The front door crashed rather loudly against the wall in John's enthusiasm to get out of the downpour and into the flat. "Sorry, Mrs. Hudson!" he called once he'd sealed the door shut between the storm and himself, shaking some of the water off his coat before struggling out of it.
"Are you alright, dear?" Mrs. Hudson appeared in the hall as if summoned by his apology, eyes growing large at the sight of him. "Just look at you! It's like you went swimming with your clothes on!"
"It's a bloody monsoon out there," John ran a hand over his face and through his hair, trying not to wince as the ice cold droplets made their way past the collar of his shirt and down his still reasonably dry back.
Mrs. Hudson shook her head and waved her hands out in front of her. "Go on, then. Upstairs and into some dry clothes with you, honestly!" She tutted. John smirked, doing as told.
It was a quick dash to his room in attempt to avoid any more trailing puddles than necessary, and once his wet clothes had been carefully hung and his hair had been toweled into a haphazard but thankfully no longer dripping mess, John found himself once again standing before his open dresser drawer in a sort of frustrated silence. A silence that was broken almost simultaneously by John's half shouted profanity and the crack of thunder that seemed to vibrate through every inch of 221B. Taking a moment to throw on the only remaining pair of pajama bottoms he had left-the slightly too long pair in a particularly humiliating shade of light purple-John stormed out of his room, eyes darting about the flat in search of the part time consulting detective, part time clothes thief.
"Again, Sherlock?" John all but growled the moment he locked on that familiar form standing in front of their kitchen sink. He approached him sternly. "How many times do I have to tell you?" A flash of light and another crack of thunder threatened to interrupt his scolding but John would not be derailed. "Just because you've run out of clean laundry doesn't mean you can nick mine! In fact, why not take that as a sign to do some of your own laundry for a change? Because last I checked-" John stopped.
To say John was used to being ignored by Sherlock was an understatement. But something was different about his silence this time. A tension followed the line of Sherlock's shoulders, the bend of his arm, the grip on the tea cup he was holding, that John hadn't noticed before. A tension he only remembered seeing once before. At Baskerville.
"Sherlock?" John whispered gently, anger quickly dissipating into a healthy level of concern. He took a step closer. It wasn't rattling against the saucer, but the tea cup definitely trembled in Sherlock's hand. "Sherlock, are you alright?"
Sherlock's eyes darted from the cup to John as if roused from a dream. He put the cup down with enough force for the porcelain to scrape painfully against each other. "I thought we had agreed on you doing all the laundry from now on." He said suddenly, walking past John and into the living room to stand in front of the window, something he only ever did when there was too much on his mind.
John frowned, "When did I agree to that?"
"And if you don't want me borrowing your things," Sherlock plowed on. "Then don't keep them in a place that's so easily accessible."
"They're in my drawers, Sherlock." John groaned. "What do you want me to do? Lock them in a trunk? I can't exactly password protect them."
"Not that it would do you much good." Sherlock all but stuck his tongue out at him. Like a child throwing a tantrum on the worst of days, but on other days he managed to be even worse.
"Yeah, yeah. We all know you're brilliant at hacking my pathetic attempts at laptop passwords," John rolled his eyes. "But what the hell is up with you tonight? Is everything-" This time the thunder and lightning were simultaneous. And there it was.
John blinked, not sure he'd seen correctly, but there was no denying the way Sherlock's shoulders raised, his body stiffening as if against an attack, his hands clenching into fists at his side so tightly John could see the white of his knuckles all the way from the kitchen.
It couldn't be. "Sherlock?"
"Everything's fine, John." Sherlock sighed, his tone even enough to convince John he was telling the truth. Except for the way his shoulders had started shaking. "Feel free to continue berating me over the theft of your belongings. It's done so well for you in the past."
"Sherlock-" John tried again, but the man was adamant.
