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On the Edge with You

Chapter Text

John rode the train on the way to reporting for his first deployment. He sat with his military issued duffle bag clutched in front of him. He rode that same train route many times in his childhood and young adulthood, back and forth from his parents' home and that of his grandparents. He remembered the tales that his grandfather told him of the stretch of Wild that the train tracks made the long way around.

The forests, so thick that the light only pierced the first few yards, were untouched by the development of the modern world. When Men tried to build roads through, they found the brick and pavement overgrown by the time they arrived for work the next day. When they attempted railroads instead, they were never able to get the tracks to lie even and on the planned path, as if the ground itself rebelled against the imposition. The machines that men brought to lay rail ties, or to mine, or to plow, always met mysterious ends or malfunctions or missing parts. It was like that all over the world, swathes of forests, grasslands, mountain passes, entire lakes and some of the seas. There were even some stretches of sky where planes notoriously plummeted or disappeared, and strange graceful shadows danced behind the clouds.

There were those places, those Wild places, that would simply not suffer the meddling of Men.

Everyone had their own family mythology and stories about the Wild Ones. The Wild Ones walked on two legs like Men, had hands with fingers and thumbs in the usual arrangements. But they also had fur, perhaps hooves, maybe horns. Although their eyes had the kind of pointed focus like humans, their noses twitched in a manner that revealed that its abilities surpassed that of humans. Ears swiveled independent of one another, hearing things no Men could pick up on. And there may be whiskers, or long white teeth that could not stay tucked into lips. In the seas, they had scales and gills, or firm grey sleek tails. In the savannas, some had tusks even, or so the stories said and artists depicted. No cameras made by Man ever captured their images.

In the Watson household, it was John’s grandfather who told the most interesting of tales. He had served in the war against the Nazis. He and only a handful of others from their detachment had survived. Afterwards, when they were all trying to pick up the pieces, they went on a camping trip. They went, as young Men often do, to stay overnight on the Edge. The Edge is the border, the grey area, between the Wild and the rest of the world. They all had too much to drink. They laughed and they cried, sometimes simultaneously, over the triumphs and horrors of their time spent at war. John’s grandfather, Hamish, was one of the last to fall asleep. The other was Will, who had not been himself in a long time. Will used to wear an easy smile. He smoked his pipe like a chimney, even clutched it in his teeth in the foxholes without lighting it for fear of the smoke giving their position away. But what everyone knew about Will was that he played the violin. He carried that beat-up case into battle with him, slung upon his back. It soothed his comrades in arms, so the commanding officers let it slide. But after they lost half their brethren in one day, Will lost his will to play. He cracked open the case every once and while, ran his fingers down the neck, always pausing on that little knick where a piece of shrapnel caught it, but he never took it out to play anymore. That night at their campsite on the Edge, Will was doing just that. He ran his fingers over that instrument over and over. Hamish said that his friend looked up at him, eyes tired and far too old for a man of barely twenty-five. Will looked at Hamish, then looked to the Wild. He looked back to Hamish, as if seeking permission. Hamish nodded to Will, his agreement and his goodbye. Will got up, slung his violin case on his back, bit his pipe in his teeth, and walked off into the Wild. Hamish said he woke the next morning to what he could have sworn was violin music coming from the Wild, but he never saw his friend again.

 

But others who took that walk didn’t fair as well. John knew of an instructor from his school when he was about 10 or 11. The news reports said that the man molested some of his students. He was freed temporarily on a technicality, but everyone knew that the law was going to catch up with him and soon, as more of his grown victims were coming forward. There was an ill-fated car chase when they came to haul him in for arrest again. The news chopper caught it all from above. The coppers and a few concerned citizens kept on his tail. Way on the far end of town, he ran off the road and kept on driving. When he hit the meadow that marked the Edge in their area, the citizens all stopped their cars, as did half the police. Just two vehicles pursued as the accused man slammed into the tree line of the Wild. The grainy video from the news chopper showed him stagger out of the driver seat and into the Wild. The police stopped well before the tree line. That night the police from several jurisdictions formed a surveillance line all down the Edge, spanning as far as they figured he could get on foot in just one night.

None of the police saw a thing, but the next day the man’s clothes were found. They hung from a tree not far from where he left his car broken and wheezing the night before. His clothes, right down to his socks and shoes on the ground below, were torn to tatters and soaked through with so much thick blood that his death certificate was issued within the week, despite the lack of a body.

That was how the Wild worked. The Wild Ones judged all who entered their realm.

Some innocent souls were able to hike through the whole stretch of land, totally unharmed. Children who wandered in made it back out safely, sometimes discovered sleeping on the Edge of the woods, even though they remembered falling asleep well within the lush green depths.

The wars and inventions of Men waged on around the ageless and impenetrable Wilds.

John served three years in Afghanistan before a bullet ripped through his left shoulder. As he lay on the hot sand, bleeding out, he uttered “Please god, let me live.” Weeks later, laying in his hospital bed and barely able to manage the simplest of tasks that the occupational therapist gave him to accomplish, John wondered why he had asked to be allowed to go on. What was the point? The injury took his ability to do his job. His own trauma-laden mind took his ability to walk without the use of stick to lean on.

John lasted all of three weeks in the bedsit he rented in London. Then, one day like any other, he woke up and made a decision. He didn’t remember even contemplating it. The thought just came to him like a fact. It felt good to have a plan.

John dressed in some heavy layers. He loaded his gun and tucked it into his waistband. He hand-wrote a a letter to his sister, letting her know about his plan. He also left her the information about his small bank account. He left his tiny flat without giving it a last glance. He dropped the only key he had for it into the envelope addressed to Harriet Watson. He wasn’t going to need it any more. John had no expectations to make it out alive, because John Watson knew that he was not a good man.

John purchased a train ticket. He disembarked in a town that bordered the Wild. Captain John Watson, cane in hand, stepped off the train and didn’t pause or look back once. He marched straight from the train platform, through the small village, across the stretch of Edge, and into the Wild.

Several yards in, the sound of ambient noise of the nearby town fell away suddenly, as if someone had switched it off like a light switch. John stopped for just a moment then. The silence was so complete, and yet also so ripe. John’s eyes adjusted to the smattering of winter-afternoon grey light filtering through the what was left of the leaves. He planted his cane into the forrest floor and trudged on.

The adrenaline sang in his veins for the first time in months. John felt the loaded gun sitting heavy against the small of his back, the instrument of destruction that was the icing on the cake of sealing his fate. John wasn’t sure how the judgements worked. But if for some reason the Wild Ones couldn’t see the faces of those that he wasn’t able to save, and those whose lives he took, like he did in his nightmares and every bloody time he closed his eyes, then the weapon he carried with him would force their hand.

John knew with a calm clarity then, why he was allowed to live that day in the desert. He wasn’t meant to die there. He was meant to die in the Wild, and it felt like coming home.

John walked and walked. The natural sounds of the Wild came alive the deeper he went. There were bird sounds, the rustling of things moving just out of sight, and the frosty clattering of the wind through the bare limbs of the trees. About two hours in, darkness started to fall, and then a cold rain began. The air seemed to grow more frigid with every step. John’s bad leg ached with the effort and his hands were painfully cold. But his face was hot. At first he convinced himself it was due to his excitement and determination. But as every second ticked past, he lost his grip on that internal lie. He was flushed with frustration and disappointment and he was raging at the quiet that surrounded him.

The silver moon peeked through the clouds and provided plenty of light but John felt his vision blurring. Steaming tears ran from his eyes freely. Finally he stopped. He didn’t pick the spot for any reason, he just, stopped.

John screamed into the night and the murmuring woods with a cry that seemed to rip his inside to shreds as he forced it from his cold lungs. He stood in one spot and howled out his pain over and over again. He sounded like a wounded animal, bloodied and beaten and not giving any care to having any quiet dignity in dying. John took his gun out. He flicked off the safety and waved it at the grey trees around him. John squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. He tried again and and again, but it seemed every mechanism was jammed. He couldn’t even eject the clip. He threw it into the darkness as far as he could. He heard…nothing.

He never heard the gun land.

John sunk to his knees and knew immediately that, between the cold and the exhaustion and his state of mind, he wouldn’t be able to get back up again. The cold crept in even faster since he stopped moving. John allowed himself to fall back from his knees to resting his back against a tree. He shivered and quietly wept for a while longer. Then the shivering stopped all together. When he blinked slowly, he saw the icy crystals on his eyes lashes as they caught the moonlight.

John licked his lips, surely quite blue by now, and chuckled dryly to himself.

“Nothing ever happens to me” he whispered.

John didn’t remember falling asleep, but he was aware of dreaming. In his dream he was still cold, but there were small points of warmth ghosting over his face, down his neck, and over the thin line of exposed skin between his glove and sleeve. Every time the touch vanished, John immediately missed it. Then they were back again, a bit braver. He recognized them then as fingertips. He was being examined, but not in the medical or clinical sense. Rather John felt those touches were the manifestation of curiosity at its purist. Then there was a great patch of warmth along the left side of his face. Despite the creaking protest of his neck, John allowed his head to fall to the side to make more room, an invitation.

Something tickled John’s temple as the warmth returned. It was like strands of silk, only glossier. Puffs of hot air hit his cheek and ear. It was breath. John didn’t even think of the possibility of being harmed. He casually noted inwardly that, in this moment, he no longer wanted his life to end. He wanted very much to see what would happen next.

As if reading the permission from John’s mind, the unseen face boldly nuzzled into the space where neck joined shoulder, pushing aside John’s scarf in the process. The huffing breaths came deeper and more focused. John was being sniffed. The nose trailed upwards then dug into John’s hairline and breathed deep again. There was a deep hum that sounded, that felt, like approval.

John was so very tired. He struggled to open his eyes, test if the dream was real. He managed to barely crack them open. A face met his, unusually close, so close that it was difficult to focus enough on taking the whole thing in. But John saw the beautiful creature’s eyes. They shone like opals, reflecting the moonlight. John didn’t want to close his eyes again. It was as if there was finally something in the world worth seeing. But the cold had crept in too deep, his pulse had dropped so low.

John knew he was slipping away.

His eyes shut.

From somewhere far away he heard a question. The voice was deep and velvety. The accent was posh, but overly articulated, like someone who was speaking a long-disused foreign tongue and had make a conscious effort to get it right.

“Afganistan or Iraq?”

Chapter Text

Then John was floating, or perhaps drifting, or maybe it was more like being carried, cradled, or borne along on the wind, a strong wind with sure arms and swift feet. And there was soft warmth. After being transported like that over an unknown distance, the wind ceased. John vaguely registered his wet clothing get stripped away by unpracticed but careful hands. The air was warmer than it was out in the woods, but it was by no means comfortable for being nearly naked and nearly frozen. But then a luxurious heat wrapped around him. The weight of it should have felt confining, but John didn’t feel trapped. He felt safe. He felt harbored.

John Watson slept.

For the first time in months, his sleep was free from explosions and the reek of blood, twisted metal, and fear-sweat. He dreamt of someone, someone who felt like a lover but perhaps not yet, tracing the lines at the corners of his eyes, the ruined, twisted scar tissue on his shoulder, and the callouses on his fingers as if he were something fascinating. He dreamt of breath that smelt of honey hovering just beyond the reach of his own lips.

When John did wake up, he found he was already halfway through drinking the cup of strong but sweet tea pressed to his mouth by hands that were not his own. He drew back in a confused startle, but his companion was not deterred. The cup, thin chipped china, was placed in John’s own hand, and his hand guided to his own mouth.

“Drink” said a voice.

John drank.

When he finished the tea, John finally took in his surroundings. He was in a cave of sorts. There were candles burning, shoved here and there in nooks in the rock walls. All around there were objects on this ledge and that. Many books. There was a clock with no face, but ticking away, its naked gears exposed. There were bits and pieces of various electronics. There was a WWII era crank-powered radio. Were those opera glasses hanging from a string on the low ceiling? There was a small hearth that was hewn into the rock and vented up through a large crack, the sound of the winter wind howling from where ever the smoke escaped.

A quick hand snatched the cup from John’s grasp. The owner of said hand must have been hovering close the whole time, tucked in the shadows just to John’s left.

Rather unceremoniously, although perhaps that was on purpose, the tall figure gracefully unfurled its body from where it had been crouching and crossed the short width of the cave. John scarcely realized that it, rather he, was turned away from John in order to refill the cup from an ancient-looking metal kettle that sat beside the fire. John was far too distracted by the strange and beautiful details of the Wild One.

He was tall and thin but by no means slight. His muscles rippled as he walked and reached. He had thick, soft-looking fur around his neck, like he was wearing a scarf, that trailed down his spine in the back and across his upper chest in the front. Lighter, shiny fur covered his shoulders and down to his elbows, as well as over his backside and outer thighs. There was a thick, dark tuft of hair that mostly concealed his genitalia. From the back, the Wild One’s modesty was kept by a short but glossy tail, the white underside of which occasionally peeked out as it expressively twitched back and forth, punctuating other movements. His feet were the normal shape, but John noted that he perched up on the front half of his foot most of the time, giving the appearance of using it like a hoof.

But the most impressive feature, by far, was the set of antlers. They projected out of his skull on either side, the roots of them buried under deep brown silken curls of human-like hair. Their span was at least three to four hand-widths from tip to tip. The farthest ends curved in towards one another, giving the appearance of a crown. The hard bone gleamed in the candle light.

Just below the antlers were two soft, big, pointed, furry ears, almost translucent at their thinnest point when backlit by the fire. John wanted very much to trace along them, find the border between where ear and antler and skull converged, kneed his fingertips in and see how the beautiful being responded.

John gasped at his own brazen thought. What business did he have harboring such wishes when he was in the Wild, at the mercy of this Wild One and others like him.

In response to John’s quick intake of breath, one ear turned in his direction. Just the one. John probably just imagined the shudder that he thought he saw pass down the stag’s spine as he finished preparing John’s cup of tea.

The being turned towards John then and placed the hot brew in his hand. He settled himself crouched on his haunches, his face directly in front of John’s and a bit closer than most would consider to be comfortable.

“Drink” he said, black lips parting to show the glint of white teeth behind.

His face was striking. It was bare of hair or fur save for normal deep brown eye brows. He had defined cheek bones, a smattering of light brown freckles across those and the uppermost part of his forehead. The black of his lips was repeated at the tip of his nose and inside the nostrils. His eye lashes were extremely long, his eyes themselves naturally lined in black. And god, those eyes. Huge round pupils surrounded in an unearthly silver/green/blue that John didn’t even try to name, for even if he found one, the next moment the color seemed to shift to an entirely different hue.

The Wild One sniffed in slight annoyance, looked pointedly at the cup that John had all but forgotten about in his hand. But there was also a trace of a smile. John hid his own cautious grin behind the tea cup’s edge.

John drank the tea slowly. The Wild One never withdrew his face from its close proximity to John’s nor did he break his intense scrutiny.

John knew he should have felt uncomfortable. He didn’t though. He felt…

Cold.

John realized this with a shiver and a wave of belated modesty, for he was sitting on a remarkably comfy pile of clean, dry hay in just his vest and pants. The cave was cozy, as far as caves go, but was still partly open to the elements and the fire was rather small. He looked around for the rest of his things, located them hanging from a large broken branch perched near the fire.

“Wet” said the wild one, somehow having read John’s mind without having moved his eyes from John’s face.

“There was a blanket before, yeah? I remember something like that from when I was sleeping I think?”

John looked around but didn’t see anything of the like. He leaned back on the hay, stretching his neck to see if something had fallen behind or off to the side. Still nothing. He rubbed his arms vigorously.

The Wild One crept forward slowly on hands and the balls of his feet. John fell further back onto the hay as the Wild One stalked right on up and over John’s body until they were again face to face, John’s body caged by the wild one looming over him. Then the Wild One dropped his weight right down onto the length of John’s front, his chin propped up on has folded hands just over John’s sternum.

“Umm…” John started, confused as hell.

“Blanket” said the Wild One.

“Oh! You…you were the blanket. You kept me warm. Ta, for that. You don’t actually have to now…” John’s polite objection was shut down by the Wild One rolling his eyes and relaxing his body further against John’s.

John gave up on that particular point of contention. He carefully set the tea cup aside and folded his hands behind his head since he had no bloody clue as to what else to do with them. The Wild One was still staring him down. John’s eyes wandered more around the cave in the awkward silence. He tried to just enjoy the generously shared warmth without thinking too much of the one particular portion of the Wild One that was laying against John’s left thigh. He tried to read the titles on the spines of the books along the walls and not give more than a passing glance at the soft swell of arse that he could see over the Wild One’s shoulder. He swore that the tail swished a bit more every time he accidentally let his eyes linger for too long.

“You have questions” he said after some time passed.

With the Wild One stretched out on him as he was, John felt ever syllable of it rumble through him.

John had lots of questions. Why did this Wild One not only spare him but bother to bring him back to his home and nurse him back to health? Were they all like him? Did they all talk and collect books and have eyes that seemed to change colors in the firelight? And how did he know John had been to Afghanistan?

But that isn’t what he ended up asking.

“What’s your name?” John asked softly.

Those long eye lashes blinked several times in quick succession.

“Sherlock” he said, hitting the “k” with a click of his tongue.

“I’m John. It’s very nice to meet you, Sherlock.”

Sherlock nodded his head against his hands in acknowledgement. John felt it, realized it was due to the weight of those sprawling antlers.

“Oh, and it was Afghanistan, not Iraq.”

“Mmmmmmmm” he hummed in return.

John resisted the urge, just barely, to shift underneath Sherlock. Soon certain involuntary responses, responses that were entirely inappropriate given that John was a guest in Sherlock’s, umm, home, and the close, very close, proximity was only for the purpose of keeping John from relapsing into hypothermia, would be rather apparent to the long body stretched on top of him.

“You can if you want to” said Sherlock.

“What?” squeaked John.

“My antlers. You want to touch them. You are trying and failing to not stare at them.”

“Oh, that!” said John with relief.

“Sure you don’t mind?”

“If I minded I would not have offered.” said Sherlock.

Sherlock closed his eyes, giving John the opportunity to do so without Sherlock’s silver-gaze scrutinizing his every move.

John untucked his left hand from behind his head and reached out. The bone was smooth as polished marble in some spots, then rough in others. The tips were fairly blunt, but could do probable damage with enough strength behind them. The tips were cool, but the base felt warmer.

“Can you feel that? When I touch them?” John whispered.

The act felt oddly intimate. A louder voice felt out of place amidst the firelight, the shared warmth, and the patter of the winter rain still falling outside the cave.

“No”

“How did you know? About Afghanistan?” John asked then.

Sherlock took a rather deep breath then rattled off a long explanation about military bearing and haircut, tan lines, a psychosomatic limp and a guilty conscience related to a situation in which John was one of the very few survivors of an ambush. He was right on all accounts.

John’s left hand was frozen in place where it had been running along one especially interesting swirl on Sherlock’s right antler.

“That was…amazing”

Sherlock peeked one eye open at John.

“You think so?”

“Yes. That was remarkable.”

“That isn’t what people usually say.”

“What do they usually say then?”

“Well, usually they just run away actually.”

“I’m not running away.” John said.

“I’m laying on top of you.” Sherlock countered.

John tried to stifle it, had no idea where it came from actually, but a giggle broke past his defenses.

Sherlock opened both eyes wide.

“What?” he asked as if insulted.

“Nothing, just, ‘I’m laying on top of you’” and laughed out loud.

Sherlock’s mouth ticked up on one side and a moment later he was laughing too. He tried to lay his head down on John’s chest in his fit of deep rumbling chuckles but couldn’t without poking John with his rack.

Sherlock produced an annoyed non-verbal grumble as he raised up on to his hands and knees, hovering over John still. He shook his head hard as if he could rattle the bony protrusions right off. But he still smiled when he caught John’s eye.

“Hungry?” Sherlock asked.

“Starving” John answered without thinking.

Sherlock climbed off John and stalked over to the fire. With a look over his shoulder, a crinkle of his nose and a flick of his ears, Sherlock beckoned John to approach.

John, already missing the body heat, was quite happy to follow. Sherlock poked at the fire with a stick. He brushed the few larger logs aside, stirred at the coals underneath, and maneuvered out a charred package about the size of a book. He positioned the sizzling parcel between he and John, poked the fire back to optimal burning, and then turned his attention to unraveling what proved to be folded evergreen boughs.

A familiar scent hit John when Sherlock reached the center of the bundle.

“Chestnuts?” asked John

John’s mouth watered with nostalgia. HIs grandfather always roasted chestnuts on the fire over the holidays and told stories about how his regiment once made a few helmets worth of wild chestnuts last them several days when they supplies were cut off in the foxholes.

Sherlock cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows in questioning to John. For as many words as Sherlock could produce when he wanted to, he could also say a lot with no words at all. And John also read from his expression something that seemed like a shy hopefulness that the offered meal pleased John.

“Perfect. Thank you.”

