It was completely silent as Sherlock padded down the darkened beach.
The sand was soft and warm and wet beneath his toes, imprints sinking like temporary moulds before the tide washed up to guide them away. The water was cool, not hot and not biting cold, but simply cool to the touch. Ideal for a swim in the otherwise warm temperature of Hawaii.
It was for a case, obviously. The plane ride had nearly done him in from boredom and minor queasiness, but the call of the gentle lapping of the waves against the beach had been calling to him since he had seen the water beneath the plane.
He loved swimming. He'd been involved in it when he had been younger, back in his childhood. Relay races and that sort of thing, but he had given it up. Gone crying to his mum, actually, when, after the Carl Powers incident, the rest of the boys started to pick on him. That had been it for swimming, not that he minded.
Swimming was private, almost. He revered the way that the water could be so majestic and deadly at the same time. It seemed sentimental for him, he knew. But the power something so base held... It could lap at his skin in a sensual embrace or toss his body as though he were a rag doll. It was both evil and angelic. But swimming with many other people, swimming with children who yelled and screamed and fought, or swimming with adults determined to pull off ridiculous stunts or bawlk in the face of their children urinating in the public pool, it destroyed the tranquillity.
He was only ever at utter peace with the water when it was him and him alone. No one to bother him or the water. No one to ruin the perfect picture with a splash or a shout. It was just him and the water, two becoming one.
Sherlock paused at the water's edge, eyes directed at the endless rippling motion stretched out before him.
He breathed in slowly, allowing the sea air to tickle his nose. He loved the way it smelled. Fresh, invigorating, and inviting. It was unlike anything else that he could describe or witness. He suspected that if he could describe it, it would lessen the quality of how it made him feel.
It was dark out. Just past three in the morning, if he had to guess. They were in a nice secluded spot off of the main drag, so to speak, so the beach here was less trodden upon by passerby. Of course, it was inevitable that during the day, the inhabitants of the state flocked to the water in the warm weather, but at night, Sherlock reckoned that he was safe from any young, disgusting couple who wished for a 'midnight swim', if that was what night-time coitus in the water was called nowadays.
Only the moonlight - a waxing gibbous, if he remembered correctly. He was liable to be wrong because, as John liked to point out, solar systems and related material strayed from his mind - illuminated the soft, white sand and the clear water around him.
Sherlock let his lips fall apart slightly, taking in a breath of the sea air. He could taste it on his tongue, the salt from the water. It was tangible. It cooled his throat and seemed to settle heavily into his lungs before he exhaled again, tongue flicking out as though to catch the remnants of the taste again.
He licked his lips again and sank his toes more firmly into the sand, relishing in the way it felt against his feet. He'd called walking in sand - wet sand - a whim of fancy for the more romantic, but he understood the appeal when he blanketed in silence and darkness.
Without a conscious desire or thought to do so, Sherlock's fingers had fallen to the buttons on his shirt and were slowly making their way through them. One, two, three, each button glided smoothly from its constraint, leaving his shirt gaping open. The air was both a shock and an invite on his exposed chest and he let out a little breath of semi-appreciation.
One cuff, and then the other, and Sherlock let the cotton glide away from his skin and fall gently to the sandy beach below. It didn't matter than his clothes cost hundreds of pounds and that the sand would haunt him for time to come if he put them on the beach. It was material. This was something more important, a greater gravitational pull.
His hand travelled to his trousers, thumb flicking open the button and then making quick work with the zipper. He stepped out of them easily, the night-time air nipping at his naked body. It wasn't cold out, not even remotely cool, but gooseflesh sprung up from the tip of his toes and onwards.
There was a niggling thought that someone could be watching but Sherlock didn't pay it any mind. He wasn't shy, wasn't easily embarrassed, and the water was for swimming. Clothes made swimming less of a poignant experience. He wanted to feel the water's embrace as he joined with it.
With measured steps, he waded out into the water until the water was tickling his hips. He stood for a moment, head cocked towards the moon, as he let his body acclimatise to the temperature now staining his skin. When he was ready, he waded out the rest of the way until he was submerged enough to paddle, kicking his feet back and forth in a gentle paddling motion, barely causing ripples on the surface of the water.
The smell of the salt was very nearly overwhelming at this point, but Sherlock didn't mind it. It just reminded him further of the reason he was here: the gentle motion, the cool touch, the silence broken only by gentle waves, the unbroken expanse of tranquility. He took a deep breath again, inhaling and then holding it in his lungs, ducking his head under the water to resurface a few second's later, covered from head to toe, droplets on his eyelashes and salt on his lips.
