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The Case of the Vanishing Pants

Chapter Text

It was the week between Christmas and New Year. Sherlock had been back for six months, but John had been reluctant to join him on cases, despite repeated invitations not only from Sherlock but also from Greg, and, once - disturbingly - from Mycroft. John was still living in the basement studio flat he'd moved to after Sherlock's 'suicide'. Sherlock was back at 221B, the interim tenants having been encouraged to decamp by means which John had no interest in knowing about, but which were undoubtedly dubious if not illegal. Sherlock had asked John to come back, but John was still hurt from the betrayal, even if he knew now what Sherlock's reasons had been. He simply wasn't ready to entrust his life - and his heart, now that he knew it - to Sherlock again.

It was true that Sherlock had made an effort - an admirable one, for him at least - at making up, starting with an honest-to-God apology, followed by sitting quietly while John raged at him until his anger was spent, and respectful observation of John's requests not to pop up during his dates. (Although, truth be told, there had been one or two lately where John would have been glad for the excuse. It seemed like there simply weren't any interesting women left in London.)

Another truth was that John had missed Sherlock like hell, had been slapped in the face with exactly how much Sherlock had meant to him, and in what ways, but after the first year, he had forced himself to move forward. He had mourned not only his friend, but the life they had led together, and once Sherlock returned, it was difficult to reverse that process. Now, six months later, he felt the renewed itch to join his erstwhile best friend and current ... well, undefined something-or-other - on an investigation, and as a sort of Christmas present (at least in his own mind, although it was never explicitly stated as such), he'd agreed to tag along on Sherlock's next case.

Which was why he was currently sneaking around a complex of buildings at an industrial food processing facility in the dead of night in sub-freezing temperatures at the end of December, trying to gather information on a meat smuggling ring that may or may not have branched out into fleshly trade of another sort altogether.

God, he'd missed this.

The air was frigid and heavy with the smells of decomposing organic products and vehicle exhaust. Sherlock insisted that they not use torches, so as not to draw attention to themselves, meaning they were reduced to feeling their way along the side of a metal shed. John was glad for his black Haversham jacket and new Christmas jumper from Harry. Sherlock, of course, was wearing his ubiquitous Belstaff - the same one he'd jumped in, which... well, macabre didn't even begin to cover it, but Sherlock seemed to view it as a good-luck charm of sorts, so John had learned to keep his mouth shut about it.

A sound up ahead, boots scraping against icy gravel, caused Sherlock to thrust his arm back toward John in a signal to stop moving. Through the ventilation grates in the next shed, they could see muted, cursory flashes of light, as if someone were aiming a torch around inside.

Sherlock drew back to whisper in John's ear, "There they are." John could hear the delighted grin. "Get your gun ready."

"I'm not shooting anyone, Sherlock," John insisted under his breath, but he reached behind him to extract the SIG from its holster under his jumper.

"Just a precaution," Sherlock said, fluttering his fingers dismissively in John's direction. "These sheds only have one door. They're sitting ducks."

He began creeping forward, with John following and scanning the rooftops and shadowy corners around the lot as well as he could in the poor lighting. They slipped across the gap between the sheds, and Sherlock stood on one side of the closed door, his arm extended across it to grasp the handle, while John crouched against the wall on the other side, holding his gun in both hands, angled toward the ground. His heart was thudding solidly in his chest, the familiar rush of excitement steadying his hands and focusing his attention on the door and whatever lay beyond it. It was as if the past two years had been erased, and wasn't that a frightening thought.

He nodded once, and Sherlock yanked the door open as John rotated on one leg to extend the gun into the dark space, alert for any reactions. There were none. Slowly, he stood up and reached around the wall, feeling for an intuitively placed light switch. He didn't find anything, but Sherlock had come over to John's other side and was working on a locked control box attached to the outer wall. He had it open in a matter of seconds, and flipped a couple of switches.

A sickly, yellow light flickered into existence inside the shed, revealing several rows of metal trolleys on wheels, so tall that they reached nearly to the ceiling of the low room. The trolleys were outfitted with brackets, enabling each to carry a couple of dozen trays, like oversized cafeteria trolleys. At the same time, a low drone began, which soon escalated into a gentle roar, as the overhead fans inset into the ceiling came to life.

There were no signs of any other people.

They slipped inside the shed, keeping their backs to the wall. Sherlock put his finger to his lips and lay down on the gritty floor, checking beneath the trolleys for feet as far back as he could see. He shook his head and indicated that John should move further into the shed; surely the culprit was hiding somewhere toward the back.

