1. A violent storm with winds whirling around a small area of extremely low
pressure, usually characterized by a dark funnel-shaped cloud causing
damage along its path.
• • •
It starts when Mycroft catches him staring.
John hops off the sofa to make tea, and Sherlock's eyes follow. His gaze roams down the back of John's neck, over his shoulders, his hips, all the way down to his thighs. Sherlock's teeth dig into his bottom lip, his body shifting minutely in his chair on its own accord, and Mycroft clears his throat.
“Sherlock...” he says.
“Don't,” Sherlock murmurs.
“Think about this,” Mycroft says.
Sherlock closes his eyes. He has thought about it. Quite a lot. A lot more than he would like to admit. He's thought about it in every possible detail, every possible scenario, every possible outcome imaginable. All paths lead to inevitable disaster (John angry, John leaving, John gone) and still, Sherlock's eyes roam. His fingers itch. His breath catches in his throat when John leans close.
“It will destroy you,” Mycroft says.
Sherlock opens his eyes and thinks, I know.
• • •
“Terrifying,” John says.
“Fascinating,” Sherlock replies.
• • •
“Let's go somewhere,” Sherlock says.
John takes a sip from his glass of wine and frowns over the rim.
“Um,” he says. “Why?”
Sherlock shrugs. “Might be nice.”
John sets his glass down on the table.
“Nice,” he says.
Sherlock bites his lip and looks out the window.
“Mycroft is being annoying,” he says.
“Ah,” John nods. He goes back to his dinner. “Where did you have in mind?”
• • •
The cottage Sherlock booked under the promise of a 'quiet getaway' turns out to be a small, rickety cabin on an island off the south coast. It's close to a beach, in a quiet, little town, and the sky is going grey just as they arrive. There's moisture on the inside of the windows, and what looks like water damage on the wood. The cottage is hot and cramped and stuffy, but it's a three hour drive and a boat ride away from Mycroft, and that's good enough.
“Oh,” John says when he steps through the door. “This is. Um...”
Awful, Sherlock thinks.
“There's only one bed,” John says.
Sherlock clears his throat and says, “Problem?”
John drops his suitcase to the floor and says, “Er, no. I'm – no. There's a sofa, I can sleep on that.”
“You're not sleeping on the sofa,” Sherlock says. “I'll – if it's going to bother you, I'll sleep on it.”
John snorts out a laugh. “This is not a 'quiet getaway.'”
• • •
The second level of the Fujita scale – F1 – does mild damage. Breaks off tree branches, pulls shingles off roofs, perhaps breaks a window here and there. Nothing a few nails and a hammer wouldn't be able to repair. Nothing lasting.
• • •
“This is going to be awful,” Sherlock says when they're done eating.
John sighs. “It was your idea. Why are we even out here?”
Sherlock doesn't say anything for a few minutes.
“I need cigarettes,” he says, finally.
• • •
Sherlock can't sleep.
He's fairly sure John can't, either.
The wind and the rain beats against the side of the cottage. The power might be out. Sherlock tries turning on the lamp. Nothing happens.
“Tried that already,” John says from the bed.
“Ah,” Sherlock says. He sits up. Despite the wind and the rain outside, the cottage feels stuffy and overheated. He kicks the blanket down onto the floor.
John sighs, then shuffles through the dark, swearing under his breath when his leg hits the corner of the coffee table. Sherlock moves aside, and John joins him on the sofa, their knees bumping – John's bare, Sherlock in thin cotton pyjama bottoms.
“We could just get a train back to London,” John says. “First thing tomorrow. Maybe Mycroft won't notice if we – if we turn our phones off, or something. He'll leave us alone.”
“I booked the cottage until Sunday,” Sherlock says.
John snorts. “Why the hell did you do that?”
Sherlock shrugs, but doesn't respond.
“There's something you're not telling me,” John says.
“I just thought it'd be nice,” Sherlock says.
“You don't do nice,” John says. “Out with it.”
Sherlock scrapes at his face.