Sherlock jumped like he'd been shot, the voice like a gunshot through the silence of the night. He spun around to face the shore, ears burning hot, the vague impression that he'd gotten caught doing something he shouldn't have weighing on his mind.
John was standing on the shore, expression not discernible from the distance between them. He was wrapped up in his dressing gown. The bottoms were moving slightly with the slight Hawaiian breeze.
"What are you doing?" John asked.
Sherlock swallowed back the taste of salt and unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth. "Swimming. Isn't it obvious?" His voice sounded foreign to him. Unsettling. Why was he unsettled? John had snuck up on him and he hadn't yet recovered. He felt vaguely like he'd lost something he'd come here for and his lips turned down at the corners slightly.
"It's half past three in the morning," John complained.
Sherlock didn't move, treading water in his nearly silent fashion. "Yes. Why are you awake?"
"Can't sleep. It doesn't smell like London," John muttered.
Sherlock agreed. It smelled different, but it smelled wonderful. He didn't say so, though.
John sat down on the sand, glancing at the pile of clothes that was Sherlock's before looking back at the water. "Skinny dipping?"
Sherlock licked his lips again. He didn't think he was red-faced (or red-eared, in his case, as he didn't - usually - blush) from being naked. Hardly seemed likely. He wasn't shy. But there was something and he couldn't place it. Something a bit not good. He wished John would go back to bed. "Yes."
"Is it warm?"
Sherlock's frown deepened. "Of course it isn't. Water is never warm unless the temperature is extremely high. Today was not indicative of exceeding humid temperatures and tonight is only cooler."
John rolled his eyes - well, that was the impression Sherlock got, anyway. He couldn't see from this distance. "So, it's cold."
"It's cool," Sherlock replied. "Not hot. Not cold. Cool." He swam a few paces away, sighing quietly as the water lapped at his sensitive skin.
"Oh... Hell with it," John murmured.
When Sherlock glanced back, he found that John had stood up and was taking off his dressing gown. A spike of alarm shot through Sherlock's veins, ice-cold and semi-terrifying.
"What are you doing?" he asked incredulously.
"Well, if you're skinny dipping at almost four in the morning, we may as well all skinny dip at almost four in the morning," John replied, folding his dressing gown up and pulling his shirt off.
There was a lump in Sherlock's throat that he couldn't swallow back. It wasn't that he minded John's presence. He didn't. He liked it, in fact. He found him extremely tolerable and even companionable, but... his skin was crawling. He was infringing upon his own private time, tainting the ocean with his presence. He was starting to... panic, irrationally.
"John..." The lump caught in his throat and Sherlock tried to swallow it back.
He just wanted to swim. Surrounded by silence and darkness and his very own thoughts... as much as he cared for John, couldn't he just have his peace and quiet?
John stepped out of his pyjama pants and folded those also. He kicked off his boxers and waded into the water as Sherlock watched with the same incredulous look. No points lost for embarrassment, he supposed, but...
"Why are you staring at me?" John asked when he swam up next to him. "What's wrong with your face?"
Sherlock swallowed and turned away, swimming away from his flatmate turned swim-partner.
"Be antisocial, then," John retorted. "The water's lovely."
Sherlock sighed heavily through his nose, closing his eyes. He was trying to get back in the headspace that he had been in... and he couldn't manage it with someone nearby. It was too... unsettling. He was tense now. It was illogical. It was just swimming. It wasn't... personal, except it was. Or... the solitude that came with it was, anyway.
At least John was silent. The silence reigned for almost a solid five minutes, in which Sherlock swam laps around the water, breathing in and out slowly and evenly. The smell, the taste, the coolness against his skin... it was almost perfect again.
Sherlock flinched forward again as John came up behind him without him noticing. He scowled and twisted around to look at him. "It's quiet."
"Yeah, but you're quiet, too." He looked into the distance. "You know, I didn't even know you could swim."
"Of course I can swim. Everybody can swim," Sherlock retorted.
"Well, I've never seen you swimming."
"London doesn't exactly have good places for swimming. Definitely not going to a public pool," Sherlock said dryly.
"Yeah... I used to go swimming all the time before the service, but... yeah. Did a bit of it afterwards, too. Muscle therapy for the shoulder."
Sherlock shifted, the water moving with him. "Did it help?"
John nodded. "Yeah, I think."