They ate together, each cracking off the charred brown shells and munching the fatty meat of the smoked nuts. When the meal was done, Sherlock shoved the shells into the fire. He shifted closer to John when he put the fire-poker stick back against the wall. He didn’t move away afterwards.

“Why did you bring me here? Why are you helping me, Sherlock?” John asked without taking his eyes from the fire.

“Why did you come to the Wild, John?” countered Sherlock.

John fidgeted, picked at the soft moss flooring underneath his crossed legs. He couldn’t bring himself to voice the answer, to force it past the sudden knot in his throat.

“You came here because you thought you no longer deserved to live” Sherlock supplied matter-of-factly.

John blinked back tears and nodded once.

“Wrong” Sherlock muttered derisively.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re wrong.” repeated Sherlock with an eye roll.

“How would you know?”

Sherlock groaned. But when he turned his intense gaze in John’s direction, for all that fierceness flashing in his eyes there was also a soft edge of something that possibly resembled compassion.

“Because it’s my job. And I’m never wrong.”

He didn’t look away and either did John.

“Okay” John finally agreed, then winced at how choked his response sounded.

Sherlock sniffed the air as if he could judge John’s thin confidence in his assertion from the thick tension that hung between them.

Satisfied, Sherlock uncurled from the fire and crossed to the opening of the cave in a few long strides, ducking his head from catching his antlers on the uneven ceiling. He could probably stand up straight in there if it wasn’t for his rack. Sherlock stuck his head out to look at the sky briefly. The grey cold rain was still coming down. Thick droplets hung on Sherlock’s curls even from just the quick peak outside.

He patted down John’s jacket where it hung. Sherlock’s ears perked up suddenly when his hand ran across a pocket. He peered inside, eyes flaring a moment later with interest. He flashed a questioning look to John.

“Go ahead, whatever it is.”

What it was was a medical journal that John had forgotten about, rolled up in the largest pocket of his coat. It was soaked, but Sherlock didn’t seem to care. He took his prize over to the sleeping nest of hay and flopped down, promptly diving into reading.

John smiled at the child-like enthusiasm Sherlock displayed.

But the moments ticked by and John didn’t know much what to do with himself.

“It will stop raining overnight. Your clothes will be dry enough by then. We can leave the cave tomorrow. Until then you should rest and keep warm. You are susceptible to illness in your still-weakened state.” Sherlock said suddenly without ever tearing his eyes away from the journal. But he did move over on the straw, vacating a space obviously meant for John.

“Okay, then. Umm, I’ll just…”

John plucked the first book that was in reach from the wall. It was an old book of fairy tales. He sat on the edge of the sleeping area awkwardly, then carefully laid down on his stomach, holding the book in front of him. A few of the candles had gone out. There was just barely enough light to read by.

“The bullet entered from the front, high caliber rifle, shattering your scapula as it exited. Some nerve damage. More than one surgery for reconstruction and clean-up. Tissue irregularities also suggest significant infection, yes?” asked Sherlock as casually as one would inquire about the weather.

“Yes”

“Of course. John, this article speaks of reversing vasectomies. Are you familiar with the procedure?” Sherlock said as he maneuvered deftly to lay flush against John’s right side, pointing to the article in question.

John answered Sherlock’s medical questions, of which there were many during the course of his reading, as best he could. His own book was long forgotten. He drifted off to sleep mid-answer in regards to something about infant vaccination controversy.

John woke once in the night. Sherlock still held the crinkled journal in his hand but was sound asleep. They were face to face. John’s arms were wrapped against his own chest, but Sherlock’s free arm, the one that wasn’t clutching the paperback, was holding John firmly around the waist, his fingered curled into John’s vest in the back. Their legs were insinuated between each other’s thighs, Sherlock’s upper leg practically draped over John’s hip. They were so close together that when John breathed the long fur around Sherlock’s neck would flutter. John inhaled deeply. Sherlock smelt of warmth, wet moss, and wood smoke.

The rain had stopped.

John carefully extracted himself from Sherlock’s embrace. The fire had been reduced to just embers and it was significantly colder. John went just out the mouth of the cave to answer nature’s call. He looked up to the stars. God, the sky was lit up with bright silver points of light. He wondered to himself if he couldn’t see all the stars in London because of the ambient chaotic lights of the city, or if he just wasn’t in the frame of mind to see them one short day ago.

John ducked back into Sherlock’s cave and threw two small logs on the coals, stirred them enough to get a small flame going again. He felt his coat. The outside was still damp but the lining was warm and dry. He pulled it over his shoulders and returned to his spot on the hay. Sherlock was curled in on himself in John’s absence. He looked smaller somehow. He was not impervious to the cold after all.

John laid back down as he was before and pulled the coat over the both of them. The lining still retained some heat from being by the fire. It felt marvelous. Sherlock’s stiff body relaxed almost instantly. He reached out and pulled John close again. John allowed himself to be drawn in. John then slowly reached out himself, placing his hand flat against Sherlock’s chest. He flexed his fingers into the soft fur that extended down from the Wild One’s neck. It was as soft as the angora shawl his mother used to wear in the winter. John heard Sherlock inhale one quick breath.

John looked up. Sherlock looked right into John’s eyes, wide and searching. His black shiny lips parted as if he was going to ask something. John licked his lips unconsciously, but was very aware that whatever question Sherlock was about to ask of him, his answer was going to be yes. The moments dragged on. Sherlock settled on allowing his lips to fall shut. Whatever question that was almost spoken was tucked away. Sherlock slowly closed his eyes, shuffled just a bit closer, and went back to sleep.

Chapter Text

John awoke to Sherlock leaping over him, John’s jacket cast aside in the process. John leapt up as well, grabbing his finally dry trousers and shirt and throwing them on as quickly as possible. Army life had prepared him well for such sudden wakefulness.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” he rasped to Sherlock where he hovered at the mouth of the cave.

Sherlock held up one hand, closed it into a fist. It was the hand signal that military and police units used for “hold”. John responded as instructed and wondered where Sherlock came across such knowledge.

Then John heard it to. It was a howl, and it was nearby. And whatever it was, it sounded big.

“Sherlock!” John yelled as antlers and tail disappeared out into the early dawn’s light at a galloping pace.

John chased Sherlock through the trees, barely keeping sight of the swift and sure-footed Wild One. John burst through a thicket and barreled right into Sherlock’s back, leading to both of them falling at the feet of another Wild One. The tall male had thick silver fur all down his back and shoulders, and every inch of it stood on end as he let out a menacing growl right at John. Long, blunt canines dripped and snapped when John went to reach instinctually for his gun that wasn’t there. But then Sherlock was in between them, standing at his full height but with his head ducked down, leading with his antlers. He stomped on the ground several times, throwing frozen heath from the forrest floor up behind him.

From somewhere deep in Sherlock’s throat, or maybe from his gut, he issued a loud, long, reverberating warning. The silver beast turned his eyes to Sherlock. John felt his heart drop when he felt Sherlock was in danger.

“He’s with me” Sherlock said then, sounding more annoyed than anything else.

The wolf-like Wild One blinked in confusion, cocked his head sideways.

“So what is it then?” Sherlock asked, blatantly trying to deflect the scrutiny turned on his companion.

The wolf relaxed, seemingly used to Sherlock’s attitude. He scented the air in John’s direction but spoke to Sherlock.

“There’s been another one. This one left a note. But who is he?” said the gravelly voice.

“I said he’s with me.” Sherlock repeated.

“John” said John, finally on his feet again “and you are?”

Taking it an an invitation, the Wild One crept closer. He bent into John’s personal space. John contemplated holding his hand out, like you would when meeting a friend’s dog for the first time. But that thought was cut short when the grey furry head quickly head-butted him once in the chest, then a nose right into his arm pit, sniffing deeply both times. The Wild One then stood back up, some of his animal-like posture falling away to reveal a more Man-like stance with hands on hips. His ears, previously laid back, now pointed forward in an easy but attentive manner.

“Name’s Lestrade” he said to John, teeth showing again but now due to a bit of a snicker playing across his lips.

“Damn, Sherlock, not even the spring yet and you’ve got yourself…”

“Lestrade! Focus! Body, yes? And bad enough that you set out to fetch me before first light. Where?” Sherlock barked.

Lestrade finally turned his attention back to Sherlock.

“Second hill after the warm spring. Will you come?”

“Yes, but we need to stop back at my home first. I’ll be able to scent the blood when we get close. I’ll meet you there.” Sherlock answered.

Lestrade bounded off without another word, thick salt and pepper tail wagging behind him.

When they could no longer hear his footsteps, Sherlock suddenly was bursting at the seems.

“A note! I actually didn’t expect a note! Come along, John!”

This time John kept pace, but just barely, even though he could tell Sherlock was purposefully not running at his full capacity.

“Why back to your place first, then?” he managed despite his labored breathing.

“You forgot your coat. You’ll be needing it.” Sherlock called over his shoulder.

When the cave entrance was in sight Sherlock added “You forgot something else as well, but won’t be needing it anymore I see.”

“Catch!” Sherlock said as he retrieved something from a shrub.

John’s hand shot out instinctually and closed around the cold aluminum shaft of his cane.

John looked down at his own leg in disbelief, the same leg that had just carried him trotting over roots and rocks all through the forrest without one twinge or shudder.

John beamed at Sherlock in awe. Who was this wonderful, magical, antlered mad man who carried John through the forrest, shared his body heat and his roasted chestnuts, and cured him of his limp all within the span of little more than a day? Sherlock returned the smile then vanished into the cave.

John followed and quickly donned his coat. Sherlock clattered through items on a ledge, let out a satisfied sigh when he palmed what he had been looking for. He then shot John a quick glance just as John was putting on his socks (he had run out with just untied shoes in the earlier commotion). Sherlock dove into a dark corner of the cave. He lifted a wooden hatch on the floor and bent into the space below, his tale swishing wildly. John looked away quickly and tried to will away the blush rising in his cheeks.

Sherlock then rose and kicked the door deftly back into place. He approached John just as he finished lacing up.

“Put this in your pocket for me will you? I seem to be lacking pockets.”

Sherlock held a small magnifying glass out to John with his right hand. John took it and pocketed it as Sherlock requested.

“And, umm, I wasn’t sure if you would prefer apples or carrots so I, I mean, if you’re hungry…”

Sherlock sounded unsure for the first time. He uncurled his right had and revealed the three small wild apples, slightly wilted from winter storage, and two long carrots that he had retrieved from what John then knew to be his root cellar. John had to take a steadying breath. He was so incredibly touched by the small offering. He knew that the long winter was only half behind them, and that Sherlock’s provisions were most likely closely budgeted. And just the fact that he thought of John’s needs to begin with, it was more care (beyond necessary government-provided medical interventions) than John had received from anyone in a long time.

“Or if you want something else I can probably…” started Sherlock in response to John’s prolonged silence as he began to withdraw his extended offering.

“No! I mean, these are great, yeah. Thank you.” John exclaimed.

He caught Sherlock bare forearm in one hand to stop him, carefully took two of the apples and one carrot stick from Sherlock’s grasp. He didn’t plan on stroking Sherlock’s arm with his thumb before letting go, but it seemed natural to do so, and Sherlock didn’t seem to mind.

“You eat those, I’m good with these.”

“I don’t usually eat during an investigation, slows down one’s thinking.” Sherlock said in response, but he did chomp a large hunk off the end of the carrot.

He tucked the other apple into John’s pocket as he walked past him to exit the cave.

John followed, downing his own simple meal as they walked.

“Right, so where are we going? Something about a body? And blood?” asked John.

“Yes. There have been some mysterious deaths. The wolf pack only recently started noting them as such since the frequency has ticked up in recent months. However, I’ve been tracking them for years.”

“Deaths? Think a poacher slipped in? Always a black market demand for what hunters claim to be Wild One relics.” John said.

John worried it might have seemed sacrilegious to Sherlock in some way, but then again Sherlock didn’t seem like the squeamish or overly pious type.

“No. We rarely miss the presence of a poacher and they are dealt with swiftly and severely. These deaths are Men. But they have not been sanctioned kills. From what I have uncovered, starting back with the first case when I was just a boy myself, most of them have been innocent. And even those who haven’t been, their deaths have been, well, you’ll see.”

They reached the warm springs that Lestrade had referenced. John took a moment to dip his hands in to rid himself of the sticky apple juices. Sherlock stretched out on the water’s edge, as if doing a push-up, and dipped his black lips directly into the water to drink. John cupped some in his hands and also drank. The water was a bit bitter and John must have made some noise to indicate that.

“I should have warned you. High in mineral content. Safe, good for you even, but bitter. Good place for a warm bath in the cold months. Perhaps sometime, if you’d like, if you stay…” Sherlock trailed off.

“Is that even an option? I mean, I’ve heard stories of Men living in the Wild, but is that something you…”

John didn’t finish the thought because Sherlock suddenly lifted his head high and sniffed the cold air deeply. The wind had changed direction, and some scent that it carried clearly caught the stag’s interest.

“Lestrade was right. That’s a lot of blood spilled.” Sherlock offered as a brief explanation.

The duo walked the rest of the way in silence.

When they arrived on the scene, Lestrade and another wolf, a smaller but well-muscled female with brown, tawny fur, sharp eyes and even sharper teeth, kept guard. They circled the bloodied body in the small clearing, huffing at the earth and the ivy-laden ancient trees, the plumes of their hot breath visible in the cold air. The body that had brought them there was spread eagle in the grass. His thick overcoat and his suit, a nice one at that, was open from neck to zip, as was the skin underneath it. Sherlock was right, there was a lot of blood.

When Sherlock neared the body, an annoyed whine came from the canopy above. Sherlock paused just for a moment, rolled his eyes, then continued in.

“You didn’t tell me he was here.” Sherlock mumbled in the direction of Lestrade.

“Of course I’m here. The only reason you’re here is because of the note. I could have handled everything else.” said the voice in the trees.

“And who the Hell is he?”

John almost fell backwards when a black-faced, ginger-throated, beady-eyed Wild One dropped into his line of vision, upside down, and far to close for comfort. Did none of them know about personal space?

John tried not to be obvious about his visual inspection of the dangling Wild One. Luckily, he and Sherlock fell into bickering match, which gave John a chance to take a step or two back and get a better look. The Wild One hung comfortably from a sturdy branch by his back legs and one hand, all firmly anchored in the bark with tough claws. As he and Sherlock continued their animated bickering over which one of them was most likely to disturb the scene with their carelessness, a long sleek black tail shifted to provide counterbalance on the precarious perch.

“You’re just afraid I’ll find the evidence of you and Donovan having fornicated in this very spot on the night of the last full moon. Or that I will also see evidence of you having brought several other females to this same spot for the same purpose. Whoops! Too late!”

By the foul smell that rolled off the marten-like Wild One, Sherlock’s last barb was accurate.

By the growl that the female wolf produced, she was Donovan.

Lestrade called the whole thing to a swift end with some pointed barking. Attention shifted back to the body.

“When was it found?” asked Sherlock.

“I came through the area first just after nightfall. Came through again after midnight, found him then. I can’t find any other scent trails besides his. As far as my nose can tell, it’s as if he was here all alone.” Donovan answered.

“Doctor, would you inspect the body please? Is anything missing?”

John stepped toward the body carefully, instinctually lowering his head as he passed the displeased Lestrade who was clearly barely tolerating his presence there, never mind his participation in the investigation. Sherlock crouched next to him.

“What am I doing here?” he whispered to Sherlock.

“You are assisting me.” Sherlock whispered back.

“What do you see Doctor?” he said, louder then.

John retrieved a pen from his pocket to poke at the incision at the throat. He then used the instrument to carefully prod the dead man’s innards.

“Okay, umm, everything seems to be accounted for, organ wise. The front incision was done all in one go, no jagged places where it had to stop and re-enter. Looks as clean as an autopsy cut. The line across the throat was what killed him. More blood around the collar than the rest of him. Also would explain how there could be such a clean cut down the front. No live person would be still enough for that to happen. The blade wasn’t serrated from what I can tell. Afraid that’s all I’ve got.” John finished.
John raised his eyes and found Sherlock beaming at him.

Sherlock stood and paced as he added to John’s interpretation of the scene.

“You’ll see by the greater amount of blood on the victim’s right hand, his dominant hand, that he clutched his throat after it was cut, trying in vain to staunch the bleeding. His attacker was still behind him at that time. The victim fell to his knees, but was then guided onto his back by the same being who slit his throat. Dirty knees, you see. He was lead here. He trusted his attacker. No signs of a life and death struggle on the body or the ground. There and there,” Sherlock gestured toward a nearby shrub and a rock “is the blood spatter from the lethal slash. Where is the note? You said there was a note.”

The disgruntled investigator dropped from the tree next to Sherlock.

“His hands have started to curl up since we first found him.” he explained as he reached for the victim and carefully un-fisted the fingers on each cold hand.

John followed suit, opened the hand on his side of the body.

“Come Play” breathed Sherlock, reading out the one word carved on each palm.

“Men are so sick! Killing is a game to them!” growled out, not making any apology towards John being in their midst.

“This isn’t Man’s work, Lestrade. This is one of us and you know it in your gut. But you have the sick part right, and it is very much a game to him. He’s just upped the ante. He’s starting to get serious about the game in a way he wasn’t before.”

“But the writing! Only a few freaks like you read their scribbles. And this isn’t how we kill. That was done with a Man-made blade, not teeth or claws. No self-respecting…” added Donovan.

“He plays by his own rules!” Sherlock yelled as he rounded on the smaller Wild One.

“He has been preparing for this game for a long time. Something has changed. Something has tipped the scales so far into his favor that he is opening up the game play to who he feels is a worthy adversary. Don’t you all see it! It’s as clear as the shoes on his feet!” Sherlock gesticulated wildly to the body.

John and the others all turned to look in unison.

“They don’t match” said John.

“Yes! At least someone here is using something more than their hindbrain!” Sherlock bellowed in exaggerated thankfulness.

“His shoes are trainers, and old ones at that. No Man who wears a tailor-made suit and overcoat would wear old…oh! OH!”

Sherlock dropped to his knees before the shoes in question.

“I know these shoes. Oh, he has been playing this game for a long time…and he’s put the first pawn that he ever took back into play.”

“Sherlock? Care to share?” Lestrade asked, followed by a long sigh that resembled an annoyed howl.

“These shoes belonged to Carl Powers, an innocent Man-boy found dead not far from here when I was just a child myself. I told anyone who would listen that it didn’t all add up. I’m the one that he wants to play with. The game…is on!”

Chapter Text

“Slow down, Sherlock! One of us doesn’t know these woods like the back of his furry hand!” yelled John to the brown blur that darted through the tress too far ahead for comfort.

Sherlock stopped abruptly at a fork in the path. He muttered under his breath as if deciding which way to go. Just as John caught up and thought he could take a bit of a breather, Sherlock took off again, and not in the direction of his home. At least all the running was keeping John warm, and he was still extremely grateful for his ability to move freely without his cane, so it was all fine.

Sherlock slowed along the edge of a rocky hillside that rose well above the floor of the forrest, a landmark even visible from the village John had disembarked from. Only then did he realize just how deep in the Wild they were. John recalled the sensation of being carried and felt a sudden blush rise in his cheeks. Just how far had Sherlock carried him that first night?

“We are going to see a colleague of mine. She’s a bit skittish. Walk loudly so she knows you are not sneaking up on her and keep your hands visible at all times. I can track her through the archives if need be, but it would be much easier if we don’t send her running.”

“What archives?” John asked.

“It’s where we keep records of all the Men that come into our woods. The children, the innocent wanderers, and the ones who die. I’m most interested in the latter in this case.”

Sherlock moved aside some vines growing on the rock face, and a portion of the rock face itself. He held the faux-wall open for John to enter. Once in, Sherlock let it fall back into place. From the inside John could see that the disguised door was a thatched mat, the outside of which had rock adhered to it. The entrance hid in plain sight.

They walked with loud shuffling steps through a passageway that was taller and longer than the entirety of Sherlock’s cave. Then it opened into a larger cavern, lit with a few oil lamps and well-placed reflectors made from hammered, polished metal. Off the main space, several smaller openings shot off, some only accessible by narrow ledges.

“Molly?” Sherlock asked the empty room.

His voice was not loud, just conversational.

“It’s alright to come out. He’s with me.” he said a moment later.

Sherlock’s ran his knuckles over the back of John’s hand. John startled at the contact then internally chastised himself for acting like a nervous teenager. Sherlock didn’t seem to notice. Sherlock used his gaze, the tilt of his ears, and the slightest nod of his head to indicate the shadowed, small passageway to his right. John looked just in time to see something shift in the shadows.

“I’m John. I’d be pleased to make your acquaintance, if you’d like.”

John held his hands out from his sides, palms up. John thought distantly of meeting children in Afghanistan, trying to lure out the little ones that he saw sporting make shift bandages so he could do what he could to clean and patch them up.

