Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners, Arthur Conan Doyle and in their BBC version Stephen Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Stephen Thompson. The original characters and plot are mine. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This is the continuation of my story Sherlock Holmes's 7 Paw stories: John. You really should read it first if you want to get what's going on here ;) Hope you enjoy reading, please tell me what you think ! Reviewers are loved :)
P.S.: if you can't picture exactly what a manul is, just google it... Really, it's worth it xD
Edit: This chapter has been betaed by Salsify, Tigzzz and Anbessette. All my thanks!
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Tea for two
John was late in coming down that morning. Sherlock had been up most of the night, as usual, and was now checking his website to see if there were any new cases. There were none. He sighed.
9am. What was John doing? He hadn't gone out last night, and he habitually got up around 7. Sherlock hadn't even heard him shower this morning. In fact, he hadn't heard anything at all coming from the upper room. His thoughts suddenly grew uneasy. What if John was ill? A fever perhaps? But he was a doctor, Sherlock wouldn't be useful with something like that, at all. Would he? No, definitely not. There was no point in going up to check on him. No point at all.
After five minutes of finger-tapping on the kitchen table, Sherlock went up.
Knocking on the door, he tilted his head and tried to catch the slightest noise. Nothing. Gingerly, he pushed the door open and popped his head in.
"John?" he said softly.
The curtains were drawn and the bed had been slept in, but there was no trace of his flatmate. Sherlock was getting more concerned – and more curious – by the second. He went in to check the bathroom, but John wasn't there either.
"John?" Sherlock repeated, quite puzzled, as there was evidently no one in the room.
He was greeted only by silence and frowned. He hadn't heard John go out at all, even though he'd been up most of the night. John could have walked down the stairs while he was taking a nap, but it was highly improbable that the unsleeping detective would have missed the steps' telltale creaking... Sherlock observed the crumpled sheets for a minute before leaving thoughtfully. He was half-way down the stairs when he stopped dead in his tracks. Hadn't John cut his hair recently?
He smirked gleefully. In a second he was back into the room examining the sheets again. He shook his head. John, John, always so careless... Kneeling down and bending until his head almost touched the floor, he looked under the bed. His gaze was met by a steely, slit-eyed glower staring directly back at him.
"Hello, there," he greeted, grinning triumphantly.
The manul opened his mouth wide and hissed venomously, showing sharp little teeth.
"Oh, don't do that, it only makes you look cuter."
The poor cat squealed and crouched as if he were ready to pounce – or just to hide further away, Sherlock wasn't sure.
"So this is where you've been hiding all morning. I'm not going to hurt you, you know. I'm not the one who shoots about randomly first thing in the morning."
The feline yowled throatily in what was probably meant to be a frightening way. Sherlock sighed.
"Don't be stupid John, you're not going to stay here all day."
Yes I am, screamed the incandescent eyes. But all that came out was a snarl.
Sherlock extended a hand under the bed in an attempt to catch the stout and plushy animal, pulling it back again with a cry of protest as the ridiculously sharp teeth bit him wildly.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, John? Get out of there right now!"
A low growl was the only answer he got.
"Fine", he grumbled. "Have it your way, then."
Standing back up, he swiftly dived onto the bed and ran his hand under from the other side, catching the cat's tail with a firm grip, and pulling forcefully.
A wild screech filled the room as the manul scratched the floor frantically with his claws, desperately trying to resist. In vain. But Sherlock knew it would be too painfu to go on holding him up by his tail – even though mostly fur, he was undoubtedly heavy as well – so he soon had the cat pinned to the bed.
Oh all right, maybe he just wanted to hold him down, to feel the soft fur, and to have the pleasure of overpowering the ex-soldier. It was something he'd probably have a much harder time doing were he in human form.
"Come on, kitty, stop struggling," he whispered with a wolfish grin that made the manul shriek. He carelessly hovered too close, however, and the frenzied cat lashed out at him, scratching his cheek and drawing blood.
"Ow! Oh, so you want to play? Maybe I should just experiment on you to find out more about this whole transfiguration mess... um? Splitting you open would probably help, or examining your brain, perhaps? Since you understand me when I speak, there must still be something human that enables you to be receptive to speech, even if you obviously can't use it yourself..."
The manul now lay very still under Sherlock's arms, apparently persuaded. The glint in his flatmate's eyes was enough to tell John that he was only half-joking, and that maybe he would just be crazy enough to dissect him for the progress of science. Of course, he was wrong there. Sherlock was merely enjoying his newly-found dominance. He smirked smugly as the poor cat went even limper in fear of becoming his guinea pig.
