John could be naked right now.
He started the day believing that he would be able to get their groceries in, clean the bathroom of all the crap that's accumulated and go out on his date with Amy without worrying that Sherlock would make things worse. The plan fell apart immediately; a client blundered upstairs and promised that there was something interesting to do. The something interesting was decidedly dangerous instead and all John's good intentions were almost instantly disposed of.
The fridge still contains seventeen severed fingers, half a carton of milk past its expiry date and the left over Thai from Tuesday. The bathroom is still in need of a good scrub down and there is still a damp towel in front of the shower cubicle. Amy is the worst of this, because instead of John accompanying her to a pleasant little restaurant, she is spending the night with her girlfriends, picking apart the good doctor and his unreliability. John isn't getting his leg over any time soon and if he weren't already certain that tonight will end very badly, he'd be more pissed off than he already is.
The something dangerous turned out to be a small gang of gentlemen who didn't appreciate Sherlock's instant analysis of their thievery. They certainly didn't like the way he and John tracked them down and they were most put out when Sherlock delivered a pretty little lecture on how foolish they'd been. When he reached the part where the entire set up was doomed to failure, they lost all patience and dealt with both Sherlock and John quickly and with devastating efficiency.
This is the reason they are both currently tied up, back to back, sitting in the cellar of one of the abandoned factories on the docks. The tide is already coming in and they are both aware of the slosh of water in the farthest reaches of the room. The knots are tight, the rope is wet and John doesn't have any idea how to get free. Given Sherlock's silence the past five minutes, he can only hope that the man is thinking and there will be some great plan that will release them before the tide comes in.
John shifts as best he can, his fingers pushing insistently against Sherlock's back. He touches the fabric of the heavy coat and shoves as hard as he can. "Sherlock," he says, keen to keep calm despite their current predicament. "Any ideas?"
"Five," says Sherlock slowly and John can feel the tug of the rope where their wrists are bound. It draws his arm up a little painfully and John bears it as best he can. The rope doesn't give and John hears the huff behind him. "Four."
"Brilliant," says John. "Want to let me in on the plan?"
"I don't have a plan," says Sherlock. "Our situation is a little more challenging than I'd expected."
"Challenging?" John tries to move to see Sherlock's expression and can't quite do it. "Sherlock, if you hadn't been so bloody minded, we wouldn't be here right now."
"Somehow I doubt that," says Sherlock and John clears his throat.
"You called the man with the Glock a mindless idiot and somehow didn't think it would bother him. God, we didn't even have back up!"
"I had you."
John shakes his head. "No, the man with the big kitchen knife had me. You just had to be clever at them."
"You could have been clever at them," says Sherlock mildly and sighs. "They were using scarcely any cover and we discovered them in under three hours."
"No, you discovered them," says John. "I just tagged along in case you got in trouble."
"Did you have any idea that they'd be so well armed?" asks John as he stares at the wall. "I could be sitting across the table from a beautiful blonde right now."
"The dog walker?" asks Sherlock. "Best not, John. She talks to the dogs in gibberish."
"She baby talks them," huffs John. "She's really nice."
"Dull," says Sherlock. "They're always 'nice'. You never bring anyone interesting home. It's suggestive."
"Suggestive of what?" says John and frowns before he tugs at the rope again. "Look, forget it. Let's just work out how to get out of here. Can you reach your phone? Text your brother for help?"
"They took it," says Sherlock and John can pick up the note of petulance even from this angle. "And yours too, when you passed out."
"I didn't pass out, they knocked me out," says John. He drops his head back against Sherlock's shoulder. "Okay, so no phone and they've probably taken my Swiss Army knife."
"And your wallet," says Sherlock. "Anything that identifies you."
"Fantastic," says John and catches a breath. "I'm just tied to you, right?"
"Obviously," drawls Sherlock.
"Then we can work on the knots."
"Too tight," says Sherlock. "Three."
"Three ideas," says Sherlock. "You wouldn't have had a good night with the dog walker. She wouldn't share a bed with you."
"Excuse me? She said she had plans."
"Of course she had plans. Women do. It doesn't mean they'll sleep with you."