"While you're at it, might as well assume I have more to learn about not hacking into your computer. Or if you're feeling nostalgic, why not continue last week's rant on picking up the shopping." He said without pause, a constant string of agitated ramblings. He seemed to be completely oblivious to the flash of light that punctuated it. "Any argument you choose, John. Feel free. I'm all ea-"
The blast of sound that followed literally cut Sherlock off with a choke, the rest of the words lodged in his throat by the noise. John walked up behind him, putting a hand on Sherlock's shoulder and forcing him around. Sherlock's face was carefully stoic, but the tension was definitely was there. And underneath that…
"Sherlock," John whispered once more, skeptical but concerned nonetheless. "Are you afraid of thunder?"
"Don't be absurd," Sherlock rolled his eyes, wrenching away from John's grasp as though stung.
John carefully raked through the past few years in his mind. Thunderstorms weren't necessarily uncommon in London, certainly they'd had a few like tonight's since John had moved onto Bakerstreet, but then why had he only noticed now? Sherlock had very few weaknesses, and John had prided himself on pinpointing each one, cataloguing them for future reference just in case Sherlock needed reprimanding, but thunder had simply never come up. Was it a new thing? A post traumatic reaction to something John had missed? Or-
John paused. Now that he thought about it, every serious thunderstorm he'd witness from the window of 221B Bakerstreet, he'd sat through alone. In fact, during every major storm to pass through London over the last few years, Sherlock had been elsewhere. Most frequently… locked in his room.
Sherlock Holmes, the great, all knowing, borderline inhuman Consulting Detective who fancied himself above those things as petty as emotion… was afraid of a little thunder. It was like John had won the lottery.
"You are, aren't you?" John smirked, a rush of amusement only just barely tinged with guilt-and certainly enough to ignore-sparking at Sherlock's instantly defensive posture, the narrowing of his eyes, the hard line of his mouth.
"Childishness doesn't suit you, John," He glared. "And neither does the making of ridiculous accusations."
"I'd hardly call them ridiculous," John chuckled. "You look as though you're waiting for another bomb to go off outside the window."
Sherlock scoffed. "Stop being-"
"What? Ridiculous?" John laughed. "Even your insults are suffering, Sherlock. Clearly you're shaken."
"I was going to say 'a nuisance'." Sherlock frowned. "You've made a gross miscalculation and your persistence is both aggravating and tiresome, so if you if you plan to do no more than babble on about the weather for hours, I suggest you do it elsewhere."
After years of living with Sherlock, John had become very good at recognizing the moment when teasing Sherlock became more dangerous than entertaining. It also tended to be at about the same time that John began finding the man utterly exhausting. "You know what? Fine. Forget I said anything. I'll leave to it then," John sniffed, walking past Sherlock to the accompaniment of another particularly violent crash. And the feel of Sherlock's hand gripping abruptly and near painfully at his wrist, keeping him in place. John glanced at Sherlock fully prepared to offer a bout of, "No use apologizing on this one, mate, you can suffer on your own," but the look on Sherlock's face kept him silent. And mixed with the barely noticeable tremble of Sherlock's fingers pressing into his skin, it was obvious Sherlock hadn't intended on grabbing him. In fact, judging by the almost comical amount of shock in Sherlock's eyes, he'd done it completely reactionary, without thinking. And Sherlock never did anything without thinking. John reeled.
Even if he didn't want to admit it, Sherlock didn't want John to leave him. This wasn't just an average uneasiness; Sherlock was genuinely, uncontrollably frightened.
Sherlock blinked as if just realizing what he'd done, tossing John's hand down and looking away, arms crossed and humiliation plain on his face. "You were leaving?" He cleared his throat, but underneath his practiced façade, even John could tell it was more than a little bit forced.
John eyed him for a moment, wondering what to do. It was obvious Sherlock would never ask for help, but maybe if John offered it subtly. As much as he enjoyed the occasionally riling up of his flatmate, seeing Sherlock in this much uncommon distress was worrisome. Memories of childhood nights watching clouds light up from the porch, supplied him with what he said next. "I suppose I could." He shrugged. "The storm's passing anyway."
