Chapter 1: Tea for two
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)»
Chapter 2: ... and Two for Tea
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz and Salsify. All my thanks!
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
… and Two for Tea
When John woke up that morning, the first thing he did was sigh in relief as he could feel perfectly human limbs forming his body. He'd taken up the habit of checking it first thing in the morning, because he was terrified it would happen again.
Last time had been dreadful. He'd been sick and Sherlock had made fun of him, treating him like a pet and not like the man he was – because he was a man even when for some unfathomable reason he turned into a bloody cat! A manul, John. It's a manul. I mean, you're a manul. Sherlock had broken into giggles while John had glared.
The petting had been nice, though, and so had the cuddles. John would never admit this out loud and he knew Sherlock wouldn't either. He'd hoped the detective would have been all flustered about his finding out that Sherlock had been the purring tiger John had tamed. But when he had come back from the clinic that day, Sherlock had acted as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Last time John had checked, turning into a tiger wasn't one of his flatmate's habits. But then he himself had turned into a manul again. What if it were to become a habit? They'd have to talk about it. They'd have to discuss the fondling and the cuddling too...
He shook his head and jumped out of bed swiftly, stretching his back. Every time he woke up after his transformations, he felt stiff, his back aching. It was so easy to consider it all as a dream, having never woken up with his friend by his side, and he wondered if Sherlock felt the same way. Except that it wasn't a dream: he checked the calendar and a day had indeed passed. John smirked as he pictured Sherlock waking up while he was cuddling him on a bed. Obviously the detective would make a run for it. John was just surprised he hadn't screamed or jumped the first time, effectively waking him up.
As he walked down the stairs a thought hit him. When Sherlock had awakened those three times there had been a transformation... had they both been in human form? He froze on the last step. He recalled well enough that when he had woken up, he'd been lying stark naked on the mattress. He groaned as he pushed the door to their living-room open.
… and froze on the spot. Sprawled on the couch as if he were in his natural element, a tiger was gazing at him lazily with a look of boredom.
"What. The. Hell. are you doing here, Sherlock?"
The tiger growled in response and broke their eye contact, apparently finding it very dull and preferring instead to focus on one of his paws as though it were the most admirable thing in the world. Well, perhaps it was, John amended, when it was actually your hand you were supposed to be looking at, and all you could see and feel was... a paw.
He rubbed his temples as he considered the situation. He was expected at the clinic this morning, but as things were, leaving Sherlock alone in 221B in tiger form really wasn't an option. Especially if the idiot was so oblivious as to be laying slumped on the couch in the living-room where anyone who burst in unannounced (and that happened a lot) could see him.
"You're completely clueless, aren't you?"
That wasn't something Sherlock liked to hear – in fact, it wasn't even something he was used to hearing – and it caught his attention. He looked back at John, frowning, and his pout instilled a fluttering feeling in the doctor's chest. Adorable, he thought, and he had the urge to see the tiger vulnerable and purring under his hand. He shook his head, trying to get a grip. What was wrong with him? The normal reaction to seeing a tiger getting pissed was 'I should run. Now.', not 'Oh God, I want to tame him.'
Him? Him? Of course, John thought. The tiger. A tiger. In general. A tiger in general. He blushed, avoiding Sherlock's gaze that had been fixed on him, probably analysing his every expression, trying to deduce him. John prayed he wasn't succeeding.
"You can't stay here, Sherlock. Anyone could come in and see you. What am I supposed to say to explain the presence of a tiger in our flat, huh?"
Sherlock shrugged, his scoff clearly conveying that he couldn't care less. Really, John. What else am I supposed to do? I'm stuck in the flat already and I'm bored. BORED. Do you really expect me to stay in my room?
"Yes, I do," John retorted as he went to the kitchen to fix himself some breakfast. This was all so unfair. He couldn't tease Sherlock with food, because the detective wouldn't mind not eating for a day – he probably wouldn't even notice. He couldn't make fun of his ridiculous appearance, because he wasn't ridiculous. He glared as Sherlock came to the kitchen and put his head on the table next to John, looking up at him smugly. Inferiority complex, is it?
"Shut up. Why in the world does this keep happening to us anyway?"
Sherlock shrugged. Would it change anything if they knew? It was tedious, but life was tedious. Except this wasn't very logical. He'd examined John's hair (his manul hair, of course) the last time there had been a transformation, but had found nothing peculiar. It was just like any other manul's hair on earth. Except that this manul was host to a human being – in this case, John.
It didn't make any sense at all. There was no pattern for the transformations, no possible way to explain them. So Sherlock had done the only sensible thing: he'd giving up racking his brain about it. He had looked, but there was nothing whatsoever in his mind palace that could help him shed any light on the situation. If he ever managed to explain it, it would be through the input of new data, and so there was nothing he could do for now.
Hence the boredom. He didn't even have a case to occupy his mind, and he knew John was going to the clinic today. It would be a very, very long day.
John was thinking exactly the same thing as he sat down to the table and started eating his toast.
"Okay, so rule number 1: no roaring."
Sherlock pouted haughtily.
"Oh, don't give me that look. You know you roared a lot last time, and I absolutely do not want to have to deal with Mrs. Hudson's comments in the morning – not to mention the neighbours' sidelong glances."
The tiger rolled his eyes and John was all the more annoyed.
"Do you even know what I'm talking about?"
I don't even know the neighbours, conveyed the bored face. John sighed.
"Whatever. Just don't roar. Actually, don't make a noise."
Then he added as an afterthought, a smirk playing on his lips:
"Purring is fine."
If a tiger could have blushed, John was sure Sherlock's cheeks would've burned at the comment, and he realized he'd never seen his friend blush in human form. Not even with Irene Adler. He'd have to try and mention it one day, to see his reaction. Maybe Sherlock could really read his thoughts, for he frowned comically.
"Rule number 2: you are confined to your room for the day. No discussion."
This time his flatmate's reaction was much more dramatic. His eyes widened and he stepped back in disbelief before sending him a death glare. John glared back. They had a staring contest for a few seconds before Sherlock changed his strategy and went for the puppy eyes.
"Do you really think you can coax me with that pleading look when it doesn't work on me even when you're in human form?" John asked.
Oh yes, I do, thought Sherlock, but he was clever enough not to betray any self-confidence or insolence, and enhanced his imploring stance by sitting back like an obedient cat, swinging his tail and putting a paw on John's thigh.
"Ever the comedian," John said, averting his eyes, "even as a tiger you're good at acting. We should put you up for a talent show or something."
Sherlock had the sense to be a little patient with the doctor – it wasn't that hard, because he knew that he'd get what he wanted eventually. John was melting before his very eyes, and he wouldn't last much longer. Sherlock put a little more weight in his paw and accentuated the supplicating gleam in his eyes.
"Oh, all right. But you can't go into the living-room – no, that's definite. I don't want to have to find some crazy excuse for your presence if anyone were to come up."
But we hear people coming up, John!
"Ah, here we go with your real face. Snide and haughty."
But the doctor's tone was fond, and he was about to cup the tiger's cheeks when Sherlock nuzzled his hand insistently. John blinked.
"You want tea? Sherlock, you know how sick I got last time!"
That's because you drank at least four pots, John.
"That's a no."
Sherlock made a long face, and went to sit sulkily on a kitchen chair, resting his head on his front paws, half-sprawled on the table.
"Sorry, Sherlock, but I'm not having a sick tiger in the bathroom."
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Two hours later, they were both still seated at the kitchen table, John checking his emails and Sherlock drinking tea. Of course, Mr. Genius had managed to hold the cup between his two big paws so that he wouldn't have to bend and lap from a bowl. John was sending him half-amused, half-annoyed glances every now and then.
I'm having tea with a tiger, he thought dazedly.
Sherlock frowned, and his glare seemed to say: You're having tea with me, John.
The doctor shrugged.
"Yeah, and for now, you're a tiger. Wait, how come can I read your thoughts?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
Because we know each other. And maybe because you're not too stupid.
John blinked, then tilted his head to the side.
"Wait, what was that?"
… or maybe you are.
They ended up staring at each other, observing. John noticed that the tiger had especially prominent cheekbones, even though his face didn't look thin with all that fluffy white fur. The tiger's coat was truly beautiful, he mused. It was silky and the colours were bright and finely defined with black lines striping his whole body strikingly. His limpid eyes were rimmed with black, making them all the more luminous. And the whiskers... John blushed and averted his gaze. What was it with paws and whiskers anyway? Did they make everyone dotty about felines?
Sherlock smirked slightly as John looked away. He could read him like an open book – anyone would've been able to quite easily, really; John was just so obvious. Well, not all the time, he admitted. Sometimes Sherlock just couldn't make sense out of his reactions, couldn't predict what he'd do or say, and those were truly the best moments. John had the ability to surprise him, and that was something the consulting detective wasn't used to. Sometimes corpses, victims, criminals surprised him, and that was why the Work was so thrilling – he had to solve the case, make sense out all of those disparate elements, link the dots to get the final picture. Through his deductions and his logic, he could shed light on anything.
But John resisted logic. Every time Sherlock tried to put him into one category or another, adding traits to his portrait, John did something that messed the whole picture up. Every time Sherlock thought he'd seized him for good, he'd do something unexpected, and the detective had to reform his views all over again. Maybe it was because John was fundamentally illogical – not to say paradoxical. He liked "mundane" and was ordinary in so many ways, yet he craved danger and would drop everything to rush to Sherlock's side. He was fond of his routine, but needed the 'adventure' Sherlock could provide. He was just so contradictory that it made, all in all, for a very interesting flatmate. A priceless friend, too, a little voice murmured in the back of his mind.
They were both so intensely focused on the other that they didn't hear the staircase steps creak until the very last moment. John's eyes widened in panic and he jumped on his feet, ushering Sherlock into the corridor towards his room, hissing: "Bathroom!" at the very moment Lestrade burst into their living-room. John turned and smiled at him.
"Hello, Greg. What brings you here so early in the morning?"
"Were you just talking to someone?"
"What? Oh no, I was reading the news online, and you know, sometimes there are such unbelievable reports."
"...Right. Well, I was coming to talk to Sherlock about a case, but... he's out?"
His tone was disbelieving. John was usually the one out, working or buying the groceries, or just taking a walk away from his maddening flatmate because he needed some air. But Sherlock was always there when he wasn't working on a case. He wasn't one to go out on a stroll, or to museums, theatres or whatnot.
"So he's got a case already?"
John had learned a few things, living with Sherlock. Not becoming flustered and knowing when to lie, for instance.
"Oh yeah, I think he's got something on. He didn't tell me much, though, and just stormed out early this morning. You know how he is."
"That, I do. Can I just leave you the file? If he's got a case to play with already, he probably won't answer my calls. But if it comes from you, he might just take a look at it."
John laughed wholeheartedly.
"I think you overestimate me greatly, inspector."
Lestrade shrugged, a smile playing on his lips as he put the file on the kitchen table and turned to leave.
"And I think you underestimate your influence on him a lot, John."
Lestrade tipped his head in parting as he turned back towards the door. John stood there dumbly for a second, not sure how he should react to that. But since the D.I. was gone anyway, he just shrugged it off. When he turned back to the kitchen, Sherlock was already looming over the file, a Cheshire cat-like grin splitting his face. A kid on Christmas, John thought. He snatched the file away from him swiftly, and glared. Sherlock glared back.
"See? I told you this was risky!"
As if 'risky' weren't one of your favourite situations, John. The tiger snorted.
"You are not reading this here. If you want this file, you're going to your room, and not leaving it until you transform back. Am I clear?"
Sherlock's eyes widened and he considered for a second jumping on his flatmate, snatching the file back and just ignore the protests and commands. What could John do anyway? He was a tiger, not some house cat one could easily manhandle. Of course, John had his gun. But Sherlock was confident he wouldn't use it on him now that he knew he wasn't just any tiger. However when he saw the determined look on the ex-soldier's face, he gave up and padded off to his room with a scoff. Fine. Let him have his little "I'm-the-captain-here" fun, he thought. It wasn't like John could really act all domineering and order him around when he wasn't in tiger form. And he'd stayed home for Sherlock, after all. He hadn't gone to the clinic.
John followed him to his room with a satisfied smirk, and spread out on the bed the documents Lestrade had brought for him. Sherlock would have liked John to stay with him and study the case, read some things out loud maybe, but he concluded that his friend would more likely be returning to the living-room to gloat that he had confined Sherlock Holmes in his room. He snorted. Idiot.
He complied nonetheless and started reading the file sulkily as John closed the door on him.
As he sat back at the kitchen table, John had the decency to recognize that he was enjoying this far too much.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Three hours passed and Sherlock had long solved the case. It wasn't very difficult, really. From the file alone he'd already got an idea, and he only needed to confirm it – which he would've done already, if he'd been in human form.
Young florist Brenda Tregennis had been found dead in her flat above her flower shop that morning, fully clothed, sitting in the entrance, staring at her own reflected face in the large mirror on her wall with an expression of terror. She'd been found by her brother Mortimer who was supposed to pick her up in the morning to see off a mutual friend, Leon Sterndale, in Plymouth. Sterndale had of course cancelled his trip and was staying for the burial. He was a traveller and a botanist, specialised in exotic species. He'd met Brenda at uni and intended to propose to her upon his return from South America in a few months. Well, that wouldn't happen, Sherlock thought idly. The brother, Mortimer, was never fond of his sister, according to Sterndale's testimony. Mortimer had tried to convince Sterndale, a week before his sister's death, not to propose to her. They were both at a pub drinking at the time; Sterndale was quite drunk but had gathered that the man's bitterness was based upon his own bankruptcy at a time when his sister's flower shop was thriving. Such a trivial reason, Sherlock thought. But aren't they always?
Now, the Met was out of their depths – and this time it was all the more ridiculous since they had all the necessary elements to solve the case. The victim had been found in the entrance to her flat. She was still wearing her shoes and coat, so she must have died upon entering her home. The cause was a complete mystery – to the police anyway. Sherlock however had learned at a very young age not to trust shoes, and concluded that the fact that the victim had been staring at her own reflection in the mirror was completely irrelevant. What was relevant was that she had been sitting, obviously trying to take her shoes off, and had died before she could manage to, her back to the wall, her eyes on the mirror. But young adults rarely sit down to take off their shoes. So she must have been feeling dizzy already – or perhaps she had known, even before dying, what was killing her.
All Sherlock needed to check to confirm his theory was the victim's shoes. No trace of poison had been found on the body, but not all poisons leave traces. The shoes, however, might still hold the evidence. Now, the only one who could have introduced some novel foreign poison was Sterndale – but he had intended to propose to her. The brother, however, had motive. So how did he get his hands on the poison? That was easy to deduce. Sterndale had said in his statement that they had gone drinking and that Mortimer was quite drunk when he told Sterndale not to marry Brenda. But if they had been drinking together, it was very likely that Sterndale too was drunk at the time. Consequently it wasn't improbable that he'd started blabbering about his passion – plants, and his latest discoveries.
The last element which confirmed Sherlock in his deduction was that Lucy Porter, Brenda Tregennis's assistant at the flower shop, had given a quite long and very boring statement, in which she described her boss and friend as the sweetest and kindest person on earth, so simple, not vain at all, etc. If Sherlock hadn't been bored to death and stuck in his own room, he wouldn't even have bothered reading her statement. One detail, however, struck him – one tiny detail that made all the difference: Brenda Tregennis's flower shop had a very home-like feeling to it, said Lucy. She even wore slippers inside the shop; she wore her shoes only when she arrived in the morning and when she closed the boutique at night to go home.
It had taken Sherlock less than an hour to read the documents and deduce that Mortimer Tregennis had used Leon Sterndale's poison to murder his own sister. Since his deduction, Sherlock had been pacing the room, feeling like it had turned suddenly into the worst possible cage.
He had thought that John would've at least paid him a visit after an hour or so, but no, he was probably too busy with his silly blog and whatever other hopelessly mindless entertainment he had at hand. Sherlock wondered absent-mindedly what title he'd give to that case. The Poisoned Shoe, perhaps? Probably something even sillier.
Sherlock was so annoyed after two hours of pacing that when he heard Mrs Hudson's voice along with John's from their living room, he just couldn't resist getting his little revenge on his flatmate. Opening the door without too much difficulty – the handle wasn't that high, for a tiger – he walked leisurely down the corridor and burst in on the pair, a lazy expression on his face.
Mrs. Hudson, who was facing the kitchen, was the first to see him, and she stopped in mid-sentence, freezing on the spot, a look of horror dawning on her face. Sherlock could imagine John blinking, twice even, before he caught up. By that time though, she'd screamed.
"Oh dear God what's a tiger doing roaming around in your flat!?"
John turned, and, seeing the falsely innocent look on Sherlock's face, exploded.
"Sherlock, for God's sake!"
Now Mrs. Hudson was staring at him as if he'd gone mad and was more frightening even than the very large feline presently pacing in their kitchen.
"Um... yeah... Sherlock's new pet. He just brought it and vanished, leaving it with me here... I can't believe he just left it for me to deal with."
"He got a tiger? As a pet?"
"Oh, I see!"
"What? What do you see?" John asked, obviously lost, and certainly not seeing anything.
"He probably got jealous!"
"Well, you know, you take care of that weird stray cat that looks like a giant feather duster, so maybe he just felt the need to find a bigger cat to take care of."
"That's preposterous!" exclaimed John, clearly vexed. A giant feather duster? He became even more irritated when he saw Sherlock giggle like the twat he was before sitting on a kitchen chair to finish his tea.
Mrs. Hudson's eyes went wide.
"Dear me, he's quite tamed it, hasn't he?"
"Yes, well, it's still a tiger," John retorted moodily, ignoring the triumphant grin on the bloody cat's face.
"Well, as long as it doesn't bite... Still, I wish you'd tell him I don't quite approve, dear. Eccentricity has its limits."
"Sure, Mrs. Hudson. I'll tell him."
The good woman left, thinking of what Sherlock's childhood must have been like if he and his brother always reacted so disproportionately – one getting a tiger, when the other got a cat...
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Once their landlady had left, John turned to Sherlock, furious.
"I told you to stay in your room! Was it really so hard to listen for once?"
Yes. said the tiger's sullen face as he drank his cup of cold tea pitifully.
"How are we going to explain it if the tiger's not there next time she comes, but then you transform again and she sees it once more? You can't just listen to me, can you?"
Oh. So that's what this is about. I wish you could hear yourself speak, John. The logical link between your sentences is more than dubious.
"And will you please stop looking at me like I'm an idiot? It's insulting enough when you're a man, but when you're a tiger?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. It's not an insult, John! Everyone is.
"You... oh, just go back to your room."
What? She's seen me now, and Lestrade isn't coming back! Oh I've solved the case by the way...
"Sherlock, just go back to your room! Don't make me repeat myself."
You just did.
"I'm serious Sherlock. Go. Back. To. Your. Room."
The peremptory tone wasn't to Sherlock's liking at all. He'd had enough bossing around for the day, and he'd been obedient enough till now. He'd waited three hours, like a punished kid sent to stand in the corner, in his own bedroom. Wasn't that demonstration enough of his good will?
Obviously not, he mused, as John marched up to him, determination in his eyes, his stance firm.
"Sherlock, if I have to carry you to that room myself, I will."
You're joking, right?
But his eyes were dead serious. Sherlock snapped, and snarled. John ignored him completely and circling the tiger's body with his arms, lifted it from the chair and began to manhandle him towards the corridor as if he were merely a very big, unwanted cat.
Sherlock was so bewildered he didn't react at first, but when he did, he couldn't hold back. Hissing, he struggled and scratched John's arm in the process – but the ex-soldier refused to let go of him and they ended up grappling on the kitchen floor, fighting tooth and claw. This should have been a good way to release the stress and tension that had built between them during the day as they'd gradually grown more annoyed with each other. But Sherlock wasn't used to being a tiger and had little idea of his strength. He managed to roll their two bodies so he could loom over John, growling threateningly, snarling into his face, his sharp-toothed jaw frighteningly close to John's jugular. John abruptly stopped struggling. He didn't make a move to defend himself. He only looked Sherlock in the eye, calm and firm. Stoical.
"Are you really planning to kill me, Sherlock?"
The tiger's eyes widened and he snapped back to reality. He flinched, whimpering and stepping back, hanging his head. He hadn't realized. He just wanted to play. With just one look and those few trusting words, John had managed to subdue him completely.
Sherlock moved back to his room without a murmur, not even daring to catch his friend's gaze, and quietly closed the door behind him.
As he stood back up, thoughtful, it dawned on John that Sherlock hadn't meant to hurt him at all: in that instant, the doctor realized that the first time Sherlock had transformed, he had not attacked him, although he could have easily overpowered him.
John looked at the closed door.
He would rather have been shot than attack me.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock remained obediently in his room for the rest of the day, frightened of what he might do to John – or John to him. Overly dispirited, he was lying meekly on his bed, and just wished for the day to end, so he could fall asleep and put it all behind him.
When he heard John turn off the TV, relief washed over him with the knowledge his torment would probably end soon. Closing his eyes, he tried to will sleep to come. He was so intent on numbing his awareness that he didn't hear John walk down the corridor. He only felt John's presence when he was already pushing the door silently open, peeking into the room.
Just to check on him before I go to bed, John told himself. Nothing more.
When he saw the sleeping figure though, he couldn't resist and walked up to him, sitting quietly on the bed besides him. Sherlock's breathing was regular, but the expression of pain and submission hadn't left his face, which was slightly frowning. John smiled fondly, and unwittingly started petting him, trying to soothe away the frown. Sherlock, who was only faking sleep, felt the warmth spread from the doctor's hands to his body. Those hands weren't smooth, but rather rough and manly. The petting itself was much like John himself, affectionate yet firm, generous and resolute. Sherlock felt all his tension melt in the caresses. We're idiots. Next time we should do that from the start. It didn't cross his mind that the pent-up frustration might be of another nature entirely.
A wave of tenderness washed over John, who could feel the huge silky body relax under his touch, and on impulse he leant and kissed the furrowed brow. Sherlock's eyes snapped open in surprise and John started, flustered. Sherlock didn't give him time to get away and jumped into his friend's lap, snuggling up against him, giving him a spontaneous and completely irrational hug.
He almost immediately realized what he was doing, and how it could be interpreted. Panicked, he jumped back and crouched on the floor, whimpering what he hoped sounded like an apology. John had been nonplussed by the sudden burst of affection on Sherlock's part, and it took him a few seconds to realize that he hadn't jumped back out of shame, but because he was scared of having upset John. He was deeply moved by the unexpected gesture.
"Oh, Sherlock... Come here."
Uncertain at first, Sherlock finally crawled back onto the bed, attentive to giving John enough space. He was confounded when his friend closed the distance between them, gathering him into a cosseting embrace.
And so they didn't break the pattern but ended up cuddling, Sherlock nuzzling John's hair, John pressing his head against Sherlock's heart, relishing the soft fur and the priceless pulse.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 3: Me for You
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz and Salsify. All my thanks :)
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Me for you
By the third time John woke up as a manul, he was no longer appalled. Very annoyed, yes. Luckily Sherlock did have a case this time, and probably wouldn't bother with him too much – which was a good thing, considering he only made fun of him and manhandled him. What a prick, really, taking advantage of his smaller, more vulnerable form. John frowned, glaring at no one in particular since he was alone in his room. Vulnerable. He had to admit he was, and that was why he found the whole ordeal so exasperating. He couldn't hold his handgun since he didn't have hands, but paws. He couldn't run very fast (at all...), couldn't defend himself like bigger felines. He looked ridiculous and was completely useless.
It made him wonder sometimes if there was some meaning to it. Him turning into a manul, and Sherlock, into a bloody tiger. Right. As if any of it made sense. It didn't of course, but it still bothered him. John knew Sherlock was a genius and much superior to him, but as for physical strength, even if he did know how to fight, John could overpower him. Although he'd probably find some devious, cunning way to trick me and win in the end. Sherlock really was the kind of man you had to shoot right away if you wanted him dead, because if you gave him a chance, even the slightest, he'd definitely find a way to get out of it. What am I thinking? I don't want to kill Sherlock. He hasn't even done anything yet today!
Yet being the key word.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock did have a case indeed, and had gone out very early in the morning to investigate a bride who vanished on the day of her wedding, albeit after the ceremony. He already had a few ideas on the matter but wanted to see the wedding hall. When he came back around 11, he wasn't surprised to see John wasn't there, since he was supposed to work at the clinic today. Still, he pouted. He'd gone out before the doctor even woke up so he wouldn't feel the urge to bring him along and make him lose his job – again.
He was surprised, however, to see that his shoes and jacket were still there. Tilting his head to the side, he toyed with the thought a second before a wide grin spread over his face. Perhaps the case could wait a few hours, after all. He'd deduced everything he needed to know and the rest could wait until morning. The young bride was in no danger whatsoever, of that he was certain. Her husband could wait another day before hearing what had become of his wife.
Sherlock had better things to do – and by better, he meant more fun. He went to the kitchen and prepared bacon and eggs. He would have preferred to avoid cafeine altogether, considering what five and a half pots of tea had done to John the last time, but John liked having tea in the morning and Sherlock determined that one bowl should be fine. He had pondered the matter very seriously and had planned what meals he could make for John if he ever turned into a manul again.
OK, so he hadn't done the grocery shopping himself, he'd asked Mrs. Hudson as she was on her way to the supermarketut he was the one who had written a shopping list just for John's sake. He'd done research too, and had even contacted zoos to be certain. Even if he would never admit it, he'd had the scare of his life when he'd found the poor cat throwing up in the bathroom. Admittedly, John as a man was exposed mad consulting criminals, and so to a certain amount of risks; but one couldn't say the ex-soldier was weak or fragile. As a manul, however, it was quite different. He was just a cat. A big, stout, fluffy cat, but a cat nonetheless. Sherlock found it adorable, and he couldn't explain why: he certainly wasn't one to ooh and aah over pets – or anything else at all that could be considered within the realm of "cute".
He found it adorable, but even if he loved seeing John vulnerable, he didn't want anyone else to see him being so.
And perhaps there was in his approach more possessiveness than protectiveness against criminals than he thought. He'd decided since the last time he transformed that they had been wasting too much time bickering instead of cuddling, and that cuddling was much more pleasant for both parties. It was just an assessment, and he didn't read further into it. Cuddling felt better than bickering, so they shouldn't waste their time bickering this time. There wasnothing more to it.
But persuading John was another matter entirely. John was too stubborn for his own good, he'd definitely make a fuss...
… and so Sherlock devised a scheme to pre-empt him.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
On the bed in his upstairs room, John was sprawled on his back, bored and miserable. He'd walked around his room, drunk water from the sink, rolled on his bed and stopped right away when he pictured how ridiculous he must look, and examined his paws and tail. Now he was left with nothing to do, and was staring at the ceiling morosely. He was so bored he almost wished Sherlock would come upstairs to bother him. He himself couldn't go downstairs: he was too small to reach the door handle; he was was stuck in his own room.
In other words, John was lonely.
What was even worse was that he'd heard Sherlock come back about half an hour ago, and still his flatmate hadn't come up. It was unlikely that he hadn't noticed his shoes were still there, because even when he was focused on a case, Sherlock never stopped noticing things. John pouted. He probably wasn't entertaining enough today to be of any interest to Sherlock. And he couldn't even participate in the case. He sighed pitifully. Fine, he sulked. He'd just keep rolling around on his bed all day, then.
And so he rolled, and rolled, and rolled. The bed was squeaking and he didn't hear the steps creak just outside his door. Sherlock burst in while he was in mid-roll and at the sight, almost dropped the tray he was carrying. John froze. Their eyes locked. Sprawled on the bed, legs up, completely dishevelled, John wished he could just disappear into the mattress and escape Sherlock's sparkling eyes that were gazing at him amusedly and fondly. If a manul could blush, John's fluffy cheeks would have been crimson by now.
Sherlock knew he shouldn't laugh. He'd come up to butter John up, and if he laughed now, he'd definitely spoil everything. But he couldn't help it. His laughter was bubbling and candid, so much like that of a child, full of wonder and mirth, that John couldn't feel offended. He stared, fascinated, as his flatmate came up to sit on the bed and gave him a peck on the forehead.
"Hello, there. Having fun?"
He was smiling widely, but his smirk was more loving than mocking. Loving? John felt his cheeks burn even more. What am I thinking?
He sat up, and only then did he notice the tray. His eyes widened. There was bacon and eggs, a bowl of hot tea, and even a small piece of toast. John looked up at Sherlock, blinking. For me?
Sherlock's smirk widened. John probably had no idea how silly he looked with his round eyes and his plushy face. Blinking didn't make him any less ridiculous.
"I added milk and sugar to the tea. I'm not giving you more than two bowls today though. If you're thirsty, you can just drink water. As for the piece of toast and the egg, I checked. Such a small quantity should be fine."
John was now goggling. You checked? He looked down at the plate and noticed that the eggs and bacon had even been cut in small portions to make it easier to eat. What in the world had got into him?
Who are you? What did you do to Sherlock Holmes?
"Oh thank you, John. That's what I get for making you breakfast in bed. Fine, I'll just throw it away."
John jumped to his feet and put his two paws on Sherlock's hand, sending him a pleading look. No! I'll eat it. Let me eat it.
This time, Sherlock conspicuously swallowed his smirk.
"All right. Eat, then."
He didn't have to tell him twice. As he devoured the meal, John slowly realized that this meant Sherlock had expected his next transformation and so had planned everything this time. John hadn't even been aware that they'd had bacon, although he had noticed some unidentified items in the freezer. It could've been frozen human body parts for all he'd known – and he really hadn't wanted to know. Sherlock had said he'd "checked", though. So he had done research, and he had cooked for him on a case day to boot! He never ceased to amaze John.
When he was done eating, John went to Sherlock and nuzzled the palm of his hand in thanks. Not expecting the gesture, Sherlock froze. He averted his gaze and so missed the suspicious look John shot him. The manul tapped on his thigh with his paw insistently until he turned back to him.
Did you have something to eat? the wary eyes were asking.
For once, Sherlock couldn't read his thoughts. He had no idea why John should be suspicious of anything.
"I really did call the zoo!" he exclaimed somewhat indignantly. "I assure you that everything you'll eat today will be perfectly fine. You won't be sick."
John blinked. When it came to himself, Sherlock could be so clueless. He'd probably deleted from his hard drive the fact that people could care for him and his welfare. Or maybe it just didn't make sense to him why people would care, and it didn't even cross his mind. Shaking his head, John shrugged it off and jumped off the bed, walking to the door and turning to Sherlock. Let's go downstairs?
Sherlock's face brightened, and he followed the fluffy cat out of the room.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock turned the telly on for John, washed the dishes, opened his laptop and scrolled down the pages for him. He made a mental note to buy him a keyboard with larger keys.
John was nonplussed by his attitude. He was very suspicious at first, wondering what Sherlock wanted from him and would ask in return for his care, but the detective seemed to be enjoying himself quite genuinely. It made John feel rather guilty about his own behaviour the last time Sherlock had transformed. He hadn't tried to prepare any food for him, considering not eating for one day would be nothing unusual for Sherlock. He had completely ignored him and hadn't tried to find occupations for him. Even when Lestrade had come with a case, John had sent Sherlock to his bedroom and had driven him out of the living-room.
Of course, having a tiger around was more problematic than having a manul, who could pass for an ordinary if plushy cat to anyone who wasn't a specialist. Still, he'd been snappy and bossy all day. But Sherlock was being considerate. Obviously he was getting his own fun from it, John could tell, but he was still putting a case on hiatus just to take care of him.
"Stop thinking so hard, John. I've already solved the case anyway."
Well, you're still putting off your moment of glory, when you'll expose the whole thing to everything and gloat about it.
Sherlock smiled smugly.
"I won't sound any less brilliant if I show off tomorrow first thing in the morning. Lestrade and the husband are so clueless they certainly won't find out what's going on any time soon – if ever."
John tilted his head to the side, unwittingly adorable.
And what exactly is going on?
Sherlock's smirk widened imperceptibly and he walked to the kitchen.
"The bride was already married."
John blinked. What?
Sherlock took out some food from the freezer and started to prepare lunch. John was so caught up in the vanishing bride – who'd been a double bride! – that he didn't even notice his friend was cooking for him again.
"Her first husband had been reported dead, and she found out he wasn't just after she got married again. As simple as that."
But why didn't she say anything to her second husband? He deserves to know!
Sherlock chuckled at John's outraged expression. It was so comical on the flat, plushy face, and it made the manul look even rounder.
"I think she just took off on her honeymoon. With her first husband, that is. Divorce papers can be tedious, I guess?"
John smiled, amused. Sherlock had no idea as to the motives of the woman, then. The consulting detective glared.
"We'll find out tomorrow anyway."
The manul sniggered but his giggles put him off balance and he fell off the chair he was sitting in and landed with an audible thump. Sherlock turned from the kitchen frowning.
"What are you doing, John?"
The fluffy cat whimpered pitifully and slinked to the kitchen.
"You shouldn't drag along like that, your fur is so long you'll just wipe the floor and be all dirty."
Looking him in the eye with a smirk, he added:
"You look like a walking dustmop."
John glowered indignantly and was about to turn back haughtily when a delicious smell hit him. That's when he realized Sherlock had been cooking. Curious, he jumped on a kitchen chair and tried to see what was being prepared.
"Roast quails with bourgogne marc," Sherlock declared without looking at him. "It's a French recipe."
John goggled, stunned.
"Oh don't look at me like that," Sherlock muttered, slightly annoyed, "of course I can cook. It's just chemistry after all. And before you ask, yes, you can eat quails. That was the whole point."
The whole point? John felt himself melt. Sherlock was being ridiculously sweet. Breakfast in bed, and now this? If he hadn't known better, he would've thought that he was being wooed. This was Sherlock though, the gorgeous bastard who claimed to be married to his work. It made the attention all the more touching.
Sherlock put the meal on the table and served it. The mere sight of it made John's mouth water. He couldn't believe Sherlock never bothered to cook when he was so good at it. He glanced at him and Sherlock caught his eye.
"Why should I bother? You've never complained about take-outs and restaurants."
John shrugged, glad that his face couldn't show his blush. Now that he thought about it, they actually acted a lot like a couple. Sherlock always paid for the both of them in restaurants and coffee shops, save when he suddenly would dash off in pursuit of a criminal. They exchanged texts all day long when they weren't together – or even when they were together but not in the same room. They bickered a lot, but it never tainted their partnership. To be quite honest, John couldn't picture himself living with anyone else.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The food had been exquisite and John had dozed off in front of the telly, full and content. Sherlock had done some experimenting in the afternoon, but managed to not blow up their kitchen, which was, in itself, quite a feat. Despite this, John caught himself wishing that his flatmate would just come and sit next to him. Not that he wanted to cuddle, but...
It was probably the burgundy that made him so sleepy, John guessed. Even if it was just in the sauce, he'd eaten a great deal of the quail after all. Around seven, Sherlock emerged from the kitchen without his goggles on, looking his crazy self but not some mad scientist.
"Shall I prepare dinner?"
John turned a drowsy gaze to him and shook his head. Not hungry. I'm going to burst if I eat any more.
For some reason, Sherlock seemed very happy about this. He grinned broadly.
"Good. Well, then, your room or mine?"
The words snapped John back to reality and suddenly he was very awake. What? He honestly doubted his own ears, but Sherlock repeated impatiently:
"I said your room, or mine? I don't have any preference."
The manul squealed, alarmed and flustered. What in the world was he suggesting? Sherlock sighed dramatically.
"Cuddling, John, cuddling."
John blinked. Twice. Then he broke into a fit of giggles. The whole scene was just so absurd! Sherlock standing there so seriously, making propositions full of innuendos completely unawares and then clearly suggesting something as silly and ordinary as cuddling as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"Fine, then, we'll just stay here. But don't complain in the morning."
Picking up the manul from the armchair he was sitting in, Sherlock lay down on the couch, curled up, holding the cat against his chest. John mewled frantically in protest as he was grabbed without warning, but stopped when Sherlock embraced him like a beloved plush toy... or a pillow. The analogy wasn't very flattering, but feeling the beating heart of his friend under his paws, drowning in his scent, John thought that, perhaps, it was just fine. Sherlock found sleep boring, so him offering to cuddle suggested that he enjoyed it for what it was, and not just as a way to fall asleep. This in itself was flattering enough for John, who nuzzled up against Sherlock's collarbone and purred as a hand stroke him between the ears.
John couldn't see Sherlock's face and so he missed his triumphant grin. This was the earliest they'd ever started cuddling during a transformation day. The wine had been a good idea after all.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
221B Baker Street, 7am. Everything was quiet and peaceful in the flat. The pale light of dawn was falling on a lovely scene in the living-room, of a man holding a cat against his heart. A sweet, peaceful picture.
That is, until the cat suddenly turned into a full-size, naked man, and instantly fell from the couch which was too small for two people to lie on – even if they were cuddling. A loud thump and a cry of surprise broke the serene ambiance as the poor man crashed to the floor.
John, groggy and bewildered, looked around him while he rubbed his head. He blinked as he saw the sleeping form of his flatmate before him. What in the...
Sherlock's eyes snapped open and they locked with John's. The doctor suddenly realized he was sprawled naked on their living-room's floor. Panicked, he jumped to his feet with a yelp, grabbing the Union Jack pillow to hide his genitalia. He pointed his finger at Sherlock and cried in outrage:
"YOU! You knew this would happen, you did it on purpose!"
Sherlock pouted sleepily.
"I asked you to pick the room. And I told you not to complain in the morning."
"You always wake up before me when we... Oh God did this happen every time?"
And by this he meant the turning back into a naked person in the arms of his male flatmate. Sherlock shrugged.
"You're being ridiculous, John. Now I'll have a mental picture of you, nude in our living-room, every time I see our Union Jack pillow." He added with a grin: "...probably every time I see the Union Jack, in fact."
John cursed and hurled the pillow in his face, storming out of the room. Sherlock smirked and held the pillow to his chest, drowsing back to sleep with a smile on his lips.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Art by MakaniValur
Chapter 4: ... and You for Me
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz and by Salsify.
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
… and You for Me
Sherlock wasn't pleased at all – and that was an understatement. Since the last time John had transformed into a manul, he'd been positively avoiding Sherlock and even the flat in general. He took more hours at the clinic and was spending most nights out, often his new girlfriend's place. He'd been very quick in dating that one, Sherlock noticed – but he didn't look further into it. Maggie. What a dull, trite name.
Of course he would always come right away if Sherlock asked, but if it wasn't truly important, he would leave just as soon, having done whatever Sherlock had called him for. He was still the faithful friend and blogger, watching his back during chases and helping him insofar as he was able during cases. Yet something was different. Sherlock couldn't help but note that John avoided all body contact and jolted dramatically every time their hands accidentally brushed, every time they bumped into each other. It annoyed Sherlock to no end – especially since John did not react that way when they were on a chase or when the detective was in some immediate danger. He would still jump and push him away to safety, but would recoil just as quickly.
Sherlock couldn't quite fathom why John should be so upset with him. On the contrary, he'd acted like the perfect friend the last time John had transformed, hadn't he? He had made breakfast, had been considerate all day long, had helped him go on the internet by scrolling down the pages for him – and now he'd even ordered a special keyboard with larger keys, so the next time he turned into a manul he'd still be able to type up his blog. Or to learn how to with paws, anyway. Now Sherlock wondered if it'd be of any use at all, considering how evasive John had become lately. He'd hidden the keyboard in his room, not sure what to do with it, and had decided to let it go unmentioned.
Unmentioned. That word perfectly fit what their relationship had become. They had lost the comfortable intimacy they'd shared so easily from their first days together. There was no connivence left. John was always jumpy. Even when they spent time together, which was unavoidable, Sherlock could sense that he was on his guard – his stance military, almost self-restrained. Naturally, he'd tried confronting him about it, but to no avail.
"You're avoiding me."
"No I'm not."
"You try to stay away from 221B as much as you can. You start like an idiot every time we inadvertently touch. You–"
"That's not true! I just want to spend time with Maggie. That's only–"
"Natural? And more hours at the clinic is also natural?"
At this point John had got up, rolling his eyes, and gone to make some tea, putting an end to the discussion. Sherlock had tried to address the issue several times since, always with as little result.
Then the Union Jack pillow had disappeared, and he'd finally understood.
"You're upset about that night we spent together on the couch," he'd said, completely oblivious to the fact that Maggie was also in the room. John had invited her for tea, because they'd been strolling and it'd started raining when they weren't too far from 221B. She had insisted on coming up to the flat to meet Sherlock. Obviously, she had regretted it greatly. John had glared and snapped.