Using the trolleys for cover as much as possible, John made his way through the shed, his adrenaline level ratcheting ever higher as it became more and more certain that the last corner would reveal their quarry.

It was thus something of an empty punch to his gut when the last row of trolleys yielded nothing more sinister than a small pile of brownish sludge.

John stepped back out where he could see Sherlock and shrugged, replacing the gun underneath his jumper. He waited to speak until he was next to Sherlock and could be heard over the sound of the fans.

"Must have been something else we saw," he said.

"There was a light," Sherlock insisted, letting his eyes dart around the tight space, gauging other possible hiding places. There weren't a lot of possibilities.

"What now?"

"Now they know we're here," Sherlock said. His annoyance was evident.

"Come back another time, I guess." John was a bit disappointed too, but maybe it was better that tonight's adventure ended here. He was out of practice, and he wouldn't have liked to become a liability. Work back up to it slowly. And God, that said it all right there. He already knew he'd be joining Sherlock next time, too.

Still shooting suspicious glances into corners, Sherlock went to open the door. And stopped. It wouldn't open. He depressed the handle firmly and pressed his shoulder against the door. Nothing. He whipped around, his gaze suddenly fixed on the ventilation grates high up in the walls. "God," he groaned, clutching his head. "Stupid!"


Sherlock gestured violently at the grates. "They shone the light in from the outside, to lure us in. Oldest trick in the book, and I fell for it!"

John reached over and tried the handle himself, but as expected, to no avail. A cold feeling gripped his gut. Sitting ducks, indeed.

"Sherlock, get away from the door." He grasped Sherlock's sleeve and retrieved his sidearm again.

"Oh, they're long gone," Sherlock said in disgust, but allowed himself to be led back and pulled down to crouch behind the first row of trolleys. From there, they could still see the door from between the trolley frames, but they at least had a modicum of cover.

"You don't know that," John said, incredulous at the man's utter lack of self-preservation instinct.

"If they're not, they're stupider than even I'd give them credit for, and they're not stupid to have been able to evade us this long."

"You, anyway," John said, licking his lips. They were dry from the cold, and he actually knew better than to lick them, but it was a bit warmer in here than it was outside anyway, and it eased the stiffness.

Sherlock frowned. "Us, John. You've been with me on this from the beginning."

It could be true, John supposed. Sherlock had talked at him about this case a couple of times when they'd met in cafes, and once for dinner at a Chinese place, over the past couple of weeks. The thought caused a flush of warmth to flood his chest.

"All right, us then," John allowed. "I didn't realise- I mean, it wasn't explicitly stated. I thought you were just making small talk."

Sherlock looked at him in mild horror. "Have you met me?"

John huffed in amusement.

"We're a team, John." Sherlock spoke quietly, fumbling with his gloves, which he'd now taken off.

There was that feeling again, combined with something else that made his throat tighten up and the back of his nose prickle. He inhaled deeply as he stood, and tucked the gun away for a second time. If the smugglers had wanted to do anything other than escape, they would done it have by now.

"Well," John said with forced gusto. "Guess we should see about getting out of here, if they're gone."

Sherlock stood as well and put his hand on John's arm. "John, you know that- You're important. To the work." His grey eyes fixed on John, caught him and pinned him and made all of the past pain and uncertainty beat against John's ribs.

John licked his lips again. "Yeah, I-" He began, but quickly changed his mind, frowning slightly. "No, I didn't know. Don't know."

"Obviously. I've always worked better with you around. I honestly don't know why you're still hesitant about making it official again." He sounded petulant.

"Sorry- Official? There was never anything official. You were the consulting detective, and I ran after you and tried to stop you from getting your head bashed in."

Sherlock flashed a grin. "Precisely." His face rearranged itself into a mask of persuasion. "John, haven't you missed this?" he wheedled. "I grant you that tonight hasn't panned out quite as I had hoped, but you remember: the suspense, the chase, the glorious climax!" He shook a triumphant fist between them.

John chuckled helplessly. "And Chinese for afters."

Sherlock beamed back. "So we're good then?"

John pressed his lips together in good-natured exasperation. "I'll think about it," he said. "I do have a day job, you know."

"Yes, yes, boring clinic, boring colleagues, deathly boring, endless paperwork. It's clearly a difficult decision."

"Let's just see about getting out of here first, shall we? Think you can pick that lock?" He gestured at the door.