“I just thought – I just want to get away for a bit. It's Mycroft and – and Mrs Hudson. I need to recharge, need some air and there's not enough of it – I've got a headache.”
He can actually feel John staring at him, amused, through the dark.
“A headache,” John says.
Sherlock waves it away.
“If you really want to leave, we can,” he says. “I'm sure I can get a refund.”
Sherlock hears John scratch through his hair.
“No,” he says. “It's fine. It's... yeah. It's fine.”
They sit quietly in the dark for a while. Then Sherlock reaches out and brushes his hand over the crook of John's elbow. The skin is soft, warm. John doesn't pull away, but he tenses, only slightly. Tenses more when Sherlock rubs his thumb in a gentle circle. John exhales and relaxes completely.
“What are you doing?” he murmurs.
“Touching,” Sherlock says.
“Er, okay. Why?”
“I want—” Sherlock licks his lips. “Can I touch your scar?”
“Why?” John asks again.
“Curious,” Sherlock says. “I don't have any.”
“You have plenty of scars,” John says. “Your hands and arms are littered with them.”
“Nothing as big as yours,” Sherlock says. “Nothing as deep. I barely feel mine if you touch them.”
John lets out a low, drawn-out sigh, the one that means Sherlock's about to get what he wants. Sherlock's mouth twitches into a smile. Perfect. He listens to the quiet rustle of fabric, John pulling his t-shirt over his head and bunching it up somewhere beside him, against the sofa cushions.
“Can't see,” Sherlock says.
John sighs again. He takes Sherlock's hand and moves it so his thumb is resting over the patched-up hole in his shoulder. Sherlock inhales, lets his fingers roam, push into the skin, trace along the marks. Exhales. John's breathing is gentle and calm. There are goosebumps along his arms, his chest.
“Does it hurt?” Sherlock asks.
“No,” John says. He's quiet for another long moment, then he says, “Not anymore.”
• • •
Sherlock tucks his feet under John's thigh and watches the sun come up behind the curtains.
He closes his eyes, and when he opens them again, four hours have passed and John is gone.
• • •
It was after the meeting with Moriarty at the pool. Long after, when their relationship started changing, when Sherlock stopped pretending that he didn't care for other people. It was after Irene Adler, and the plane full of dead people, after Mycroft dragged him back to his house and sat him in front of the fireplace, a child shoved into the naughty corner while the adults talked business.
Sherlock went home. Sat in his chair, in the dark, and seethed.
John returned home from the pub around one in the morning, smelling of booze and stumbling slightly when he kicked off his shoes. Then he was there, a small, solid form, leaning against the arms of Sherlock's chair.
“You're a right, mad bastard,” he had said. He pressed in and kissed him, mouth sweet and sticky with too much beer. Then he pulled back and left, climbed the stairs to his bedroom, and slammed the door shut.
In the morning, John pretended nothing happened. Months went by and it never came up.
Sherlock's mouth burns whenever he remembers it. He runs his fingers over his lips; first the top, then the bottom, thinking.
• • •
They go out for lunch in the small cafe. John buys them both soup and sandwiches and cups of tea. John eats his soup and his sandwich, and Sherlock picks pieces of ham out of his and leaves the crust and the soup.
They both drink their tea in silence, watching the rain drip down the window.
• • •
There's a small bookshop a short walk away from their cottage.
It's mostly old, second-hand books, but it's enough to keep them occupied and out of the storm for a few hours. Sherlock runs to the shop next door and buys an umbrella, and together he and John walk back to the cottage under it, the corners dripping water onto Sherlock's coat, John's arm bumping his.
• • •
• • •
The next afternoon John finds him outside, sitting hunched over his knees on the front step, smoking cigarette after cigarette and watching a fly struggle in his half-finished mug of green tea. Sherlock thinks about dumping the tea out and letting the fly go, but the ripples its wings make on the surface are mesmerizing, and he loses his train of thought.
Thunder rolls off in the distance. More rain, pouring in a thick, grey sheet that joins the sky to the sea. It'll hit the island in ten minutes, Sherlock thinks. Maybe twelve. The fly stops spinning and dies. Sherlock plucks it out of his tea, tosses it away, and takes a drink.