"I have no idea where that cushion went. And please stop being so damn suggestive, Sherlock!" Then, turning to Maggie, somewhat panicked: "Nothing like that happened between us. He's just..."
Fortunately (for John anyway), she had laughed it off. Sherlock hadn't.
Today, he was determined to discuss the matter with John properly. This just couldn't go on.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Today, John was determined to see Sherlock as little as possible. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and he felt guilty enough knowing he'd be leaving Sherlock alone while he spent it with Maggie. He had told his flatmate already, but since there had been no reaction, he'd concluded that Sherlock either didn't care as much as he thought or that he hadn't been paying attention. Either way, there was no going back. Everything was planned and Maggie had just told John by text that she'd already got a goose from her sister who lived in the countryside and was preparing it for dinner.
When John opened the door to 221B, he prayed that Sherlock would be away on a case. He well aware that it was wishful thinking: Sherlock would've definitely told him if he'd been onto something. But not today. John couldn't believe he actually felt depressed about not spending Christmas with his flatmate – his bloody male flatmate – when a beautiful young woman was presently cooking for him, excitedly awaiting his arrival. He shook his head as he closed the door behind himself to be greeted by a silent staircase. Even Mrs. Hudson was spending Christmas at her sister's this year, and Lestrade with his new wife in Italy – it was also their honeymoon, John recalled. This meant Sherlock would really be alone. But hadn't he always been?
The doctor frowned, trying to dispel his guilt. It should be none of his concern, if his flatmate decided to spend Christmas alone instead of with his family or a partner. Ignoring the little voice in his head that said but you're his partner, John walked up the steps and sighed as he saw that a light was on in their living-room. So Sherlock was there after all. There would be no avoiding the confrontation.
Again, a wave of guilt washed over John. He knew he was being a twat. A very selfish one, to boot. But ever since the last time he'd transformed into a stupid cat – and God how he feared it would happen when he was with Maggie – he'd obviously tried to distance himself as much as he could from Sherlock. He wasn't mad at him, he was rather mad at himself for indulging in the cuddling, the sleeping-together, and the pampering. He'd enjoyed it. A lot. Too much. And it had scared the hell out of him.
Hence the sudden distancing attempt – the new girlfriend, the increase in work at the clinic, and all his other smaller avoidances. Sherlock disapproved, and John knew it. The detective was quite possessive: whatever he fancied, he wanted to monopolize. But John also knew he shouldn't read anything more into it. He certainly wouldn't doubt his own sexuality just because Sherlock was playing around with him – not in a bad or cruel way, really, but like a child. Irresponsibly, and blissfully unconcerned.
John took a deep breath and entered the living-room. He froze. Sherlock was sitting, back to John, facing the windows and absorbed in the contemplation of an old battered hat that lay on the low table. It was snowing outside, and the room was grey and silent. John's heart clenched and he bit his lips as the loneliness radiating from the scene hit him. He felt the urge to run to Sherlock and hug him and say: "Merry Christmas!"
"Are you going to stand there all night?"
The deep baritone voice cut into John's thoughts and brought him back to reality. He shivered.
"No. Actually, I'm just popping in to get Maggie's present."
At this, Sherlock turned to him, and John couldn't determine if he looked more surprised, annoyed, or... disappointed.
"You're not staying here tonight?"
"I just told you. In fact, I told you last week," John said, walking to the kitchen and opening the cupboard to get the wine he'd bought in the morning. Sherlock followed him.
"But it's Christmas Eve."
"Exactly! Why are you so surprised that I'd spend it with my girlfriend?"
John bit his lip. He hadn't intended to snap. The whole thing just made him feel so guilty and he wanted nothing more than apologize and explain. But he couldn't. How could he possibly say it? "Sorry Sherlock, this whole tiger business has completely messed with my head. I loved the cuddling and I think I'm attracted to you." It made John feel like banging his head against the wall.
Sherlock remained silent, but stiffened perceptibly. He filled his gaze with a bored and contemptuous indifference; his shoulders slumped slightly.
"I'm not surprised. I just didn't remember you'd told me. Probably deleted it. Dull." He turned back to the hat, failing to meet John's eyes. The doctor felt even worse.
"No, stop right there," the detective interrupted, pointing his bow towards John's face – and only then did the doctor notice that Sherlock's violin was out of its case, lying on the sofa. "You're going to apologize and tell me to call Mycroft or – God forbid – Mummy so as not to spend Christmas alone. Let me assure you, you're the only one who finds it depressing. Well, maybe like all of the ordinary people out there. But I certainly don't. So off you go. I'll see you tomorrow."
He picked up the violin and was about to start playing when John interrupted in a falsely firm voice:
"I won't see you tomorrow. I'm staying with Maggie until the 27th. We're going to her sister's tomorrow, remember? I told you that, too."
From where he stood, John couldn't see his friend's expression; he was glad he couldn't. Pulling his gaze away, he walked to the door.
"I have my mobile, if you need anything..."
Sherlock scoffed, but didn't turn to him.
"Why would I need anything from you?"
It hurt, but John knew he deserved it. Clearly, both his attitude and now his running away were upsetting Sherlock. He pictured him in tiger form, and it was almost enough to make him drop the wine and offer to get some Chinese take-away. But he couldn't stand Maggie up now – and he wasn't gay, for God's sake! It must be the whole cat issue. Yes, he decided quickly, that was it. Except that it didn't make up for abandoning Sherlock on Christmas Eve.
But last year had been such a fiasco... John shook his head.
"No reason. Merry Christmas, Sherlock."
He went up to his room to get the present and left 221B Baker Street to the sound of a violin melody. We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When he was sure John was out of earshot, Sherlock dropped his act and put the instrument back into its case, giving in to his sulk. Now he knew how serious the matter truly was. If John considered him a threat to his sexuality and manliness or God knows what, he'd marry the first woman he'd meet – Maggie, perhaps – and leave 221B for good. Sherlock ignored the pang in his chest and frowned. He couldn't permit it.
The whole issue was ridiculous to begin with. Slumping back into his chair, he looked at the old hat morosely.
"You've been abandoned too, haven't you?" he said with a pout, poking it.
He'd been happy to get a case on Christmas. Lestrade was away on his honeymoon – the third one; when would he get it? – but Molly had called Sherlock this morning about a strange man who had bumped into her on the street, completely panicked, looking around for pursuers, leaving her with the Christmas goosehe was holding to run off in a hurry, his hat falling in the process without him noticing, or at least bothering to retrieve it. She had seen no pursuer and had found the matter so puzzling that she thought it might interest the detective. While she had him on the phone, she invited him over for Christmas dinner. She planned to cook the goose.
Sherlock had been befuddled at first, then somewhat touched. Then he had remembered the previous Christmas they'd shared and wondered if Molly would ever give up. She'd had a boyfriend or two this year, but ithad never become serious. In any case, Sherlock was to spend the evening and the night with John, so he had to decline. He realized now his tone must have been suggestive again, as John would put it, for she hadn't invited the both of them over, but had just wished him a merry Christmas. She had still come to give him the hat and even let him inspect the dead goose: nothing special, white with a black bar on its tail. Molly hadn't stayed long. Maybe he should have been a bit more welcoming. But then again, he wasn't interested in the slightest, even if he found Molly overly kind, funny and reliable. Moreover, John had told him not to get her hopes up if he didn't intend to have a proper relationship with her – at which point Sherlock had stared, eyes wide, until John had broken into a fit of giggles, realizing the absurdity of his remark. As if Sherlock would ever consider having a "proper relationship" with anyone.
He clicked his tongue, annoyed. What had he done wrong? Was John really upset about the waking up nude in his arms? He hadn't even been in his arms, he'd fallen off the couch. Sherlock's lips curved up at the memory. John had been so funny and adorable, even in human form. It'd been worth it, really.
Really? What if he leaves? His face fell. This was ridiculous. Why would John leave just because he couldn't deal with his own sexuality? On second thought, it seems to be a fairly common reason for ordinary people, Sherlock thought moodily. His brow clouded. What could he do? He didn't want to lose his only friend just because said friend didn't know how to cope with his hormonal needs.
But was that really all? John wasn't so young anymore. He might want to marry and build a family, and not spend his life stuck with a mad detective who almost had them blown up every once in a while. Sherlock pouted. Would his wife then see him in manul form too? What would she do? Would they cuddle?
He stood up abruptly, unnerved. This was absurd. And unfair. He had done nothing to deserve being left behind on Christmas Eve just because John was avoiding him. Sherlock didn't care about Christmas – at all. But John did. And the fact that he'd be ready to spend it with a woman he'd just met in order not to spend it with his flatmate was significant enough. Why did he have to burst into Sherlock's life if only to recoil and leave him shrouded in his solitude again?
Not that Sherlock needed John. He didn't need him at all. He'd just got used to his presence, which saturated the whole flat and seemed to follow him everywhere even when John wasn't by his side. He'd replaced the skull quite effectively indeed: he had got under Sherlock's skin even more thoroughly than his silent, grinning friend on the mantelpiece.
Shivering, Sherlock decided to light a fire. He went to change in his pyjamas and dressing gown, and came back to sit in front of the fireplace. It was still snowing outside, the air ringing with Christmas carols. He shrugged. The holiday made no difference to the Work. But he'd deduced everything he could from the old battered hat already, and could only wait until morning to continue his investigation of the man running wildly around London with a goose.
He lay down on the couch and wished John hadn't hidden – or even thrown away, perhaps – his Union Jack pillow. Sherlock liked it. He'd got it from one of his first clients. Furthermore, it now reminded him of John.
And why would I want to be reminded of John? he thought, confused. He blinked, then shrugged it off. It didn't matter. John was an idiot who didn't seem to be able to come to terms with himself. That's not true, and you know it. Sherlock frowned. Fine. If it only resulted in scaring John away, he'd stop the cuddling during transformation days, he'd try to limit physical contact as much as possible – but they never even touched much. What Sherlock missed most was the intimacy, the knowing smiles, the shared giggles, the banter, and the remaining 16 items on the list of What John Does That Is good. He couldn't have that with the skull.
Slowly, he drowsed off on the couch. There was nothing better to do.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"Cheers! And a Merry Christmas!"
Glasses clinked against each other, and John smiled, trying to look cheerful. Trying to admire Maggie's beautiful red dress, which outlined her form perfectly, and not of Sherlock's hideous blue dressing gown, in which the bastard still managed to look handsome. Trying to enjoy the delicious meal his girlfriend had prepared, and not to wonder if his flatmate had eaten at all today. Trying to sound as excited as Maggie about going to her sister's, saying he was looking forward to meeting her, and not thinking of Sherlock chasing criminals around recklessly all by himself while he was away.
Trying, trying, trying... and failing.
"You know, I found something funny in the goose when I cut it."
"Oh, really?" God, that must be the hundredth time I've said that tonight.
"Yes! I think it might even be valuable. I'm sure this can't be my sister's, though – it looks too precious."
She got up and came back with a blue gem. John's eyes widened. It truly did look precious and snapped him out of his musing about Sherlock... though not for long.
"You said you found this inside the goose?" he asked, disbelieving. She nodded.
"Weird, isn't it? I thought it might be a puzzle that might amuse your funny friend, too." She smiled. It wasn't particularly mocking, but John didn't like it and felt as if she were deriding his friend.
"I think it might, yes," he replied a bit stiffly.
The evening went on, lovely and perfect. And yet nothing felt right.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When Sherlock woke up the next morning, he was surprised at first to find himself lying on the couch. He didn't usually bother to lie down to sleep, but when he did, he did so in his own room and not in the living-room. Not that John would mind, he was sure, but...
John. Right. Whining, he rolled and decided he wasn't yet ready to get up and face the flat, gloomily empty on a Christmas day. There was still the hat, but the hat could wait – well, the owner of the hat would wait anyway. A single man, labouring class, certainly couldn't go away for Christmas. Sherlock would probably find him within the day and inquire about the troublesome goose.
That was when his eye caught a glimpse of yellow fur with black stripes. He groaned. Not again.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
John helped Maggie put her luggage in the car and stood back as she shut the trunk. She turned to him, smiling brightly.
"Let's go, then!" She noticed that he hadn't handed her his own bag and arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "Why didn't you–"
"I'm sorry, Maggie. I don't think I can come."
John shifted a bit on his feet, awkward.
"Sherlock hasn't been answering my texts at all today and I–"
"So what? He's an adult, John! He can take care of himself. Can't you even stay away from him for a week-end?"
"Yes it is! When he texts you to come, you always go, and when he doesn't, you go because you find it suspicious that he hasn't texted you! Don't you realize how ridiculous this is?"
"I'm sorry, but I told you. This is Sherlock, and considering his job and personality anything could have–"
"Fine. Then I have to congratulate you. You almost lasted twenty hours."
"Leave it. I'm too angry with you right now to discuss things properly. We'll talk when I come back."
She got into her car, slamming the door, and drove away, leaving John with his bag on the pavement.
He sighed. How did he always manage to upset both parties? Because he knew Sherlock would be sulking anyway when he saw him enter the flat – or maybe jubilant, considering he'd won out over the girlfriend and her sister in the countryside. Certainly not grateful, and even if sherlock were happy to see him, he wouldn't allow himself to show it in any way. Still, it was with a sense of relief that he hailed a cab and said: "221 Baker Street, please!"
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock had been roaming around the flat all morning, trying to occupy himself. He found there wasn't much he could do in this form without John around. John, or anyone else, he corrected himself. Just someone to help out – prepare some tea, spread case files on his bed, cuddle on the couch... No. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. This was dull. Really dull. With nobody around, it wasn't entertaining in the slightest.
Being as how he was so bored, Sherlock decided to experiment. And since he couldn't possibly manipulate anything as a tiger to work on his usual research, he ended up experimenting on himself. First of all, he wondered if the saying about cats hating water were true and whether a tiger could be considered a big cat in that respect. To test the theory, he took a shower. He made a mess of the bathroom, spreading water everywhere: turning it on and off wasn't an entirely straightforward task with paws. Then he realized he didn't even have a towel ready, and was stuck, soaking wet, in a nearly-flooded bathroom. Soon he began to chill, and decided it didn't matter if he tracked the wet about even further. He went to his room and opened the cupboard by pulling the handle with his teeth. He got out towels and spread them on the floor, rolling on them vigorously to help sop the water out of his coat.
The shower hadn't been a very good idea. He was still cold and wet, and he found that a tiger's fur wouldn't dry by just rolling on towels. With a groan, he slumped back onto the towels in dismay until he was sprawled flat on the floor of his room, legs wide apart. I must look like a carpet, he mused. The thought was absurd and it depressed him even more. Why did he have to transform today of all days? John wasn't even around, and with such big, cumbersome paws, there was no way he could answer his texts to whine and tell him to come back because he'd turned into a stupid tiger.
Sherlock was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't register the door to their living-room being opened. He started when he heard John's voice.
"Sherlock! I'm back earlier than I expected. Are you here?"
Sherlock blinked, then rolled his eyes. John truly was an idiot, talking to an empty flat. The detective had never understood why people announced themselves to emptiness, thinking someone might be home. It was such a waste of words, really. Why not wait until they were face to face with the person? They must be either stupid or lazy. Or both.
The tiger tried to ignore the fluttery feeling he got as he heard John come closer down the corridor, cursing as he saw the flooded bathroom, picking up his pace, pushing the door open...
"Sherlock," John said, his eyes coming to rest on the wet, shivering, wholly pitiful form sprawled on the floor. The tiger tried to look haughty and imposing – quite in vain.
John felt a wave of guilt and compassion hit him like a bucket of cold water, and he tried to hide his pained gaze from Sherlock.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he murmured. Sherlock snorted in disdain: even John must have been aware that a tiger could hardly type to send a text.
John walked up to his friend and knelt down, wrapping his arms around the big, soaked cat, not caring at all that it would dampen his clothes. Sherlock started and stiffened at first, but then allowed himself to relax into the embrace.
"I've been an idiot. I'm sorry," John said.
Sherlock nuzzled up to him to signify his pleasure. He realized he wouldn't mind remaining a tiger, if it meant John would continue holding him that way, never leaving his side.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Illustration by Ami-Cat
Chapter 5: Somewhere over the rainbow
A/N: Slightly longer chapter this time round! And a cliffie, but you'll love me for it ;) Hope you enjoy! As always, reviewers are loved :))
Many thanks to BritChick101 and to Salsify for betaing this chapter.
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Somewhere over the rainbow
In the first-floor room of 221B Baker Street, a man was blowing hot air from a hair dryer onto a very wet tiger, who was sitting obediently on a towel spread on the floor.
"Really, Sherlock... I know tigers enjoy bathing, but couldn't you have waited until you turned back into human form and had hands?"
The tiger emitted a grumble and sulked. He already felt ridiculous; now he was rather mortified to be reminded by John of all people of something he should have known – that tigers likedwater. Of course he'd known it. He just hadn't thought and had gone to do the first thing he'd thought of because boredom was positively killing him without John around. You take away my knowledge of the inconsequential when you're not here, Sherlock mused moodily. Why do I need to take up my hard-drive with tigers and manuls at all?
"Hey. Stop sulking already," John chided fondly, a smile playing on his lips as he blew warm air on the tiger's fluffy face. Sherlock grimaced, wrinkling his nose and shutting his eyes tightly. His pout was so adorable John felt the urge to kiss him between the eyes. And he did, before he knew what he was doing, startling Sherlock. Tigers don't blush, and Sherlock was so morose and frustrated already that the kiss could hardly add to the embarrassment he felt in front of his flatmate. On second thoughts, though, he could better put with being seen like this by John than by anyone else.
John on the other hand could blush, and did, suddenly turning his head to avoid his friend's indignant expression. God, Sherlock blinking in confused vulnerability just made him want to kiss him again. The poor doctor shook his head quickly, desperately trying to dispel the thought. He turned off the hair dryer.
"There. You're all dry and fluffy now."
Sherlock stared, and John froze. Did I just call Sherlock "fluffy"? His cheeks burnt up and he fled the room under Sherlock's mocking sneers. Reaching the kitchen, he tried to adopt a dignified, military stance, and to ignore the fact that he found even a bloody sniggering tiger endearing.
Said endearing tiger joined him and jumped on a kitchen chair, observing the ex-soldier closely. He felt that John owed him a whole afternoon – and possibly the evening and night as well – of cuddling, but he was well aware that the situation was still rather delicate. His friend had come back to him because he was worried. Sherlock made a mental note that if he ever wanted John to run to his side no matter how important what he was doing was, he should just stop answering his texts.
He scoffed. As if what John had been doing had been important. He'd only just met the stupid girlfriend and he was already meeting her family? Her sister, a voice corrected in his brain, but he was so aggrieved he paid it no heed. Sure, John had met Mycroft not even a day after their first meeting, but he'd been kidnapped, which was entirely different.
"What are you still brooding about?" John suddenly interrupted him, putting two mugs of tea on the table between them. Sherlock felt a warm sense of home replace his pique.
He grinned broadly at his flatmate, Cheshire cat-like, and John chuckled. Sherlock's facial expressions were priceless at any time – but as a tiger, they were just too much. Too much indeed... A shiver ran down his spine and he shrugged. Maybe Sherlock had been right; maybe he just liked cats and had never realized.
"Should we get a cat?"
Sherlock blinked, trying but failing to make sense of this latest conversational direction. He arched an eyebrow perplexedly, and John felt very silly.
"Sorry, don't know what I'm saying," he mumbled.
Obviously, tiger-Sherlock thought, and John averted his eyes to avoid his friend's hilarious contemptuous-feline-look, contemplation of which would only lead to more teasing or hugs.
"So... What do you want to do today?"
Sherlock's eyes widened in amazement at the question, and John scoffed.
"Oh, don't look at me that way. I can be considerate even while you're a tiger."
The consulting detective smirked and thought that grumpy-John, whether in manul form or in human form, was definitely in his top five favourite expressions he'd ever seen his flatmate wear. And since when have you been doing a top five?
The tiger snapped back from his musings and glanced at the old battered hat still lying on the living-room table. John stood up, mug in hand, and walked towards the hat to see what it was. He chuckled.
"Decided to change your press image a bit?"
Sherlock scowled, looking offended, then sent John an obvious look.
"A case? You mean this old rag of a hat is a case?"
The tiger nodded gravely, and John ruffled the top of his head.
"Don't try to look so serious. It really doesn't fit a tiger," he teased, in payback for all the remarks he suffered when he was a manul. "So what do you want to do? You can't exactly tell me about the case, unless you have a case file somewhere."
Sherlock went to pick up his mobile with his teeth and bring it to his friend. John took it, tilting his head with a puzzled expression, and sent the tiger a questionning look. Sherlock forgave him his slowness because John-tilting-his-head was also in his top five.
Look at the history, he thought fervently, as if he could communicate the idea by repeating it emphatically in his own mind. John looked at the phone, scanning all the unanswered texts he'd sent, and abruptly said in surprise:
"Oh, you've got a text from Molly. Would you like me to read it to you?"
Sherlock nodded furiously. John sent him one of his "sometimes-I-really-think-you're-crazy" looks (top ten) before he started reading:
" 'Hello Sherlock. Merry Christmas! So did you find the man with the goose? :) Well, he doesn't have it anymore, I guess ;) ~molly' "
John frowned slightly, bemused; then out of the blue: "Maggie found something weird while cooking yesterday."
Sherlock glared. He hadn't forgiven the doctor for abandoning him yet, especially for a woman he'd met not even a month before. John petted him between the ears in an attempt to assuage him, but Sherlock turned away sullenly. John shrugged briefly, regretting the loss of contact, before continuing:
"It was a blue gem. She found it in a goose – think it's got anything to do with Molly's "goose man"?"
He took the gem out of his pocket and instead of showing it to Sherlock, he put it on the table so the tiger would be lured back closer to him to look at it. Sherlock did come back, and John went back to petting him casually, a wide smile spreading on his face when Sherlock, too engrossed in studying the gem, did not rebuff him. John was ridiculously happy, obviously a silly response when he should have been annoyed with his infuriating flatmate who'd decided to turn into a bloody tiger on Christmas day and ruin his romantic weekend in the countryside. Still, all he felt was an immense sense of relief and a great deal of fondness.
Both are most probably linked, yes, the tiger conceded. Then he turned his gaze to John and waited. When John didn't seem to get the message, he glanced at the phone, and blinked. John looked at the phone, then at Sherlock. Finally, he asked:
"You want me to call Molly to get the details I missed?"
The tiger nodded. You certainly took your time. John scowled, but didn't complain and complied, dialling Molly's number.
"Hi! Molly. Yes, it's John. I'm fine. We're fine. Merry Christmas to you too. Look, Sherlock just ran off talking about a goose– he was in a hurry and didn't tell me much about it, but I gathered he got the case from you. Um. Yes, well... care to tell me a bit more about it?"
John listened to Molly's explanations and his face froze when she said she'd invited Sherlock over yesterday night, but naturally he'd refused, telling her that he was to spend Christmas Eve with John. Molly laughed a little nervously, and said something like 'I didn't know things had got serious between you two', but John was too consumed with guilt to correct her. So Sherlock had refused an invitation just in order to spend the evening with him and he had stood him up at the last minute. What kind of friend was he? Wait, that's not exactly it, he suddenly realized. Sherlock hadn't listened to him the previous week when John had told him that he was to go away for Christmas Eve with Maggie and would only be back on the 27th. It wasn't his fault if the detective hadn't remembered and had turned Molly down and, truth be told, John doubted Sherlock would've accepted Molly's offer, even if he had known that John wasn't going to be around. He had no real reason to be feeling so guilty.
"Mm? Yes, sorry Molly, I was just... Anyway, so you cooked that goose and you found nothing weird in it? No, I mean, something unusual, like a gem or some sort of jewel?"
Sherlock could make out Molly's puzzled tone over the phone and snorted. John, John... such a stupid question. Of course Molly hadn't found anything in the goose, it wouldn't make sense. The man who had the goose, on the other hand, and his pursuers, probably thought that there was a gem – the gem – in it. But it had been in Maggie's goose. Now, the real question was–
"All right. Well, I'll get back to you once I've found Sherlock and he's figured everything out. Yes. Thank you, Molly. Yes. Merry Christmas."
He hung up and sent Sherlock look of regretful dismay. Sherlock rolled his eyes, and then, since John's expression wasn't changing, glowered heatedly.
Look, we don't have time for this. Now call Maggie and ask her where she bought that goose of hers – that's probably where the key to mystery lies!
But John was too absorbed in his confounding thoughts about his flatmate to pay attention. So Sherlock went up to him and nuzzled the palm of his hand, deciding that a bite was unfortunately too risky – he didn't want John to finish the day in hospital. Especially since John wouldn't want to bring him along, and he'd just be left all alone – again. Startled out of his musing, John looked at the tiger, and a tender smile lit up his face. Sherlock stared.
I know, I'm being sweet; now could we please focus on the case?
John played with the tiger's ear absent-mindedly. Sherlock was considering biting him after all, when the doctor suddenly said:
"But I don't get it. Maggie said she got the goose from her sister. How could both birds be related?"
How indeed? Sherlock wondered, but his eyes were sparkling. He cocked hi fluffy head at John, giving him an adorable mien that he knew his friend couldn't resist. Please let's go there?
For once, John got the message just fine. He grimaced, even though he felt himself melting already.
"I can't take you to Maggie's sister's place! Hell, I can't even go there myself after the fight we had – because of you, just so you know. Besides, you're still a bloody tiger, in case you've forgotten."
Sherlock scoffed and walked away, deciding to sulk in a corner of the room. Or possibly on the couch, as it was more comfortable. John sat at the table in silence. Eventually, he said:
"Either way, we can't go there as long as you're a tiger. But I know her address, and we've got the gem. We can always go there incognito once you've transformed back."
The tiger stared a few seconds, wondering if John seriously thought that they'd be able to remain incognitovery long – it was certain that poor Maggie would complain about them to her sister, and said sister would surely recognize them the moment they walked in. Sherlock was about to work on figuring out how to convey that thought to his friend, when he realized it wasn't necessary: if John really wanted to save his relationship with Maggie, Sherlock could always go to the sister's alone and leave John in the hotel. He was confident enough in his acting skills: if he didn't want to be recognized, he wouldn't be. The same couldn't be said for John, but again, if he really wanted to come, Sherlock would gladly let him spoil his relationship with Maggie irreversibly.
"I can check whether there's a train going there tomorrow morning if you'd like, but that shouldn't be a problem. In the meanwhile, I'm afraid we're stuck here."
Sherlock gave him a sullen look and tried to ignored the fluttery feeling in his chest at John's words. We're stuck here. "We", he'd said, not "You".
"Yep. There's a train tomorrow morning at nine. Then eleven. We'd have to stay at the hotel or a B&B and rent a car, because she really lives in the countryside. Why do your cases always cost so much money? And this one isn't going to bring in anything, if I'm correctly understanding the situation."
Wrong. Whoever lost that gem, I'm sure they'll be quite grateful we found it for them. Speaking of which...
Sherlock jumped off the couch and went to get the latest newspaper, which he brought to John's knees, mewling – another thing he knew John could hardly resist. The doctor blushed visibly and looked away, taking the newspaper and opening it.
"Right. Looking for someone who was robbed of a gem in the past few days, yeah?"
Sherlock smiled almost proudly, enjoying how they could be on the same wavelength sometimes and understand each other perfectly without a word.
John was still scanning the papers and Sherlock was lazing around the room when they heard the door downstairs. They froze. It was Mrs. Hudson's steps on the staircase, and all at once, it was a frenzy.
"Hide!" John hissed, panicked.
Their landlady burst into the living-room just as Sherlock jumped and crouched behind the sofa.
"Oh, hello dear, isn't Sherlock with you? I thought I heard you talking."
"I was just on the phone," John lied smoothly, but she didn't seem convinced. "Merry Christmas!" he added joyfully, giving her a hug. "Weren't you supposed to be at your sister's?"
"Weren't you supposed to be at your girlfriend's?" she retorted, a knowing spark in her eyes. John stammered.
"I... We... Well, you see..."
"Oh, it doesn't matter to me, dear. I'm sure Sherlock is delighted. Where has he gone off to on Christmas? Don't tell me he's got a case."
She headed for the kitchen and walked dangerously close to Sherlock, who lowered himself even closer to the floor. But at the last moment Mrs. Hudson turned and began:
"Oh by the way John, do you–"
She froze, then blinked, and only then did she cry out. John groaned, burying his face in his hands and rubbing his temples.
"Look, this is just–"
"A tiger! It's a tiger! I told you I didn't want Sherlock to keep it! Oh dear, oh dear..."
She didn't seem overly scared – only very worried that this would get them into trouble.
"Why did I ever come back early? The kids were making such a ruckus there, but it had slipped my mind that I had such children out here too."
"Don't tell me there's been a tiger up here all this time!"
"No, please listen to me."
"Why, why must Sherlock always overdo things?"
The tiger whined, pouting, and John couldn't repress a chuckle.
"Mrs. Hudson, this isn't actually Sherlock's pet."
"Don't tell me he stole it from a zoo to experiment on it!"
"No. In fact–"
The tiger growled threateningly, baring his teeth to John. Don't tell her! Obviously she wouldn't believe you. Who would?
"Oh, don't give us that attitude, you overgrown moggie!"
Sherlock's eyes widened in surprise and he turned a disbelieving gaze to his landlady. She was pointing her finger at him with a motherly scowl.
"I know you must feel very out of place in a flat, but that's no reason to be so snappy – I'm sure Dr. Watson is taking very good care of you, so don't you even think about repaying him with a snarl!"
John burst out laughing at Sherlock's thunderstruck expression.
"You haven't been training him properly, dear," she told the ex-soldier as if having a tiger as a pet were like having a dog. "He seems awfully temperamental, doesn't he? Just like Sherlock."
"Well, you see–"
This time the tiger mewled pleadingly, begging him with his eyes. If John had seen the look, he would have completely lost it and done whatever Sherlock was asking of him. But he missed it, and went on:
"This isn't Sherlock's pet. It's Sherlock."
Mrs. Hudson stared at him. Worry filled her face.
"John, dear, are you all right?"
"I know this sounds crazy, but you must believe me. We're not keeping a tiger, and you can't call the zoo or the RSPCA or the police. This is Sherlock, and he'll be back to normal in the morning, I can assure you."
"Have you hit your head somewhere, dear?" she inquired, walking up to him and touching his brow, checking for a fever. John stepped back, becoming irritated.
"I'm fine! Listen, I'm not mad. I know it sounds mad, but it's the truth. Sherlock, please help me convince her instead of just sitting there like a lump."
Sherlock gave him an offended look and scoffed, turning his head haughtily and closing his eyes in contempt. Mrs. Hudson blinked, then glanced at John doubtfully.
"Sherlock!" he scolded, now clearly annoyed.
"Dear, I think it would truly be better if we called–"
"See? Did you hear that, Sherlock? If you keep being such a prick, I'll just let her call whoever she wants and they'll come and get you."
The tiger sent him a bored look. No you won't. You'd be too scared of what they'd do to me once I transform back. Perhaps John didn't get the full idea, but he obviously understood Sherlock wasn't taking him seriously. He sighed.
"Fine. I'll call Mycroft, then."
At this, the tiger jumped and sent him a horrified look. You wouldn't.
"Oh yes I would. You know I would."
From outraged, his expression soon became imploring. Don't call. I'll be good. John smiled smugly. He just loved that expression on Sherlock.
"Good. Come here."
The tiger obeyed grudgingly.
"Sit," John ordered.
Sherlock glowered at his flatmate, but complied.
"Now. How many years ago did you meet Mrs. Hudson?"
Sherlock sighed, manifestly sulking, but raised his paw and tapped the floor four times. Curious, he mused. It'd been a year already. A year since he'd met John.
"Did you insure that her husband was executed?"
"Oh dear..." Mrs. Hudson murmured as she sat down into a chair, her legs giving way.
The tiger nodded.
"Really? You didn't stop his execution?"
Sherlock shook his head in annoyance. You're making me look like an idiot, John. I hope you realize.
John did realize, but didn't care. All he could see was that Sherlock was being obedient, and it was so refreshingly unusual that he enjoyed it greatly.
I'm not a dog, Sherlock whined, but it came out as a growl and startled Mrs. Hudson.
"Sherlock," John said, a warning in his voice. "You know, that scowl may get stuck on your face forever if you don't stop it."
The tiger just glared, and didn't stop scowling. Chuckling, John knelt down and wrapped his arms around him, rubbing his cheek against his warm fur, stroking his back. Sherlock kept frowning for a few seconds, before a soft purr resonated in the room.
"Oh dear..." Mrs. Hudson repeated, and John thought she'd say something like 'Now I know it's not Sherlock.' "Now I know it's Sherlock," she commented.
Both John and the tiger frozer.
"Well, of course. As much as I might believe you capable of taming such a beast, I don't think anyone but Sherlock would feel so strongly against Mycroft and so positively about you."
The boys stared at her, then at each other. Sherlock was embarrassed and averted his eyes, but John broke into a fit of giggles.
"Surely no tiger would be so terrified of Big Brother," he concurred.
I'm not terrified! Sherlock snarled in displeasure.
"Now, now... Be good. I'll give you a treat. Speaking of which, have you eaten at all in the past two days?"
And that's your treat? the tiger scoffed. Mrs. Hudson looked appalled.
"And why shouldn't he have? Have you been away for so long?" she asked, as if it were perfectly obvious to her as well that Sherlock wouldn't eat if John weren't around to remind him to.
John's ears reddened and he looked away, feeling a bit like he'd been caught red-handed.
"No, I just left yesterday, but I haven't been home much lately."
Mrs. Hudson didn't say anything futher but the look she sent the doctor was clearly oneof rebuke. She got up and walked to the door.
"Well, either way, I expect this tiger to have disappeared from the house tomorrow morning, young man. And please don't make a racket tonight – I've had a long day, and I intend to go to sleep early."
"Wait! You didn't tell us why you came back so early."
She gave him a somewhat wistful smile, but her expression quickly turned cheerful again.
"Well, I was there for Christmas Eve and for today's lunch. That's quite enough, don't you think? Besides, I couldn't leave one of my boys all alone for Christmas, could I?" She winked and then was gone. John watched the door she'd just closed, speechless, then turned to Sherlock. "This woman's a treasure, I tell you. A treasure. She really does care about you."
The tiger pouted. Unlike a certain someone.
John gave him a look.
"Come on. I'll fix something for you to eat and then we can watch crap telly. I think they're playing one of the James Bonds."
Sherlock scowled. Didn't we already have a "Bond night"? I've had quite enough, thank you. But John ignored him and went to prepare some of the red meat he'd found in the freezer.
"Did you buy that in advance for one of your transformation days?" he asked, dumbfounded to find real food in the flat for once.
The tiger just nodded, not bothering to specify that he'd bought it for manul-John, and not for himself.
And so John fed Sherlock and made him watch crap telly with him for the rest of the afternoon and the evening. Sherlock didn't complain too much, for he enjoyed the petting and the general pampering. He'd thought he should keep his distance at first, sitting on the other end of the couch, not nuzzling John's hand for caresses. But quickly the doctor himself had started to stroke him, probably unwittingly at first. He'd relished the strokes and savoured how naturally John had started to pet him again, as if he'd never stopped – as if he hadn't been avoiding him for the past few weeks.
Sherlock was dozing off already when John suddenly stretched and said.
"Well, I'm going to bed. Should I leave the telly on for you?"
The tiger blinked in surprise, and John misunderstood. He shook his head, smiling.
"Right. Why am I even asking?"
He turned the telly off and got up from the couch. Sherlock sent him a forlorn, pitiful look, and for a second he thought John would give in: he seemed very sorry – and very tempted.
"No, don't give me that look. I don't want to wake up in the morning with a naked man in my arms. Even if it's you." Especially if it's you, he added mentally, leaning in and kissing the big cat on the brow. "Goodnight, Sherlock."
The tiger watched him leave and slouched back onto the couch depressedly. Well, it wasn't too bad, he mused. John had come back. He'd dried him and fed him – even if that meant little to Sherlock, John had still taken the trouble for him, this time, – he'd stayed with him and petted him most of the day. Nonetheless, the detective hadn't expected his friend to suddenly flee to his room and leave him to spend the night alone.
And why should it be any other way? Flatmates don't cuddle. Only couples do. Sherlock groaned morosely. Then we should just be a couple, he concluded, completely oblivious to the implications of such a concept. He fell asleep in the living-room, lulled by those rather foreign thoughts.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When Sherlock woke up the next morning, he had a definite sense of déjà vu. The silent flat, the couch... the paws. He whimpered. Why?
Feeling entitled to wake John up and whine about the situation, he stretched and stood lazily, pushed the door of their living-room and walked up the steps to John's room. He'd thought at first of just bursting in, but remembering how he wound up the last time he was so daring, he settled for a discreet rattle at the door. No answer. Frowning, he insisted a bit, then growled and, slapping himself mentally, mewled. To no avail. Sherlock had never been a very patient man, and being a tiger didn't change that at all. Eventually he got tired of it and pushed the door open.
He popped his head into the room and didn't see anything at first. Then he did see, and froze. A wide grin spread on his face.
Oh, today was going to be fun.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Art by Ami-Cat
Chapter 6: Way up high
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz and by Salsify. All my thanks!
Illustration by MakaniValur
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
… Way up high...
Sherlock had never been a very patient man, and being a tiger didn't change the fact. Eventually he got tired of it and pushed the door open.
He popped his head into the room and didn't see anything at first. Then he did see, and froze. A wide grin spread on his face.
Oh, today was going to be fun.
Curled up under his sheets, his breathing regular, John was sleeping peacefully. In manul form. Very quietly, Sherlock entered the room and walked up to the bed, glad for once that he had paws which stifled the sound of his steps. Luckily, the wooden floor in John's room did not creak.
Sherlock felt very much like jumping on the bed to spoon and cuddle until John woke up in shock. But then it was very likely that the doctor would sulk all day, and there would be no more cuddling. Sherlock paused suddenly.
What was wrong with him? A few seconds ago he was upset and frustrated with the situation because he'd planned on taking the train this morning to work on the goose and gem case and couldn't now that he was a tiger: he would be stuck in 221B all day. But merely by discovering his friend sleeping in manul form, his mood had changed drastically and he was now quite excited to be spending the day home after all. John was smaller than him even as a human, but as a cat he was just so tiny, it was...
No. Stop right here. Since when was he so obsessed with cuddling and adorableness and other nonsense? Since John turned into a Pallas cat, he retorted to himself in perfect seriousness, as if such a thing were completely normal. And why did it matter, really? Sherlock had always felt rather awkward with his lanky body, his too long limbs, his eerie blue eyes, his skin so white it was almost cadaverous. A shiver of distaste ran down his spine. Who would want to cuddle with that? And Sherlock himself would hardly feel comfortable doing so. But as a tiger? Admittedly it wasn't very practical for transport; it could be, were society not so stupid and liable to be frightened by the very sight of an unconfined tiger. For that matter, John was much luckier: he could just pass for a very weird house cat, and roam the city, spy on people, or even break into flats unnoticed.
A chuckle escaped Sherlock's lips as John scratched his nose with his paw in his sleep, furrowing his fluffy brow comically, his flat face puffing. All right, so maybe he wouldn't exactly go unnoticed. Still, he was more discreet than a tiger, although he certainly couldn't hold a gun in cat form. Sherlock's face broke into a grin at the mental image. It was so silly but hilarious nonetheless.
Stepping closer, he rested his head on the mattress to study his flatmate's features in more details. Cute was a surprisingly difficult concept to define. In his mind, it had always been associated to ridiculous and senseless, so rather pejoratively connoted. But there was nothing pejorative about the cuteness in manul-John. Yet the word cute had automatically popped up when he'd seen him the first time. Okay, maybe not the first time. The first concept that had come to his mind might have been weird or absurd. But it had made him laugh – something that wasn't easily done. Sherlock had never been one to break out laughing freely and openly. He was discreet, of course, but still: seeing John like this gave him a distinct sense of joy and mirth, so simple yet so vibrant. It wasn't the same thrill that cases provided him with, naturally; yet it somehow dispelled the boredom.
John wasn't as ordinary as he seemed on the face of it. In fact, what was truly extraordinary was that he only seemed ordinary. Sherlock had been bemused the day he'd played with the mad cabbie – when he'd been blathering to Lestrade about the man who'd killed, well, the killer. His gaze had been caught by the figure of John Watson: his common, overly normal, nondescript figure waiting by the yellow line like a good citizen, hands behind his back, looking around as if he'd just got there and was waiting for his new flatmate to tell him all about what had just happened. Apparently average, characterless John Hamish Watson, who'd just shot a man and saved his life.