A soft face emerged slowly from the shadows, nose and whiskers twitching, big, bright, amber-brown eyes following close behind. She had long brown hair pinned up with smooth sticks. John tried to stifle the smile but couldn’t. Her ears were brilliant. Two long ears fell down to her shoulders. She fussed the white edge of one of them between her fingers. The hand that did so looked like a puff ball with fingers, which matched her somewhat-disproportionately-long feet as well. She was the first Wild One John had seen that was pretty much completely covered in fur (save her face), as even the wolf pack had bare arms and bellies. It was short enough to see decidedly female curves, but definitely all over.

“Should I offer her a carrot?” John whispered from the side of his mouth to Sherlock.

“Really, John? Isn’t that a bit stereotypical?” Sherlock returned.

“Oh god, yeah I guess it is.” he stuttered.

“So she doesn’t like them, then?” John asked.

“Of course she does, she’s a rabbit.” Sherlock responded.

“Molly! Yes! Sooooo good to see you! Molly, John. John, Molly. Wonderful, we have all said hello. Now! I need you to show me the records for six, mmmm, make that seven bodies found spanning over the last two decades.”

Sherlock shifted from solicitous to all-business in the blink of an eye.

Molly approached them fully. John braced himself for some kind of brash sniffing as occurred with Lestrade, but it never came. Not that her nose ever stopped gathering information, though.

“Which ones?” came the quiet but interested voice.

Sherlock gave her a list of people, but with no names. He described them by physical details like “the fat one with the fake, terrible hair” or “the woman with the broken pink glasses and the scar” over timetables like “found during that spring when the streams all flooded” or “just after that autumn storm that took out the best walnut tree in the west meadow”.

Molly squinted occasionally in thought but then indicated recognition of every one of the cases that Sherlock gave her. She then led them down this corridor and that one, some which made Sherlock grumble at the close quarters and the way his antlers rubbed against the exposed roots that hung from the walls. The “records” Sherlock had spoke of were drawings on the wall. At about the third one, John started to figure them out. They were like common-sense hieroglyphics, arranged top to bottom representing head to feet, not unlike a medical chart.

Sherlock leaned in close and would point to this detail or that, Molly giving clarification as needed, although much of their conversation of unspoken. Molly would pantomime where exactly on the body a mark in question was, or how deep an injury ran. At one such record the two did speak at length, engaged in a disagreement on the cause of death. Molly stood her ground. Her floppy ears perked up at their bases. John leaned against the opposite wall and tried to hide his smile behind the last apple from his pocket as he watched their two white tails twitching expressively, punctuating the arguments they each presented. Molly finished one long explanation of the effect of the cold stream the body was found half-submerged in having delayed the decomposition around a wound (or something along those lines) and gave her flat, padded, furry foot a resounding stomp at the end. Sherlock’s drew back and made an appalled face like an old matron that was just told by a bridge partner that she had lost the game for them and her cucumber finger sandwiches were rubbish.

“She’s right, you know” said John.

They both turned to John as is just remembering he was there.

“She’s right, about the effects of the cold. That injury probably did occur a day or two before death by how she described it.”

Molly smiled on one side of her mouth, looked at Sherlock from the corner of her eye through soft upturned lashes.

Sherlock glared daggers at John.

“I’ll find the rest of the records myself, thank you.” he grumbled.

Sherlock stormed off, leaving hoof-shaped footprints in the soft dust of the floor as he walked on the front half of each foot again. The angry display was ruined when his antler hooked a solid root and pulled Sherlock backwards. Sherlock made a frustrated rattling noise in his throat that John had never heard before as he extracted himself from the structure and then salvaged what he could of his dramatic exit.

Molly and John dissolved into quiet giggles.

“Carrot?” he offered, pulling the last one from his pocket.

“Yes, thanks. Tea?” she asked in return.

“Love some” replied John with a smile.

She lead the way to her modest living space in the cavern. A dried flower garland circled the ceiling. In a set-up similar to Sherlock’s fireplace, Molly layered some dry leaves and twigs over glowing coals, hung a little pot of water on a tripod above it. She busied herself with pinches of herbs scooped from a basket into petite clay cups while stealing not-terribly-subtle glimpses at John. John settled in at a low table, bumped his knee on something beneath it. He found it to be a stack of books.

“Oh you read as well?” John asked.

“Sherlock is teaching me.” Molly replied, her whiskers trembling as if she expected reproach.

John just smiled instead.

She brought over the fragrant herbal tea and a little stack of hard granola biscuits. John snapped off a piece in his mouth and thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t have any bad teeth. Still tasted better than army-issued MRE’s though. Molly chomped her carrot and sipped her tea in quiet.

“Since Sherlock is mad, would you mind looking at my latest practice?” she asked shyly.

“It would be my pleasure”

When Sherlock returned, his strop long forgotten as he was flush with the excitement of the investigation, he found Molly and John bent over the table together, tea cups and such pushed aside. John explained the use of apostrophes and jotted down examples on Molly’s practice slate.

Sherlock cleared his throat to get their attention. Molly shifted quickly away from where she had been leaning close over John’s shoulder, her long ear brushing his arm. Sherlock quirked his head to indicate it was time to go, but not before snatching two of the hard biscuits from the tabletop.

“It was nice meeting you Molly. Thanks for the tea.” John said in parting.

“Thank you. I mean, you’re welcome.” she stammered.

“Sherlock,” Molly called as they were leaving.

She took a few little hops over to his side. He bent down his ear when she beckoned him to. Sherlock nodded briefly and reddened in response to whatever she whispered in his ear.

John thought about asking what the exchange was about, but figured it was none of his business. They emerged through the hidden entrance of the archives into the bright white winter mid-day sun. Sherlock passed one of the biscuits to John as he crunched the entire other one in his mouth in one bite.

They headed back to Sherlock’s cave. When they passed the warm springs, Sherlock counted out several strides from an evergreen tree, flipped over the flat rock that was there, and extracted two empty glass bottles with corks from the dug-out area underneath. He handed one to John. They each filled a bottle and drank from it, replenishing themselves from their earlier exertions. They refilled them again and corked them off to bring back to Sherlock’s home.

They walked in silence. John thought of the archives, and his grandfather’s friend. Would there be an entry for him, complete with a roughly drawn picture of a pipe and violin?

Back at Sherlock’s home, the stag tossed John his bottle without warning and threw himself down on the bed of hay. After the day spent running and so furtively seeking information, a siesta was the last thing that John expected from Sherlock. On closer inspection though, Sherlock was in no way sleeping. He steepled his hands in front of his shiny lips, eyes wide open, the space between his brows wrinkled in consternation.

John shuffled about. The two large bottles he held against his chest clinked together.

“Oh, put those anywhere. Make yourself comfortable. I need time to think. So much new data, so many possibilities…” said Sherlock with an imperial wave of his hand before returning to his regal repose.

“Right, okay.”

John built a fire. He munched on the other biscuit from Molly. John found the discarded medical journal from the night before, now dry, and settled in to read. Soon the fire had warmed the space enough that he even felt fine taking off his jacket, traded it for his finally-dry thick jumper that had taken even longer than his coat to properly dry.

John tried to read, he really did, but instead he found himself running the events of the last two days through his mind over and over again. He had met Wild Ones, real actual Wild Ones, the most curious of which was just a few feet away. Sherlock was, all at the same time, the most amazing fantasy and the most real thing in John’s entire world. It was exhilarating and incredible just to be near him, yet there was also a dark dread of worry clouding John’s happiness.

How could John ever go back after this? He barely survived the grey nothingness of his life prior to entering the Wild. When he couldn’t stay any longer…

“Shut up” Sherlock commanded.

“I didn’t say anything.” John said.

“But you’re thinking it so loud you’re distracting me. You can stay as long as you’d like. This is the biggest puzzle I have ever been faced with before. I could use an assistant, someone to bounce my theories off of.” said Sherlock.

John let out a long breath that had sat tense in his chest.

“Okay, then.”

Sherlock breathed out a slow exhale. Had he been holding his breath as well?

“Good”

“Tea?” asked John.

“Yes, please. Third shelf on the left, the box next to the bat skeleton. And crank up the radio would you? I want to listen to the local news, see if there is any missing person’s story about our suited man.”

John did as he was asked. He marveled at his quiet evening in. There was no crap telly and take away for one with a stack of unpaid bills in a sad little beige bedsit. There was tea and murder and a decidedly beautiful genius stretched out in a cozy cave several kilometers within the Wild, and it was brilliant.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, there was nothing on the radio about the man who’s body they had found in the woods. Sherlock explained to John it was a long shot anyway, as he had deduced from the man’s clothing that he lived and worked in London. People go missing from London all the time, just walk away from their lives. It’s wasn’t headline news.

In the meantime, Sherlock was running himself and John up the wall with his lack of patience.

“What is he waiting for?” Sherlock yelled into the cold air on their daily walk.

It was John’s daily walk really. Sherlock would have been happy to stay tucked away in his cave all day thinking big thoughts, but John needed to get out. He had read all the books in Sherlock’s collection. Twice. Sherlock seemed reluctant to allow John out of his sight though, so it became their walk. The warm springs were a usual stop, to which John always brought the water bottles for refilling.

On one moderately warmer day, John took off his coat, hung it on a nearby tree, and started to disrobe. He did so as quickly as possible, eager to get out of the winter air and into the warm water. He had been wearing the same clothes and underthings since the day Sherlock found him and he just didn’t feel remotely clean anymore. He lowered himself into the pool and sunk in up to his chin. He then quickly stripped off his pants and vest as well. He swished them about in the water, wrung them out, and put them on rocks on the shore. John reached for his button-down plaid shirt from where he left it and did the same. His thick jumper and jeans would take far too long to dry, so he left them as is.

John did all of this with his back to Sherlock. It wasn’t meant to be a long soak, just a quick rinse. But as John was finishing up with his shirt, he felt the water stir beside him. Sherlock lowered his long, lean body into the water, all the way up to his neck ruff. So John found a place to sit on the submerged rocks and made himself as comfortable as possible, as Sherlock didn’t look to be getting out anytime soon.

The forrest was especially quiet at midday. John felt Sherlock looking at him with a greater intensity than he had in days, as so much of the stag’s concentration having been taken up by the investigation.

“Do you miss it?” Sherlock asked.

John thought on it for a moment, dunked his head in the water before he answered.

“I miss some of the little things. Hot running water, clean clothes, jammy dodgers, and I could use a shave, but…”

John looked to Sherlock then. His eyes gleamed. The sky above them brought out the blue in them. Sherlock’s antlers made him look like a crowned prince. The water was perfect. John’s back, a bit sore from sleeping on the hay, melted back into proper alignment. The air was chill but so very fresh and clean. Although he still didn’t quite know where he fit into Sherlock’s life and why the Wild One kept him around, John couldn’t think of anywhere he would rather be.

“This is...” "perfect" John wanted to say.

"More than I deserve" he felt in his heart.

"Can I keep you? Will you keep me?" Is what he wanted to ask.

“Fine” is what he finally said.

“It’s all fine”

Sherlock studied John a bit more, then suddenly rose from the water.

“Come along John! Today is the day! I can feel it! Work to do!”

John didn’t even have time to feel self conscious about getting out of the water naked as the day he was born. Sherlock did a full-body shake to rid himself of extra moisture and was then ready to go. John dried himself off with his jumper and slipped into his jeans, shoes and coat. The rest he would dry by the fire back at the cave.

He was ready just as Sherlock finished filling their two bottles of water, plus an extra he retrieved from the hiding hole. That’s when John caught sight of the shivering that quaked through Sherlock’s frame, ending in shaking ears.

“For a genius you sure are an idiot.” John said. He dropped to his knees beside Sherlock on the water’s edge and used his jumper to more properly dry of Sherlock’s back, his upper arms, and his neck ruff.

“I know you don’t usually wear clothes, but you look like you could use a little extra something right now. It’s yours if you want it.” said John, holding out the damp but better-than-nothing jumper.

Sherlock put the bottles down carefully and took the oatmeal knit jumper in hand. He held it up to his nose and sniffed a few times, his ears twitching as they did when he was thinking a mile a minute.

“Wearing clothing is considered very taboo. It’s worse even than reading and writing.” said Sherlock.

“Oh,” replied John, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you or anything.”

He reached out to take it back from Sherlock.

Sherlock pulled the jumper closer to him. He wrapped it around his shoulders and tied the sleeves in the front. He lowered his nose into the knot once more before replying.

“I’ve never been one to follow the rules. And it is warm. Thank you, John.” said Sherlock slowly, carefully, and in a voice like warm honey as he peered through his long eyelashes at John.

John swallowed hard.

“So what were you on about before? Today is the day for what? You think the murderer will strike again?”

John tried to keep his voice steady when he spoke. When Sherlock used that tone of voice it did things to him.

“This has nothing to do with him. This has to do with something I wait for all winter to happen.” Sherlock explained.

They headed back in the direction of the cave, but Sherlock offered no further information along the way. At the mouth of the cave, Sherlock handed John all the bottles and told him to take them inside. When John came back out, Sherlock threw him the jumper.

“Hold onto that so I don’t get blood on it.” said Sherlock.

“What? Blood? What blood?” John asked, eyes wide.

“There’s usually blood. Don’t be alarmed.”

And with that sparse explanation, Sherlock ran, head down, towards the wall outside the cave. His antlers hit with a crunch. Sherlock stepped back and shook his head in frustration and let out a nasal-throaty deep bawl.

“The right one will go first, I think” Sherlock said in a rather casual tone for someone who just rammed head-first into rock.

“Sherlock, what the hell…”

Sherlock ran again. This time the noise was more of a crack. The right antler didn’t look right. Sherlock rubbed both bony extensions, hard, on the nearest thick tree trunk, and then the right antler dropped off into the dead leaves below.

“Ahhhh,” Sherlock sighed loudly. “The first one is always the hardest.”

The whole procedure looked barbaric and surreal. Sherlock rubbed the remaining antler on the tree trunk, the muscles in his back working under his skin with the effort. There was a small cracking noise and the second joined the first on the ground below. Huge gouges were left in the tree bark, and Sherlock had two bloody indentations above his ears where his antlers used to be.

Sherlock turned to beam at John with a huge smile.

“Told you today was the day!”

“Jesus, Sherlock! Does it hurt!? You must at least have a headache from all that! Come on inside and I’ll use my vest to staunch the bleeding. It’s dripping all in your hair.”

Sherlock obeyed reluctantly. As John soaked his undershirt with some water, Sherlock rolled his neck and hummed indulgently. John had to smile, despite all the head-bashing and the blood, at Sherlock’s apparent happy relief to have shed all that weight. John always knew that bucks lost their antlers in the winter, but seeing it with his friend was an entirely different experience. Leave it to Sherlock to not be patient enough to allow nature to take it’s course.

“Does it hurt?” John asked as he patted at one of the blood-seeping perfect circles.

“Mmmmmm, no. It feels cool and light. The edge around the outside will itch later and then there will be a scab, followed by a callous of sorts. It will be a few months then the new ones will start to grow. If you think this little bit of blood is bad, wait until you see when the velvet starts to shed from the new ones. It’s downright macabre.”

John paused in his cleaning of Sherlock’s hair and raw antler bases when it hit him that Sherlock happened to just casually let it drop that he expected John to be around in several months. Then came the mental image of Sherlock in the springtime, his head pillowed against soft green grass, a breeze scented like fresh wildflowers stirring his curls, the sun reflecting in his eyes and warming his skin, new antlers covered in soft velveteen fur that begged to be stroked. How much of his coat would he shed when the air turned warm?

“John?” Sherlock asked softly, pulling John back from his daydream.

“Sorry, almost got all the blood out. It’s already pretty much stopped bleeding.”

John finished up and went to rinse his shirt with more of the spring water. It was bound to stain some, but at least it wouldn’t look like John killed someone while wearing it. He hung up his other wet items over the smoldering fire.

“Fancy a long walk today Dr. Watson?” Sherlock asked.

“Sure, where to?”

“Oh, just to see a friend of mine. We occasionally do a bit of business together. Hand me that bag hanging from the ceiling next to the dry sage?”

John reached for one of the bags.

“The sage, John! That’s the chamomile! Oh, never mind, I’ll get it. You can carry the extra bottle. Martha enjoys the mineral water from the spring.”

“Martha? Lady friend of yours?” asked John, trying to not jump to any conclusions.

“She is a lady, yes.”

It was a long walk, indeed. It was well over an hour before the two veered onto a path that ran a few dozen meters parallel to the edge of the forrest line. Beyond the trees, a stretch of Edge land marked the border between the Wild and the world of Men. It was one of the areas of the Edge that actually had a few small cottages on it. Families passed such homes down from generation to generation. They didn’t own the land, per say, as that land was unclaimable. But the families and with Wild Ones somehow reached agreements generations ago that they were permitted to live in closer proximity than most. Those homes didn’t have roads leading up to them, just usually a rough walking path, occasionally something big enough for a cart, to the nearest village.

Sherlock stopped in front of an old tree with a huge trunk. He stood very still and scanned the forrest. He breathed deeply through his raised nose and his ears swiveled this way and that. When he was satisfied that they were indeed alone, he turned to John.

“John, what I am about to do, you are to tell no one. Do you understand?”

“Who am I going to tell exactly, Sherlock?”

“I mean no one, John. Not Lestrade, not Molly, no one. What I am about to do would carry grave repercussions should any of my colleagues in the forrest find out.”

“Yes, alright. You’re secret is safe with me, whatever it is.”

Sherlock gave John a half-smile.

With a flourish he turned back to the huge tree. He felt along the edge of the one large but shallow hollow. Sherlock found what he was looking for, one piece of twine. He gave it a tug and the entirety of a panel fell forward into his waiting grasp. It revealed a truly deep hollow space behind the false front.

The strong scent of pungent herbs and what smelled like skunk stink hit even John’s human nose hard. Sherlock’s black nose wrinkled with the stench. Sherlock pulled out a tightly wound bundle of dried vegetation, the source of the smell, and set it aside. He then reached deep into the bottom of the hole and pulled up yet another panel, this one thick and heavy. With a dramatic flourish, Sherlock pulled out what was concealed beneath. It was a long dark woolen coat. Sherlock brushed off the few wood chips that clung to the fabric (cedar, like John’s grandparent’s linen closet). Sherlock certainly took great precautions to keep other Wild Ones off the scent of this particular secret stash.

“You told me it was taboo.” John said as Sherlock swept the long coat over his shoulders, rolled them several times as he adjusted to having such full covering on his skin.

“And I also told you that I’m not one for following rules. Besides, this isn’t the part that would get me in trouble.”

“What is then?” John asked.

Sherlock pulled a blue scarf out of one pocket, wrapped it over his neck ruff. He then produced a rather ridiculous tweed cap with ear flaps from the other deep pocket and adjusted it on his head, concealing his expressive ears.

“This is.” said Sherlock.

And with that, Sherlock walked out of the forrest and into the clearing of the Edge.

John was dumbstruck. Then he rallied and took off after Sherlock, striding purposefully through the high, dry grass of the clearing. Sherlock even transformed his walk to something more Man-like. He walked on his whole foot, heel to toe with each step, so different from his usual perched-on-toes graceful prancing. The grass concealed his lack of footwear.

“Sherlock! What the hell are you doing?” John rasped to Sherlock in a loud whisper, trying to not allow his voice to carry over the open space in the middle of the day.

But it was hardly quiet out. Once out of the forrest for the first time in days, John could hear the distant noise of plans overhead and the rumble of a lorry somewhere in the nearby town. He would have easily overlooked those noises in the past, but they were practically deafening to him now in comparison to the Wild.

“I told you John, we are going to see Martha. Martha Hudson. We have known each other for several years. Her family has lived here for centuries. Her sister and her husband were some of the last to live in it full-time. The brother-in-law died about 10 years ago, the sister not terribly long afterwards. Martha lived in the states with her husband, who got himself into a bit of trouble over there. When her sister passed away, Martha made her escape from her husband and his troubles to move back here. He found her and followed. She ran into the Wild to hide from him one evening. He followed.” Sherlock didn’t elaborate further.

“So what happened, then? Did you hide her? Did you help?” John asked as they walked up the steps to the modest stone building.

“I assured that she never had to hide again. He never made it out of the Wild.”

Sherlock raised his hand to knock but the door opened before he was able to rap his knuckles against it.

“Sherlock! You brazen boy! In the middle of the day no less! Come in! come in before someone sees you! Oh, and you’ve brought a friend!”

The little woman wrapped in a purple knit shawl hurried them both into the warm embrace of her sitting room with a waving hand.

Chapter Text

Sherlock shrugged off the coat as if it had been burning him the whole time he had been wearing it. Their little hostess was totally nonplussed by Sherlock’s relative nudity. The scarf and the hat soon followed, all ending in a mess on the floor. John reflexively went to pick them up and at least fold them over the back of a chair.

“Martha Hudson, may I present Dr. John Watson, my, umm, well…and John this is Mrs. Hudson. Oh! I almost forgot.” Sherlock abruptly exited the rather awkward introduction to dig in the pocket of John’s coat while he was still wearing it.

“For you, Martha. Your ‘herbal soothers’” said Sherlock as he presented her with the old burlap sack. John followed it up by handing her a bottle of the mineral water that he had all but forgotten about in his grasp.