"Good, now you're listening. Breakfast?"
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When John had woken this morning, he'd known something was wrong straight away. For one, his pillow didn't feel right. It seemed excessively large, and, on second thought, so did his bed. Then there was the fact that he felt like he was wearing a night gown, or might have been wrapped in a sleeping bag, perhaps. Finally he saw a paw on the white sheet before him, and groaned in desperation. Not again.
And it was morning to boot! Last time it'd been at night – and with Sherlock, too, always at night. Which was a good thing, since John had no idea how he'd hide a tiger in their flat during the day - especially if said tiger was in fact an infuriating consulting detective who couldn't keep still in one place and was bored to death the moment the Work was on hiatus.
… which was in fact the case presently. Oh God. There was no way he was going to face his flatmate while in this form on one of his I'll-shoot-the-smiley-face-on-the-wall-until-I-get-a-case day. No bloody way.
So he stayed in his room and jumped to hide under the bed the moment he heard the door to their living-room open and the first steps leading to his room creak. Naturally Sherlock had still found him, and John absolutely hated the way he treated him in manul-form.
Not that he treated him very well as a man either, for sure; but at least he didn't call him cute or adorable then. It was all so unfair. Why did Sherlock get to be a tiger, and he, John Hamish Watson, ex-soldier, army doctor, only got that daffy cat, some poor excuse for a felid?
He whimpered miserably as Sherlock opened the fridge to find something edible – for a cat, that is.
"What do manuls eat, John? Small mammals and perhaps birds, I presume?"
As if I was going to eat that! he hissed back ferociously.
"Don't be daft, John. You can't just eat any sort of human food. You could get sick."
John froze. Had he just guessed that or could he really read a cat's thoughts as well as a man's?
"I don't guess!"
Oh great. John banged his head on the kitchen table dramatically.
"Don't do that, your face if flat enough as it is."
John ignored him and refused to look back up at him.
"You know, I've been thinking, it really suits you, doesn't it? Pallas's cat. Pallas, one of Athena's epithets. The goddess of heroic endeavour. Well, actually it was named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, they would never have named such an odd-looking cat after Athena after all, but still I think... Come back here! Oh, don't sulk John, you are ludicrous after all. But somehow you're so ridiculous it's quite adorable. And I was trying to compliment you."
Oh, so you meant "ridiculous" in a nice way, then?
"Yes, I did. You're not dull."
John stared with wide eyes. Sherlock caught his gaze and froze. They stood there for a few seconds, and time seemed to have stopped.
"John," Sherlock murmured...
… before he broke into a fit of giggles. John blinked. What?
"Oh John you should have seen your goggling face! Your eyes are so round to begin with, it was just hilarious... Won't you do it again?"
The manul snarled angrily and jumped off the chair he'd been sitting in. He'd had enough.
"Where are you going? You haven't even had breakfast! You always want breakfast."
Why should I? You want to feed me bloody birds, you wacko!
"Fine, fine, I'll make some toast, all right?"
Surprised by the relenting tone, John looked around at his friend. He never thought he would ever see him prepare breakfast. Maybe he wasn't trying to be insulting – no, John amended, he surely wasn't. Sherlock was just so tactless, but his rudeness wasn't a sign of spite, just of candour. John jumped back onto the chair and smiled yearningly.
Some tea, too?
Sherlock grinned back.
"All right, but only if you drop the Cheshire-Cat expression."
John's smile fell and he sent him a sullen look, that Sherlock regally ignored.
"Two sugars, was it?"
The manul jumped as Mrs. Hudson bustled into their living-room with a package.
"Someone delivered that for you just now, I was surprised – it's quite early isn't it?"
Only then did she notice that Sherlock was alone in the kitchen.
"Oh, I thought I heard you talking. Isn't Dr. Watson with you?"
"Always," Sherlock replied with an amused wink.
What are you saying, you idiot!
"Ah! What's this?" Mrs. Hudson asked, pointing at John, who had frozen on the spot when she had entered their flat and was now awkwardly reaching towards the toast on the kitchen table.
"Oh, it's the neighbours' cat."
"The neighbours? But they don't have a cat. Mrs. Turner's allergic."
"The other neighbours, then. Or maybe just some alley cat. He comes once in a while because John had the stupid idea to feed him once."
"Are you feeding him toast, Sherlock? Cats don't eat toast!"
