Voice Like Thunder
Rating: T (for romance)
Wordcount: ~ 5,000
Disclaimer: All characters and settings belong to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. Story is my own.
The second night after they returned home from Dartmoor there was a thunderstorm.
John woke smiling. He rolled and looked at the clock (02:00) and couldn't figure out why he was smiling until he heard the telltale rumble that foretold a big one sometime in the near future. He debated simply laying in bed, luxuriating in the sound of it- - - he was, after all, on the top floor, right below the roof, and storms sounded truly spectacular from his room- - - but gave it up after a moment. This last case with the Hound/HOUND had left him oddly fixated on his sense of sight, so he decided to go down to the sitting room. The sound was best from his bedroom, but the view from the twin windows could be breathtaking.
He threw his bathrobe on over his pyjamas (no point in freezing) and padded down the stairs. The flat was pitch black, which was surprising. Normally Sherlock was still up at this hour. Then John recalled that the case had only ended a few days ago, and while Sherlock was out of the 'sleep like the dead until I worry certain ex-Army doctors' phase of his post-case crash, he would still be sleeping more than normal.
Another rumble, closer this time, shuddered through the flat, and John smiled in pure glee.
It should have been difficult to make a cuppa in the dark, but John had done it so many times he'd often thought he could do it blind, and it turned out he was right. He didn't want to ruin his night-vision by turning on a light, so he filled and turned on the kettle by feel, and then made his way (gingerly, sliding his feet forward to feel out precariously balanced piles of paper, books, violin cases, and other genius detritus) to the left-hand window. The ambient light from the street helped, but not much; and rather than being the usual vomit-orange, under the stormclouds the city lights were bruise-purple. John, of all people, ought to know.
Just before he reached up to open the curtains as wide as they would go, the rain started. He could hear it suddenly begin pattering against the house, all at once making him more aware of his surroundings. He could tell how far away the rain was as it hit each individual exterior surface; it made the inside of 221 feel more confined, intimate, cozy. . . and at the same time, it made the rest of the outside world feel impossibly far away and impossibly huge.
All of that registered in less than a second, though, and as soon as he registered the sound of the rain John registered another sound, too. A low, drawn-out, creaky rumble. Damn, he thought, I hope nothing's shaking loose. Sounded like a bit of wood moving slowly in the wind.
Before he could get too worried about the mundanities of everyday life, though, the world turned white. John counted in his head, timing the numbers with his heartbeat, before he felt the floorboards shudder under his feet as the thunder hit. He almost danced at the feel of it. Only two miles away and closing, if he was any judge.
He stood at the window, glad beyond telling that the storm was blowing in from the south, and thus from the direction the windows were facing. The kettle went off but he ignored it; far better to watch the rain and try to see the lightning and listen to the windowpanes rattle in the thunder.
The next time he heard the wooden, groaning noise he ignored it. The third time, too. And the fourth. There was nothing he'd be able to do about it now, anyway, so it didn't really matter what it was.
Except, he thought as another bolt of lightning burned across his eyes, except. . .
Three one thousand, four one thousand, fi- - -
Thundergroan. Right like that. The noise wasn't happening in time with the wind, it was happening in time with the thunder. And wasn't that odd.
A thought struck him, and it was so patently absurd that he wouldn't have acknowledged it under other circumstances. But thunderstorms. . . things were different when it was storming, so John took the time to consider the thought.
The sound, that rattle, could theoretically be coming from Sherlock's room. And it was storming. And Sherlock was normally up at this time, yet the flat was dark and still. And, now that John thought about it, he couldn't remember ever seeing Sherlock during a thunderstorm before.
Well. . . he almost thought about it, turning away from the window. The flat was painted stark white behind him, and less than three seconds later, thunder flooded the world, wrapping him up and giving him courage. After all, he thought again, things were different during storms.
So he walked deeper into the flat, deeper into the darkness. . . away from the windows and the beauty of the wonderful, glorious storm, back where he couldn't see it but could hear it still, the rain and wind and low thunder. He paused outside Sherlock's door, unsure what to do.