John rolls his eyes. "You don't have a clue. Her texts have always been pretty saucy."
"Oh yes? Hey handsome, I bet you can't guess the colour of my knickers."
"You read my texts?"
"It flashed up on the screen when I borrowed it." Sherlock leans back, bracing himself against John. John can feel the brush of curls against his cheek when the man lolls and he lifts a shoulder to get them away. Sherlock isn't so easily moved though. "They're white, by the way."
John clears his throat again, his arms aching and his head stinging where the brute elbowed him. "No. I'm not talking about my girlfriend's underwear with you."
"There's precious little else she does talk about," says Sherlock. "However, given the pattern indicated by her texts, she means you to think that they're black, but since you don't have a hope of seeing them, they're clearly white."
"I really don't want to think about how you think you know what colour her knickers are," says John. "Leave it."
"You should be thanking me," says Sherlock. "You'd come home bad tempered and frustrated if you went on your date."
"Yes, because being tied to you in a flooding cellar is so much better."
"Oh yes, the tide," says Sherlock and wriggles slightly. It doesn't help John at all and he tries to move.
"Sherlock, can you get to your knees?"
"I can't get purchase on the floor," says Sherlock. "My feet are wet."
John drops his head forward against his chest. "And you're worried about catching a cold?"
"Because the water's rising," says Sherlock. "Do keep up, John. We're in some small danger here."
"Some small...? We could die, Sherlock!"
"Oh, possibly," says Sherlock and pushes back hard against John. The movement scoots John a little closer to the wall and he cries out. "Move yourself, John."
"What are you doing?" asks John, scuffing his feet against the floor. Sherlock shifts a few feet before John realises that he may be able to get to his feet closer to the wall and he stops resisting. "Okay, you could have just told me."
"Reach the wall, brace yourself against me and stand up," says Sherlock drily. "The water's coming in rather rapidly now, John, so it'd be wise to move quickly."
"Moving," says John and digs his feet in as best he can. It's a long way from being graceful, but it does seem to be effective. Slow, but effective and they shuffle toward the wall, pausing only when there's a pipe in the way. John feels simultaneously cold and sweaty. His hands are hot where they're practically grasping at Sherlock's fingers and coat. His legs and buttocks are cold where the water is beginning to fill the room and John's working very hard to ignore the concern that he'll slip and they'll both be done for.
"Okay," says John as his toes touch the bottom of the nearest wall. "You ready?"
"Yes," says Sherlock and John shifts, splashing as he focuses all his body strength on moving upward. His first effort goes nowhere at all and he sits down hard, bum most assuredly bruised and he slips down against Sherlock's back. His arms are yanked up and he would be in a far worse state if Sherlock hadn't grabbed hold of him, hands twisted uncomfortably to do so.
"Fuck," he murmurs and Sherlock keeps his grip.
"Let's try that again, hmm?" asks Sherlock. "I'll push back harder."
"Story of my life," says John and struggles before he can get a grip. He grits his teeth and pushes upward, the rope round his wrists chafing and his shoes slipping in the water. He can feel the sweat slicking his back and chest and his hair is damp at the roots. By the time he's got his knees bent, he can feel Sherlock moving behind him and it feels like they might actually be able to get out. "Easy there," he says as Sherlock slips again. The water is up to John's knees and his toes are starting to go numb. His teeth are chattering and he can't quite get his focus. "Well, we're upright," says John and sloshes slightly in the water. "Can't afford to fall over though. We try to walk like this we'll be over before we get to the door."
"Agreed," says Sherlock and huffs. "John, are you feeling up to a little physical work?"
"Will it get us out of here?"
"It should do," says Sherlock and spreads his feet. "I need you round the other way."
"In front of me. You're going to have to use your feet on the wall and back flip to get in front of me."
John stares at the wall hard enough that it blurs in front of his eyes. "You are kidding." He huffs out a long breath. "I think my days on the beam are behind me."
"John, listen to me," says Sherlock calmly. "All you have to do is brace yourself against me. One foot in front of the other and walk up the wall. I'll bear your weight. When you get as high as you can, just drop back and even if your feet slip, I'll be right here to get you upright again."