Maybe. There was no telling what the safe pill was, Sherlock thought grumpily. I might have been right. In any case, that had been quite a blow. John wasn't a killer – he missed the war, there was no doubt about that, but he certainly didn't miss killing. Strong moral principles, nerves of steel... Indeed. Except Sherlock hadn't even thought of him while portraying the shooter. This was brilliant. John Watson had managed to surprise him within the first thirty-six hours of their acquaintance. He could have been just a possible flatmate among others. Well, except that there weren't many others in the first place. But he was a possible flatmate who could very well have been able to put up with him – and regardless of his obliviousness for such matters, Sherlock was well aware he wasn't an easy person to live with. And someone Sherlock could deal with too, which wasn't to be taken for granted, either. And now, he had even proved to be more than just worthy of interest. Sherlock had been thrilled.
The tiger started a little as John stirred in his sleep, whimpering softly. Sherlock blinked, and his face broke into his Cheshire cat grin. That was it. The tiger added a paw next to his head and tentatively crept up towards the manul's wrinkled and plushy face. A few more inches...
John's eyes snapped open. At first, everything he saw was too blurry to make sense, but when it became clear that he was face to face with a tiger's head and a ridiculously huge paw, he yowled and wriggled out of the sheets in panic, looking for his gun... which he found he couldn't grasp. The tiger was having a fit of giggles. John remembered that this was Sherlock and that he couldn't shoot him anyway, and that if he wouldn't grab his gun, it could only mean that...
He raised his paws to look at them and what was intended as a swearword came out as a squeal. He whined in despair. Sherlock, on the other hand, was enjoying the show greatly. John was so amusingly flustered, his gaze roaming around the room in dramatic despondency, wondering if this was a nightmare. Hoping it was. Then he met Sherlock's eyes and he glared, as if the detective were responsible for their current state. The tiger tilted his head innocently to the side, and the manul pouted before rolling and lying on his other side, burying his head into the pillow. I am not getting up. I am just not. Actually, I even refuse to wake up. Let me sleep this off.
Since John was obviously sulking already, Sherlock thought he couldn't do much more harm if he were to jump on the bed and curl up around the smaller cat in an attempt at spooning. So he did. John jolted and mewled protestingly. They rolled on the mattress, fighting – the manul answering the tiger's playful touch with teeth and claws, then suddenly realizing it and recoiling in remorseful fright.
Sorry. Didn't intend to scratch you. Are you all right? He brought his smaller paw to the tiger's just-scratched nose, and rubbed it in an attempt at soothing. Sherlock considered telling him to stop fussing, and that his well-intended gesture was just making it worse, but John soon seemed to realize this himself and jumped back in mortification. Definitely blushing, Sherlock thought, even though the manul's cheeks couldn't redden, although they did puff up some more. It made Sherlock want to kiss them. What?
John moaned pitifully and lay flat on the bed, decidedly not ready to face this day. Sherlock is a tiger. Why is he still a tiger? Why am I a manul? Why, why, why... He looked so doleful that Sherlock started to feel bad for him. It couldn't be helped, though. Sherlock himself would have surely not taken the matter so lightly, had he been the smaller of the two felines. They both had quite a bit of pride.
So the consulting detective curled up on himself, lying on the mattress next to his friend and flatmate, careful not to touch him. Even if it was quite endearing and Sherlock enjoyed how comical John appeared to him, he didn't want to spend the whole day stuck in the flat with a sulking manul. Confessedly, he could overpower him easily, but since the last time he was rather disinclined to resort to sheer strength. Sherlock was a creature of the brain, and he feared that if he could hurt John while a human, he would be even more likely to do so as a cat.
Squash him even more, probably, he mused, and the thought elicited an unintended chuckle. John turned his frowning face to the tiger, but the sparkle in Sherlock's eyes was so genuine, so far from the snicker he'd expected, that he felt himself melt. Sherlock noticed, and extended his paw in a peace-seeking gesture. John stared at the paw, then up to the tiger's eyes, and at the paw again. Finally he extended his paw as well, aiming to put it on Sherlock's and seal the deal. Except that his leg was much, much shorter... and didn't make it to the extended paw. John blinked in disbelief and his eyes widened in embarrassment. His humiliation was now complete. Sherlock felt very much like giggling crazily, so silly was the whole situation. But he wisely decided against it and instead came closer to the poor manul until their paws touched. The contact snapped John out of his petrification and kindled a stifled pule from him. Seeing that it wasn't enough, Sherlock flattened until his head was on the same level as John's paw and nuzzled it.
See? Stop feeling so idiotically inferior all the time. John couldn't hear the words, but got the message. He felt stupid for acting so miffed that early in the morning. Lowering himself, he rested his brow against Sherlock's, closing his eyes so as not to think about it too much. Sorry. Breakfast?
John wasn't sure Sherlock could read his thoughts. But perhaps he did, for the tiger stood up, grinning, and jumped off the bed to walk to the door. John followed him nimbly and found his body wasn't as clumsy as he'd thought.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Naturally, once they'd reached the kitchen, they realized that they couldn't possibly prepare breakfast with their paws. They exchanged a troubled glance, and Sherlock had to stop himself from snickering – he personally did not care much for breakfast anyway.
John, who blamed Sherlock for all of it anyway, blew into his whiskers in frustration. Turning to his friend, he said:
"Why didn't you turn back? And why did you make me turn into a manul?"
Which came out as something like:
"Meow! Meow meow meow meooow!"
He gaped, appalled at the sound he'd just made, and this time Sherlock broke into a fit of giggles. John puffed his cheeks sullenly, which only fed the tiger's laughter. The offended cat was about to turn away and retire to his room for the day when finally Sherlock pulled himself together. Sagely, he did not try to speak, and instead pointed towards the door and the flat below.
We should get Mrs. Hudson. Then pointing to himself. I can go if you want.
John waved his paws frenetically.
You can't go! What if someone comes in? You're a bloody tiger, you idiot!
Sherlock pouted. But at least she'd recognize me. She doesn't know you're a–
But John didn't even stay to try to understand him. He walked to the door and waited for Sherlock to open it for him. A little vexed to have been ignored, Sherlock snorted and turned away. But John didn't even look at him, and kept waiting. Ever the soldier's nerves, Sherlock mused before giving in and pushing the door open. John rushed downstairs, and froze in front of the door. He had only two choices, and both were blows to his pride: either he could mewl until Mrs. Hudson heard him, or he could scratch at the door. He picked the latter, while Sherlock sniggered on the first floor. A minute later, they heard footsteps rushing to the door, and it opened on their landlady. She blinked, surprised not to see anyone, before her eyes fell to the floor and she saw... well, the manul.
"Ooh. You're John's pet, aren't you?"
Sherlock giggled helplessly, catching Mrs. Hudson's attention.
"Oh. I see. So you're not John's pet. You are–"
Hearing the doorbell, she paused abruptly and went to open the door.
"Hello, Mrs. Hudson," Lestrade said, nodding to the landlady in greeting.
John gulped and decided it was better to shut his mouth. He froze on the spot, straight and stiff, his stance military, and his eyes glanced up at Sherlock to check that the mad genius had had the sense to run and hide. He was relieved to see that he had.
"Hello, Detective Inspector," replied with a smile. "It's nice to see you again, but I'm afraid Sherlock isn't in, if that's why you came."
"Really?" he asked, eyeing the weird cat on the floor suspiciously.
"Yes. They left yesterday for a case a client had brought them – I think they went to the countryside."
"Oh well, I had no idea... Sherlock isn't answering his phone, but then again, when does he?" He chuckled, still glancing at the frozen cat at his feet.
"Indeed, Detective Inspector," Mrs. Hudson replied, noticing the glances and leaning down to pick John up. The manul didn't dare refuse and tried to behave like an ordinary housecat, albeit a bit heavier. But Mrs. Hudson did not wince as his weight came onto her dodgy hip, and went on: "Why don't you give me the details of the case you came for? If they come back today, I can tell them all about it."
"That's very kind of you, but I'm already breaking so many rules just talking to Sherlock. And now there's even John..."
The manul furrowed his brow and Lestrade blinked, unsettled.
"What is that thing?" he finally asked, unable to ignore the strange animal in her arms any longer. "Is that a cat?"
Hidden behind the door at the top of the stairs, Sherlock had a very hard time not to laugh. John glared venomously and Lestrade recoiled.
"What the... seriously, isn't that an awfully weird-looking cat?"
At this, John flinched, and Sherlock stopped laughing. Mrs. Hudson scowled slightly.
"It is my cat," she said coldly. Lestrade's face fell and he spluttered:
"I'm sorry, I didn't–"
"That's quite all right. So, that case you came for?"
"Yes. Well, it hasn't made it to the media yet – that's why I need to ask you to keep it to yourself." Mrs. Hudson glared, and Lestrade coughed once nervously before continuing somewhat precipitously, "It appears that a jewel has been stolen from the Countess of Morcar in her hotel."
John froze and Sherlock suddenly pricked his ears.
"It's a blue gem she was particularly fond of," Lestrade went on. "We've been looking for it for two days – to no avail. I was hoping Sherlock would help, even if there hasn't been a murder."
"I see. Well, I will be sure to tell them when they come back. If it is really urgent, you may want to try to contact Dr. Watson – he at least would answer."
Sherlock snorted as Lestrade exchanged a knowing smile with the landlady.
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. Have a very nice day! And sorry for, um, insulting your cat."
Off he went, and as soon as the door was closed, Mrs. Hudson let out a sigh of relief. She looked at the struggling cat in her arms that was clearly growing ever more irritated, and she tried to pet away the fluffy scowl.
"Oh, don't make that face, dear. You're not horrendous at all! You're a very handsome feline, with your beautiful fur and your striped tail. And have you seen how well-drawn your face is? All those black stripes and circles around your eyes. Here. See?"
She held him up against her chest in front of the mirror hanging in her corridor. John blinked, astonished at the unexpected wave of compliments. He stared at his own reflection curiously, and studied his features. It was true that it wasn't so bad. He'd even realized that morning that he wasn't really as clumsy as he looked. Just like me, he thought grumpily, before remembering that it was him. Still, he remained a weird fluffy cat while Sherlock got to turn into an impressive tiger. It was all so unfair. But when has life ever been?
Up the stairs, Sherlock rolled his eyes and snorted at the scene, slinking back into the flat in distaste. It was the first time someone other than him got to pet John, and he found he didn't like it.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Mrs. Hudson came up and prepared breakfast for her two troublesome renters. She put the kettle to boil and made toast with whichever spread and jam the two wanted, remarking every once in a while: "Not your housekeeper..."
Sherlock was sprawled on the couch, his posture regal, and waited until Mrs. Hudson brought him his coffee there. The infuriating tiger still managed to take the mug between his two paws to drink in a human-like manner. John, on the other hand, had to sit on one of the kitchen chairs, his two front paws on the table and lap his tea from a bowl. He was trying to communicate to dear Mrs. Hudson that he couldn't possibly eat a whole slice of toast without it being cut to pieces when Sherlock, growing bored alone in the living-room, entered the kitchen. Taking the scene in, he went to a drawer and pulled it open with his teeth. Carefully picking a knife up between the points of two of his very sharp teeth, he carried it to their landlady. She started a bit, but then understood, and finally cut the toast into smaller morcels.
"Oh boys, how in the world did you end up both transforming into cats?" Sherlock frowned slightly at being called a cat but did not object. He himself was trying to find an answer to that question. Because while one day might chase away the boredom, two would be too much. Beyond that, he didn't even want to consider the ramifications of spending the rest of his life as a tiger. It would be terrible: no murders, no chasing around London, no cases, no Work... It would be disastrous. Admittedly, he'd have John. But John could as well do as a cat. He could roam around, and what he could do as a man – being stolen by some woman to build a family and other such nonsense – he could well do as a feline. London certainly wasn't lacking in females. Sherlock didn't realize the absurdity of his considerations, or that John would never run off with a cat; but it motivated him nonetheless to find a way for them to turn back as soon as possible. Ideally, before tomorrow morning, so they could take the train and finally get on with that goose and gem case, now that they even had a client. So to speak.
"You're being awfully quiet, Sherlock. Is anything wrong?" John asked the tiger.
Both Mrs. Hudson and John were turned to look at him and he blinked. Nothing was wrong. Except that he'd prefer her hands to be farther away from John's plushy fur. He pouted. Taking his sullen look the wrong way, the good landlady shook her head, walked up to him with a smile, and started petting him.
"Here. You're a good tiger. You're handsome too, but you know that already so stop sulking. Hmm?"
Sherlock frowned and was about to edge away from the unwanted touch – he never liked anyone crowding his personal space too much. John was an exception. The exception.
But then it occurred to him. John. Would it, conversely, annoy John as well, if he were to let Mrs. Hudson pamper him? It was worth a try. Observing his flatmate from the corner of his eyes, he smiled up sweetly at his landlady and purred.
John did get unnerved.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"No! Sandra! Don't leave me!"
"I've had enough. You can have this back."
John sighed in despair. Why was crap telly even crappier today, when they were stuck in the flat?
Because the worst programmes are always in the afternoon, Sherlock retorted mentally, as he put his last paw into the fourth bucket of water he'd placed on a towel in the middle of their living-room. John turned to him and watched jadedly.
Sherlock had spent the whole morning on the couch with him, making obvious efforts not to snap at the telly – and less obvious efforts not to snuggle up to his flatmate. Then they'd had some bacon that Mrs. Hudson had prepared for their lunch – well, John had had some bacon, and Sherlock had laughed at him eating it from the plate. But then the infuriating detective had thought it smart to keep experimenting on his own body. John found the idea utterly moronic, but at least it occupied Sherloc, and he was less likely to return to the couch to go on tempting him with cuddling. John, having little inclination himself to touch, completely failed to observe that Sherlock's experiments were designed only to prevent said cuddling and had nothing to do with whiling away the time.
Presently he was curious to see what a very low-voltage electricity jolt would do to his body – hence the four water buckets. Since he wasn't sure of the outcome of the experiment, he'd decided to stay in the living-room. When John finally realized what he was doing, the hair on his back stood straight up and he leaped off the couch to run over. He jumped on time to startle the tiger out of his experiment and made him stumble, fall flat on his fac and splatter water all over the floor. Sherlock yelped in protest, but John bit his nose to silence him.
Are you insane?! You could kill yourself!
Don't be daft, John! I knew perfectly what I was doing.
John seethed. The tiger frowned and couldn't think of anything better to do to wipe away the scowl on the manul's puffed up face than to lap it up. John shrieked and jumped back, falling off the tiger into the water flowing across the floor. He mewled pitifully. Sherlock chuckled and picked up the poor cat by the scruff of his neck, like a mother picking up her kitten. He carried him to the bathroom where he wrapped him up in a dry towel. John squealed and struggled at first, but once he was surrounded by the softness and warmth of the towel, he stopped complaining and Sherlock even thought he heard a quiet purr.
I'm sorry. I'll clean the living-room, he tried to signify to the manul, nuzzling up against his paw through the bath towel. He picked up another towel and went back to their living to wipe their floor. It wasn't an easy task, and he couldn't fathom why John had done something so stupid – but he was nonetheless gratified to have seen him so panicked for his sake.
If John had been paying attention to his experimenting, then it meant the television had become boring. Sherlock frowned. Didn't John usually like to watch television? Yes, but not five hours in a row, he amended. What did John usually do when he was home? He read the newspaper, but it was a little difficult for cats to turn the pages. Maybe John, with his smaller paws, could manage, though. That was an idea. What else? The detective's eyes scanned the room and stopped on the laptop. Of course. Jubilant, he finished mopping the water up and ran to his room.
John saw him rushing past the bathroom door and wondered what had got into him. He realized he missed his voice – their voices, in fact; both his own and his flatmate's. They could remain silent for hours while in the same room, but at least they knew they could talk to each other. What if we can never speak again? he wondered gloomily. He could hear Sherlock rummaging about in his room, and for the umpteenth time today wondered what could have possibly happened for the both of them to turn into felines. What was different from yesterday? Why hadn't at least Sherlock turned back into a man?
His pondering was interrupted by Sherlock rushing back the other way. John's curiosity piqued, he hastily followed, unaware of the comical sight he presented: crawling bath towel with an exotic, fluffy face.
He joined the tiger in the living-room, surprised to see that he had indeed cleaned up both the spilt water and the four buckets. Sherlock was currently plugging something into John's laptop and trying to open it by nuzzling between the keyboard and the screen. The manul gaped at the unusual scene and chuckled. Sherlock could truly be adorable in tiger form. Only in tiger form, of course, he added quickly, so as to fight back the I'm-falling-in-love-with-my-male-flatmate theory. Naturally, John didn't even want to think that he'd fallen already.
He walked up closer to the tiger just as the latter finally succeeded in opening the laptop without damaging it. Sherlock stepped aside so John would see the KinderBoard, with the largest keys Sherlock had managed to find online. The keys were colour-coded to teach by character set – and it was originally designed for children with vision or motor-skill impairment. Well. John didn't need to know that, did he?
Sherlock looked excitedly at the manul to see whether he was pleased or not. John was more than pleased. His pupils sparkled endearingly and he blinked, disbelieving. He wasn't sure what made him happier: that he could finally do something of his day, or that Sherlock had been so thoughtful just for him (the tiger's paws were much too big even for this keyboard). It didn't take him long to be sure, though. Grinning widely up at his flatmate, gave him a dazzling smile that, on a his heavily furred face, came off slightly more alarming than the Cheshire Cat's. Sherlock smiled back, feeling something bubbling in his chest. He brushed it off as excitement and joy at seeing his friend so happy. And since when have you been excited to make anyone happy? Since you have friends, murmured a voice in the recesses of his mind.
But Sherlock was too busy watching John jump onto the table and examine the keyboard with wonder to pay attention to it. Jubilant, he pressed the ON button, entered his password, and used the mouse (not realizing the irony) to open a text document. He typed, still with some difficulty, but successfully, at his own pace: THANK YOU
Sherlock sent him a boyish grin. Then something crossed his mind. He put his own paw on John's, and moved it over the keyboard, pressing the desired keys. After thirty seconds or so, a sentence finally formed on the screen: I THINK I KNOW WHY I DIDN'T TRANFORM BACK. John turned a hopeful gaze on him. DO YOU KNOW HOW WE CAN TURN BACK?
It was a little arduous typing this way at first, but John was starting to get it and was faster than his flatmate. He did, however, greatly enjoy the feeling of the huge paws guiding him along the keys, and for once he felt needed. Sherlock couldn't type. John was necessary for him to express his thoughts: no matter how much they might act out or vocalize, as animals they could not express proper thoughts and form full sentences. Thanks to the keyboard, they now could – but the smaller paws of the manul were indispensable, a welcome contrast to the uselessness that John most hated.
Sherlock was noticing all that, and was very content about it. To see John feeling useless was one of the things he hated the most – when he noticed. Most of the time, he didn't even realize his partner was feeling overlooked and worthless in comparison to the detective. With John's helped, he typed: YES. WE MUST CUDDLE.
John blinked and thought he'd got it wrong, but then he saw Sherlock's grave stare and broke into a fit of giggles. You can't be serious! Sherlock pouted, and waited until the snickering manul stopped laughing at him. He tried not to feel too offended, and instead moved the smaller paws over the keys again. IT IS THE ONLY THING WE ALWAYS DO AND THAT WE DID NOT DO YESTERDAY.
This made John quiet down and stop to think about it. The observation was true, of course – but still, it didn't make much sense that they would have to cuddle to turn back into humans. Yet he found the idea rather alluring, as it gave him a good excuse to spend the night with tiger-Sherlock again – something he'd regretted not doing the previous night, but hadn't been able to bring himself to do because he'd suddenly felt very self-conscious. But now that he too was in cat form, he didn't mind it so much.
Well, at least he could ignore the whole issue for the night.
And so, repressing a smile, he typed: OK. He did not actually believe that this would make them human again, but if they had to spend the night like this, it was surely better to be together. Perfectly logical conclusion, wasn't it? And somewhere in his mind, he thought that perhaps Sherlock didn't believe it would work either, and maybe, maybe, just wanted to cuddle, too. What am I thinking? This is Sherlock. Sherlock, for God's sake!
But Sherlock did believe in his theory. Consequently, he decided that it would be wiser for them to cuddle up on a bed this time, and not on a couch where John would be sure to fall and wake up on the floor. So once John had eaten dinner – some more bacon – Sherlock simply pushed open the door to the staircase and held it for his flatmate. John automatically followed, unaware of his friend's satisfied smirk as he passed.
Once they were in John's room, and without making him beg for it this time, Sherlock picked John up and put him gently onto the mattress before joining him gleefully. They snuggled under the sheets and blanket, and nestled, the manul resting against the warm and fluffy chest of the tiger. Since he did not really believe in his flatmate's theory, it didn't cross John's mind that they might wake up as two very naked men embracing; and so he fell asleep peacefully, purring softly.
It did cross Sherlock's mind, but he did not see the problem. And so he too fell asleep peacefully, purring not so softly.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Illustration by Kakusho
Chapter 7: There's a land that I've heard of...
A/N: Sorry for the wait, guys! I've been busy with requests for Sherlock Holmes Week on DeviantArt – the stories have been posted here as well, if you're interested :) - so I haven't been able to update as much as usual! But now it should be regular again, so don't hate me for the cliffie ;) Hope you enjoy this chapter – and as always... all reviewers are loved! :D ~¤Zoffoli
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
… There's a land that I've heard of...
When he awoke in the morning, Sherlock was surprised to wake up in a bed – a piece of furniture he didn't use much, for he never slept a lot at night - and on top of that, one that wasn't his own. Then he saw John's naked form under the sheet beside him, and everything came back to him all at once: the double transformation, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, the failed experiment in the living-room, the keyboard... He blinked, and held his hand in front of his eyes, checking that it wasn't round and yellow and covered with fur.
A triumphant grin spread across his face. He had been right! Cuddling had been the answer.
That just sounded utterly stupid, he thought.
Shifting a bit so as to have a better view on his flatmate, he observed him with curiosity. The sheet only covered his body up to the waist, so the first thing the consulting detective noticed was, obviously, the scar from the bullet wound. Anyone would have sincerely admitted that it was an ugly thing to see, except a lover perhaps, who would have found it the most beautiful scar in the world.
Sherlock, who was neither anyone nor a lover, just studied it closely. The scar was a hypertrophic one, with keloids: the tissues had taken the form of red bubbles surrounded by rubbery growths, giving it a rather angry and disgusting aspect. Sherlock found it neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but only memorized mechanically the shape, the colour, every cluster of scar tissue and collagen fibre... He memorized all of it, as if it had been some useful London backstreet map which would come in handy in a chase. He even felt the urge to touch it, to palpate it, in order to remember the feel and the texture of it as well... The more data, the better. Why? a small voice whispered in his mind. How could such data be of any relevance?
Well, he mused in all seriousness, because it's John, naturally. Wasn't it obvious that everything concerning the doctor would be, by definition, relevant?
For the first time, too, he realized how long John's nose was. To be fair, he had never cared enough to pay attention to it before. "Long nose" didn't mean anything, it could not help to make any applicable deduction. Sherlock was not presently being deductive, though: he was only observing, and accumulating information, almost automatically. But he also started to make some judgements, which was a much more dangerous thing.
He indeed noted that he liked John's skin. Admittedly, he hadn't touched it, and certainly wouldn't for fear of waking John up. But he liked the roughness of it, the very slight tan, the not so well-shaven chin... Of course, John hadn't had time to shave the previous morning, since he had turned into a manul...
Sherlock chuckled softly as he pictured the fluffy cat attempting to shave his overly plushy face, and the doctor groaned in his sleep. Sherlock froze, persuaded that he'd been too noisy and had managed to wake his flatmate, but John only stirred and did not open his eyes. The detective repressed a sigh of relief, then blinked in fascination as he saw a tuft emerging from John's morning hair. It was funny, he mused. His friend hadn't moved too much during the night, and there had been no nightmare that would have caused agitation. Yet his hair was dishevelled, and now that he'd turned Sherlock could make out on his cheek the mark of a sheet fold. It was so endearingly comical the taller man couldn't help it and this time, just had to touch.
Reaching out his hand slowly, he was about to brush the entertainingly mesmerizing tuft of hair when suddenly John's eyes snapped open and Sherlock stopped his move in mid-air, staring in shock: not so much at John waking, but at himself, for wanting to touch his hair because it was funny...
"Us. In your room," Sherlock replied matter-of-factly, casually removing his hand. Then, since John seemed frozen on the spot, he deemed necessary to specify: "In 221B, Baker Street."
"What the hell are you doing in my bed, Sherl..."
It seemed to suddenly dawn on him, for he fell silent and gaped, mortification filling his face.
"Sorry. I'm sorry. I... I forgot. Just... oh, damn this, it's barely morning..." he moaned as he buried his face into the pillow, refusing to get up – or to acknowledge their current situation.
"Indeed. It is, thankfully, just morning. We still have time to get to Brixton."
"Brixton?" John mumbled from his pillow.
"Yes, Brixton," Sherlock repeated impatiently. "You know, you girlfriend's sister's place?"
At the words, John jumped.
"Right. Maggie..." Then, at Sherlock, suspiciously: "What were you trying to do with your hand?"
Sherlock blinked, nonplussed by his flatmate's incoherence and by how annoyingly cute he found that damn tuft on his groggy head.
"I was about to wake you up", he lied smoothly. "The sooner we get there, the better, after all."
And he stood up to stress his point, stretching. John looked up, but averted his gaze just as soon, confused by the effect Sherlock just stretching had on him. The poor doctor fell back, grumbling something incomprehensible.
"What?" Sherlock asked.
"You don't need me, do you?" John repeated lethargically.
Sherlock frowned. "You don't want to come?"
"It's not that I don't..."
John jolted as his friend sat back on the mattress and tried to pull him out of bed.
"What are... Don't touch me!"
Sherlock stopped dead, and stood back stiffly. Realizing his blunder too late, John slapped himself mentally, and tried to make up for it.
"Of course I want to come. I'll be right down."
Then he became aware that this was just another way to convey 'get out', and felt like hitting his head against the bedpost. I'm such an idiot.
"I'll see you downstairs in ten minutes, then," Sherlock interrupted curtly, before turning and leaving the room.
John effectively hit his head against the bedpost. Then he noticed Sherlock had gone with the sheet, and felt like hitting him instead.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The cab ride was quiet. The train ride was even worse. The bond John and Sherlock shared was one that usually allowed them to spend comfortable silence together, Sherlock thinking or experimenting, John reading or typing. But this wasn't one of those intimate moments of theirs. The air was heavy with unresolved tension. Sherlock did not appear to be thinking, but on the contrary, seemed to be trying very hard not to. He was staring jadedly at the scenery, a slight pout on his mouth, which gave him an aristocratic air. John, on the other hand, was trying very hard to think.
Ever since his fight with Maggie – and could that even be called a fight? She was the one who had just snapped at him... Then again, he'd done nothing to make it better... – John had been racking his brain and trying to figure out the situation. He was evidently falling in love with Sherlock – but not quite there yet, hopefully. Hopefully? Well, yes, hopefully. Because Sherlock wasn't a good person to fall in love with. Not that he wasn't gorgeous and fascinating and vibrant and just so damn addictive. But he just wasn't interested. And according to John, that was something to be respected. The detective seemed to be surprisingly fond of cats, though – of manuls only, perhaps, most likely because they were ridiculous, and so it boosted his ego. But John couldn't possibly remain as a cat forever just to get the cuddles and the hugs. Moreover, he must admit he liked to pet Sherlock too. An entire existence of snuggling wouldn't be satisfying. John needed it all. The thrill of the chases, the easiness of the clinic, the fun of the blog... He didn't want to spend his whole life as a weird, fluffy cat.
But you'll get to sleep with Sherlock every night... whispered an evil little voice. You'll get to see him all the time, even when he strips or dresses up, when he showers... think of all the possibilities... Soon he found himself goggling like an idiot, and smashed his face into the windowpane to get some sense back into his brain. John Watson, you're becoming mad, raving mad... Then, as an afterthought: Such an existence would be hell: I couldn't even touch him like I'd surely want to.
As realization about what he'd just thought dawned on him, he blanched. What he'd surely want to do? And what would that be? Certainly, he couldn't possibly consider having s... He couldn't even formulate the word in his own mind. He looked up at his partner with some curiosity in his eyes. Sherlock wasn't handsome. His features were rather angular and pointy. The protuberant cheekbones could resemble that of a skull, and the pearly whiteness of the skin could be considered quite cadaverous. The eyes were so blue they were eerie, and the lips too fleshy for such a face. Yet, John couldn't deny the attraction. Perhaps the eyes were scary, in an ethereal kind of way: but they were no doubt mesmerizing, and John found himself entranced by them. He loved how they twinkled for the most peculiar reasons (a fourth victim, a challenging criminal... and, more recently, a weird plushy cat in the flat), how demanding they were of him, when Sherlock asked a question or just checked if he was following: it felt as if the clear pupils were sucking his soul in. And even if it was frightening, we all know how the ex-soldier felt about danger... Then there was the skin: pale, indeed, all the more so as Sherlock wore mostly black, and dark coloured shirt, making him look rather undertaker-like... or like some old high nobility lord who never left his castle, and never exposed himself to sunrays. Either way, it only made him come out more on the street, John thought. Sherlock's stance, his gait, his gestures,his deep voice, all of this contributed to the classy image, and not to the vampire-freakish one. Sherlock looked like a twelve year-old that had grown too fast, not like some Halloween monster. A twelve year old? John thought with shock. Then what does that make me? Since when am I attracted to twelve year old males?
Well, that was something else, too... Sherlock was a man. John averted his gaze and fixed it on the scenery like his friend. The detective had been especially cold since the morning. John knew he'd been tactless when he'd rejected his touch so bluntly, almost violently... But Sherlock didn't understand. John wasn't gay, of that he was sure. ...he wasn't gay, right? He loved women, and never had any feelings, even the most basic, the most feral, for a man. Even towards Sherlock, he didn't... It's not like he felt the urge to shove him against a wall and take him then and there. The whole thought seemed utterly absurd to him, even if it made him blush in shame to actually picture it on a train with Sherlock sitting in front of him. But it wasn't out of lust. It wasn't sex, he thought; only that he wanted to possess the man completely. To envelop the porcelain body and never allow it to break. To stroke and play with the black curls, kiss the white face and perhaps make it pinker...
Flustered by his own musing, John blushed and looked away, grimacing in disgust. He was despicable. Sherlock was sitting there innocently, obviously still upset from his rash reaction in the morning, and here he was, imagining he could kiss him... Sherlock's cold eyes met his, and his blush deepened as he avoided the icy stare. He stood no chance, absolutely no chance: he should really give it up after all.
Or find a way to remain a manul forever, so at least he'll get the hugs. Appalled at this recurring thought of his, John groaned and pressed his brow against the window in despair, hoping the coldness of the glass would bring some sense back to his overheated brain.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The train ride turned to be hell for Sherlock. After the tensely quiet cab ride, he thought things couldn't possibly get worse, but he was soon proven wrong. John had looked horrified in the morning when he'd rejected his touch, but now, as he glanced at him not so discreetly, apparently very deep in unpleasant thoughts, he looked positively disgusted. Sherlock had never felt like he was particularly attractive, of course – being called Freak every once in a while helped to remind him that he was nothing like the perfect prince charming figure of the fairy tales – but he didn't know anyone could find him physically repulsive. Usually, people hated him for what he was, not for what he looked like. And it was clear that John couldn't possible be repelled by his personality – if he had been, he would have been long gone.
Sherlock had never identified himself with any hero from a picture book or a film as a child – in fact, he had never identified himself with any character at all, because the identification process required a capacity to sympathize, and that was something he did not quite possess. Not in the way others understood it anyway. In any case, he had never believed nor hoped, even as a boy, that he would grow to obtain a world full of sweetness and light. For one thing, he did not care much for sweetness and light. Furthermore, such a world did not exist, and if it ever did, it would undoubtedly bore him to death, like the stupid lullabies the nannies used to sing to him to try to make him fall asleep (usually they were the ones falling asleep, exhausted, in the process...): Sherlock kept asking what this or that meant, why in the world there would be anything behind a rainbow, which was just an optical effect that could be explained with simple physics, and why, why, why... Most often than not, they got tired of it – and of him – and so gave up on the lullabies, leaving him to himself in the dark, with nothing but his own devices to find a way to fall asleep.
But even then, Sherlock did not imagine his ideal world full of happiness – what he wished he would have some day. This wasn't something he could hope to get. He knew he was too weird, too out of place – too special, perhaps – to get anything like the other people did. Something as fluffy and warm and meaningless as happiness was part of it. No one could define it scientifically, and it was a completely subjective matter. It was something stupid to seek, for sure. There were much better goals in life: thrill, for instance; jubilation, excitement, pride, gloating... Pretty much the same feeling under a different aspect every time, naturally, but still, that was something worth living for. That would chase the boredom away. Happiness was such a strange and empty concept – not empty in the "has been emptied" sense, but in the "without any definite content" sense. It was just fulfilment, some kind of lasting joy. Well, the thrill didn't last, but it was still worth it. Something as trite and void as happiness should not be bothered with.
Then there had come John and Sherlock had wondered if that couldn't possibly have been considered, perhaps, a chance at happiness: even when there was no case, when he was with John on a non-case day and his friend was in manul form, or he in tiger form, and he was being taken care of, or they were just cuddling and snuggling, it was somehow okay. There was no thrill, and no excitation whatsoever: Sherlock certainly did not feel fulfilled, but he did not crave the Work either, nor anything else more radical, like the terrible white powder... He felt... content, perhaps. Good, for sure. A little bit more than all right. Warm, and warmth was good, for some unfathomable reason – that kind of warmth that made you smile unwittingly. Sherlock found he enjoyed it greatly.
But then John had started to avoid him, and he should have understood. That he was clearly pushing him, and that someone like him, so cadaverous and lanky and probably repellent in the eyes of his friend, should not permit himself to be so touchy-feely. He had, very dumbly, got used to it. It was quite unfortunate, but most of all, very idiotic. He should have known. This wasn't only because John wasn't gay and was having personal issues as to his absolute straightness, but because he, as a human being, just did not have the same cuddle appeal as he had as a tiger. John had called him fluffy once. There was definitely nothing fluffy about him in human form. John liked his fur, and enjoyed nuzzling up to him: but was it so surprising that he wouldn't be so attracted by such a hairless, eerily white skin? Especially since Sherlock had such an angular body, nothing like that of a woman: no round, generous shapes where John could bury himself, just... bones, and skin, and tendons, and more bones...
No, Sherlock concluded and confirmed in his mind as he saw yet again a look of disgust on his partner's face while he averted his gaze to the window, shared warmth and lands beyond rainbows were not meant for him.
He was relieved when they finally got to the hotel.
"One room, please," John said. Then he turned crimson and faltered: "Two! I meant two..."
Sherlock eyed him suspiciously, wondering what could possibly be going on in his mind for him to make such a blunder, but he was quite fed up himself, and so brushed it off.
Once they had got their rooms, they met at the bar, and at last started to discuss the case at hand.
"So... Maggie should be leaving in the day," John began tentatively. "I guess it would be wiser to wait a bit, just to be sure..."
"Or I could just go, while you wait here. She doesn't know me."
"I've talked about you enough for her to recognize you right away, Sherlock."
The consulting detective rolled his eyes.
"Come on, John, you know how I work. You know how I act."
"Right. Still." He looked away. Sherlock stared at him intensely. All of a sudden, it dawned on him.
"You showed her a picture of me."
"You're an idiot."
"I could't have known... Oh, scratch this! How was I supposed to..."
"Nevermind. Tell me more about her."
"Maggie. Her family."
"Well... Her sister, Emily, has a farm and lives mainly from goose business. Don't snort, she seems to be quite well-off! She also has a bed and breakfast I think."
"Why didn't you say so before? We could've just stayed there."
"Maggie is probably still in, Sherlock."
"Right. Go on."
"Maggie has a brother, too, James. I'm not quite sure what he does, and I don't think Maggie knows much either. And as you know, Maggie is a public accountant."
"Of course not, John. I remember everything about your numerous girlfriends."
"They're not numer–"
"Have you met her brother?"
"James? No, why?"
"The man who dropped the goose as he ran into Molly at Covent Garden also dropped his hat... The hat is three years old, but a rather expensive type, so the man must have had money then, but not much since then, and so hasn't renewed his wardrobe. There is the possibility that he liked the hat, too, but since he did not pick it up, nor declared anything to the police – yes, I checked – it is highly doubtful. If you examine the lower part of the lining, you can conclude that he is middle-aged, his hair is grizzled, most likely recently cut, and he uses lime-cream."
Sherlock blinked, baffled. This was the first time John acted as if there was no point at all to his deductions. As if it was all fine and brilliant, but just useless rubbish. He stared in shock, not knowing what to say, not even finding the words to explain that it was in fact very useful, and that if Maggie's brother fit the description by any chance, then...
"Sherlock? Are you all right?"
"Fine. I'm fine. Let's order a cab to go to the sister's house this afternoon."
As he turned away, engrossed in his thoughts, the consulting detective did not notice the hurt gaze on his partner's face.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"Hello Ms. Oakshott, police, may I ask you a few questions?"
As he stood there in the entrance way, showing Lestrade's badge to poor Emily who couldn't fathom what someone from the Met was doing at her door, Sherlock looked as gorgeous as ever, John thought. As cold and distant, too. Much colder and much more distant, in fact, he rectified.
The look of shock and disbelief on his face when he'd ask him to expand on his deduction about the man with the goose was still engraved in the doctor's mind, and not as a good memory. Sherlock had looked at him a number of times already in such a way that made John feel like he was the most idiotic man on the surface of the earth. In fact, Sherlock sent such a look at most people. But in that specific gaze today, there had been something else. There had been disappointment, and like a sense of betrayal. As if John hadn't proved good enough. As if he hadn't been up to Sherlock's expectations. And that had hurt more than anything else in that already messed up day.
"Investigating a robbery?" Emily repeated dumbly, and only then did John realize a whole conversation had been going on while he was deep in thoughts. He coughed a little to regain some countenance, and straightened up. Maggie and him hadn't taken any picture together, so there was no reason Emily should know his face; yet John didn't feel quite comfortable in her house, and truly hoped his girlfriend had gone back to London already. He took the cup of coffee that was being offered to him and sat on the couch next to Sherlock.
"This is a classified case, and the victim insisted on our discretion. The media hasn't been informed yet, so you must understand I cannot reveal you much about it. I need to know to what provider you sell your geese in London."
"To Breckinridge at Covent Garden," she answered.
John glanced at Sherlock, hoping to exchange some kind of knowing look, but the detective was staring straight at Emily. The poor doctor repressed a sigh and took instead a sip of bitter black coffee.
"I see," Sherlock said. "And could you tell me, was there more than one goose that had a black bar on its tail?"
She tilted her head at the question, evidently surprised by the oddity of it.
"Indeed, now that you mention it. There were two. But I sold only one."
"What happened to the other?"
"I kept it for Christmas."
"Did you cook it yourself?"
She arched an eyebrow, perhaps considering such questions were private, but Sherlock looked D.I.-like enough to convince her, and she replied:
"No. I gave it to my sister who lives in London. She celebrated Christmas there with her new companion, and came here right afterwards – in fact, she just left this morning. I can give you her contact details, but I'm afraid she is in a terrible mood right now, and she might be a little... snappy."
"And why is that?" Sherlock inquired, smirking mentally, but showing a worried, compassionate expression to the sister, who appeared to be very touched by the concern. John stared at his friend, annoyed. Why was he insisting, when he knew perfectly why?
"Well... She had a fight with that horrible boyfriend of hers – a very silly man, if you want my opinion: he doesn't deserve her. I think he swings the other way, and she must think so too, but she refuses to acknowledge it."
Sherlock nodded gravely.
"That is a difficult situation, indeed. It must have been for you, too, to comfort her during a holiday that is supposed to be a happy time..."
Emily nodded timidly. John was flabbergasted by Sherlock's attitude. What was he thinking, being so considerate? It was almost suspicious – and by that he meant, not to him, who knew the insufferable detective personally, but even to an outsider. A D.I. doesn't usually sympathize so much with anyone, especially when it is not a family member of the victim of anything of the like. It was almost as if he were chatting her up... Stop it, he thought. Stop it right now. You're being ridiculous.