Oh, hell with it, he thought, and turned the door to step boldly into the room.
If he had expected to be able to immediately ascertain the situation and deal with it with a soldier's calm and a doctor's skill, his expectations were dashed. The curtains were drawn tightly over the windows, hardly any light from the street managing to illuminate the room. Besides, John's night-vision was shot to hell after all that while watching lightning. He couldn't see a thing.
"Sherlock?" he whispered.
There was a rustle of cloth, barely discernable above the rain. Then, hardly louder than that, "John?"
"I'm here," said John, closing the door. He felt his way towards the bed, thankful that Sherlock's room was so idiotically clean compared to the rest of the flat. When he reached it he ran his hands over a bit of it, tentatively, and when he encountered only blankets over the mattress he sat down.
"More PTSD flashbacks, John?" Sherlock sighed. Getting a fix on the sound, John judged he was lying down on the side of the bed furthest from the door, and therefore furthest from John. The older man relaxed, glad he wasn't unintentionally invading Sherlock's personal space. At least, not too badly.
"No," whispered John. Something about darkness and rain made him feel reverent.
John shrugged, even though no one would see it in the darkness. "I like storms," he explained.
Silence for a moment. Then, "That's stupid."
John laughed, the noise escaping as a breathless giggle. "I suppose so. Kind of a strange thing to like, I guess."
"I fail to see," Sherlock sounded utterly exasperated, "how you're allowed to get upset with me for inducing a harmless little hallucination, when you can deal with something as real as a thunderstorm."
John sighed. "I told you already, Sherlock, you can stop apologizing for that."
"I wasn't apologizing."
"Sure you weren't." John smiled. "Besides, it's different."
John felt the mattress shift, the covers tug underneath his hips, and thought Sherlock must have sat up. "How is it any different?" The younger man scoffed. "Quite aside from the fact that- - -"
A brief almost-illumination, a loud crash of thunder, a violent movement of the bed, and Sherlock continued so quickly John almost couldn't catch the words, "- - -the hallucinations weren't even real there's the fact that you were in that instance afraid of a dog while this is thunder John which sounds an awful lot more like bombs and one would expect that thunderstorms would trigger your PTSD much more violently than some barking."
"I can see how one would expect that," said John, simply for something to say.
All the while, though, he was thinking very carefully. Sherlock's voice was muffled, and coming from a slightly different angle than before. John waited patiently, sure that at any moment now the storm would oblige him and help him see what the hell was going on.
Sure enough, before the silence in the room had time to get uncomfortable, there was another flash of lightning. John's night-vision was much restored, and the quick flash was more than enough time for him to see Sherlock, curled on his side facing John, huddled under the covers, shudder and curl up even further when the lightning flashed. His eyes were squeezed shut.
The poor guy, thought John. He's scared. If this had happened a month ago- - - or, hell, a week ago- - - he'd have found the situation funny. The great Sherlock Holmes, frightened of a bit of electricity and shockwaves? When he was normally the one causing said phenomena? What was he, jealous? But John didn't have it in him to find Sherlock's fear funny. Not anymore.
That didn't mean he knew what to do, though. He'd tried comfort, or something like it, in Dartmoor, and that hadn't worked very well. Sherlock was doing his best to ignore the fact that he was scared, so openly trying to make him feel safe wouldn't help much. What else was there?
The answer, thought John with a wry grin as his brain momentarily mimicked Sherlock, was obvious: the thing Sherlock feared most was loosing his mind. His mind, which was more important to him than anything. If John could engage that mind, maybe Sherlock would calm down.
In other words: treat him like a two-year-old and take his mind off it.
There was another flash, followed immediately by a boom that rattled the bedsprings. John had to forcefully restrain himself from running his fingers through Sherlock's curls.
"I heard once," he said, a ridiculous movie quote popping into his head for no reason, "that God is in the rain."
Sherlock snorted. Fear had a way of making him even more disdainful than normal. "That's preposterous."
"Perhaps it is," John conceded. "But it sounds nice. Do you know why I like storms?" Maybe if he could make Sherlock understand, the younger man could focus on that and stop trembling. It was making John sadder than it had any right to.