Mrs. Hudson loosened the string on the little bag and peeked at the bounty. Only then did John get a whiff of the contents. He had a strong sensory memory of his dormitory at Uni and that one room down the hall that that scent lingered around at all hours of the day. He couldn’t stifle the wry smile that tugged at his lips. That sneaky stag was supplying a little old lady with marijuana. Probably had it growing right out in the open in some clearing somewhere in the Wild.

“Oh Sherlock, you dear! Almost makes me forget about all the chances you took coming here in the middle of the day and tracking mud all over my carpet.” She swatted him affectionately on the arm as Sherlock made his way over to her bookshelf and began rummaging through the titles.

John had been lingering close to the door still. He backtracked to wipe his own muddy boots on the door mat.

“Take off your coat, Dr. Watson, I’ll make you a cuppa and you can tell me all about how you met our Sherlock.”

“I, umm, actually find myself a bit underdressed to be removing my coat, Mrs. Hudson. I just washed out my things before we came here. They’re still drying back at Sherlock’s cave.” John managed shyly.

He looked at his own hands. Despite the dip in the warm springs, he still had dirty fingernails and his beard had grown in a shaggy and unkempt fashion.

Mrs. Hudson stopped en route to her kitchen to look at John wide-eyed.

“You are staying with Sherlock? In his cave?” she asked slowly.

“Yes” John answered cautiously, stealing a glance at Sherlock.

Sherlock was still looking at the book spines, or at least he appeared to be. One ear swiveled toward John and Martha’s conversation, betraying where his attention truly lied.

“Well then,” said Martha with a bright and perhaps mischievous grin, “why don’t I make us a proper meal while you go and get washed up. There’s a tub upstairs. You are about my brother-in-law’s size. I still have some of his things stored in the closet in the smaller bedroom. Help yourself, dear.”

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”

John settled into for a quick, warm bath. He scrubbed every inch of himself and felt like a pink newborn when he was done. John tentatively explored the drawers in the bathroom and found what he was hoping for tucked behind a row of newer purchases, a shaving kit. It felt so good to have a smooth cheek again. He thought of how Sherlock never grew hair there, on his face. It was always smooth and perfect.

The clothes that Mrs. Hudson had told him about fit fine, indeed. A little bit big in the waist, but nothing a belt wouldn’t fix.

When John returned to the sitting room, Sherlock was splayed in the middle of the floor surrounded by books. He picked the last few volumes from a wooden crate just as John saw happened upon him. Mrs. Hudson was busy in her little kitchen. She cursed lightly under her breath while stoking the fire in the belly of the her antique iron stove. Whatever she had cooking for supper, it already smelled delicious. A pot of proper tea sat at on the coffee table. John’s mouth practically watered with the thought of actual tea with cream instead of the strong herbal mix that Sherlock favored. He poured himself a cup and one for Sherlock as well. Sherlock seemed to only notice his return once John cleared a spot on the chair behind Sherlock to sit, handing him a cup of tea over his shoulder.

“Thank you,” Sherlock said.

Sherlock took in John’s new clothing and sniffed the air, wrinkled his nose.

“Mrs. Hudson’s late brother-in-law had a skin condition for which he used some sort of steroidal cream that had a touch of menthol. Even after washing and storage I can still smell it on his clothes. After a few days of you wearing them it should be neutralized by your scent.” said Sherlock.

John took a sip then asked “And what exactly do I smell like to you then?”

Sherlock didn’t turn away quite in time. A quick rosy glow effused into his freckled cheeks.

“Hope you like potato and leek soup, Dr. Watson? Think I can manage some quick hand pies too so you can take some with you. Unless you plan on staying overnight? I know Sherlock doesn’t care for houses but you’re welcome to the spare bedroom if you’d like it. Sherlock’s opinion on your trustworthiness is better than any background checks a landlady could run on a border.” called Mrs. Hudson.

John looked to Sherlock. The Wild One sat with shoulders slumped over his reading, one hand playing with the fur of his neck ruff. John thought of how heavenly a real bed would feel, the soft slide of cotton sheet against his skin. But then he thought of having to sleep there alone. He became so accustomed, so quickly, to sharing a sleep space with Sherlock. Even without anything sexual having ever occurred, it was more intimate than any time that John had stayed overnight with a lover. Huddled against an army mate, trying to catch a few desperate minutes of rest as ammo was exchanged in the background, was probably the closest thing he could think of. But that was due to necessity. The way that John and Sherlock gravitated toward one another in sleep was so natural, as if their bodies knew how to seek out the fulfillment of a need that neither knew how to put into words.

“Soup and pies sound lovely Mrs. Hudson! I’ll pass on the bed, though. Kind of you to offer, but I’m all set.” John called out in return.

“What are you reading, then?” asked John, his voice quieter and meant just for Sherlock.

The question behind that question, of course, was ‘Is that alright? Did you bring me here to leave me among my own, like a stray that you fostered back to health and have to find a good home for?’

In response, Sherlock shuffled back on the floor until his bum nudged against John’s feet. John parted his knees and Sherlock settled in between them, leaning his back against the seat. He brought several books with him, which he handed to John one by one. Sherlock spoke excitedly about the various books that Martha had set aside for him. He told her what topics he was interested in and she always kept an eye out for them when she went to boot sales in the villages. The subjects included chemistry, medicine, engineering, women’s fashion over the past century, and several on apiology.

“You like bees?” John asked.

“Yes. I keep some wicker hives not far from the Archives. The decline of the world bee population is affecting bees in the Wild as well, as they travel beyond the borders regularly. I am composing a paper on my findings about their habits and my theories on how to mitigate the decline. Also, I harvest enough honey for Martha to sell at the local market. The money she earns buys me more books.”

John giggled softly and, before he thought better of it, ran his fingers fondly through Sherlock’s curls.

“What?” Sherlock asked.

“Just picturing you with bees buzzing around your antlers and your ears flicking them away. Will you ever stop surprising me?”

Sherlock turned just enough to meet John’s eyes. He blinked slowly, his long lashes moving in time with the strokes of John’s fingers along Sherlock’s skull.

“I certainly hope not, Dr. Watson.”

Sherlock went back to his reading, his head tipped to rest on John’s thigh, his warm body nestled in the V of John’s legs. John opened the nearest book on bee-keeping. He kept slowly running his fingers through Sherlock’s hair. He traced gently around the craters where his antlers once resided. He massaged along the space where Sherlock’s ears were, felt the fine muscles that were responsible for their animated nature. Sherlock breathed deeply and positively nuzzled his cheek into John’s denim-clad leg.

John still held the book, but no longer read the words. He was entranced by every subtle response that Sherlock gave to as John’s finger’s roamed loosely through his curls or stroked more deeply into the bone and tissue. He wished, fleetingly, that he had thought to do this when they were alone, back on the cave. What would the simple but rich experience progress to, if anything at all?

Eventually they were called to supper. There were real plates and utensils and a well-seasoned hot meal. Butter melted into the thick crusty bread that Mrs. Hudson served with the soup and it was all heaven. It was all so different then the days John spent residing with Sherlock in his cave, munching on scavenged fruits and vegetables. The most cooking they had done was a few small pots of stewed vegetables that had been desperately in need of salt (although John didn’t breath a word about it). And it was also very different than the lonely nights John had spent in his old rooms in London, eating sandwiches off paper plates.

Sherlock stood at the counter, sipping soup from a mug. He muttered something about chairs never accounting for those who had tails. But he did eat three slices of bread slathered with butter in the process.

As John did the washing up (despite the objections of their hostess), Sherlock packed up his crate of books. Mrs. Hudson loaded a basket with her completed hand pies and other wares. She whispered to John about how she was sorry there was no meat in the pies. She explained how she tries to be respectful of Sherlock’s vegetarian diet.

“Come back anytime! Don’t be strangers!” she called out to them as John and Sherlock made their way out into the cold night air.

Sherlock had his coat on again, and he lugged the box of books. John carried the basket of food and also wore a carpet bag slung over his shoulder, laden with two extra changes of clothes that Martha insisted that he take with him. They paused long enough for Sherlock to shrug out of his coat and safely tuck all his forbidden clothes away in the tree.

“The foul-smelling stuff hides the scent of the coat, yeah?” asked John when Sherlock replaced the heavy panel.

“Yes. Can’t have the Wolves sniffing it out now can we?”

“Do you visit with her often?” John asked a while later.

“Oh, a bit more frequently this time of year when I don’t have antlers to give me away. Once they grow in it’s more dangerous to attempt to cross the Edge unseen. When the weather is still good Martha takes a walk into the forest. We have a few drop points where I leave her honey and other goods and she leaves me books and treats in return. In the winter, he hip gives her more grief, so she stays put in the cottage.”

“She’s very fond of you.” John added.

“She benefits from our arrangement.” Sherlock countered.

“Annnd, she’s fond of you. It’s not all about the economy of it, you know.”

“Well, she doesn’t run away.” Sherlock said.

“And you didn’t even have to lie on top of her.”

They both chuckled, their breath pluming in the cold night.

The duo returned to Sherlock’s cave. The place was in total darkness, the fire having burned out in their absence.

“I’ll grab some kindling and such if you get the candles let. I know you’ll be up late reading tonight.” said John.

When he returned from his task, he found Sherlock had lit the candles, started a small fire with the few sticks they had left in the cave, and had laid out a plate of hand pies on the linen napkin Mrs. Hudson had wrapped them in. After the long walk home, it was a welcome evening meal. Sherlock was unpacking his books, finding extra spaces among his various knick knacks to fit them on the walls. Sherlock did not call attention to what else he had put out. The bed of hay had been fluffed up nicely, and atop it was a faded floral sheet. He must have slipped it under his stack of books when John and Martha weren’t looking.

“She won’t miss it. It was on the bottom of the pile in her linen closet, a match no where to be found.” said Sherlock in response to John standing there dumbfounded, still holding an arm full of wood.

John smiled to himself and added to the fire, put the kettle on as well. In no time, the cave heated up to where John felt comfortable removing his coat. He made them real tea, to which Sherlock added some of his honey. They munched on hand pies and read in silence.

“I may have taken one other thing from Martha” Sherlock said with no precursor whatsoever.

John raised his eyebrows.

Sherlock reached to the bottom of the basket and brought out small red package, the crinkly wrapper displaying an image of very familiar round shortbread biscuits with a red jelly-filled heart cut out of the middle.

“Oh, Sherlock. I could kiss you. Jammy Dodgers! How did you know?”

Sherlock blushed brightly but tried to play it off.

“You mentioned them, earlier, at the spring. I saw them in her kitchen and I thought… oh just take them John before you drool on that book! I’d quite like to read it sometime and would prefer the print not be washed away by your saliva.”

John took the package with great reverence. He peeled back the wrapper and took a moment to admire them looking so perfect, all lined up in a row.

“These were my favorite things to receive in charity care packages in the field. I let the other guys in the unit pick first, but sometimes I couldn’t resist nicking one package for myself before letting them have at it. Here, have one.”

“You can have them all, you’re the one who likes them.”

“Have you ever had one before?”

“No”

“Then let’s fix that, right now. Come on, we’ll do it together” John said more sternly, nudging Sherlock in the arm with the open packet of biscuits.

Sherlock took one begrudgingly. He ate it the same time as John. The made simultaneous moans of enjoyment, Sherlock’s also tinged with pleasant surprise. His ears stood up straight as he closed his eyes, analyzing the new taste.

John went to bed that night on a smooth sheet, just one candle and the fire embers still lit for Sherlock to read by. John turned on his side away from his companion, afraid to say what he wanted to say to Sherlock’s face.

“Thank you, Sherlock” he finally managed to push past his lips.

“An old sheet and some biscuits are hardly a great feat, John.” came the rich voice from behind him.

“It’s not just that, although they were nice as well. I mean thank you for today. It was perfect. And for that matter, thank you for everything. Thank you for everyday since we met.”

John blinked rapidly as he looked at the back wall of the cave, willing the stinging in his eyes to subside.

“Good night, John” was the gentle reply.

“Good night, Sherlock”

That night John slept very soundly with a full belly, in clean clothes, on a soft bed. He was barely awoken when, hours into the night, a heavy weight settled across his chest. He peered down, unalarmed but curious. Sherlock had nestled against him, his head laid sideways, his ear to John’s heart. It was the first time he ever did that, since previously it would have been prohibited by his rack. John wrapped his arms around the sleepy Wild One. He hesitated just a moment, then buried his fingers into Sherlock’s curls.

John drifted off to sleep again. Somewhere, deep in a dream, he could have sworn he heard Sherlock whispering to him.

“You smell like the strong winds that kick up before a storm, the kind that make you feel like you can fly when you run with them as fast as you can. And you smell like the heart wood of an ancient tree that was struck by lightening but still stubbornly lives. You smell like books, and tea, and jam-filled biscuits. In the morning you smell like me. I like your scent best in the morning.”

Chapter Text

After their first excursion to Mrs. Hudson’s cottage on the Edge, Sherlock’s mood became more bearable. The books seemed to give him enough new things to think about instead of just dwelling on the lack of new information on their mysterious killer.

Also, their walks became more of an event instead of just a distraction and a stretch of the legs. They went once to the top of the mountain and looked out over the Wild and a portion of the Edge that John had never traveled to before. They spoke of the historic Reichenbach Hall, a stone structure nearly the size of a castle. It was one of the largest such homes that existed on the Edge anywhere in the world.

“When I was rather small, I tried to sneak in a few times when it seemed that the family was away on holiday. But my brother found me out and moved us to the other side of the Wild for the next several seasons.” said Sherlock.

“You have a brother? You never told me you have a brother! Does he live nearby?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes and made a terribly exasperated throaty sound.

“Thankfully, he has been away for sometime. He was called to assist with the influx of Men fleeing into the Wild in that region of the former Russian states that has been in conflict lately. Mycroft excels at making quick and accurate judgments as to who is innocent and who is seeking to cause harm to those fleeing. If he were nearby he would have been meddling by now.”

“You mean meddling with your investigation?” asked John.

Sherlock squinted his eyes and looked to the sun, giving John a sidelong glance in the process.

“Yes, the investigation. Did you bring that book I told you to John?”

John patted his pocket as an affirmative response.

“Excellent. Let’s bring it to Molly. She’s long overdue for a lesson.”

In addition to the walks and the visits with Molly, there were also more trips to see Mrs. Hudson. Sherlock brought her mineral water throughout the winter, and then other gifts of the forest as the spring thaw set in. There were wild green onions, to which Mrs. Hudson swore were so much more flavorful than the store-bought kind. There were baskets of wild mushrooms. John was rubbish at finding them, but Sherlock had a nose for it. Martha had so many left over, even after drying some, that she sold the extras at the market.

After one such successful day, when Martha returned to the cottage with lots of extra provisions and still money left over, Sherlock took Martha aside quietly. John hung back from their private conversation, but his ears burned in curiosity. He took a seat and tried to get himself interested in one of Martha’s tabloid magazines.

“John” Sherlock grunted awkwardly.

The stag itched at his neck ruff, which was looking more and more sparse by the day. John looked up just in time to see another large clump of fluffy fur fly away and slowly drift to the floor at Sherlock’s feet. Sherlock threw a quick glance to make sure Martha wasn’t looking, then deftly lifted the edge of the rug with one toe and brushed the clump of fur under with the foot.

John scowled at him. Sherlock scrunched up his face in dismissal and disapproval of John’s reproach. The two had become rather adept at nonverbal conversations during their time together.

“There are things you need? From town? You always tell Martha there’s nothing you need and you strive to use as little of her items as possible when we visit because you don’t want to impose, but you must have needs. The village is so close by and she tells me the shops are adequate. It will still be light for a few more hours, so…”

Sherlock held out his fist to John, revealed a roll of paper bills in his grasp.

“Is there enough there? Martha said it would be enough.” he added, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

John took the money. There was plenty for getting everything on the modest wish list that John didn’t realize he had been keeping in his head. He would love a new razor, some deodorant, maybe some hand cream. His hands had grown very dry with his new outdoor lifestyle, the knuckles sometimes cracking and bleeding. He could also use some new underclothes, socks, and shoelaces.

But the thought of walking away from the Wild didn’t feel right. He had spent nearly every moment with Sherlock since they met. Was this the way that Sherlock would finally get rid of him?

“Well?” Sherlock prodded.

“That’s very kind of you. It’s true that I could use some things. Will you…I mean…” John attempted, but his voice cracked in a way it hadn’t since puberty.

“Oh good! I told him you would rather do it yourself! And I forgot to get more black pepper so you can pick some up for me. I’ll need it for dinner. I’m making meatless Shepherd’s Pie. It’s Sherlock’s favorite.” said Martha as she entered the room. She patted Sherlock as she passed, effectively dislodging another two or three tufts of shed fur.

“Oh Sherlock! I should make your wear your scarf indoors just to keep all that contained. And don’t think I don’t know about how you hide it under my rug!”

John exhaled. They were both expected for dinner. Martha was making Sherlock’s favorite.

“Well, maybe just a quick trip. Could you recommend a few places? Clothes? Toiletries?”

John entered the town as if he were back in the service and on a tactical strike team. He went to the shops Martha told him would meet his needs, got what was on his list, did not pause once to window shop, and then headed back out. The one and only diversion from his plan was to pick up a cheap postcard from a display by a register as the was being rung up. He popped into the post office and scrawled a quick note to Harry. He told her he was alive and well. He told her he hoped she was well. That was enough. The rest would have filled chapters and chapters about antlers and wolf packs and archives hidden in mountains and the way that Sherlock still clings to John’s shirt when he sleeps, his fingers tapping and fidgeting but still gripping tight as he dreams behind long soft lashes.

He practically ran the last few dozen yards of the path up to Mrs. Hudson’s front door. He didn’t even bother to knock. There was Sherlock, stretched out on his stomach on the floor.

“John this advertisement in the magazine is for adhesive pads that one sticks to the sole of one’s foot which supposedly sucks the toxins from one’s system, evidenced by the foot pad turning black. Your next trip to town, I would like you to pick some up for me. I would like to experiment on them.”

John didn’t even try to hide his smile. He handed Mrs. Hudson her black pepper and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He sat down next to Sherlock, tried to explain the hallowed tradition of false advertising, and gathered Sherlock’s shed fur from where it stuck to the carpet.

The Shepherd’s pie was delicious. Sherlock ate half of it all on his own.

That night, they may have held one to one another just a little bit tighter.

Although he didn’t say anything out loud about it, Sherlock made faces whenever John applied his antiperspirant. It somehow went missing during the first few days he had it. He bought a replacement the following week. That went missing as well. John didn’t bother to buy a third.

Sherlock brought John to check on his hives. John smiled fondly as Sherlock carefully inspected the colonies. He could sit so very still while observing them, only the odd swish of an ear and the light in his eyes giving away his rapt interest. And John could sit so very still, just a bit further off, watching Sherlock watch his bees.

“They aren’t my bees” Sherlock corrected John once.

John, at the time, was already mostly asleep. Sherlock climbed into the hay next to him, not as near now that the nights were not as cold, but still quite near, for it was a small space.

“What? Bees?” John mumbled, trying to will his eyes open and his mind clear.

“The bees John, earlier you referred to them as ‘your bees’. But they don’t belong to me or anyone. I just provide them with a suitable place to live that they, luckily, deemed acceptable. I take just a bit of their honey in return for their housing and their protection. Nothing in the Wild really belongs to anyone.”

John was suddenly wide awake. Sherlock had settled with his face right in front of John’s.
His eyes were silver that night, maybe with hints of amber.

‘I’m yours, though’ John wanted to say. He could taste the words on his tongue, thick and heady like the wild honey.

“Oh” he said instead.

John reached out and found the spot where Sherlock’s antlers used to be, covered in dark curls. But there wasn’t just a callous anymore. There was a small, downy bump. Sure enough, when he checked, there was one on the other side as well.

“Yes, they’re starting to grow back in. The ear hat won’t contain them for more than a few more weeks.” Sherlock said while yawning.

“No more trips to Martha’s then?” John asked.

The act of running his fingers in Sherlock’s hair was lulling John back to sleep as well.

“Hmmm, I’ll still manage some at night. You’ll have to take over during the day. She’s getting too old to hike to our hiding spots. She’ll appreciate having a delivery service instead.”

John’s short trips into town became more relaxed. He bought Sherlock chocolates and books. He stopped in a pub for a cold, frothy pint. He watched the news and caught a bit of a Dr. Who episode. He let himself window shop a bit. He was walking past a consignment shop when he saw them. The idea struck him as dangerous, absolutely fool-hearty, and he knew that Sherlock would love it. He bought them straight away. He tucked them at the bottom of his grocery bag.

Sherlock knew something was up, of course he did, but he also deduced that John wanted to give Sherlock his gift while they were alone.

So when they walked back into the Wild that dusk, and Sherlock stopped at his hollow tree to hide his coat and hat, John cleared his throat purposefully.

“Here? Really? Too eager to wait to get back to the cave?” Sherlock asked.