John licks his bottom lip before he offers a quick nod. "You really owe me a drink after this."
"I'll buy you dinner," says Sherlock and John can hear the chuckle in his voice. Sherlock has always been at his brightest when he's close to the edge. This is no different and John has always run fast to keep up. Tonight he'll defy gravity for his friend and he steps forward, one foot pushing against the wall, still underwater and he takes a deep breath.
"I didn't think," he says as he moves steadily against the wall and leans back on Sherlock, "that I'd need my stamina for this."
"Pace yourself," says Sherlock. "We're not out of it yet."
John laughs wildly and his foot slips. He cries out and struggles to get his balance. "This is so stupid," he snaps and lifts his leg again. He can feel the ache in his back and he's very conscious that all his weight is on Sherlock and the water is still rising. "I am not drowning in Wapping."
"Glad to hear it," says Sherlock. "Get in front of me, would you?"
John closes his eyes and pushes as hard as he can, both feet steadied against the wall and he can feel the world tipping. For a long moment it feels like he's in free fall and the sensation is not new. It feels very old and the sand is a long time away now but just for a second he's there again. The moment breaks and suddenly he's tumbling, falling and he can feel the roll of his back against Sherlock's own. John feels as though he's unravelling, head over heels until his neck is against Sherlock's shoulder and he hears the other man groan.
The noise itself is a short sharp retort in the room and John's past it quickly, but it resonates. John comes down fast, legs splashing into the water that's deeper than when he started and he gasps loudly as it sloshes up past thighs and soaks his jeans through. His balls are cold and wet and the shock is enough to make him lose his footing. Sherlock's hands are firm over his own and when he stumbles, the detective grips back, fingers sliding over the familiar and John stares up at his friend.
Sherlock twitches a quick smile and settles long fingers against John's wrists where the rope has draw up tight. The skin beneath is tender and rubbed raw in places, but Sherlock is sure and deft and John finds his smile sooner than he expected. "It's bloody cold," he says and tests his footing out as he tries to turn. "Where's the way out?"
"Over there," says Sherlock and shivers visibly. John stares at him and rubs his thumb against Sherlock's palm.
"I'm fine," says Sherlock. "Turn round John, let's get out of here."
They move quickly toward the door, pausing only when Sherlock slips and John's leg stiffens. It's less than twenty feet, but wading takes its time and John mounts the first step with relief, glad to be heading out of the freezing water. "You don't think they're still out there?"
"They planned to be back tomorrow morning," says Sherlock. "To find the bodies."
"I'd prefer we weren't here for that," says John and tugs at Sherlock to step up and out of the water. "Come on. We'll make it to the street and flag down a cab. I'll pay Mrs Hudson back."
"At this time of night?" says Sherlock. "Not here. We can get to the central line more quickly."
"No money," says John. "Look, there's bound to be a police station close by. Let's just get there, get these ropes undone and get home." He looks at Sherlock carefully and catches the shiver. "Maybe get you to hospital."
"I don't need hospital," sneers Sherlock and steps up. "Dundee street, two minutes away."
"Hmm?" asks John, walking up the steps and keeping a close eye on Sherlock.
"The police station. If you want to spend the night answering questions. Or, we can head that way," says Sherlock with a nod of his head. "Get home and you can doctor away to your heart's content."
John raises an eyebrow. "The last thing I need is you as my patient," he huffs. "You don't listen."
"On the contrary, John. I listen to everything you say."
"Everything of value."
"Huh," says John and lifts their hands. "Okay genius, tell me how we're going to get through the underground with our hands tied up?"
Sherlock looks down at the knots. "Well, obviously it might cause a few glances."
"Less than blood spatters and a harpoon though?"
"Possibly," says Sherlock. "This is the East end after all."
John grins at him as his teeth start to chatter and he steps out into the night sky. There are street lights flickering close by and John's not surprised that his legs feel leaden. He's drenched all the way up to his chest and when Sherlock exhales out he can see it, dragon breath misting the night air. They're both shivering as they make their way toward the underground and on Sherlock's second misstep John turns to really look at him. Sherlock might be the best at just about everything he puts his hand to, but surviving being soaked and knocked out might just rank alongside his efforts with a yo-yo and John isn't having any of it.