"Padlocked from the outside, John; really, you are out of practice. No, we'll have to find an alternate escape route."

They walked around the room, eying every possible weakness in the walls and ceiling. The ventilation grates were too small for either of them to fit through, even it they could have prised one off. The recesses for the fans would have been large enough to accommodate one of them, but they would have to disable one of the fans first in order to safely squeeze past the blades, and even then they couldn't tell if there was any direct connection to the outside that would be large enough.

At the same time, it was growing steadily warmer. Both of them had removed their coats and hung them over the trolleys.

"What do you reckon they use this place for anyway?" John asked. "Storage?"

"Smokehouse," Sherlock responded, climbing down from a trolley he had used to get a better look at how the fans were powered.

John half-choked. "Sorry, smokehouse?"

"Or industrial dehydrator. Lucky I didn't happen to turn on the smoke function."

John felt an urge to flee screaming from the premises coil in his belly. Either that or to whack Sherlock soundly across those perfect cheekbones for failing to mention that small fact earlier. The extra adrenaline prickled under his arms and up his back.

"So, are you saying-" John began, then decided it was really time to take off his jumper, and hauled it up over his head. "Are you saying," he continued, his hair standing on end from static electricity, "that if we don't get out of here soon, we are going to be turned into beef jerky?"

"It's only around twenty-seven degrees, John, really, no need to get dramatic."

"Yes, now it's only twenty-seven degrees," John said, slowly and clearly, since Sherlock did not seem to have grasped the gravity of the situation. (Hello, lack of self-preservation instinct!) "But soon, it will be a good deal hotter, if what you've said is true."

Sherlock had removed his scarf, and now shrugged his sinfully well-tailored suit jacket off as well, revealing the impeccable lines of a made-to-order pale blue shirt with a pearlescent sheen.

"You've been in the desert," Sherlock said. "How hot did it get?"

"Could get up to fifty degrees in the shade," John allowed. Not that he particularly wanted to relive that.

"And you survived to tell the tale. We have nothing to worry about. Humidity in here is extremely low as well. We should be fine for a good while yet."

"And then? How hot do you reckon it's going to get?"

"I'm not sure exactly what I pushed," Sherlock said, unconcerned (and perhaps more than a little excited at the uncertainty of what might be coming).

"You're not-" John looked down and covered his eyes with one hand.

"Saunas generally have temperatures of over seventy degrees, sometimes significantly higher."

"People don't generally spend all night in a sauna."

"We won't be here all night."

"No, you're right, we won't, because I'm texting Greg." John went over to where his jacket was hanging and got out his mobile.

"No one's been murdered yet, in case you haven't noticed," Sherlock sniped.

"Someone may well be by the time he gets here," John muttered as he poked out the words of the text.

"Do you really have so little confidence in our ability to get out of this?"

"Truthfully? Yes. We're locked in an oven, Sherlock. An oven that is turned on. The walls are solid steel and the only exit large enough to accommodate anything bigger than a fortune cookie is locked from the outside, with no possibility of reaching the lock. So, yes. I'm texting Greg. You go ahead and think a hole through the wall. There. I've done. I've texted Greg." He snapped his mobile closed and jammed it into his trouser pocket.

Sherlock scowled. "He's never going to let us hear the end of it."

"I have surprisingly very little problem with that. I'll tell him it was all your idea."

"You just need something to eat. Lack of food always makes you testy."

"Where-" John laughed incredulously. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Fortune cookie. You mentioned fortune cookies."

"Yeah, I was thinking about Chinese food. Which we could be having by now if you hadn't got us locked in a bloody oven." His voice escalated toward the end until he was nearly shouting.

"Dehydrator," Sherlock corrected him. "It won't get hot enough to actually cook us."

John's mobile dinged. He read the text, then said, "He's off duty. Be here in about an hour. And you'd bloody well better hope you're right about that," he added, pointing an accusing finger at Sherlock. He wiped a bead of sweat out of his eye. "What do you think we're up to? Thirty-five?"

"Mm," Sherlock hummed in agreement and started unbuttoning his shirt. No vest underneath, of course. Would probably ruin the lines or something.

"Sherlock, what are you doing?"

"I should think that rather obvious."

"You're not- Oh Christ." John looked pointedly away when Sherlock started on his belt.

"You're welcome to drown in your own sweat if you wish. In fact, you could stand to lose a couple of pounds. All those months of inactivity have done nothing for your physique."