"Because it reminds you of the war. Obvious."
"Not really, actually."
"I fail to see how that's possible."
John shrugged. "Storms don't sound anything like war."
"They sound like giant explosions, John."
"IEDs don't sound like thunder. I've never been in a blitz or anything, so for all I know there are bombs that sound like thunder. But as far as I know none of them are in Afghanistan."
"So you have no reason to associate the sound of thunder with the sounds you heard in Afghanistan."
Stating the obvious. Not even derisively. Sherlock must have been really upset. John swung his legs up on the bed, leaning back against the headboard. "Quite right. Even the storms over there didn't sound the same. I've spent my whole life in love with thunderstorms, Sherlock," he continued before the younger man could interrupt, "I know what they sound like. Just like I know there's going to be another lightning strike in less than twenty seconds."
"That's ridiculous, how could- - -"
Lightning. Thunder. Louder, this time. John cursed mentally.
"Lucky guess." Sherlock's voice was even more muffled. John thought that if he had to see the world's only consulting detective cowering with the covers over his head he might, ridiculously, cry.
"Said the man who claims to be able to predict the lottery numbers and fortune cookies," said John.
"I can do that."
"I might be able to."
"I can definitely tell thunder from a bomb-blast."
"That makes one of us."
Lightning. All John could see was a tangle of curls peeking out from under the covers. Thunder loud enough to rattle his teeth. He grit them against the force of it.
"Sherlock," said John, more determined than ever to take Sherlock's mind off the storm, "if you had any experience with bombs, you'd be able to tell the difference."
"I have experience," Sherlock snapped.
John sighed, trying to sound exasperated, and secretly delighted. Picking a fight would be so easy, and there was nothing like a good argument to get Sherlock focused on anything other than what he was doing. "Blowing up the kitchen and I don't even want to know how many laboratories while you were in uni does not count, Sherlock."
"Excuse me, doctor, have you perhaps forgotten the bomb blast that hit our flat?"
"What, that thing at the beginning of the bomber case?" John couldn't bring himself to say 'Moriarty.'
"Yes," said Sherlock.
"I know it was bad, Sherlock, but- - -"
"Bad? Bad?" John could feel the mattress shift as Sherlock sat up. "John, it blew out the windows and knocked me clean across the room! And that was just the concussive force! Let me assure you that the sound was nothing if not deafening, and very much like thunder."
"Hold on," John's mind made a sharp left and then came to a screeching halt when he processed what Sherlock had said. "It knocked you clean across the room?"
"That's what I said. Repetition, John? Really? At this time of night? I should have kn- - -"
John's head snapped towards Sherlock. He almost grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. "You were in the explosion?" he almost screamed.
"Where did you think I was, Manchester? Honestly, John. . ."
"No, I, I," John spluttered, "I just assumed you'd been in your room or something, somewhere away. . ."
"No, indeed," said Sherlock. "I was standing in the sitting room in between the windows. A meter to the left or right and I would have sustained a far harder hit, but as it was I was mostly blocked by the wall."
Three things happened simultaneously: lightning flashed, thunder cracked, and John's vision was suddenly painted orange and red with an image of the windows blowing in, shards of glass shrapnel knifing through the air and embedding themselves in Sherlock, in his face and neck and chest and legs and muscles and arteries and. . . and. . . and. . .
"And then," Sherlock continued, his voice as normal as if he was pestering John for tea, "the next blast that I couldn't stop I couldn't even hear, but it probably sounded like thunder just before. . . just before it really hit."
The old lady. He meant the blind woman who'd doomed herself by describing Moriarty, who Sherlock had saved, whose last moments had probably sounded like thunder, who had been on the phone with Sherlock when her bomb had gone off and the line went dead.
John scrambled as fast as he could to wrench the covers out from underneath him, toss them over his shoulders like a cape, and fling himself across the bed to wrap his arms around Sherlock.