He straightens up, walks toward the group of lads at the edge of the street and gestures to one of them to come closer. "Mate," he says. "You got a knife?"
"John," begins Sherlock and John ignores him.
"A blade, anything?" he asks and the nearest boy raises an eyebrow. "Come on, mate. I just want to cut the rope. That's all."
The kid shrugs his shoulders. "What's it worth?"
John grins but there's little humour in it. "Look, I haven't got anything on me now but-"
"My watch," says Sherlock. "Cut the ropes, take my watch."
The kid grins and steps forward, his fingers flexing as he draws a blade, his friends closing in behind him. "What if I just take the watch?"
"What if you don't," says John firmly and lifts his wrist. "Like he said, cut the rope."
The kid considers John carefully before he steps forward and draws his knife over the ropes that bind them. He keeps his eyes on John as he saws through and immediately that one coil is clear, John draws his hand out and eases it off Sherlock as well. He pulls open the watch strap from Sherlock's wrist and turns back to their reluctant helper. "Take it and go."
"Who's gonna make us?"
John flexes his hand, the feeling flooding all the way back and ignores the discomfort. He straightens up, chin raised and steps forward, keeping Sherlock behind him. "I don't have to make you," he says quietly and the kid's grin falters ever so slightly. John holds his gaze long enough for the kid to shake his head.
"Let's just get out of here," says the kid and backs off. "No point hanging round a couple of poufs all night."
John's lip barely twitches but he watches them slip off past a couple of streetlights before he turns back to Sherlock and grabs his arm.
"Every time," he says. "I swear I could be dripping in women and they'd still think I was shagging you."
"You don't look at them the same way," murmurs Sherlock and John frowns. His teeth are chattering and the long coat only serves to keep in the cold and wet. "It was a good watch."
"Yeah, it's lovely. I'll get you another one," says John and wraps his arm round Sherlock's back. John lifts the man's arm to rest over his shoulder and is surprised how quickly Sherlock slumps. It's not usual and John's concern drives quick decisions. He walks quickly and be damned with how his own legs feel. Be damned with how his wrists feel as he gets them to the nearest brightly lit street. He can feel Sherlock slipping back and he tightens his grip. "I thought you were indestructible."
"It's all lies," says Sherlock and drops his head against John's. "John, can we just rest a few minutes?"
"Not yet," says John and glances round before he spots a miracle. The cab is just across the road and still on duty and John could kiss the driver for being in the right place. He squeezes Sherlock's hip with his far hand and gets him to the car. Sherlock drops into the seat and falls against John as he gives the address. John wraps an arm round Sherlock and nods to the driver. "He'll be fine," he says and the cabbie sniffs.
"Fifty quid if he pukes," says the cabbie and John nods and turns away, his chin resting against the curls on top of Sherlock's head.
"Try not to," says John quietly. "I hope Mrs Hudson's in. They took my keys."
"We'll get them back," murmurs Sherlock and his fingers wrap round John's middle as he tries to get closer. Minutes seem to pass before John hears a quiet, "I may have slightly miscalculated."
"Oh, you mean you didn't intend for us to end up like this?"
"Not here," says Sherlock and John frowns. He strokes a hand over Sherlock's shoulder.
"It'll be fine," says John. "We'll get in, get you in the tub and something to eat. You'll be right as rain in no time."
There's a grunt against his chest where Sherlock's slumped and John squeezes him hard to keep him awake. "Tired," is the complaint and John rolls his eyes.
"Well, if you slept like a normal person, you wouldn't have a problem," he says and sighs. He catches sight of the clock on the dashboard and groans. "We'd have finished dinner by now."
"You would," says Sherlock, breathing into John's shirt. "The dog walker would be faking orgasm over her Death by Chocolate."
"Amy doesn't fake orgasm," says John and pauses. "Why?"
"Because she wants you to think she'll go to bed with you," says Sherlock. "And when you took her home there'd be a kiss and she'd step inside and say, 'not yet'."