"In any case,", Emily continued, "she is quite irritated at the moment, but if you want to talk to her–"
"We can find her easily. Thank you very much for your time, Ms. Oakshott." Sherlock sent her a charming smile and she blushed. John's eyes widened. They all stood. "I hope everything turns out well for your sister, and you have a great holiday. Just, one last question: did you give a goose to anyone else?"
"I did intend to give one to my brother, James, since he was here a few days before Christmas, and was actually the one who brought the one to Maggie – my sister. But he said he didn't care much for it."
"And, is he still in London? Your brother."
"He is. However, he's coming back here tomorrow with his girlfriend Catherine."
"I see. Well, we might come by tomorrow to see him."
This seemed to frighten her slightly, for her brow darkened and she asked:
"Why would you want to see him?"
"Do not worry, Ms. Oakshott. It is just that you said he brought the goose to your sister, correct?"
"And since it is in that goose that your sister found a blue gem you omitted to mention..."
Emily brought a hand to her mouth.
"Dear God, is that the stolen item you were referring to? I thought it was a fake, just some kind of joke my brother played on h..."
"He couldn't have done it. My brother isn't a robber, Mr. Lestrade."
"I never said he was. But you understand I must talk to him."
She nodded stiffly, and forced a small smiled as she walked them to the door. Before going, Sherlock turned to her, and in a surge of false affection, took her by the shoulder gently and looked her in the eye:
"Do not worry, Ms. Oakshott. I will do everything I can to prove that your brother is not guilty of a crime he did not commit. You can trust me."
Emily's cheeks turned pink and John frowned, more and more nettled by the second.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"I hope I wasn't too much of a bother," John said dryly once they were back at the inn, in Sherlock's room.
The detective looked up at him in surprise.
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I don't know. You always do so well by yourself, and you were quite getting along with Emily."
"What is wrong with you?"
"With me? What is wrong with me, Sherlock?"
"Yes, I don't see the problem!"
"The problem is that I just sat there the whole time while you cajoled her and buttered her up!"
"She's our number one suspect's sister, John! Of course I was buttering her up, we don't want her helping him to get away now, do we?"
"Of course not," John replied bitterly, standing straight and stiff, hating Sherlock for being so oblivious, hating himself for being so foolishly jealous.
On the other hand, Sherlock was getting rather irritated with his flatmate's attitude, and thought it couldn't get worse anyway. And so as always when he was aggravated, he became vicious, and effectively did make the situation worse.
"Tell me, are you so unnerved because you think we could become brothers in law, or because you would've liked to do both sisters?" he inquired, his voice pitiless, laced with mordancy.
John just stood in shock, speechless in face of such an unfair attack. Sherlock felt a pang of guilt, but it was to late. Without a word, the doctor turned and left the room, not even slamming the door. Sherlock would've rather he had.
As he turned off all lights and sat in the armchair, not very hopeful to get any sleep tonight, he wondered how their day could have gone so wrong. When he had woken up in the morning, he had caught a glimpse of that strange land beyond the rainbow everyone talked about or aimed at one way or the other. When he'd seen John with that silly tuft of hair and his ridiculously peaceful sleeping face, it had been amusing and warm, and it been a pleasant feeling. A short-lived one, too, he mused gloomily. Now the room felt even colder than when John had left silently. Sherlock thought he'd had enough, and tried to occupy his mind with the case. But it was so overly simple it really wasn't enough to chase away the thought of John's disgusted look, of John's disappointed look, of John's hurt look. He almost wished he could turn into a tiger tonight just to see what John would do. Would he leave him to his own devices?
Sherlock sighed, and for lack of a better idea, decided to do what he used to resort to as a child when the governess had given up on him. The letter game, he called it. Now, it took much more time than when he was a child, because his mind palace was much wider. It didn't help him to sleep much anymore, but at least it could help him to stop thinking about something annoying and pointless.
A. Alibi. Then he browsed his mind palace for everything that had to do with alibi. It was a lot. Too much. So when he got tired of it, either he picked a word he had come up with during his search (cinema, abroad...), either he kept the same (alibi), and took the last letter of it: I. From there, he picked the very first word that popped up in his mind: imbroglio, and repeated the same mental exercise. There were many variants, such as choosing words that only began and ended with vowels, or only with dental consonants, words without an E, words that had at least three liquid consonants, etc. He could also refine the search and pick only words from a definite domain: botanic, geology, history of London...
He was startled out of his thoughts and looked at the time: 2.07A.M. He hadn't realized he'd been doing it for so long... The noise that had brought him back to reality was a repeated thump against his bedroom door, not exactly as if someone had been knocking, but certainly denoting some kind of presence. Puzzled, he slipped out of bed and walked up to the door. The noise kept resounding, relentless. Curious, he opened and looked... and blinked. For there was nothing to see. No one was standing in front of him, and he was met by emptiness.
Ignoring the sinking feeling and refusing to acknowledge the hope he'd had, he was about to close the door when suddenly he felt something brush against his leg, something soft and furry. He turned abruptly, just in time to make out a hairball jumping limply on his bed, and curling next to the pillows... He smiled unwittingly.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 8: Once in a lullaby
A/N: This chapter hasn't been betaed yet, and won't be until my beta is back from vacation... My apology for all remaining mistakes! Hope you enjoy reading, and as always, reviewers are loved :)
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
… Once in a lullaby
Tell me, are you so unnerved because you think we could become brothers in law, or because you would've liked to do both sisters?
"Damn him!" John cursed as he repressed the urge to slam the door to his room behind him, and fell into a chair.
He'd been foolish, but Sherlock had been obnoxious. John had seen the remorse in his eyes the moment the words had left his lips, but still it was so unfair an attack he hadn't wanted to stay one more second in the room, for fear of choking the insufferable man. Or of blurting out something idiotic and crazy, such as "I'm so unnerved because I'm stupidly falling in love with you, you git!"
Definitely not a good idea. He might have considered the choking option a bit more, though, he mused fiercely as he changed into his pyjamas for the night.
Perhaps he should just go on a vacation for some time, away from Baker Street. Sherlock hadn't even seemed to notice it when he had gone for couple of weeks in New Zealand, so that shouldn't be a problem. John would cool off a bit, and come back once all was in order in his head. And if he turned into a manul... Well. Perhaps Sherlock's cuddling theory wasn't complete, or did not always apply. It might have been just a coincidence. He would probably turn back into human form on his own, eventually... Right? And what about Sherlock?
Now, that was an idea. John grinned devilishly. If Sherlock were to turn into a tiger while he was away, he'd be quite troubled, and maybe would realize John's importance in his life. God, just to transform back? That's not even importance. It's usefulness. Oh well. Sherlock appeared to find him pretty useless, so usefulness was good enough, the doctor thought grimly. Maybe it was worth a try.
No, said the part of his brain that was still functioning. Just think: what would Sherlock do? What would he do? Well, he'd be bored, for sure. He'd whine and annoy Mrs. Hudson, most likely. And then... he would go out on his own, even as a tiger, perhaps at night, because staying all day in the flat doing nothing would drive him insane. If he found any interesting case, it'd be even worse, because he would surely end up investigating after all, regardless of his appearance. Sherlock was not stupid, but he was reckless, and he could do incredibly idiotic things if he got carried away – and John did not even want to think about the consequences.
No far away trip for me, then, he concluded with a sigh. He realized now what a difficult situation he was in – not that he hadn't been aware of it, but now the whole extent of it just hit him full force. If those absurd transformations kept going on, and Sherlock's ridiculous theory was right, John would never be able to live anywhere else than Baker Street, or very far from it. And if he did not live with Sherlock, they would have to find some way to contact the other during a transformation so they could... This was crazy. If he disappeared for an entire night every once in a while, his girlfriend or his wife or whoever he'd be having a family with, would no doubt found it suspicious, and think he had a mistress. And what could he say? "Sorry, darling, I never told you but I turn into a weird cat now and then and just won't transform back unless I spend the night snuggling with my ex-flatmate. Naturally there's nothing else between us."
...Right. He groaned and buried himself under the cover.
Eventually, he fell asleep, but when he awoke with a start for no apparent reason, he could not tell exactly at what point. He blinked, not quite remembering where he was. He could see a bed and a door and...
Wait. Why am I not sleeping on the bed? And why is the door so big?
John got a sinking feeling in his chest, and raised a hand before his eyes... only to see a paw. A miserable mewl resonated in the room, and he jumped, surprised by his own cry.
Why? Why me? Why does it always have to be me?
After the first reaction of bewilderment and despair came the annoyance. Then, John thought about the advantages of the situation, so as to forget the downsides of it.
It will annoy Sherlock, was his first realization. A good one, too. He wanted nothing more than to annoy Sherlock to no end right now. And surely turning into a manul while he was on a case... God, the case. Sherlock was on a case. He wouldn't want to be distracted. It was very likely he'd just shrug it off and... leave John to figure something out while he goes back to see Emily and meet the brother. No. I won't allow this. I can still get to him when I'm a manul, since he's so strangely fond of it.
As he jumped off the chair and walked up to the door, he became aware that he was never going to be able to open it: the handle was just too high, and... Oh. Something quite crazy just popped up in his mind, but presently he was desperate enough to try it out. Next to the door was a chest of drawers, from which he could try jumping to fall onto the handle, thus opening the door... A wide grin spread to his fluffy face, and he trotted up to the bed, on which he managed to jump after three or four failed attempts. Then he succeeded in jumping on the chest of drawers, but not without smashing into the wall first, which elicited a pitiful pule from the poor cat.
After he'd shaken his head to regain some sense, he rubbed his brow and couldn't believe he was going to do this because he was jealous of his girlfriend's sister. Jealous because of Sherlock... I'm an idiot. But then he's an idiot too. God, we're both idiots. He looked at the door handle. This is crazy.
He jumped .
...and missed. Cursing under his breath (which sounded more like he was moaning), he jumped on the bed again, then on the chest of drawers, took a deep breath, and... considered what he was doing for a second. I'm trying to open a door by jumping on the handle. Jumping on the handle, for God's sake! And all that for what?
...Cuddle with Sherlock all night. His eyes twinkled unwittingly, and a silly beam lit up his overly plushy face.
He jumped again.
...and missed, again.
After the fourth try, he finally did succeed in falling on the handle, and the door opened at last as he crashed to the floor with a yowl. But soon he was back on his paws, gloating, looking triumphantly at the wooden panel. Slowly, he crept out of the room and hesitantly groped his way to Sherlock's room – where he remembered Sherlock's room to be, anyway. Things looked quite different in the dark, and from a manul's perspective. Fortunately, in that respect, his cat eyes proved quite useful, and he made it safely to his partner's door.
Only then did he realize fully what situation he was in.
We've quarrelled. For sure, he must still be mad at me. He's never sleepy during cases anyway, and so he'll be too aware to want to cuddle... God, what am I saying? I'm not here to cuddle. I'm here to...
John froze. What did I come for again? He'd just wanted to irritate Sherlock at first, but then he was forced to admit he really only wanted to see him. This is ridiculous. I'll just go back to my room.
He was already walking away when he remembered the remorseful expression in Sherlock's eyes the moment he'd made that obnoxious comment about John and Maggie and Emily, and him wanting to have both sisters. He'd snapped, and said something horrible, which wasn't anything unusual for Sherlock, but... John couldn't help but think that it was his own fault somehow. Everything was going so well until the unfortunate remark "Don't touch me!" escaped his lips, and he regretted it right away. Perhaps he'd hurt Sherlock in some way, even if it was unbelievable because it was Sherlock for God's sake, and Sherlock did not get upset over such trifling matters. But now that he thought back on it, John realized how insulting it may have sounded, especially since they had just spent the night together... Snuggling, just snuggling, mind you, but still. Touching.
John paced for about ten minutes back and forth in front of Sherlock's door, not realizing that every time he was reducing the length of his steps, until he was basically just hovering around it tentatively, and it was just a matter of time before he got in.
...Before he got in. Right. How would he get in? He groaned in distress, and bemoaned the fact that he was such a small feline, so useless and so damn dependent - he couldn't even open a door! There was the mewling option, of course, but he was still angry with Sherlock and even if he wanted nothing more than jump into his arms right now, he would never admit it, even to himself, and even less mewl to gain access to the git's bed. And hands. And caresses.
Damn him. Damn this all.
Well, he could always scratch at the door, he mused. That was an idea. But it still seemed too pathetic a way to make his presence known, and he just did not want to beg. Not for this. And not Sherlock. The twat would be too happy about it.
He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not realize at one point that he was in fact walking straight towards the door, until he actually did walk into it and hit his head quite violently on the wooden panel. That was the first thump, and Sherlock didn't hear it, for he was still asleep. John, on the other hand, once he was done cursing and complaining about his own idiocy (in other words, hissing and meowing), thought it was a brilliant idea, and repeated the move several times, hoping to catch Sherlock's attention. It didn't cross his mind that his friend might be asleep, because it was a case day and Sherlock didn't sleep on case days – he barely ever slept, really. John greatly enjoyed the fact that Sherlock, whether in tiger-form or human-form (provided John himself was in manul-form), would sleep like a baby in his arms (or holding him) when they cuddled. As if it actually made the whole sleeping thing interesting to him, and fun enough to bother with.
As it was, though, Sherlock was sleeping, because he'd been trying so hard to turn his gigantic brain off for once, just to get rid of the looks John sent him during the day. When the door finally opened, John was too excited – and too anxious to hide his embarrassment, too – to notice the look of painful disappointment on Sherlock's face as he saw that no one was standing in front of the door. But soon the sense of loneliness was replaced by hope as the manul dashed off towards the bed, brushing against his friend's leg; John missed that too.
Sherlock turned abruptly as John made it to the bed, which, expectedly, was cold and hadn't been slept in. As he curled next to the pillows, he also missed the detective's unwitting smile.
Slowly, as if unsure whether he was dreaming this or not, Sherlock walked up to the bed and sat on it, observing John closely. The poor cat was trying to repress a shiver under the intense stare, and so shifted a bit to the side, so as to signify to his flatmate that he could lie down too. Sherlock obliged quite heartily.
He seemed surprised at first that John wasn't running around all panicked, as he usually did when he'd just found out that he'd transformed into a weird fluffy cat. But the doctor had been sleeping, and very much wanted to resume this in Sherlock's bed, possibly pressed against the detective's chest. He had the excuse that it was night time and wouldn't have to face things the next day: he could just blame it all on the sleepiness. Sherlock, on the other hand, appeared to be very much awake, and his lingering gaze on him prevented John from relaxing back into sleep.
Sherlock raised a hand and was reaching towards him when he suddenly froze and brought his hand back to his chest, a look of perplexity in his eyes. He just lowered his head onto the pillow and looked, fixedly. He seemed utterly lost, and quite frankly John found it refreshing, and relished the way he kept his eyes on him, but didn't dare touch.
The manul did, however, crave the touch, so after a few minutes of Sherlock's staring he got tired of it and moved imperceptibly closer. And closer. And closer, until his fur was almost brushing the detective's face. Sherlock might be quite oblivious sometimes, but he wasn't stupid, and a candid smile spread across his face. John had never been so glad cats could see so well in the dark.
This time, when the man reached out again towards the manul's fluffy form on his mattress, his gesture seemed more confident, and John quivered when he felt the hand on his back.
His back. He'd never thought of it that way, but obviously when they petted each other, it was as if they were caressing the other's body as a man. They were giving pleasure in the same way. Now John was ridiculously glad that humans did not have such a good night vision, because he was starting to become all flustered, picturing Sherlock stroking his hair when he was in fact just stroking his fur between the ears, picturing Sherlock fondling him when he was in truth only fondling a plushy cat... But really, John mused, who was he to complain? He was lucky enough that for some unfathomable reason, Sherlock appeared to like manuls enough to cuddle with them. Of course he couldn't expect him to do as much in human form, because he might feel awkward.
Really? Isn't that your problem, and not his? a little voice murmured in the back of his head. John frowned. It was true that he wasn't too keen to embrace Sherlock when they were both humans, for the obvious reason that he would be pushed away. But hadn't he been the one to push Sherlock away in the morning, and not in the most diplomatic manner either? Perhaps Sherlock wouldn't mind. He wasn't one to care much about appearance or what people said, right?
He was suddenly brought out of his thoughts by Sherlock picking him up and holding him closer, locking their eyes.
"Hey. What's on your mind?"
John blinked. He just pictured Sherlock at night in an inn, actually lying down on a bed and talking in all seriousness to a cat, and it was so absurd and silly he couldn't help but break into a fit of giggle – and a manul giggling sounded very much like a hen clucking, which only made the matter worse, since John heard himself laugh and was mortified. The fact that Sherlock would only hold him when he was a stupid, ugly but entertaining cat was really pathetic, but the fact that he knew it and still enjoyed the embrace and craved it was even more pathetic, to such an extent in fact that he kept laughing, and laughing, until his eyes were filled with tears out of laughter. Out of laughter only, of course. God, he must have been tired.
Sherlock seemed to notice something was slightly wrong, though, and instead of scowling at him thinking he was making fun of him, appeared to conclude too that John needed sleep badly.
"Just stop thinking already if it puts you in such a state, John. Sleep."
It was so much like Sherlock to order him around when he was in fact trying to be nice. So typical, John mused as he snuggled up closer into the embrace. But it was fine. If he could stop being so stupid about all this, and act rationally, they could probably come to an agreement: they both needed some good quality sleep after all, and only seemed to get any when they were lying together. It was on this optimistic thought that John fell back to sleep, purring softly in Sherlock's arms.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When he woke up in the morning, the first thing John saw upon opening his eyes to the world was Sherlock's face mere inches from his. His breath caught in his throat, and he stiffened noticeable, but Sherlock was not awake to notice. He was sleeping, really sleeping, and John realized it was the very first time he saw him do so. He knew Sherlock slept, obviously, but having him so peaceful and quiet in his bed upon waking in the morning was such a lovely thing John wished he could open his eyes to such a sight every day for the rest of his life.
Then he became aware of what he was thinking, and slapped himself mentally. What straight man secretly wishes he could wake up in his male flatmate's bed every morning? But this is Sherlock, John thought, as if that explained everything. And Sherlock isn't a man, perhaps? asked the snide little voice in his head. John frowned. Of course he is a man. But... But what? He had no excuse. No excuse whatsoever.
And why would I need an excuse?! He thought heatedly. I'm in love with him!
He froze. God. I'm in love with him? A despondent groan escaped his lips, and he buried himself in what he thought was the pillow, until he realized it was the duvet that Sherlock held against his chest: in other words, he'd just snuggled up to the very source of his impending headache. John took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down, but he breathed Sherlock's scent in and it only made his head spin even more. He'd been a soldier, though, so he had some self-control. And he wasn't known to be a wimp either. But what he was doing was quite cowardly, and he was quite aware of it. Running away from things had never been in his habits.
And so he decided to face this once and for all. Slowly, and very gingerly, he moved closer, closer, closer... until his body was pressed to Sherlock's and he could actually feel his warmth through the sheet and blanket. He breathed in deeply, rested his head in the crook of Sherlock's neck, and hugged him. It wasn't a tight embrace, but it was enough to snap the detective out of his slumber, and make him start in surprise, then freeze in shock, and finally just lie there, still and disbelieving. John did not let go.
"Good morning," he said simply, as if he'd been sitting in a chair in the kitchen having breakfast and Sherlock had just walked in.
"G... Good morning...?"
The doctor just ignore the uncertainty in his tone, and just kept holding him tight, not squeezing, not stroking him, but keeping his arms wrapped around his flatmate securely.
"Um, John?" Sherlock finally said.
"What are you doing?"
John did not even blink as he answered most seriously:
"Giving you a friendly, manly good morning hug."
"...You're naked in my bed, John."
At this, the doctor's cheeks turned crimson, and he jumped back at once, covering himself up to the neck with the sheet nervously. He perfectly knew that he'd been naked, but hadn't wanted to go and get dressed, for fear of waking Sherlock – and spoiling the moment. Well, it was spoilt now anyway. Hugging in human form really did not work after all.
"I'm sorry, I..."
He couldn't finish his sentence and let it hang in mi-air, frozen on the spot because Sherlock had sat up too, and his right hand was now pulling down gently the sheet that was covering John's torso.
"Wh... What are you doing?"
"I already saw it, you know," Sherlock told him quietly. "Your scar."
John was so shocked by the whole situation that he let go of the sheet, and let Sherlock's eyes roam his now exposed shoulder. He averted his gaze.
"It's horrible, isn't it?"
"It must have been painful," Sherlock concurred, not getting at all what John meant by 'horrible'.
"I meant ugly, Sherlock."
The detective considered the word for a second, then shrugged it off.
"I don't know," he simply said, and John felt something break inside him. Never had he been so touched by one of his friend's indifferent comment.
But Sherlock's eyes were still fixed on the scar, and his hand quivering already.
"Can I touch it?"
John's eyes widened considerably at the unexpected question.
"You can," he answered in a trance, fascinated by the long, pale fingers that seemed to be trembling with anticipation. He could feel his own heart hammering in his chest, as if he had been in imminent danger, and looking in the eerily clear eyes of his friend, he stopped breathing altogether.
However, when Sherlock's slender hand brushed against his scar, he let out a little gasp and closed his eyes.
"Does it hurt?" Sherlock inquired.
John just shook his head, terrified of what he'd say if he were to open his mouth now – terrified of how his voice would sound, because he was so strongly moved by the touch it was almost painful. He'd had several girlfriends touch his scar before; usually, the war hero side of him was rather to their liking. But Sherlock's touch was different. He wasn't trying to soothe John or to give him pleasure. He wasn't trying to convince him that his scar wasn't disgusting. He was just... touching. Almost palpating, sometimes stroking, and John knew, he just knew that he was memorizing all of it, engraving it in his mind for some incomprehensible reason, because why would he want to crowd his hard drive with such rubbish? It made John want to cry.
At one point it became unbearable, and he was about to say 'Enough.' when Sherlock removed his hand. John opened his eyes, and caught the worried look on his friend's face.
"Y... Yes?" the doctor mumbled, transfixed by the gaze Sherlock was laying on him.
"Do I repel you?"
John was dumbstruck by the question and just gawked, rendered speechless by the absurdity of it.
"Repel me? You?" he repeated, flabbergasted. And since Sherlock was still staring at him expectantly, he added precipitately: "No, God no! Quite the contrary..."
Then he realized what he'd just said and his cheeks that had paled down to a light pink turned back to crimson.
"I... No... Just..." he faltered. Then, he forced himself to get a grip, for Sherlock's sake: "You don't repel me. At all."
The hint of a smile graced Sherlock's lips for a moment, and John wished his friend had a scar too, which he could ask to be allowed to touch.
But Sherlock was already turning away, standing, and John averted his gaze as he stretched.
"Why do you think I turned into a manul so suddenly, and at night to boot?" he asked.
"We always transform at night," Sherlock pointed out, "but you probably woke up in the middle of the night, and so realized it earlier than usual. Then since you came here, you're already back to human this morning."
"Because we cuddled?"
"Because we cuddled."
"This is ridiculous. Surely you must realize it too, Sherlock."
The consulting detective walked up to the window and opened it, just to have a countenance and do something, instead of just standing there dumbly.
"Well, you should be thankful that we found a way to turn back, at least."
"But are you willing to provide this every time it is needed?" John inquired, his tone rather provocative.
"Of course," Sherlock replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
John highly doubted it, but loved him for saying it anyway.
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock had been ridiculously happy to have John come at his door in the middle of the night, and even happier when the fluffy cat had been so willing to snuggle. But waking to John hugging him in the morning had been the best treat so far. Sherlock had berated himself for saying something stupid (even though he was only stating the truth) instead of just hugging him back and playing with his silly tuft of hair and his long nose and his tanned skin...
Whether in manul form or in human form, Sherlock found out that he would never get bored playing with John. It didn't cross his mind that his approach to it might be somewhat belittling for the poor doctor, treating him like a pet. John was so unbelievably human and stupidly heroic that Sherlock could not for one second consider himself superior to him in anything but intelligence, and John was brilliant in a different way. He made Sherlock brilliant by being the most perfect conductor of light, and reflected his brightness with eyes full of wonder and admiration. He was the perfect partner for Sherlock, and the consulting detective would not mind having him as one in every sense of the term.
Of course he had felt compelled when they'd first met each other to make it clear that romance was not his area, and that he wasn't looking for anyone in that domain. And it was true. Sherlock just did not understand romance and found it profoundly dull. But John wasn't a romantic interest. He was his friend – his only one, one who would kill for him, and give up his own life to save his, – his doctor, who reminded him when he was supposed to eat so his brain and body would keep functioning, his colleague for the Work, and his flatmate. In other words, someone who was unconditionally loyal to him, whom he cared for and who took care of him and watched his health, who shared his Work and his flat and so, his whole life. John was everywhere now, and Sherlock really didn't have any objection to having him in his bed either.
After the hug and treat n°2 (getting to touch his scar, finally!), Sherlock suddenly realized why John wasn't getting out of bed.
"Would you like me to get some clothes for you in your room?"
John blushed imperceptibly, and nodded. Scratching his head, he chuckled uneasily and replied:
"That'd be great, actually..."
So Sherlock did. Getting the underwear was a little awkward (for John, that is – Sherlock didn't see why anyone would be embarrassed about underwear, since he wasn't when he ended up not wearing any in Buckingham Palace), but other than that, everything went smoothly. John picked his clothes and ran to the shower to wash and to change, while Sherlock pretended to look out of the window, repressing a giggle at John's naked figure dashing to the bathroom like his life depended on it, and having the idiotic idea to hide his genitals, which were obviously in front of him, and not his bum, that was far more exposed to the detective's possible gaze. Sherlock just looked and took in all he could, memorizing the shape, and wondered why people made such a big deal out of two morsels of bulging flesh.
They waited until the afternoon to go back to Emily's house, and the young woman seemed a little too happy to see them again to John's taste. But he'd had a much better day, with Sherlock moping around and hating it, because Sherlock hated waiting, and they didn't have much choice if they wanted to meet the brother.
James Oakshott was a tall man with the blonde hair as his sisters and a strong chin. He looked nothing like the description of the man who lost his hat – or what Sherlock had deduced about him, anyway. John was fairly disappointed (not in his friend, of course, but it meant James wasn't the thief, and they had wasted their time).
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Oakshott. I am terribly sorry to intrude on your holiday, but you'll understand that the case is of significant importance to our client, who was robbed of their precious blue gem."
"Of course, Detective Inspector. Please do sit down, and ask me whatever you'd like."
Sherlock nodded in contentment, and John had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. If Lestrade ever heard of this, he'd be appalled, he thought. Or laugh his head off.
"Ms. Oakshott told us yesterday you were coming with your wife Catherine..."
"Oh, yes. She's my girlfriend, not my wife. She got delayed in London, and should be joining me in a few days – perhaps tomorrow, even!"
He was trying hard to sound cheerful, but the nervousness in his eyes was quite obvious, even to John. And probably to Emily, too, for she stood up and offered promptly:
"Would anyone like a cup of tea? Coffee, perhaps?"
"No, than–" John began.
"With pleasure," Sherlock interrupted, sending Ms. Oakshott a winning smile. "Coffee would be great. Black, two sugars." She blushed very slightly, and went off to the kitchen. John looked away so as not to glare at his friend, but Sherlock noticed anyway.
James, on the other hand, was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he didn't see anything.
"So, tell me, Mr. Oakshott," Sherlock resumed, "did you leave the goose you were supposed to give to your sister Maggie somewhere at one point, and do you think someone could have had access to it without you noticing."
"Well, I came with the train, last time, so I did leave it sometimes with my luggage when I went to the loo... But other than that..."
"I see. And you did not put the gem yourself in it, did you?"
"Of course not!" he exclaimed forcefully as his sister re-entered the room with coffee.
"Naturally. And may I ask, what do you do?"
"My job, you mean? I'm a carpenter."
At this, James furrowed his brow.
"What does she have to do with anything?"
"I don't know. Nothing, maybe."
James shrugged, but his right hand was quivering and he took the cup of coffee Emily was giving him with his left hand, hiding the right one. John noticed, and frowned, rather puzzled.
"She's a cleaning lady," he says finally, and John wonders if he is ashamed of his girlfriend's job, for he doesn't seem very keen to expand on the subject. But Sherlock doesn't insist, and after he's drank his coffee, stands and thanks the Oakshott for their cooperation.
"I will be sure to let you know once we have caught the criminal," he said. Then, turning to Emily pointedly, he handed her a name card.
"Here is my number. Please call me if anything else comes back to your mind, or if anything new happens. Who knows, maybe you'll find another gem in one of your geese soon!"
"Hopefully not, Mr. Lestrade," Emily retorted, her cheeks pink. This time, John glared.
"Why did you need to leave her your umber? Is it your real number?"
"Of course it's my real number, John. Just not my real name."
"But obviously James Oakshott isn't our man, so why..."
"Yes, indeed! We must go back to London right away to find that man. His testimony will probably be necessary to expose James Oakshott."
"To expose him?! But I thought he wasn't the criminal!"
"Oh yes, he is."
"But yesterday you told Emily..."
"...that I would do everything I can to prove that her brother was not guilty of a crime he did not commit. He did commit this one."
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The train journey back to London wasn't as horrible as when they'd gone to Brixton, but was still very quiet. They were sitting face to face in a private compartment again, and the other seats weren't reserved. Sometimes, John suspected Sherlock of buying all of them, just so he wouldn't have to bother with people sitting next to him.
In this instant, however, John wanted very much to sit next to him. And possibly to fall asleep and unintentionally rest his head on his shoulder.
He looked away and tried to concentrate on the scenery. That was something else, he thought. Even if Sherlock did care for him, he wasn't one to be affectionate. At all. And John liked tokens of affection. He always enjoyed holding his girlfriends' hand in the street, to kiss her good morning or good night... He wasn't a romantic, so to speak, but he still liked the attention. And surely that was the kind of silliness Sherlock would never indulge him.
"I'm just going to take a walk," John suddenly said, standing. Sherlock stared.
"A walk? On a train?"
"Yes. I need to stretch my legs a bit."
"...Right." But he did not make any other comment, and soon his gaze was lost out of the window again. John repressed a sigh, and walked out, sliding the door behind him morosely. Better get out now than blurt out something stupid while he was in there with Sherlock, he thought decidedly as he marched away.
In the end, he spend the whole journey away from the compartment, and only went back ten minutes before the train was to arrive in London. His eyes were cast down as he entered the compartment, and so he did not see what was lying on the seat before he'd closed the door behind him. When he did see it, though, his jaw dropped, and he was about to run away and shout for help when he remembered that this was Sherlock.
Oh God. He was stuck on a train with a tiger, and supposed to get off at Victoria station in less than ten minutes...
« (o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 9: Twinkle, twinkle little star...
A/N: Hello readers! I just wanted to notify you guys that I am entering boarding school on September 3, and that I will be very busy with my studies. Serious health problems also prevent me from being very efficient and quick when I write, so my updates probably won't be as frequent from now on. I do intend to post at least one chapter every two weeks, but I cannot promise anything: I'll try. In any case, you can trust me for not dropping this story: I enjoy writing it even more than you enjoy reading it, and I'll do my best to keep the updates as frequent and regular as possible. More than ever, reviewers are loved! Roll on the fluff :D ~¤Zoffoli
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Twinkle, twinkle, little star...
His eyes were cast down as he entered the compartment, and so he did not see what was lying on the seat before he'd closed the door behind him. When he did see it, though, his jaw dropped, and he was about to run away and shout for help when he remembered that this was Sherlock.
Oh God. He was stuck on a train with a tiger, and supposed to get off at Victoria station in less than ten minutes...
"Sherlock! Wake up! Oh, damn this..."
He ran to the window and pulled down the curtains. Then, grabbing the fluffy striped back, he gave the tiger a shaking-up.
"Sherlock! You've turned into a tiger and we are in a bloody train!"
The tiger's eyes snapped open, and he sent John a lost look. He blinked, gazed around him, and suddenly jumped to his feet on the seat, which only resulted in him slipping down and crashing on the floor.
"Sherlock! What the hell are you doing? There's no time for your clowning!"
The tiger puled pitifully, and John had to look behind him to check the door. If anyone came in now...
"What did you think you were doing?"
Confused, Sherlock tilted his head to the side.
"A tiger, Sherlock! You're a bloody tiger!"
Sherlock pouted and gave John a sullen moue. It's not like I did it on purpose!
But John wasn't paying attention, and was now pacing in small circles nervously, completely panicked at the situation.
"What can we do? We can't possibly get off the train with you looking like this..."
He was interrupted by the tiger coming up to him and suddenly putting his paws on his torso.
"What the... Sherlock! Are you stupid, or what? This isn't the time to play!"
Not playing! Sherlock snarled, miffed. Hug me, you idiot! It might just work!
John, however, was too preoccupied to get his message at all. He just glared, and his temper flared up.
"Do you even realize the situation we're in? You'll end up in a cage, in a zoo! And I... They'll probably bring me to the police for keeping a tiger on a bloody train!"
That's the third bloody, Sherlock noted grimly, staring at John pointedly.
The doctor looked around him, checking if there was anywhere Sherlock could hide for a while – under the seat, or on the luggage tray... But there was no way such a big feline could hide anywhere in such a small room.
"I could set the alarm somewhere so the train would stop. But then we'd still be stuck. It's not like we can hide on the rails or anything, not with you looking like this...
John sighed and rubbed his temples.
"Mycroft. We've got to call Mycroft."
At this, Sherlock literally jumped on him and growled threateningly. No! Never!
"Don't be childish, Sherlock! He's the only one who can come with a huge case or something, and guys built like a tank to carry you! Hell, he could even arrange a car and everything, and just say it's some secret government matter or whatever.
You are NOT calling my brother! the tiger snarled. Call Mrs. Hudson, or Molly, or whatnot... But not Mycroft!
"Sherlock, there is no time! Get off me! NOW!"
The detective was so startled by his flatmate's outburst that he did get off effectively, and sat in front of him miserably with pleading eyes. John looked away and took his phone. Sherlock groaned.
"Enough! Or do you want to spend the rest of your life in a zoo?"
I don't want you to call him, Sherlock whimpered, giving John the most pitiful and adorable pout he could manage. It didn't work.
John was fidgeting as he dialled Mycroft's number, praying he would answer right away; he did.
"Mycroft? Oh thank God you're not ignoring my call."
"I never ignore your calls, Dr. Watson. What's wrong?"
The 'with Sherlock' didn't even need to be said, but suddenly John realized he couldn't possibly tell Mycroft about the transforming. Who knew what he could do to find out why, how, when? He cared for Sherlock, but for exactly that reason, he would certainly not be against using him as a guinea pig so he would never transform again. Into a tiger, that is.
"I..." John sent a panicked look to his friend, and the tiger snorted scornfully. I told you.
"I need your help," John blurted, and Sherlock's eyes widened. Mycroft's probably did, too, for the ex-soldier wasn't the type to voice such thoughts.
"I know," came the smug reply. "Now what about getting to the point?"
"I'm on a train compartment with a tiger and we're arriving at Victoria Station in less than ten minutes," John said precipitately. This time, Mycroft's eyes surely did widen.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me, Mycroft!" John snapped. "I'm on a bloody train with a bloody tiger and I need your help to get us out of here, or I don't know what will happen when we get there!"
"Are you saying you are on a train compartment alone, with a tiger on the loose?" the elder Holmes asked, disbelief in his voice. Even if he knew John wasn't really a normal man, since he stayed with Sherlock, he hadn't expected him to end up in such insane situations.
"I... It's a long story, I can't tell you right now. This is urgent! Please, you really have to come and help – bring a box or some huge suitcase or... I don't know! But I need to get out of here with the tiger safely..."
A pause. John waited anxiously, clenching his fists unwittingly. Sherlock was glowering.
"And what will you give me in exchange, Dr. Watson?" Mycroft finally asked in a honeyed tone.
John froze. One should never answer "anything" to such a question especially when asked by Mycroft Holmes. So John said, gritting his teeth, alarmed at the urgency of the situation:
"What do you want?"
"I will think of something."
"What!? But I won't just do anything!"
"Well, that's too bad, then..." Mycroft trailed off, ready to hang up – or wishing to make John believe so anyway.
"No, please! All right, I'll do any–"
But Sherlock jumped on him and stopped his conversation short before he could promise anything. John let out a cry of surprise and fell, dropping his phone, which smashed to the floor. Just to be sure, Sherlock stepped on it again, and crushed it to pieces. John stared, bewildered.
"Sherl... Sherlock, that was our only chance!" he exploded, furious with his friend's irresponsible attitude. "And you just smashed my phone! God, I should just leave you here and let you handle this alone, since you're so smart..."
Sherlock whimpered pathetically.
You're the type of foolish man who has only one word, and you would abide by it at all costs! You really don't know Mycroft, what advantage he would've taken out of this...
But there was no way John could've understood all of that only through a lamentable moan.
"Stop it! Just stop it, will you? What can we do, now? Couldn't you have swallowed your damn pride for once?"
Sherlock pouted. But I don't want...
"Fine, it's the zoo, then. And I am not going to wait here so I can get arrested as well."
The tiger stared in shock. You're leaving me? Here? Alone?
John felt something break in him, and his resolve waver. He averted his gaze so he would no longer see the look of betrayal in Sherlock's eyes.
"I won't be of any help if I'm being interrogated and kept under surveillance, Sherlock! Can you imagine the type of questions I would be asked? How do you expect me to answer them, huh?"
But you still can't leave me! How will I ever turn back? the tiger whined.
John really wanted to answer 'Not my problem', but he couldn't bring himself to. It was, after all, his problem too. And not only because if he ever turned into a manul, he would need Sherlock to hug him. But because he couldn't just let Sherlock live in a cage for the rest of his life...
Wait... Need him to hug me?
John's eyes widened as realization hit him. He checked his watch – still five minutes.
Turning to Sherlock, he fell on his knees and wrapped his arms around him, stroking his head and neck feverishly.
"If we cuddle, perhaps you'll turn back!"
That's what I was saying, but you weren't listening... Sherlock squeaked, snuggling up closer.
In fact, he was well aware that this was very unlikely to work. For one thing, they could only hold each other for a few minutes, and it usually took an entire night for them to transform back. Then, there was also the fact that they were always sleeping when they became felines or humans again – and it was highly improbable that any of them would fall asleep now, considering the amount of stress and pressure they were under. Still, Sherlock did not complain, and decided against pointing out to John how futile his attempt was: if he was going to leave him there to be caught and put in a zoo, Sherlock might as well enjoy the petting while he could.
"Turn back, turn back..." John was murmuring like a mantra, oblivious to his friend's depressing thoughts. "God, why isn't it working? Turn back, please!"
The begging is nice, too, Sherlock mused absent-mindedly. He had been quite annoyed at John for begging Mycroft a few minutes prior, so he was glad to hear it for himself now. Even if that was a small consolation, considering his gloomy impending future...
So John fondled him, hugged him, stroked him desperately for the few remaining minutes, mumbling prayers and whatnot. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore.
"Oh please, Sherlock, turn back now! I don't want to leave you here but I will have no choice! Please transform back..."
Sherlock blinked in astonishment. He would never have guessed that John would be so concerned for such a silly thing. To be fair, even he wasn't very reassured, not knowing what would happen to him after his friend had left.
"Ladies and gentlemen. We will be arriving shortly in London. Thank you for travelling with us today, and..."
"No, no, no! Sherlock! Please...?"
Sherlock was never so sorry he couldn't do anything to assuage his colleague. John stood and stepped back, his brow furrowed, worry filling his face.
"I promise I'll come back. I'll find out in what zoo you are, and come at night so we can..."
His eyes met Sherlock's, and all his soldier determination crumbed to pieces. He fell to his knees again and hugged the tiger in a surge of despair and affection.
"Why isn't this working when we need it to? Do you think you were wrong for the cuddling? Or maybe you have to hug me back?" he babbled frantically.
The tiger shook his head, knowing John wouldn't understand his answer anyway, and just put his paw on his friend's back, squeezing lightly, embracing him and resting his head on his shoulder morosely.
The train had stopped now, and Sherlock could see the shadows of passengers queuing to get off behind the door. John was seeing other shadows too, abounding in the station, behind the curtains. He tried to ignore them, and shut his eyes as he tightened his embrace.
Soon however Sherlock did not see any more shadows, and the passengers were getting scarcer and scarcer on the platform. The tiger tentatively patted John's back with his paw, indicating that it was time to go if he didn't want to be found here with a tiger.
As he felt the touch, John knew he would never be able to leave Sherlock behind.