John could hear the teasing irony in his voice and glared at him.
"He doesn't seem to like you very much," Mrs. Hudson commented.
"Oh, he'll come round eventually," replied Sherlock with a wide grin.
"I'll just get you some cat biscuits at the supermarket, I was going to do my shopping this morning anyway."
"I don't think that will be necessary, Mrs. Hudson, but thank you very much."
"Oh, you know what? I think I may have some leftovers from when my niece came by with her Siamese! I'll go and check."
"Mrs. Hudson, that's..."
But she was already running down the steps. He shrugged.
"Oh well. Guess we can always keep them as insurance."
John hissed and glowered at him – and a glowering manul was so adorable in Sherlock's eyes (to be fair, only goofy specimens had this effect on him) that he leant in and in a flash gave the cat a peck on the snout. The manul's hair stood on end, which made him look even sillier in that he already was a giant fluffy hairball. Sherlock gave him a boyish grin that threw John off balance – he blinked, twice, and forgot to snarl.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Mrs. Hudson had indeed brought the biscuits, which were now laid out in a plate next to the toast on the kitchen table.
"It would be wiser not to eat the toast, you know. You're the doctor."
I am NOT eating cat food! And I'm not a veterinarian!
Sherlock chuckled. The manul was looking at the toast pitifully, obviously dying to have some but completely unsure whether a cat's stomach would react well to it or not. Sherlock petted him between the ears and John whined miserably, putting his head on the table, his tail lashing.
Get me tea at least. That should be fine, right?
Sherlock ignored his request and kept stroking his fur, observing him closely. He actually found the weird cat quite beautiful, with his ochre fur and dark vertical bars on the torso and forelegs. He liked the black rings on his tail and the dark spots on his forehead, and most of all those fluffy white cheeks with narrow black stripes running from the corner of the eyes... The manul was so unusual he was entertaining. Sherlock found he enjoyed petting those cheeks and the silky fur of the white chin and throat where it turned greyish on the underparts. The fact that the manul looked so goofy contributed greatly to Sherlock's affection and interest. Cats were okay, but they were dull. A manul was nowhere near ordinary.
Sherlock found everything about the animal so endearingly odd: his round eyes circled by concentric white and black rims, his very short legs, his low and widely set ears and his unusually short claws. Just priceless, he thought. If he'd believed in God, he would have thought that God had created the manul to boost every other animal's self-confidence. Or maybe so people like Sherlock, so practical and who never bothered with plushy toys, would finally understand their appeal. For some unfathomable reason he loved the flattened face and shorter jaw, which had fewer teeth than any other cat's – it was all so silly for a feline that it cheered him up every time his eyes met with the manul's. With John's.
Maybe that was why Sherlock found it so endearing in the end. Because the fluffy, stocky cat was so much like John in a way, triggering warmth and a fluttery feeling of sheer mirth in his chest, akin to bubbling laughter. It made him want to giggle like an idiot. And cuddle the cat.
Cuddle? Since when have you been wanting to cuddle with your flatmate? his brain asked. Sherlock frowned. That was purely metaphorical of course. I don't cuddle!
He was brought back to reality when John nuzzled his hand away. Sherlock looked him in the eye and grinned at the indignation he could read there: My tea! You're drinking yours already, what are you waiting for to give me my cup?
"You can't drink in a cup, John. I'll put it in a bowl for you."
Even though John couldn't speak, Sherlock knew exactly what he would want to say: he knew he'd say "cup" because he'd never think of himself as a manul, and was too proud to act like one. Wittingly, anyway. Sherlock grinned. This was the most fun he could've hoped for today, and he was glad John had picked a time when he didn't have a case. Well, not that John actually did pick it, he supposed.
They hadn't mentioned those bizarre events after the day when Sherlock realized – much too late – that he'd been admitting to John's manul form that he hadn't dreamt the tiger episode at all. It was all so absurd that Sherlock had eventually decided just not to think about it. Not exactly to delete it, because he couldn't quite bring himself to do so; but because there was nothing his rational mind could conclude from such observations. He had racked his brain for two days and finally he had given up, as it just didn't make sense. Maybe, he'd thought, it would never happen again.