Sherlock licked his lips. "... Good," he said, slightly lacklustre in his response. Chatting. It wasn't his nature milieu. It made him awkward, moreso than usual, moreso than he was now.
"You need to relax once in a while. You solved the case," John said.
The next thing Sherlock knew, there was a tidal wave of water hitting him dead on, straight in the face as he had turned his head to look at John again. He coughed and spluttered, choking on the sea-water that he hadn't intended to swallow. His eyes burned from the contact, watering slightly as he squinted as John.
"What are you doing?"
John looked at him innocently.
Sherlock tilted his head, questioning with his eyes. Clearly, John was overtired. The plane ride hadn't done great for either of them - America was too far away - and the lack of sleep from tonight was making John... revert a little. Act a little bit childish. He wouldn't do this if he wasn't overtired... People would talk, right?
"Splashing you," John said. "When have you ever had a water fight?"
Sherlock's head fell a few more degrees to the side. "... I've never had a water fight."
Sherlock had a split second to steel himself before the next man-made wave crashed over him. His eyes and mouth were closed this time, but he still didn't like the way the water trickled down his back and dripped from the tips of his hair.
He shook the water free from his hair, sending droplets flying. "Stop it," he complained, swimming away.
He was pulled back, or at least stopped, when John grabbed his foot. Definitely overtired. This was a different side of John Watson. Interesting. Sherlock had a sudden image of John teaching his own son or daughter to play in the water one day. But the difference was that Sherlock wasn't a child, and he certainly didn't want to play.
He kicked free and spun around, grabbing John's bare shoulders and pushing him under the water. John wasn't allowed to parade upon his tranquility and ruin it with inane things like 'water fights'. Sherlock huffed and swam away again as John came back up, coughing and spluttering.
Leave me alone, he thought grumpily, picking up his pace.
John was on him in the next five seconds. Sherlock struggled as he was pushed under the water, barely managing to get a deep breath. The bad thing about being in the water meant he had nothing to push himself off of, nothing to fight John off with. Physically, he was just as strong, if not stronger than John, but in the water? He was at a disadvantage.
He broke the surface, coughing on sea-water. "Stop it!" he demanded, spinning and kicking off from the water, sending the spray directly into John's face in hopes of deterring his determined doctor. He took off, switching swimming strokes, wanting to put as much distance between him and John as possible.
This certainly wasn't the peaceful swimming exercise that he had been hopin-
John tackled him - bodily - and they both went under in a tangle of knees and elbows. Clearly John had done recreational swimming before; he kept up like a shadow to Sherlock. Strange. Very unexpected and something that he would file away in one of the many cabinets dedicated to his flatmate that he kept in his mind palace.
He took in a mouthful of water and came up choking this time, having to gasp for air through the salt burning his throat and nose.
Sherlock defiantly splashed John and drew in another deep breath.
"Git!" John retorted.
Sherlock didn't know how it happened, or even why it continued, to be honest, but he and John ended up chasing - there was no other word for it - around the water, splashing and kicking and, by the end of it, giggling.
"John... John, stop," Sherlock gasped, treading water on the spot. His entire body ached, whether from swimming or John's playful attacks or simply his face from smiling.
"That was... wow. For never having a water fight," John gasped, "you managed quite well." He wiped water out of his face.
Sherlock laughed on an exhale. "I just followed your lead," he said, pushing his fingers back through his hair. "That was so..."
"Pointless," Sherlock gasped, blinking water from his eyelashes.
John laughed quietly. "I don't know if I'm more tired or more awake than I was," he muttered, turning to swim back towards the shore.
"Well, I'm certainly exhausted," Sherlock muttered, rolling over to float on his back.
"I'm going to go get some towels," John said.
Sherlock waved his hand absently, letting his eyes slip shut.
"Don't fall asleep in the water!" John called.
"I can't fall asleep in the water!" Sherlock retorted, smiling to himself as he heard John get out of the water.
Silence pervaded as John walked away, letting Sherlock sink back into the silence and solitude.
Strange, though. He had come looking for time to himself and John had interrupted. He had been irritated at first and, not five minutes ago, had been laughing far too much, smiling too wide that it made his cheeks hurt.
Solitude, it seemed, could be a rather two-way street.
Sherlock smiled softly to himself and let the rippling motion of the water lull him back into the sense of security he rarely got to feel.
I really thought this was too OOC and almost scrapped it... but, at the same time, I actually really like something about it. I was looking for a way to capture the calmer moments of John and Sherlock and hopefully managed it.
I do not own Sherlock. Thank you!