It was an awkward arrangement, to be sure: Sherlock was impossibly long, not to mention curled up facing John with his knees tucked up and arms pressed tight to his chest. John couldn't wrap himself around him, so he settled for lying as close as he possibly could, blocking the windows with his body. His left hand (perfectly steady, he noted distantly) he forced between the side of Sherlock's head and the sheets, to cup his face and run the tips of his fingers through his curls. His right arm he put as far around Sherlock as it would go, passing over his arm and shoulder to rub his hand in soothing circles on his back.
Sherlock tensed immediately, but John remained relaxed, and kept the motions of his hand firm and slow. "John," Sherlock said after a moment. It was the tone of voice he used when he was exasperated, rather than surprised, that John hadn't been able to follow his flying leaps of deduction. "I am not a child."
"When I was really little," John whispered in a voice for reverence and secrets and murmurs in the dark between the sheets while the rain pelted down, "my mother used to yell at me and Harry to stay away from the windows when it was storming. She said that with the wind and the lightning and all, things might fall and crash through the windows and hurt us. Harry would get scared and hide, but I would always press my nose right against the panes. To this day I'm not sure if I was watching the storm, or watching for something to come crashing through the window."
Sherlock snorted. There was a crack so loud John was momentarily worried the building had actually been hit. . . but Sherlock still hadn't pushed him away. 221 could burn down around his ears and he wouldn't care.
However, Sherlock had actually jumped at the force of the blast. John shuffled forward, trying to get closer, but he was already as close as he could go with Sherlock's bony knees pressed against his stomach like that. He did his best to press his hands against Sherlock's face and back, mimicking the pressure of a hug, before easing the pressure and resuming his former ministrations. It wasn't until then that he noticed one of Sherlock's hands had fisted on his bathrobe. John didn't mind.
"I'm a poet at heart, you know," he continued, and was worried when Sherlock didn't deign to reply, even with just a snort, "and the first poem I ever wrote was about storms. When I was young and I'd watch all those action movies, the explosions always sounded like thunder. It was oddly thrilling. Like, to think you could be in a situation where you could control a noise like thunder, or have it aimed specifically at you. It was. . . Fun. Exciting."
Sherlock was slowly beginning to relax, though his hand remained just as tightly fisted on John's bathrobe as it had been a moment ago. John tried not to smile, lest Sherlock hear it in his voice, as he said, "When I was in basic and they were training us with explosives, it sounded nothing like thunder. At that point, though, I had learned enough medicine to know what it does to a body to be hit by an explosion," he couldn't help himself, he really couldn't, the belated fear was just too strong, and he lifted his head enough to plant a chaste peck on Sherlock's curls before nuzzling back up to him, forehead to forehead, "so I was glad that nothing that violent sounded like thunder. And then when I actually got there, IEDs didn't sound like thunder, either. It was okay."
For a little while they just lay there, and John listened to the rain. It was calmer, now. . . but it was just a breather. The storm was directly overhead now; there would be more thunder, and soon. And it would be loud.
"I've always thought that I've spent my life chasing the perfect storm," said John. "Something as exhilarating, as terrifying, as safe, as soothing, as big and forceful as a thunderstorm. I think that's why I dated some of the girls I did. Rocky relationships. Never worked, though. I chased it all the way to Afghanistan. Storms were my first adrenaline rush, were the first things that made me go looking for danger. Were what taught me how much I like it, how. . . how beautiful it all can be."
There it was. Three strikes in rapid succession, the concussive force of the thunderclaps enough to set off half a dozen car alarms. Sherlock jumped again.
"Sherlock," John whispered. The younger man was shaking. John lifted himself slightly on one elbow, raising himself to shield the taller body in front of him. He leaned over the mop of curls, trying to bring his lips towards Sherlock's ear as he whispered. "Do you know why I love storms now? Do you know why I really, really love them?"
Sherlock shook his head. It was a jerky, twitchy motion. Even in the dim light, they were close enough for John to see that his eyes were still screwed shut.
"If you step back far enough and look at my life, look at my personality and what made me who I am. . . storms are what brought me to you."
There. He'd said it. The only question was whether Sherlock would understand.
