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Sherlock Fanfic: Unexpected Thaw - CaffieneKittySpace
('i' before 'e' if you're looking for me)
Sherlock Fanfic: Unexpected Thaw
Title: Unexpected Thaw
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC 2010)
Disclaimer: I am not the originator of the characters or brand new world of Sherlock Holmes. 3M owns duct/gaffer tape; it may hold the universe together but was never intended for the use I'm putting it to in this story.
Word Count: 3500-ish
Rating/Warnings: Pre-slash/Squint. PG-13 (plus one very bad word). Unrequited pining between men.
Beta/Britpick: The wonderfully tolerant and understanding gayalondiel!
A/N: For this Prompt - Possibly the only fic I've written like this on several counts, so I apologise if this is ludicrous. [LJ-only]
Summary: John, Lestrade, a non-functioning freezer and a whole lot of grey tape.

Unexpected Thaw
by CaffieneKitty

John addressed the darkness behind him. "Braced again?"

"Hard not to be in a space this small," replied Lestrade.

"Right, kicking on three..." John leaned back against the Detective Inspector and bent his own knees up to his chest. "One... Two..."

John kicked his taped-together legs out at the freezer door, invisible in the pitch blackness. Sharp pain shot up John's legs as the tiny metal room boomed with the impact, but the door didn't move or even flex.

"Come on, bloody-!" John growled, kicking again.

"It's not even shifting enough to let in any light, at least none that I can see," Lestrade said, craning his neck. "Even if they have barred it from outside it should at least flex enough to gap a little, bend."

"They were dragging things," muttered John, letting his aching legs drop to the floor for a moment. "It's not just barred, it's barricaded."

"For Christ's-" John felt Lestrade's back sag against his in their bonds. "Just stop kicking. There's no bloody use."

"I can't not try."

"Let it be." Lestrade said, resigned. "A walk-in freezer is like a safe, near enough, especially an old one like this. Thick walls, airtight. We're just using up the air faster, and the banging is doing my head in."

John turned his head to speak over his shoulder. "How is your head? Blurred vision clearing up at all?"

"How in hell could I tell that? Black as the inside of a cow in here." The Inspector's hair brushed against John's as Lestrade's head turned in response.

"True. Sorry." John's head hadn't been liking the noise much either, but Lestrade had received the worst treatment from their captors. They'd rushed them, hit them both over the head with a length of steel pipe, then when John regained consciousness first, kept him under control by silently holding a hunting knife to the unconscious Detective Inspector's throat. He could still see the blood from the head injury soaking down the side of Lestrade's face and collar in his mind's eye and forcibly reminded himself that scalp wounds always looked worse than they were.

Lestrade's irritability could be a symptom of concussion, but it could also be a sign of being mummified in silvery-grey duct tape and locked into a freezer. Beyond turning their heads, they could barely move. Their captors had done a thorough job of immobilising them; rounds of tape bound each of them individually around the legs and chest, binding their legs together and their arms to their sides. Another several rounds of tape wrapped around them both, holding them back to back sitting on the floor, arms squashed between them. As an added insult, Lestrade's own handcuffs linked their right wrists together so that should they somehow escape the billion miles of duct tape, the need to keep their right hands close together would make running away an awkward proposition.

"You're sure there's no trick to these?" asked John, twisting his wrist and making the handcuff chain clink against the metal floor.

"No, there's no 'trick' to escaping from standard-issue police handcuffs," Lestrade said. "Nor the yards of gaffer tape. Nor the empty disused walk-in freezer somewhere in a twenty minute radius of Piccadilly Circus."

"East," John said.


"We're East of Piccadilly."

"Are you Sherlock now? How d'you know that?"

John shrugged. "You were out cold but I was conscious for most of the trip. They didn't say anything, but the van went east, or north-east, I'm fairly certain. Angle of the light from the windscreen."

"Fantastic," Lestrade said wryly. "I'll just hop on my mobile and shout up the Yard, tell them we're somewhere between Shacklewell and Stepney then. Oh, wait..."

"No need to be sarcastic," John muttered.

"Sarcasm's about all I have. Certainly the sharpest thing I have at the moment." Lestrade wriggled. "I can't believe we're trussed up with gaffer tape in a bloody walk-in freezer somewhere outside of Islington!"

"Good job it's not a running freezer or we'd be hypothermic already."