"I can't," he murmured, distraught. "I can't do it."
For once, Sherlock did not feel like telling John how stupid he was being.
So they stayed there, cuddling, unsure as to what was awaiting them when they were found. When they heard footsteps coming closer in the corridor, they unwittingly tightened their embrace, almost imperceptibly, and Sherlock pricked his ears. He growled.
"Shh! They'll think you're dangerous!" John whispered urgently.
Suddenly Sherlock had one of the craziest ideas he ever had: he thought that, perhaps, if John kissed him like in fairy tales, he might well turn back into human form. Before he could give it too much thought, he straightened up and tilted his head back so he would be facing John, and quickly leant in again, pressing his mouth to John's.
His flatmate froze, so shocked he didn't even have the reaction to jump back. At this very instant, the door was slid open, and the noise snapped John back to reality. He jolted, turned crimson, and looked up to the silhouette of the man who had just entered.
"Mycroft!" he exclaimed.
Sherlock groaned. He had recognized the steps already, but seeing his brother's face really was the last straw. Furthermore, the kiss hadn't worked, and it annoyed him that he'd been wrong about it.
"You... You came!" John stuttered, completely lost. I kissed a tiger. God, I kissed a TIGER! Wait... I kissed Sherlock. SHERLOCK!
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah... Thanks for coming."
Mycroft simply nodded, resting his hands on his umbrella. Only then did John notice the two huge men in suit waiting by the door, carrying a very large aluminium case on wheels.
"Let's put the tiger inside, if you don't mind," the British government explained. "I have a car waiting for us outside, but first we have to get the tiger there."
"Thank you! Wait... How is this going to fit in a car?" John inquired, pointing at the huge case.
The elder Holmes smirked.
"It is a very big car."
Sherlock growled, but under John's death glare, he scoffed and went to stand proudly inside the case. Mycroft stared.
"Will he be able to breathe?" John asked worriedly.
As the two men closed the case and rolled it down the corridor, Mycroft arched an eyebrow and observed John closely.
"It will be fine. We can open the case once we are in the car. You seem awfully worried for this tiger's comfort, though. May I ask where you found it?"
John shifted nervously as he packed his things. He realized too late that Sherlock's clothes were still lying on the seat. He paled, jumped on them and quickly stuck them in his bag – there was no time to open Sherlock's suitcase.
"Is that Sherlock's coat?" Mycroft inquired innocently. "Is he with you?"
"No. He... He lent it to me," John lied with a very unconvincing smile. Mycroft looked at him pointedly. "Shall we go?" John added with a silly, nervous giggle.
When they opened the case once they were in the car, the poor tiger was completely dishevelled, and glowered at John. Without thinking, the doctor looked at him tenderly and reached a hand towards him, petting his fluffy, disgruntled face.
"It is incredibly tame, isn't it?"
John jumped, remembering Mycroft was sitting just in front of him – and how could he have forgotten that? Cursing the stupid mirrors that allowed people to see everything in stupid cars, even what was going on behind their backs, John plastered a grin on his face and replied:
"He is. I mean it. It's tame, yes."
They remained quiet for the rest of the ride – Sherlock, sulking in his case, and John, trying not to squirm under Mycroft's scrutinizing gaze.
He was relieved when they finally got to 221B Baker Street, and the two men brought up the tiger in the flat, leaving with the case just as soon – not asking any question, as if they'd been doing that their whole life. To be fair, whatever their official job was, they were probably used to dealing with such oddities, if they worked for Mycroft.
"Thank you," John told him sincerely. He had no idea what would have happened to them if Big Brother hadn't intervened, for once.
"Are you going to stay here with the tiger? In a flat? Alone?"
John laughed stiffly.
"I'm fine, really. It's not just any tiger, it's... useful for one of Sherlock's cases, and he'll be here soon anyway."
"Indeed, where is my brother? I would've thought you would turn to him first, obviously..."
John slapped himself mentally for not having thought of that.
"He's busy right now. I can't even contact him. But he should be back tomorrow."
"So you're just going to spend the night in 221B with a tiger?"
"Yes. If worse comes to worst, I have a gun."
They held each other's gaze for a moment, before Mycroft finally turned away, dropping the staring contest.
"Fine," he said somewhat haughtily. "Let me know when Sherlock is back, so I can have a little chat with him."
"You'll know when he's back, Mycroft," John remarked. You have CCTVs in the whole city. Then he realized that Sherlock would not appear on any of those cameras. He shivered.
Mycroft simply smiled at him knowingly, and with those last unsaid words, left the flat. John waited for his steps to die down the staircase. When he heard the front door close, he let himself fall into his armchair, exhausted.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock was brooding in his room, still not coming to terms with the humiliation of having been transported in a case back home. Now that they were back, too, he wondered whether John would be cross with him, and refuse to cuddle tonight, just because he considered it was his fault for having turned into a tiger at such a bad moment – which truly was unfair, because John should know by now that Sherlock didn't have any say in it. At all.
He himself wondered what could possibly trigger those transformations. They hadn't quarrelled or anything this time, and John had just gone for a walk because the air was too tensed in the compartment. Was that it, then? Unresolved tension? Well, then they were never going to stop transforming, Sherlock mused sullenly. John was so stubborn it was nearly impossible to resolve any tension at all with him.
Slouching on his mattress, he played with these thoughts for the rest of the day, not daring to make an appearance in the living-room, for fear of annoying John even more. When he heard him stop typing on his laptop and go to the kitchen to prepare what was most probably supposed to be dinner, he had a small flicker of hope that he'd call him to eat something. John had hugged him very tightly on the train, after all, so obviously he cared for his well-being.
So Sherlock was not surprised when his friend called from the kitchen: "Sherlock! Dinner!", but even though he'd expected it, he was very happy about it, and even decided to ignore how mother-like the call truly was.
Joyously, he jumped off his bed and joined John at the table, resting his head on it and sending his flatmate the largest grin. John smirked.
"You look so silly like that, you know?"
Sherlock scoffed and turned away, but John caught his tail with one hand, while putting a plate of grilled beef on the table.
"Hey, I went out of my way to cook something for you, so you'd better stay here and eat it all!"
Sherlock gave him a churlish pout, but gave in and came to sit in the chair majestically. John chuckled, and served him.
"Here, your highness."
The tiger frowned, which only made his face look fluffier and more adorable – but this time, John repressed his laugh. He did not think Sherlock would be the type to enjoy being considered cute – and to be fair, he understood him.
So Sherlock made an effort and ate the meat John had prepared for him, and John made an effort as well and tried to be pleasant without being too patronizing. Now that the troublesome events of the morning were passed, he was in fact quite content to see Sherlock in tiger-form again. It meant the case was on hiatus for the day and the night, and John thought that, after all, those transformations were quite handy: they did not prevent them from doing cases altogether, which would've been boring and would've killed Sherlock, but they happened just often enough to make the cuddle times necessary, and more and more frequent.
That's right, he mused, how come are we transforming more and more often?
Because you're being so stubborn, Sherlock replied mentally.
Fortunately, he could not voice his thoughts, and so the atmosphere remained warm and peaceful. Sherlock lazed around the living-room while John was washing the dishes, pensive, and the tiger wondered what could possibly be on his flatmate's mind – well, what exactly, for he had a general idea of what was troubling him now: in one word, Sherlock.
Just in case John was stupid enough to freak out and change his mind at the last minute, the consulting detective this was a good time to go and be sweet and lovely. He certainly did not mind some coaxing, if it meant he could have John as a pillow for the night.
So up he went to his flatmate, nuzzling his hand and meowing softly, tilting his head to the side to point at his room. It was the most endearing and the most oblivious way John had ever been asked 'Please sleep with me tonight?' - the most disturbing, too, considering this was a tiger, and his male best friend. But precisely because of that, John told himself it should be fine. It was just Sherlock, after all. Even if he woke up naked in the same bed as John, he would probably be blissfully unconscious of any sexual or romantic implications, and study his scar for further possible use in cases.
"All right," he said with a smile. "Just let me shower and change, and I'll come to your room."
He tried to ignore how ambiguous such a statement sounded, too.
And so the tiger waited patiently – or not so patiently – in his room, until John came wearing his silly striped pyjamas, and he couldn't help but give his Cheshire-cat grin.
"Hello there," John said with a tentative smile. For the first time, he was rather self-conscious, and he did not like it at all. But once he'd got under the cover and snuggled up to the warmth of the tiger's plushy chest, all doubts vanished from his mind, and he fell asleep peacefully, lulled by the low, regular purring his presence elicited from Sherlock. Before he was completely gone in the land of dreams, John wondered absent-mindedly whether the tiger wasn't aware of it, or was now comfortable enough with him to not feel foolish purring in his arms.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
It was very early in the morning when Maggie finally decided to give up trying to fall back asleep, and thought it was high time she called John to solve their problem. Namely, Sherlock Holmes, which was, in fact, John's problem. She'd been thinking about it for days now, and had concluded that if the consulting detective was so important to the man she loved, she should make an effort. Either she dumped John Watson altogether, or she learnt to deal with Sherlock Holmes as well. Considering she'd been overly depressed these past few days, she picked the latter option.
And so she put on her most lovely dress, the one she knew John liked the best. She let her hair down, because she also knew that was how her boyfriend found her prettiest, and put on the lipstick he'd bought her for Christmas. It matched the dress perfectly. Satisfied with her appearance, she took her bag and went to the bakery nearest her flat – a French one she'd gone to once with John to have cakes and tea. She bought three croissants, determined to befriend Sherlock Holmes in some way. He didn't strike her as the type to have a sweet tooth, but she still thought he'd appreciate not to be left out when she burst in on her boyfriend at their flat.
Happily, she hailed a cab and announced, cheerful: "221B Baker Street!"
Never had a cab ride seemed so long to her. She felt stupid for not having texted John earlier, and having wasted so much time brooding when it was supposed to be the time of the year for celebration. She paid the cabbie and jumped off the car joyously, before ringing the bell to the landlady's flat. She didn't have to wait long before the good Mrs. Hudson came to the door and opened it for her, a friendly smile on her lips and a question in her eyes.
"Good morning. What may I do for you?"
"Hello! I'm sorry to bother you so early, but I'm Maggie."
This did not seem to ring any bell in the dear woman's mind, even though John had talked a lot to Maggie about his landlady – 'not his housekeeper'. Trying to ignore the slight bitterness at not being recognized, she gave a sweet smile and explained:
"John's girlfriend. I've come to surprise him... them, with breakfast."
It occurred to her that this wasn't very tactful, since she hadn't brought anything for Mrs. Hudson herself. But the landlady did not seem offended in the least, and stepped back so she could come in.
"Oh, that is a lovely thing to do! I'm sure he'll be delighted," she commented, leaving out what she thought Sherlock's reaction would be.
Maggie thanked her, and walked up directly to the second floor, where she knew John's room was. A bright grin on her face, she knocked on the door and pushed it open carefully, popping her head inside. She was surprised to see that the bed hadn't been slept in, and that the room was empty.
"John?" she called dumbly, for obviously no one was there. She closed the door and went back down to the first floor, entering the living-room. John wasn't sleeping on the couch either – and why would he have?
It seemed a little strange to her that the landlady wouldn't have known that her lodgers were away, but it appeared to be the most likely explanation. Still, Maggie could not shake off the sense of unease that had dawned upon her when she had seen John's empty room. Quietly, she walked down the corridor to the only door that was closed, and that could be nothing else but Sherlock's room. She paused in front of it hesitating. Suddenly, she wasn't so sure she wanted to know.
Don't be silly, girl, she told herself. You've come all the way here to make up with him, and now you're imagining the worse? He did say there was nothing between them. Nothing at all.
Emboldened, she pushed the door open. Her eyes widened in shock, and she dropped the croissants to the floor.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 10: ...how I wonder what you are
A/N: All my thanks to Tigzzz, who kindly betaed this chapter, and to all Guest reviewers and Anons whom I may not contact via PM. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
...how I wonder what you are
The very first thing John felt upon waking that morning was something soft disturbingly clutching the front of his pyjamas, between the shoulder and the chest. It was a hand resting there, still holding the fabric in such a way that he dared not move, for fear of rousing the nude, innocent and slightly crowding man sleeping peacefully in his bed.
Now fully awake, John goggled at the oblivious figure that was lying next to him. A childlike expression was gracing the traits of his face, which was mere inches away from John's. The doctor gulped awkwardly, and shivered as Sherlock dangerously stirred in his sleep. His head was resting on the other pillow, and so there was a minimum distance between them; but their bodies were intertwined together, Sherlock's hand on his chest gripping his pyjamas like a little boy would grip the bottom of his mother's dress. His leg was curled around John's, calf against calf, his thigh delicately pressing against the smaller man's groin. John was very glad he was not at an age where you might get a hard-on from erotic dreams every morning or so – otherwise, the position they were in would have been even more embarrassing.
John was embarrassed enough as it was. But he was too fascinated with Sherlock's discreet, regular breathing, and with just him sleeping so calmly by his side that he forgot all about his own pitiful predicament. If being in the same bed as him at night allowed Sherlock to truly sleep and have some rest, then the awkwardness didn't matter. Well, as long as no one ever saw them, naturally – for trying to explain such a peculiar reasoning to a third party, unfamiliar with their relationship and the unique nature of their bond, would surely fail. No one could possibly understand.
Well, I don't either, John reckoned as he raised his arm and reached towards his friend's face tentatively, before pushing an inky curl back from his porcelain brow. John observed his partner's face closely. Sherlock truly was stunning. Not in a beautiful way, but in a dazzling, mesmerizing manner that John could not quite explain. He always thought it was because of the eyes, eerily blue and most conspicuous against the paleness of his skin, which contrasted with the darkness of his hair. Alabaster rather than porcelain, perhaps, he mused. Yet Sherlock's charming brow seemed so fragile right now... But John knew it contained hidden such depths of intelligence that the whole image of Sherlock lying here naked in bed, exposed and unaware, was strangely paradoxical. How could such a brilliant, superior mind be so juvenile and endearing in other aspects? It would never cease to amaze John: this double and simultaneous impression of an admirable genius and of some difficult, capricious child.
As he gingerly traced the pearly chin and ear, John couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the trust this situation implied for a man like Sherlock. As a consulting detective, he was confronted to various destructive passions, and surely the intimacy between two people must have appeared in his brain as something of which one should always be wary. To be fair, Sherlock was capable of deducing John so easily that he must have been almost certain of his devotion by now, which explained why he deemed him safe enough to sleep with. John slapped himself mentally at the terrible choice of words and cringed. Not in any sexual acceptation of the term, he corrected for himself.
Yet Sherlock could not be completely sure: he too guessed and shot in the dark – usually with amazing results, admittedly, but in this instance it meant he either accepted the risk, or truly was convinced that John would never harm him in any way. Perhaps such considerations would have seemed quite eccentric for ordinary people; why would anyone want to harm him in any way? But in this respect, John, as an ex-soldier, perfectly understood why Sherlock, with his extraordinary mind and his everyday contact with criminals, was not the most trusting person. In fact, John had been quite surprised by how easily the consulting detective had come to be comfortable with him, as if they had always lived together. He also understood why Sherlock wasn't a very good sleeper. Not that he suspected him of having been traumatized by his experience of the criminal world; John's theory was rather that Sherlock could never stop thinking, and so even if he did eventually fall asleep out of physical exhaustion, he would keep on thinking, and thinking, and thinking... It never stopped. John wondered if he dreamt, sometimes, and what his dreams may be like.
Once in a while, he wished he could enter Sherlock's brain and see how it worked, how the consulting detective comprehended the world and others. He seemed so unreachable sometimes, so far above everyone else (including John) that the doctor craved to share his perception, even for just a day or two.
For instance, to understand what in the world prompted Sherlock to give him a bloody kiss while he was in tiger form and they were stuck on a train, hearing footsteps clearly coming towards them. With hindsight, John realized that his friend must have even been quite aware that it was Mycroft coming, hence his growls. Then why the kiss? It was so preposterous, not only as a gesture from Sherlock, but from a tiger to boot, that John could make no sense of it whatsoever. All he knew was that Sherlock was undoubtedly just trying to find a way to transform back, and did not think of that kiss as a kiss at all – merely as a means to solve the tiger-on-a-train problem.
John, on the other hand, very much saw a kiss as a kiss, even with a tiger – no, rather when said tiger just happened to be his flatmate. His male flatmate. Sherlock did not ever think of sexuality as something that could possibly concern him or his personal life, so naturally this was not an issue for him. But to John, who was resolutely straight, every physical contact with Sherlock was meaningful. Cuddling was meaningful. Having his scar touched was meaningful. Kissing was bloody meaningful, even if that was the less sensual kiss he ever had. Thankfully, considering it was with a bloody tiger!
Right now, however, Sherlock was very much a man. A very naked man, too, and very much pressed to him, their limbs entangled. Yet he was still sleeping, completely oblivious, and when he would wake up he probably wouldn't even see the problem. Is there really one, then? John wondered.
He rolled his eyes. Of course there's one. You have a beautiful girlfriend but 90% of your thoughts are devoted to Sherlock – whether he be annoying, fascinating, worrying, intoxicating... Intoxicating?
Repressing a desperate groan, John did not dare bury his face into the pillow, but very much felt like doing so. I'm doomed. Positively doomed. But caring for Sherlock and being attracted to him were two very different things. Well, not fundamentally, since for the first time in his life John had cared for someone and given that person his unconditional loyalty before he even considered them as a potential romantic partner. Sherlock was his best friend more than his flatmate or colleague. He would always love him as such. Why did hormones have to come into the picture and wreak havoc?
Because that was the problem. Hormones. Sherlock didn't even seem to have any sexual desire at all, whatever the object. He simply wasn't interested; he didn't need such a dimension to his life, which was full enough with cases and experiments. He had been clear enough during their first dinner at Angelo's, and even if for some unfathomable reasons he agreed to such a relationship with John, the doctor was intimately convinced that he would be purely indulging him. It would be the conclusion to some outrageous reasoning such as:
John is physically attracted to me.
I am not interested but if we do nothing, he'll lose it and most likely decide to leave.
John is handy and he's better than the skull, so it wouldn't be good if he left.
Conclusion: let's sleep with John so he doesn't snap and go, and everyone is happy.
Except John wouldn't be happy. At all.
He was also quite sure that Sherlock wouldn't realize what sex meant in the slightest – wouldn't give it the same meaning John would. Because the other problem was that Sherlock wasn't just a girlfriend he could break up with. It was the one person – man, woman, in this instance it did not matter – for whose sake John would do anything. One may talk about a love, John guessed; but he had never felt the physical need to hold Sherlock until now, so it must have been rather platonic.
With their transformations, however, everything had changed. It was crazy and silly, but now they truly were dependent on one another, provided Sherlock's theory about cuddling was right. For a moment, John wondered whether cuddling with anyone would have the same effect, but then he dared not imagine Maggie's face if she fell asleep with a cat in bed and woke up with a man.
Sherlock shifted a bit and grumbled something in his sleep, scowling. Amused, John smiled and smoothed the adorable frown away. Really, what was he doing? Wasn't he being horrible to both Maggie and Sherlock? But neither of them wanted the same thing from him.
That's not the issue though, is it? The question is: what do I want from each of them?
Presently, he was much more interested in Sherlock's adorably sullen face. But he could not possibly want anything from him – a loving, romantic Sherlock wouldn't be Sherlock after all. John could not even conceive him as a lover. He was already lucky the detective liked him enough to consider him as his one and only friend. Yet John couldn't help but keep wondering: What are you to me? How did you manage to become so important in such a short period of time? What are you, Sherlock?
The kiss too kept intriguing John. He just couldn't let go. A question was burning his lips, something he terribly wanted to find out but could only ask himself... and yet the consequences of the answer might be too much to bear for him. He wondered if he truly was attracted to Sherlock or not. Whether he really could imagine himself sleeping with a male partner. It was becoming clearer and clearer that he was most definitely in love with Sherlock, but that did not imply he could sleep with a man. Ever. Even if it was Sherlock.
And so John very much wanted to know if he would be disgusted by any close bodily contact with the detective in human form. Waking up all entangled with him was a first test, but as it was, Sherlock could have just been a very importune and clinging little brother. His grip, and the way he completely crowded John's personal space, were too candid and unconscious to hold any romantic meaning. Consequently, John had not many options left.
He swallowed with some difficulty as his eyes instantly fell to the fleshy lips of the detective. Kissing him when he was unaware was disrespectful, John knew, but there was no other way to see how he himself would react to it: with an awake Sherlock, the situation could become very difficult if John did indeed realize that he could not kiss a man – even if it was Sherlock, and even if he loved him.
So slowly, hesitantly, he leant in closer, and closer, and closer, closing the distance between their two faces. He pressed his lips to Sherlock's chastely, barely touching, his mouth completely still. The sound of something soft falling to the ground behind him made him jump in panic and jolt back. He turned, and saw Maggie. She was staring, in shock, a look of betrayal on her face. John couldn't bear it.
"Maggie, I can explain. Wait!" he exclaimed as she dashed out of the room, leaving the croissants behind and running away. "Maggie, please wait!"
But she was not listening, and John only managed to catch up with her in the staircase. He was still in his pyjama, but fortunately he was fully dressed, unlike Sherlock. Perhaps it would be easier to justify himself, he thought.
"I can explain."
"Oh really? What is there to explain, John? I think you could still have given me a call, you know, to tell me things were over because you'd finally admitted to yourself that you were gay?"
"But I am not!"
"Oh please, John!"
"It's true. You must believe me."
"How?" she asked, and her voice broke into a sob as she could no longer hold back her tears. "How could you believe anything I said if I ditched you on Christmas and you found me in bed with a naked man a few days later?"
When she put it that way, it did seem awfully despicable.
"I... Look, Maggie, there's nothing between us. Sherlock... He has nightmares, sometimes! Very bad ones, too. I just serve as a pillow to help him fall back to sleep."
"You were in his room, John. Not him in yours."
"I heard him scream! I thought something had happened, but..."
"Just drop it. I've seen enough."
He caught her wrist and made her turn to him again. He truly felt horrible, and wished to make it up to her in any possible way. Taking a deep breath, he looked her in the eye.
"We didn't do anything. We never had sex. You must believe me."
"John. You were kissing him."
"For God's sake, do you think I'm blind? Maybe I was... Oh, I was so stupid."
And with those words, she shook his hand off and left, slamming the front door. John felt a pang of guilt and grit his teeth, walking back up to the flat morosely.
He decided not to go back to the room, falling gloomily into his armchair instead. With Maggie's unexpected arrival, he hadn't even had time to properly observe his own reactions to the kiss. In all likelihood, however, he hadn't felt any disgust. He hadn't been aroused either, but it had been so chaste and so tentative a gesture it wasn't surprising.
Maggie's words, and her anger, too, weren't surprising either. John realized his relationship with Sherlock was too ambiguous in everybody's eyes for any of them to take him seriously if he claimed not to be gay after having been found in bed with a naked Sherlock. He repressed a sigh. What could he do, now?
He started and looked up to his flatmate who had just walked into the living-room draped in his sheet, looking as pompous as Julius Caesar. John couldn't help but chuckle.
"What?" Sherlock inquired, his tone slightly offended.
"You hair... It's dishevelled. You can't look cool like that." Quite cute, though.
Sherlock frowned and retorted with a regal pout:
"I wasn't trying to look cool, John. So how did it go?"
"With Maggie Oakshott."
"You heard us?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes as he fell back sloppily onto the couch, and John had to look away. The idiot just looked ridiculously eatable sprawled there only wrapped in a sheet.
"The contrary would've been difficult, considering you jumped and shouted right next to me."
John let out a sigh, but didn't answer. What was there to say anyway? He'd got himself into a fine mess...
Sherlock observed him for a second before standing up and disappearing down the corridor. John heard him put water to boil in the kitchen, but he was so engrossed in his own brooding that he didn't realize how peculiar it was to have Sherlock prepare breakfast when they were both in human form.
Soon however the detective was back, still draped in his bloody sheet, and he handed John a cup of tea and a croissant.
"Eat," he ordered, as if that hadn't been obvious from his gesture. "We're leaving as soon as you're done."
John blinked, confused.
"Leaving?" he repeated dumbly as he took the tea and the croissant.
"Breckinridge, at Covent garden!" Sherlock replied before going back to his room to dress up.
Right. The case. The bloody case that just had to involve Maggie's family as well. Why did she have to come this morning? Why did I have to be kissing Sherlock when she came?
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
It took less than ten minutes for the consulting detective to wash and put on his clothes. He came back into the living-room excitedly, already beaming with anticipation because the game was on!
However he found John still prostrated in his chair, having drank his tea but not even finished his croissant. Sherlock scowled.
"John, what are you doing? We're leaving!"
Sherlock stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to John instead of opening the door.
"You're not coming?"
"I can't possibly go! Do you even realize how awkward this is for me? What if James Oakshott truly is guilty? I'll be exposing my girlfriend's own brother!"
"That didn't seem to bother you when we went to Brixton."
"I had no idea that Maggie's family could be involved in such a way at the time!"
"And of course this sudden burst of guilt has nothing to do with the fact that she saw you kissing me this morning," Sherlock remarked, supercilious.
John felt his heart miss a beat and stared at his friend in shock. It took him a few seconds to find his voice.
"Y... you... you were awake?" he stuttered.
"And I would've faked sleeping? Please. I wasn't awake. But having something pressed on one's lips does wake one up, you know."
No, I don't, John thought grumpily, wondering why the day was getting worse and worse with every passing moment.
"It is the first time I have been kissed," Sherlock mused, as if thinking out loud. "You could've waited until I was really awake."
This rendered John speechless. He knew Sherlock wasn't interested in the least and did not have much experience in the matter. He was still a virgin. But kissing? Just kissing? It seemed absurd to John to think that nobody had ever wanted to kiss Sherlock. There must have been tons of people more than willing to... Oh. Right. Sherlock was fascinating, but he was also so impressive it was almost frightening. He appeared to be so much above everyone else that even John hadn't dared try to kiss him when he was conscious – which was of course a horrible thing to do. But it just meant that John had been as intimidated as everyone else.
"It's fine, but be quick now."
John gaped. "What?" Quick in doing what exactly?
Sherlock clicked his tongue in impatience.
"Go and dress up, John! I know you like dawdling over breakfast, but today we have a case!"
He was no longer smiling, rather frustrated with John's slowness; but his eyes were still sparkling with verve.
John, however, only got even more upset.
"Can't you stop thinking about the damn case for one second?!"
Sherlock's eyes widened in disbelief at the outburst.
"What is wrong with you?"
"What is wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong. I was just ditched because of you – again!"
Sherlock blinked, and John felt another pang of guilt. He knew he wasn't being fair at all, and this was not Sherlock's fault in any way. But the taller man just stood there, staring at him, apparently thinking very hard about something, and didn't retort the obvious: 'you're the one who kissed me.' It made John feel even worse.
"Do you want to invite her over dinner? I can tell her we were just cuddling, and..."
"Flatmates don't cuddle with each other, Sherlock!" John exploded.
"But we do," Sherlock pointed out, not understanding.
"And that's the problem."
Sherlock frowned with perplexity.
"But why is it a problem?"
John sighed in desperation. Could anyone be more oblivious?
"Because male best friends don't cuddle. Parents cuddle with their children, romantic pairs cuddle, but we are not any of those!"
"Does it matter? Surely Maggie would understand."
"No, she wouldn't. Look, Sherlock, just drop it. I... I just don't want to make things even worse."
Sherlock observed him closely.
"You know, you were quite perceptive on that one. I was so sure you'd be convinced that our 'mission' would be to prove James Oakshott's innocence."
"I know I'm stupid, but even I could see he sounded suspicious."
The detective snorted.
"Is that why, then? Because he sounded suspicious?"
What John heard as a scornful tone finally made him snap completely.
"Well, sorry for not being a genius who can tell the whole past of someone from their tan and wristwatch! I have other interests, you see? Interests that imply an actual interaction with people, and not just analysing them as if they were things."
The flash of hurt in Sherlock's eyes, very similar to the one John had seen when they were in Sebastian Wilkes' office, made the guilt unbearable.
"I'm sorry," he said precipitately. "I didn't mean..."
"Fine. I'll go alone," Sherlock cut in, his face now blank.
"No, wait, Sherlock!"
John caught his arm and was strangely reminded of the scene with Maggie. This time, though, he was much more desperate to be forgiven. With Maggie, he'd felt horrible as a man, from an outer perspective, because he'd been a dick. But with Sherlock... with Sherlock he didn't care about the outer perspective. He just couldn't lose him.
"Please forgive me," he implored as their eyes locked. "I'm on edge, I don't know what I'm saying."
His grip on Sherlock's arm tightened with fervour. He regretted his words so much. Sherlock had been happy like a cat on a hot tin roof, and now the fire in his gaze had died out. John would have done anything to light it up again.
As he was staring in John's beseeching pupils, Sherlock was thinking. Hard. John truly did seem to be on edge, and the detective could see the desperation in his eyes. He must have cared more about Maggie Oakshott than he had thought at first, if this affected him so much. In which case, what could be done? Sherlock did not like the idea, but if John really was in love with Maggie, he had no choice: they had to find a way to make her understand. Sherlock hated that distressed expression on John's face even more than the idea of him leaving Baker Street. He tried not to think too much about how the flat would feel without John. He didn't exactly know why or how, but it would be different. Everything would.
He swallowed with some difficulty. He knew perfectly well what should be done, it was quite evident. But it would still be a huge sacrifice on his part, for he felt ridiculously possessive of John in manul form. However, if he indulged John and did not interfere in his relationship with Maggie, perhaps he would stay longer. Perhaps he would visit him more often, too, when he'd gone.
"If you want, next time you transform, I can call her and invite her over for the night."
"So she can spend the night in the room and see you transform back. She'll understand, then."
But John shook his head vigorously, appalled, as he let go of his friend's arm.
"I never want her to see me in that form!" he cried out. "This is such an absurd idea, do you think she'd wait the whole night watching you hugging an ugly cat?"
"You're not ugly," Sherlock protested.
"That's beside the point! I've never heard you suggest anything so absurd."
This time, Sherlock had enough.
"Fine. Just stay there and brood, then. I'm off."
And with those words, he turned and left effectively. John just stood there in shock, at a loss. The sound of the door closing downstairs snapped him out of his torpor, and he slammed his fist against the wall.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The cringing little man named Breckinridge whom Sherlock found at Covent Garden appeared to be more than annoyed with his questions.
"What is it with you people and my geese? I keep being pestered about the geese I sold recently! Would anyone care to explain what is going on?"
Sherlock internally scoffed and showed the man Lestrade's badge.
"Detective Inspector Lestrade from Scotland yard. I am currently investigating a theft that involved one of the geese you sold. One with a black bar on its tail."
"Do you think I look at the geese's tails?" Breckinridge snorted.
"I recommend you be a little more cooperative, Mr. Breckinridge. Do you remember a middle-aged man with grizzled hair and a hat to whom you sold a goose on Christmas Eve?"
Breckinridge gulped at the grave tone, not wanting to have any problems with the police.
"Yeah, that's a regular customer, Mr. Henry Baker. Don't know where he lives, though."
"Regular customer? Has he come since?"
"I see. Just another question: is this the man who came and asked questions about the geese too?" Sherlock inquired, showing the man a picture of James Oakshott on the screen of his phone.
"It is," Breckinridge answered, baffled.
"Thank you for your time."
Sherlock did not stay to listen to the little man's obsequious apologies and ran to the main road to hail a cab.
"To the Hotel Cosmopolitan," he announced.
His phone vibrated and he took a look. Three messages.
From Lestrade: The case of the Countess of Morcar is solved. Don't need you on it anymore.
From Mycroft: Back to London, my dear brother?
From John: Where are you?
Sherlock smiled – almost imperceptibly. As he was typing an answer, he received another one.
I'm dressed now.
Then a second later, before he'd even pressed the 'SEND' button.
I want to come.
This time, his grin broadened. Too bad John wasn't there to see he had managed to light up the detective's face again, after all.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"Why are we going in there?" John asked as they walked up the steps of the luxury hotel.
"Because this is where the Countess was robbed."
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"Hello," he said with a charming smile to the woman at the counter, showing her the D.I.'s badge," I am investigating a robbery that took place in your premises a while ago. I am sure you know what I am referring to."
"Indeed," she replied with a stiff lip. "The police have already come several time, though, and the case has been solved. Don't you know?"
"We believe that the inculpation of the plumber John Horner was a mistake," Sherlock replied evenly. John blinked in confusion. Who?
"Do you? Well, what can I do for you?"
"I would like a complete list of your staff."
"We already gave you one last week, and I believe everyone was cleared of all suspicion."
"Well, the situation has changed."
She did not seem very happy about it, but complied without a word. John's eyes fell on the list she handed them and widened as he read the name of James Oakshott: upper-attendant.
"Why do you now believe you have made a mistake, if I may ask?" she inquired a little sharply.
"You may not," Sherlock retorted with a smirk before turning and leaving. John stared, befuddled, stammered an apology to the woman, and ran after him.
"What was all that about?" he asked, having a hard time matching Sherlock's quick and huge strides.
"Read this," Sherlock commanded as he handed him his phone. It was an online newspaper article. John read.
Plumber John Horner, 26, had been brought up upon the charge of having stolen from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the precious blue gem. He had been led by the hotel staff to the countess' dressing-room the day of the robbery so as to solder the second bar of the grate, which was loose. He was left alone there for a certain amount of time, and when the Countess's maid, Catherine Cucksack, had entered the room later in the afternoon, she had found the bureau had been forced open and the jewel stolen. She was the one who had set the alarm. Since no one else had had access to the room that day but the plumber, and considering that John Horner had already been convicted once for robbery, the police had come to the conclusion that he must be the culprit. The gem, however, had not been found, either on his person or in his rooms.
"Poor bloke. He got completely framed."
"Indeed. And did you notice the maid's name?"
"What about it?"
"Catherine, John. Catherine."
"Oh!" John exclaimed when realization had dawned upon him. "So James' girlfriend..."
"... was his accomplice in this crime. They must have planned it together, in fact. It was stupid of the police not to think that a plumber would have no idea where the jewellery was hidden: he would've had to rummage through the whole room in order to find it, but only the bureau had been forced open."
"They probably just wanted to find a culprit as soon as possible."
They exchanged an amused, knowing smile, and John felt like everything was back to normal.
"So what do we do, now?"
"Send a text to Lestrade," Sherlock replied as he did so. "James Oakshott was an idiot. He let Breckinridge see his face, as well as Henry Baker, the poor man who was unlucky enough to buy a goose with a black bar on its tail."
"But what does he have to do with anything?"
"Nothing. James put the gem in a goose when he was at Emily's, remembering it was the one with a black bar on its tail. He probably did not notice there were two. He knew Emily sold her geese to Breckinridge, and did not think of the one she gave their sister Maggie: he just went to Breckinridge, asked about the goose with a black bar on its tail, and was told it had just been sold. He ran after Henry Baker, surely scared him to death, but didn't catch him in time, and it was Molly who ended up with the goose. James must have thought the gem was lost forever, but then he was told the whole story by Emily. That is probably why Catherine did not come that day, too."
"You're brilliant," John laughed. "Really brilliant."
"Don't be stupid. This case was so easy to solve, anyone could've done it."
"Obviously, the police didn't."
"They lacked data."
John shook his head, smiling.
And so they returned to 221B, John deep in thought as to what he should do with Maggie, and Sherlock deep in thought as to what he should do with John. Consequently the cab ride was rather silent.
Soon they got to their destination and paid the cabbie. As they walked up the stairs to the flat, John finally mustered the courage to speak, and began:
"You know, Sherlock, I..."
He stopped in mid-sentence as he saw his friend hold up his hand, requesting that he kept quiet. Sherlock was frowning, a glare threatening to fill his eyes, which had turned to slits. John tilted his head to the side, confused. But when Sherlock finally pushed the door open, and they saw a tall man with an umbrella by his side leisurely reading a newspaper in their living-room, he understood and emitted a groan.
"Hello, Sherlock. Dr. Watson. How have you been?" Mycroft inquired in an unctuous tone.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 11: Up above the world so high
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz. All my thanks! Hope you enjoy (and review :D) ~¤Zoffoli
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Up above the world so high
As they walked up the stairs to the flat, John finally mustered the courage to speak, and began:
"You know, Sherlock, I..."
He stopped in mid-sentence as he saw his friend hold up his hand, requesting that he kept quiet. Sherlock was frowning, a glare threatening to fill his eyes, which had turned to slits. John tilted his head to the side, confused. But when Sherlock finally pushed the door open, and they saw a tall man with an umbrella by his side leisurely reading a newspaper in their living-room, he understood and emitted a groan.
"Hello, Sherlock. Dr. Watson. How have you been?" Mycroft inquired in an unctuous tone.
"What are you doing here, Mycroft?"
"Why, just checking everything was all right with Dr. Watson. It seems his irresponsible flatmate left him with a tiger on a train and was unreachable for a few days... I see you're back to London, little brother."
"How perceptive of you," Sherlock spat.
John just stood there, very tired all of a sudden.
"I'll make some tea," he said before heading to the kitchen.
The two brothers' gazes followed his back, then turned again to each other.
"So... solved the case?"
"And got rid of the tiger?"
"The matter has been seen to."
"I hope you've planned to buy John another phone, considering his was crushed during this adventure."
Sherlock's eyes turned to slits, but John was already back in the room and decided to put an end to the little battle going on.
"So, Mycroft. What did you come here for?"
A thin smile spread across the British Government's lips, and Sherlock scowled pre-emptively.
"Why, didn't we have a deal?"
"There was no deal. He did not promise you anything," Sherlock cut in sharply.
John, lost, looked up to him in confusion. Mycroft smirked.
"And how would you know that, brother dear? Were you there?"
Sherlock glared as John started to panic.
"He told me," the detective scoffed.
"Yes. Now if you're done, will you please get ou–"
"Have you two become closer lately, perhaps?" Mycroft interrupted.
"Beg your pardon?" John stuttered.
"Well, I cannot remember any occasion in which Sherlock lent his coat to anyone. But you had it with you yesterday, didn't you, John?"
John paled. Of course. They'd been so worried about the whole situation once they got to Victoria Station that they did not pay any attention to Sherlock's clothes on the train seat. That, and the crushed phone, would have been suspicious to anyone... not to mention to a Holmes.
"I... I was cold, and he didn't need it..." John floundered.
"Nor did he need his underwear, I presume. Or perhaps he gave it to you as a keepsake?"
"Enough," Sherlock cut in, furious to see John being humiliated. "We don't have to justify ourselves to you."
"But you did call for my help," Mycroft pointed out smugly.
"No, I did," John interrupted, not liking where this was going. "Now if you want me to repay you in any way..."
"No!" Sherlock cut in again, determined not to let Mycroft have his way. "Certainly not. You don't owe him anything."
"It was so very kind of you to assist John in this," Sherlock told his brother. "But he never gave his word that he would do anything in exchange – in fact, he did not even say anything on the matter. You came and helped nonetheless. So now please do go back to your own business and stop minding ours."
John gulped at the staring contest that ensued.
"Fine," Mycroft finally said with a smirk. "But you should take better care of him next time, Sherlock. Who knows what will happen if he is found anywhere in town with a tiger?"
Sherlock glared, and John frowned.
"He really does put you in terrible situations, doesn't he?" Mycroft went on, addressing John this time. "Well, please keep taking good care of him. I'm afraid you're quite irreplaceable. Who else would deal with him like you do?"
And with those parting words, off he went under the daggers of Sherlock's eyes. John blinked, surprised that they had got out of it so easily – and that Mycroft had basically sounded like he was entrusting him with Sherlock... like a father entrusted his daughter to her future husband. He coughed a little to dispel his unease and went to drink his tea in his armchair morosely.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock was bored and had started experimenting in the kitchen while John desperately tried to distract himself by watching crap telly. Suddenly their semblance of serenity was disturbed by the entrance of Greg Lestrade, who did not seem very pleased.
"You could have told me!" he exclaimed in place of greetings. "Seriously, I've been contacting you about this case for days, and all of a sudden you go and use my identity without my consent, expose the true culprit and make us look like idiots again! Why didn't you text me back?"
There was something genuinely hurt in his tone, beyond the frustration, and John felt bad for him. Sherlock, however, did not appear very sheepish.
"You mean I made up for your stupidity, again."
"Look," the consulting detective said, finally deigning to spare a look at the D.I. through his goggles, "I've been busy. I did not avoid contacting you, I just didn't have time. Also, if it helps you feel better, I had an element you did not have – you lacked data."