John glared at Sherlock, then regretted it immediately as his trousers dropped off his hips. Tight black pants. Of bloody fucking course. He turned around to glare at the back of the ... well, not shed anymore. Industrial grade food dehydrator-slash-smokehouse. He managed to stand it for exactly two and a half more minutes, listening to Sherlock rustle about and finish divesting himself of his clothing, before he unbuckled the holster and began shoving his own shirt buttons through their holes, muttering obscenities under his breath. So he was a few pounds heavier than before Sherlock had leapt off the roof of Bart's. Five pounds. Maybe seven. All right, truthfully, more like ten. It wasn't like he was fat, for God's sake.

He hooked the holster and his shirt over the nearest trolley, leaving his vest on. He considered leaving his trousers on too, but really, it was hot and there was sweat dripping down the backs of his legs. It wasn't that he had a problem with nudity per se. He'd had to change in front of other people - men and women - for years in the military, and even after he'd been injured, he'd never been self-conscious about getting naked with any of the women he'd dated. It was just... well, he didn't know what it was. Maybe it was that felt more exposed with Sherlock than any of those other people. The man practically had psychic powers and x-ray vision even with all of one's clothes on.

He worked his shoes and socks off, trying to keep his toes curled up so as to minimise contact with the very dubiously sticky floor, then unzipped his jeans and pulled them down. The air circulating against his skin, evaporating the sweat in the gentle breeze from the overhead fans, was an immediate relief, if only temporary. He knew it was only going to get hotter.

He hung his jeans up next to his shirt, picked up the holster with the gun again, then turned back around -

- only to find Sherlock sitting completely naked on top of his coat, which he had spread on the floor under him.

"Jesus Christ, Sherlock!" John screeched, too shocked to do anything but stare at the pale, lean body, contrasted with the dark patch of hair and soft flesh in the middle of his crossed legs. John knew that Sherlock had a relaxed attitude about nudity. The incident at Buckingham palace was proof enough of that, and he'd lounged around their flat in nothing but a sheet at other times as well, when it was hot outside, or when he'd simply not bothered to pick up his clothes from the dry cleaner's. But he'd never gone full Monty right in front of John before.

"Just think of it as a Turkish bath," Sherlock said, unconcernedly flipping through the display on his smart phone.

"Put your pants back on," John said. "And in a Turkish bath they at least have towels."

"I don't particularly relish the thought of having to continue to wear the same sweaty underwear once Lestrade gets here."

As if in proof, a trickle of moisture chose that exact moment to work its way down between John's butt cheeks. He suppressed the urge to wipe at it and said, "I don't particularly relish the thought of Greg walking in and seeing the both of us starkers together."

"You still have your underwear on," Sherlock pointed out. "If it bothers you so much, you can go sit somewhere else."

John thought about the pile of sludge behind the last row of trolleys, and sighed. He took his jacket down and plopped it on the floor next to Sherlock. It wasn't like they were going to touch each other. He didn't even want his own skin touching itself, he was already so sticky. Sherlock's point about having clean clothes to put on afterward made more sense than John wanted to admit. He lowered himself carefully onto his jacket, laying the holster and gun down next to him, and took off his vest. He held his arms slightly away from his body so that the air could get into his armpits. He was probably going to start stinking soon, if he didn't already.

Sherlock glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. John knew he was looking at his scar. He'd never actually seen it before: John was much more fastidious than Sherlock about wearing clothes around the flat. And, they had been living apart now for longer than they had lived together in the first place.

"You can look," John said.

"I really have no interest in your body, John," Sherlock said, pretending to be busy with his mobile.

"I know that, but you are interested in my scar. So you can look at it."

"I really don't need-"

"Fine, don't then," John snapped.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "If you insist-"

"I don't! I don't care, I was just- That's all, really. I don't care if you see it. I never tried to hide it from you. I know you've always been curious, and now you can see it. I'm giving you permission, so you don't need to pretend you're not looking."

"Thank you," Sherlock said, somewhat awkwardly. "You can look too."

John was confused. "You don't have any scars. Do you?" He took a quick look at Sherlock's chest, studiously not - absolutely not - looking down at his lap. "I mean, maybe little ones, yeah, the kind of things everyone's got, but nothing spectacular."

"I didn't mean my scars, I meant my penis."

John's brain short-circuited.

"I can tell you're interested. It's only natural. Little boys comparing theirs in the bushes at the playground, teenagers secretly checking each other out in the changing room, making sure they're within the norm."

"I cannot believe we are having this conversation. We are not having this conversation. Did I just say that out loud?"