John’s throat went dry. He knew that Sherlock was referring to his surprise, but damn if that didn’t sound like, well, no matter.

“Well, you’ll need to put these in there as well.” said John.

John reached under the fresh bread, the ball of twine, and the full package of jammy dodgers to pull out the plastic bag from the consignment shop. He then presented the pair of slightly worn but still very fine black leather shoes he had purchased to Sherlock.

“They might be a little big, but I think they’ll do.” John said.

Sherlock looked confused as he tentatively took the shoes from John.

“This is very nice of you, John, but I have always gotten along just fine getting back and forth across the Edge without shoes…”

“I was thinking about something different, actually. You see, I know you are curious about it. I see the way you look out her widows toward the village. There’s a festival coming up next week. Revelry should last well into the night. I thought, between your coat and hat and the cover of darkness, we could at least skirt the edges of things together. And the shoes would be the final thing you would need to pass as a Man. I mean, if you want to go, with me. You know, just two people going out and doing something fun together.”

John squirmed under Sherlock’s piercing gaze.

“That’s mad.” Sherlock said finally.

“Oh, yes, well…”

“It’s brilliant!” Sherlock yelled.

He even went so far as to do a little jump in the air. Sherlock them crowded into John’s space and rubbed his head and the nubs of his growing horns along the side of John’s face, made a satisfied humming noise.

John stood stalk still.

Sherlock abruptly aborted the nuzzling motion and jerked back from John, wide-eyed.

“I’ll just, umm, put these away then. I can practice with them another time.” Sherlock said.

He reassembled his hiding place in record time and bounded off in front of John, who had to jog to keep up.

The night of the festival didn’t come a day too soon. Sherlock’s hat just barely sat right with his growing horns straining underneath. However, his neck ruff was almost completely gone, exposing a long expanse of paler skin with freckles down the sides. John leant Sherlock one of his jumpers to go under the coat. It was too short in the sleeves and at the waist, but the coat was definitely not coming off in the village anyway, as there was no way to fit his tail in trousers.

The plan was to hang back from the crowd and observe together. It was a small but festive affair with a band playing in the town square and booths set up by local organizations, artisans and food vendors. Sherlock watched the crowds with wide eyes, taking it all in. John watched Sherlock. The fairy lights strung around the square reflected in the stag’s eyes and set him aglow.

Sherlock turned his head away from John and sniffed deeply.

“Fried potatoes with malt vinegar” he breathed out wistfully.

“Chips? You like chips with malt vinegar?” John asked with an amused smirk.

“Yes. My grandmother used to make them on occasion. Haven’t had them in ages. Mrs. Hudson favors her potatoes roasted”

“Would you like me to go over there and get you some chips with malt vinegar, Sherlock?” John asked.

“If you don’t mind. With lots of salt.”

John chuckled as he walked from the shadows and into the throng of the fair. John would have loved to grab some fried fish as well, but he had kept solidarity with Sherlock’s vegetarianism since they first met, so no use in breaking it.

John took his large sack of chips over to the condiments. He shook on the extra salt, stole a glance at Sherlock. The Wild One bounced in his shoes in his hiding spot, looking like a hyperactive gangly teenager with a silly hat and a dramatic coat. John looked for the malt vinegar. He counted two, no, three bottles of apple cider vinegar and two bottles of brown sauce but no malt.

“Looking for the malted vinegar?” said a female voice to John’s right.

“Yes, please.” replied John as he reached for the proffered bottle.

She shifted how she held it at the last second and he wrapped his fingers over hers. She held on and locked eyes with him.

“I’m Mary, and you’re not from around here.”

“John, and no, I’m not. Just visiting my, umm, Aunt.”

John shook a generous amount of vinegar on the chips as Mary struck up some small talk about the history of the festival and John dodged questions about his living circumstances. It took John Three-Continents-Watson far too long to realize that he was being flirted with. Mary was pretty and nice and interested and John, well, John wanted to get back to Sherlock. But it was difficult to break away from the conversation.

“Come along John” said a familiar voice in a clipped tone as a coated arm hooked around John’s elbow and dragged him away from a baffled looking Mary.

“What are you doing? She could have gotten too good of a look at you!” John whispered harshly as they quickly made their way back out of the crowd and into a side alley.

“She only had eyes for you, John.” Sherlock countered.

Sherlock reached into the bag and took a handful of chips. They were still so hot he had to shift them from one hand to the next while blowing onto them through his perfect shiny black lips.

They both downed a few of the crunchy, steaming, salt and vinegar-laden chips before Sherlock spoke again.

“Do you miss the company of women, John? Dating?”

John munched another chip then licked every one of his fingers before he replied.

“You mean two people going out and doing something fun together? I’m doing alright.”

Sherlock’s smile ticked up on the left and he ducked his head before reaching back into the bag.

They finished their dinner and listened to the music play.

Sherlock swayed back and forth, just a little. John watched the motion from the corner of his eye. Sherlock was dancing. John looked out on the crowd of dancing people, circling slowly with arms around one another. He ached just a bit with the thought of leading Sherlock out onto a dance floor, in front of all those people. He wanted to show him off. Not because Sherlock was a Wild One, but because he was amazing and beautiful and John could tell that Sherlock loved to dance.

“I’m terrible at dancing” John said on impulse.

Sherlock twisted toward John. John knew that those ears, tucked under that hat, were doing that thing that posed a question.

“Maybe one night, when you’re bored, and when there is suitable music on the radio, maybe you could teach me?” John asked before he lost his nerve.

“How did you know I love to dance?” Sherlock asked.

John couldn’t suppress his self-satisfied smile.

“I deduced it.”

Sherlock smiled then as well.

“It’s late. Shall we head back?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Shall I buy you another pair of shoes next time I’m in town?” John asked as they walked.

“What for?”

“Well, one pair for walking through the village streets and one pair for dancing. The clothes make the man, after all.” John explained.

Sherlock stopped dead in his tracks.

“Say that again.” he said slowly.

“The clothes make the man?” John repeated.

“John! Oh! That’s it! It all fits! I was such a fool! I was looking in the wrong place all along! Years of missing half the story!” exclaimed Sherlock.

“Ok, okay, I’ll bite, but keep you voice down!” John responded.

“John, don’t you see! The killer! Carl Powers shoes were the first thing he acquired and he was telling me he didn’t need them anymore! He has outgrown such simple methods! He is walking among the Men! Probably out killing beyond the Wild! The clothes, John, do make the Man!”

Chapter Text

After Sherlock’s breakthrough in the investigation, John’s trips to town became more frequent, but did not involve nearly as much shopping. He spent most of his time at the one little internet cafe that the small village boasted. He scanned through years worth of news reports from the surrounding area and even into London. He took down the cursory details of the cases first, reported back to Sherlock, then dug deeper on certain items if Sherlock felt there was a connection. Sherlock and John made phone call after phone call from Mrs. Hudson’t sitting room to question witnesses and others involved with over a decade of crimes.

Whenever John returned from an outing, he could see Sherlock’s face hovering in a window, waiting for him. At first John thought it to be the clever stag’s overactive brain, hungry for whatever new information John carried with him. But it didn’t seem to be just that at least. John would barely get a foot over the threshold and Sherlock would crowd close. Sure, he reached for the notebook in John’s pocket or lifted the grocery bag from his arms, but he also immodestly sniffed at John’s hair and collar, perhaps grabbed at his wrist for longer than necessary when removing the shopping from his grasp.

But before John could close his eyes and allow himself to enjoy it, to reach out and place a hand on Sherlock’s bare hip and pull him closer, get him to linger long enough to do more than just sniff, maybe also to taste…

Sherlock would shake his head and his eyes would re-focus and he there would be space between them again.

Sherlock evolved into a different kind of restless all together. First off, having to spend that much time inside Mrs. Hudson’s cottage didn’t seem to affect his temperament for the best, even though the information that they gathered lit him up like Christmas. The little lady, and John as well, bundled in jumpers and throw blankets so that Sherlock could throw open the windows and breath better. The spring’s chill was burning off quickly as the days progressed, but the nights were still quite cool. When Sherlock could bear the confinement not a moment longer, or when Mrs. Hudson all but threw them and their mess out, they would pack up their piles of notes and newspaper print-outs and head back to The Wild.

Once over the border, the coat shed and hidden, Sherlock would relax some, his body moving more naturally again. His gestures became bigger and looser when there were no walls around to mind. His gait was more graceful in the woods, his steps made nary a sound.

But another set of odd behaviors had evolved. Sherlock walked closer to John than he used to. He practically loomed over John every moment. If an unexpected noise cut through the silent forrest, Sherlock placed himself in between John and the direction of the source. And even back at the cave, the vigilance persisted. Sherlock could be completely lost in thought, ignore the tea and food John would place near him, but if John stepped outside to so much as have a quick piss, Sherlock was calling after him or stepping on John’s heels as he walked.

And finally, there was the scent.

Sherlock always had a certain scent to him. It was warm and woodsy. It was smoky and rich but with an edge of softness. But lately it was more…dangerous. It didn’t change so much as it became more potent and distilled. It was intoxicating.

John woke morning after morning with the scent lingering in the air and a warm spot in the hay next to him, but no Sherlock. Sherlock always seemed to beat John to waking as of late. Just as well though, as John was able to lay still long enough and think the most boring thoughts he could muster to get his morning (raging) erection to subside. If John was being honest with himself, it was the result of more than just increased heart rate upon waking. It was from the overnight proximity to hot, smooth skin stretched over firm muscles and fragrant breath huffing against his neck. In John’s dreams, Sherlock clutched at him and his breathing became faster and faster, their mouths and hips moving against one another. Sherlock panted John’s name like a desperate prayer as they teetered on the taught edge of release together.

Sherlock returned from his morning ablutions just as John was fully waking. Sherlock’s downy antlers, larger by the day, were dotted with jewels of dew. His curls were damp and his face and chest flushed. He breathed hard, as he if he had taken a morning run. He was so beautiful John had to look away. Sherlock often returned with some bounty that the early summer offered. He laid it out by the fire where they always ate, but left it untouched but for a bite or two for himself. It was clear it was for John’s benefit. No matter how often it happened, these little offerings of care, it never failed to touch John’s heart with a bittersweet twist.

Their investigation did slowly reveal a narrative that stretched across almost two decades, punctuated by murders that progressively became more gruesome and daring. Sherlock’s genius mind sifted through reams and reams of information and found how each and every death, on both sides of the Edge, could be traced back to one common connection…Reichenbach.

Every single victim was in some way related to the Reichenbach family, their business empire, or the household of the castle itself. The most recent death, the man splayed down the middle that Lestrade’s wolf pack had discovered, was eventually found to have been employed by a high-end security firm that was contracted by the Reichenbach Trust to guard the castle and its treasures. He was transferred in at the last minute and was thought to have simply failed to show up for his assignment, therefore creating the delay in his missing person’s status coming to light.

Sherlock became obsessed with getting into the castle. He was sure that it held the information that he needed to finally flush out the killer. But the security teams that patrolled the structure and the gardens around it would have made it tough for anyone to slip by unnoticed, never mind someone who had the equivalent of a coat rack on their head. John offered to try, even if it was just to pose as a delivery man, but Sherlock forbid it. He became incensed the last time John brought it up, and then proceeded to practically sit on John for several days following the suggestion just so that John didn’t get any crazy ideas about trying it on his own.

“But why would a Wild One take such exception to one family that he would take the risk of crossing over the Edge and into the cities to carry out these murders?” John asked during one such walk back from where Sherlock spent several hours just perched on a rock and watching the castle from afar.

“I don’t know…yet, but I feel the answer is so close I can taste it. I just need to focus!” Sherlock growled.

But even with his overall air of frustration which seemed unnecessarily directed at John, Sherlock did still pause to hold a branch up and out of the way for John to pass under it safely as they walked far closer side by side than the wide berth of the path required.

They were still one hill away from Sherlock’s cave when the Wild One came to a full, sudden stop. He dropped down low, curled an arm backwards around John as he scanned the thick green woods.

“Someone is here” Sherlock rasped.

Sherlock then produced a sound he had never heard him make before. It was a deliberately loud sniff, followed by a kind of a wheeze. It wasn’t at all like what Sherlock sounded like when he was actually just trying to smell something. This was like sawing wood. It felt aggressive in a primal way that needed no verbal explanation. Sherlock’s whole ribcage rattled with it.

He took John’s hand and led him forward. John matched Sherlock’s battle-ready posture. Even with his focus so keenly directed at the yet-unseen foe, Sherlock shot John an appraising glance followed by a hint of a feral grin.

Closer to the cave, Sherlock sniffed the air again. His body relaxed from fighting stance but quickly realigned itself into a different kind of agitation. Still holding John’s hand, he crossed the small clearing before the entrance to the cave with an imperious saunter.

“Leave” he said, loud and dismissive, to no one that John could see.

“Are you sure? I could have sworn you were in desperate need of my attentions given that I could scent you from miles away, Sherlock. But now I see why it’s so strong so early in the season. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your…friend?” said the smooth female voice.

John spun around, trying to find the source.

She walked out of the sunlight-dappled grove of young trees. For a moment, it was quite surreal. Here, in the middle of the Wild, was a ballerina in full performance garb of white and black feathers. John blinked a few times as she stood placidly before him, waiting for his brain to catch up with his eyes.

That was no costume.

Those were her feathers.

White smooth layers covered her torso, flaring to soft fluttering clouds just over the swell of her breasts and over the tops of her hips. What would have been the under-ruffle of the skirt, had it been a skirt, was black. Black feathers also framed her striking face, much like the freckles did on Sherlock, and transitioned into her hairline. A few tall feathers formed a head crest that trembled in the breeze. If those feathers had been wind chimes, they would have been giggling at John’s shock.

She was beautiful in a way that makes men dumbstruck.

John disliked her immediately.

"Why would he need your 'attentions', exactly?" John asked after finally gathering his wits again.

The feathered Wild One approached John. She had Sherlock's ability to walk across fallen leaves and sticks without making a sound. It wasn't as charming when she did it.

John flexed his left fist, still warm from where Sherlock had held it moments ago.

"Irene" she crooned, "And you are?"

She held her hand out as if she expected him to kiss it. There was a rustle as the feathers that made up a wing-like structure spanning from arm to body unfurled. John noted the diamond ring on her hand. That was certainly different.

John didn't respond until he checked with a glance at Sherlock as to how to proceed.

"Irene, this is John Watson. John, Irene, and her protege Kate. And they were just leaving."

"Kate?" John asked.

A second Wild One emerged from the woods. Well, not so much emerged as simply took one step, therefore finally calling attention to herself from where she was perfectly camouflaged with her surroundings. She was a curvaceous combination of all soft browns. All her feathers clung close and smooth save for a small fan of tail feathers and where they peaked around her eyes, drawing attention to her amber irises.

“Charmed to meet you, John Watson” said Irene.

She retracted her hand as gracefully as if John had indeed taken her up on kissing it.

“I have known Sherlock for some time now. I provide him with much-needed relief when certain biological imperatives bubble up and wreak havoc on that lovely brain of his.” She explained as she approached Sherlock.

Sherlock stood very still, clenched in agitation. His eyes were downcast away from John. His fists were balled up tight, his knuckles white.

“I don’t understand” said John.

Irene stroked the soft fur on one of Sherlock’s antlers. Sherlock closed his eyes in revulsion but did not shake off the touch like John was mentally willing him to do.

Irene turned to look at John with her dark eyes.

“I mean, I know what he likes. I know what he needs.”

“No.” said Sherlock flatly.

“I could teach him how, Sherlock. I could teach him what you need. Would you like that? For him to watch while I rein you in?”

Irene gripped Sherlock’s antler tighter as she spoke, tugged his head down to her level so that she breathed the last bit directly into his twitching ear even though she still kept her eyes locked on John.

Sherlock finally did shake his head and dislodge Irene’s far-too-familiar hand, then moved to stand just in between her and John. John didn’t even try to resist the urge to touch Sherlock. He stroked his thumb down Sherlock’s lower spine, just once, to re-establish their contact in a way that seemed absolutely necessary at that moment.

“I mean ‘No’ as in that is not why you came here. You are usually frequenting the cooler areas in the North this time of year, only stopping in on your way South as the winter approaches. This is far too early for you. Your visit here is not for my benefit. You are lying. This time you need me.”

The briefest glance that shot between Irene and Kate confirmed that Sherlock had hit the nail on the head.

Irene schooled her face back to cool detachment and off-handed seduction.

"I make my way in the world. I don't follow rules. I misbehave. I collect secrets and favors and I have more hiding places then even you, Sherlock." She explained as she ran her fingers down Kate's back, straightening out mislaid feathers that it seemed only she could detect.

"But..." Said Sherlock.

John noted how Sherlock's ears stood at attention.

"But," said Irene as she fiddled with the ring on her finger, "no one can hide from him."

The shudder that lit through Irene as she admitted her vulnerability was so pronounced John was literally able to hear her feathers vibrate with it.

"Him!" Exclaimed Sherlock.

"Who is he? What is his agenda? Where is he now?" The tall Wild One asked in rapid succession.

Irene preened, finally having Sherlock's complete attention. But John noticed that Kate straightened to her full height in response to Sherlock looming over the petite Irene, and the talons that extended from the tips of her toes dug into the ground.

"I thought that he and I could have had a mutually beneficial arrangement. We like so many of the same things. We move in similar circles. We both have a similar disdain for the old ways. But Sherlock, he doesn't just want to shake off the traditions and step out across the Edge. He, he wants to burn it all down, Sherlock. He wants to light a fire that turns both the Wild and the world of Men into ashes, then wear a crown made of bones."

"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Irene. You've developed such a flair for the dramatic. Just tell me what I want to know and tell me what you want from me. I would be thrilled to repay my outstanding debt to you and totally dissolve our association. Just tell me who he is!"

Irene swallowed hard.

"He is the son of Carolyn Reichenbach." She whispered.

The name clicked with John.

"Carolyn Reichenbach? Wait, I know this. She was married to Sir Reichenbach, back in the seventies? So he's Richard Reichenbach? But Sherlock you said he was a Wild One? That man has been involved in international business for years, took over after his father died. We have all the records back in the cave." Said John.

"You said he was Carolyn's son. Not the son of Sir and Lady Reichenbach, just her." Sherlock pointed out.

"There's my bright boy. Brainy is definitely the new sexy."

"Could you two please stop flirting long enough to explain to me what the hell is going on!" John interjected.

"Our murderer is a Wild One, John. More precisely, he is a half breed, the product of the union of the very-much-married Lady Reichenbach and a Wild One. He was raised with one foot in each world, probably shunned or abused or banished or some combination of the three by Sir Reichenbach. Or maybe she hid him, made her husband believe he was stillborn, it is a big castle after all. But he never found his place. So he wants to tear it all down. He has been laying the ground work for years. John, all the documents we have about that family, all the press clippings, when was the last time you saw a picture of Richard Reichenbach featured?"

"God, now that you mention it, not one since he was maybe a teenager? Family photo at some charity event, around the time just before his father died? Mother followed not long after too."

"Irene, you are right. You aren't safe. Not here, not out there. There's only one solution."

Her dark gaze flickered over Sherlock's intense expression.

"Beat him to it. Combust." Hissed Sherlock.

"Give it all up?! All that I worked for? Choose nothingness!?”

But Sherlock was already walking away. John followed his lead.

Sherlock turned back just once to croon "There's my bright girl."

Sherlock dove into their files on the Reichenbach family, tore up and re-arranged the wall-mounted outline of associations. He fired off half-formed and intricate deductions and connections at such a speed that John could barely understand a fraction of it.

John should have been trying to follow along. He should have been trying to help now that Irene’s piece of information set off a cascade of subsequent revelations and breakthroughs in Sherlock’s investigation. And as for Irene and Kate, maybe John should have been troubled by how quickly and coldly Sherlock turned them loose to the mercy of a killer.

But John didn’t think of any of that. In his own way, in a pale comparison to Sherlock’s speed and intelligence, John quietly mulled over an entirely different puzzle.

“Sherlock, what did Irene mean when she talked about meeting your needs, and biological imperatives, and reining you in.” John asked.

Although John’s question overlapped Sherlock’s ramblings, the fact that Sherlock came to an abrupt stop signaled that he heard every word of it.

John took four steps. Four heavy steps that echoed in the quiet of the cave. He stood before Sherlock, who was still frozen in place, papers dangling from his fingertips.

John reached out and slipped the papers from Sherlock’s grasp.

Sherlock’s breathing was ragged. That scent was humming off of him in waves. John took a deep breath through his nose, held it, then slowly breathed it out.

“What do you need, Sherlock?”

Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut.

“I need to think” he spat out with great effort.

“She said she can smell you from miles away.” John continued.

John pushed an errant curl away from Sherlock’s brow. Sherlock turned his head head to rub his nose to John’s wrist.

“It’s your musk that she picked up on. It’s been getting stronger. Every day it’s been getting stronger. It’s…”

“It’s offensive. It’s not something I can control. Every autumn this happens.” Sherlock said through gritted teeth.

