionately, as if John were a particularly prudish sort of maiden aunt who needed to be gently ushered into contemporary sexual practices.

“Yes, John. Whatever it is that you are trying to ask, the answer is yes.”

“But--but what about being married to your work?”

“I am. Most of the time.” John must have been gaping, because Sherlock continued, “Go ahead, ask whatever you like. Now that you and I are sharing a flat, I’d be happy to tell you anything you wish to know about my relationship with DI Lestrade.”

“No. No, really. That’s okay,” John said hurriedly. “I don’t need to know. I’m just—I’m happy for you, I am. He seems like a lovely man.”

“Lov’ly man,” Lestrade agreed woozily, while Sherlock tossed his head with annoyance.

“God! This is why I hate these discussions. Platitudes, nothing but platitudes. Happy for you. Lovely man. Honestly, John, I expected better of you.”

“Oh, alright. Just trying to be civilized. But never mind about that. How are we going to get out of this? Because your—your—the Detective Inspector could use some proper medical attention.”

“Ah, no need to fret about that.” Sherlock looked smug. “Hand me your watch.”

“My watch?”

“Yes, John, don’t be slow. Your watch.”

John gave it to him, rather surprised that the faux-Vizier’s men hadn’t taken it when they’d taken their phones.

Sherlock started doing something fiddly to the back of the watch, while John and Lestrade looked on. Which is to say, John looked, and Lestrade kept his eyes open and pointed in the general direction of Sherlock’s hands.

“There,” Sherlock said triumphantly. “An alarm should be going off in Scotland Yard right about now.”

“You put an—an alarm in my watch?” John asked.

“And a miniature tracking beacon, so the Coast Guard can find us.”

“But why my watch? Why not yours? Or your boyfriend’s?”

“Not boyfriend,” Lestrade and Sherlock said at the same time.

“Never mind.” John sank further onto his haunches and folded his arms around his knees. “Doesn’t matter. I suppose I’m grateful.”

“As well you should be,” said Sherlock.

“Lov’ly man,” said Lestrade, dropping a clumsy, affectionate hand on John’s bowed head.

the end

and three Sally Donavan/Vinnette Robinson icons, just because: