It's after they're safe, safe (the word unfamiliar in John's mouth, discordant), in the back of the ambulance, warm red shock blankets wrapped around their shoulders. Sherlock didn't refuse his this time, both of them soaked to the bone in chlorine-enriched pool water and shivering madly—whether from the cold or the adrenaline or both. They sit, shoulders pressed together, hearing only just returning so that the world doesn't sound so distanced and numb.
Lestrade's team is scouring the wreckage for Moriarty's body, for any body. John knows, Sherlock knows, they won't find one. Sherlock's quiet, trapped in his head, re-wiring his recollections around the last twenty minutes:
This: the feel of the gun in his hand, the trigger under his finger, the pressure and release-
This: John launching himself at Sherlock, body slamming into him, a practiced direction of force and energy, probably his soldier's training-
This: the feel of flying through the air, of gravity's impermeable law that brought the slap of water, the sting of chlorine in his eyes as-
This: the noise, a deafening roar of a thousand trains colliding and rushing towards them in a bright ball of red-orange flame and -
This: John's arms around his body as they plunge sideways beneath the surface of the pool, the water buffeting around them and their clothes-
“Sh-Sh-Sherlock?” John chatters next to him, Sherlock's mind breaking the surface of his thoughts, leaving him almost gasping from the pressure break.
“John. Yes. What is it?” Sherlock refuses to chatter. It reminds him of children, of his childhood, of Mycroft flushing the toilet while he showered. It is unpleasant.
“D-Do they n-need us for-for anything? Can w-we go home?” His back, Sherlock notes, is as straight as it can be, but the chattering belies his vulnerability to the cold, the slight tremor in his voice nothing to do with temperature at all.
Sherlock looks up at the nearest EMT. “You there, I hardly see the point in letting us freeze to death here when you can simply ring us in the morning. You have neither asked us questions nor proceeded in giving us anything to prevent hypothermia beyond this pathetic excuse for a blanket. Do we have your underqualified leave to take ourselves back to our flat and our radiator?”
Beside him, John's mouth twists, but he says nothing.
The EMT's eyes narrow and he nods. Sherlock almost tosses his 'shock blanket' back to him, but John grabs it in his fist and hisses, “We need these.”
It is a long walk for two frozen people to take, so Sherlock hails a taxi and demands the driver turn up the heat. They huddle together in the backseat (though Sherlock would deny he did anything akin to huddling), and Sherlock lets his mind sink back down to the floor of that swimming pool:
Their clothes waved around them in the water, their hair a wild torrent of dark in the blueness. Above them, the surface streaked golden-white and bits of ceramic tile pierced the surface of the pool and floated past their heads.
It was so quiet down there. He recognizes it as Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, knows that soon the buzzing will start, but until then he appreciates the silence. He turns in the blueness to John, whose arms are still wrapped tightly around Sherlock, as tight as that bomb jacket had been around John. Sherlock understands the metaphor and dismisses it all at once.
John's eyes are tightly shut, whether against the water or the light or in fear and anticipation of his endeavor failing. Sherlock wishes he would open them, as the light and the reflection of the blue walls makes John's face appear without life. Also he thinks the explosion above the surface is what some people would call beautiful, maybe. He usually has no concept of these things.
When the pool is filled with mostly debris, and the light has retreated to be flames licking along the beams at the top of the pool building, does Sherlock realize they are out of air. He wraps his arms around John and pushes off the floor of the pool. It seems a long time before they break the surface, John coughing and gasping, mouth wide and head back against Sherlock's arm.
He enjoys those few breaths of air more than he's enjoyed most things, until the smoke in the air nearly chokes him again and his eyes water and his body reminds him what the symptoms of oxygen deprivation are (already he feels his brain slowing down, his body tiring), and he pulls them to the edge of the pool, to a part where there seems to be the least amount of blackened wood and broken tile.
John nearly comes out of his exhaustion and Sherlock helps him push himself out of the pool to lie gasping in a pool. Sherlock follows him, body beginning to shut down in the adrenaline rush's wake. They lie there besides each other in a icy pool of black water, their clothes already cooling down their core temperatures, eyes sliding halfway shut.
John is looking at him. It is more so a look that says something, Sherlock is only unaware for the first time what he is saying with it. Sadness? Fear? Regret?
The amount of smoke in the air around them increases, but their exhaustion refuses to let them leave.
“If we don't......m-move,” John tries to say, doctor's instinct all of it forcing the words from his aching lungs, their volume telling the truth about their hearling loss, “The c-carbon monoxide...”
Sherlock nods, barely an acknowledgment, and remains where he is.
John coughs, a bit of water trickling out his mouth. Sherlock....
Sherlock would be comfortable becoming the smoke, he thinks, becoming the darkness and futility surrounding them. It feels quite enough to lie here motionless besides John, after seeing an explosion above the surface of water, after feeling John's soldier arms surrounding him, crushing him into safety. With his last bit of energy, he moves his hand so that it's resting on John's shoulder, and he nods.
It's there that Lestrade finds them.
The taxi drops them off at 221B Baker Street and they all but fall through the door. It's memories of that first run, that first exhausting chase throught the streets of London, that's got them falling back against the wall just inside the door. Only they do not laugh, this time.
They gasp in great lungfuls of stale apartment air. Sherlock sees John is shivering slightly less. He lets himself drop a hand on the back of John's neck, feel the pulse there beneath the damp cotton. He gathers the fabric in his fist.
John turns to look at him and grabs fistfuls of his shirt, too, probably to keep from falling over.
“Sherlock,” and it's the way John says his name, so similar to all the other times he's said it, but breathless this time, full of worry. Sherlock tightens his grip in John's shirt and turns to go up the stairs, pulling John along behind him.
“Sherlock, no. I-I can't. Stairs. My leg.” He stops and half-turns, sees John gripping the stairway in white-knuckled hands, pain across his face and tight around his eyes.
“In case you haven't noticed, our clothes are rather wet and keeping them on will not assist us, doctor,” he returns to John's side. “So I'm not sure leaving you hypothermic on the bottom of a set of public stairs is the correct choice in this matter.”
John slides down to the floor, the dampness of his shirt leaving a shining trail on the wall behind him.
“Just need to...catch my b-breath.”
This: He is lying about the amount of pain he is in.
This: He has just had a bomb strapped to his chest, a gun pointed at his heart, and a swimming pool explode above his head.
This: His adrenaline has been masking the pain of his leg, and now it is wearing off.
This: He does not want to admit his weakness to Sherlock. And
This: It is past 2am, Mrs. Hudson is most likely passed out from her herbal hip supplements, and John needs to get out of those clothes immediately.
“Right, then.” He crouches in front of John for the second time in so many hours, and begins taking off his clothes.
“W-What are you? Sherlock?” John's feeble attempts to understand only offer Sherlock more of a reason to continue. If he is so quickly losing both motor control and higher brain functions, his apoxia must be quite severe indeed. Sherlock succeeds in unbuttoning John's shirt in a minute or so, his numb fingers taking twice as long to figure out the purpose of buttons. It frustrates him to be so incompetent at such a simple thing that he nearly rips the cloth off of John.
“Come on, then, John, you know as well as I the importance of shared body heat in preventing the worsening conditions of Hypothermia.” John manages to remove his arms from his shirt. He reaches up weakly and paws at the edges of Sherlock's coat.
“Then...why am I t-the only one removing m-my clothes?”
Sherlock feels John's ice fingers at his throat, pushing off his coat. It sends a thrill through him, neurons and nerve ending lighting up in anticipation of heat. He shrugs off the wet garment and the tepid air cools the hairs at the back of his neck.
When his fingers fasten on John's fly, John inhales sharply and Sherlock pauses, eyes sliding sidelong to look at him, to see the way John's eyes glaze over and nostrils flare. He won't meet Sherlock's eyes, only stares at a point just over his shoulder and grasps a little tighter to the cloth around Sherlock's shoulders.
Sherlock undoes John's fly, clumsily drags the zipper down and John's hips twitch. It's a step farther than in the pool, Sherlock's hands tugging at the waistband of John's jeans, nails lightly scratching at the cold skin there.
“You're going to have to stand, or- or lay down furthur.” He wants to add that denim is heavier than other fabrics and can hold the most water, that John needs to let Sherlock take his jeans off of him. John sighs and tips over, lifts his hips so Sherlock can work the soaking denim down his thighs. It clings to his skin, pulls the little hairs along the goosebumps. He tosses the fabric over his shoulder.
John stares up at him, mostly naked, shivering openly now.