Just as he'd hoped, as reluctant as it was, Sherlock raised an eyebrow at John curiously, his ears practically perking up in interest. "How can you tell?"
Sherlock eyed him more closely now, scanning his face for some sign that gave proof to the accusation. When he found none, he repeated the word, "Counted?" by way of permission for John to explain. John grinned full on, the tension in Sherlock's shoulders already noticeably relaxing.
"You can tell how far a storm is by how many seconds there are between the lightning and the thunder."
Sherlock stared at John for a long moment after that, gears turning in his head, working it over and over, testing out its potential, eventually settling with a sharp, "Speculative at best."
"I'm sure, but it's not really meant to be a science." John chuckled. "Didn't your parents ever teach you how to do it when you were a kid?"
Sherlock raised another eyebrow at him, the sort he'd gotten used to meaning, "Don't be stupid, John," and for a second John thought he might have made a mistake in asking. He'd never brought up Sherlock's parents before now. If Mycroft was any sign, they could be any manner of dysfunctional. Thankfully, instead, Sherlock just shrugged. "If they did, I deleted it years ago."
John jumped on the distraction. "You should try it then. Just wait for the flash and then count in thousands. Every second marks a mile."
Sherlock's brow furrowed, probably picking up on the silliness of what John was asking, but he didn't refuse. "Count in thousands," he parroted, confused. John tried his best not to laugh.
"You know, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand." John explained. Sherlock's brow only creased deeper.
"That doesn't seem the most accurate technique for keeping time."
"Just try it," John sighed, though he couldn't deny that it was almost adorable how little the whimsy of childhood made sense to the great detective. As if on cue, a bright flash of light bathed the room in a half a second of white. "Go, now," John instructed, and though it appeared to take swallowing his not insubstantial amount of pride, John could hear him muttering the numbers under his breath, only flinching slightly when the thunder finally cracked not too far off in the distance.
"Eight-one thousand," Sherlock said softly, waiting for John to explain further. The innocent curiosity in his eyes was almost boyish, however marred by sharp cheekbones and piercing, calculating eyes. John was almost taken aback, but the frown Sherlock shot him to let him know he was taking too long was so very much the Sherlock he knew, he could have convinced himself he'd imagined it.
"So the storm's nearly eight miles away now." John offered. Sherlock hummed thoughtfully, walking to the window and actually jumping right into counting the next time lightning struck, probably trying to analyze a way in which to research the authenticity of John's simple, underdeveloped method. This time it was ten-one thousand. He barely reacted to the thunder at all, the fear easily replaced by his newfound experiment. John smiled softly to himself.
"You're right," Sherlock whispered. John would have thought he was talking to himself were it not for the pronoun. "The storm's passing."
"See?" John stretched, already turning towards the kitchen with a nice, relaxing cuppa on the mind. As far as Sherlockian debacles went, this one had been rather tame. He tried not to feel too proud of himself.
"John," Sherlock called him suddenly. When John turned in response he found Sherlock still facing the window, hands clasped behind his back. He didn't have time to respond properly before Sherlock cleared his throat. "Where exactly do we keep the laundry detergent?"
John stared at the man's back for a moment before shaking his head, a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. That was probably the best "thank you" he was ever going to get. "Under the sink. Just make sure you put my pajama bottoms back in my room when you're done." As an afterthought, John kicked at the baggy ends of his purple, back of the drawer pajama bottoms, adding, "And next time, if you're gonna steal my clothes, go for these. They're too big on me anyway." Sherlock didn't reply, already lost to another round of counting, but John didn't expect him to. Though he was certain he saw a smirk raise and fall at the corner of Sherlock's mouth before he returned to his thoughts of tea. And maybe his next blog entry.