Two days later, they intercept a small tornado outbreak across Oklahoma and North Texas. The real catch of the day is a picturesque white stovepipe tornado rambling through empty farmland a little after 5 pm. It's long-lived and far away from any towns, and for once John is content to simply lean against his car and watch it.
Sherlock seems a little miffed that he and John are not the only chasers who found the twister. Several cars are parked near theirs, and people have gathered at the edge of the road with cameras and tripods and other instruments.
He's even more miffed when a white SUV pulls up next to them and the driver hops out, wind tugging at his clothes.
"Sherlock Holmes!" he calls. He's older than John, tall and greying. His expression could be called friendly were it not for a distinct air of apprehension. "Didn't know you were in the country."
"Apparently, I am," Sherlock says, glaring over at the SUV. "I see Anderson managed to blunder his way into a correct forecast, for once. Unless you've finally recruited someone competent?"
"Oh, don't start," the man rolls his eyes. A young woman has climbed out of the SUV and is setting up a video camera on a tripod. Another man – Anderson, presumably - follows her out of the car.
Sherlock glances at John. "This is my friend, John Watson."
"Finally found someone willing to chase with you?" He sticks out his hand. "Detective Greg Lestrade, nice to meet you."
"Likewise," John shakes his hand. "You're a policeman?"
"Yep. Well- retired, now."
"Lestrade used to take me out chasing," Sherlock says.
"A long time ago," Lestrade adds. "It was good seeing you again, Sherlock. You should come over for dinner, sometime. The wife would love to show you the new project she's working on." He raises an arm as though he's about to clap Sherlock on the shoulder, but thinks better of it. The man ambles back to his own team, where Anderson is taking a reading on a handheld anemometer.
"You never mentioned you've chased before," John says.
Sherlock shrugs. "A few times, years ago."
"Oh. What did he mean, willing to -"
"Look at the inflow tail, John!" Sherlock interrupts loudly. "Unusually long, wouldn't you say?"
John takes the hint and shuts up.
He does find out what Lestrade meant a bit later, after the tornado finally dies and the people watching on the roadside begin to pack up and peel off.
The young woman on Lestrade's team takes her time putting away her camera, and wanders over to where John is standing by the car.
"Sally Donovan," she says. "You're – Sherlock Holmes' new... colleague?"
"Yes," John says, cautiously.
"What? Did he hijack your car and make you bring him all the way out here?" She snorts. "He must be paying you. No one in their right mind would drive out into a storm with that man."
John can only frown at her. "What do you mean by that?"
"He's a freak," she says plainly. "He almost got us killed. Three times. The man's a psycho, and he has absolutely no concern for anyone's safety." She closes the tripod with a snap. "People are already wary enough about chasers without Sherlock Holmes being out on the roads, making us all look bad." Sally shakes her head. "I'd drive him straight back to where he came from, if I were you."
John rubs his knee and tries not to think about the things people said to him after the accident. "Yeah, well. We're doing just fine, thanks."
"Suit yourself," Sally shrugs and heads back to the SUV, where Lestrade is gesturing for her from the driver's seat.
"Had a nice chat?" Sherlock appears behind John's shoulder.
"God!" he jumps. "Make a little noise, next time!"
Sherlock just raises his eyebrows at him.
"Come on, let's go find somewhere to eat," John unlocks the car and throws himself in. "And you can tell me where you think we should go next."
Sherlock predicts more tornadic supercells in Kansas, so they spend the night in Dodge City. John spends half the evening in Sherlock's hotel room, trying to get his laptop back. The other man insists that yes, it is absolutely necessary, John, for him to look at both screens at once.
He leaves the room to get a Coke from the vending machine and nearly walks into a laptop when he comes back. Sherlock had apparently decided to stand in the doorway, waiting for him, holding up the computer at head height. He's quivering with excitement.
"Look at this, John!"
He does, sipping at his Coke. The radar map shows the area of Kansas they're in; a storm cell hovers ominously over an area to their south. A hook has started to form on the southeastern quadrant.
"No," John says.
"No, I am not going on a night chase, Sherlock," he shoulders past him and picks up his own laptop off of the bed. "It's a good way to get us both killed."
