Title: November Storms
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Spoilers: The usual.
Summary: From the kinkmeme prompt: "It's ridiculous to sleep when the weather is this loud." An idea that somehow evolved into what it is now!
AN: Followers of Burn the Heart Out Of You will be glad to hear that I am halfway through the next chapter. This just ate me up for a while. Keep your eyes peeled for the next chapter soon.
And THANK YOU to everyone who ever reviews me…I love you guys and you encourage me no end!
"What are you doing up?" Sherlock says as soon as John stumbles into the living room, even though he has his back to the door and John is pretty sure he opened it quietly enough.
John doesn't want to say dreaming about old comrades bleeding out under my hands, so he motions to the windows, which are momentarily rattling under the onslaught of a heavy gale. "It's ridiculous to sleep when the weather is this loud."
"Is it?" Of course Sherlock wouldn't have noticed, he is bent over the table in the midst of some bizarre chemical experiment, and it would take nothing less than the house falling down around him to distract him.
John rolls his eyes and stuffs his hands into his dressing gown pocket - its an old dressing gown, far too thin by now, but he can't afford anything better at the moment. He thinks about going back to bed, but the wind is still howling, and in his room it sounds far louder because he has a draught somewhere, and he could really do with some tea, and anyway Sherlock is here.
He goes into the kitchen to put the kettle on, and, as it does so, momentarily rests his forehead on the cupboard above and closes his eyes, and listens to the sounds of 221b Baker Street - the gentle clinking of glass on glass as Sherlock swaps beakers around, the bubbling of something on a Bunsen burner, the slight scratchings of a pen on paper as Sherlock notes down his observations, and, beyond, the ragings of a storm that has been firmly locked outside their warm little world. The sounds are comforting, they almost feel…homely. Which is bizarre, because at the beginning of this John would never have even thought to associate Sherlock with the word homely, but here it is…221b Baker Street, Sherlock and home.
"Ah," says Sherlock suddenly, and in the sort of tone which actually says 'I have done something very, very wrong and now something bad and possibly painful is going to happen'.
John peaks around the doorframe to see Sherlock holding up a beaker that is starting to bubble and froth a sort of milky liquid, a nervous expression all over his face.
"Oh shit," Sherlock says (profanity equals an emergency in his book) just as John says "Drop it!" and then there suddenly all the lights go out and there is the loud sound of glass shattering on the floor, following by a deeply horrible smell and pained whimperings from Sherlock's direction.
Blackout, John says to himself.
He gropes his way around the kitchen slowly, trying to remember where he's put the candles, whilst Sherlock moans and complains. "I've burnt myself, I've actually - ow ow ow!"
John glances around but he can't see a thing. "Come here and put it under cold water," he orders. He gropes around in a drawer where he remembers he saw a torch a few days ago, and sure enough his fingers soon curl around it, and after moment he has found the switch and turns the torch on. The light is weak and flickering, but it is better than nothing. He flashes it in Sherlock's direction, but Sherlock is already making his tentative way towards the light.
"My hand hurts," he whines, sounding more like a petulant child than the scientist of a failed experiment. John gropes forward cautiously and takes the offered hand.
"Tap," he says, and drags the grumbling Sherlock over to the sink, turning the cold tap on and holding Sherlock's hand under it. Sherlock squeaks but says nothing else, and John briefly reflects on how weird this is, standing in the pitch black dark at some goddamn awful time in the morning, with only a half dead torch for light, while a storm batters and screams outside and some horrible chemical steadily eats its way through their living room floor. He slides a finger almost distractedly over Sherlock's hand, under the water, and blinks when Sherlock's own finger lifts and traps his, curling around it like a boa constrictor.
John suddenly realises how close they are standing to each other; the darkness is pressing in, pushing them together, and he can feel Sherlock's breath on the back of his neck, almost as loud as the storm outside and certainly a lot warmer.
He clears his throat. "I hope that chemical wasn't too flesh-eating."
"No." Sherlock's voice - low and deep and irritable - rumbles in his ear, sending goosebumps up his neck. "Just burning."
Good God. John clears his throat again and wonders what his chances would be if he just turned around and -
The lights flicker and then suddenly flash on, and the kettle roars back into life. John looks down at his and Sherlock's hands, entwined under the water, and pulls his grip away, swallowing down a lump in his throat. Sherlock lifts his hand out of the water to inspect his wound.
"Not as bad as it could have been," he announces finally, almost cheerily. John glances into the living room. The carpet is covered in glass, and has a huge hole in it where the chemicals got hungry. The air stinks of iron and a strange candy-like sweetness. Mrs Hudson is going to slaughter them.
He crosses to the other side of the room and opens a window. The air outside is cold and fresh, and the rain has almost stopped.
"Looks like the storm's lessening," he says. Sherlock sniffs and puts his hand under the tap again.