"I was dreaming," said Sherlock. It wasn't exactly the response John had been hoping for, but he lay back down and nudged his forehead against Sherlock's in mute encouragement anyway. Sherlock's body was wholly rigid. "Every time it storms when I'm asleep, I dream about the pool."
"The pool?" asked John, incredulous. "The one where. . . the one with the snipers?" What did it say about that night that the snipers were the least upsetting bit?
Sherlock nodded again. His curls tickled John's nose but John wasn't going to move. Not for anything.
"Yes," Sherlock said. "I can hear the explosion."
"There was no explosion," John reminded him gently, hand pressing more firmly into his back.
"I know, John! I know there was no explosion! I didn't shoot the vest, the snipers didn't shoot the vest, no one shot anyone, there was no explosion. And I know that, even when I'm dreaming. I lower the gun and aim it at the vest, and instead of that bloody ringtone I hear an explosion. It's always different, but. . but this time, I could hear it, but nothing looked different. I glanced over at you, to see what you thought happened, and. . . and there was another vest, that I hadn't seen, that I hadn't taken off you, and it had gone off and you were gone and everything was burning and then there was another explosion and. . ." John had never before heard Sherlock trail off into silence.
Well. That answer to John's confession was more than a bit wonderful.
Thunder crackled, not quite as close, but Sherlock stiffened again. John slid his hand up from Sherlock's back, tucked it beneath his chin, tipped his head back. Then John shuffled down the bed to get the angle as right as possible, held Sherlock's beautiful face between his hands, and kissed him.
Sherlock tensed even more. Then he sighed and kissed him back.
His hands made their way to John's back, tugging him closer, though there wasn't much chance of that, since Sherlock's legs were still curled in front of him. For a few blissful minutes there was nothing except the velvet warmth of Sherlock's lips, his smooth face between John's hands, the tickle of his hair on John's fingers. Slowly, languidly, they kissed and kissed, and pressed their lips together with their mouths open to catch their breaths, and kissed again, and sighed and shifted so their faces were level, and kisses some more.
Thunder grumbled, not quite overhead but still loud enough to make Sherlock stop moving and shake.
John smiled against his lips. "Thanks for not accidentally biting me."
Sherlock huffed a laugh against his mouth, then started tugging at him more insistently, and actually moved his legs so John could get closer.
"Sherlock," said John, a note of warning in his voice.
The younger man seemed to hear it, because he became more insistent, tugging John forcefully on top of him. Sherlock was kissing him, John thought with a twinge somewhere in his chest, with a touch of desperation.
"Sherlock," John said. He pulled back, raising his right hand to gently push Sherlock's hair away from his face and cup the side of his head. "Listen to me."
Possibly for the first time since John entered the room, Sherlock opened his eyes. John was lost for a moment, because Sherlock's eyes were huge and so dark they were almost black, and John really really just wanted to kiss him again.
"Listen," he said again, pecking the tip of Sherlock's nose, "not like this. Not now. Not that I don't want to, far from it. But the first time, Sherlock- - - your first time, our first time together- - - it- - - just not like this. Not because it's storming and one of us is floating on air and the other one is scared."
"But John. . ."
John closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to Sherlock's. "Not when you're scared."
Sherlock tipped his chin back and kissed John softly, almost chastely. After a moment he sighed and laid back down. "Okay," he whispered.
Thunder rumbled, and Sherlock closed his eyes. John got an idea.
"Stay here," he whispered against Sherlock's lips. "I'll be right back, I promise."
Reluctantly, John scooted off the bed and stood. He shucked his bathrobe, letting it fall carelessly to the floor. Not that Sherlock would be able to see. . . but maybe he'd see it lying on the floor in the morning. It was a nice thought. It also left John deliciously cool in his t-shirt and pyjama bottoms.
He made his way to the windows and opened the curtains as wide as they would possibly go, doing his best to make sure that not a single inch of glass was left unexposed. Then he cracked both windows about an inch, just enough to let the sound and smell of the storm into the room without letting in too much rain. Instantly the noise of the rain doubled, and John heaved a delighted breath, momentarily basking in the smell and trying to wrap his head around the fact that Sherlock had kissed him. God really was in the rain, he decided.