Lestrade shifted again. "Do I want to know how much air we have left in here?"

John had been trying not to think about it. It's not the air so much as the build up of carbon dioxide. Freezer this small, airtight, two adult men producing carbon dioxide... CO2 levels will build to lethal concentrations long before the oxygen runs out. Must be at least an hour we've been here by now, so an hour or less left before we lose consciousness, if we're lucky. If not, choking and mindless panic. Death from CO2 narcosis an hour or so after that, despite there still being enough oxygen to last 'til morning. He could already feel the close thickness of the air, feel his lungs labouring a little.

To Lestrade, John just said, "No. You don't."

"Ah. Thought so."

"Best we not move around more than necessary though."

"Done with the kicking then?"

Much as kicking the door was cathartic, Lestrade was right. There was no use to it; wasted effort, just like their earlier attempts at standing up had been. "Yeah. Done."

"Good. Last thing I need while I die is a screaming migraine."

John snorted. "We're not going to die."

"You're so sure about that. No one knows where we are, except the thieves. We're witnesses, we can identify them. They could very well decide to come back and eliminate us."

"They can't want us dead, Inspector." John shook his head, knowing even though Lestrade couldn't see it, he would feel the motion. "They could have killed us before, but they bound us up and bunged us in the freezer like well-wrapped leftovers."

"Maybe they just didn't want to kill us in person. Thieves, not murderers. Yet."

"It's probably a delaying tactic, to get the authorities off their trail. They'll likely have dropped a hint about where we are to keep the Met side-tracked while they escape. Sherlock won't need more than a hint. He'll find us both long before they expect us to be found."

Lestrade grunted, unconvinced. "Provided the Yard shares the information with Sherlock. When I'm not there to run interference, they're not likely to share anything."

"Sherlock won't give them the option."

"He'll land in a cell himself if he pushes his luck and gets in the way of the investigation."

"Someone will find us."

"When? Before or after we stop breathing?"

Silence always seemed so much bigger in a small dark room.

Eventually Lestrade cleared his throat. "When I was a PC, my first year, there was this kid."

No story that started off like that ever ended well. "Inspector-"

"Bethany Gupta. She was four. She'd wandered off, parents couldn't find her, they called 999. Wasn't missing more than a few hours before...." Lestrade's breath rattled in the dark. "I was the one that found her. She'd got into in a fridge, left by a council estate skip down the road. An old fridge, the kind with a latching handle, just like the one on this freezer."

"Oh." Revisiting an incident like that right now would not help either of them. "You don't need to tell me-"

"She'd scratched the inside of the door, trying to get out," Lestrade continued. "Her fingernails tore, she'd thrown up, the look on her face, she..." he trailed off.

"That won't happen to us." John stated gently, keeping his tone more certain than he felt.

"It wasn't a peaceful death."

"In my experience, not many are."

"It took less than two hours from when she'd gotten locked in for her to die, the coroner said."

Definitely not helping. "A fridge is a lot smaller than a walk-in freezer."

"And two grown men breathe a lot more air than one little girl."

In the silence that followed that, their breath seemed unnaturally loud. John could hear Lestrade's respiration beginning to labour, feel the Inspector's ribs expanding farther as his lungs tried to take in more air. His own breathing wasn't much better.

"You should know," said Lestrade when the silence had stretched far too long. "I respect you. As a person."

John blinked into the darkness at the sudden topic change. "Right, okay... thanks? I mean, you too, absolutely, Inspector Lestrade."

"Please. Please, call me Greg?"

John laughed. "Given the circumstances, I guess a first name basis would be more than appropriate."

"Since we're taped together and every time you move your fingers you're tickling my arse, yeah."

"Sorry," John said, clenching his hands between their backs.

"No, I know, can't be helped."

"And what's a bit of a tickle between friends, eh?" John grinned, unseen.

Behind John, Lestrade breathed heavily for a moment, leaving the silence to hang.

The annoying thing about being stuck in a small, unlit, ventless, windowless freezer, besides the CO2 build-up and distinct possibility of death, was not being able to see the facial expression of the person he was talking to. Particularly the person he was affixed to with duct tape. It was a bit like a telephone conversation, but with shared body heat and wiggling.

John tried again. "Sorry, daft thing to say, it's just something from when I was in the army. The best way to keep your head in a tense situation is to make your team laugh. I didn't mean any-"

"Christ," Lestrade's voice was unexpectedly rough. "I'd give anything for you not to be here."