"Since you've kept your pants on, and are sweating profusely into them, which can only be uncomfortable, I assume there is some other issue of-"

"Do not go there, Sherlock," John warned.

"Mine is three and a half inches long when flaccid, six when erect."

John very much wanted to put his hands over his ears and start humming God Save the Queen.

"Thank you," he said instead, very calmly. "Thank you for that ... entirely useless piece of information."

"Uncircumcised, of course. But then you can see that."

"No, I- I am not looking at your penis, Sherlock."

"Okay. I only wanted to give you permission, because I can tell you're interested."

"I'm not-" But he cut himself off, because that wasn't really true. He was, both in the little boys in the changing room sort of way, and because he'd never thought of Sherlock as a man with functioning... parts. He was such a completely nonsexual being. Except with Irene, but John really hadn't got as far as imagining what Sherlock and Irene might have got up to, when she had him alone in her bedroom (other than her jabbing him in the neck with a drugged needle, of course). That still bothered him. The being alone in her bedroom part more than the drugged needle, oddly.

But here was the incontrovertible proof that Sherlock was just a man, just a normal human being, everything in working order, and it's not like either of them was getting off on this, just sitting there next to each other, naked (or very nearly so, in John's case), waiting to be rescued, as the temperature continued to rise.

Somehow, it seemed a good thing that the pedestal John had, in many ways, put Sherlock on, was turning out merely to be a pile of clay.

"You think it's hit fifty yet?" John asked, when the air was so hot it felt like he was drinking it into his lungs.

Sherlock paused in his perusal of what looked like the weather report.

"Fifty-three," he said.

"God," John gasped. Hearing the number made it suddenly infinitely hotter. That and Sherlock's jab about John's supposed 'issues' had him on his knees, shimmying out of his by now thoroughly damp boxer shorts.

Sherlock at least had the decency not to comment. Just to make absolutely sure, though, John said, "If you value our friendship at all, you will keep your mouth shut." He settled himself down on his jacket again, bending his knees up so he could rest his elbows on them.

"Of course I value our friendship. I should think that would be obvious." Sherlock sounded more troubled than impatient, and when John glanced sideways at him, he saw that the corners of Sherlock's mouth were pulled down and he was fiddling distractedly with his mobile, not really looking at it.

John sighed and leaned his head back against the wall, looking up at the fans indifferently forcing ever hotter air down onto them. "I know, Sherlock," he reassured him. "I do too. It's just... We can't go back to the way things were. Not exactly, anyway. There will always be... what happened. With Moriarty, and all the time you were gone."

"I've said I was sorry," Sherlock said, his distress and frustration evident.

"It's not-" John shifted so that he could look Sherlock in the eye, nudity be damned. "I know you're sorry. And that really says something, because there's not a hell of a lot in the world that you'd ever be sorry about, much less actually say it. So, I know. I think it's that-" John had to take a moment to steady himself. "You know, I had everything invested in you. You were... the most important person in the world to me. More important than my sister, or my other friends, or my girlfriends. More important than any job, or the law. More important than my own life, really."

"John-" Sherlock started, looking broken.

"No. Wait, just ... just wait. So, I ... I don't know if love is even the right way to say it, because that seems too small a word, but I loved you." That sounded wrong, using the past tense, and if he was baring his soul here along with his chest and his arse and everything in between, he might as well go all the way. "I do. I love you," he said firmly. "That doesn't go away. That won't go away. And I really want us to still be friends. I mean, we are. You're absolutely my best friend." John reached out and laid a hand on top of Sherlock's, where it was resting on his knee.

Sherlock turned his hand over to squeeze John's back. His grey eyes were round and bright, and he let out a big breath.

"But I don't know if I can give you everything again, or if that was even a healthy situation for either of us. I think there's still a part of me that's afraid of losing you again, and I can't go through that again. Not the way it was before."

"I will never do that to you again," Sherlock said, so solemnly, and John knew that he meant it, as much as he had ever meant anything.

"I think you would," John said sadly. "If you knew it was the only way to keep me safe."

They held on to each other, eyes and hands, sharing the pain and joy of the truth, knowing that this was as natural as breathing, and that no matter what they or anyone else did, this would always bind them together.

"I'd find another way," Sherlock began, but John shook his head and said, with infinite gentleness, "You know I'd do the same thing. Right?"

Sherlock swallowed and nodded slowly. "We'll retire then," he said, with a conviction that was touching in its innocence. "I'll give up consulting."