Through the chattering of his teeth, he mumbles, “Y-you're wearing m-more clothes th-than is p-proper, Sh-Sherlock.”
So Sherlock stands above John and pulls his shirt over his head, his hair curling around his eyes and dropping icy drops of water down his spine. He fidgets with his fly until he manages to undo it, pushes the wet fabric down past his knees, hops on one leg to pull it over his foot. He toes off his shoes and grabs their discarded blankets and kneels down beside John again. He cannot stop the quivering of his muscles this time, cannot deny the need for warmth.
He thinks nothing of strategically positioning his body to provide the most warmth in the most necessary parts to the both of them. He lowers himself, drapes himself over John and the blanket over the both of them. They both inhale, breath hissing though their teeth as the warmth of their bodies connection radiates through them at all the points they touch.
Sherlock's legs wrap around John's, and for a few seconds, they shiver together, flesh hitching up against flesh, muscles colliding, skin sliding against skin. Then their shivering dies down, only a few jerky twitching into each other every thirty seconds or so.
Sherlock feels the life returning to his bones. He also notices:
This: John is moving beneath him. Slowly, painstakingly slowly, trying not to be too obvious, which means:
This: John is embarrassed. Or, Sherlock is leaning on him too heavily.
He tries to pull away most of his weight, but John twitches. John twitches into him, following his body. Which means:
This: John is not in pain via Sherlock. John is warming up.
This: John is embarrassed.
In his mind, Sherlock takes this clue and pins it to the giant wall in his mind. He takes a step back in his thoughts and categorizes:
This: John's muscles are not relaxing at all.
This: John's heartbeat has increased, as felt beneath Sherlock's hand. In conclusion:
This: John is aroused.
Sherlock pins this also to the wall of his thoughts. John is embarrassed because he is becoming aroused to Sherlock's presence. If it is socially-centered, it is because John fears someone might find them nearly-nude beneath a blanket. If it is not, it is because John is aroused by Sherlock's presence because he is attracted to him.
Sherlock takes his clues and prepares a test.
He shifts his leg upwards. John moans and his hips twitch downwards to grind against Sherlock's knee.
Simple experiment, obvious conclusion.
“Um,” John tries to deny his reaction.
“Silence. Talking wastes energy.”
Sherlock silences John with a slow rocking motion of his hips.
John's words trail off into a deep moan.
“Good. Save your energy.”
Sherlock tries another thing: he feels the coldest part of John is his hands. So he runs his thumbnail down the palm of his hand.
John's legs tighten around his.
The warmest part is the inside of his thigh. Sherlock tries his thumbnail there.
John cries out, “Sherlock!” and stretches into him.
Sherlock, satisfied with his results, rolls fully on top of John and pins his thighs together with his knees and rocks his hips, slowly, explicably slowly, into the heat between them.
John ruts back, their skin warming up (friction, friction) at the places they connect, and Sherlock presses his chest to John's and runs the pad of his thumb over John's nipple.
“Sherlock, ah!” John arches into Sherlock's body. His neck stretches out beneath Sherlock's head, a pale cold throat reminding him of how close he came to losing him. How close Moriarty-NO.
Sherlock growls low in his throat and scrapes his teeth along John's collarbone. He unpins his hips and John wraps his legs around Sherlock's waist and grinds up into him, little puffs of “Ah!” escaping his mouth.
He slides his hands along the lines where the bomb jacket fell, along John's ribcage, over his heart. He scratches himself into the lines of John's body, climbs inside the life and the warmth and the ache and thinks about explosions above water and shrapnel and burning his heart out and
This: John sucking on his throat, where the muscle meets the shoulder, lips curved hot against his skin.
This: John's thighs clenching around his waist, a furnace wrapped around his hips.
This: John's heart beating tandem to their desperate thrusts, friction building and building and burning and building and
Orgasm approaches like an oncoming train, like a bomb beneath his ribcage.
There's no cool water to catch them this time, as they find themselves flung to the ground in a rush of aftershocks.
There's only John's hand buried in the slightly damp curls of Sherlock's hair, the mess of their bodies, and Sherlock's mind finally peaceful, the conclusion, the solution, apparent as day and as sun and as the hard wood beneath their backs:
Moriarty said he'd burn Sherlock's heart out.
Let him try:
It belongs to John.