John huffs. He's cold and he's wet and his best friend may well be developing hypothermia in the back of a cab. He isn't in the best mood to talk about his girlfriend's teasing strategy, though he knows damn well it describes the last three dates they've been on. He hasn't got Amy into bed yet, but the constant teasing and promises keep him going and he's told himself that it'll be worth it when he finally gets her knickers off. After all, she doesn't insult criminals and get him pistol whipped.
She doesn't take him on long jaunts through London's nightlife and she never makes him stare in disbelief. Amy isn't that kind of girl. She's the kind who flirts and lets him flirt back and never makes John question a single thing she says. She goes out on nice polite dates and sends him naughty texts and he hasn't even bothered to get a hand up her very polite jumpers. Sherlock's hand is currently on the bare skin of his belly where John's shirt has pulled out and all John can think is that the flesh to flesh contact is especially welcome right now.
"You're already bored with her," says Sherlock.
"Shut up," says John and looks out the window, relieved at how quickly they're passing the miles toward home. "You don't know her."
"I know you," says Sherlock and shifts his head. He's still shivering and trying to scrunch himself smaller, long frame wrapped round as much of John Watson as possible. "Two more dates and you'll make your excuses."
"Can we just wait to tear apart my latest relationship until you're not freezing to death?" asks John. "Seriously, Sherlock. Let's get you home."
Fortunately for them both, Mrs Hudson is awake and more sympathetic than either one of them deserve. The cabbie gets sent away with most of the money in her purse and she fusses round them both and promises soup. "What you boys get up to," she murmurs as John walks Sherlock up the stairs. "Detective Inspector Lestrade popped by earlier with all your personals."
"What?" asks John and Mrs Hudson scurries behind him.
"Sherlock sent him a text," she says. "And when he picked up those men, he found all your things but he couldn't find you."
John looks at Sherlock as he pauses on the step. "You sent a text?"
"I said it wasn't what I planned," says Sherlock and steps up. "Everything upstairs, Mrs Hudson?"
"Of course," she says. "He said he'll be back round tomorrow to talk to you about it. I'll just let him know you got home, shall I?"
"Yes, please do," says Sherlock and when John stands still, he tugs. "Come on, John. Let's get these wet clothes off."
Mrs Hudson flutters slightly and heads back downstairs to make something hot for them both and when they get through the door, Sherlock drops the heavy coat the floor. He turns and John glares at him. "What?"
"Oh nothing," says John. "You contacted Lestrade and didn't mention it?"
"He didn't know where we were," says Sherlock as he lifts his hand to unfasten his shirt and drops it when his fingers won't bend. "It wasn't relevant."
"Wasn't relevant?" says John and stands firm. "I thought no-one had a clue what was going on and you'd been in contact with Lestrade and didn't tell me."
Sherlock sighs heavily and gestures to his shirt. "John, I contacted Detective Inspector Lestrade with all the details. Now will you please help me get my clothes off?"
John shakes his head but he walks over and reaches up to unfasten Sherlock's shirt. "I thought we were alone."
"We were alone!"
John tugs hard enough to rip the wet material and drags it from Sherlock's body. "I've just dragged you half across London and let some little thug take your watch. I'm wet. I'm cold. I am not in the mood to hear this was all part of your plan."
"I didn't know we'd be in a cellar."
John glances up and reaches for Sherlock's belt, his own fingers stiff from the night behind them. "You just don't apologise, do you?"
"I gave them my watch," says Sherlock and winces when John pulls the belt roughly free and it hits his bare arm.
John stares at him. "I should tie you to the bed, keep you out of trouble. Get five minutes of peace for a change!"
Sherlock raises his eyebrows. "You don't want peace."
"Oh shut up," says John and slides Sherlock's trousers down. Sherlock puts a very cold hand on his shoulder and John pulls off his shoes and throws them as far away as possible. He yanks off Sherlock's trousers and gets back up off his knees. "You don't know what I want."
"No, you don't," says John and pushes Sherlock's pants down. They slither to the floor and make a wet slapping sound as they hit. John clears his throat as he keeps his gaze on Sherlock's face. "You could have done that yourself, couldn't you?"