John smiled. "No, you won't. You can't give up being you. You're going to carry on being brilliant and mad, and I'm going to carry on following you down holes and up fire escapes and into bloody ovens, and one day-"

"-one day," Sherlock interrupted, his voice steadier than John could have made his, "we're going to look back, and say, 'I would do it all again, if only because you were with me'."

John's smile became even broader. "I think you're developing heat stroke," he said in mock concern. He let go of Sherlock's hand, because: sweat. "And God, I need to try and get some fresh air."

He stood up, unconcerned about wagging bits because oxygen to the brain was more important than false modesty, and clambered up awkwardly onto one of the trolleys to get his face near one of the ventilation grates at the top of the wall. It was slightly cooler there, but as the air pressure inside was greater than outside, causing the air to flow outward rather than inward, it didn't help much.

"What temperature are we at now?" he asked, panting slightly.

Sherlock's voice came from immediately below him, and John looked down to see him steadying the trolley so that it wouldn't roll around with John standing on it. His face was shining with sweat, and his hair was stuck to his forehead and jaw. "I'd say around seventy," he answered. "Bloody hot, at any rate. Does that help any?"

John shook his head. "Not really. Psychologically." He pressed his cheek against the grate. He was about to get down and offer Sherlock a turn when he heard a voice from outside, over the drone of the fans.

"Sherlock! John!"

"In here!" John yelled back and banged on the ventilation grate. "Greg, we're in here! The one with the lights on!"

A few moments later, there was a pounding and scraping at the door as Greg and whoever he'd brought with him applied themselves to the padlock. Meanwhile, John scrabbled to get his clothes back on over his wet, sticky skin.

"I need your vest for a moment," Sherlock said before reaching for his own clothes.

John, fuzzy from the heat and used to following minor, non-dangerous instructions from Sherlock, plucked up his vest once he'd got his shorts on and handed it to Sherlock, who proceeded to wipe off his body with it, including under and between his legs. He then held it back out to John.

John looked from Sherlock to the shirt and back again. "You know what? Keep it," he said.

He was just reaching for his shirt when there was a mighty CRACK from the door, and it swung open, revealing Greg and a uniformed policeman John didn't know, holding a crowbar.

Sherlock took the opportunity to step into his pants and pull them neatly up, then adjusted his genitals.

"Having fun?" Greg said, a look of stunned disbelief on his face, then took a step back. "Good Christ, it must be a hundred degrees in here. What is this, an oven?" He looked up at the structure.

"Industrial dehydrator, and cheers," John said. "Just testing the limits of human endurance. Typical night."

He hastily wrapped his jumper around the gun and holster, gathered up the rest of his clothes and shoes and hurried over to the door, where he stopped at the threshhold, wearing only his shorts and his open shirt, and gulped in the cold, fresh air.

"I assume the..." Greg gestured from John to Sherlock. "Do I even want to know?"

"Got locked in with the heat turned on," John said. He set his clothing bundle on the ground and put on his trousers.

Greg looked past John at Sherlock, who was doing up the buttons on his shirt. "This doesn't have to do with the Lepowsky case, does it?"

"Just having a look around," Sherlock said. "I think you can add attempted murder to the list of charges, though."

Greg shook his head and put his hands on his hips. "I've told you before, you cannot go off on your own like this. Any evidence you might have found couldn't have been used against them anyway."

"I wasn't on my own; John was with me." There was a touch of pride in his voice, and when John turned around, Sherlock was smiling at him with a warmth that made the temperature in the room seem frigid in comparison.

"Yes, and John should know better as well." Greg sent a pointed look in John's direction.

John licked his lips, still watching Sherlock. "Yeah, we'll keep that in mind," he said. Overwhelmed with relief at being rescued and at having got out the things he'd said in their conversation, and at the sheer ridiculousness of their situation, he felt a fit of giggles coming on. He almost lost it at the sight of Sherlock's lips twitching as well and had to bend over and work on his socks and shoes in order to maintain his composure.

"Come on, then," Greg said, torn between amusement and exasperation. "We'll have to write up a report for that padlock."

"I'll leave that to you, Detective Inspector," Sherlock said as he joined them, all put back together and with his coat slung over his arm. His face was still flushed and his hair damp. John was sure he didn't look any better.

"Hey, Sherlock, you can't just leave-" Greg said as Sherlock walked past him, John automatically moving to follow in his wake.

"Tomorrow," Sherlock called over his shoulder. "We'll be at the station at ten o'clock. Right now, John and I have a date with a fortune cookie."