“I was going to say it smells amazing actually. It’s like aged whiskey. I could get drunk on it. Why is it so strong so early? It’s only summer.” John asked softly.

He took to running a fingertip down the edge of Sherlock’s ear.

Sherlock still had his eyes shut tight. His brow knitted in something akin to misery laced with extreme restraint.

“Proximity” Sherlock said after a few more shaking breaths.

“Proximity to what I…want” he all but choked out.

“What do you want, Sherlock?” John asked.

Sherlock groaned and pressed his black lips together like a vice.

“Tell me what you want, Sherlock.” John commanded.

John had not even hit the “k” in Sherlock’s name when he found himself slammed up against the rough wall of the cave, books and knick-knacks skittering down around him from the impact.

Sherlock’s eyes were wide and wild, his irises barely visible for how blown his pupils were. Sherlock held John’s hands above him, pinned to the rock. His body was flush against John’s, knees bent so as to further cage John in and bringing them level face to face. John felt the unmistakable hardness of Sherlock’s erection pressing against his pelvis.

“Idiot” Sherlock growled, his voice hitting a deep register that John never thought to be possible.

“You” Sherlock rumbled before licking a hot strip up John’s throat.

“I want you.”

John arched his back and pressed back into Sherlock.

“Yours. Always yours.” John groaned in return.

John wrenched one hand from Sherlock’s grip, grabbed him by an antler, and crashed their mouths together.

‘Dear god!’ John thought ‘He tastes better than whiskey. Much, much better.’

Chapter Text

The kiss was furious, bordering on violent. They licked and thrust deeper into one another’s mouths between gasps for air. The sounds Sherlock made were incredible. There were growls and rasps but also little whines that made it sound like he was on the verge of weeping. Sherlock swept the hand that was not still wrapped around John’s one wrist down the side of his body, kneading the covered flesh, until he suddenly grabbed John’s thigh and hoisted him up off the floor. John instinctually wrapped his legs around Sherlock’s waist so as not to fall. John let go of the antler and scrabbled at Sherlock’s shoulder to find purchase.

Sherlock was so far gone already. He bit along John’s jaw with open-mouthed rough kisses and then latched onto John’s neck, doing something absolutely wicked with his tongue to sooth the repeated nipping. Sherlock thrust his erection up under John’s denim-clad arse with such insistence it was as if he was determined to break through the sturdy fabric with sheer will and lust.

John had never beed so overcome and overwhelmed in his life. Sherlock’s musk surrounded him, and his skin was sweating under John’s hands. John couldn’t believe that this was happening. After all the months of living together, of sleeping next to Sherlock and wondering how it would be to have free reign to explore his body, to touch and be touched in a way that communicated all that Sherlock had come to mean to him, it was finally coming to life!

But Sherlock’s sounds were becoming frustrated. John could feel his body trembling from holding John’s body weight and from the inability to carry out the action that his lower half was instinctually seeking to complete.

“Sherlock,” John finally choked out in between his own gasping breaths.

“Sherlock, this isn’t working. Sherlock, can you hear me? This isn’t working, can we…”

John, through his own hazy vision, saw the moment that his words registered in that genius brain of Sherlock’s, awash in hormones as it was.

“John?” Sherlock asked.

Sherlock kissed him again, but with more tenderness. He was more present in a way. And somehow that was even hotter to John than the frenzy of how they started. The kiss grew deeper quickly, teeth coming into play again and Sherlock started to move his hips with more abandon, but then he stopped it all.

“John!” Sherlock exclaimed. His eyes sprang open in front of John’s.

Sherlock quickly but carefully set John back on his feet and took one small step back, just enough to create the space to look John over. Sherlock’s eyes fell on the bruises already blooming on John’s neck and he made a small apologetic noise as he swept his fingers over the site.

Sherlock tried to straighten John’s button-down shirt with shaking hands. It seemed he couldn’t meet John’s eyes. Sherlock still held the cuff of John’s shirt between his fingers, reluctant to make the separation between them absolute.

“Did I hurt you, John? I didn’t mean to hurt you. I apologize. I didn’t mean to…I’m sorry. When I get like this…it’s never been this bad. I understand if you want me to go away.” He said quietly.

“Hey, no. Sherlock, that’s not what I meant, can you look at me, please?” John responded.

Sherlock’s eyes flit to John’s lips and his neck again, accompanied by his breathing coming quick and shallow. But Sherlock then quickly, consciously, bring them back up to John’s eyes. In those ever-changing eyes John saw the war that was going on beneath the surface. Sherlock’s body was a battleground between his brilliant, analytical mind, his suppressed but raging libido, and his underestimated but very ample and longing heart.

"Oh Sherlock," John started, barely able to form words himself given the swelling of his own affections.

"You didn't hurt me." He said firmly, then found the need to repeat it again when Sherlock made a disbelieving face while frowning at John's neck.

"And please don't you dare run off on me right now. Alright?"

"This isn't me, John. This is the Rut. It's hormones and pheromones and the burning need to mount and claim...and...and"

"So you don't actually want me then, I mean, like that. I, umm, understand, I guess..."

John tried to slip to the left, turn away so that maybe Sherlock wouldn't see the disappointment as it washed over John like an ice water shower.

"No!" Sherlock groaned in frustration as he re-asserted the cage he created around John’s body.

“No” he said again, softer “John I do want you. I want you every moment of every day. The Rut pushes certain base urges to the surface. I don’t Just want that.”

John relaxed against the wall in relief. Sherlock moved slowly back into John’s space. He scented John’s neck and John let him, like he did the first night all those months ago when Sherlock first found him freezing to death all alone in the dark.

“I want all of you, John Watson. I want to taste every one of your words. I want to know what your heartbeat sounds like when you laugh. I want to know how your scent changes just before you…just as we…Jooooohhhhnnnn”

John arched to meet Sherlock’s body.

“Sherlock, I want all of you too. I want slow nights wrapped around one another. I want you curled up in front of the fire with four forensic journals open and spewing a rant about how they all contradict one another. And I want the Rut too. It’s part of you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. God Sherlock, the truth is I want you anyway you'll have me because I'm absolutely mad about you. And right now I really really want some help getting my clothes off because there is far too many layers between your skin and mine.”

Sherlock drew back to check John’s truthfulness. He must have found what he was looking for, because in the timespan of a blink Sherlock switched from concerned and hesitant to absolutely feral. Sherlock ripped open John's button-down with such force that the buttons pinged off rock walls clear across the cave. The two stumbled and danced around one another while both tearing at John's remaining clothes and trying to steal kisses on whatever bit of flesh they could reach. John fell backwards onto the hay and managed to toe off his shoes just before Sherlock roughly tugged John’s jeans off and then pounced on top of him. John saw the affectionate attack coming and used Sherlock’s momentum against him, which resulted in the Wild One rolled beneath John on his back.

John straddled Sherlock across his hips. John leaned forward to run his hands up Sherlock’s ribs and chest, finally Finally able to touch without reservation. The action made John tip forward just enough that hardness met hardness for the first time without any barriers. The two gasped in unison. The world slowed down on its axis and the world outside with chirping birds and rustling wind and The Wild and The Edge and the World of Man all fell away. Sherlock shuddered, his ears trembled, and his hips hitched up seeking more contact with John.

John groaned and fell further forward. John sought out the pale expanse of Sherlock’s neck. In the heat of the summer, the neck ruff entirely shed away, that flesh seemed so delicate and unprotected and vulnerable. Sherlock’s scent was strong there. Before John even had the conscious thought to do so, his own instincts kicked in. He licked and tasted and gripped the smooth sensitive skin between his teeth.

Sherlock arched off the hay but also gripped John tight so as not to knock him off. Sherlock ran one hand up John’s bare back, leaving trails of raised, red skin from his blunt fingernails. That hand wrapped around John’s neck from the back and pulled John’s mouth tighter against his own throat. John got the hint, bit and sucked with less restraint. Sherlock rewarded John’s efforts by getting louder. John distantly wondered if anyone out in the nearby woods heard them. With a sudden wave of possessive lust he bit harder still and grinned against Sherlock’s skin as the vibrations from Sherlock’s loud response danced against John’s lips. Maybe Irene heard Sherlock yelling what sounded like some semblance of John’s name. He damn well hoped she did hear, actually.

Sherlock’s other hand was interested in pulling John’s pelvis closer to his own. He pawed at John’s arse with an urgent lack of finesse indicative of someone too far gone to care. John could tell Sherlock was getting close just from the friction of the two of them rubbing together, but he wanted them to go over the edge in unison.

An idea struck John so suddenly that he wondered if part of his subconscious had laid plans for this endeavor all those weeks ago when he had made the purchase. John pulled away from his ministrations on Sherlock’s neck with one last loud smacking suck. He got an eyeful of the red and purple love bites all along the length of Sherlock’s neck from clavicle to ear and felt quite self-satisfied with the results. John sat back on his haunches and stretched to reach the ruck sack that served as his armoire and vanity kit. As John rooted around for what he was looking for, Sherlock took great issue with the physical distance that John had allowed to form between them. He sat up and wrapped his arms around John’s torso, trying to tug him back down while also kissing and nuzzling John’s chest. John found the bottle he was looking for at the exact moment that Sherlock decided to lick up the side of John’s right pectoral muscle and continue on into the hair of his armpit. John laughed and almost dropped what he had been looking for, had to grab onto something to steady himself from falling over. That something turned out to be an antler. Sherlock shot John an annoyed look from having his face pulled away.

The annoyance changed to a look of curiosity as Sherlock’s eyes fell on the bottle of hand cream John was holding. It was made with, said the label, goat’s milk and honey and other natural ingredients. John had learned from some of his earlier personal grooming choices that Sherlock’s acute senses objected to chemicals and alcohol-based products.

‘Trust me?’ John asked Sherlock with a wordless look.

Sherlock leaned forward to kiss John deeply, slowly, before he laid back down on his back to await John’s next move.

John almost lost his train of thought completely as he looked down on Sherlock laid out beneath him. Sherlock’s lips were parted, wet and swollen from their heated kisses. He took little panting breaths. Sherlock must have sensed John’s gaze as it fell on Sherlock’s mouth. Sherlock ran his pink tongue ran across his straight row of white teeth. It was the sexiest goddamn thing John had ever seen.

John’s eyes trailed again across the marks on Sherlock’s neck and further down across his rising and falling chest. His washboard stomach was wound tight in anticipation. And there at the end of the trail of dark hair that ran from Sherlock’s chest down past his navel was a beautiful, sleek, hard cock. It bobbed against Sherlock’s stomach as if in acknowledgment of John’s admiration. A copious bead of pre-ejaculate bloomed from the slit. John’s mouth watered to taste it. John’s sexual experience with men was limited to some drunken experimentation during uni and some comfort-seeking nights in the desert with army acquaintances. He rarely found himself craving that anatomy in a partner. But Sherlock, from moment one, wanting him was as natural as breathing.

“John?” Sherlock moaned said beneath him.

John saw insecurity in Sherlock’s eyes.

“Sorry,” John said, coming to his senses.

John splayed a hand out on Sherlock’s stomach. A drop from Sherlock’s weeping cock fell on his thumb.

John leaned forward to come face to face with Sherlock.

“You’re just so bloody gorgeous. It knocks the wind out of me on a daily basis. And now, to be with you, like this. It’s unbelievable. It’s fucking amazing.”

John, in a brazen moment of confidence, brought his thumb up to his mouth and sucked Sherlock’s pre-cum from it. Sherlock’s eyes flared wide and his breathing came even faster.
Sherlock flipped them back over before John even had time to lick his thumb clean. Sherlock grunted and nodded his head in the direction of the bottle in John’s hand.

“I thought…here just let me show you.”

John squirted a generous amount into his palm. His clean hand pulled Sherlock’s hip to where their erections were lined up again. John reached in between their bodies, took both of them in hand at once, and started to stroke. Between the hand cream and Sherlock’s near-constant dripping, it was very slick. Sherlock, genius that he is, caught on right away. He rocked his hips in time with John’s strokes. The hard, silken heat of Sherlock’s cock slid against John’s and nothing had ever felt so good.

Sherlock was braced on his elbows above John with his head thrown back and his eyes shut tight. The noises he made were primal, a symphony of desire and abandon. John’s other hand gripped and stroked Sherlock’s outer thigh. He ran it higher on each stroke. Just over Sherlock’s shoulder, John could see that as his hand neared Sherlock’s perfectly rounded arse, his tail rose. John shifted just enough to reach a whole handful of that mound of soft flesh, the muscles flexing underneath as Sherlock bucked into John’s hand. His tail raised all the way up, curling so that the brown tip tapped the base of Sherlock’s spine and the white fur underneath fanned out. John bit his lip hard as he imagined what that would look like from behind Sherlock, all that white fur lifted up, revealing instead of concealing. John experimentally ran his fingers down the cleft of Sherlock’s arse. Sherlock’s skin was hot and so soft and his tight opening twitched as John’s fingertips passed over it.

“I would let you have me like that, John.” Sherlock rasped above him.

John looked up to Sherlock. His eyes were hooded with the intoxication of the Rut but he was still Sherlock, still able to read John’s every thought.

“You got even harder…when you thought about it…thought about mounting me from behind” Sherlock managed between ragged breaths.

“I meant what I said, John. I want all of you…always…every way…”

John had been so consumed with touching Sherlock, being able to actually touch him beyond just the closeness of sleep, that he hadn’t noticed just how close his own orgasm was. It was hearing Sherlock say that, his voice thick with sincerity and emotion, that pushed John over the edge. John cried out Sherlock’s name and mouthed haphazardly at his smooth neck, gulping in mouthfuls of Sherlock’s scent as he spilled between them.

John kept stroking Sherlock even as he rode the last waves of his own release. He brazenly clutched Sherlock’s rear again, pressed his middle finger to Sherlock’s tight heat and pushed, not enough to hurt but enough to let Sherlock know that he would take him up on that offer.

Sherlock’s eyes flew wide open and then he was pressing his forehead to John’s and moaning so loud John was sure it would shake the rock walls around them. Sherlock’s cock shuddered and pulsed in John’s hand, his hot semen coating John’s bare chest and stomach. John thought distantly that it should have been off-putting to have that much of someone else’s ejaculate all over him, but it actually made him feel strangely very fond and, if he hadn’t just finished having one of the most amazing orgasms of his life, it may have gotten him hard all over again.

Sherlock collapsed next to John, half-propped up against John’s side. Those extraordinary antlers had grown to such a size in recent weeks that it made resting comfortably on his back or side nearly impossible without lots of tinkering with the hay or, more recently, a rolled up jumper from John’s laundry pile.

John stroked his clean hand through Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock hummed in sleepy contentment and nuzzled John’s wrist. Sherlock ran his fingertips through the mess on John’s stomach. Sherlock brought those fingers to his lips and tasted their mingled flavor. A wry smile played across Sherlock’s face.

“What?” John asked with a chuckle.

“John,” Sherlock drawled.

God, even the way Sherlock said his name was enough to reset John’s refractory period back to what it was when he was fifteen.

“You are going to smell like me for days” he finished in a tone that dripped with self-satisfaction and possessiveness.

“Well, until I make it to the springs for a nice warm bath anyway” John added sleepily.

“Don’t you dare!” Sherlock grumbled.

“I want everyone to know you are mine.”

John went from post-sex dreamy haze to bursting with emotion when Sherlock uttered that word.

‘Mine’ John repeated in his head in Sherlock’s voice over and over again.

“John, are you alright?” Sherlock asked.

John refocused and found Sherlock looming over him with a look of concern.

“Yeah! I’m good. I’m, I’m yours.” John managed.

Sherlock dipped his head and licked John’s cheek, then the other. Only then did John realize that a few sentimental tears had escaped.

“And I’m yours, John.” Sherlock said, ghosting his lips over John’s face.

“My doctor,”

He kissed over John’s brow.

“My soldier,”

He let his tongue lap at the corner os John’s eye.

“My mate,”

A whisper against John’s cheek.

“My John”

A soft press of ebony lips that was a both a promise and the fulfillment of dreams that John never knew he had been dreaming.

Chapter Text

John awoke half-covered in furry bed companion. It was sweaty and the cave reeked of musk and sex.

It was absolutely marvelous.

John contentedly stroked down the ridge of Sherlock’s spine. He ran his thumb nail through the fine, sleek hair covering Sherlock’s thigh, which was thrown across John’s legs in a charmingly possessive manner. John drew swirls and patterns by parting the sparse fur, then smoothed it all back into place just to do it again.

The first hint of Sherlock waking was a twitch of his tale. Then John breathed a long sigh, and one of Sherlock’s ears moved to zero in on the sound. Before John could open his mouth to say goodmorning, Sherlock shifted his hips closer in such a manner that left no question about the fact that his ears were not the only part of him that were perking up and noticing John.

But John was suffering from a similar condition, so he was in no position to tease Sherlock.

“Johnnnn” Sherlock moaned, his hot breath against John’s neck.

“It’s lovely to wake up with you still in bed instead of out for your morning run. Not to mention that it’s damn fine to wake up naked and no longer having to hold back from putting my hands all over you.” John replied as he took Sherlock’s jaw in his hand to pull him in for a kiss.

It was slow and wet and warm.

“The mornings it was hardest.” Sherlock said with a sleep-rough baritone in between the slide of tongues.

“I’d wake up next to you and if I didn’t get up and run I would have pulled you to me and have your clothes torn off and been tasting you before you even had time to fully awake. It was maddening, John. Our scent in this bed together…”

“I would have let you, Jesus Sherlock.” John gasped as Sherlock slid down John’s body in one fluid motion.

Sherlock rubbed his face across John’s belly and breathed deep through his nose. John actually saw the moment then scent of last night’s activities hit the olfactory center of Sherlock’s beautiful brain. Sherlock’s stormy eyes flashed once like lightening and his throat produced a deep, thunderous, satisfied rumble. Sherlock latched onto John hungrily, covering his stomach and pelvis with wide-mouthed lapping kisses that each ended with a bit of teeth.

But when Sherlock’s mouth reached John’s hard prick, he slowed. Sherlock shuffled onto his hands and knees, his arse perched prominantly in view. Sherlock looked into John’s eyes through his thick lashes. He opened his mouth and, ever so slowly, licked John’s cock from base to tip with his wide, hot, clever tongue.

“Christ” John groaned.

Sherlock did it again, but managed to make the act of licking involve the undulating of his whole body. Just when John thought he was going to die (but die happy) from the perfection of the whole event, Sherlock finished one more lick but then wrapped his lips and mouth and throat around John’s length, making it almost all the way down to his root on the first try.

John then lost the capacity to produce actual words but half-swears and prayers to deities tumbled from his lips without any conscious effort involved. Any brain power John had left on-line was dedicated to resisting the urge to surge upward and burying his cock in Sherlock’s perfect mouth as far as he could. He fisted his hands into the sheets to keep them from grabbing Sherlock’s curls and pulling him down until he was gagging on John’s full length.

Sherlock splayed one hand on John’s hip. He must have felt the tension of John’s aborted instinctual thrusts because the next moment he was pulling John’s hand from its grip in the sheet and guiding it up to his own head. Sherlock depositied John’s fingers not in his hair, but wrapped around the base of an antler. And to make the intent doubly clear, Sherlock sucked up to the tip of John’s cock but then stopped. He parted his lips and left them hovering, gorgeous and obscene, right above the shining head.

John gripped Sherlock’s antler tighter, the down so soft beneath his fingers, and experimentally pulled Sherlock’s head back down. Sherlock’s eyes fluttered shut and his mouth obediantly took in John’s length once more. Sherlock became so pliant under John’s guiding hand. He learned so quickly how John liked it, a few deep sucks then backing off just to run lips and tongue over the glans, that sensitive spot that always makes John gasp.

“Gorgeous. Fucking gorgeous. God, Sherlock, yeah. Take it like that. Fuck!” came the litany of praise and direction.

The look of peace that came over Sherlock was devestatingly beautiful. John recalled what Irene had said with another surge of jealousy but also a new understanding. She had alluded to Sherlock needing to be “reined in”.

With John guiding his movement, Sherlock wasn’t drowning in the Rut, nor was he needing to fight against its rip current. He was just riding the waves. Sherlock was tasting John and inhaling him and he looked so content in his every languid movement. And John could feel the purr that rose from his throat, see the gentle blush in his cheeks when John praised him.

“You’re bloody beautiful. Your fucking perfect mouth, your tongue! What did I do to deserve you, you beautiful, magical, genius. Jesus…” John trailed off as Sherlock took him deeper yet and swallowed around John’s prick.

John was getting more brazen, egged on by Sherlock’s eagerness to please and his submission to John’s guiding hand. He bucked up into Sherlock’s mouth as he pulled his head closer. Sherlock did everything right, like John’s deepest fantasies were transmitted into that big beautiful brain of his through the grip John had on his antler.