"You could get some sleep then," he says, the very picture of casualness.
John turns and grins at Sherlock, who very most definitely isn't looking at him. "Tea?" he suggests.
"Please," says Sherlock, and John pretends he can't hear the smile under his voice, and returns to the kettle instead.
He doesn't dream about the soldiers this time. He dreams about that Something which is worse, and then he goes downstairs into the living room and walks into empty darkness, because there is no one there and he knew there wouldn't be, he knew it.
The wind howls and rages outside, and reminds him of a time when the world was lit up, when it had life and homeliness and Sherlock.
And now all there is is loneliness and darkness, and an emptiness that he doesn't think will ever go away. Even if he were to move out tomorrow, how could he forget, how could he ignore the memories of that great, enigmatic man he knew, who fell and who left him and whose equal he could never find again.
He once lived through a war and then got picked up out of the limbo that followed it. But he won't get picked up this time. This time, the limbo stays.
There was a storm, a dark storm like this one, and it was called Moriarty, and he self-destructed that brightness that was Sherlock, and now all John has is the blankness left behind.
How could he have ever imagined that such life, that such happiness, that such light could last forever? No. No. Limbo was always only a step away.
He looks into the darkness and imagines a voice, deep and low and preoccupied, saying, What are you doing up?
And he says aloud, "It's ridiculous to sleep when the weather is this loud."
And no one answers him.
He wakes up from the same old nightmare and for a second a primeval fear grips him and he thinks, what if it was a dream? What if yesterday -
And a storm is raging outside again, and it won't leave him alone because what if?
He is running downstairs before he can quite think about it, and he pushes the door open -
Sherlock is reading a book, nestled in his old chair, thinner and wearier and a year older, but still always and essentially Sherlock. 221b glows with light and warmth, the fire is on, and outside the wind tears at the windows, but it will never get in, never.
Briefly, John is astonished that he has found that brightness, not once, but twice, and he thinks that he is lucky, he is so lucky, and his heart swells, unmistakeable and unfathomable, and memories of yesterday, of Sherlock's reappearance, come flooding back on top of him.
Sherlock glances up from his book, and it is the same grey eyes that pierce him, that same look. "What are you doing up?" he asks.
It's all John can do not to laugh out loud, not to break into a smile and just keep smiling, smiling, smiling.
He bites his lip and looks around at the flat, at the rattling windows. "It's ridiculous to sleep when the weather is this loud," he says, because that is all he can say, because that is what he needs to say.
Sherlock is staring at him, because Sherlock isn't stupid and he remembers before, when John said this before, when they were here before, and in a minute John is either going to shout, cry or laugh, he has no idea what.
"Tea?" he says instead.
Sherlock is still watching him, and now he has gone very still.
"I won't do that to you again," he says, and he says it in a flat tone, but John knows that the flatter the tone the more the emotion when it comes to Sherlock.
He looks up and meets Sherlock's eyes and for a moment all they do is stare at each other, and John thinks, no you won't, because if you did, I would never get out of the limbo again. Three times is pushing it. If you did it again, you wouldn't find me again. No one is that lucky. So don't ever, ever leave me again.
"I know," he says. "I know, Sherlock."
Sherlock hesitates, still uneasy. "It was necessary."
John whirls back halfway towards the kitchen and says, no, babbles really, "Sherlock, I know. I know it was necessary. I know, okay?"
"No." Sherlock stands up suddenly, letting his book fall to the floor and approaches John with an almost predatory swiftness. "No, I don't think you do."
"I do," John insists. "I know it was hard for you - "
"Hard?" Sherlock lets out a sudden laugh, and John looks at him properly, and sees lines of strain he hadn't seen before, and he wonders for the first time what it must have been like for Sherlock, to resist coming back for all that time, to want to come back and having to resist, knowing the pain that John was going through and being able to do nothing, nothing, nothing.
"Sherlock - " He reaches for Sherlock's hand, and remembers as he does how Sherlock burnt it, on a night like this, with the wind and the rain and home. He turns the hand over in his grip but the burn didn't even leave a faint scar. Sherlock was lucky. Like he has been lucky.
He looks up at Sherlock, who is standing watching him, his eyes very dark, his face very pale.
"I could do with a blackout right about now," Sherlock says suddenly.
John opens his mouth to say what? but just as he does, Sherlock leans forward and catches the word with his own mouth. He tastes of iron and a candy-like sweetness, like chemicals, like rain and lightning, and John's mind goes completely blank until Sherlock pulls away again.
He blinks confusedly a few times, until he realises Sherlock is standing very still, waiting to see what he is going to say.
There is only, and has only, been one thing he could ever say.
This time he gets to see Sherlock's ringing smile, so bright that it chases all lingering memories of limbo away.
The storm rips and tears and scratches and grasps out for them, but its going to have to do better than that, because this, this bright strange thing, this…is home.