With a sardonic chuckle, John said, "The feeling is mutual."

"I wish it was. I truly do. The, uh, the thing is, John..."


John felt Lestrade shake his head. "God."


"Since even if we are found it'll be too late for us... I... I just wanted to tell you..."

"Oh god." John didn't know what kind of secrets accumulated in however many years as a police officer Lestrade might feel moved to confess when he thought he was dying, and he didn't want to know. "Look, they'll find us, Sherlock will, on his own or, or he's got this brother that-"

"Just. Please. I'm sorry. I meant what I said. If there was anything I could do to make it so that you weren't trapped here too, I would."

"Of course, the air'd last longer for one person."

Lestrade nudged his head against the back of John's. "Oi! Just shut it a minute! I'm-"

"What? Look, Les- Greg, whatever it is can wait. Someone will find us or we'll get loose, there's no need for a deathbed confess-"

"I love you."

Another moment of silence fell before John wheezed with laughter. "Ha! Great way to break the tension! You love me. That's brilliant! You, you..."

John couldn't see Greg's face, but he could feel the growing tension in his shoulders where they were bound back to back. Greg's head wasn't touching his any more, sagging forward.


"...You're serious. Are you serious?"

The tape binding them together creaked, pulling tighter across John's chest as the DI sighed. "Yeah."

"...I'm sorry, but..." John shook his head, trying to make his brain function, because of all the many things he hadn't expected to do today, receiving a genuine confession of love from DI Lestrade was probably the least anticipated. "...what?"

"I... Jesus. I love you. Alright? Plain enough? Or I fancy you rotten and I'm only thinking it's love because I'm an idiot. And a coward."

"I didn't realise you were gay," John blurted, then wished he had something other than Greg's head to beat his own against because that was very much not the point.

Greg's back stiffened. "Well, it's hardly going to come up in our usual conversations is it? 'Hello Sherlock, hello Dr. Watson, there's the eviscerated corpse, by the way, I prefer shagging blokes.'"

"Yes, of course, stupid thing for me to say." John shook his head. "I just never realised. You're very circumspect about your personal life."

"I didn't grow up in 21st century London, did I? You get beaten up on a regular basis for fancying blokes at school, you learn to tread very quietly. Things weren't this easy not too long ago. You know that." Lestrade's shoulders shifted against John's. "Or at least I bloody well do."

John nodded. "I can understand. It'd be hard to get past feeling you needed to hide to avoid persecution."

"I'm not hiding from anyone. It's just no one's business but me and... well... people I hope to shag someday. Or hoped to shag."

John blinked in the darkness. Oh. Something like butterflies twitched in John's stomach. He ran through the list of cognitive concussion symptoms again. Irritability, fear, fatalism, all could be ascribed to a mild head trauma. Uncharacteristic declarations of love... not typical. But could be. This didn't seem like a sudden thing though. Far from it.

"Why me?" John asked.

Behind him, Lestrade laughed sourly in the dark. "If I knew that, I'd be a much happier man. It's been driving me mad, I keep wanting to ask you to the pub, or dinner or email you and find out how your day was, something, at least get to know you better as a person, as a friend if nothing else, and I never have."

His mouth apparently still on autopilot, John asked, "Why not?"

One of Greg's shoulders raised and lowered against John's back in a half-shrug, the drying blood from his head wound squishing noisomely. "At first I didn't know if you and Sherlock were..."

"What? No, me and Sherlock, definitely no. Sherlock doesn't-" John shrugged and tried to clear his head. "Sherlock just doesn't. We're just good friends."

"Oh, I know that now, but after I figured that bit out, I didn't want to push, risk making things awkward. Then you took up with Sarah and that- well, that provided evidence I was an even bigger idiot than I originally thought I was."

There's more to human sexuality than two options. It's not a light switch.

John wanted to say something, but it seemed for Greg that the dam had burst. "I can't help it. I fancy you. I didn't know how you'd react whether you'd be offended or upset or panic, so I've just kept my mouth shut for almost a year now and, and pined like a teenager after a bloody pop star, but I shouldn't have kept quiet. God I'm an idiot. I've been miserable, and I know you probably don't even fancy men, but I should have said something before. We could have at least become actual friends or something, even if it was never anything other than that."