His intention was to go to the far side of the bed, but as soon as he turned his back to the windows Sherlock simply opened his arms, and John wouldn't have been able to stay away if his life depended upon it. So he went back to the bed as quickly as he could, slid under the covers, and then he and Sherlock were wrapping their arms around each other and it was wonderful. Sherlock let out a contented little noise as he buried his face in John's chest, and John hummed in agreement.
He probably would have stayed like that, perfectly content and plan forgotten, had there been no more thunder. But as it was thunder rumbled again, Sherlock stiffened, and John said, "Here, move to this side of the bed."
It was difficult to slide over Sherlock and get to the other side of the bed- - - not just because the covers got tangled, and because Sherlock was long and bony and surprisingly awkward lying flat on his back, but mostly because John wanted to just spread himself atop Sherlock like a blanket and never get up- - - but John was determined to get Sherlock over this fear of storms. So he and Sherlock traded sides, though they both ended up mostly in the middle, while John poked and prodded and Sherlock was surprisingly compliant until John had them arranged to his liking.
They were spooning, with John snuggled up to Sherlock's back. He noted distantly that it was difficult to spoon someone who was taller than him, but he was grateful that at least Sherlock's shoulders weren't as wide as his. His lips may have been resting against the nape of Sherlock's neck, but at least his shoulders were broad enough for him to draw Sherlock back entirely into the shelter of his chest, his left arm snug beneath Sherlock's, his hand spread wide over the younger man's heart.
"Are you tired?" John whispered, lips still touching Sherlock's skin. He was more than a little smug when Sherlock shivered.
"I can't sleep during a storm," Sherlock whispered back. His voice rumbled right through him and into John, and wasn't that just one of the best feelings ever.
On impulse John pushed himself up on one elbow so his face was leaning over Sherlock's. "Do you known you have a voice like thunder?" he whispered. Paused for a moment, because how much could he get away with saying? Things were different during storms, true, but were they so different that John could actually speak the words? He settled for a compromise, and kept whispering, "And I really like storms. I. . . I love them, Sherlock. I really do."
Sherlock tipped his head back and caught John's lips with his own, and that was glorious, but John's arm was getting very tired. With a last, reluctant slip of his lips against Sherlock's John sank back down to rest his head on the pillow and his lips against Sherlock's nape. "I can't sleep during a storm, either," John said. "I'm not going anywhere. I've got your back. Now you just lay there and watch the storm, okay?"
"Someday," Sherlock whispered, and John got the distinct impression that he was trying very hard to make his voice more deep and rumbly than usual, "we're going to have sex during a thunderstorm."
John pressed his mouth firmly onto the back of Sherlock's neck, so the younger man could feel how impossibly wide he was smiling. "Yeah," he agreed, purposely ghosting his breath down the back of Sherlock's shirt, "and we'll do it up in my room, too, since it's louder."
Yes, thought John as Sherlock chuckled, yes, yes. Someday we'll have sex. Someday I'll tell him I love him. Not tonight, not now. But it'll happen.
Sherlock pressed his arm against John's, twining their fingers together on his chest, and John almost burst into a thousand happy pieces when he realized that he was holding his own personal thunderstorm in his arms. John slipped into dreams listening to thunder, and Sherlock's steady breathing, and all the while he was thinking someday. . . someday. . .
Author's Note: Few important things. 1) Yes, I did deliberately set this just before The Fall. You're welcome. 2) Title comes from the song/poetry recitation "Lullaby" by the wonderful Loreena McKennitt. 3) The quote John says, "God is in the rain," is from V for Vendetta. SEE IT. It's got Rupert Graves! 4) This story was written in response to johnlockchallenges (on tumblr), for the September prompt. The prompt was: Thunderstorms, argument, counting, purple, and pyjamas. Win. 5) Neither beta'ed nor Brit-picked. All mistakes are my own.
Second Author's Note: Look directly below this. There is a review box. Please, please, please, put a word or two in there ("Incorrect," "Super fluff," whatever), and submit. Reviews are love, and equate to more writing. :)