"What do you mean?"
"John's girlfriend found the blue gem in a goose she cooked for Christmas," he deadpanned.
"She's not my girlfriend anymore," John mumbled grumpily from his seat – but no one paid any attention to him.
"Maggie Oakshott. The culprit's sister."
"Oh boy, how is she?" Lestrade inquired, feeling rather sorry for the woman, and wondering if that was the reason John seemed so sullen. He was bound to be, if his flatmate had just exposed the brother of the woman he dated...
Since John wasn't answering, Sherlock replied in his stance:
"She'll be fine."
"Well, sorry it had to be your girlfriend's brother, mate..." Lestrade said, addressing John again.
"Not my girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend!" John snapped. Lestrade's eyes widened. "She dumped me this morning," John added tiredly.
"Ah, sorry to hear that," Greg said awkwardly, glancing at Sherlock, who had resumed his experiment and was no longer following. "Um, well, I'll be going then... But please Sherlock, next time answer my texts before I get some poor innocent bloke arrested."
"Mm," Sherlock simply replied, and the D.I. was glad to get away from the general unease hanging in the room as he left the flat. John kept his eyes on the screen, not seeing it, and Sherlock kept pretending to experiment, when he was in fact thinking of something else entirely.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The day went by, and by the end of it John had one hell of a headache. And he still hadn't figured anything out.
He knew he had to apologize to Sherlock, and to make things clear between them. He should also send Maggie an email of apology. But truth be told, she wasn't his main concern for the time being.
John had been horrible to both Sherlock and Maggie and he knew it. He was ashamed of his behaviour, but he could not quite explain it, for he had never been a coward and never wished to be, thank you very much. But he could find no other word to describe his attitude for the past few days: cowardice. He'd been scared to admit his feelings for Sherlock to himself. Scared that if he broke up with Maggie, he'd have to face the situation with Sherlock. With hindsight, he was horrified to realize that he'd probably started dating Maggie precisely to get his mind off Sherlock – and to shag her, naturally, because she was attractive and funny. And female.
Guilt rose in his chest as he tried to concentrate on the stupid show playing on the screen before him. What else could he have done? He stood no chance whatsoever with Sherlock. Not as a romantic partner. So was this the best he could hope for? Would he for the rest of his life be reduced to cuddling with Sherlock and dating women he did not love to get a good shag once in a while?
It was pathetic. He was pathetic.
Should he move out then, and try to get into a serious relationship with someone – build a family perhaps? He was getting older and he wasn't even sure he'd ever get a chance to be a father, but it was worth a try.
Except it wasn't. In fact, he really did not want to leave Baker Street. He was happy there, happier than anywhere else. He didn't feel like moving out and leave Sherlock – at all. And their regular transformations were just another incentive. Now he almost had an excuse to stay with Sherlock forever.
An excuse? And why would I need an excuse? he thought. Wouldn't it be horrible for Sherlock if John told himself he had no choice but to stay with him? Just like when he'd accused him of being the cause of his latest break-up... That was definitely something he should apologize for. Sherlock had done nothing this time; John had been ditched thanks to his own lowly attitude. John cleared his throat and turned to his friend off-handedly, thinking of a way to phrase this.
John observed him for a moment and realized he'd been experimenting all day. Sherlock never experimented all day. He got bored.
"What are you experimenting on?" he wondered.
"Human blood," Sherlock lied.
Well, he had been experimenting on that a few hours before. Since then, though, he'd been only pretending, and had tried to distract himself with the silliest things. He did not dare complain about being bored today, when John was so obviously upset about his break-up. Speaking of which, Sherlock checked the time on his mobile phone discreetly. He had texted Maggie Oakshott one hour ago, inviting her over for dinner. She had told him to leave her alone, and that she'd had enough – but then Sherlock had told her just how depressed John was, and that he, Sherlock, wished to explain everything. He said that John was truly in love with her, and wished to make up, but did not know how. Said this was all a huge misunderstanding. In short, he had told her everything a woman in such a situation wants to hear, and had coaxed her into coming. She should have been arriving any minute.
"Should we order Chinese for tonight?" he asked.
"You want to eat?" he asked, bewildered.
Sherlock arched an eyebrow.
"John, surely you must be aware that even I must eat."
"But you never... Oh, never mind. I'm not really hungry. Just order whatever you want."
Sherlock shrugged, called, and ordered. John was so engrossed in trying to find a way of phrasing his apology that he did not notice Sherlock was ordering more than usual – especially considering John had just told him that he was not hungry. He shut off the telly and stood up, stretching, before he walked into the kitchen.
Busying himself with making some tea, which was ridiculous at such an hour of the day, he began:
"Sherlock, about this morning..."
"It's fine if you don't want to talk about it," Sherlock cut in, believing John was referring to the kiss. He understood Maggie came first, and John must regret his gesture, even if it was just a test.
"But I do want to talk about it," John said firmly. "I owe you an apology."
This time, Sherlock realized that perhaps he was the one who really did not want to talk about this. He got the message all right already, and did not need to hear John tell him that this had all been a mistake and they should stop being so intimate with each other. Sherlock did not want to hear any apology. I'm sorry, but even if my attitude has been ambiguous, I'm in love with Maggie. I realize it now, and I've been so stupid. I'm so sorry for giving you the wrong impression, and for forcing this onto you – I know you're not interested, never were... I'm sorry, Sherlock, really sorry.
"I'm sorry I said it was your fault I got ditched. It was all my fault, not yours, not Maggie's. I've been horrible to the both of you."
As John was speaking, Sherlock's eyes widened. First of all, because he hadn't expected that kind of apology. Secondly, because he'd heard the top steps creak, and knew Maggie was standing just behind the door. He smirked. Perfect timing.
Now, on with his role.
"I think you should be telling this to someone else," he said, his tone most serious even though he was giggling like crazy inside becausethis sounded like those dreadful romances on the telly. Then he remembered this would probably lead to John moving out in the end, and he no longer felt like laughing.
"What?" John said, completely lost.
But Maggie, who had heard Sherlock's comment as well, now entered the room, and stood awkwardly behind John. He turned and froze on the spot.
"Maggie..." he murmured, flabbergasted. "What–"
"Your friend texted me," she said. She exchanged a look with Sherlock before turning back to John. "He said this was all a misunderstanding, and I was stupid enough to believe him..."
There was no harshness in her tone, and overall her voice was rather unsure. She looked tired, angry, hopeful and uncertain.
"Please have a seat," Sherlock told her, since John appeared to be petrified. "I just ordered Chinese, I hope that'll suit your taste..."
"It is very kind of you," she replied stiffly. "I would rather stand."
Sherlock blinked, a little thrown off-balance, but then shrugged it off.
"Fine. I said this was a misunderstanding, because it is. I'll explain everything."
"Sherlock..." John began worriedly, a warning in his voice. Sherlock got the message and ignored his flatmate.
"John and I are neither in a romantic nor in a sexual relationship."
Maggie's gaze sharpened, but she did not say a word.
"Many people assume we are, because he is ridiculously loyal and devoted to me. This just shows what a good man he is: he's my flatmate, friend and doctor, and I am aware sometimes he must feel more like a baby-sitter than anything else."
John just watched, rendered speechless by the whole situation. Was Sherlock trying to make up excuses for him? So he could get back with Maggie? This was all at once incredibly sweet and incredibly unwanted.
Maggie, on the other hand, seemed to wonder where this was leading.
"When he came back from Afghanistan, he was alone and bored. He wanted to stay in London but didn't have the money to rent a flat all by himself. A common friend introduced us, and we started sharing this flat."
John wouldn't have presented things this way – it all sounded so simple, so common... But perhaps this was what Sherlock was aiming for.
"As an ex-soldier, John enjoyed helping me with cases – still does, I believe. You must understand he got used to the thrill at war, and he missed the whole sense of adventure, and even, perhaps, the danger."
The doctor was getting more and more surprised – adventure? Sherlock had even managed to say it without any contempt. What in the world was he doing?
"But for that same reason, every time I requested his presence by text, he rushed by my side, because he knew it could have been dangerous, could have been important... Here I must admit I used this to my advantage. A lot."
Maggie frowned slightly, but still made no comment.
"You see," Sherlock went on, "the Work is everything to me. It is all that matters. I'm afraid I exploited John's kindness, and since we were always seen together and John was always so protective, naturally people assumed we were together. I can assure you, we are not."
At this point, his gaze turned cold, and an expression of disgust flashed across his face.
"I understand why you must have assumed as much, but it's absurd. John is straight, and I really have no interest at all for any kind of relationships. You found John in my bed this morning because lately I have been having terrible nightmares due to some horrific case I solved, and that reminded me of something I had to go through during my childhood..."
He looked away, a look of pain on his face. John was getting more perplexed by the second – lost, but admiring his friend's talent for acting.
"I was naked because I sleep naked. I regularly walk around the flat only covered with a sheet or a dressing gown, because I know John couldn't care less, as he would never be attracted to a man; I just do as I wish because I am here at home. You must see nothing more to this than my personal shameless habits, because really, there is nothing to be ashamed of between two men, one of whom is straight and in love with a woman, and the other asexual and obsessed with his job."
Maggie blinked, a bit overwhelmed by this flow of words and information. She had never looked at things that way. On the other hand, John was getting more and more annoyed with Sherlock for making up this brilliant but ridiculous speech in his defence. He wasn't in love with Maggie. Never would be. This was only making the situation worse.
"No, let me finish. Since you're not even capable of explaining things to her properly, just let me do it. You can be so clumsy sometimes."
"How can you explain the kiss, then, Mr. Holmes?" Maggie cut in sharply, trying not to get her hopes up too fast.
"Surely you must have realized John was about to kiss you this morning when I entered the room."
"What else can you expect?" Sherlock went on, not flustered in the least. "People keep insinuating, and sometimes even telling him up front that he must be gay because he lives with one of the most insufferable men in the world. Then even you, his girlfriend, start implying the same thing! Obviously he would start doubting himself. What if he truly was gay without knowing it? Wasn't he being awful to you then? True, he does care about me, and probably will his whole life. But that is only because of his deep sense of comradeship. Still, when everyone accuses you of the same thing, you are bound to doubt yourself – especially when you have strong moral principles, like John does. So yes, he tried to kiss me. Evidently it was a failure, and he regretted it ever since." He paused, saving his best effect for the end: "And he will regret it all his life if you do not believe him when he says there is nothing, absolutely nothing, between us."
Maggie's eyes filled with tears and she averted her gaze out of a sense of propriety.
"Today was just so wrong," she broke out. "I found John in bed with you in the morning, then learnt my brother and his girlfriend had been arrested – I asked to see him, but they wouldn't let me. I planned on going to my sister's tonight because this is all too much, but then I got your text, and..."
"Maggie, I..." John began, at a loss. Apparently, she did not know the role they'd played in her brother's arrest...
"Here," Sherlock said, handing her a tissue. "I understand how hard it must be. We had no idea your brother had been arrested today."
John sent Sherlock a disapproving look the detective ignored, patting Maggie's shoulder instead.
She dried her tears and stepped back, as if repelled by his touch. Sherlock blinked and stepped back as well.
"So you're saying that the only reason everyone assumes John is gay is you?" she said, and her tone was strangely provocative. "Will you continue to be a hindrance to him all his life?"
"Maggie!" John exclaimed in outrage.
"I'm sorry. It's not your fault if you're like this," she amended. "As you said, John is your only friend, and I understand you'd be rather possessive and inconsiderate, but..."
She smiled up at Sherlock tentatively, her eyes still red from the tears.
"But surely you want the best for him too, right?"
"Of course," Sherlock replied curtly, a distinct sinking feeling in his chest.
"I know your relationship is special, but you are an adult, and you must understand a grown-up man cannot ask of his flatmate that he sleep with him because he has nightmares, right?"
Sherlock blinked, and it took him a second to remember what she was talking about. He was quite unsettled by her patronizing tone – she was addressing him as if she were talking to a child.
"Yes, of course," he said so as not to upset her.
"Your work is the most important, right? You are happy with it, aren't you?"
"I am," Sherlock continued in the same tone, not noticing John's growing irritation.
"Then you must let John find his own happiness as well," she declared, her voice more than ever motherly.
"Naturally, this is why I told you to come. He's been miserable all day," Sherlock told her, beginning to feel quite miserable himself.
Maggie turned to John and locked eyes with him.
"Don't you have anything to tell me, John?" she asked, and this time her tone was as pleading as annoyed. To be fair, John hadn't said a word to her since she had got there, and had only tried pitifully to interrupt each of them, in vain.
"Yes," John said. "Maggie, I am sorry."
"See?" Sherlock chimed in, intent on hammering the message home and relieved to see this conversation come to an end. "He's sorry!" And here we are again with the crap telly romances...
"I'm in love with Sherlock."
Time seemed to stop as both Maggie and Sherlock stared in shock. Both had been so engrossed in their little discussion that they hadn't taken the time to look at John one little second; in other words, neither of them had seen this coming.
"What?" Maggie asked, not sure she'd heard this right.
John took a deep breath and forced himself to look her in the eye.
"I am in love with Sherlock," he repeated.
Of course, he got slapped in the face for it. Hard. He did not even bat an eyelid, however; finally, he was at peace with himself.
"How... how dare you?" Maggie stuttered, trembling with fury and shame at having been duped – again. "And you!" she growled, turning to Sherlock threateningly. "Did you have fun? How can you be so cruel?"
"You're wrong, I–"
"Or perhaps you planned this together?"
"Maggie, don't be ridiculous," John said.
"Ridiculous?! I am being ridiculous? Oh, I am, aren't I? I can't believe I came here again just to have this..." she could find no word, and spat venomously: "...rubbed in my face again!"
Then to John, her voice breaking:
"You're such a jerk..."
"I know. And I am truly sorry."
But Maggie wasn't done. Hell has no fury as a woman spurned, they say – so what about a woman spurned twice, fooled and mocked?
"And you..." she said, turning to Sherlock again, her gaze filled with rage and the deepest disgust. "You're pathetic. You claim to be so clever – a genius, they say! – and you don't even realize your own flatmate is infatuated with you. You're an idiot, and worse than that, you're completely self-deluded. You think you are so smart, so strong, that you need nobody, but in fact you are completely dependent on people! You need people to distract you, people to make you eat, to obey your every order, even to save your bloody life... You're completely worthless."
"Maggie, enough!" John yelled.
"You're so lucky to have met such a kind man as John, and that he got besotted with you. Enjoy it while it lasts – such an obnoxious, twisted, disgusting freak like you is bound to live and die alone."
Sherlock just stood there, his face blank. Speechless. He'd met many people who hated him: he was used to antipathy, resentment, spite... But never had he been confronted with such savage loathing.
He blinked, and turned his gaze to John, who had just spoken in the coldest manner Sherlock had ever heard.
"You're the one being obnoxious now. So get out, and go to your sister."
John did not add the "She'll probably tell you she has a crush on a handsome D.I. named Gregory Lestrade" he intended at first, only because he wanted her out. Now.
Maggie sent him a pitiful, shattered glare. John closed his eyes in shame.
"But I'm the one who pushed you over the edge. I meant what I said just before you came in: I was horrible to both you and Sherlock. He only tried to make things better."
"Well, aren't you happy, now? Perhaps you'll finally get a chance to shag him, between two cases when he's bored," she spat.
She saw the rage glower in John's eyes and thought she'd better make her retreat now. Before slamming the door behind her however, she concluded snidely:
"I wish you much pleasure fucking that bag of bones."
Her words rang out louder in Sherlock's ears than the door being slammed. Maggie was lucky John refused to hit women and prioritized taking care of Sherlock over running after her to give her a good beating.
The steps creaked furiously and the second door was slammed as well. John heard her shout something at someone, and when the staircase creaked again, he understood and walked to the door to pay the delivery man.
All the while, Sherlock just stood there, dumbfounded. His brain was still processing everything that had just been said.
John went to the kitchen and put the food on the table, knowing neither of them would eat anything tonight. Gingerly, he put his hand on Sherlock's shoulder, snapping him back to reality.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Me? Of course. Why shouldn't I be?"
"I'm sorry about what she said."
Sherlock shrugged, trying to hide the shiver that ran down his spine in the process. John breathed in deeply.
"She was angry. Don't take her words seriously."
"I can live with being a bag of bones, John," Sherlock retorted with annoyance. "I've heard much worse."
That wasn't quite true, however – he had never heard such a virulent speech full of hatred directed towards him and hitting home. Sherlock didn't understand why Maggie's words had crushed the joy he had felt upon hearing John's confession. John loved him, had just admitted it out loud, and had dismissed the girlfriend. This meant indefinite cuddling with him in manul form, or when Sherlock himself transformed into a tiger. So why did he feel so cold?
"Sherlock..." John murmured, giving a little pressure to his shoulder.
"Such an obnoxious, twisted, disgusting freak as you is bound to live and die alone."
"Mm?" Sherlock replied absent-mindedly.
"I wish you much pleasure fucking that bag of bones."
"She said horrible things, and they were all lies. Please delete them."
Sherlock wished he could.
John saw how lost his flatmate was, and was overwhelmed with guilt. Sherlock did not deserve to hear such words hurled to his face just because of him – because he'd been stupid and had angered a woman. Seeing Sherlock's little theatrics, John had been so touched, and so sure this was proof that Sherlock truly cared about him... But hadn't Sherlock said only the Work mattered? These past weeks, however, John had seen him genuinely happy playing with him in manul form. Holding him. Touching his scar.
"So. Your room or mine?" Sherlock inquired.
John froze and looked at him with horror. This was nothing like the oblivious, endearing offer the detective had uttered when John had been in manul form. The question, presented in such a way, chilled John to the bones. Sherlock saw his turmoil and added:
"You said you love me, right? Then now we're a real couple and it isn't a problem if we sleep together, is it?"
Behind the practical, matter-of-fact tone, John wondered if he did not hear some insecurity. Then he remembered Maggie's awful words, and slapped himself mentally. God, Sherlock must be so confused right now...
Then John had to be calm, assured. Reassuring.
"Aren't you bothered by this?" he asked, as collectedly as he could manage.
Sherlock arched an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Bothered by what?"
"Me, in love with you."
"Why should it bother me?"
"...Right. Fine, perfect, then. But we don't have to sleep in the same bed. I mean, I know you barely sleep anyway."
Sherlock tilted his head to the side in puzzlement.
"But don't couples sleep together?"
"If you mean together as in the same bed, I'm not sure about asexual couples," John answered truthfully.
"But you're not asexual, John."
John shrugged and tried to show how unimportant this was. He'd made his choice anyway.
"No, but you are, and I'm old anyway."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Sherlock asked with a frown, overly confused.
"It means you don't want the sex, and I don't need it."
"But you want it."
Damn him and his bloody attentiveness to words... John thought.
"I don't want it," he assured. "I don't want it, you don't want it, so it's all fine. "
"Nothing should change. And we don't have to sleep together."
Sherlock wavered a bit before asking:
"What about cuddling?"
Not getting where he was heading, John answered with an indulging smile:
"Don't worry, we don't have to do it when it isn't necessary, either." He decided to omit that he hoped they would transform often and so get to cuddle a lot.
"I see..." Sherlock said quietly. "John?"
"Do you love me only in tiger form?"
The question was so candid, so ingenuous and so absurd John gaped for a second before coming back to his senses.
"What the... that's preposterous!"
"It's fine. I know there is nothing fluffy to me when I'm in this body, so–"
"No, Sherlock, listen!"
Forgetting all about decency and self-consciousness and what should be done and what should not be done, John grabbed his friend's head very much like Sherlock had grabbed his during the Black Lotus case, when he had been trying to make him remember the ciphers he had seen on a wall. John did not spin Sherlock around, however, and just forced him gently to look down at him.
"Your body doesn't matter. I love you in any form."
Sherlock stared, surprised by both the gesture and the words.
"But you don't like me touching you when we're both human. I thought..."
"Didn't I hug you yesterday morning?"
"Yes, but... wasn't that just a test? One that failed, too. You didn't like it."
"Don't lie, John," Sherlock cut in, fairly annoyed. "I could tell you felt awkward, and you suddenly jumped back when I reminded you that you were naked."
"I was just embarrassed!" John protested. "Look, I..."
Frustrated with his lack of eloquence, John decided to act instead and wrapped his arms around his friend tightly, pressing him close.
"I'm just afraid I'd do something you wouldn't like."
Sherlock frowned, feeling very tired all of a sudden.
"Fine. You don't have to force yourself. I'm going to bed."
John was so shocked to hear Sherlock say "I'm going to bed" that he let him push him back gently and escape the embrace.
Sherlock closed the door of his room behind him and looked at his empty bed in the semi-darkness. Everything was fine. Today had been a good day after all. John would stay in Baker Street, indefinitely.
He undressed and put on his blue gown as he heard John go up to his own room. He did not understand why he felt so miserable, but the bright side of it was that he would probably wake up as a tiger and get John's attention again. He lay down on his bed and looked at the ceiling.
Z. Zoology. He did not like what the word conjured up in his mind (namely, one soft and furry Eastern cat...), and so skipped it. Y. Yearning. Yearning? Where did that come from? He had no data stored in his mind palace about such a useless notion. Ignoring the various memories of the past few weeks that flashed across his field of vision, he went on. G. Gaze. Naturally, he saw mainly a dark blue one, and rolled his eyes. What could he possibly have filed about "gaze"? This was stupid. He should just pick a domain and stick to it. Poisons, he thought, not stopping to wonder why this was the first thing that came to his mind. A. Atropine. Tropane alkaloid. Anticholinergic drug (parasympatholytic) extracted from Atropa belladona, Datura stramonium, and Mandragora officinarum. (RS)-(8-methyl-8-azabicyclo[3.2.1]oct-3-yl) 3-hydroxy-2-phenylpropanoate. E. Ethylene glycol. Organic compound. Automotive antifreeze. Odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting. Ingestion can result in death. Ethane-1,2-dio. L. Lilium longiflorum. Also known as Easter Lily. Plantae, Angiosperms, Monocots, Liliales, Liliaceae. Toxic to cats: causes acute renal failure. Causes death when ingested in larger amount.
Sherlock's breath caught in his throat and he suddenly looked away from the ceiling, trying to dispel the unease and the cold that was spreading to his body. Just then, the door to his room was pushed open, and a man wearing pyjamas came in quietly. Sherlock blinked, wondering whether he was dreaming.
"Are you asleep?" John asked.
"I'm not sure," Sherlock replied in a daze.
John chuckled and closed the door before coming to sit on the bed.
"Can we cuddle tonight?" he inquired.
Sherlock stared, confounded.
"Yes," he said, noting he was completely unable to utter more than one syllable.
Because it was dark, he missed John's smile. The doctor slid under the blanket and the sheet, inviting Sherlock to do the same. Sherlock, of course, complied happily, not believing his luck.
Hesitantly at first, John snuggled up closer, not quite daring to wrap his arms around Sherlock. The taller man did dare. Since he wasn't sure whether his gesture would be welcome or not, his hug was more than just a little clumsy. But when he felt John sigh in contentment and rest his head against his chest, a wave of sheer warmth washed over him and he relaxed, shifting so they would both be comfortable for the night.
"Goodnight, Sherlock," John murmured, and Sherlock could feel his friend's heart hammer in his chest, against his own. He smiled unwittingly, and spontaneously stroked John's hair to slow down his heart beats.
"Goodnight," he whispered, and all thoughts of poisons and yearning vanished from his mind.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 12: Like a diamond in the sky
A/N: This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz. All my thanks!
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Like a diamond in the sky
You're completely worthless.
You're so lucky to have met such a kind man as John.
Such an obnoxious,
Freak like you is bound to live and die alone.
Die alone. Die alone, die alone, die alone...
Sherlock groaned in his sleep, frowning with annoyance at the crowding memories. They were so upsetting that soon he was fully awake and opened his eyes with a pout... which turned into a broad grin as he saw a fluffy face sleeping on the pillow, inches from him. Instinctively, he snuggled up closer and nuzzled the soft fur of his friend.
... Fur? Sherlock's eyes snapped open and he jolted back to look at John. Why in the world had John turned into a manul? Hadn't they been cuddling all night?
A sense of dread slowly filled Sherlock as he stared, not daring to come any closer to his flatmate. They transformed when they felt upset or miserable. They transformed when they needed to cuddle. So why was John a manul this morning, when they had been holding each other all night? Had he felt upset or miserable? Did he regret breaking it up with Maggie irreversibly, and had he realized this when he'd landed in a man's bed? In Sherlock's bed?
I wish you much pleasure fucking that bag of bones.
Suddenly Sherlock felt very cold and a shiver ran down his spine. Had John been repelled by his body? They had never gone to bed together in human form before. What if John hadn't been just embarrassed when he had hugged him two days before? Sherlock gulped. He'd been stupid, so stupid. How could he have not seen this coming? John was straight. Always had been. But he was such a good man that upon realizing how much he cared for Sherlock, he had dropped the girlfriend and made the incredible and terrible decision to devote the rest of his life to his insufferable flatmate. Since the detective would always come first, John had decided to be fair to others, fair to any potential girlfriend, and had declared himself to be in love with Sherlock.
But John was not gay. He was not even asexual. Sherlock wasn't ignorant enough to believe him when he said he was too old now anyway – John was a man, and a man has needs. Now, because he was so damn loyal and faithful, John was stuck for the rest of his life with a man he wasn't attracted to. And Sherlock felt horrible about it.
More urgently, what could he do? Would he be able to make John turn back into a man this time, since his holding John had been the source of the transformation in the first place? As things were, they certainly could not have Maggie hold him tonight so he would transform back...
The happiness Sherlock had felt upon seeing the manul as he'd woken up was crushed by this flow of guilt and turmoil. John must have come to his room the previous night because he pitied him and knew Sherlock would feel lonely thanks to what Maggie had said. He had probably forced himself to hold the detective, and now he was a plushy cat; Sherlock did not even dare hug him or fondle him.
He was still in the midst of those grim considerations when John opened his eyes and blinked sleepily. His gaze met Sherlock's, and a spontaneous beam lit up his fluffy face. He opened his mouth, probably to say 'Good morning', and...
Sherlock saw consternation fill John's face as he became aware of his present form. Bringing his paws in front of his face, he blinked, at a loss, and mewled pitifully.
"I'm sorry," Sherlock blurted. For once in his life, he was feeling shame.
John did not seem to understand what he was apologizing for, but the serious tone of his friend made him forget his own condition. Tilting his head to the side, he expressed puzzlement so Sherlock would develop his thought.
"You transformed because you came to cuddle last night even though you did not feel like it. You shouldn't have come."
John stared, befuddled. What was Sherlock on about? He'd been dying to cuddle with him the previous night. Scratch that, he'd been dying to do much more... The manul stiffened at once. Was this the reason, then? Because he'd been nursing secret desires and hadn't acted upon them? But this was crazy! He couldn't possibly burst into Sherlock's room, jump into his bed and snog him senseless. And if Sherlock's theory was correct... Did that mean he would have to snog Sherlock as a cat in order to turn back? Appalled, John shrieked. No, this was inconceivable. Cuddling would have to do. Cuddling was good. He threw himself into Sherlock's arms, and nuzzled up against his chest frantically.
Sherlock's eyes widened in bewilderment. Then he thought he understood and murmured: "I know you must be quite desperate to turn back. I'm not sure I can do anything about it, since this time us cuddling was the cause of your transformation, but... I'll do my best."
Only then did the meaning of Sherlock's words – and of his unease, too – dawn on John. Sherlock believed he'd turned into a manul because he was too close to him, even though the true reason had been because he hadn't been close enough. He moaned and slammed his plushy face against Sherlock's torso.
"I know, I know..." Sherlock whispered.
No, you don't, John thought despairingly. He wasn't sure, however, whether he wanted his friend to become aware of the true cause of this transformation. First of all, because it was bloody embarrassing. More importantly, because Sherlock would feel obliged to go along with anything and everything John would wish. He would no doubt feel that he owed him this, since John had chosen him over everyone else.
Still. If John did not clear things up a bit, the detective would keep believing that his flatmate was disgusted with him and was forcing himself to hug him. And this John found unbearable – not to mention utterly absurd.
So he crawled up, snuggled against Sherlock's neck, and gave him a lick before jumping off the bed and scratching the door. Sherlock stood up quietly and opened it for him, his gaze absent. He shivered under his blue gown as John ran down the corridor, and then realized that he was cold. He was about to dress up when a mewl from the living-room caught his attention. As he joined John to see what was wrong he found the cat tapping with his paw on his laptop, which he had managed to open; just picturing him doing it, Sherlock had to repress a smile.
I need the big keys, John's round eyes told the consulting detective. So Sherlock went to get it for him, plugged it in, and turned the computer on as well, mechanically entering John's password under the manul's indignant glare. Then he went back to the kitchen to make some toast and tea for breakfast. John's breakfast, of course. Sherlock certainly did not feel like eating at all.
As he put the water to boil, he could hear John typing furiously on the keyboard, marking pauses sometimes, most likely deleting things that he'd just written because of mistakes or typos. Sherlock smiled unwittingly. The keyboard truly had been a good idea. Even if it did not help him find any solution to make John turn back presently...
"John?" he called.
John mewling back showed just how engrossed he was in whatever he was writing. Had he paid attention to the sounds he was making, he would surely have been mortified. Sherlock, on the other hand, revelled in it.
"Do you feel more comfortable when you're a cat?"
Since John wasn't answering, Sherlock turned and met his stare.
Why would I feel more comfortable as a cat? I am very comfortable as a man, thank you very much.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and continued to prepare breakfast.
"I meant with me, John. Are you less repelled by me touching you when you're a cat? In which case, cuddling again tonight – or before, if you'd like – might work after all. We should just refrain from doing it when we're both human."
At this, John snarled, and Sherlock was so surprised he almost dropped the piece of toast he was holding. He frowned.
"It was just a suggestion," he protested. "I wasn't saying we should cuddle tonight again. Stop thinking that I absolutely need you to hold me!"
The outburst made the manul blink in astonishment. God, Sherlock really was on edge. The detective put the piece of toast on the plate. Shyly, John mewled, trying to get his attention.
"I said it's fine, John. Just stop worrying about me all the time."
John pouted, getting tired of this non-communication. Forgetting all sense of pride, he jumped off the living-room table and went to pull the bottom of Sherlock's nightgown – yes, actually biting it and pulling so Sherlock would follow him. This was no time to make a fuss about looking ridiculous.
"John, you do realize I am preparing your breakfast here, don't you?"
Yes, you idiot, and that's incredibly sweet. But if you could just take a look at that bloody screen...
John seemed so intent on bringing Sherlock to his laptop that finally the detective gave in and followed him. The cat began to type again as Sherlock started reading what was already on the screen.
I DID NOT TRANSFORM BECAUSE YOU DISGUSTED ME.
YOU CAN NEVER REPEL ME.
Sherlock swallowed with some difficulty, trying to gauge the sincerity in those words. Wasn't John just trying to make him feel better?
I WAS UPSET ABOUT WHAT MAGGIE HAD SAID, John typed as fast as possible – which wasn't very fast. I WAS HAPPY BECAUSE I WAS FINALLY AT PEACE WITH MYSELF, BUT THEN SHE HAD TO GO AND SAY THOSE HORRIBLE THINGS TO YOU...
John's paws did not allow him to write quickly enough, and Sherlock was literally hanging on his every word, his brain rocketing to guess it every time John added a new letter. Sherlock was thus very frustrated with the ellipsis, but soon the cat typed on:
I DID NOT COME TO CHEER YOU UP. I CAME BECAUSE I NEEDED A HUG.
And a bit more than that, John mused gloomily, hating how lustful he'd been when all Sherlock had needed was comfort. Now he had even managed to make his lover's mood worse than before.
John froze at the thought. Lovers? Were they lovers now? His cheeks flamed up and he noticed that even though he didn't blush, the fur of his face still bristled, probably making him look even plushier. He was glad Sherlock's attention was fixed on the screen. Getting a hold of himself, he shook his head and resumed typing.
I LIKE CUDDLING WITH YOU.
God, if someone had told him he would ever say that to Sherlock of all people, John wouldn't have believed it. He still couldn't quite fathom how Sherlock could use the word cuddle with a straight face. It always made John want to break into giggles.
I LIKE CUDDLING WITH YOU WHEN YOU ARE A TIGER, WHEN YOU ARE A MAN, WHEN I AM A STUPID CAT AND WHEN I AM A MAN.
John took a deep breath before typing the end of his message.
I AM NEVER REVULSED BY YOUR BODY. QUITE THE CONTRARY.
Then, timidly, he added:
I LOVE YOU.
Sherlock blinked, marveling at the tiny black signs on the screen. Sure, John had said "I'm in love with Sherlock" and "I love you in any form" the previous night, but this was different. It was a direct confession – the very first confession Sherlock ever received.
Noticing his shock, John thought he'd gone too far and went to delete the last sentence, but Sherlock frowned and stopped his paw.
"Are you having second thoughts?" He looked like a kid who believed his mum wasn't going to bring him to the movies after all. John blinked, chuckled, and typed the sentence again. Sherlock saved the document. The cat stared.
"What?" Sherlock said defensively. "This is the first time anyone tells me this! Of course I'd want to keep a trace of it."
John's eyes widened. This was Sherlock's first time receiving a confession? Damn, of course it was. Yesterday morning had been his first kiss, too. But then wasn't John making all of Sherlock's "first" rather horrible so far? Kissing him without prior notice while he was sleeping just to check his own reaction, confessing his love to him indirectly at first, not even telling him, but telling Maggie; and now his first real confession had been typed on a computer keyboard by a goofy cat.
"What's wrong?" Sherlock asked.
The manul shook his head and promised himself he would confess properly to his friend once he'd turned back into his human form. For now, he would be perfectly content cuddling all day.
BREAKFAST? he typed.
Sherlock smiled and nodded.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
While John was eating, Sherlock was thinking. If his friend had told him the truth, his whole theory had to be revised. Perhaps John was just feeling miserable about what had happened with Maggie and her harsh words, and so the cuddling hadn't been enough to prevent his transformation. Or perhaps he had expected something of Sherlock and had felt let down. In which case the question was: what had he expected?
Sherlock frowned. He had no experience at all on which he might draw. This wasn't his area. So he went to his laptop and googled it. What should one do when being confessed to? Since he only found websites about religious confessions, he rephrased: What should you do when someone confesses their love to you? God, this was so silly. He found an incredible amount of forum posts and teenagers' discussions on the subject, but nothing seemed to fit his own situation, and the terrible grammar of them all soon made him close the window in horror.
First of all, he'd only seen kids discuss this – well, kids... Very young, stupid people. Did that mean all adults knew how to deal with this? Most likely. Maybe it was easy, then. Only adolescents made an issue out of it. If the confession pleased the adult who received it, they probably expressed their contentment at the news; if it didn't, they probably showed they weren't happy about it. Sherlock had been happy, but then Maggie had spoken again and had thrown him into a state of shock that had prevented him from reacting to John's words at all. True, he had reached the logical conclusion that now they should share the same bed, because that is what couples do. And since he accepted this new way to define their relationship, didn't it mean that he approved of it? He thought it would be enough.
As it was, though, maybe it hadn't. Sherlock went back to the kitchen and looked thoughtfully at John lapping his tea.
"John," he said. The cat raised his head and blinked at him. "What you said yesterday, I think it's... good. I appreciate it."
Satisfied with his clear choice of wording, Sherlock sat back at the kitchen table under John's nonplussed gaze. What was this all about just now? the confused cat wondered. Sherlock's pensive expression was one John was accustomed to seeing, but only during cases. He gulped. The detective was probably trying to figure out the true cause of his transformation this time. So John slowly walked up to him on the table and tapped on his hand with his paw. Sherlock snapped out of his thoughts and looked down at him.
"Finished?" he asked. John nodded. Sherlock put the plate and bowl away. "I'll take a shower."
As he went into the bathroom, he pointedly avoided looking at the mirror and quickly stepped into the bathtub. But he could not avoid looking down at his own body. It was true that he was rather angular, and his skin was very pale, almost cadaverous. It didn't look healthy. He, however, felt healthy enough: his body was perfect for transport. Sherlock was capable of fighting very well without a weapon, ran fast, and was very nimble. His body had also got used to little food and little sleep, which was very convenient. The consulting detective had never needed his body to look pleasant: he dressed well, and this sufficed to make him appear reliable to clients. He was good enough at acting to look amiable, kind, sympathizing if necessary. His body functioned satisfactorily.
But Sherlock had never thought that one day he would have to look pleasant without clothes on, too. That one day he should be concerned about his appearance beyond practical considerations. Maggie's words had thrown him off-balance because they were true to some extent, even though no one had seen the point in telling him before now. Another of her remark had piqued him: she had called him stupid because he hadn't even been able to deduce that John was in love with him. Such a reproach was quite unfair. It had crossed Sherlock's mind, and he had even tested this theory – but there were too many elements that told him otherwise, like John's constant embarrassment, which Sherlock had interpreted as disgust.
Moreover, this wasn't a case in any way, so why should Sherlock have bothered trying to deduce John of all people? Especially John's feelings for him. It was obvious John cared deeply about him anyway, and Sherlock had been busy enough with the blue carbuncle case, not to mention their transformations, which was something much more interesting to think about. John's feelings had been of interest however when Sherlock had started thinking about him possibly leaving one day. His relationship with John was perfectly satisfying, and he did not care much about the girlfriends since they never lasted very long. But then he had thought – and there had been many clues! – that John had fallen in love with Maggie Oakshott. And if that were the case, then Sherlock thought he should not interfere, or he would lose even John's friendship.
But now that John had confessed to him, things were different. Now Sherlock could hope to keep him by his side for the rest of their lives, if he proved to be a satisfying partner. That meant, however, more work on his part. Sherlock had no scruples about doing everything in his power to keep John now that the doctor had expressed his desire to stay. But didn't this imply that Sherlock should be a satisfying sexual partner as well?
He looked at his lanky limbs and peaky complexion. John had fallen in love with him even though he had this body. So didn't that mean John was content with it? Sherlock was a man, after all. For John to confess his love to him, there must have been something to him that he had found attractive. But precisely, Sherlock wasn't sure it had anything to do with his body. John had been drawn to him like a moth to a flame because of the thrill he provided, because Sherlock's lifestyle was perfect for John too. If you forgot the heads in the fridge.
Sherlock clicked his tongue in frustration. So what was he supposed to do with his body now? John believed him to be asexual, and Sherlock wasn't sure. He really didn't care. Things were good as they were, except for the fact that John would surely get tired of an empty sex life. So it was easy: Sherlock just had to provide the sex too. It shouldn't be too much trouble. After all, he'd been surprised to enjoy cuddling, so why not sex?
The problem was that John didn't seem very inclined to it – at all. And Sherlock could not determine whether it was because John was too straight after all, and even if he was in love with Sherlock could not sleep with him; or because the idiot was convinced that Sherlock would never want to have sex with him, and so, put the thought aside.
Sherlock turned off the water and stepped out, drying himself absentmindedly. John liked him in tiger form, but he couldn't possibly have sex with him as a tiger. So should Sherlock try to look more like a tiger when he was in human form? He frowned. John liked "fluffy". There was no way Sherlock could look fluffy as a man. He sighed in exasperation before putting on his blue gown and going back to the living-room with an annoyed pout. He ignored John, who was trying to surf on the internet but was having a hard time using the mouse properly, and fell into the couch heavily. John looked up in surprise at the sprawled form of his friend, then smiled and went up to him. He jumped on his chest and grinned down at his sullen face in an attempt to cheer him up. Sherlock was probably already starting to get bored, after all.
The detective looked at the plushy face and smirked. He picked the cat and held him in his outstretched arms, enjoying his yelps and gesticulations.
"Oh come on, John, I'm not hurting you, am I?"
He suddenly wondered whether some of John's reactions were not due to him being a cat. For instance, how would John react to being put into water? John himself wouldn't care, especially if the water was warm; but as a cat, wouldn't he hate it? This had never occurred to Sherlock, but surely there must be some things they felt and did when they were felines that were due to their cat bodies only. He didn't think John would appreciate the experiment of being plunged into water just for Sherlock to study his reactions, though. So he would have to find something else. Something more pleasant, perhaps. Something a cat would do but that John, as a man, never would...
A Cheshire cat-like grin spread across the detective's face. He put John down and kissed his brow to assuage him before standing up and going to his room. Mrs. Hudson had given him one once so he would stop shooting at the walls and throw it instead – less damage, less noise... As he rummaged through his drawers, he finally found it.