Sherlock looked wrecked and John hadn’t even touched him yet. Sherlock shifted his position, spread his legs wider as he kneeled, his arse waving back and forth in time with his head bobbing up and down on John’s erection. Sherlock caught John’s eye without missing a beat with his clever mouth. Sherlock held John’d gaze as his slid one hand down John’s leg then reached for his own hard-on where it hung heavy between his fur-covered thighs. Sherlock took a few long slow pulls on his cock, and John nearly came right then and there from that visual. But then Sherlock removed his hand, wet with his own copios pre-ejaculate, and brought it to John’s own arse. He stroked John’s opening in slow circles. John took a deep breath and held it. Every time he thought that being with Sherlock couldn’t get any better, any more mind-blowing erotic, Sherlock proved him wrong.

Frozen in the space of that moment, John didn’t push Sherlock’s head down again. Sherlock lipped and lapped at John’s erection, then sighed John’s name.

John blew the breath he was holding out slowly through his nose, a desperate attempt to regain some of his composure and brain function. He tipped his head to the side in question.

“May I, John? May I feel you, here, inside, please John, please…”

Sherlock pressed just enough on the next stroke to clarify his intent, then stilled, waiting.

John felt light-headed from the emotion of it all. Who would have ever thought something so damn sexy could also make his heart feel full to bursting. Sherlock asked him. Arrogant, willful, Sherlock said “please”, twice, with a look in his eye like John was a treasure that he couldn’t beleive he was allowed to touch.

“God yes, Sherlock, anything, anything…”

They both groaned when Sherlock slid his finger into John. John arched off the bed of hay and brought Sherlock’s lips down to his straining cock once more. Sherlock thrust his long finger into John’s arse in counter time to the motion of his mouth. It was like a circuit of pleasure and perfection. Just as Sherlock’s wet, hot mouth reached the top of John’s cock, his finger sunk as deep as possible. And just as Sherlock’s mouth again took John in down to his base, momentarily breathing in through his nose where it nestled in to the patch of golden brown hair, his finger would slip out but remain pressed to his awaiting opening, that heady anticipation of it sliding back in almost as good as the action itself.

In between the long licks and full-throat embraces, Sherlock was babbling.

“So tight John…I can feel your heat…from the inside…want to taste you…John…when you climax…want to take you in…swallow it all”

John’s orgasm hit hard and fast. He thought he heard thunder rolling in but then distantly realized it was his own loud, abandoned moaning echoing around them. And Sherlock was making the most exquisite, greedy, satisfied noises as he swallowed and licked and sucked every last drop that John could give. John released Sherlock’s rack, and Sherlock slipped his finger out of John. John felt immediately disappointed at the loss of that connection. But then the streak of red on his own palm caught John’s eye. It was the hand that had held Sherlock’s antler. There, where his hand had gripped Sherlock so tightly as he rode out his orgasm, the soft, thin velvet was tattered and torn, crimson seeping and dripping through the tears.

Maybe John should have been concerned that he had done that to Sherlock, or mourned the loss of the soft, perfect down. But he didn’t, not even for a fleeting second. He knew exactly what to do with Sherlock’s blood. John locked eyes with the Wild One as Sherlock raised to his knees, looking hazy and drunk as he tongued at his own lips to chase every last hint of John’s release. Sherlock saw his own blood on John’s hand just as John tilted his head back and smeared it down his neck and chest, leaving a five-fingered trail that proclaimed their connection.

Sherlock’s eyes flared and his breathing immediately heaved. He dropped his weight to his arms and hovered above John’s bared neck. Sherlock choked out what sounded like a sob on the end of a long breath in through his nose, taking in the mixed scent of his own blood mingling with John’s sweat and skin.

“Miiiinnnnnneeee” he growled with hunger, possession and reverence.

John felt Sherlock’s erection pulse and even more semen flow from the slit where it rested heavy against John’s thigh. Sherlock started to rut blindly, roughly, his eyes fixated on John’s stained flesh. But John had other ideas.

“Sherlock, Sherlock!”

Sherlock shook his head and met John’s eyes, his hips stuttering but not stopping.

“Come here you beautfiul thing, maybe I’d like to taste you as well”

John grabbed Sherlock’s hips and thighs and tugged him further and further forward until he was able to slip his arms under Sherlock’s legs as the lanky, dazed Wild One straddled John’s shoulders.

John turned his head and licked at Sherlock’s inner thigh, planted a open-mouthed kiss and sucked in blatant imitation of what he aimed to do next.

“John” Sherlock said firmly in warning.

John ran his eyes up the long expanse of Sherlock’s torso to check what he was on about. There it was again, just like yesterday, that battle going on in Sherlock’s eyes. He blinked rapidly and hard, trying to ward off the drive of his instincts.
“I’ll hurt you, John. I won’t be able to hold back. I don’t want, I mean, John!”

Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut, pushed his hands into his curls in frustration and pulled hard, as if that pain could keep him grounded.

“Shhhhh” John soothed.

He ran his hands up the backs of Sherlock’s thighs, over his behind, one hand bracing at the base of Sherlock’s spine and the other kneading the little bundle of muscles that were responsible for the twitching of Sherlock’s tail.

“I told you before, Sherlock, I don’t mind. You won’t break me. Just let go. Let me see you let go.”

John gave one little push against Sherlock’s back and wrapped his lips around the head of Sherlock’s hard, straining cock before Sherlock had time to protest again. It was salty and bitter but John didn’t mind, because it was Sherlock, and it was smooth as silk against his tongue. John’s attempts at oral sex with men in the past were about getting off as soon as possible, either due to inexperience or the time constraints of stolen moments on an army base, but this, THIS he could do forever.

Between Sherlock’s resolve to hold back melting away, and John pushing against his back once more, Sherlock fell forward onto his hands. Sherlock’s scent surrounded John. Sherlock began to cant his hips forward and down, pushing into John’s mouth, controled at first but becoming more instinctual by the second. There was little space for finesse, but John did his best to curve his tongue around Sherlock’s length this way and that, to keep his lips firmly wrapped around his teeth to give Sherlock a tight ring to push into with every thrust.

Sherlock’s breathing was an untamed rasping, the first sound of John’s name being the only distinguishable language. Sherlock dropped to his elbows, his body then droping lower over John. He was so deep in John’s throat at times that John was coughing on all that leaked from Sherlock’s tip. It was running out the side of John’s mouth, and he felt light headed from only getting desperate little oxygen in between thrusts, but he absolutely did not give one flying fuck. John wrapped his other hand boldy around Sherlock’s tail, which resulted in a surprised vocalization, a stuttering of hips, and then thrusting with renewed vigor and absolute abandon. Sherlock managed to bring one hand down to wrap behind John’s head, his fingers carded roughly into John’s hair.

It was a twitching in his fingers that gave it away. The next moment the muscles of Sherlock’s thighs flexed and John luckily managed a big breath in through his nose before Sherlock bore down. John was flooded but swallowed and licked as best he could as Sherlock rode out his orgasm. Sherlock let looses deep sonorous cries and John closed his eyes and let the sound wash over him.

Sherlock pulled back just in time for John to take the breath he desperately needed. Sherlock walked his body back down John’s until they were face to face. Sherlock, with his curls damp from sweat and his breathing and brain function not entirely back in normal operating condition just yet, cupped John’s jaw and ran a careful thumb along the corner of John’s lips.

“I’m fine. Better than fine. You alright?” John said in response to the silent question he read in Sherlock’s eyes.

Sherlock answered John with a deep kiss. John knew that Sherlock was tasting himself in John’s mouth and hummed into the kiss, letting Sherlock know that he loved it too. Sherlock wandered with his kisses down John’s jaw and then traced his soft lips back and forth over the dark streakof his own blood on John’s chest.

“Who are you, John Watson? How did you find me? How did you know that I had been waiting for you when I even I didn’t know I had been. Then there you were, in my forrest, in my bed, in my dreams…how John?” Sherlock whispered against John’s chest.

“You found me, remember? You didn’t just save me from the cold, you brought me to life Sherlock.”

Sherlock pressed his forehead to John’s sternum and wrapped his arms around John’s back, held him close and held him hard.

“This isn’t the Rut, John. There is no biological imperative that explains the need I feel to press against you and just feel your heat and breath in the air that has touched your skin. It feels too big to fit in my chest, John, this feeling.” Sherlock confessed like a child, usually boastful, having to admit that he didn’t know his way around this particular thing, that he was lost.

“I know, love. I feel it too.” John said. He ran his hand through Sherlock’s hair.

It was his left hand. It was steady as a rock.

John’s stomach growled comically loud, cutting through the thick emotions that hung in the air.

“You’re hungry” Sherlock said, then shook his head at his own idiocracy of stating the obvious.

“I’ll go get you something. You liked the blackberries from a few days ago. More should be ripe by now. They’ll go well with the porridge you favor when you are very hungry. And I’ll bring the water, and I’ll bring enough greens for later to go with the basil oil you got from Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock scrambled to his feet and grabbed for some spare bottles and a cloth sack.

“Sherlock!” John called out while laughing.

John stumbled to his feet, had a moment of squinting down at his own nudity and marveling at how odd it was that it was not odd to be absolutely starkers whilst chatting about breakfast in a cave in The Wild with his half deer/half human and very male...lover?

"Oh my god, are you trying to feed me up? You are, aren't you? Is this part of mating for you?" John teased.

Sherlock paused long enough for John to catch up and wrap his arms around Sherlock's waist.
Sherlock looked down at John with pursed lips and averted eyes, an expression that confirmed John's guess was true. It was so uncharacteristicly adorable that John couldn't resist kissing it right off of Sherlock's face.

"I'll go with you. I can take a dip when we're out. As nice as it is to smell like you, being not sticky is also nice. And I don't think we'll have too much trouble getting your scent back on me."

Sherlock made a noise of discontent when John made to put on pants and a pair of jeans.

"Oi, we don't all have fur on our legs to protect us from brambles."

John decided to go shirtless, though. It was hot out already, the trees provided enough protection from the sun, and he didn't miss the smirk of approval that Sherlock sent his way. John never went without a shirt since his release from hospital, not even when he endured those tense hours of phsyical therapy where he bit holes through the flesh that lined the inside of his cheeks rather than show how much it hurt to raise a five kilo weight above his head, hoping that the therapist wouldn’t catch on and make him slow things down. He didn’t want anyone to see the ruined flesh of his shoulder. Well, maybe it wasn’t so much that he didn’t want others to see it as much as he didn’t want to see it himself. But as John stepped out of the mouth of the cave and felt the warm, gentle breeze stir the sparse hair on his chest, felt the dappling of sunlight play over his skin, and felt Sherlock’s body heat radiating behind him where he hovered possessively, John thanked every one of the stars in the heavens for every moment that had lead him up to where he was then, including the bullet that ripped through his muscle and bone.

They walked along the well-known path together, their arms brushing, Sherlock sometimes sniffing the air and wandering a few yards into the trees and returning with a handful of berries or freshly snapped asperagus, always offering it to John before having any himself.

“Hey” John called out to Sherlock.

Sherlock, just ahead of John on the trail, turned to see what was the matter. John didn’t break his stride, just walked right up to Sherlock, wrapped one arm around Sherlock’s slender waist as he ran the other up and into Sherlock’s hair, pulling the Wild One to him for a kiss.

Sherlock made a charming, high-pitched noise of surprise, but quickly caught on and opened his mouth eagerly against John’s. Before it got to urgent, John broke the kiss, chuckling as Sherlock whined and chased his mouth. John pecked along Sherlock’s cheekbone and ended with a nuzzle to the underside of Sherlock’s ear, making it twitch like a hummingbird’s wing.

“Just because I can. The thought struck me that I could do that whenver now and I found I couldn’t wait another second” John whispered.

Sherlock pressed a smiling kiss to John’s temple with a quick swipe of his tongue to taste the salt of John’s sweat.

Chapter Text

Between the break in the case that Irene’s information had ignited, and the relief and joy that was brought on by the changes in their relationship, life became much more bearable.

Fantastic, even.

Sherlock mapped out how the new information fit into the theories he had previously formulated. Sherlock prepared a long list of new things for John to investigate via the internet cafe in town. With Sherlock’s sprawling rack in it’s full glory, he had to limit his trips back and forth to Mrs. Hudson's to going under the cover of night. So John prepared to go solo when Sherlock practically tackled John. At first, John thought it was just an affectionate good bye, but Sherlock pinned him with a pointed gaze that contained more concern than heat. Sherlock nibbled his lip then nodded his head once at the internal conclusion he came to. The Wild One retreated from John and reached for a thick, old dictionary perched in a high, dark corner of the cave. Sherlock handed the book to John. John took it and was about to ask what Sherlock was on about when he felt some weight within the book shift. John shook it once, felt the internal *thunk* again. He opened the cover and there within the hollowed-out pages was a gun. His gun. John took up the steel in his hand and reflexively ejected the clip and cleared the chamber. The magazine and the slide functioned perfectly. The memory of the last time he held that gun came to John’s mind, fuzzy as that memory was with the misery and cold of that night (well, before Sherlock found him and changed everything). John looked to Sherlock for explanation.

“Yes, I’ve had it all this time. I caught it when you threw it, that night. And yes, it is functioning fine, now, since you are not brandishing it in anger.” Sherlock explained.

“How’s that?” pondered out loud.

Sherlock rolled his eyes and threw his hands up.

“Yes, I’m an idiot, but explain it to me anyway” John sighed.

Sherlock pursed his lips.

“It’s not that. It’s that I don’t know” he trailed off.

“I’m sorry, what was that? Did you just say that you don’t know why?” John asked with a smile, scratching his temple with his free hand.

Sherlock huffed out through his nose.

“It’s the same reason why Men can’t build into The Wild and bombs don’t detonate when they fall in The Wild and why cars don’t run and mobiles don’t pick up the signal from towers not far from outside our borders. It’s what decides what kind of attributes each child is born with.” Sherlock explained, wild, exasperated hand gestures and all.

“Some call it ‘spirits’ or ‘the ancient ones’. It’s what almost no one ever questions and it’s infuriating.”

Sherlock was beyond annoyed with the whole topic.

“Back up a tick, it’s not like deer people have little fawn children? It changes?” John asked.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it. My father was a ram and my mother was a crow, well, more or less” Sherlock groused.

John squinted in thought about the “more or less” bit but decided to save it for later.

“So, magic?” John ventured.

Sherlock’s only answer was a surly growl.

John laughed and decided to not push the topic any further. Sherlock was a genius Wild One with the curiosity of a scientist, but John was a practical man. He was curious, sure, but he was also too grateful to whatever that force of nature was that brought he and Sherlock across one another’s paths that night. He was smart enough not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Instead, he tucked the gun into the back of his jeans.

As he kissed Sherlock goodbye, the “be careful” was implicit in ever slow slide of lips and how they each held on a bit too tightly, a bit too long.

So a new rhythm was set to their life. They spent some days apart, John with his research and Sherlock with his compiling. Sherlock sometimes went to see Molly, compare his new discoveries to the records of the archives. Sherlock sometimes checked his hives or set aside an afternoon to harvest honey. But even then, his hands carefully brushing bees from the honeycombs, John could detect that his thoughts were still elsewhere. But the quiet and necessary slow pace of working with the bees seemed to help Sherlock sometimes to organize bits that had been troubling him.

On other days, or rather nights, the duo would show up at Mrs. Hudson’s threshold as soon as enough darkness fell to conceal Sherlock’s walk across the meadow of the Edge. They would have a late supper, John would indulge in a nice bath, and Sherlock would work through the night. The following day would be filled with phone calls and research, fueled by tea and biscuits, with John and Sherlock leaving under night fall again.

But the mornings, the mornings were just for them. Sherlock stayed up late but was always there in the morning anymore. One would kiss the other awake. The slow breaths of sleep would give way to the quick respirations of building passion. They pleased one another with hands and mouths and while embracing one another tightly, moving together. It was all amazing. It never felt lacking, but John couldn’t help but wonder about what it would be like for the two of them to join in that way that they hadn’t yet.

Sherlock caught on, of course he did, but John had been a bit obvious.

They had woken up with Sherlock curled around John from behind. The summer heat had them both sleeping naked, so Sherlock’s very hard, very interested cock was pressed into the cleft of John’s arse. Sherlock had been up so late the night before, he was still sleeping deeply, but his hips had other ideas, rutting softly but rythmicly against that valley of soft flesh. John was only half-awake himself, but knew damn well the implications of his actions as he slid his arse in time with Sherlock’s sleep-rutting, groaning quietly when he felt his mate get harder and felt the slide get easier as Sherlock’s slit wept like it always did. John took his own erection in hand and bit his lip.

He parted his legs just a bit and pushed up further on Sherlock’s body. On the next sweep, Sherlock’s cock slipped forward in between John’s upper thighs, the hard head pushing against the base of John’s scrotum, the shaft brushing over his perinium and eager opening. In that same moment, John and Sherlock both gasped together. Sherlock was suddenly very awake. His arm that had been loosely thrown over John then gripped his hip, hard. Sherlock pressed his face into the crook of John’s neck and his mouth latched on in a kiss that bordered on painful.

John cried out as Sherlock thrust with intent. John knew that with no proper preparation that penetration would hurt, but it was all so slick from Sherlock’s pre-ejaculate and he was so bloody turned on, he knew it would be just the right mix of pain and pleasure. The thought of it made John’s own cock swell harder in his hand and he pushed back more.

“John!” Sherlock cried out.

But with that Sherlock pushed John away instead of pulling him closer and finally entering him. Sherlock scrambled back until he hit the back wall of the cave, his eyes wild and his chest heaving.

“We can’t. I’ll…”

“Sherlock, you won’t hurt me! I am not unwilling in this” John said in a soothing tone.

Sherlock gave John a side-eyed look, clearly not believing that his lover knew what the hell he was talking about.

“Come here,” John beckoned.

“Please come here. You are too far away from me, love.”

Sherlock softened around the edges and crept closer to where John sat low on his haunches. Sherlock knelt tall before John, as if still skittish of being too close. John put his hands out onto Sherlock’s bare hips, felt the flinch when he did.

“Shush” John said, circling his thumbs in a motion meant to soothe.

John leaned his head forward onto Sherlock’s taught stomach and just breathed. When he felt Sherlock’s hands come to rest in his hair and felt his breathing fall in sync with his own, John knew it would be okay.

“I’m sorry, Sherlock. I don’t want you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with. I just, I think about it. Being with you, being joined with you like that.” John explained, mouthing the words against Sherlock’s skin.

“I want that too, John” Sherlock whispered into John’s crown.

Sherlock lowered his body and tipped up John’s chin with his thumbs, his two hands wrapped gently around John’s neck. Sherlock kissed John with his eyes open, thinking.

“Lay back, John” Sherlock said after a few moments of contemplative kissing.

John did as he was told. Sherlock grabbed John’s heavy coat, used recently as a pillow, and got John to lift up enough to stuff the coat behind him, John leaning back on it afterwards at an slight angle. Still keeping eye contact with John, Sherlock walked two steps forward on his knees and straddled John. Sherlock placed John’s hands back on his own hips then reached back to take John’s reviving erection in his hand. With a little wiggle, Sherlock placed John’s cock in the crease of his arse, his upraised tail twitching against the head of it. That white fur was incredibly soft and incredibly arousing.

Sherlock reached behind himself and stroked John a few times, moving his long lithe body in time. Sherlock’s mouth fell open with a content sigh.

“Jee-susss” said John through his teeth.

Sherlock smiled.

“John? Would you like to, what is the vernacular? Would you like to fuck me?”

“Oh my god Sherlock stop moving and stop talking or I swear I will come right now.”

Sherlock stopped but smirked.

John smiled back and laughed, then had to stop himself from laughing because even that much motion felt like it would be enough to set him off. And John Watson didn’t want to miss what Sherlock was offering.

John took a few deep breaths and then reached to grab the lube (procured from town since they began their sexual relationship via a very awkward conversation with the town chemist about having a partner who preferred all natural products).

John poured a generous amount over his fingers and reached for Sherlock. He slid his hand back and forth between Sherlock's arse cheeks a few times, seeing how each pass made Sherlock more sensitive and flushed, his cock filling out and bobbing lewdly and beautifully over John’s stomach. Sherlock’s gasped when John let his finger slip into Sherlock.

“Oh” Sherlock said in breathy surprise.

John slowly drew his finger out then slipped it back in, a bit further this time.

“Oh John, that’s brill…” but then he forgot the rest of his thought as John set a slightly faster and deeper rhythm.

John was thankful that Sherlock had forgot about moving his own hand because he was still hovering so close to the edge himself, just watching as Sherlock tentatively raised up and then down on John’s middle finger.

He was taking all of it now, so John let it slide all the way out before breaching Sherlock again, this time with two fingers. Sherlock made a deep sound in his chest and his rich musk filled the air around them. Sherlock’s eyes darkened and lost their sharp focus. He moved more, dropping down harder as John pushed his fingers up to meet Sherlock’s arse.

“More, John. …More…Ugh” Sherlock uttered in a low and dangerous register.

John added a third finger and Sherlock threw his head back and bellowed.

“Fuck” John gritted out.

“Yesssssss” Sherlock hissed, wiggled his hips back and forth.