"Yes," says Sherlock. "The belt was a bit tricky but the rest..." He shrugs. "John, I am feeling very naked and a little cold."
"Right," says John and pulls his sweater over his head. His tshirt is sodden and clings to his chest and he feels oddly like an advert from the eighties. "Go and get your dressing gown on."
"No point," says Sherlock. His bottom lip is both pouty and quivering and he rubs a hand over his arm. "Yours is warmer."
"No," says John and when he takes in how much Sherlock is shivering he manhandles him to the bathroom and puts him under the shower. He kicks his shoes off and climbs in after him, feeling the warm water bounce over his skin. He struggles with mostly numb fingers to pull his jeans down and his nose bashes against Sherlock's left cheek as he bends down. "Scuse me," he says and stands up again, his tshirt a soggy mess on the floor. Sherlock shivers and John rubs his hands up and down Sherlock's arms to try and improve circulation. "To be honest," he says, his teeth chattering. "I didn't think I'd be naked with you tonight."
"Your chances with me have always been substantially higher than with Amy," says Sherlock. "John, you're jiggling me."
"I'm rubbing you," says John. "Don't try and cheapen this."
"I'm not the one with double entendres," says Sherlock and clears his throat. "John, not that I don't appreciate your thoroughness, but I have spent quite enough time wet this evening. Can we please get dry now?" There's no response and Sherlock raises his voice. "John?"
John blinks. He's aware that he's cold, that he's warming up some not by being in the shower but by the press of naked flesh to naked flesh. He has no objection at all to naked flesh, but while he's spent a considerable amount of his life trying to get close to new naked flesh, he never suspected that Sherlock's naked body would be so damn good to be pressed up against. A little too good to be pressed against, because while John might not always wear his heart on his sleeve, he does react quite physically to situations.
For example, he's reacting quite positively toward Sherlock's naked body and the evidence is currently pushing against Sherlock's right thigh. He gasps as he realises what he's doing and steps back slightly. Sherlock turns to look at John and John very quickly turns the shower off and scrambles for a towel. He tosses one toward Sherlock and hopes he grabs it as he dries every bit of himself off and tries very hard to push any thoughts of arousal from his head.
He's almost successful and as he looks back at Sherlock, John notices that the man's still shivering. He could send him to bed to warm up. He could bid him goodnight and go up to bed and put himself firmly back in the land of total denial. It's a possibility, but John has spent much of the evening, much of the past few months taking care of Sherlock and the idea of stopping actually irritates him. "Dry your hair."
"I know how to take care of myself," says Sherlock and shivers.
"Yeah, you've clearly demonstrated that tonight," says John and sighs before he reaches for the towel and scrubs at Sherlock's hair. "Look, don't say anything."
"Well, that's clearly not going to happen," says Sherlock and frowns as John grabs his hand. "And would you stop pulling me around. I am not a child!"
"No, I could wrap a child up and they'd behave," says John and takes Sherlock up the stairs to his bedroom. "Body heat," he says and Sherlock stares at him. "Just shut up now."
"I hadn't said anything," says Sherlock and climbs onto the bed as John pulls extra covers off the top of the wardrobe. "Were you planning to use this technique on Amy?"
"Funnily enough, Amy wouldn't drag me across London to insult dangerous men."
"She's unambitious," says Sherlock and John climbs in next to him and wraps his body close. "I suppose she won't be hearing about this."
"Right," says John and closes his eyes tight. "Just try to get some sleep and tomorrow we'll pretend this didn't happen."
"Ah," says Sherlock and for a moment there's silence. "Thank you, John."
"Oh, I'm sure there's something this evening," says Sherlock and turns his head so his mouth is close to John's cheek. "You're very warm."
"Shut up," says John and grins. "Go to sleep."
"I shall try," says Sherlock. "I like that you're warm."
John scrunches his eyes tight shut and clings tighter to Sherlock's skin. Not that there's anything inappropriate in any of this. He's just warming up his flatmate so they'll both be awake and in good condition by morning. John's not willing for Sherlock to catch a cold or worse, because it would definitely be John who had to take care of him. So this is better.
Naked and better.
It certainly won't be awkward in the morning.