“Please tell me you didn't just do that,” John says, rounding the corner and stopping in front of him, arms full with two take-away containers.
Sherlock shrugs. He washes the taste of smoke out of his mouth with lukewarm, too-sweet tea. John cares too much about little things, Sherlock thinks. About sanitation, and cleanliness, and what people think of him when they see him with Sherlock, standing too close together, their shoulders touching. Sherlock doesn't care. Sherlock swallows the tea with a grimace.
John shifts the containers in his hands. The foam squeaks.
“Well, I got us something to eat,” he says. “From the – there's a fish and chip shop down the road. About five minutes away.”
Sherlock looks up at him.
“And I bought you more cigarettes,” John says. Then, quieter, “God knows why.”
The air feels thick, blowing in from the sea, heavy with salt. Sherlock shakes a loose curl from his eyes, watches a drop of rain land on John's shoulder. It drips down the fabric, directly over where John's scar is, where Sherlock memorized the exact texture of the skin with the tips of his fingers.
“What are you doing out here, anyway?” John asks.
Sherlock sets his mug down and wipes his hands on his knees.
“Thinking about what?” John asks.
“Sex,” Sherlock blurts out. John's arches his eyebrows and Sherlock mentally kicks himself, wishes he could pull the word back into his mouth, chew it and swallow it down again. He can't, so he looks away instead, over John's shoulder.
John doesn't say anything. The tips of his ears go pink. Fascinating.
“And... tornadoes,” Sherlock says a minute later.
“Tornadoes,” John repeats, because it's the easier word of the two. Sherlock nods.
“The sky goes an odd colour. Greenish, or yellow, or – or black,” he says. “You're supposed to go underground, into a basement or a cellar. The smallest room in the house, if you can, or hop into a bathtub and cover it with a mattress. Find a drainpipe or a ditch if you're outside.”
John blinks at him.
“Apparently they sound like trains,” Sherlock says.
• • •
“Does it bother you?” Sherlock asks.
“What?” John chews.
Sherlock pushes a chip around his plate with a fork. John watches him, then stops chewing.
Sex is not something they talk about. Ever. Sherlock is well aware that John has brought home women before, and he's fairly certain that John knows he has never been with anyone. He's also certain that John thinks he isn't interested in any of it, which is horribly incorrect, and Sherlock needs to fix it.
“Oh,” he says, catching up. “Right. The, um – right.”
“It's—” Sherlock starts. He stops. Tries again. “I want...”
John remains quiet. Sherlock rubs the pad of his middle finger against the nail of his thumb.
“To,” he continues abruptly. Then, “With – with you.”
John puts his fork down.
“Is that why you brought me out here?” he asks.
“No,” Sherlock says quickly. He wets his lips, looks down at his plate. “Mycroft was – he knows. And he'll be insufferable.”
John doesn't look convinced. Sherlock grasps for more words.
“It's hard to be alone in London,” he says. “There are too many people, and they're boring, and their cases are boring and they're always coming to the flat with their dreadful, boring cases, and you want me to take them because otherwise I'll get – I'll get stroppy, according to you. But there's too much noise, and it's – I want to be alone.”
John folds his hands together, then unfolds them, reaching for his fork. He gives up and lets his hands fall into his lap.
“I just want to be alone,” Sherlock says again, quiet.
• • •
I just want to be alone with you.
• • •
• • •
He comes inside, shutting the door behind him, and stands at the end of the sofa, silhouetted against the grey light.
Sherlock looks up from his book. Neither of them say anything.
John breaks first.
“We can't,” he says.
“Why not?” Sherlock asks.
“It's just not a good idea,” John says. “Friendships like ours, they'll – something like that, it'll ruin everything.”
“It won't,” Sherlock says.
John smiles tightly. “It will.”
Sherlock tucks his bookmark against the page and closes the book.
“How can you be sure?” he asks.
John hesitates. He shifts from one foot to the other and looks away.
