Sunday, 14 February, 2010
The phone buzzed just as John pushed open the pub door and stepped out into the damp, cold night. Rain pattered on his shoulders. He ducked his head, protecting his mobile from the worst of it as he read the incoming text.
How long do I need to stay in the bath? -SH
A couple of pints weren’t enough to cloud his ability to think, but Sherlock’s text didn’t make any more sense the second or third time he read it.
No, that wasn’t quite right. It absolutely made sense. It was simply that without context, John’s brain took the question and ran with it, stopping him in his tracks so he could give his full attention to the images his imagination painted in vivid, breathtaking detail.
It took a couple of tries for him to type a coherent response.
How long do you want to stay in the bath? -JW
I don’t. -SH
Absolutely baffling. But John couldn’t help but smile as he typed the response. Sherlock was certainly never boring.
Then why are you in the bath? -JW
For frostbite. -SH
“Oh, God,” John sighed, and got walking again.
Frostbite was worrying, especially given that it was an almost balmy 3C out, high enough above freezing that Sherlock shouldn’t be suffering from exposure without actually putting an effort into it. If he’d fallen into the Thames, he’d be suffering from hypothermia, not frostbite, unless John was remembering his lectures wrong. That meant he had to have done something extraordinary, like getting himself trapped in a meat locker or dissecting a frozen corpse without gloves.
Of course, Sherlock seemed to have a truly incredible talent for even unintentional self-destruction. How he’d survived past his thirtieth birthday without a full-time caretaker, John had no idea.
Why do you believe you may have frostbite? -JW
I broke through the ice on the lake. -SH
John hurried his steps, thinking he needed to deal with this in the privacy of his flat and not on the street. There were about a thousand questions he wanted to ask, but he pushed them all aside for now, focusing instead on the immediate issue.
Where are you?
Outskirts of Uppsala, Sweden. -SH
John blinked at that. So much for John actually checking up on his condition. What the hell was he doing in Sweden?
How long ago did you fall in? How long have you been in the bath?
Just over an hour ago. Bath, ten minutes. Still cold. -SH
John exhaled sharply, telling himself that it couldn’t be too bad or Sherlock wouldn’t be coherent enough to type. The effects of hypothermia were similar to drunkenness; he shuddered to think of how Sherlock would behave if he were drunk.
Stay in the bath. The water shouldn’t be too warm, or you risk burning yourself. Do you feel numb? Do you have any blisters?
He sent the text before he unlocked the door to his building. If there were no blisters, he might be all right, but John would feel better if he’d go to hospital. There was only so much he could do over texts.
My fingers are tingling. It’s inconvenient. No blisters. -SH
“Inconvenient,” John muttered, stabbing the button to summon the lift. Leave it to Sherlock to fall in a freezing lake and find it inconvenient.
You need to go to hospital. If you have no blisters, you’re probably safe to walk and take a taxi there, but if you feel at all dizzy, you MUST call an ambulance. Do you understand?
He sent the response, pocketed his mobile, and got into the lift, satisfied that Sherlock would obey. Did Irene have these problems with Kate? No, of course she didn’t. Kate was sensible. Really, for a genius, Sherlock was —
The mobile buzzed a response as the lift doors opened at John’s floor. He stepped out and pulled both mobile and keys from his pocket.
Can’t. I’m not legally in-country. -SH
John nearly dropped his keys at that, wondering what the hell Sherlock was doing sneaking into Sweden —
Wait. Unless the laws had changed dramatically, as long as Sherlock had a legal passport, there shouldn’t have been any challenge at all to him. Unless he was on a watch list. God, he probably was on a watch list — transporting chemicals or body parts across national borders.
Right. We’re going to discuss this in future, Sherlock. For now, how do you feel? -JW
John unlocked his flat and entered, tossing his jacket over the arm of the loveseat. He really needed to get some real furniture, maybe some hooks to hang by the door. Of course, that meant he’d need tools, since all he had was his multi-tool, which he used for breaking down his SIG.
John wasn’t one to give in to irritation, but really, this was more than any man should be expected to handle.
Bored, Sherlock? Bored? Is that why you decided to rush out onto a frozen lake without checking first to see if the ice was safe?
Sherlock’s response took five minutes to arrive — long enough for John to calm himself, kick off his shoes, and start making a cup of tea. Thoughts of Harry were all that stopped him from going down to the corner market to pick up something stronger to help him get through this latest Sherlock-incident.
I wasn’t bored then. It’s hard to be bored when you’re looking for a hole in the ice so you can get out. -SH
John sighed and took his tea to the bedroom. It was early in the night, at least for him, but there was only so much of this that he could take. He’d had a perfectly normal night, up until Sherlock’s text, though... perhaps it was a little disappointing. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and he’d gone on a date with Sarah, a lovely woman he’d met at his new local. They’d had dinner and stopped at the pub for a drink, but then she’d pleaded an early work day and had gone home, leaving John to have a second drink by himself.
He couldn’t decide if it was a better or worse Valentine’s Day than last year. He’d spent the 2009 holiday chasing the scant shade under a Lynx helicopter while the crew worked on emergency engine repairs. Things hadn’t turned truly exciting until around half three in the afternoon, when the enemy finally decided that a downed chopper, its entire crew, and nine soldiers were an easy trophy. John and his men had been delighted to prove them wrong.
John didn’t bother answering Sherlock until he’d stripped and gotten into bed. He’d wash up and brush his teeth later. For now, he wanted to be lazy. But while John could be infinitely patient, Sherlock had never bothered developing that skill, and the phone buzzed twice more before John picked it up to read the incoming texts.
I didn’t do it intentionally. -SH
Break through the ice, I mean. I did go on the ice intentionally. -SH
John piled his pillows against the headboard and leaned back, rubbing absently at his left shoulder. He typed a response without really thinking about it and then picked up his tea for a sip to test the temperature.
If you were mine, I wouldn’t let you go ON the lake, so you wouldn’t end up breaking through the ice. -JW
The tea was too hot to drink, so John carefully put it back down on the stack of cardboard boxes. He let himself sink lower into the pillows and stared up at the ceiling, wondering if this was what normal civilians did: had good dates that turned disappointing, texted with men in bathtubs while naked, and drank tea.
You say that frequently. -SH
John frowned thoughtfully at his phone. He’d never really thought about it, but Sherlock was right. Not a very subtle hint from his subconscious, was it?
It’s always true. -JW
He rolled over onto his side and turned off the bedside light. The illumination from his mobile was enough that he could find his tea, when it cooled.
Is it what you want? -SH
He wasn’t about to answer a loaded question like that. Sherlock was far too complicated. Want? Absolutely. John had wanted Sherlock from the moment they’d first met. But he wasn’t quite ready to consider taking that next step — not after what he’d seen weeks earlier, at his bedsit.
Are you still cold? -JW
No. Can I get out of the bath now? -SH
It was damned tempting to say yes just for the pleasure of picturing it. He could remember, in perfect detail, the lean planes of Sherlock’s upper body and the surprisingly defined muscles of his arms and shoulders. It wasn’t too hard to imagine the rest.
No. Add more hot water. And tomorrow, come straight back to London so you can go to hospital if you have any difficulty breathing. -JW
John could almost hear the resigned sigh in Sherlock’s typed response:
Yes, John. -SH