John just breathed, as slowly as he could. He wondered how much of the light-headedness he was feeling was from the carbon dioxide levels building in the freezer and how much was... something else.

Greg chuckled bitterly. "Doesn't matter now, we've got about an hour left, yeah? I've said it, it's done, and none of it matters because we're going to die in Islington in a bloody freezer. What a fucking joke."

"Well." John's heart thumped far too loudly for his liking. He smiled and hoped it carried in his voice. "You have definitely managed to distract me from our current predicament, so congratulations on that."

"I wasn't going to die without telling you."

John huffed in frustration. "We're not going to die! Look, you've got head trauma, that can lead to emotional effects, irrational fear, irritability and so on."

"Still. I've said it, and now at least you know. I can die in full confession of my regrets." A small noise that might have been a giddy giggle came from Lestrade.

"We're not going to bloody die." John's head swam as a wave of tired dizziness swept over him. "That's just the concussion talking."

"Not all of it."

John swallowed, and forced determination into his voice. "We'll be fine, they'll come find us. Sherlock will find us."

Silence fell again, filled with their laboured breathing. John hadn't ever really thought of the Inspector that way. Not that John hadn't found men attractive before, just that with Lestrade, their interactions arguably formed a sort of odd professional relationship, and he'd been seeing a warrant card and a position more than he'd seen him as a person. John knew Greg was kind, had a wicked sense of humour, and genuinely cared about Sherlock beyond his admiration of what the man could do. He'd been friendly enough but... I had no idea. Not the slightest hint.

As the silence stretched, John heard something besides their breathing. A sharp noise, followed by voices outside. Thumping and shifting.

Greg's head leaned against John's shoulder, and his voice had begun wavering drunkenly. "When it gets bad, d'you think we could crack our heads together hard, knock each other out? I don't know about you but if I'm going to die of asphyxiation, I'd rather it be unconcious than puking and panicking."


"Yeah. Yeah, I've said too much. I'm sorry. Christ, my head hurts."

"No, Greg, listen."

The Inspector's head lifted off John's shoulder. The thumps and voices outside got louder, and the ghost of a baritone bellow of "John! Lestrade!" filtered in through the door.

John slumped in relief. "That's Sherlock. About bloody time."

Greg was silent and motionless behind him, his breathing shallow.

"Greg, are you with me? Don't-"

"I haven't passed out. Yet."

"They're coming. We have to help them find us. Kicking again now, ready?"

"Yeah. Ready."

"On three." John pulled his legs up and leaned back against Lestrade again.


Sherlock hovered for a minute, asking questions while the medics evaluated and treated John and Lestrade, bandaging Greg's head and putting them both on oxygen masks. Eventually a combination of their responses to Sherlock's pop-quiz about their captors sent him off into spinning mutterings. He began walking away, then turned back, whipping out his phone to snap a picture of the pair of them still stuck all over with patches of duct tape, bundled up in orange blankets and oxygen masks.

"Yeah, shut it," Lestrade muttered.

Sherlock grinned and dove into the freezer, magnifying lens in hand.

The building they were in had turned out to be an abandoned industrial bakery, and the freezer one of a bank of four identical freezers amongst a warren of cupboards, ovens and storage rooms.

John marveled at the lack of territorial disputes. Sherlock seemed to be going over specific areas while Anderson and his team collected bits from all over the building in the brute force data collection of a standard forensics investigation. Sergeant Donovan coordinated the PCs securing the perimeter, relaying instructions and requests from both Anderson and Sherlock with equal professionalism. She did glance quite frequently over towards John and Lestrade, giving a small grin when John caught her looking. No one was calling each other names, and no one was sniping or arguing about whose crime scene this was. Sherlock bobbed amongst the blue-suited forensics team like a raven among barn swallows.

Obviously there've been some conversations had here that I'm sorry to have missed hearing.

"We should get abducted more often if it gets them cooperating like that," John said to Lestrade, grinning behind the oxygen mask. When he didn't recieve a response, he looked over at the Detective Inspector. "You okay?"

"Look. All that stuff I said about..." the hand Greg wasn't hanging onto the oxygen mask with stuttered in mid-air. "You know. You can chalk it up to head injury, oxygen deprivation, anything you want, I don't- Just forget I ever said anything."