• • •
It's a heavy weight, solid, with bone and brain matter and blood and all the chemicals that makes John who he is. He's warm against Sherlock's side, warm enough to cause his shirt to stick to him in the heat of the cottage. Sherlock touches each one of John's fingers, trails up his wrist, brushes over his pulse. Calm, relaxed. A barely-there thump-thump pressing against his skin.
John sighs and, in his sleep, shuffles closer.
• • •
It doesn't rain.
They pick their way down towards the beach, slipping on the rocks, the wind whipping through their hair. Sherlock shivers and John skips rocks across the waves, watching as they disappear under the surface, sinking heavily. Sherlock pokes at a dead bird with a stick, watches the maggots squirm under the skin.
“That's disgusting,” John says.
“Fascinating,” Sherlock corrects.
“You're mad,” John says.
• • •
“Microbursts,” Sherlock says when the waitress brings them a piece of apple crumble and two forks. John digs in, and Sherlock says,“They can do as much damage as a small tornado, but there's no funnel cloud.”
John swallows his mouthful of crumble, takes a sip of his tea, his eyes on Sherlock's.
“Tornadic activity doesn't necessarily produce a tornado,” Sherlock says.
• • •
“Tell me to stop,” John whispers.
Sherlock doesn't. He shifts his knees further apart, presses closer to John, skin burning hot under the thin blanket and layer of clothing. John sighs and dips his hand under the waistband of Sherlock's pyjama bottoms. Fingers, then a cautious hand, wraps around him. Squeezes gently.
Sherlock's breath catches in his throat.
“Christ,” John says. “Christ, what am I doing?”
Quietly, Sherlock says, “Touching.”
John presses his face into Sherlock's shoulder. He moves his hand.
Sherlock whispers, “Don't stop.”
• • •
John brings him coffee in the morning. It's steaming hot and flavourless, but it's loaded with enough caffeine to power an elephant, so Sherlock takes it greedily and downs half of it in under ten minutes. John moves around him awkwardly. They bump into one another more than once, when John's folding his jeans and Sherlock's looking for his book, and neither of them apologise.
“Christ,” John says as the cab pulls away from the village. “I'm being ridiculous. It's not like we—”
Sherlock looks at him and John stops.
“Never mind,” he says.
• • •
He nods and says, “Yeah. Okay.”
They fall silent again. Sherlock wishes he had kept some cigarettes. The coffee from earlier makes his stomach swim and his hands shake, too much caffeine and not enough food. The wind isn't helping, the splash of cold water coming up from the boat trickling down his face, his neck.
Sherlock pulls his coat tighter around himself. A couple further down the rail watches them, talking in hushed voices, eyes darting away when they notice Sherlock staring. John notices them, too, his hands gripping tighter on the railing. The couple gives Sherlock an odd, tight-lipped sort of smile, which he doesn't return.
John lets go of the railing with his left hand, reaching out to rub his thumb across Sherlock's knuckles. Sherlock blinks down at them, then up at John, who squeezes his hand.
“Thai would be great,” he says.
The couple walk away.
• • •
John lets him, first reading the newspaper, then turning to look out the window.
“I don't want to go back there again,” John says to the glass, to the landscape speeding past. “Miserable little leaky thing. Horrible. That's your idea of a holiday, is it? Spend the entire time in a dreary cottage in the middle of nowhere and poke dead seagulls with sticks to count the maggots inside?”
Sherlock kisses him. John hums into it, then kisses back, yielding when Sherlock pushes closer, deeper. It's soft and gentle and a little clumsy, the train rocking underneath them, and when Sherlock pulls away, John looks out the window again.
“We're going to ruin everything,” he says.
“Stop being pessimistic,” Sherlock sighs. “It's boring.”
• • •
John's teeth graze the skin under Sherlock's jaw. He leaves marks, indents, little bruises.
“You're an F5,” Sherlock tells him.
John laughs and breathes hot air against his mouth. A down-draft, a funnel cloud.
He whispers, “Shut up.”