Maybe it was the heavy musk in the air. Maybe it was from living with Sherlock in the Wild for so long. It was probably from the nights they spent clinging to another another, tracing back to the first night they met. John suddenly understood Rut. It wasn’t just about primal urges. It wasn’t the clouded fugue that Sherlock made it out to be. It was about trust. It was about letting go and trusting that who you are with is 100% with you in that moment. It’s about trusting them with your body and your desires and letting your boundaries blur together. Sherlock so often held back, but not because he didn’t trust John. Sherlock didn’t trust himself to not hurt John. Sherlock was a force of nature that was perhaps too self-aware of his destructive nature.

John drew his fingers out of Sherlock and grabbed him firmly, one hand on a hard antler, the other wrapped around the base of his tail. He pulled Sherlock’s face to eye level, felt Sherlock panting against his lips. John used his grip on Sherlock’s tail to position his opening over John’s straining erection.

“Take it, love. Take me in your body. Show me how you like it. Lose yourself. I’m right here. I’m with you.”

Sherlock’s eyes locked with John’s. Sherlock blinked his eyes once, and when he opened them again, John knew that Sherlock heard him and understood and trusted. Sherlock laid one hand on John’s face, took a slow breath in, and as he breathed out, he slowly lowered himself onto John.

John shuddered with the intimacy of that heat. He opened both his hands, let Sherlock’s antler slide against his palm, let the long white fur of Sherlock’s tail whisper soft between his fingers.

Sherlock moved up and down slowly, further down on each pass, until he John was fully seated inside of Sherlock.

“John,” Sherlock started.

“Yes, sweetheart” John replied easily.

Sherlock’s lip tipped upwards at one side at the term of endearment. But the look in his eyes was intense, he looked drunk in the best way possible.

“You feel so good, inside me, John. Do you feel it too?” He asked, sounding suddenly so innocent.

“You feel amazing. Move for me? Just really let go, yeah? God you’re gorgeous.” John rambled as Sherlock slowly rocked a bit, getting used to the feeling.

Sherlock planted both his hands on John’s shoulders for support and raised all the way up then back down again. Sherlock groaned with the movement and his eyes fell shut as he lost himself in the sensation. He did it again and again. John’s breath caught in his throat, the beauty of it all, the sight, the sounds, and tight, slick heat and the scent of Sherlock, all of it culminating to something so bloody perfect.

Sherlock’s rhythm grew faster, his downward thrusts more forceful. John felt himself getting driven further down into the hay of their bed. He gripped Sherlock’s hips, hard, and planted his feet to meet Sherlock’s downward motion with his own upward thrust. Sherlock’s vocalizations became louder. Sherlock’s thick, seeping cock slapped at John’s stomach as their bodies crashed together in unison. John started to reach for it but Sherlock made a brief negative sound. When John met his eyes, searching for explanation, Sherlock shook his head once.

“Like this,” he panted, “you feel, ugh, perfect…don’t need…ugh! John!”

“Yes, god, yes!” John replied quickly “Tell me what you need, beautiful”

“You! More! Harder!”

John doubled his efforts. Sherlock rode him with abandon, raising himself almost all the way off before slamming down again.

When Sherlock’s orgasm hit, he never stopped moving. He cried out even louder than before, his fingers hooked onto John’s shoulders, and his semen splashed onto John’s chest and neck in one burst after another. John felt Sherlock’s insides pulse in time, then John was there too. John squeezed Sherlock’s hips and thighs with worshipful hands as he felt himself fill Sherlock with his own release.

Sherlock fell forward against John, who lifted his knees to brace Sherlock’s weight without slipping out of him just yet. Sherlock murmured in contentment and carefully wiggled his arse in appreciation of John’s effort to not separate them yet. John chuckled in return, brushed Sherlock’s damp curls away from his face, traced the freckles across his brow with a fingertip.

“That was, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen” John said in absolute wonderment.

Sherlock smiled, nuzzled behind John’s ear and breathed him in.

“No one else John. I’ve never been this way with anyone else. So free…”

Sherlock tasted and kissed all around John’s neck and jaw and brow, ending with the softest brush of lips across John’s mouth over and over again. John marvelled at how Sherlock could be so coarse, and then so bloody sexy, and then so gentle and hesitant. How could all of that be wrapped up in one body, one soul, and how could he deem John special enough to share all of it with.

“I love you, John Watson” whispered Sherlock. It was the quietest of noises, but it shook John down to his roots.

Sherlock didn’t meet John’s eyes right after the confession. He just kept sweeping his lips across John’s, breathing into John’s mouth. The thought struck John with absolute clarity that this is all he would need for the rest of his life to be happy. This brilliant being in his arms, Sherlock’s breath filling his lungs, and the rest of the world could crumble but John Watson would be happy. Sherlock blinked then peered at John, wide eyed, through trembling lashes.

“Sherlock, I think I loved you from the moment I felt your breath on my cheek in the woods that first night, and I’ve loved you more every day since then. I love you I love you I love you…” John’s declarations trailed into kissing Sherlock’s waiting mouth.

The two did not make it out of bed until much later in the morning. When they left the cave it was with great reluctance, but the case beckoned. John had his to do list for research in town, and he had promised Mrs. Hudson he would help her with some minor repairs around the cottage. Although he would protest her feeling like she needed to pay him back in some way, John knew that there would be a home-cooked dinner packed in a basket to bring back to the cave that night. John and Sherlock took the usual path Martha’s. Sherlock planned to continue on to check on his hives, would part with John around the tree that housed his hidden supply of clothing.

For once, John’s human nose detected a scent on the breeze at the same time as Sherlock did. It smelled of skunk and strong herbs. They shared a surprised look then both ran the last few meters to the tree. The false front was flung aside, the foul-smelling bundle that Sherlock used to hide his scent was torn apart and scattered on the ground. Sherlock’s coat, scarf and hat were no where to be found. His shoes were still there. They were placed in front of the tree with care, their laces tied in perfect bows. It was disturbing.

“Do you smell that?” Sherlock asked, sniffing the air.

“Of course I smell that, stinks bloody awful, especially when its been scattered” John coughed.

“No, not that. It’s…sweet…”

Sherlock reached into the compartment in the tree, feeling around blindly since his rack of antlers prevented him from sticking his head in like he used to.

“Ah!” he gasped in sudden pain.

Sherlock brought out a large shard of glass, his own blood already dripping down the one edge.

“John!” Sherlock started.

John thought he was referring to the injury, but the graver reality soon came to light. The shard was from a bottle of honey, the kind that Martha took to market in the village. Sherlock’s blood started to saturate the little paper label.

“Martha Hudson
Honey from the Wild”

“Go, see that she is alright. Stay with her. I’ll try to catch the scent of where my clothes ran off to. I’ll meet you there at nightfall.”

John took off running across the meadow of the Edge. As he bounded up to Martha’s porch, John drew his gun and held it at the ready. He opened the door in one fast motion, his heart braced for what he might find on the other side.

Mrs. Hudson just about jumped out of her skin and did drop her sifter of flour when John burst in.

“Oh thank god” John sighed in relief as he put away his gun and apologized for startling the older woman.

“John! Oh John, I’m glad you came. I was worried when you didn’t arrive earlier that you went straight into town instead of stopping by first that maybe someone recognized you from the news and the paper.” Mrs. Hudson fussed, her shock from having a gun waved in her home already forgotten.

“What? We were worried about you. What are you on about exactly?” John asked, thoroughly confused.

“Here,” said Martha, wiping her hands on her apron and fetching the paper for John, “See for yourself. The story is all over the telly as well. The feathers are what made it all so sensational of course.”

John took the paper from her, saw his old photo from his army id staring back at him from the front page.

“Burnt Bird-Woman Murder Suspect, Capt. John H. Watson, Still at Large” read the headline of the London Times.

John flipped the paper over and saw an artist’s diagram of the “crime scene” depicting the remains of a woman in the center of a large scorch mark on the floor of the hotel room. Just beyond the perimeter of the burned carpet, and all around the rest of the surfaces of the room, there were white and black feathers.

John scoured the article for an explanation.

“The unidentified victim wore a single piece of jewelry, a sizable diamond ring. Clutched in the hand that wore the ring was the army-issued identification tag of Capt. John H. Watson of the Fifth Northumberland Fusseliers [retired]. The chain for the metal id tag was broken, as if ripped from the owner during the struggle that likely proceeded the victim’s death. Scotland Yard has not been able to locate Dr. Watson for questioning. His only known relative, a sister, reported she was unaware of his whereabouts and defended her brother’s innocence.”

John flipped through the rest of the lengthy article. There were testimonies about his character, both positive and negative, from former army and medical colleagues. The highlights of his military career, including the medals he received, were spelled out for every Tom, Dick and Harry to read about. There were also some other articles about Wild One fetishizing, and the clubs and social media forums that cater to those who like that kind of role playing.

John’s head was swimming. It was too much to take in all at once. He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Then John remembered why he came in the first place. He pushed aside the paper on the table.

“Mrs. Hudson, has anyone been by here that seemed suspicious? Has anyone been threatening to you in any way?” he asked.

Martha sat down and thought about it.

“No one struck me as threatening or odd, no. What’s going on? Why are you worried about me so much when you just found out you’ve been framed for murder?” she asked.

John felt something inside him settle and gain strength from the fact that Mrs, Hudson, apparently, never doubted his innocence for a second. He explained to her about the theft of Sherlock’s clothes, and the placement of one of Martha’s bottles of honey inside of the hiding spot. The older woman’s hand briefly covered her mouth in surprise, but then she steadied herself and moved on.

“What do we do, John?” Martha questioned.

“Sherlock said to wait here and he would come to us once he investigated.” John replied.

“But…” Martha lead.

John had to smile at the clever woman’s insight. She knew her “boys”.

“But I think I need to go after him. I’m nobody special. There’s no reason at all for me to have been framed for such a sensational murder except for my connection with Sherlock and how close he is getting to figuring this whole thing out.” John pondered aloud.

“Let’s get you someplace safe. I’ll walk you into town and watch you walk into the police station. You just sit tight right there in their lobby and don’t let them kick you out. Then I’ll go looking for Sherlock.” John said.

With a cap and dark glasses, several days of scruffy beard built up, and longer hair than he ever wore while in the army, John walked Martha into town. Behind the dark lenses, he scoured the street for threats and felt the metal pressed against his spine slide against his sweaty skin. He kissed Martha on the cheek then tromped back out, over the Edge, and into the Wild.

Once back in the woods, he realized he had no idea where to go. He didn’t have Sherlock’s sensitive nose to guide him. But as it turned out, he didn’t need to look very far. Someone was looking for John already.

“John Watson” said a growl from behind him.

John raised his hands on instinct, turned slowly to greet the source of the voice. John did his best not to flinch at every snap of teeth that filled the quiet, warm air of the forrest.

Chapter Text

Her brow was so twisted in focused rage that John could barely recognize her at first. Or maybe he was distracted by the gleam of her teeth, all fully displayed as her lips retracted far enough to reveal every single sharp point. The angle of her ears, the bristling of the fur over her hunched shoulders, all had John’s instincts screaming at him to flee. He felt a cold, sick sweat break over his neck and spine.

“D-Donovan?” he finally managed.

“Where is he?” she snarled.

Donovan’s red lips worked over her extended canines to produce the language, contempt dripping from her tone like the saliva that dripped from the corner of her mouth.

“I don’t know. I was just looking for him myself. Listen, whatever you may have heard about me, it’s not true…” but John stopped when he caught the brief flash of confusion in her eyes.

“Don’t care about you” she snapped, “Looking for your mate, that freak, Sherlock. I always said it would come to this…” she hissed as she began to pace around John.

John clenched his eyes shut, tried hard to think while also trying with all his might not run. That moment when she was directly behind him and completely out of sight was the worst. He half-expected to feel her teeth sinking into the vulnerable, exposed skin of his throat at any moment. He held no delusions that he would be quick enough or strong enough to successfully escape if she chose to strike.

In all of John’s times in the Wild so far, all the Wild Ones he had met, John kind of considered them all as just humans of a unique breed. Had he romanticized them a bit? Sure. But seeing Donovan like that, being on the receiving end of the Wolf on the hunt, he realized he had made a mistake. She was Wild One through and through, and any resemblance to Man was secondary.

She let loose a beckoning howl, the end of the call trailing off in a series of yips. John heard the answering howl from not much deeper in the woods. Donovan grabbed John’s upper arms, her blunt claws digging in without piercing.

“I would bleed you right here to draw him out if it were up to me. You are not an innocent, John Watson. I can smell the death on you” she growled wetly into his ear.

“Where is he?” Lestrade called out as soon as he bounded through the trees.

John found no familiar warmth in Lestrade’s dark eyes, but he did read more concern and confusion than pure hunting instinct in the furrow of his brow and the tilt of his ears.

“Claims he doesn’t know” replied Donovan, squeezing John’s arm’s harder to punctuate her disbelief.

“Why are you looking for Sherlock?” John posed to Lestrade.

“You really expect me to think you don’t know why? You and your mate are inseperable. You have even taken him out there.” spat Lestrade with a jerk of his head towards the Edge.

“You know him, Lestrade. You KNOW him. Whatever it is you are seeking him out for, I bet the same party is to blame that framed me for a murder back in the city.” John swallowed and didn’t mention that it was a murder of one of their own, a bright, beautiful and manipulative feathered Wild One who walked back and forth over the Edge with probably far greater frequency and ease than Sherlock ever had.

Lestrade squinted at him through his long salt and pepper lashes. His throat made a deep gravel-laden noise as he considered John. He abruptly took two steps closer. From behind, Donovan shoved John forward and roughly snatched up a handful of his hair at the crown of his head, jerked John’s head to the side. John squeezed his eyes tight and listened to his own pulse hammering in his ears. He waited for the tearing of flesh that never came. Instead Lestrade breathed him in, first with nose and then with open mouth and humid breath.

John felt Lestrade step back, dared to open his eyes a moment or so later. The relief was so incredible that if it weren’t for Donovan’s grip on him, John probably would have crumpled to the ground.

“Come along, John Watson. Come see what we have seen and you tell me how it looks.”

Lestrade’s voice was a posed as a condescending dare, but also seemed a bit like a plea.

So John followed Lestrade’s punishing pace through the hot late-day woods with Donovan quite literally snapping at his heels the entire time. They ran and ran, skirting over the side of the mountain and taking a short cut through a jagged tunnel. When they emerged, it was to a view of Reichenbach Hall. There was a gnarled tree clinging to a cliff’s edge just in front of the serene view, the whole horizon lit up with red and oranges of the sunset.

John’s eyes adjusted to the contrast of the bright light after the darkness of the tunnel. He wished they hadn’t. He wished he could unsee what hung from the tree.

Now, John had been to war. He had seen men and women blown apart and ripped through and charred. But the scene that Lestrade took him to was worse. The blood and gore was horrible enough, but the perversion of it all was what made it so gut-wrenching.

The painfully thin man with clouded eyes, naked from the waist up, hung from the trunk of the tree. His body was contorted and suspended by the two antlers that pierced his torso. The antler points were blunt enough that it must have required an incredible amount of force to thrust them all the way through like that. John wasn’t sure what made him feel sicker, the realization that (based on the amount of blood and the look of agony frozen on the dead man’s face) the man was alive when he was impaled, or the fact that they were absolutely Sherlock’s antlers.

Those were the antlers that John had tentatively ran his fingers over the first time he woke up in Sherlock’s cave. They were the antlers that John had measured from tip to tip as Sherlock slept, using the width of his own hand as a ruler. They were the antlers that John drew pictures of in the snow with stick their first week together, only to brush it away before Sherlock could see. They were the antlers that Sherlock had crashed against rock and tree to rid himself of so that he could take John to see Martha for the first time. John vaguely remembered asking Sherlock where he think they went when John noticed that they no longer lay upon the ground outside the cave. Sherlock had waved his hand to indicate that it was nothing to worry about and muttered something along the lines of “Someone must have found them to be useful for something.”

John had to look away to collect his thoughts and to will the bile back down his throat.

Donovan was having none of that. She shoved him hard in his bad shoulder with her clawed hand and an impatient growl.

“Yeah, okay. Yeah, those are his. Last season’s. I was there the day he shed them. They were gone when we came back.” John responded.

“His neck covering too” Lestrade added with a pointed nod back at the corpse.

John looked again. There in the dead man’s hand was Sherlock’s scarf.

“His scent is all over it. Found a coat with the man’s blood on the sleeves lower down the ridge. His too, don’t tell me otherwise. Explain, John Watson.” Lestrade demanded.

John’s head was reeling. He knew Sherlock didn’t do it, but he knew how it looked as well. John tried to step out of his own emotional shock. He knew he couldn’t take apart the scene like Sherlock, but he was a doctor and a soldier. He took another look at the body and called on his best “Captain Watson” tone.

“The victim is around 30 to 40 years old. He’s significantly malnourished. Very pale, even for a corpse, with no discernable tan lines at all.” John quickly stepped closer with enough confidence in his posture to not allow either Wolf to consider that John was questioning if it was okay for him to do so.

The two Wolves also stepped closer, but did not stop John as he leaned towards the man’s hands for a better look.

“He’s got dirty, unkempt hands. His nails are jagged, not groomed. Striations in the nails also support that he was underfed for a prolonged period of time.”

John made himself look up at the man’s face, try to look beyond the pain and the hollow cheeks and the flies that had already found his gaping mouth. John thought there was something there, something familiar. He mentally added some health and grooming to the death mask before him.

“Oh!” said John.

He turned back to Lestrade and Donovan excitedly.

“I know that face! That’s Richard Reichenbach! Sherlock and I were investigating all the deaths and how they all could be traced back to the Reichenbach family! That’s the son! He hasn’t been seen in public in years. From the looks of it, he may have been held captive, that would explain the poor health and malnourishment.”

“You and Sherlock” Donovan echoed with a menacing tilt of her head.

But John was undeterred.

“Oh! I know where Sherlock is! His coat was down the mountain further, right? They were leaving him a bloody trail! Jesus, they might as well have sent him a hand-printed invitation to come and play. And he’s just enough of an idiot to answer it, too.”

John started off in the direction of the trail to the Edge without another word. He was so focused on getting to Sherlock that he was genuinely startled when Donovan knocked him to rocky ground with a fast body blow followed by a series of barks.

“You’re not going anywhere, John Watson.” said Lestrade from behind him.

“We need Sherlock here to answer to all this. We will not go to him out there, but he will come back here to look for his mate.”

“But he’s in danger! He might not make it back alive!” John yelled.

“How is that a problem?” sneered Donovan.

John shifted into a secure kneeling position and pulled out his gun in one movement. He leveled it at Lestrade. Lestrade sank further into a defensive position, but did nothing to back away from the threat. Donovan let one small concerned whine escape. John monitored her out of the corner of his eye, saw her muscles tense in indecision between making a run at John and throwing herself in between the weapon and her pack leader.

“It won’t work. Your weapon is useless. The Spirits won’t let it harm us.” Lestrade stated evenly, though he didn’t drop his guard.

John gripped the steel harder and stared down the barrel at Lestrade.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Lestrade. Truly, I don’t. But if you try to stop me from getting to Sherlock, from getting to my mate, I will shoot you. Sherlock told me about the Spirits. He told me how they protect the Wild and those in it. Well, I happen to believe that they know that my intentions are righteous. Are you willing to take that gamble? Do you smell any hint of a lie on me?”

John tilted his head, just an inch, as if to allow more of his scent to reach Lestrade. Lestrade sniffed deeply at the tense, hot air between them. Donovan nervously growled, her eyes locked on her pack leader for any indication to strike.

Lestrade finally blinked, then slowly shifted closer to Donovan, lowered his head to below John’s eye line as a sign of defeat.

“You bring him back here alive, John Watson! Sherlock has a lot of explaining to do!” Lestrade called down the hill as John ran past them, still holding the gun so tight that his hand was almost cramping.

John passed Sherlock’s great coat on the path as he ran, the sleeves blood-soaked just as Lestrade had described. He felt a strong urge to snatch it up and bury his face in the collar, to smell Sherlock’s scent and find some comfort there. But there wasn’t any time for that, so John just kept running. He paused at the last bit of shelter prior to the clearing that lead to Reichenbach Hall. John squinted as the angle of the late-day sun seemed to set the sky on fire behind the castle-like structure.

There were no guards at the usual stations. In fact, the side drive, usually filled with 3-5 vehicles belonging to security and staff, was empty save for one sleek, black, new Land Rover. John’s trained eye picked up on the little touches, the thick tires and the tinted windows, which were reminiscent of the fortified vehicles that the private security contractors used for the VIP’s in militarized zones.

Then something else entirely caught his eye. There were people on the roof of the structure. John blinked hard against the bright light, could make out three total. One was off to the side and looked to be casually holding an assault rifle. The other two were circling one another, as if enacting some sort of chaste but intense Victorian dance. One partner in the dance turned in just the right way, and the fire of the sunset shown through the rack of antlers on his head.

John ran out onto the Edge as fast as his legs would carry him.