Except it had. And looking down at the stocky feline now eagerly lapping his tea, he couldn't help but think that it wasn't such a bad thing, after all.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
John spent the day reading the newspaper, mewling every time he wanted Sherlock to turn the page or to fold it, watching TV and drinking tea as Sherlock conducted experiments (John didn't know he'd managed to pluck a few of his hairs and was in fact analysing him). John had been appalled to find that he'd rather have Sherlock petting him than staring, and had tried his best not to look too cuddle-friendly. He was hungry, but he knew he shouldn't risk human food, no matter how appealing the toast sounded. He categorically refused to be fed cat biscuits.
It didn't cross his mind that filling his stomach with Earl Grey-flavoured caffeine, milk and sugar mightn't be the best idea either. It wasn't much later when he began to feel heartburn and retched, that he knew something wasn't sitting well. Again. Sherlock was playing the violin, but his eyes were fixed on John's reflection in the window – he never seemed to stop looking at him. Feeling suddenly very nauseated, John tried to rush to the bathroom without his flatmate noticing.
Of course he had no such luck.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"John?" Sherlock called, interrupting his playing and following the stout fur-ball speeding off into the bathroom, "Is something wron–"
The image of a manul gripping the lavatory bowl with his front paws to throw up neatly would have been hilarious if said manul weren't John being sick. Sherlock was at a complete loss as to what he should do. He rushed to the feline's side and held him gingerly but firmly as the cat emptied his stomach of the irritating liquid, caressing his back clumsily with what he hoped were encouraging strokes. He wasn't good at this kind of things. Why did John have to be so stubborn and drink so much tea? Sherlock tried to ignore the fact that he'd been just as responsible in refilling the bowl each time. It wasn't his fault. He didn't feel guilty. Not at all.
He jumped as the cat went limp and fell back in his arms. What the... could a manul pass out?
He lay the cat down onto the bathroom floor in a recovery position, hoping it were the same for felids as for humans, and took his paw in his hand, palpating, and wondering where he could find a pulse amidst all the fur. John whimpered.
"John! Are you conscious?"
Another moan answered his question. Sherlock sighed in relief.
He kept massaging the paw gently, soothing himself more than his... colleague.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
John was slowly coming back to his senses, mortified by the situation. His throat and oesophagus were burning and he still felt rather queasy. Groggily, he rolled and stood back up, his legs wobbling as he staggered to the washbasin and scratched at its base weakly. Sherlock got the message and picked him up carefully before turning the water on and holding him where he could take some in his mouth and spit. He must have looked foolish – disgusting and laughable at the same time, John thought. He couldn't help but be surprised by his flatmate's gentleness; even though he was obviously quite awkward, Sherlock was trying.
Having rinsed his mouth, John felt slightly better, but the nausea and dizziness kept weighing him down. He mewled, and he hated how weak that sounded.
"I'll help you up to your room."
John shook his head and wriggled his legs to signify that he could still walk, thank you very much. Sherlock considered this for a moment, debating whether the ex-soldier's pride was worth risking his health. No, Sherlock's eyes said, definitely not. But you're an idiot and you're feeling miserable now. We can't have that: you'll be pissed off for days after this. So he put the manul down and followed him up the staircase, watching closely lest he pass out again or miss a step. Once in his room though, John was too wobbly to jump onto the bed, and he knew his stomach would have lurched dangerously had he tried. He didn't want to mewl and beg for help, though, so he was very grateful when he felt a pair of awkward, slender hands pick him up without his needing to ask.
But he was bewildered when Sherlock didn't just drop him on the bed, and instead stretched out on the mattress himself, putting the cat in what looked like a recovery position, and spooning him. John blinked.
"I can't leave you alone. What if you're sick again? You could pass out and choke on your own vomit," the deep baritone voice grumbled above his head. Sherlock's lips brushed against his ear. John shivered.
It was such a blatant lie he would've laughed, had he not felt so queasy. He wondered briefly what a laughing manul would sound like. They both knew he hadn't eaten today and his stomach was certainly empty now, so he obviously wouldn't be sick again. John allowed himself to relax in the embrace, a smile on his feline face. Maybe Sherlock too had been wanting to cuddle all along. Somehow they always managed to end up like this, exhausted and snuggling until they both fell asleep. And after all, why not?
John couldn't stop himself from purring as Sherlock began to fondle his underbelly with regular strokes, running his long fingers through that abundant fur. Sherlock pressed his own chest to John's back with his chin resting on the nape of John's neck. Yes, John thought sleepily as he allowed himself to melt under the touch, surely there is nothing wrong with this. It would never come up in their conversation anyway; they seemed to have reached a tacit agreement that their strange feline adventures should remain unmentioned. Cuddling as a manul would change nothing.
… would it?
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»