Gleefully, he put it in his pocket and went back to the living-room. He smiled sweetly at John and lay down beside him, picking him up in his arms and caressing the soft fur of his back soothingly. He had to admit he loved petting John as a cat. John seemed much less embarrassed than when he was a man, and his purring or lack thereof always told Sherlock whether he was enjoying his caresses or not. Unconsciously, he kissed the top of John's head. It was a mere inch away from his lips, and it felt so natural he nuzzled his friend between the ears. John shivered and snuggled up closer, his purring intensifying. Sherlock smiled and began to stroke the base of his ears, revelling in the content purrs this elicited from his friend. So you like the ears? he mused, taking note of it for later use.
In the warmth of Sherlock's arms, gently pressed against his chest and receiving most of his attention and all his caresses, John was basking in sheer bliss. It felt like home and heaven and so much more. It was perfect, because when he was a cat, John did not feel any lust for his partner – thankfully. He craved his touch, pined for his attention and some tenderness on his part, even if it was only out of interest in the funny cat that John had turned into. But being in Sherlock's arms sufficed to make John wholly happy. He knew that one day the detective would probably get bored with it, but for now he was holding him and paying attention to him only, and it was matchless. They cuddled for a while, until Sherlock murmured:
"Sorry, I have to move – I need to get myself something to drink."
John was too dizzy with warmth and delight to realize how peculiar this was for Sherlock. He simply nodded groggily, and let his partner put him on the couch. But as Sherlock stood, something fell out of his pocket and bounced before rolling on the floor – something that suddenly caught John's attention. It was red and round, and John found himself highly interested. His eyes followed the bouncing ball and he stared at it when it came to a stop. Unwittingly, he started wagging his tail, his round eyes becoming even rounder under the intensity of his gaze. All of a sudden he leaped off the couch and bolted towards the ball, jumping on it with a triumphant mewl just as Sherlock was coming back with a glass of water.
John froze, realizing what he was doing, and just stood there petrified. It only made him look sillier, considering his position on the stupid ball, covering it as if to express: "Mine!"
Sherlock allowed himself to break into a fit of giggles as he put the useless glass of water on the table. John, understanding he had been tricked, glared at him heatedly and went to sulk on his armchair, burying his face in it. He was very angry with himself for acting so silly, but even angrier with Sherlock for having petted him only to experiment on him later. He hated his current form, which prevented him from slamming the door and going out to get some air, hated the fact that he couldn't even shout at Sherlock, but only mewl and snarl. He was so embarrassed that he didn't even want to snap at the detective. I'm never going to hear the end of this.
Seeing that John was truly upset, Sherlock regretted his trick a little. But really, that leap and dash had been worth it. Still, he did not want John to sulk for the rest of the day and refuse his caresses, because he liked to caress John very much. So dropping the smirk, he walked up to the armchair and crouched.
"I was just curious, John. Your reaction is nothing to be ashamed of. You are a cat: it is only natural that you would react like a cat to some things."
Briefly, the idea of catnip crossed Sherlock's mind. He shook his head and focused on the situation at hand.
"Come on, John, don't sulk. I wasn't trying to humiliate you."
But you did, John growled, still not looking at his friend. Sherlock sighed.
"Fine. Sulk, then."
And to show that he wasn't going to feel miserable about it, he went to put clothes on, then sat at the table and used John's laptop to update his own website. As he'd expected, John's sulking did not last long. First, he turned and glared at Sherlock from his armchair. Then he came to sit across from him at the table, still glowering at him. Soon his glare turned into a pout and he rested his head on the table, looking at Sherlock sullenly.
Since Sherlock highly doubted John would lower himself more than this and ask to be petted, he decided to take the initiative and extended a hand to stroke his head. But the manul bit his finger in annoyance, though not enough to hurt him. Sherlock rolled his eyes and extended his other hand to stroke him, this time succeeding since John's mouth was already busy. The cat let go of his finger and kept pouting, but he let Sherlock caress him again. At one point he even moved onto the table to offer more fur to be stroked.
They were still in this position when they heard someone come up the stairs quickly, and soon the door of their living-room opened on Greg Lestrade.
"I have a case for you," he said as a greeting. His eyes fell on the manul and widened slightly. "You're petting a cat."
"Very perceptive of you, Lestrade," Sherlock retorted curtly.
"Isn't it your landlady's cat?"
Sherlock was almost about to answer "No, it's mine," but he held himself back and said instead: "Why do you need me?"
"It's a murder."
"Only the first one?"
The D.I. nodded.
"You never come to me so early. Not for just one murder."
"This murder is special."
"We received an anonymous letter yesterday, telling us a certain "Brad" had contacted whoever wrote that letter, asking them to kill him with a gun this morning, in his own house, while he was still lying in bed."
"... and the man you found dead this morning in bed had been shot and was called Brad."
"Brad Campbell, 43, divorced, father of two children who live with their mother."
Sherlock's caresses had stopped and John could tell his interest had been piqued. He furrowed his brow and gave him a look. You're going on a case without me?
"Do you have the letter?" Sherlock inquired, not even seeing John's look.
"In the car," Lestrade replied with a crooked smile. Sherlock frowned.
"Fine. Just go down, I'll be right there."
Lestrade nodded and was about to leave when he suddenly realized something was missing.
"Where is John?"
"Slept over at his girlfriend's," Sherlock lied smoothly.
"Oh. I see."
And with those words, he went down the staircase. Only then did Sherlock look at John, his eyes already full of excitement. But when he saw John's sullen expression, his face fell.
"You don't want me to go?" he asked, and he seemed so disappointed John could not bear it. So he splattered a grin on his fluffy face and waved his paws.
No, no! It's fine. But you'll have to tell me all about it when you come back. And be careful.
He realized Sherlock couldn't possibly guess all that from his silly gestures, so he even turned the computer towards him, and typed his thoughts for Sherlock to read. The detective's face lit up again and he nodded.
"All right. I'll put the television on for you, if you'd like."
John went to sit in front of the telly Sherlock had just turned on. The detective put John's mobile next to the manul, and John saw on the screen Sherlock's number.
"You should be able to press the green button and dial my number. Call if there's a problem."
He took his coat and with a last wink to John, was gone. The manul sighed and dropped the smile as soon as the door was closed. But really, Sherlock being so attentionate was incredible enough. John couldn't possibly hope that he would go as far as postponing a case to stay home with him. So he put his head on his paws and stared at the telly, already counting the minutes until Sherlock came back.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
The crime scene was exactly as described in the anonymous letter. Whoever had written it claimed to have received this "request" from the victim himself, Brad Campbell.
As he nosed around the victim's room, Sherlock's eyes fell on a notepad next to the phone. He stopped in his tracks.
"What is it?" Lestrade asked.
"Show me the letter again."
The D.I. complied, grumbling about Sherlock's bossiness when he'd only been invited on this case. The consulting detective paid no attention to him and compared the two papers.
"The letter you received was written by Brad Campbell himself," he declared.
Lestrade stared. "What?"
Sherlock showed him the two pieces of paper.
"I'll have an expert look at it," the D.I. said. "Maybe the murderer only imitated his handwriting."
"I don't think so. He probably asked Campbell to write it himself, then send him the letter."
"But if Campbell wrote the letter, why didn't he send it?"
Sherlock thought for a second.
"Perhaps because it was his request."
Lestrade just stared, at a loss. Sherlock sighed in annoyance. "The request! Perhaps this is the way the murderer receives his requests: the victim must write a letter to the police depicting the way they want to be killed, and write it as if they were the murderer, and not the victim."
"But what's the point?"
"What is the point, indeed..."
"Sir, I just received a call saying we'd received another letter," Sally Donovan informed. She stopped in the doorway. "What is he doing here?"
"What does the letter say?" Lestrade asked, ignoring her glare.
"It's the same paper and the same handwriting," she replied. Sherlock rolled his eyes – why couldn't she just answer the question? "It says: 'P.S.: Brad also requested that his house be blown up.' Well, apparently, the murderer didn't manage that..."
Sherlock's eyes widened.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Being a manul without Sherlock around was no fun at all, John thought as he watched the stupid telly half-heartedly. He kept flicking through the channels, but he avoided doing it too much because he'd ended up pressing too many buttons once and had almost turned off the television. But the show he was watching was too crappy, even for him, and so he flicked again.
"... the explosion. Brad Campbell had just been found dead this morning, and the police were still investigating when..."
John's eyes widened.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 13: Never seek to tell thy love
A/N: I apologize for having taken so long to update this story. I have been inconceivably busy, not in the mood, and I realized I should give priority to my post-Reichenbach story if I wanted it to be complete before the next season... I am also sorry this chapter is not exceptional, even though I have made you wait for so long. Just the continuation of the story. Please bear with me :)
Thank you very much to all reviewers. I really appreciate you support, and I'm sorry for the wait! Hope you enjoy reading.
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Never seek to tell thy love
Today was a rather uneventful day in 221 Baker Street. There had been a visit from Detective Inspector Lestrade, who as always needed Sherlock to help him solve a case - a murder, if Mrs. Hudson remembered correctly. Sherlock had left beaming. But that was nothing out of the ordinary, and all in all, today was nothing exceptional. That is, until it went completely wrong.
Mrs. Hudson was peacefully reading a magazine when she heard an unusual scratch at the door. She may not have noticed it before, when she had yet to find out about the cat versions of her tenants. Now, however, she paid extra attention to every suspicious noise, in case her boys caused even more trouble than they usually did because of said transformations, and needed her help. As it turned out, she had been spot-on.
When she opened the door, her eyes met a frenzied manul, who was frantically scratching at her door – so frantically in fact that he must have hurt his claws and paws. Apparently, he could not care less. This must have been serious.
"Oh, dear! What's going on?"
Before she even finished her question, John was dashing up the stairs. Mrs. Hudson hurried up behind him as fast as she could. She thought something must have happened to Sherlock - had he come back without her noticing?
When she entered the flat, no one was there. There was just John, screeching and jumping in front of the television. There was no trace of Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson looked at the manul and blinked.
Growing more desperate by the second, John reached the bottom when he realized that in all likelihood the news was not going to make any more mention of Brad Campbell. Wasting no time, he almost threw himself on his laptop. Internet. Google. Brad Campbell.
"John, dear, I'm afraid I don't underst–"
She froze upon seeing the picture and the article on the screen.
Less than five minute later she was running in the street, John in her bag, too big to be completely hidden but trying hard not to show himself as she hailed a cab. Less than twenty minutes later they arrived at the crime scene.
That is, in front of the yellow line.
"Madam, you can't go in. There has been an explosion, it's–"
"I must go, my son is in there!"
"Your... Hey, wait!" the police officer called as John did not stay to admire Mrs. Hudson's theatrics and jumped off the bag to run to the ambulance he had spotted.
"Please calm down, Madam, no one was inside the house when it exploded. There was no serious injury."
Of course, John was too far by now to hear the reassuring words. Mrs. Hudson ignored the officer and ran after him. She arrived to see the panicked, furious cat pouncing on one consulting detective's chest. She smiled, relieved.
Sitting at the back of an ambulance, wrapped in a blanket, Sherlock had not expected a fluffy fur ball to throw itself into his arms.
"John?" he said with unfeigned surprise.
John was not cuddling. He was not even snuggling. No, he was literally fighting tooth and nail, scratching Sherlock's chest and ruining his shirt.
"What's going on here?" Lestrade asked, startling Mrs. Hudson. She gave him a smooth smile and noticed both men had grazes. Lestrade's coat was slightly burnt. Sherlock had a split eyebrow.
"Oh, dear," she mumbled, coming closer to her tenant. Lestrade stared.
"What are you doing here? What is your cat doing here?"
"We were worried," Mrs. Hudson retorted, a hint of reproach in her voice. No one but John heard it: Lestrade was too astonished to see the weird cat here, and Sherlock, too delighted.
"Are you done ripping my shirt to threads?" he asked softly.
His voice snapped John out of his frenzy. Shaking, the manul curled on himself and closer to Sherlock's chest.
He had drawn blood. He let out a pitiful mewl and nuzzled closer. Before he knew what he was doing, he was licking the blood apologetically. But he was still trembling – from fear or from rage, Sherlock could not tell.
"But why did you bring your cat here?" Lestrade repeated. "And why is Sherlock letting it rip his shirt?" Mrs. Hudson simply shrugged.
Sherlock was stroking John's fur absent-mindedly. He was happy to see him here. Naturally, he realized that John was very upset.
But the case... Oh, the case was going to be fun. And nothing bad had happened after all.
Surely John would understand.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
John understood quite enough. He understood how useless he was to his friend when he was in manul form, and it made him wonder whether he was of any use at all when he was a man. Clearly he was no help with the deducing itself, although Sherlock made a point to remind him he was his one and only light conductor once in a while, as if to stroke his ego. Maybe the consulting detective meant it. But to John, this still sounded disagreeably like Sherlock was grateful for his stupidity because it made him smarter.
Of course John wasn't bitter about this. Not at all. And he did not feel like he was being unfair to his friend either. The fact that Sherlock seemed completely obsessed with the new case and had not paid any attention to John since they had got back to the flat was not influencing his mood for the worse, and he was not brooding. Not at all.
And why should Sherlock have paid any attention to him? They could not even have a proper conversation when John was a cat. He could not "bounce back ideas" in any way, and if Sherlock was patient enough to put up with keyboard dialogues on non-case days, John was fairly certain that his mind would fly off to consider more interesting things than whatever John would clumsily type about an ongoing case.
So that was out of the question. As for any other kind of usefulness for a stupid cat, there were obviously none. Whereas as a man John could at least hold a gun and protect Sherlock to some extent, this was out of the question when he was a manul. How could he protect Sherlock with paws? Such small ones, too.
It was bloody unfair. It was unfair that Sherlock got to be a genius and good at fighting and quite fit overall and good-looking and a tiger when John was just the most ridiculous feline he'd ever seen. He never quite pondered about those things, mostly because they upset him, and because there was no line of reasoning in the world that could possibly help him make sense of their transformations. Even Sherlock had given up after all: like a good scientist, he had limited himself to observing the patterns and making hypotheses until he could suggest a theory of enough practical interest to both of them. He'd left the whole metaphysical dimension unaddressed. It seemed that where reason could not help, he simply did not bother reasoning.
And wasn't that the smart thing to do? Of course. Sherlock always did the smart thing to do. But then again there was no reason he should not be satisfied with what he turned into: he did not look silly or grotesque or pathetic. The worst he could get was to appear cute in his clumsiness. And who would dare laugh at a tiger anyway?
John had been brewing over those thoughts for the past hours. Inevitably, he grew weary of it, all the more so as he was starting to feel rather uncomfortable. Brooding had this effect on him. Not that he was brooding, mind you. But when he did brood, he needed some air, not so much to sort his thoughts as to keep brooding until he felt quite ashamed of it, realizing how one-tracked his mental rambling had been. Even though he did not get a chance to go out for a walk today, what with being stuck in a stupid manul's body, John was now beginning to get that feeling of mortification tinged with bitterness. Funny, because he hadn't been brooding.
In any case soon his thoughts got from bad to worse.
It all came from one little idea that had been nagging him recently: maybe there was a logic in the fact that he turned into a manul, small, absurd, useless, and Sherlock into a tiger. John Watson was a proud man and was not prone to self-deprecatory musings. He did not think himself to be vain or too self-satisfied: he was a good doctor, a good soldier, and, he believed, a good friend for Sherlock, if for nobody else. Considering his failures in the romantic field since he was back from the war, he most likely wasn't a good boyfriend. But his caring so strongly about Sherlock accounted for much on that matter, and if John considered himself to be in a relationship with Sherlock, then he was quite confident that he hadn't been failing that one so far.
However, that was where the list of his good points stopped. John had prided himself in being Sherlock's increasingly essential colleague, providing some very much needed protection during cases. But he had also been kidnapped and used against Sherlock. Sometimes, even when he was with Sherlock, his bravery and sense of comradeship and sacrifice were not enough.
Ultimately, John had to face the fact that even if he had been with Sherlock in that house today, he could not have done anything to prevent it from being blown up. Lestrade himself had said so: Sherlock was the one who had understood early enough in order to limit the damage. John could have done nothing, even if he had been there.
He tried to shake off the thought. Fine. Even if he was useless even as a man, it remained that he was even more useless as a manul. John rarely got depressed over Sherlock's superiority because he was far from flawless, regardless of how great a man he was. He acted like a child and there were some things he needed: it was those needs that prevented John from feeling completely out of place. It wasn't that his being there was absolutely necessary for Sherlock to live on; they had lived separately before, and could perfectly manage to do so in the future as well. But John dared believe that they would not be as genuinely happy as now if they did.
Scratch that, life would be hideously boring without Sherlock around, and John knew it. It wasn't the first time he felt useless and inferior to Sherlock in some ways – there had been and always was Moriarty, who never ceased to find a way to arouse Sherlock's interest and keep him excited, making John feel like the third wheel; there was Mycroft, whose attitude towards John kept oscillating between surprised esteem, when John somehow managed to unsettle him in a good way, and his default condescension. With most people, there was usually a sense of connivance between Sherlock and John, something John relished. But when cunning people were around, like Moriarty, Mycroft, or even Irene Adler, John always felt left behind.
As if these people recognized him as Sherlock's counterpart only to remind him that, as a counterpart, he could never stand on the same ground.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock did not understand what was wrong with John. The manul had been very quiet since they had come back to the flat, and Sherlock had even realized at one point that he had left the living-room altogether, going back to his room without Sherlock noticing. He must have left the door open; or perhaps Sherlock was the one to open it for him without even realizing? He had been quite engrossed with the case at hand, and John had been so unobtrusive that Sherlock had forgotten when he had stopped being in the room.
John had not come to cuddle with him on the couch, and last time Sherlock had looked he had been sulking on the armchair. John had not asked anything about the case, by mewling or typing on his laptop. Overall he seemed rather uninterested. It was unusual to say the least. He was always interested in Sherlock's cases, which had pretty much become their cases by now; except when he was upset. Very upset, Sherlock amended as he remembered how John had eventually come round even during the bombs game with Moriarty, even with the goose case although it had involved his girlfriend's family...
Sherlock frowned and got up from the couch, trying to dispel the sense of unease threatening to cloud his mind when it should be focusing on Brad Campbell's death alone. He had to talk to John.
So up he went and knocked on the half-open door. It was stupid, but he knew John wouldn't want him to barge into his room unannounced.
Naturally, no answer came. Sherlock wondered briefly whether he should wait until John mewled back in acknowledgement, but as the silence stretched he just pushed the door gingerly and instead waited to see if a snarl told him to go away. Nothing came.
John was lying on the bed, his head morosely resting on his front paws. When Sherlock came into the room, he simply stared at him, unmoved.
"What are you doing here?" Sherlock asked as he came to sit on the bed next to the manul and reached to stroke him. John stiffened almost imperceptibly. Sherlock furrowed his brow.
"All right, tell me what's wrong," he demanded.
Well I can't exactly tell you anything now, can I? John thought sarcastically, if a little bitterly.
Sherlock waited a moment, then sighed. Without any warning, he picked up the manul, who shrieked, and brought him down to the living-room, putting him on the table in front of his laptop.
"Will you stop sulking and just tell me what is wrong with you? We've got work, John! Work!"
You've got work.
Ha! Did you just hear that?
"Of course I can't hear you, John, you're not speaking," Sherlock explained as if he were talking to a very small child. "Now, won't you just type so we can move on to the case?"
Instantly Sherlock saw that this was not the thing to say. John, who had started to move towards the keyboard, froze. Sherlock tensed a little.
"What are you upset about?" he asked more quietly.
Slowly, the manul started to move again, and typed:
NOTHING. TELL ME ABOUT THE CASE.
"Well, the situation itself is fairly simple." His voice was already full of excitement. "For clarity, let's call A the one who wrote the letter – for Anonymous; M the one who committed the murder – because it is a murder, so there is a murderer; and V the victim, Brad Campbell. On the day before the murder, the police receives a letter indicating that V has contacted A and asked A to kill V in a certain manner, described in the letter. On the day of the murder, the police indeed finds V dead, having been killed as described in the letter. Consequently the police concludes that A = M (the person who wrote the letter is the killer). But it turns out from the handwriting that A = V (the victim is the one who wrote the letter). So, suicide? No: the victim could not have shot himself in the way he was shot. Therefore A = M was wrong. A = V, and M is a different person."
The manul stared. Fairly simple? Was Sherlock trying to be funny? John repressed a sigh.
SO... WHY DID BRAD WRITE THE LETTER AND SEND IT TO THE POLICE?
"I didn't say he sent it to the police," Sherlock replied dismissively. "Maybe he did. All we know is that he wrote it. Unless some professional imitator managed to fool my eyes, but that is unlikely. Lestrade is having it scanned and checked by a computer anyway. He'll text me."
John was thoughtful. That case was definitely weird. Sherlock must be thrilled.
WHAT ABOUT THE EXPLOSION?
"Some peculiar idea of a joke, I presume."
John blinked. A joke?
"The killer is making fun of the police. He is messing with them," Sherlock developed with a grin. He did not seem bothered by John's insistent stare.
Why do you always end up involved with mad bombers?
"The real question is: how did the killer become aware of the contents of the letter?"
Indeed, John thought. Did he force Brad to write it? Was he there when Brad wrote it?
"Well," Sherlock cut in as he stood up. John had not even realized he'd been sitting. "I lack data."
John felt a sinking feeling in his chest and looked away. Sherlock was going to leave him behind again, going to investigate without him, to face danger alone... John could not determine whether he was more worried or jealous. Either way, he was not pleased.
He had typed it before he could stop himself. Great. Now not only was he useless, he was also pathetic. Sherlock's puzzled look told him the consulting detective must have been wondering about his mental health. John was expecting him to ask again what was wrong with him.
"What do you mean?" Sherlock said instead. "I'm not going anywhere. Well, to the kitchen to fix something for you to eat. You haven't had anything since this morning. Unless you're not hungry...?"
John was speechless. Well, technically he could not speak anyway, but even if he could have, he would not have known what to say. Relief and something akin to joy washed over him. Spontaneously, he put his paw on Sherlock's hand, which was resting on the table. Then he turned to his laptop and resumed typing.
DON'T YOU LACK DATA?
"Yes, I just said that."
...THEN AREN'T YOU GOING OUT?
Sherlock smiled. Although he refrained from pointing it out because he was quite sure his flatmate would not appreciate the remark, he found rather adorable how John went through the trouble of typing as he spoke, with ellipses to mark pauses. Sherlock's hand moved and caressed the soft fur of John's back.
"Of course I'm going out. But first you have to eat and then we have to cuddle."
This time John thought it was Sherlock who was going bonkers. The consulting detective rolled his eyes.
"John, surely you must realize that I can't possibly take you around London looking like this."
John whimpered. Despite the warm tone, Sherlock's words were making him feel even more miserable.
"It may startle people, and someone could steal you," Sherlock went on.
...what? Steal him? Steal a manul? Who would want to steal such a thing?
"If you are not hungry, we could just start cuddling right now, though. Save some time."
John was wavering. Should he just type and tell Sherlock he had no clue about what he was saying? But Sherlock already seemed to get impatient...
"So? Are you hungry?"
NO, John typed.
"Good. Cuddling, then? I don't know if we can manage to fall asleep at all during the day, but..."
So that was it. Sherlock was not abandoning him. He wanted to bring him along, and so he wished him to turn back into a man as soon as possible. John beamed.
"What are you giving me the Cheshire cat grin for?" Sherlock murmured, almost fondly. Fondly? God, John's brain must have been a mess. But right now, he very much wanted to indulge in wishful thinking.
Sherlock picked him up again, more delicately this time, and brought him to his own room, lying down on the bed by his side. It was funny how when they were in an embrace, or lying side by side, or touching in some affectionate way, all troubles seemed to dissolve into thin air. Bad feelings melted away in the warmth of their touch, and John thought that he had never been aware of how wonderful touching was, because you could not touch without being touched as well. Reciprocation was inherent to touching. And somehow... Somehow it made John feel better.
"It is fascinating, don't you think?" Sherlock asked.
Oh yes. Fascinating, John purred.
"Why someone would go to such an extent to make the police look like fools. I think I have never seen Lestrade so much out of his depth." Sherlock chuckled.
Right. The case. Of course. John could not ignore the pang of disappointment. But looking at Sherlock's genuinely eager expression, his eyes aflame with wonder and excitement, John could not be mad at him. In fact, it rather made him feel even more ashamed and useless. He was seriously starting to consider the possibility of going back to the computer and telling Sherlock to go on his own when the consulting detective snuggled closer and clumsily wrapped his arms around him. Gradually, John let himself relax into the embrace.
"I was thinking," Sherlock said as he stroked the fur between John's ears, "maybe there is a way to make you transform back sooner. Without spending the entire night cuddling."
Spending the entire night cuddling is good, John silently objected. Still, he did not want Sherlock to become annoyed with him, so he nodded to show he was listening and interested. But Sherlock's hands were interesting, too. Very interesting.
Sherlock felt John nod under his caress. He was trying to find the words.
"Well. We transform when we are... upset. Not just when something is not right, but when we feel miserable about it. And... usually, cuddling is what makes it better."
John was only half-listening and had no idea where Sherlock was heading. He did feel, however, that his touch was getting a little tense, although the detective was clearly trying to convey only serenity and tenderness. It was funny, John mused, how Sherlock's touch betrayed so much more than his words.
"But last night," Sherlock went on deliberately, "you transformed while we were cuddling."
John nodded drowsily. In the warmth of Sherlock's arms, he thought he could nod at everything.
"So... There must be something that you wanted, which wasn't cuddling, and that I did not give you. Something... else." Sherlock truly could not be more explicit. He did not know what John had wanted from him.
Upon hearing Sherlock's words, John had stiffened considerably. He could not say he had not expected this. Of course his friend would notice. This was Sherlock. The manul groaned. He'd just hoped the consulting detective would not bring it up so soon; if at all. What a mess.
"See?" Sherlock said as he tried to ease John's tension away by petting him, "I don't know why you are acting like this, but if cuddling won't do, then I don't know what–"
Cuddling WILL do! John hissed.
Which came out as... well, a hiss. He moaned in despair.
"Or maybe... Do you think you need to cuddle with someone else?" Sherlock asked hesitantly.
John snarled. Now you're being stupid. Just hold me and let me forget for a few blissful hours how useless I am! He felt terrible. This was not going to work. Perhaps Sherlock was right, even cuddling would not help this time, because John was too upset and over too many things: in the span of a few days he had managed to expose his girlfriend's brother, get dumped, be forced to break up again with Maggie when Sherlock so kindly invited her over, admit his feelings to Sherlock, try to reassure Sherlock about their relationship after Maggie's awful little speech although John himself had no idea what this relationship was going to be, or should be, or should not be, face yet another transformation the next morning even though they had been cuddling, which made the whole relationship issue even more of an issue, and finally believe Sherlock might be dead, blown up in a bloody house on a bloody case because of some bloody madman, and there was nothing he could have done as a manul, nothing he could have done at all, not even as a man...
"John. You're trembling. What's wrong?" came Sherlock's voice. Amidst the storm of his thoughts, John wondered whether he did not hear concern there, instead of irritation. But he had no voice to answer his partner anyway.
He was trembling, wasn't he? This was stupid. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to calm down. He knew they should talk. But he really did not feel like having this discussion via laptop. He needed his voice for this. There was no way he could deal with it on a screen.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock inquired again. John could have sworn his tone was tinged with worry. He nodded stiffly.
"Here, let's try something. Lie on your back."
John stared. Then suddenly his cheeks puffed up considerably; all the hair on his fluffy face seemed to stand on end, making him look even fluffier. He gulped.
"Come on, just lie on your back. Don't you trust me?"
With some hesitation, John complied. Sherlock smiled and brushed the fur of his cheeks with the back of his hand before stroking his belly. For some reason, this appeared to make John tense even more.
"Relax," Sherlock murmured in a placating voice, his hand stopping to rest on John's pounding heart. He leant in and pressed a kiss on the manul's forehead. God, he must really want to go out and get more data, John thought. He must have been desperate to be so gentle.
Sherlock was indeed quite desperate, but regardless of what John believed, it had not much to do with the case.
Of course Sherlock wanted to leave the flat to investigate as soon as possible. But after the incident at Brad Campbell's house and John's subsequent fury which had spurred him to ruin one of Sherlock's favourite shirts, the consulting detective was quite aware that leaving without John was not an option. That being settled, the number one priority was to help John turn back into a man. But such a task was difficult if John did not cooperate.
As he felt his friend's heart hammer under his palm, Sherlock realized that there were some important things that had to be said. He had never been in a relationship and he was used to having his mind deal only with problems brought by the Work – that is to say, cases. He did not have to really think of anything else that would affect his line of conduct before he met John. Admittedly, cocaine had been a serious issue, and a personal one, which was not connected with the Work in any way, since it had plagued Sherlock even before the Work. But since John had moved into Baker Street, things had changed. Sherlock's mind had to deal with domestic preoccupations unknown until then; John was extremely tolerant as far as flatmates went, but living with him still entailed many new elements to take into consideration on an everyday basis. On several occasions Sherlock's mind had been completely focused – or almost completely focused – on John alone: to find a trick to cure him from his psychosomatic limp, to figure out why he was upset... to find out how to assuage him, like say, by buying the milk. Then there had been the transformations, which had made Sherlock think even more about John. And now they were in a "relationship", whatever that meant, and this implied even more thinking about John, and John only.
So as he listened to John's heart pounding in the furry chest under his hand, Sherlock became aware of some things that would have completely escaped him before because to him it did not matter, and he himself did not react like other people did. He was not used to deducing animals, and perhaps it was only because the manul was John and a man in the end: but in his features Sherlock saw fear, shame, self-deprecation, and something he could not quite put his finger on, like raw emotion, something close to gratefulness...
Without a word, he picked John up in his arms and held him close to his chest, resting his chin on the manul's head.
"I'm sorry I worried you earlier by going on the crime scene. I... When I realized the house was going to explode, I did think that I might not see you again."
That was a blatant lie. All Sherlock had thought when stupid Sally's words had registered was: run. Then his eyes had scanned the room to see how many people had to be evacuated right now as his voice shouted the warning, and in his panic he'd had time to look for John, remember that he hadn't come, and be glad that he hadn't. This had lasted merely a second, and then his focus had been on getting out of the house.
But lie as it may be, Sherlock knew John needed to hear this. To know that he had not been the only one to worry and suffer thinking that he had lost him. Maybe it was wrong, but Sherlock could not bring himself to care. Right now, he needed to hammer into John's head that they were in the same boat, by all means. His embrace tightened slightly.
In a heartbeat, Sherlock had realized in what turmoil John was, and that he would never be able to help if he held him just to get on faster with the case.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 14: Love that never told can be
Let's say that this is a treat; please don't get used to weekly updates! Truth is, this was part of Chapter 13, but it would have been a very long chapter, and I did not want you to get used to that either... ;p
Hope you enjoy! Reviewers are loved.
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Love that never told can be
In a heartbeat, Sherlock realized in what turmoil John was, and that he would never be able to help if he held him just to get on faster with the case.
The problem was that he did want to just get on faster with the case. It had come at the perfect time; a time when Sherlock needed to take his mind off the whole relationship issue, a time when he needed to reaffirm the brilliancy of his mind which had quite failed him in his deductions concerning John's feelings towards Maggie, and... towards him. All in all, a new case was Godsend.
There was, however, a snag; namely, that John was presently a manul. It was as if fate would not let them go on with their life and put away undiscussed matters for a while. Not that Sherlock believed in anything as silly as fate; the only thing he knew for sure from John's transformation was that his friend was feeling miserable for some reason, when he should have felt...
Sherlock frowned. Felt what, exactly? What had he felt himself the previous night?
Something like an unexpected surge of joy when John had entered his room.
Sherlock had felt extremely lucky. It had not crossed his mind that his partner might not be feeling as content as he was: hadn't John asked quite explicitly if they could cuddle? Didn't that mean that cuddling was all he had wanted? If there had been something else, why hadn't he asked for it? John was proud, but if he had mustered the courage to come to Sherlock's room, surely he was past self-consciousness and such nonsense. ...Wasn't he?
In Sherlock's arms, John's heart continued to hammer in his small furry chest. Sherlock's words had touched him beyond words, and for once today, he was glad that no words could be expected of him anyway. So he simply swallowed and nuzzled Sherlock's chin, his ear, his neck, his throat... And there he stopped, resting his head against the pale skin, feeling the soft pulse under it. Such a position also meant that when Sherlock tensed, even slightly, John could feel him stiffening. Thinking his friend might be reliving his panic at the crime scene, the manul put a tentative paw on his shoulder.
This snapped Sherlock out of his thoughts. With a small smile that John missed, he leant in and kissed the top of his head, just between his ears.
As he did, something John had said the previous day came back to him; they had been arguing about the hugs and John rejecting Sherlock when they were both men. Then John had said something funny, something that hadn't caught Sherlock's attention then, but did now.
"I'm just afraid I'd do something you wouldn't like."
Clearly this appeared to indicate that there was indeed something John had wanted. Sherlock had been worried that he should have been the one to initiate whatever it was John had come to get the previous night, but perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps John simply hadn't dared do anything.
Sherlock sighed. Why did this have to be so complicated?
"Look, John. I know you can't properly speak right now, but... When you can, you have to tell me what you want, explicitly. Even when you cannot speak, there is the laptop and the new keyboard." Sherlock's hand came to rest on John's head and he played with his right ear a little nervously. "You see, I... As you must have noticed, I'm not as good at deducing when it comes to... this."
Since John had leant back and was now tilting his head to the side in a deliciously clueless way, Sherlock developed:
"Relationships. We can't have something like yesterday happen again."
"Me, thinking you were depressed and pining after your ex-girlfriend, calling her over to make things right, and having you reject her again and confess your feelings to me," Sherlock added in a matter-of-fact tone to dispel John's confusion. The hair on John's cheeks bristled and Sherlock had the sudden urge to smother his fluffy face with kisses. He blinked.
The sudden urge to what? Disconcerted, he brought his eyes back to John's and stared. The manul fidgeted a bit and finally averted his gaze.
Sherlock was thinking. Looking back on his own behaviour, he couldn't quite make sense of the kissing. Even now, from the moment they had come to his room, he had kissed John a number of times, spontaneously, without giving it any meaning. It was just all part of the cuddling process. And cuddling did not make sense. So why should kissing make any?
But now that he thought about it, John had been quite upset after the train ride. It was true that being kissed by a tiger on the mouth was not an experience anyone would wish to have. Still, could John's reaction also be explained by the fact that normal people, ordinary people, bestowed more meaning on kisses than Sherlock did? It had never crossed his mind before because their kisses hadn't been 'romantic' in any way; but with hindsight, Sherlock realized that kissing someone on the mouth was indeed perceived as a romantic gesture. Why, he could not quite fathom. But at any rate, it did.
Was that what John had been considering the previous night? Kissing him? It might well be. But then, why hadn't he acted upon it? Why hadn't he asked?
I'm just afraid I'd do something you wouldn't like.
...Would Sherlock have liked it?
He repressed a groan. Now he was out of his depths, and that was not something Sherlock enjoyed very much. At all.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
In the end Sherlock had waited and waited, petting John, focusing on his every reaction to see what kind of caress, and where, was the most effective on him. But John had not fallen asleep; Sherlock either, for that matter. And so after an hour of silence in the peaceful darkness of Sherlock's bedroom, both of them were as awake as ever, and, John feared, just as edgy.
Assuredly Sherlock could not help thinking about the case and being frustrated that he was stuck in the flat now of all times. Moreover, something told John that he too was beginning to doubt whether they would truly manage to reverse the transformation this time. Instead of being happy that Sherlock had given up on going out just to stay and cuddle with him, John was feeling increasingly guilty. Not only was he no help at all; he was now preventing Sherlock from doing what he loved the most. What if this did not even help him transform back? Even worse, what if they woke up both as felines? What would Sherlock say?
Well, nothing. He couldn't say anything, John mused gloomily.
As it was, though, this was a possibility he could not ignore. Sherlock was doing his best to please John, and he was genuinely considerate. But he was trying too hard. Even the way he focused so intensely on John betrayed that he was worried, impatient, excited. He was doing his best, and that was the problem.
Looking up discreetly, meeting his eyes, John could tell his mind was elsewhere. Somewhere John could not follow. Sherlock was looking at him, with a mix of tenderness and graveness the manul did not quite understand; but he seemed to be looking past him as well, much beyond.
It was literally maddening. Maybe this was why being with the consulting detective, in any kind of relationship, even just as a flatmate or a colleague, was intoxicating. And exhausting, too. John had always conceived relationships as part of one's social life: people had friends, girlfriends, people they worked with, people they liked, people they didn't like... An individual was integrated in society through this web constituted by his various relationships to people. There were codes, conventions, and it made everything work smoothly. It brought order. Bearings. Unlike the chaos of war, it allowed you to build something, take a look at your life and create, even in small ways, the person you wanted to be.
In action, there was no time: you were made to be whoever you were and your reactions all emerged from a life or death logic. A certain part of you could be revealed – a part that craved danger, or, for some, sheer violence; a heroic side of you, a cowardly side of you. But all in all, you didn't have time to stand and look at yourself, you were too taken in it, living it to the core, and there was nothing else. And then when you were back to civilian life, nothing seemed to bear meaning anymore. You didn't realize there hadn't been any meaning back there either – not even room for meaning. But there was in society, among others who lived peaceful lives. That was why John cared about mundane as well. That was why mundane was good.
Mycroft had told John that he missed the war. He had been right, of course. But not completely. He'd been wrong about his brother. Sherlock Holmes lived neither under a war-torn sky nor under an untroubled one. He was something else. He lived something else. And from the moment John had met him, he very much wished to be part of that life.
It would have been great, he mused, if their predicament had been a little different: instead of turning into bloody cats, perhaps just switching bodies, or something of the like. Hadn't there been a movie like that? Several, even. At least such a thing would have been interesting. John was curious to see what the world looked like in Sherlock's eyes. On second thought, merely exchanging bodies in this case would not be enough. John would have to be part of Sherlock's very consciousness to have the faintest idea of how he perceived everything.
Unwittingly, the manul sighed and snuggled up closer to Sherlock's chest. He only became aware of it when his nose collided with his friend's shirt... and scent. John closed his eyes.
Sherlock was addictive because he was danger within peace and cold-blooded reason within war; the thrill in the routine of everyday life, and the sharp vigilance that made sense of chaos and thrived in it. The world was neither a haven nor a battlefield to him: it was a playground. He needed the danger because that was what gave him his worth in his own eyes: Sherlock needed recognition more than anything else, but to such an extent that he could only get it by flirting with danger. If he played with fire, it wasn't only because it amused him. It was also because whatever he did only held any value if there was a risk of getting burned in the process. Sherlock's personality was in fact like fire; it was extreme, and consequently, it craved the extreme.
But there was something else. John had known since the second day of their acquaintance from the way the consulting detective treated his own life. It was as if everything he did was out of defiance: Sherlock was a daredevil. In that he was very different from Mycroft; and this was why, John was sure, Big Brother was always so worried about him. Now that he knew Sherlock better, John did not doubt that Mycroft had been sincere the first time they had met: he did worry about Sherlock constantly. John had no idea what had happened between them. But he knew that Sherlock's archenemy wasn't Mycroft. It wasn't even Moriarty: no, Sherlock's archenemy was boredom.
And maybe they did not experience it in the same way; maybe Sherlock was right when he said John could not understand, would never understand what it was like to feel your brain rotting away. But deep down, John wondered whether he really not know; whether the emptiness, the complete vacuity he had experienced after the war, was not very close to that. He might be wrong, but sometimes John believed that they had both been confronted to the absolute meaninglessness of the world around them. Because that was the thing. Sherlock's boredom wasn't just any kind of boredom; it was existential.
John opened his eyes. Yes, he thought, perhaps he could understand. The feeling that you should not be wasting your time here, that you were much more needed somewhere else; that your true place was elsewhere. A very small smile graced his face, and he tried not to think how ridiculous he must have looked, being a cat. Slowly, he raised his paw and put it on Sherlock's chest.
Then he pushed him away.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock had been so deep in thought that the small paw on his chest surprised him. He smiled unwittingly and his hand ran down John's spine as if to return the gesture. But then the paw pushed him back. He froze.
He moved back to look him in the eye and was met with such a serious expression he sat up.
The manul did not let him go any further and jumped off the bed. Sherlock stared, astonished, as he watched him walk out of the room.
"John! What is wrong with you?!"