"John-" Sherlock reaches out as though to stop him, hand brushing his side.
"No," John takes the laptop back to his room. When he goes to plug it in, he realizes that the power cord is missing, probably still with Sherlock.
John's power cord is in Sherlock's room, but Sherlock isn't.
"Where the hell-?" With a sinking feeling, John pats his pocket, hoping to find his car keys still there.
"You bloody great-" John doesn't bother locking the room behind as he runs out. It hardly matters if someone steals Sherlock's things if he's too dead to worry about them.
Sherlock is waiting in the passenger seat when John reaches the car. He's twirling the keychain around on a finger when John opens the door.
"Give them back. Now."
Sherlock's hand closes around the keys. The hotel sign lights his faces up red.
"You know what the most dangerous thing about nighttime tornadoes is?" he remarks.
"You can't see them coming," John says, making a grab. Sherlock pulls his hand back. "Which is why we're not going going out to chase one after dark, Sherlock. Now, give me back my keys, and get inside!"
"People in it's path," Sherlock says mildly. "Can't see it coming, either." He opens his fingers and drops the keys into John's palm. "They tend to be more deadly, as people often do not have enough warning to get to shelter in time." He buckles his seatbelt. "That seems like something you'd care about, Doctor Watson."
John can only stare down at him. "Damn it."
He gets in the car.
There's a wedge tornado bearing down on Scarlet, Kansas. They only have occasional glimpses of it, silhouetted by flashes of lightning.
Sherlock is paying attention to the road for him as John phones it in.
"Yes," he's saying, "A large tornado, wedge. Maybe a quarter mile wide. It looks, God - F3 or F4. "
"F4," Sherlock murmurs beside him.
"We're on Lauriston Road, heading east. It's going towards Scarlet. They need to activate the sirens, now." He hangs up with the promise to keep them informed.
"Hook echo very well defined," Sherlock says, checking his laptop. "Might be getting stronger."
"God, I hope it misses the town."
Sherlock hums in response as John speeds up a little.
They have the radio going, a weather broadcast telling listeners that a violent tornado has been reported in the area.
"Seek shelter now, I repeat – Go underground or to an interior room in your house," the voice blares in the background.
"Don't regret the chase now?" Sherlock says, turning the volume down.
"Shut up," John says, without heat.
"There's a fork up ahead," Sherlock has his finger on the laptop screen. "The north route takes us close to the tornado."
"And the other?" John keeps both hands steady on the wheel.
Sherlock grins at him, face lit suddenly by lightning. "Who cares about the other route?"
John smiles back and hits the gas.
Two people are killed by the Scarlet F4 when their mobile home is flipped over while they sleep. There are no other fatalities; the twister only clipped the edge of the town.
The townsfolk attribute the lack of casualties the generous warning they had.
John watches the news reports and feels like he's woken up after a long sleep.
A week later John finds Sherlock in one of the meteorology labs at OU. A few students hover outside the door, obviously unwilling to enter as long as Sherlock's in there.
"You left your binoculars in my car," John says by way of greeting, plopping himself in a swivel chair.
"Thanks," Sherlock says distractedly. "Still on for next week, then?"
They sit in silence for a moment.
"You know," Sherlock says. "I'm thinking of relocating to Florida in a few months."
"Yes. An acquaintance of mine has a flat she's renting out..."
"Oh." John says again, uselessly. "Isn't your job here?"
"Hurricane season is starting, John." Sherlock looks up and gives him a lopsided smile. "My job is where the weather is. Besides," He stands and stretches. "It's a two bedroom flat."
John gapes at him a bit as he sweeps out of the lab.
"That is, if you're interested," Sherlock tosses back, smirking. "Hurricanes, after all. Could be dangerous."
John grins and follows him. "Oh, God yes."
John has no intention of getting back into chasing when he runs into Mike Stamford in Oklahoma City.
"Who'd want to chase with me?" he asks, rubbing his knee. There had been some very nasty things posted about and him and Bill on storm chasing forums. Chasers didn't like it when people damaged their reputation with irresponsibility.
Mike just laughs. "You know," he says. "You're the second person to say that to me today."