John frowned. "Greg, it's-"

"Just forget it!" Lestrade barked from behind the mask. "There's no use and it's going to do nothing but make things awkward when you come with Sherlock to crime scenes."

John took a breath to say something, but stopped at Lestrade's thunderously downcast look. He swallowed. "Right, okay, if that's what you want, forgotten then."

"Good. Thank you." Lestrade slumped on the edge of the stretcher and rubbed a hand across his eyes. Blood spatter from his head wound stained his shoulder and streaked down his chest, drying; his hair was tufted up by the bandage over his head injury like some crested exotic bird.

Why not? Hardly new territory after all.

John cleared his throat. "Inspector Lestrade?"

"Yeah?" The Inspector didn't look at him, frowning in the direction of the forensics crew.

"I've been thinking lately," John continued. "I'd rather like to get to know you better, as a person."

Lestrade's eyes snapped over to meet John's, searching the doctor's half-obscured face for any hint of mockery, but finding only an expression of bland non-threatening friendliness.

"Once we catch these bastards and get this sorted, any chance you'd like to go for a coffee with me?" John blinked mildly.

The corners of Lestrade's eyes crinkled as a grin crept slowly across Lestrade's hidden lips. "Yeah. I think I could fit that into my schedule."

John grinned back.

- - -
(that's all.)

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Current Mood: anxious anxious

44 comments or Leave a comment
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From: kikainausagi Date: March 2nd, 2011 07:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw! This was adorable! You hit a great balance of tense, and sweet.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not to worry, they sort themselves out in the end.
elfbert From: elfbert Date: March 2nd, 2011 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
This was brilliant! Really enjoyed it, I thought you got both their characters down really well.

And yay for John at the end :)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
faroula From: faroula Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
This was awesome. It gave me warm fuzzies. Thank you!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay for warm fuzzies!
perian From: perian Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Ohh, lovely!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
c0ntrarywise From: c0ntrarywise Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel all smiley after reading this story :) It was tense there for a while (you win for rocking science!facts with the CO2 narcosis), was creative for the trope, and I love Lestrade more now, which would hardly seem possible. Thanks for sharing this!

Also: ... Moar? *encouraging smile that definitely isn't threatening and creepy in any way* - oh nevermind, I see you being all final there with the "that's all" now. So I'll just save it and cry at the fact their fake love was cut short :P

Edited at 2011-03-02 08:30 am (UTC)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, this is all there's going to be for this fic. Positive possibilities only, and where they go after this can be interpreted however the reader wants. :-)
morganstuart From: morganstuart Date: March 2nd, 2011 11:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Beautifully done!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
embroiderama From: embroiderama Date: March 2nd, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is wonderful! I love how the mood gets heavier and darker the longer they're trapped, but even in the midst of it this line:

"And what's a bit of a tickle between friends, eh?" John grinned, unseen.

made me laugh so hard I startled the cats. ;)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huzzah for cat-startling!
lbmisscharlie From: lbmisscharlie Date: March 2nd, 2011 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww. I really love Lestrade's awkwardness once they get out, and John making it right!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Lestrade's not one to share his feelings easily, whatever they are.
lawless523 From: lawless523 Date: March 2nd, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nicely done! I have to agree, though, anything that gets Sherlock and Lestrade's investigative team on the same side has some good aspects to it. :D
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
ciaranbochna From: ciaranbochna Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your writing makes everything seem better. Lovely:)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 2nd, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, thanks. :-)
innie_darling From: innie_darling Date: March 2nd, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is why John Rules All - because he is awesome and no wonder Lestrade's in love.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 3rd, 2011 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course!
donutsweeper From: donutsweeper Date: March 2nd, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
*squees* Oh this is one hundred kinds of wonderful! I love your Sherlock fics!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 3rd, 2011 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, thanks! :-D
fengirl88 From: fengirl88 Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh very nice!

trust John to find the right way out of that one...
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 3rd, 2011 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)
John's perceptive like that.
notkerouac From: notkerouac Date: March 2nd, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was tracking the prompt, so when the alert popped up in my email oh my gosh, I had a wee spazz attack. This? Was GLORIOUS. Love it to PIECES. <333
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: March 3rd, 2011 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay, glad you found it! It took off on me at first and I was all "Sure, I'll just knock this out before New Year's, no problem!" so I posted the comment to that effect and then... BLOCK. So, really sorry for the wait, and glad you liked it!
44 comments or Leave a comment
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