He followed, annoyance overlapping worry. In the living-room, he found John in front of his laptop, opening a word document. As Sherlock walked towards him, he started typing.
GO GET MORE DATA.
The consulting detective stared. "But John–"
The manul frowned and typed furiously.
I WANT YOU TO.
Sherlock blinked. "...Are you throwing me out of the flat?"
John seemed to give the thought a moment, then resumed typing.
"Just an hour ago you told me not to go," Sherlock reminded him, suspicion and disbelief in his voice.
WELL NOW I'M TELLING YOU TO GO, John retorted.
Sherlock observed the manul for a while, his gaze intense, before sitting down abruptly. John started.
"Fine. Now that we're here, I suppose we can talk. Maybe we should have done that from the beginning."
John's eyes widened. What had he got himself into? He turned to the computer and began to type again frantically.
I JUST WANTED TO
He shuddered when Sherlock covered his paws with his hand, interrupting him. John turned and met his eyes, which at the moment felt rather like lasers. He gulped.
"John. What did you want to do yesterday night?"
They had a staring contest, and Sherlock thought he had won when John turned to his laptop and typed his answer. That is, until he read said answer.
NOTHING. I ALREADY TOLD YOU.
"Oh please. You can't lie to me, John! Not successfully anyway."
John glowered but Sherlock ignored him.
"I know you are not the most luminous man on earth, but surely even you must have realized that cuddling was not working today! So what can I do? What am I supposed to do?"
Sherlock was so agitated John felt a pang of guilt sharper than all the previous ones. He hung his head in shame.
I'M SORRY. PLEASE GO. I'LL BE FINE. WE'LL DEAL WITH IT WHEN YOU COME BACK.
"John. I am not going anywhere," Sherlock replied darkly, his tone final. John shivered. What were they doing? How had it come to this?
But you're not in the mood to do this, John thought. You're really not, Sherlock. However, he decided against typing it, afraid it would only worsen the situation and increase the tension in the room. This was so awkward. At a loss, the manul finally cast his gaze down, and waited. He missed the flash of pain in Sherlock's eyes.
He stopped and sighed in frustration, then stood up and started to pace the room. He had no idea how to deal with this. Everything should have been easier now that the girlfriend was out of the picture and that John was all his; he was even a manul today, for goodness' sake! Sherlock should have been overjoyed. He had a case and even though he was dying to get on with it, he was fine waiting until the next day. What troubled him most was John: it was as if right when everything should have been perfect between them, they were growing farther and farther apart instead. It did not make any sense. Nothing did, today. Nothing, except perhaps Brad Campbell's death... But that was out of the question. That would wait until tomorrow.
Sherlock glared angrily at the table as if it were responsible for the situation. He had tried to soothe John in the room, but it hadn't worked. Perhaps he was truly awful at this. "You're pathetic. You claim to be so clever – a genius, they say! – and you don't even realize your own flatmate is infatuated with you. You're an idiot, and worse than that, perhaps you're completely self-deluded. You think you are so smart, so strong, that you need nobody, but in fact you are completely dependent on people! You need people to distract you, people to make you eat, to obey your every order, even to save your bloody life... You're completely worthless."
More upset by the minute, Sherlock tried to stifle the hateful voice; to no avail. Why was it that the one time he wanted to delete something, his memory refused to comply? Because there might be something true in it, his brain put in, not helping in the least. Because it might be useful to keep it in mind. Maybe you should never forget it. Sherlock abruptly turned to the window and grimaced.
"Such an obnoxious, twisted, disgusting freak as you is bound to live and die alone."
"She was angry. You must not believe a word of what she said."
Sherlock clicked his tongue. What was he supposed to believe exactly, then? His brain was useless to figure out anything in such matters, as much was clear from his humiliation of the past few days. Maybe he had a heart, but as far as the matters of the heart were concerned, he was a complete failure.
"I'm not used to this, and you know it!" he burst out at last, turning back to John whose eyes widened at his friend's fit of temper. "If something is troubling you I cannot deduce it – or I can only make wild guesses – because this is everything but up my street. I can tell you are worried and angry with yourself for some reason, and feeling pathetic too, but I have no clue as to why! And now you've turned into a weathercock and you're telling me to get out. Just what exactly do you want, John?"
There was such irritation in his voice John almost recoiled; but he also heard the desperation laced in his words.
I'M SORRY, he typed, fumbling with the keys.
Sherlock's anger seemed to deflate at once and he fell back into the chair.
"John. If there is nothing you wanted yesterday night, perhaps it is better if you stay away from me."
At John's appalled look, he added softly: "I was clearly the reason you transformed, and it seems I am only making it worse, whatever I do. Perhaps this time I cannot help you. Perhaps this time, what you need is to be away from me." Then in a smaller, childlike voice: "I was never good at this kind of things."
John stared at what he'd done, frozen on the spot for a moment. Enough of this.
OK, he typed resolutely. LET'S GO OUT TOGETHER.
"Are you out of your mind?" Sherlock asked, and John felt heat rise in his cheeks when he realized it was a real question. He growled.
AM NOT. AND IF YOU THINK ANYONE WILL TRY TO STEAL ME, YOU ARE THE ONE OUT OF YOUR MIND.
Sherlock sent John a pointed look, but the manul held his stare and frowned with determination, eventually eliciting a small smile from the detective.
"All right," Sherlock said with a grin, "we'll do that. But I want you to answer one question first. Just yes or no. Easy enough."
John glared at what he construed as the inherent Holmes haughtiness, but nodded.
"Did you want to kiss me yesterday night?" Sherlock inquired casually.
The manul gaped. When he became aware of it, he shut his mouth abruptly, clenching his teeth. I am not having this conversation as a cat. I am just not. Absolutely not.
"John, I'm just asking you to nod or shake your head."
Still. No way.
"I suppose this is a yes, then. If not, you would have been theatrically hissing and snarling and mewling or whatever you do to throw a tantrum when you want to deny something."
John could not believe his ears. I don't do that! I never do that! Why are you being such a twat?
"Fine. Don't nod, then. I'll just make a note to kiss you good night from now on, so we don't wake up with a bad surprise. Not that I find it so bad personally, but..."
He grinned mischievously and John had the sudden urge to kiss the damned fleshy smirking lips. They were so irritatingly close he only had to lean in a little to get closer, just a bit closer... Then he remembered he was a manul and jumped back in horror, letting out a heart-rending whine.
Sherlock arched an eyebrow.
"What are you doing, John?"
"Very eloquent, John."
"Meow!" John answered furiously.
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"There, there," Sherlock assuaged him teasingly, stroking the soft fur of John's neck. The manul growled and bit him. "You're terribly temperamental tonight," Sherlock commented without stopping to pet him.
I am? Me? Look who's talking!
All right, so maybe he was a little touchy. But didn't he have good reasons to be? He was a silly cat while Sherlock had, once again, saved the day. At least saved Lestrade and some other police officers. John had been feeling alternately like a victim and like a burden, neither of which he was particularly fond. He had been a coward and if he had to be honest with himself, a real bastard with Maggie. Not that he had been very fair to Sherlock either. The past few days, and most of all, this one, had been trying. John was not ready to face his uselessness, the turn his relationship with Sherlock had taken, and his newly admitted sexuality. Not that what he'd said entailed anything at all about his sexuality, mind you. There was such a thing as platonic love. Platonic love was good.
Though it was still love.
Backed into a corner, it had been surprisingly easy to confess everything, even in front of Maggie. Even in front of Sherlock. It had been unquestionable, so evidently the right thing to do; as a selfless act, a profession of love to his male flatmate had been liberating. As the turning point of a radically new state of affairs in their lives, it was devastating.
Everything had seemed so clear when Maggie was there spouting nonsense and Sherlock was taking it all quietly for John's sake; but nothing was clear now and John had no idea how to handle it. He would not be happy without Sherlock, that much was undeniable. Wasn't it? No, maybe happy wasn't the correct word. Rather, nothing would hold any meaning without Sherlock. Yes, that was closer to the truth. He'd be empty again. With Sherlock, he may not be happy always; but he would never be bored. John did not know how he could stay with Sherlock if he felt worthless in his presence, or worse, worthless for him. A burden. With others he was an experienced, respected man, an ex-soldier and an army doctor. He could have a proper life full of the consideration of others, and not just as the blogger of a genius, a right-hand-man; a shadow. But John could not imagine himself not staying with Sherlock. He was doomed.
No, he told himself fiercely, I'm lucky. Very lucky. Wasn't he with the person he cared about the most on earth? Wasn't it all that truly mattered?
He repressed a sigh. He had seen worse, after all. Much worse. He'd been terrified this morning when he'd thought he might have lost Sherlock for good.
I love you, John thought, looking at Sherlock without registering that he'd just addressed him. I really love you. There's no helping that.
The manul's attention snapped back to the consulting detective.
ARE WE GOING OUT OR NOT? he finally typed, deciding against brooding for now.
"If you want to. Where would you like to go?"
DID'NT YOU WANT TO GATHER DATA?
"But John, I can't go gather data with you. Not looking like this."
Even though this was precisely what John had been troubled about all day, for some reason hearing Sherlock voice it again now was too much. He snapped.
AND WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME LOOKING LIKE THIS?
Not having expected the sudden outburst, Sherlock muttered:
"Nothing, John. You know I like it, but..."
He stopped when his eyes read what John was typing.
DO YOU REALLY THINK I AM THAT USELESS?
"Don't be stupid, John!"
BUT I AM, AREN'T I? I CAN'T JUST DECIDE TO STOP BEING AN IDIOT NOW, CAN I?
"No, of course. That's not what I meant," Sherlock replied flatly.
The comment had the effect of a bucket of cold water on John. He swallowed with some difficulty and slowly moved back.
"John. You know I don't mean the same thing by 'stupid' as you do," Sherlock said, impatience audible in his voice.
But you still find me stupid.
"Not like that," Sherlock replied firmly. He cupped John's face and turned it slowly so the manul would look him in the eye. "Never like that."
John held his gaze for a while, then closed his eyes. He nuzzled Sherlock's hand in a touch both gentle and strangely defeated. Sherlock stiffened.
"You don't believe me," he said, his tone incredulous. "Why?"
It's fine, John tried to convey through his nuzzling. I'm staying anyway, aren't I? Not your fault I'm so useless.
"John."Sherlock's voice was cold, almost biting. "You're not useless."
The manul forced himself to look at his friend, but could hardly muster the energy to put on a convinced expression.
"Even as a manul."
Now John's face only showed blatant scepticism. But he did not want to dwell on this.
WHERE DID YOU WANT TO GO?
"For the case?"
"It was in the file."
WAS SHE THE ONE TO FIND THE BODY?
"Yes. They were supposed to meet at 9 at his house, apparently. He texted her the previous day."
SO HE WANTED HER TO FIND HIM DEAD?
Sherlock nodded. "Looks like it."
WHAT A HORRIBLE MAN.
"Who knows? Maybe she was a horrible wife."
John looked up to give him a frown but his eyes were caught by his partner's lips. Sherlock really should stop smiling like that. John averted his eyes.
AND THE KIDS? HE HAD 2, RIGHT?
"At school. Wanted to pay them a visit tonight."
...YOU WANTED TO VISIT THE FAMILY TODAY?
"Naturally. There's no time to waste. I mean, obviously it can wait until tomorrow," he added quickly. John eyed him warily but went on, ignoring the last comment:
HAVEN'T THE POLICE TALKED TO THE EX-WIFE THOUGH?
"Yes, of course. Lestrade probably did. Doesn't like me anywhere near victims' family,"Sherlock grumbled.
I wonder why... John thought, but he was wise enough not to type it.
"Even though they're always potential suspects! Not that the police would notice," Sherlock went on ranting. A small smile lit up John's face.
BUT IF LESTRADE HAS TALKED TO THEM, YOU CAN'T USE HIS BADGE.
"No, I couldn't," the consulting detective conceded. "But I'd find something else."
"Like new neighbour, or just someone passing by, being beaten up, needing to use the phone..."
John smirked at the memory, glancing at Sherlock; they exchanged a look, eyes sparkling. Then John felt himself grow a little too warm and turned his gaze to the screen as he typed.
I CAN'T PUNCH YOU.
"Unfortunately."Sherlock winked. He winked. Did he? Had John imagined it? "But I can just bang my head against a pole until it bruises," he went on, and John wondered whether he was joking.
OR, the manul typed, fearing Sherlock was half-serious, YOU COULD BE LOOKING FOR YOUR CAT.
They stared at each other.
Sherlock's face broke into a smile.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Chapter 15: For the gentle wind does move
A.N.: It's been quite a long time since the last update, but now they should be a lot more regular and frequent, as I have completed one of my ongoing works. Thank you for your patience! I know many of you got quite frustrated, feeling that I was neglecting this story because I had lost interest in it: that is not the case, and I intend to complete this story just like any other :)
This chapter was kindly betaed by Tigzzz. Hope you enjoy reading it! Reviewers are loved.
221B PAW STORIES
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
For the gentle wind does move
Maybe this hadn't been a good idea.
They were standing a little way down the street of the house of Brad Campbell's wife, staring at said house. Or, to be more specific, Sherlock was standing, and John was in his arms.
In any other situation the doctor would have found little objection to that, but considering their current surroundings and goal, he found that he was far from satisfied with his friend's reasoning — "John, you are not a stray cat and have never set... paw on the London pavement before. Therefore it is only logical that I carry you until it is necessary you scurry off on your own. Don't act as if it were insulting."
Oh yeah? What exactly wasn't insulting about being treated like a bloody house cat — John did not dare think pet? And scurrying off? John almost bit Sherlock at that point, but decided that would be most undignified and settled for gritting his teeth.
He looked up at the consulting detective and caught his eye.
So now, what?
Sherlock cleared his throat.
"Well, I suppose you should get closer and see if you can find a way into Helena Whittaker's house. Then you will come and report to me, and we will decide on the best course of action."
John snorted. Report? Did Sherlock believe himself to be some kind of colonel? More importantly, how was John supposed to report in this form? This was just ridiculous.
But the thought of doing something on his own, even if it was very akin to obeying an order in this case, was appealing enough for the manul to nod stiffly and not snap at him. Sherlock nodded as well, a little too curtly for John's comfort, and let him go. As he crossed the street, he focused very hard on not doing anything that could even remotely be seen as scurrying, and let relief wash over him.
He blinked. Relief? What was there to be relieved about? He had no idea, yet he distinctly felt like he had been relieved of a weight. He blinked, then groaned as recognition dawned on him. This was wrong, so wrong. Since when was being held by Sherlock uncomfortable?
...the question might as well be reversed, though. Since when had cuddling with Sherlock not felt awkward? It had happened so naturally John didn't how to account for it. Sherlock's company had never been uncomfortable. Unpleasant, at times — rarely, if John had to be honest, and only because Sherlock was being overly irritating — but never awkward. Except that one time at Angelo's, of course. Now that really had been awkward, all the more so as John hadn't been aware of what he was saying at the time, truly hadn't meant anything by it; a Freudian slip, one might say. Except it wasn't exactly a slip. Still, he hadn't been hitting on Sherlock. That was preposterous.
It was as he entered the garden to the house that John realized why this situation was so foreign — apart from the fact that he was in love with a man and was currently a stupid cat: he had never flirted with Sherlock.
John wasn't always a romantic, and he certainly had commitment issues (although he would argue that this was beyond the realm of his own responsibility). But still, he always relied on codes. Approaching. Feeling the water. Courting, which usually involved a good deal of Making her laugh. Then invite her for a drink, or dinner. From then on, it could either turn into what one would call a one-night stand, although John had less control on those things, and hadn't been drawn into one for years; or develop into the other option, by far the most common one: dating. And then, shagging.
Those steps were easy enough, and most of all, they worked. John didn't have to rack his brain about it. He never felt awkward with a woman, except, maybe, when their first date turned into kidnapping and life-threatening encounters with the Chinese Mafia. Yep, that was definitely not an experience John would want to repeat, at least not with a girlfriend. With Sherlock, it would be fine. Sherlock was used to it. He was reckless and John often had to come to his rescue because the idiot was a bloody daredevil, but never could the consulting detective be considered a burden.
John froze as he stepped in the grass under one of the windows. Did I just think of Sarah as a burden? That was harsh. If not downright horrible. Again, he groaned. No wonder he couldn't sustain a relationship with anyone if his standards for a good partner were Sherlock. But this should no longer be an issue. After all, he had Sherlock. Didn't he?
It was surprising how little Sherlock had seemed disturbed by John's sudden profession of love – clearly it wasn't something the detective had anticipated in any way, considering he was the one to invite Maggie over for dinner. With a genuinely good intent. For somebody who claimed to be married to his work, his reaction had been mild to say the least. Of course he had looked stunned for a second, but then he hadn't asked John anything. Not what he meant by that. Not what it meant for them. Not how they should be dealing with this, if at all.
Clearly they weren't dealing with it. John now realized that he should have been the one to address all those issues. Sherlock had been honest, this wasn't his area. When they had met he'd made it clear that he wasn't interested in any kind of relationship and felt fulfilled with his job. What he had offered was a flatshare, which had turned into a friendship. Nothing extraordinary there. Except that this friendship had taken more room in their lives than either of them had ever intended.
There was the rub. They were friends and flatmates. They investigated together. They spent a lot of time together. And they enjoyed it. All of this was fine. But then John had to go and confess. It had seemed so right at the moment, so limpid in his mind. I am in love with Sherlock. He had said it just as he'd accepted to acknowledge it and come to terms with it, not realizing the long-term impact such a revelation could have on their relationship. They should have talked about it. They should have–
"Oh, look Alicia! A cat!"
For an insane second, John thought: a cat? Where? Then he was picked up from the ground by small hands and yelped.
He had just been abducted by a five-year-old; he would never live this down.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
Sherlock was not nervous.
He would never apply the expression "nerves of steel" to his own person, mostly because it seemed irrelevant. But he still prided himself on having scarcer emotional responses than most due to his superior intellect which allowed him to regulate said responses.
Consequently there was no reason for him to feel nervousness at this point, and so he firmly told himself that he was perfectly calm. It had been approximately 45 seconds since John had disappeared under the hedge. From where he was standing, Sherlock could not see him proceed farther, and he grimly admitted to himself that it unnerved him.
Still, he was not nervous. Slightly frustrated and impatient, obviously. Never liked to wait. Especially in such a boring residential street where he was done deducing everything he could about the residents and their visiting friends from California and their sometimes exotic pets and their absolutely boring, uneventful lives in exactly 2 minutes.
Sherlock had been standing there with John for 3 minutes before he had finally let go of the manul and watched him cross the road and disappear under the hedge – 1.05 minutes now – which meant that for an entire minute Sherlock had to wonder why he was still holding John in his arms instead of telling him to go and get on with the plan. Or so John had called it.
Sherlock snorted. Not much of a plan. 1.10. But it was good enough. 1.12. It involved John participating actively in this investigation and, hopefully, would contribute to making him feel less insignificant and mediocre, two things he clearly was not, even according to Sherlock's standards. Perhaps particularly according to Sherlock's standards. 1.30. He stopped to think about this. What made John not insignificant and mediocre? 1.35.
Well, for one thing John was Sherlock's flatmate and colleague, so the significance he held for Sherlock was clear. 1.40. Then mediocre. Certainly John's intelligence was average, though perhaps slightly more than that, considering his education and training; still, to Sherlock, average. 1.47. But John was exceptional because he could deal with Sherlock like no one else ever could. 1.55. In fact he could deal with Sherlock, full stop. 2.00.
At least he had been able to until recently. What had happened the previous night for John to transform into a manul was gradually becoming clearer to Sherlock. Nothing specific, of course; one could not expect him to have extended knowledge on the matter. But he got the general idea. John had wanted him. The expression was a little too vague to Sherlock's liking, so he tried to be more precise. Last night John had desired to engage in sexual intercourse with him, had failed both to initiate it without words or to voice his wish, and it had resulted in him waking up as a manul.
Sherlock frowned. There seemed to be a step missing somewhere. From the data he had gathered to this date, transformations occurred when one of them was feeling miserable or lonely. His brow furrowed even more. That was hardly accurate enough a statement. He tried again.
Transformations were triggered by a sizeable cluster of negative and unpleasant emotions, all of which could usually be dispelled by the close presence of the other, as in cuddling. It was when they relaxed enough to fall asleep together that they managed to transform back.
So the missing step was how John had gone from a state of longing and possibly arousal to one of (at least mild) despair, when Sherlock had been right there in his arms for him to take.
The consulting detective's frown intensified. He had not observed any signs indicating that John wanted more than what they usually had when they slept together. Sherlock would have noticed if John's heart rate had been quicker than usual, if his body had been warmer and perhaps a little sweaty, and even more if he had had an erection.
He clicked his tongue in annoyance. Was John expecting him of all people to make the first move? Or was he not expecting him to do anything? The one thing that unnerved Sherlock the most was the lack of data on this issue. Was John restraining himself for his own sake or for Sherlock's? What had been his line of reasoning? Had there been a line of reasoning or had it all been about sentiments, in which case it was even more unlikely that Sherlock would understand what was going on in John's head?
The most logical course of action would have been to talk with John about it. However considering John's current form, i.e. one that did not enable him to speak, this would have to wait until John was a man again. And even then…
A yelp. Sherlock's eyes widened. John.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"Let me hold him, Danny!"
"No, it's my turn now!"
"Shh, mum will hear."
John was crouched in the shadows of a corner of the room – the children's bedroom, apparently, his chest fluttering with panic, wondering what he had got himself into.
"But I'm the one who likes cats, I know you like dogs!"
"I like cats too!"
And I'm not a bloody cat, John growled. The two kids blinked at him with round eyes. Scaring them was an option, but one John was not ready to choose – what if the adult in the house truly thought he was a threat to the children and beat him to death? No matter how much he hated to admit it, in this form he wasn't much of a danger for anyone. A man or even a woman could probably knock him out with a broom.
"Alicia? Daniel? Dinner's ready!"
Great. Dinner. That was good. Come on, kids. You're hungry. I know you're hungry.
"What should we do with him?"
"It's a she!"
"No, it's a he!"
"Shh! So what should we do with… it?"
John snarled. The girl started, but the little boy grinned mischievously.
"Let's just close the door when we go! We'll play with him when we come back."
"How can you know? You just want it to be a girl because you're a girl!"
The little girl scoffed.
And with those words, the two kids left. And closed the door. John whimpered. Of course they had closed the window as well, and there was no way he could escape. He would have to wait. He sincerely hoped that he would get an opportunity to flee this house before Sherlock came to the rescue – for some reason, this was slightly more embarrassing than waiting to be saved when you were strapped to a chair in a tunnel with the Chinese Mafia.
Slowly, John moved towards the door and listened. He could hear people talk in another room, probably the kitchen as he heard the clatter of knives and forks. But they were too far away for him to make out what they were saying. He looked up to the door handle and searched the darkness of the room for some kind of furniture – a chest of drawer, a bed, anything that would allow him to jump on the handle and open the door. But there was nothing in the room to make this plan even remotely feasible.
Just when he was starting to accept the fact that he would have to wait in this room until Sherlock came to get him, John heard footsteps down the corridor and froze as they stopped in front of the room.
"Did you see Gus?" a male voice asked.
"No," the woman who had called the kids earlier replied, "but he should be inside."
Gus? A third kid? John swallowed uneasily.
"Don't worry, dear, he'll come to eat his mash when he's hungry."
"Let me just check the kids' room."
John barely had time to hide under the bed before the man opened the door and turned on the light. The manul tried very hard not to make a sound, and almost failed when he turned his head and saw a giant spider – his heart missed a beat, then he remembered he was a cat. He still crawled away from the eight-legged monster that must have been at least as big as his cheek. This was stupid. The moment the light was turned off he dashed out from under the bed. He was not scared of spiders. Hell, he'd seen much more horrible ones in Afghanistan. But as a cat that one had still been too big for his comfort. He couldn't possibly swat it properly with paws.
As the footsteps receded down the corridor – probably towards the kitchen – John realized the door had been left open. He grinned. Cautiously, he stepped outside the room, and looked around. At the end of the corridor he could see the kitchen. The boy – Daniel – was sitting back to him, and his mother was facing the stove, her back to John as well. Daniel was talking animatedly to his sister sitting next to him, but whom John could not see, and the man – stepfather? – was next to the woman, helping out with the dishes. This was the perfect time to take a look around.
Surreptitiously, John walked down the corridor the other way. There was the bathroom, which was of limited interest, then the couple's bedroom. Nothing special there – double-bed, computer, a giant wardrobe (or maybe a normal-sized wardrobe that only looked giant because of his size) and a full-length mirror. John stopped in front of it. He really did look ridiculous, didn't he? Like a cuddly toy. He swallowed.
Was this why Sherlock enjoyed cuddling with him? Because he wasn't hugged enough as a kid and never had a cuddly toy, maybe? John snorted. What was he thinking?
Sherlock's childhood was something he never thought asking his friend about. Their relationship had never been intimate enough for such inquiries – what guy asks his male friend if he had a teddy bear as kid?
In any case, he wasn't being fair, and he knew it. Sherlock had probably felt more comfortable approaching physically his cat form at first, but last night had clearly showed that he didn't mind hugging him as a man too. His embrace had been just has warm, just as trusting; John hated himself for not having been satisfied with it.
He flinched. No, technically he had been satisfied. But his body hadn't. His body had thought it was a marvelous idea to find Sherlock's warmth arousing, his trust intoxicating.
John sighed. Then heard another sigh. One that wasn't his. He looked up in the mirror with horror and saw, standing behind him, coming closer, a Rottweiler. He must have just entered the room, for John hadn't heard him coming. At all. He stood very still, trying to breathe slowly.
Could things get any worse?
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
When Sherlock reached the garden of the house, John was nowhere to be seen. As expected. Sherlock's gaze scanned the grass where John must have stepped, and stopped in front of a ground level window. His eyes turned to slits.
This is where the abduction must have taken place. There were no traces of a fight, so it was implausible that John had been attacked by some other animal. Sherlock let out a silent sigh of relief. It was short-lived. Soon his eyes had fallen on the kennel in one of the corners of the garden. It looked like a small house with a red roof. Trite. Sherlock swallowed. A kennel. Engraved on the wood, a name.
"Gus!" a voice called from another window Sherlock could not see.
"I told you, he's not outside. He'll come out when he's hungry. Come on, sit down."
The second voice was a woman's. It was strained and somewhat on edge. Clearly Brad Campbell's ex-wife. Covertly, Sherlock walked around the house and sidled up to the window where the voices had come from. It was still half open, enough for him to hear what was being said inside.
"Daniel, eat your vegetables."
Well, that was captivating. Vegetables, really. Sherlock repressed a groan. Could they make it any more boring?
"Honey, could you give me the gravy, please?"
They could. All that prevented Sherlock from walking away was the fact that even if the dog had already found John, at least no harm had come upon him; Sherlock (and everyone else, for that matter) would have heard them if they had been in the process of tearing each other to pieces.
Sherlock decided it would be enough to only half-listen and noted what could be of some importance. Stepfather, got along with the kids, who did not mention their father at all. In fact, nobody mentioned Brad Campbell, and they all seemed rather cheerful. Not traumatized in any way. Certainly not in mourning.
The only thing that suggested this was not the wrong house was the tension in the woman's voice. Apparently, she had not informed her children of the situation. This was rather illogical, but Sherlock did not dwell on it. He would have to tell Lestrade that this was not exactly what he would call a thorough interrogation of the family. But the children were young. They must have been in school when their father was murdered. And considering their height, it was impossible for them to have shot the man.
He almost heard John's disbelieving voice: considering their height? Are you serious? Well. Perhaps they were a little too young to know how to hold a handgun and shoot efficiently, Sherlock conceded. He focused on the stepfather. Obviously putting up a strong front. But he did not sound nervous or afraid. Concerned, maybe, and gentle when he addressed the woman. Exceedingly enthusiastic when addressing the children.
After exactly 4 minutes, Sherlock had had enough. As quietly as he had come, he left and went to the other windows, peeping inside, looking for John. The door to the children's room had been slightly open when he had looked. They must have closed it before going to dinner, but somebody else had gone into the room after that, and failed to close it. Therefore John must have gone to explore the house.
Sherlock saw no sign of him in the bathroom, and he could not have missed him there. But when he got to the other bedroom, that of Helena Whittaker and her new companion, he could hardly see anything at all. He frowned. This was where John was most likely hiding. There might have been a cupboard somewhere, but there was no study, and the living-room was lit so if John had been there, Sherlock would have noticed. So in all likelihood, this was the room where he must be hiding.
He squinted and scanned the darkness, but did not spot any furry ball. Under the bed, perhaps? Well, it did not matter. Sherlock would find him in time. He heard the children go back to their bedroom, turning on the light, and went to glance through the window. They looked devastated at the disappearance of the manul. Sherlock smirked. Discreetly, he made his way to the kitchen again. The door was closed, but the window was still half open. The couple was cleaning the table and washing the dishes, and the woman looked much more tired and fragile than previously. Interesting.
"Darling, let me take care of this. You should really get some rest."
"Some rest, George? Some rest won't start to cover it."
"Well, it is a start," he said gently but firmly, putting a hand on her shoulder. She shuddered and shook it off rather harshly, before throwing herself into his arms and sobbing. People never made any sense when they were emotional, did they?
"I wasn't there for him, oh George, he's still the father of my children, how could I..."
"Love, he was depressed, and he never meddled with the right sort, did he? He had a therapist, this wasn't your responsibility, and anyway the police think it's murder... Oh, darling. This isn't your fault, it's not your fault love. Shh, I'm here. It's all right. I'm with you."
Oddly enough, those truisms seemed to alleviate the woman's turmoil. Gradually her breathing became more regular and she dried her tears. He stroked her hair and kept whispering in her ear things Sherlock didn't mind not hearing. His eyes stopped on the fridge, where a few notes were stuck. On one of them, the writing was identical to that of the letters received by the police.
Just when Sherlock was drawing the various possible conclusions to his observation, he noted that the man's eyes were fixed on the fridge too, and as if he had heard Sherlock's silent inquiry, he said:
"Did the police talk to Henry?"
At this the woman stepped back and glared at him. "Why are you mentioning him now?"
"Well, I just saw his note on the fridge and thought..." He did not finish his sentence, probably regretting ever uttering that name— Henry, seeing as Helena Whittaker reacted to it.
"His note?" she said, voice blank. She turned to the fridge. Her eyes widened and she paled abruptly before sitting down as if her legs were giving way.
"What? What is it?"
"Oh God, George, that handwriting... I hadn't realized."
"What are you talking about?"
Shakily, she pointed at the fridge.
"The letters the police showed me... The letters they received... It's Henry's handwriting."
They looked at each other voicelessly.
Sherlock clicked his tongue. Henry. Not Brad. Who was Henry? He'd written on Brad's notepad next to the phone in Brad's house, so somebody close. Brother? Boyfriend?
"Should... should we call the police?" the man asked.
"I'll call them first thing in the morning."
"You don't think... you don't think Henry could be dangerous, do you?"
"How would I know?" she clipped. She sounded upset, something close to irritation quivering in her voice.
They fell silent. Sherlock waited for them to resume their conversation, but they didn't. They simply finished what they were doing in the kitchen and left, closing the window before turning off the light. Automatically, Sherlock walked around the house back to the children's bedroom window.
"Did you brush your teeth?" the mother asked them. They had changed into their night clothes but were still looking crestfallen. "What's with the faces?"
"It's nothing," Alicia interrupted. "Where's Gus?"
Helena shrugged. "Probably in our room. You know he likes to sneak under the bed."
"Can we play a bit longer?" Daniel asked, vaguely waving at the pile of toys on the floor. The woman nodded.
"All right. But after you've brushed your teeth."
Sherlock tried to think of the everyday conversations he had with John — not even conversations, just verbal exchanges. Were they as trite as this? Could you give me the sauce, brush your teeth, eat your vegetables? Sherlock blinked. He thought he remembered John telling him something similar once. Perhaps not vegetables, but something that had to do with food. Still, that was only one occurrence. It wasn't something John said to him every day.
Maybe because they were flatmates, they did not feel obliged to make small talk and thus avoided wasting their breaths over such mundane matters. Well, admittedly John did waste his breath over such matters, but with other people. Girlfriends, mostly.
Sherlock swallowed. Was he supposed to play that role as well now? Make small talk? Be considerate? Well. He had made considerable progress in this respect over the past few months, ever since the transformations had begun; and even before that.
Soon enough Sherlock had realized that he did not like upsetting John in any way. Always it elicited a complementary response on his part, just as negative: guilt, shame, embarrassment, annoyance. Always mild feelings, of course. But apart from Mycroft, who was unbeatable in the field of irritating Sherlock, John was the only one who could elicit such responses. Irene Adler had confused him. Mrs. Hudson was capable of making him feel sheepish, but it wasn't frequent. Lestrade could annoy him, but Sherlock knew how to retaliate, and often the D.I. relented because, after all, he truly needed his services.
But John could elicit a wide range of responses and not often did Sherlock felt like antagonizing him, if ever. In any case, he had got better at this living-together sociability. He had not put a head in the fridge again, because he had sensed John's slight (although completely unjustified) unease and disgust the first time. Then again, John used the refrigerator for personal nutritional purposes, unlike Sherlock who treated it as an instrument of science. It was to be noted that the consulting detective had been very understanding and had progressively allowed the doctor to use his laboratory as a kitchen, all for the sake of peaceful communal life.
All in all, it was only logical that each of them should adapt to a certain extent to the needs and habits of the other, so as to find a viable balance enabling them to continue their association.
Speaking of which, it was high time Sherlock went in to get John back. As he walked around the house again, he stopped by the couple's bedroom window. It was closed, so he could not hear what they were saying, but he could observe. And observe he did.
The man was sitting on the bed when Helena came in, and he stood as she turned to the closed door and started to strip to put on her night clothes. He walked up to her, interrupted her, and kissed her. To Sherlock's surprise, she kissed him back, but a few seconds later she did the logical thing and pushed him back, shaking her head. He did not give up and instead kissed her temple, then he chin, and down her neck. Gradually, after much fondling and kissing, he brought her to the bed and they lay down together. Sherlock watched with interest. So that was how you coaxed somebody into sex. Better start not too far from a bed, apparently. He blinked. Right. The bed. John.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
John knew this was never something you should ask, not even yourself. Could things get any worse?
They always could.
It turned out the Rottweiler was harmless. Or perhaps he was just fond of cats and manuls in particular. When it had nuzzled John in the bedroom, he had tried very hard not to move. Not to breathe. When it had pushed him towards the bed, he had retreated gladly and hid under it. And then unexpectedly the dog had tried to join him under the bed and succeeded in doing so, despite its enormous size. Well. It certainly looked enormous to John anyway.
The dog was now lying next to John peacefully, its head resting on its front paws. John couldn't fathom why it liked to be squeezed under a bed when he could have gone just anywhere in the house, but clearly it did. John had waited for a while before trying to leave, and then it had been too late: the children were back in their room, and the manul realized that Gus's company was in fact much better than theirs. So far, so good.
But then of course Helena and George just had to come back to their room and start to make out on the bed. John had nothing against kinks, but voyeurism wasn't one of them, and when the couple started to pound quietly on the mattress above him, he glanced at the closed door desperately, then at his new friend lying dispassionately by his side. The dog just looked back at him, expressionless. It obviously did not mind the pounding above its head.
John stifled a mew. What am I doing here? And what in the world was Sherlock doing?
Just as he thought this, as if it had all been calculated, the doorbell rang. John's breath caught in his throat and he pricked his ears. Above him, the man groaned something and relieved the mattress from his weight.
"Who the hell can it be?"
"Wait, George! Check who it is before you open the door."
"You think it could be Henry?"
"I don't know."
The man left the room, soon followed by the woman who hastily put on her night robe.
"Wait a minute, don't come in!" John heard from down the corridor. "Who do you think you—"
"I believe your children have abducted my cat."
"Well, they're not your children, but it hardly matters."
"Sir, you must leave this house or I'm calling the police."
"Marvelous, say hi to them for me."
Footsteps down the corridors, getting closer. And finally, Sherlock's shoes in the doorway. John glanced at the dog next to him, not sure of its reaction if he were to make a run to the door. The dog blinked. John blinked. Thankfully Sherlock, being Sherlock, was already bending down and looking under the bed. He smiled.
"There you are."
John growled. You sure took your time!
"You can't barge into people's houses like this!"
"I just did," Sherlock deadpanned as he picked John from under the bed and stood up, cradling him. "And this is my cat."
"Your... Daniel! Alicia!" the mother called angrily.
Apparently the children had already opened their door to see what the ruckus was all about, but had hidden behind it again when they heard Sherlock mention his cat.
"Please explain," she said curtly.
"Sorry, we didn't know it was somebody else's."
"It didn't look like a pet."
"Yeah, we couldn't have known it had a master already!"
John glared at them viciously.
"It does look wild," George grumbled, and John could have sworn Sherlock stifled a chuckle.
"Apologize immediately," Helena demanded.
"Sorry," they muttered in unison.
"...Right," Sherlock said awkwardly, clearly not having expected such a turn of events.
"Darling, he should be the one apologizing for barging in like this!" George protested.
"Will you kindly leave our house now that you have retrieved your cat?" she said, ignoring her companion.
"Certainly," Sherlock replied.
As he walked to the door, the children followed him, and finally before he went out Alicia asked:
"Is it a girl, or a boy?"
John bit him. Hard.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»
"Well, that was interesting," Sherlock declared as he dropped into the sofa. He glanced at John. "Don't glare at me like that, you know perfectly well that I couldn't have talked to you on the cab ride."
You used to talk to a bloody skull! How is that any better?
"So, your impressions?"
John kept glowering and made no move towards the laptop to type any answer. Sherlock frowned.
"What are you so upset about? You got in successfully, you did not come to harm, neither did I, and we managed to get some precious information."
John pouted. Sherlock considered commenting on how silly a pout looked on a manul's face, but found he rather liked it and did not want John to stop. A very small smile graced his face.
"All right. That's enough for today. Come here."
John scoffed and walked to Sherlock's bedroom instead. The consulting detective smiled. Perhaps it was a good sign if John chose the bed over the sofa without any incentive. Then again, he seemed to have been rather traumatized by the whole dropping-on-the-floor-covering-himself-with-a-pill ow experience.
Sherlock paused in the bedroom before stripping and putting on his pajamas. In the end, he decided against putting his plan into action tonight. He changed quickly and joined John in the bed, turning off the light.
"Stop being upset about it," he murmured, pulling the manul towards him and stroking his fur gently.
You did it to upset me! A girl, really?
Sherlock leant in and kissed his left ear, which quivered endearingly. He closed his eyes.
"You weren't useless. It was good you got kidnapped so I could see the interior of the house."
Great. Any time, Sherlock. Just tell me when you need to get into a house and I'll make sure to be taken in by a member of the household so you can come to the rescue.
"Stop being so difficult," Sherlock said quietly into the fur of John's neck, and his caresses were so gentle, his touch so soothing, that the manul wondered if for once he shouldn't give in. All the more so as he heard, perhaps mistakenly, something like a request, if not a plea, in Sherlock's tone. He was being difficult, wasn't he? Suddenly some stupid joke didn't seem to matter in the least. John remembered the sheer panic he had felt upon hearing about the explosion of Brad Campbell's house. A wave of joy and relief washed over him, and something else, the feeling that he was very lucky. Sherlock was alive. He was alive, and he was holding him, accepting his company, wanting it, seeking it, as if John was a necessary part of him. And John felt grateful for it. The way they now so naturally cuddled was precious. Gradually, he felt his muscles relax under the warmth of Sherlock's hands, and rested his brow against Sherlock's collarbone.
He realized with some surprise that Sherlock too relaxed in the embrace, his body slackening: first the shoulders then the neck, the arms... His breathing became slower and more regular. John was touched. Touched to see that, if anything, he could help Sherlock to rest and make him stay in a bed longer than he usually did. He blushed at the thought, cursing himself for the unintended meaning — and the images it conjured up. But thankfully, he did not get aroused. Soon all sensual images were replaced by that of Sherlock as a child, or how John imagined him to be as a child, and how lonely he must have been. God, we all hated him, Sebastian Wilkes had said. Despicable. They had missed out on so much. Sherlock was not "bound to live and die alone", as Maggie had so kindly put it; and John was determined to show it to him in every way. He snuggled up closer to him.
As he felt the soft purr against his chest, Sherlock smiled unwittingly.
People should never bother with sleeping pills. Manuls are so much better.
«(o.o)» . «(o.o)»